His lips quirked, his gaze slipping over her from head to foot and leaving a warm trail on her skin as he moved up beside her. "We did in the hallway." He propped his forearms on the rail. He leaned closer.

She held him back. "No funny business."

"Depends on what kind." He pushed into the pressure of her hand on his chest and brushed his mouth over hers.

"That kind."

"I make no promises." His hand slid warmly over her stomach, fingers curling around her waist. Her muscles flexed under his touch.

"Alex," she warned, although she kissed him back, let him pull her close.

"I can't hide that no matter what, I want you." He felt her indrawn breath as his lips worried hers. "I want you, Madison."

Her heart soared, then dropped like a stone. "But for how long is the problem."

He stiffened and leaned back, his brows furrowed. "I can't give you what you want."

Her smile was sad. "Then neither can I."

"I didn't ask you to come with me so I could seduce you."

Her expression softened. "Oh, Alexander, you don't even have to try."

Neither did she, Alex thought. Just being near her made him feel more alive than he had in years. His gaze slid over her, the tailored white slacks, lemon-yellow blouse and navy-blue collarless jacket. She looked polished and elegant. But it went deeper than that, he knew. She was so damned sexy he could scarcely think straight, and he would like nothing more than to drag her into his arms and kiss the day-lights out of her.

He'd probably get slapped for sure then.

"Can't we just let things … happen?"

"Gee, what a risk for you. Sure you're up to a real friendship?"

Suddenly he slid his fingers along her jaw, staring deep into her eyes. "I know my mistakes got us into this, and I'm sorry. I'll take care of O'Malley, but all I ask is that you just be yourself with me. No bargains, no reporters, no Wife Incorporated, just be with me."

There was something in his eyes just then, a fear Madison had never thought to see, a pleading that had little to do with regaining a toy company. The sight of it lanced through her soul, the same look when he'd told her about his mother withering away from cancer, his father dying only weeks later and leaving him alone. Though he'd been evasive about what happened to him after their deaths, Madison could only assume he'd lived in foster homes. Yet the loss scarred him deeper than he wanted anyone to know. Loveless, discarded. Fiercely determined to succeed where his father had failed. He'd shown her a small part of himself, and with the truth had come admiration, for his success and the struggle he'd endured to gain his wealth and power. By grit and sweat. Most people thought he'd had a privileged upbringing, herself included, and the shared secret endeared him more to her, made her want to find another crack in the iron shield around him.

"What do you say? Though you'll need this." He held up the diamond band, then took her hand, sliding the ring on her finger. "Be my wi—"

"Don't say it," she cut in, pulling free. She couldn't bear hearing him say those words. This marriage was still artificial, his last desperate measure to fulfill his father's final wish. It was the only reason she'd agreed, she swore. Then she knew that was a lie. She was already in danger of falling for him. "No expectation," she said lightly. "Let's just say we'll put our differences on the back burner for this."

"A truce?"

He looked wonderfully eager, and her lips twisted wryly. "White flags are flying, Yankee."

His eyes soft, he leaned, brushing his mouth over hers. "Thank you, Madison."

His kisses felt too good. "Sure you can fake being husband material?"

His smoldering gaze swept down her body. "There's one duty I don't think either of us would have a problem fulfilling."

"That's not up for debate," she muttered, gently pushing him back.

Ducking close he whispered in her ear, "I remember what your bare behind feels like in my hands, what your breasts taste like beneath my tongue." He adored the little helpless sound she made, the way she gripped his arm, and Alex wondered why he was torturing himself like this. She was pure temptation.

She tipped her head to meet his gaze. "That mouth should be outlawed."

His smile was slow and bone-melting sexy. "I said I didn't bring you with me to seduce you." His tongue swept over her lower lip, eliciting a tiny gasp. "I didn't say I wouldn't try."

"Failure is imminent." But not if he kept that up, she thought, and almost begged him to keep going and take the choice from her. "Do try to behave, please."

"Uh-uh," he murmured against her lips. "I can't resist taking the advantage."

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