"I don't know you well enough to make that strong a judgment." Her lips curved. "Let's just say you've lived up to my expectations."
Alex didn't like how much that stung, whether she meant it to or not and he was about to clarify it when the music changed to something quicker by the Drifters. She looked suddenly excited, and the muscles squeezed in his throat.
"This is one of my favorite songs."
"Then we can't let it go to waste." He moved her across the floor to the beat of the music, feeling her reluctantly fall in step with him. "You got this one?"
He flung the challenge with his Irish eyes, and she flipped it back. "Get ready to rock, rich boy."
"You're drawing battle lines again, darlin'," he drawled, then spun her out and pulled her back, rocking with her tight against his front.
"Not bad for a corporate yahoo," she said as he twirled her to face him.
"Are you saying I'm stuck-up?"
"No," she said looking him over. "Just stuck."
He frowned, affronted and confused in the same instance and she laughed in spite of it, liking that he wasn't totally in control and letting him twirl her out. They matched step for step in the intricate pattern before coming together again. Neither noticed as the guests and servants stopped to watch, then cleared the floor as they danced.
And boy, could he. It surprised her, his grace, and she felt weightless as he expertly led. "Where did you learn?"
"I wasn't always a company president."
She gave him her best, do-tell, I-would-never-have-thought look.
His lips twitched.
"My parents were great dancers." He noticed a flicker of pain in her eyes before it was gone. "So are you."
"You too, Yankee."
"I don't consider myself a Yankee, Miss Holt."
"Until you're comfortable saying 'y'all,' 'fixin' to go' and know someone named Bubba, you're still a Yankee."
He laughed, the rich sound rumbling in his chest, bringing heads around as he yanked on her hand, spinning her sharply into his arms and up against his chest. The impact knocked her breathless, her eyes flaring wide, her hands clutching his upper arms. Nothing in her life prepared her for the exquisite feel of honed muscle and man layered tight to her body. Her insides shifted, broke loose.
Only one arm around her slim waist, Alex bent, sliding her low against him to lay her back over his arm for a big finish at the end of the song.
The guests cheered, whistling and applauding.
Alex and Madison stared, trapped.
Every nerve in his body sizzled with the feel of her against him, hip to hip, and in his mind he saw her like this, bowing back as he tasted her rosy flesh, naked and brazen as her sharp tongue. He grew hard and was helpless to control it, knew she could feel it when her eyes flared. Then in a flash of abandon, he wanted her to see the danger of a man like him.
He was ruthless in all things. It's why he owned a multimedia conglomerate at thirty-four. And though she might have all the qualities to make some man a terrific wife, she was right – even if he scraped away the layers, he wasn't husband material. But that didn't smother the animal desire he experienced this close to her. And he was afraid nothing would.
He straightened slowly, gazing into her sultry dark eyes. "Thank you, Miss Holt." He didn't let her go, the contact so hot he thought he'd burn to ashes right there.
Madison swallowed, her body screaming to rub against him, her mouth burning to feel his. "You're welcome, sir." She pushed out of his arms and looked at the crowd, giving them a quick curtsy.
Alex didn't take his eyes off her as she quickly scooped up a tray and collected glasses, stacked dishes. She handed the tray to a server while encouraging others to keep dancing.
"You must teach me that," came from his side, and he dragged his gaze to Elizabeth.
"Sure, Liz." He swung her into his arms. They danced, unhurried and private, yet in the back of his mind, in a place he didn't want to go, he longed for the feel of Madison, dark-haired and sexy as midnight mist.
* * *
Gradually the guests departed, and Alex felt a little humbled when Madison pulled a basket from the hall closet, handing each guest a gift of local homemade jam wrapped in ribbon and tulle as they left. Her thoughtfulness made this a success, and he wished he could do more than pay the bill. But his thoughts centered on the wrong part of his anatomy when she was around, hazardous territory as far as he was concerned, and he told himself he was glad she'd be out of his life in a couple of hours.
With a wave to the last guest, Madison hurried to the kitchen while Alex stood out front, watching the limos drive away. He lingered, loosening his tie and wishing he hadn't quit smoking and had a cigarette handy. He headed inside, returning to the kitchen. The catering staff looked up from repackaging freshly washed dishes and glasses the instant he stepped inside.