Seven people looked up and stared as if he might eat them alive.
An attractive woman barely in her thirties pointed to the back door. "I think she's in the garage, Mr. Donahue."
Frowning, Alex crossed the kitchen, skirting people and counter edges, then pushed open the inner door leading to the garage. A catering truck was parked rear first, dangerously close to his boat. The back was open, the surrounding concrete floor covered with four huge coolers.
He called for her. A clean-cut young man unloading yet another cooler, looked up, inspected him with a quick glance, then inclined his head toward the front of the truck. Alex headed that way, glancing back briefly at the kid as he went around the truck and crashed into someone. Someone soft.
Hands flew to his chest. A cushion of soft breasts and thighs pushed against him, sending him back a step and into the side of the truck.
"Whoa, easy now," he said softly, and in the tangle of their feet, he grabbed her waist to steady her.
Madison looked up and swallowed her breath. She lay awkwardly against him, his knee thrust between hers. "Oh, my."
Alex gazed into her eyes, thinking a guy could easily get lost in there and go willingly. "You okay?"
"Ah—" she blushed hotly "—yes. Fine." She pushed away from his chest, which only served to grind his thigh deeper between hers. She inhaled, her skin brightening as she scrambled back. His gaze ripped over her, touching on her breasts, then down to her cutoff jeans. She felt stripped naked in the single look. "I do apologize, Mr. Donahue," she managed, then bent to pick up her clipboard.
His biting tone made her straighten abruptly. "Is something wrong?" She shoved loose strands out of her eyes.
Alex shook his head, looking off to the side as a van rolled to a stop outside his place. His back braced against the truck, he shoved his hands into his pockets, hoping to look casual and disguise his unexpected response to her. "You were going somewhere?" he asked in a dismissing tone.
Madison studied him for a moment, yet when he turned his head and delivered a glacial stare, she arched a brow. "You really should loosen up, Mr. Donahue. You're gonna snap in half someday." She walked briskly away, muttering something about him being tense as a cat on a porch full of rockers.
Alex rested his head against the cold steel truck and let out a breath. Good grief, he thought, trying to control the humming in his body. He could still feel the heat of her on his thigh, burning through his trousers. Just the thought of feeling her warm center made him harder. He was in big trouble if a brush against her did this, he thought, rolling around and heading into the house. In the kitchen his gaze immediately fell on her tanned legs, the curve of her bottom in worn cutoffs as she bent over the oven, mitts on her hands as she lifted out a baking sheet. Scenting the neat rows of puffed pastries, she smiled as she set it on the stove top.
"Why are they cooking here?" he asked, and disliked that everyone flinched. Except Madison.
"They aren't. I am." She removed the oven mitts, and with a spatula, slid the toasted mounds onto a plate, ladled on a white sauce from a pot, spooned on something else from another. She grabbed a bundle of silverware from a stack, laying it and the plate on the work counter. "Everyone," she called. "Take a break." She inclined her head to her crew while pulling a stool to the edge. "Sit," she said to Alex.
He didn't, folding his arms over his chest and watching as the kitchen emptied and she opened the refrigerator, grabbing a carton of milk. The fridge was stocked, two shelves with trays of hors d'oeuvres, and he felt invaded. Felt as if he was losing control over his house. During past parties, which weren't that often, he'd simply asked a woman friend to take care of it and made himself scarce until the guests arrived. It was always quiet, sparse. But this, he thought, was a circus.
"Are all these people necessary?"
"Yes, they are." She poured milk into a glass. "You're the one who wanted to feed fifty, elegantly, in less than five days, Mr. Donahue."
"You did warn me," he conceded sourly. This was his fault, not hers, and it was clear she was trying her best to get it all done in time. Alex wondered if it was the commotion or the woman who bothered him. And did she have to look so fresh scrubbed and cute in cutoffs and that clinging T-shirt?
She faced him, placing the glass on the counter, then frowned. "Would you prefer your study? The dining room is being prepared and the—"
He looked at the plate. "What's this?"
She peered, concerned. "Aren't you hungry?"