"This is ridiculous. We're adults. Stay here the night. I don't have to be anywhere till noon. I'll take a peek at your car in the morning." She looked at him, arching a brow. "I am a decent mechanic," he defended. "Getting a cab this late will take another hour at least." The rain fell, first in droplets, then steadily heavier. "Especially in this weather. Besides, you shouldn't be driving. You've had a few drinks."

She wasn't drunk, yet her head was already pounding, and although Madison knew it wasn't wise to be near him, his sincere look almost turned her to mush. Besides, he looked as if he'd stay there, getting drenched until she agreed. She left the car after checking the windows, then ran with him to the front porch. Inside he reset the security alarms.

She immediately went to the phone, then put it down when she saw the time. She'd burn a few friendships if she woke a friend at this hour, yet the thought of her car in his driveway and people thinking she spent the night with him, in his bed, irritated her. Her hand fell away and she faced him, but he was already heading into the kitchen. She followed.

He poured himself a glass of milk, found the cookies and dropped onto a stool. She leaned against the doorjamb. He looked like a kid, dunking the chocolate cookie and jamming it whole into his mouth. It was the fracture in the cold reserve she'd longed to see.

"You're insulting my cooking, mister."

He looked up, chewing. "I had seconds, which were delicious, by the way. Want some?" He nodded to the milk and cookies, intent on his dunking.

"No, thanks. Do this often?"

"Sort of a ritual. Can't seem to sleep without it."

She smiled gently, pushing away from the frame and walking to a stack of napkins she knew were in the top drawer. She handed him one, then poured herself a glass of water before sitting on the stool beside him. She watched him.

Alex was too aware of her, of the curves of her face, her mouth and her body and how incredible both felt, trapped against his own. He kept telling himself he should just ignore it. He'd become damned good at that over the years. Yet this strange feeling, like a fragrance hovering on the edge of his senses, seized him whenever he looked in her eyes. Like now.

"Regardless of what you think, I had a good time, Madison." Her brows shot up. "Angus adores you." He waved a chocolate cookie to entice her.

Madison snatched it, taking a bite. He smiled and her heart did one of those flips in her chest.

"I knew you could be lured."

"Takes more than a cookie, Alexander."

His eyes danced with fresh heat as he chomped into another cookie. "What does it take?"

It was just conversation Madison told herself. He wasn't really interested. "Certainly not limousines, champagne and diamonds, although I'll admit that was fun."

"Are you saying you don't care about money?"

"Not in the sense that you do." He looked curious. "Well, look at this place." She gestured to the expensive condo, the priceless artwork covering the walls. "When is enough? When are you going to enjoy it? 'Cause, honey, you can't take it with you. And alone, it's just … stuff."

"It's my stuff. I worked hard for it."

Now he looked like a little boy defending his end of the playground. "I know, be proud of it. I would. But are you happy, Alexander?" His features shifted with confusion. "Kat told me how hard you work, how you keep expanding, but when will you enjoy it?" Her gaze narrowed sharply, suddenly. "And I swear, if you pull apart O'Malley's business and sell it off, I will never speak to you again."

"What I do with it is not your concern."

She was meaningless in his schemes, she thought, hurt. "Fine. You're right. We've already been over this." She put up a hand. "And before you get all indignant, let's just drop it." She left the chair. "I'm the hired help."

He shot off the stool, catching her by the arms. "Why do you keep saying that? Good Lord, I don't think of you as the help."

"Then what do you think of me?" Her breath snagged as she waited.

His gaze raked her heavily, lushly. "Forbidden territory."

Her insides tingled. "Why?"

"You're wife material. A good girl."

She shoved off his touch. "And you prefer the bad ones, the trash? You don't have much self-esteem, do you?"

He shrugged. "I know where they stand and where I do."

She stepped closer, gazing into his blue eyes. "Oh, Alexander," she whispered. "Who hurt you so badly?"

The compassion in her eyes weakened him, slayed him, and his determination not to fall vulnerable to it made his voice harsh. "No one but my own gullibility."

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