"No kidding." She struggled to her feet, then rinsed her mouth and washed her face. He loomed behind her, his expression angry and disappointed.
"You were going to keep this from me." This is why she vanished so quickly.
"You didn't want a future. This—" she patted her tummy "—is a living, breathing future. I can handle this alone."
Her exclusion of him, after all they'd been through, sent his anger mounting, and he wanted to shake some sense into her. "You're being damned unfair, Madison. I love you. I wanted to marry you before I opened this door, but you had no right to keep this from me."
He forced her to look at him, his gaze ripping over her face. Then he kissed her, hard and compelling before he let her go, tucking in his shirt as he descended the stairs. Minutes later she heard his Jaguar peeling down the gravel drive, heading for the highway. Madison covered her face with her hands and slid to the floor.
* * *
He didn't come back. He didn't call. She was afraid she'd lost him for good. Three days passed before she heard anything, and it was from Kat.
"He did what?"
"He put up a billboard on Abercom Street. It's rather huge, Mad. And it says, Alexander Donahue loves Madison Holt. With a plea to marry him. Every radio station is talking about it."
"Oh, Lord." A pleasant warmth seeped into her blood.
"He's adorably pitiful."
"Flowers, gifts – billboards. It's talk."
"Honey, it's shouting."
"Why, Maddy? You love him, don't you?"
"More than anything, but Alex can't change overnight."
"Hey, from what I've seen he's been changing all along. I've never seen the man so determined to get what he wants. And he wants you."
Her heart skipped. "I have to think of my family and this child."
"And when the hell are you going to just take what you want! You've been giving for so long, Maddy. It's your turn."
Oh, how she wanted desperately to take it all for herself. But she still had family obligations and couldn't ask Alex to take on the burden. Yet the nice, neat little package loomed ahead, and Madison wondered exactly what was stopping her. He loved her, wanted to marry her even before he knew of the baby. But she couldn't just abandon her family. Daddy needed her. Claire had another year of school left. And you're scared to take the chance, a voice pestered. You're terrified that homegrown and simple isn't enough for Alexander.
The sound of tires splattering gravel on the drive drew her attention, and she brushed back the curtain and saw a four-by-four ATV. "Someone's here. Probably made a wrong turn off the highway." She said goodbye and hung up. Kat's words ringing in her ears, she stepped out onto the porch.
Alex got out of the truck.
Her eyes widened and her pulse pounded as he marched up the steps, took her hand and dragged her after him.
"When did you get this?"
"After I sold the Jag."
Her brows shot up. "You sold it?"
"Didn't I just say that?"
She jerked free. "I'm not going anywhere with you when you're mad."
He sighed and came to her. In an instant he gathered her in his arms and kissed her senseless. "Come with me, please."
"Since you asked nicely." Not that she ever thought of resisting, she thought, climbing into the ATV and examining the interior. There was an infant-care seat in the rear, and her heart turned to mush. She faced front as he got in and started the engine. He didn't talk, driving onto the highway, listening to country music.
"Where are we going?"
He wiggled his brows, ever silent, and her pulse accelerated with anticipation. He pulled in front of a large white house with dark green shutters. Madison climbed out of the truck. It was beautiful. Low-country style with a wrap-around porch and a waist-high fence around the yard. There wasn't another house within four acres.
"Whose is it?"
Taking her hand, he strode up the porch and opened the door before stepping back. "Ours."
She blinked. "What?"
He gave her a push inside.
Madison liked the outside and fell in love with the inside. Spacious with plenty of windows. A formal living room and dining room, but as she stepped into the kitchen, she couldn't help but smile. It was huge, the counter overlooking a Carolina room, a dining slash family-room area with a river stone fireplace and a bank of windows and French doors.
Alex leaned against the frame, watching her run her hand over the counter, poke in cabinets. The look on her face told him more than she said, and he nearly groaned with relief. Now for the big guns.
"Come on." He turned out of the kitchen and walked through the foyer to the hall. There were four bedrooms and an office. He stopped in front of the room across from the master suite and pushed open the door.