Taste of Passion(Madaris Novels)

By: Brenda Jackson


Acknowledgments





To the love of my life, Gerald Jackson, Sr.



To all the members of the Brenda Jackson Book Club who joined me at the BJBC Meet-and-Greet in Mary land to attend the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.



To all the guys and gals of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo circuit. You are a wonderful group who brings to life a part of our western history. Thanks for sharing so much information about what you do best!



Let us not love (merely) in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth—in practice and in sincerity.



I John 3:18 AMP





Chapter 1





Mackenzie Standfield took a deep breath when she saw Luke Madaris excuse himself from the group of men that he’d been talking to—other rodeo riders—and head over in her direction. Irritation washed through her, but she forced it away, thinking that it wasn’t his fault he was such a good-looking man; one who oozed sex from the Stetson he wore on his head all the way down to the well-worn leather boots on his feet.

He was tall, probably at least six foot three, and from the fitness of his body it was easy to tell that he worked out regularly. He was too toned and had too many muscles not to. The front of his Stetson was worn low and nearly covered his dark piercing eyes, making him look the part of a renegade. A very handsome renegade.

As she watched him approach, she remembered the first time she had seen him. Had it been almost five years already? It was the night of the Brothers’ Auction where the proceeds had gone to benefit the Children’s Home Society. He had been one of the men auctioned off.

Nothing in her life could have prepared her for the man who had walked onstage after being introduced as championship rodeo rider Lucas Madaris. That night, even while dressed in a black tux and white shirt, he had exuded an air of ruggedness, arrogance, and maybe even something a bit untamed. He had looked across the audience and seemingly his penetrating gaze had latched on to hers.

At the time she couldn’t bring herself to believe such a thing was possible. After all, Sisters, the upscale restaurant and nightclub where the benefit was held, had been packed that night with over three hundred people, and she had purposely taken a table in the back so as not to be seen until the appropriate time. She had been there on an assignment for her newly opened law firm’s first client, who just happened to be her cousin Ashton Sinclair.

But still, Luke had proven her wrong when his gaze kept returning to hers time and time again. She had been tempted to bid on him and had almost given in to that temptation. The only thing that had kept her from doing so was the reminder that her presence at the auction had a purpose and that purpose was strictly business.

There had also been Lawrence Dixon, the man she had fancied herself in love with six years ago while living in Louisiana. The same man who had betrayed her trust. She had eventually left Louisiana and moved back home to Oklahoma to start her own law practice. And that was a decision she never regretted making.

Which brought her focus back to Luke . . . not that it had ever left him. That night after the auction she had gone out for drinks with him and his two cousins, twins by the name of Blade and Slade, who had also been auction participants. And since she was a relative of their family friend Ashton Sinclair, they considered her a close friend to their family as well. As she’d gotten to know the Madaris family—and there were a lot of them—she had discovered they were good people.

She basically got along with everyone in the family . . . except for Luke. They didn’t consider themselves enemies, but for some reason they were always trying to avoid each other. The only reason she was here tonight was because he had personally issued an invitation. At least some may have considered it an invitation, but she had seen it for what it truly was. A dare. He hadn’t expected her to show up. And from the expression on his face she wasn’t sure whether or not he was glad to see her.

It was a hot June night in Oklahoma. Everyone had come out to see the rodeo riders perform and the arena was filled to capacity. As far as she was concerned all of the riders had nerves of steel and a skill she couldn’t help but admire. This wasn’t her first rodeo but it was the first she had attended in a long time. She hadn’t been to one since she was twelve and now in a few months she would be celebrating her twenty-eighth birthday.

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