To Love A Stranger
Kimani Press
December 2007
ISBN-10: 0373860447
ISBN-13: 978-0373860449
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Was he, or wasn’t he…her husband?

Widowed, wealthy and beautiful Madeline Stone was well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a fashion designer. Then six years after being lost at sea, her prodigal husband returned. And to Madeline’s amazement the newfound Russell Stone was nothing like the old, womanizing rascal she’d married. Her new man was loving and considerate, kind, romantic and…very sexy. Madeline found herself doing something she thought she would never do—falling in love with her husband!

Now Madeline faces a dilemma—should she just accept her happily-ever-after ending, or should she expose the troubled, yet loving stranger who now shares her bed?



Prologue

November 23, 2001

“The baby is still breach,” Dr. Roberts announced to his small crew in the obstetrical ward. “Let’s get her prepped for emergency c-section.”

An elevated Madeline Stone lay huffing and puffing on the delivery table wondering where in the hell was the epidural.

“Okay, Mrs. Stone. I need you to stop pushing for me.”

She would if she could, but in truth she had no control what was going on in her lower extremities. It was all she could do to ride out the waves of muscle spasms, sharp stabs of back pain and the streams of sweat burning her eyes.

Madeline’s best friend and second cousin, Lysandra Hobbs, burst into the delivery room in blue scrubs. “I’m here. I’m here. I made it. I made it.”

Madeline’s response was a high pitch scream followed by a low rabid dog growl. There was no doubt about it; the baby she carried was determined to split her in half. What in the hell was she doing here? And why wasn’t her asshole of a husband there with her so she could rip his penis off for knocking her up in the first damn place?

Then again why was she so surprised? He wasn’t around when she delivered their son two years ago either. Madeline made a vow right then and there to shoot her husband if he ever came never her bed again.

“Breathe,” Lysandra coached, rushing to her side and taking Madeline’s hand. However, with one mighty squeeze, Madeline crushed Lysandra’s frail fingers and forced her cousin to her knees.

“I’m going to kill him,” Madeline snarled through yet another contraction. “I know he’s with that bitch.”

All heads swiveled in Madeline’s direction, but censuring her words was something else she couldn’t control.

The continued pain in Lysandra’s hand rendered her speechless.

“I’m going to kill him,” Madeline declared. “And then I’m going to kill her.”

“Okay, Mrs. Stone,” Dr. Roberts returned to her side. “Try to relax.”

“Relax?” she barked, her head ready to twist in a complete circle. “Don’t you dare tell me to relax when I know my husband is out screwing his big booty singing protégé while I’m trying to squeeze out his child alone.”

“You’re not alone.” Lysandra finally snatched her hand from Madeline’s death grip and waved her injured fingers in the air. “I’m here for you, cuz.”

Madeline rolled her eyes high, but then another spasm hit. “Drugs,” she roared. “Give me drugs, damn you.”

“Mrs. Stone, please relax we’re...”

Madeline’s snatched the doctor by the neck of his scrubs and jerked him down to eye level. “If you tell me to relax one more damn time--”

“Let him go, Maddie,” Lysandra urged trying to pry the doctor’s scrubs loose. “We need him to deliver the baby.”

It took a moment, mainly because of the unrelenting pain, but then she released her grip and called on the Almighty to get her through this.

Less than an hour later, a seven pounds and three ounces Ariel Elisa Stone made her grand entrance into the world. The moment Madeline held her bundle of joy, the pain of the last nine hours were forgotten.

“Hello, Princess,” she cooed, pleased to see ten fingers and ten toes. “I’ve been waiting for you my whole life.”

Black, down curls covered her precious baby girl’s head and her eyes were already dark as midnight. Madeline would love this child to the end of the time. Convinced Ariel smiled back before releasing a mighty wail, Madeline rode a wave of pride and contentment until her eyelids grew too heavy to keep open.

Hours later, Madeline woke with a throbbing pain that covered majority of her body. She groaned, shifted and then immediately regretted the action when the pain spread to the rest of her body.

“Oh, Maddie. You’re awake.”

Madeline recognized Lysandra’s voice but didn’t understand why it sounded like she was crying.

Something is wrong with the baby.

Her eyes flew open in search of Lysandra and found her petite cousin sobbing in the chair next to her.

Again, Madeline pushed the pain aside and sat straight up in bed. “Lysandra, what is it? Why are you crying? Where’s my baby?”

Lysandra lifted her head and her large brown eyes swam in a large pool of tears. “T-the baby is fine.” She sniffed and dropped her gaze again. Her entire five-foot trembled uncontrollably.

Madeline stared, confused. Her cousin must be lying. Lysandra always was a lousy liar. She picked up the red nurse’s button and punched it repeatedly.

“Lysandra, what has happened? Why are you crying?” She stabbed the button some more.

“May I help you?” A nurse’s voice filtered through the intercom.

“I want my baby,” Madeline demanded, hysterical.

“Never mind, nurse,” Lysandra said, standing from her chair.

“No,” Madeline barked. “I want to see my baby!”

Lysandra shook her head. “It’s not the baby,” she said again, trying to pry the nurse’s button from Madeline’s fierce grip.

“You’re lying.”

More tears spilled from Lysandra’s sad brown eyes. “No, Maddie, I’m not. I-it’s Russell.”

Madeline stopped struggling and Lysandra successfully pried the nurse’s button from her hand. It didn’t matter because two nurses rushed into the room wild-eyed.

“What’s going on?” they asked in unison.

“Russell?” Madeline repeated dumbfounded. “What about him?”

Lysandra’s cell phone chirped from the wooden stand next to the bed. Her cousin didn’t reach for it.

“Ly, you’re driving me crazy. Just spit it out. What about Russell?”

The phone chirped again.

“He’s dead,” she blurted and bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry,” she added and then nodded her head toward the television.

Madeline followed her gaze to the muted television where a picture of her husband, music and fashion mogul, Russell Stone filled the screen. Beneath it, a red caption read: Plane Crash.

Lysandra shut off her phone while Madeline scrambled around the bed to find the TV remote. In the next second, the blond reports voice filled the room.

Repeat. Local officials are stating there are no survivors of this tragic plane crash. Mr. Stone who had just acquired his flying license last year is reported to have logged more than three hundred hours of flying time. There is no word as of yet to what may have caused this accident. Some are suggesting pilot error, but those findings will be left to the National Transportation Safety Board to determine. Mr. Stone and his female companion crashed just off the coast of Nova Scotia...

Madeline hit the mute button. “I-I think I want to be alone for a moment.”

Lysandra placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Maddie--”

“Please,” Madeline added, looking up to her cousin and then to the two stricken nurses. “I really need to be alone for a while.”

Everyone bobbed their heads and began to usher out of the room. Lysandra took up the rear but then cast a final glance over her shoulder at Madeline. “I’ll be just outside the room if you need anything.”

Lying back against the bed’s pillows, Madeline soberly nodded and waited until the door swung close behind her cousin. Alone, her gaze cut back toward the television. Mr. Stone and his female companion. The words looped over and over in her mind. She knew who his damn companion was.

“I’m up in this hospital having his child and he’s out screwing around...again.” She folded her arms as Russell’s picture enlarged on the screen. A cold bitterness seeped into every pore of her body. No longer would she have to bear the humiliation of Russell’s long string of affairs or pretend to be happy in a loveless marriage.

She was free.

She was rich.

She was happy.

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