Katherine came to her, giving her a warm hug. "Oh, thank you, Maddy. The Boys Club is going to get a resurfaced pool on that one alone."
"You're welcome, sister," she whispered in her ear, and Katherine's hug tightened a bit. They parted, and she faced Alexander.
Madison had seen pictures of him, but the up-close-and-personal version was a different story. She tried not to stare and told herself that almost any man looked good in a tux. Except this man was the only one in the elegant stone garden wearing black. On Alexander Donahue, the dark fabric fit like a glove. There was no mistaking he was in good physical condition, but then, what else did a millionaire have to do all day? Yet she sensed a bit of rebellion in him, for he'd opted for a white band-collared shirt without the bow tie the other men were wearing. No ruffles, no cummerbund, only a low-slung, black-and-gold, satin-brocade vest that gave him the air of a Southern gentleman.
He slipped his hand into his trouser pocket, hiking up the jacket and enhancing the image of slow grace and privileged dignity. A lock of jet-black hair slipped down to nearly cover one vivid blue eye.
"You're staring, sir."
"So I am."
Madison stiffened. He acted as if he was sizing her up by some invisible standard, and she had the ungracious urge to slap his handsome face.
He slipped his other hand inside his vest pocket and came back with a business card. With a crisp snap, he flipped it over and held it out to her with two fingers. "Be at this address tomorrow morning at nine."
"Tomorrow evening at six," she said, taking the card.
He scowled, a hint of savagery under all that refinement, and she understood why people rarely denied him. She was waiting for the fangs to appear.
"I'm only available during the evenings and weekends, sir. Or did you fail to read the brochure?" She gestured to the slick tri-fold brochures littering nearly every table.
He didn't bother to look. "Apparently," he murmured, and Madison felt his gaze shift over her. It left a smoldering trail.
"If that's not acceptable, then perhaps Katherine can replace me with another."
"No, it's fine." Alex needed her to get started, quickly. The invitations were already out, and he was a little anxious to see if this beauty could do all they claimed. The last thing she looked capable of was anything remotely domestic. "I'm having a party for fifty."
She didn't bat a lash.
"I'll expect you to arrange the catering."
She simply stared.
"And attend as the hostess."
"I assumed you'd want me to hostess that, darling," Elizabeth said as she appeared by his side, lacing her arm through his.
Madison looked on expectantly, waiting for him to change his mind.
"Never assume," Alex said icily, and Elizabeth stiffened. "And I have to make use of this charitable donation, don't I? Besides—" He patted Liz's hand, the gesture bone dry of sympathy, "you're a guest."
Her look spoke of her dissatisfaction, but it couldn't be helped. Alex needed some separation from Elizabeth and the matchmakers. And he needed it now.
The auctioneer called for attention as a striking man in a white dinner jacket strode center stage. He was a cover model for romance novels, and the charity gift was a night on the town with him. Elizabeth disengaged herself, left his side and started the bidding, sparing him a quick glance.
Alex eyed her, the hint of jealousy in her tight smile, and he was glad he'd bid on the Wife Incorporated services. He motioned to a waiter, and the man brought a tray of pale-pink champagne in crystal flutes. When he turned to offer glasses to Madison and Katherine, both women were gone, only the scent of jasmine and spice lingering behind.
He scanned his surrounding and caught a glimpse of Madison, or rather a rear view. Her beaded gown was slung so low he could see the enticing dip of her spine. She had the sexiest walk he'd ever seen. Alex's body reacted to the delicious sight as she disappeared beyond the stone pillars. He took a deep breath and drained one flute without stopping, questioning his wisdom of getting within earshot of a woman who could command his senses simply by being untouchable.
That, he thought, was more woman than he'd encountered in years.
* * *
Good God, did this woman look sexy in everything she wore? Alex wondered, though he hardly recognized her behind those huge, tortoiseshell glasses. In a jewel-green suit with her hair in a tight twist, she projected a competent manner as she strode up his driveway. Far removed from the sleek creature he'd encountered last night. "Are you always this prompt?" he asked, glancing at his watch.
"Always. Consider it a sign of efficiency, sir."