Alex stepped back to let her in, and she swept past. Her fragrance teased, made him think of satin sheets and hot sex. He briefly closed his eyes and shook his head at his own imagination, then let his gaze follow her as she stepped into the foyer and surveyed the area with the practiced eye of a decorator. He knew his place lacked a homey feel, but then, it never felt like much of a home to him.
"Fifty guests you said?"
"Yes." He shut the door.
Madison's gaze jerked to him. His hand in the pocket of dark pleated trousers, he still looked like the playboy millionaire, his tie loose, his blistering-white shirt still holding the crispness from an iron. That glossy black hair dipping over one brow. She was hoping he'd uglied up a bit in the past twenty-four hours, then was glad he hadn't. I shouldn't go there, she thought, turning her attention to the foyer.
The inside of the condo bore the same sterile feel of the exterior, out of place in a city where Old Southern charm prevailed. The tile floor was a rich, deep-green, the shade joining the carpet that led up the curved staircase to the second floor. The upper hall was open, offering a view of the foyer below. A massive, arched window directly opposite the front door made a majestic statement, almost bleak when she'd first stepped inside, and now she tried to think of a way to tone it down.
"Come on. I'll show you around."
Following him, they toured through the living room, formal dining room and the kitchen, all rather contemporary, with that antiseptic feel. After inspecting the appliances, which looked brand-new, and estimating the counter space, the need for preparation tables, Madison noticed there were no personal items showing. No family pictures, knickknacks, just a couple of silk flower arrangements, some carefully chosen paintings and crystal ashtrays. Cool, impersonal. Alexander Donahue. She made notes, and as they returned to the dining room with its Queen Anne-style furniture, he pulled out her chair. Smiling, she slid into it, crossing her legs and flipping open her book. When she expected him to take a seat at the head of the table, he pulled out a chair adjacent to her and sat. Madison scented his cologne, felt the heat of his body, and she sat back to avoid the incredible lure of it.
Alex sensed the barrier between them even at this short distance, and idly he wondered where she'd vanished to last night. Home to a husband? A lover? A cat? Katherine hadn't said, and he hadn't asked.
"Do you have any preferences for the menu?" She shoved her glasses up her nose as she hovered over a huge appointment book, making more notes.
"Can I trust you to select?"
She met his gaze. "Yes. Are these out-of-town guests or locals?"
"And the dress for the party?"
He frowned slightly.
"The attire depicts the atmosphere, sir. May I see an invitation? And perhaps a guest list?"
He rose from his chair and left the room, and while he was gone, Madison studied her surroundings, jotting down ideas and wondering if there was any china in that beautiful cabinet. All she could see was crystal. Very feminine crystal.
Alex reentered the dining room, handing her the envelope.
"After six. Cocktail attire. They'll expect more than hors d'oeuvres. How many have responded?"
"All of them."
Good Lord, she thought. "Famous for your parties?"
He folded his arms over his chest. "It's business. I don't think they'd refuse."
Not if they wanted to keep working for him, she thought, reminding herself he had a reputation for a reason. She focused on her notes, sweeping a loose lock of hair behind her ear.
Even in the dull light of his dining room, Alex could see the rich, bronze highlights in her hair and had the strangest urge to reach across and unpin it, see it fall over her shoulders. He blinked and turned away, feeling her gaze follow him as he moved to the doorway and leaned against the jamb. She kept asking after his preferences, the liquor, bartender, a florist he used. Alex kept staring at her legs, and when she shifted, he glimpsed the lacy top of one of her stockings. He ground his teeth nearly to powder and fought the image of garters and lace and those damned legs and reminded himself that he didn't need to get sidetracked. She was his employee for this party. And he, the paying customer.
"I'll need the key to get in and the hours you don't want anyone around."
He rolled around the doorjamb into the kitchen and came back with the spare key, dropping it into her palm. "The hours don't matter unless its before seven and after ten."
"That shouldn't be a problem. The catering budget?"
"This is the company I used last," he said, slipping a card from his pocket and tossing it on the table. It spun toward her, but Madison recognized the logo.