“What did you expect?”
Madison gave a short, humorless laugh. “A good question.”
Kristen stilled, studying Madison with a growing concern. “Maddy…” She abruptly grimaced. “Sorry, I meant—”
“Maddy’s fine,” she assured her friend. She’d ridiculously thought that insisting on being called Madison would somehow separate her from the naïve girl who’d so eagerly invited Luc into her bed.
The truth was that she would never be able to rid herself of Maddy.
Her past was simply a part of her.
“What happened?” Kristen prompted.
“It went just as I planned.” Madison grimaced as she was forced to relive her latest humiliation. “I met Luc at the party and less than a half hour later he was in my hotel room.”
“Not surprising,” Kristen murmured, her gaze closely studying Madison’s pale face. “No man could resist a night with Madison Philips.”
Madison shook her head. There were some men who would be attracted to her because she was a famous model, but that wasn’t why Luc had been so eager.
“Luc couldn’t resist a night with any woman willing to spread her legs,” she said in dry tones.
Kristen arched a brow. “I told you earlier that the rumor around Vegas is that Luc has become very particular in his choice of companions. I heard one of his friends say that he’d become a monk over the past couple of years.”
Madison ignored her friend’s words. Just as she’d ignored Luc’s claim that he’d changed from the shallow flirt he’d been when she’d known him.
“More likely he became more discreet.”
“That’s possible, I suppose,” Kristen slowly agreed, frowning as if troubled by Madison’s stark refusal to believe that Luc could change. “What happened when you got to the hotel room?”
Madison felt her cheeks heat. She told herself it was embarrassment. She wasn’t the sort of woman who enjoyed sharing the details of her sexual encounters with anyone, not even her best friend. But deep inside she knew that it was the remembered pleasure that made her face flush.
God. She ached in places that she’d never realized could ache.
The delectable ache of a woman who’d been well loved.
Her blush deepened as Kristen raised a questioning brow.
“I would think that was pretty obvious,” she mumbled.
Kristen chuckled. “So you did the deed?”
Madison nodded, although she’d never, ever call what happened between her and Luc ‘doing the deed.’
That implied a casual hookup. What happened last night was…
Anything but casual.
At least for her.
“We were together…yes,” she confessed.
Kristen leaned forward. “And how was it?”
Kristen flashed a teasing smile. “Good for you, girlfriend.”
“No,” Madison growled, shoving away the coffee as her stomach twisted with a sick sense of inevitability. “Not good for me.”
Kristen’s smile faltered. “You wanted it to be a failure?”
“I wanted…” She made a sound of disgust at the memory of her smug confidence when she’d planned her trip to Vegas. She’d been so certain she wanted nothing more than revenge. It’d never occurred to her that she was using any excuse, no matter how pathetic, just to be with Luc Angeli. “Shit.” She rubbed her temples, the headache better, but still a dull throb behind her eyes. “I’m losing my mind.”
“I’m sorry, Maddy.” Kristen grimaced with regret. “If you don’t want to talk about this—”
“He claimed that I’m still in love with him,” Madison broke into her friend’s apology, abruptly revealing the truth.
Kristen would worm it out of her one way or another.
Kristen abruptly frowned, her eyes searching Madison’s pale face. “You told me—”
“I know what I said.” Madison heaved a resigned sigh. “But I think I must have been in denial.”
At last, Kristen cleared her throat. “Denial?”
“I wanted to believe I hated him.” Madison gave a helpless lift of her hands. “It was certainly better than accepting I couldn’t grow past my childish, schoolgirl crush.”
“What are you going to do?”
It was the first question that Madison had no trouble answering. She’d made her decision during the long hours of staring at the ceiling.
“I’m going to my appointment then I’m returning to New York as I planned.”
Kristen looked like she’d just been slapped. “Going back to New York?”
Madison blinked in surprise. She’d expected sympathy from her friend, not an adamant rejection of her plan.
“Because you have to talk to Luc,” Kristen said.
Madison slid off her stool, her brows furrowed as she glared at her companion. “Have you gone insane? He’s the last person I want to see.”
“But…” Kristen looked as if she wanted to give Madison a good kick in the ass. “If you still love him then you have to see if this could work.”
Madison was shaking her head before Kristen finished speaking.
A part of her desperately wanted to stay. Just to be near Luc.
Then she realized just how sad and pathetic that would be.
Spending her days hoping to catch some glimpse of Luc, while he was constantly chasing another woman.
“How do you know?” Kristen pressed.
“Because he’s Luc Angeli.”
Madison wondered if her friend was being deliberately obtuse. She knew as well as Madison that staying in Vegas would offer her nothing more than heartache.
“And he’s not forever-after material,” she muttered in exasperation.
Kristen shrugged. “Who says?”
The indigo eyes narrowed. “Only because you’re a coward.”
Madison flinched at the accusation. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Kristen moved to stand directly in front of Madison, her expression unrepentant.
“You love Luc, but you’re too afraid of another rejection to give him a chance.”
Madison reached for her purse.
This had nothing to do with courage, she silently reassured herself.
Hadn’t she proved she could face whatever life could throw at her? That she could overcome any challenge and come out on top?
She was just smart enough to avoid repeating her mistakes.
“I’m late,” she muttered, turning to head for the door.
“Maddy,” Kristen called from behind her. “Dammit, I’m not going to let you throw away a chance at happiness.”
Luc had broken all speed limits to get to the remote parking lot near Red Rocks. There was a shop on the other side of the lot, but he’d deliberately tucked his Jag behind a large rock formation at the back.
He didn’t know why he was there.
No, that wasn’t true.
He’d already been headed to Kristen’s condo when she’d texted him with the info that Madison was going to be at this location and that he needed to be here to meet her.
But he didn’t have any idea why Madison would be traveling to this desolate spot.
And right now, he didn’t give a shit.
Nothing mattered but having the opportunity to speak with her before she left town.
Climbing out of his car, he impatiently glanced at the expensive watch wrapped around his wrist.
Dammit. He’d been so pissed when Madison had left the hotel last night that he’d drunk the entire bottle of champagne that’d arrived only moments after her dramatic departure.
The expensive wine had helped to dull his outrage at her claim that she’d used him as some sort of sexual purge. But as his anger had cooled, he deeply regretted having consumed so much alcohol.
He knew damned well and good that Madison hadn’t sought him out just for revenge.
It simply wasn’t her nature.
She had to have some lingering love for him, even if she refused to admit it.
Unfortunately, he’d been on the wrong side of tipsy from the champagne, and was forced to sober up before he could go in pursuit. A man didn’t try to convince the woman of his dreams to give him a second chance while he was drunk.
So he’d done his best to sleep off his uncharacteristic overindulgence before returning to his home to shower and shave, swiftly changing into a pair of well-worn jeans and T-shirt before heading to out to find Madison.
Now he awaited her arrival with a growing frustration.
Was it possible that Kristen had sent him to the middle of nowhere so Madison had time to escape him?
It was exactly the sort of plot the devious young lawyer would concoct.
Especially if Kristen thought he intended to hurt her friend…