"Starved," he said with feeling.
He slid onto the stool and unwrapped the utensils. He dug into the pastry-wrapped sausage and onions, tasting a huge mouthful. He moaned, closing his eyes for second as he chewed.
"Did you make this?"
"Sure," she said, smiling.
He glanced around the cluttered kitchen. "When?" With a dishrag, she wiped the counter in front of him.
"About a half hour ago. It's rather easy, to be honest. I was afraid they were going to burn."
That's where she was rushing to, he realized, and set his fork down, meeting her gaze across the counter. "You don't have to do things like this, Miss Holt."
"I know." She leaned on the counter and grinned devilishly. "It's a perk for hiring a wife." He held back a smile. "We were going to be in here, so you couldn't have made anything for yourself and besides, airplane food stinks and after a six-hour flight…" She shrugged.
Did none of the women he'd dated do anything for this man? Madison wondered. Was his life that empty except for his company? A rather lonely existence. She knew that every time she griped about her responsibilities, deep down, she thrived on them. What was she going to do with her time, anyway? The age of bar hopping and dating a new guy every week had passed her and even in college, she'd come home twice a month to cook a few meals and see that her dad took care of himself. Daddy needed her more now and helping her younger sister, Claire, with her tuition was a heck of a lot less work than being fifteen with four brothers and sisters and trying to replace their dead mother.
She blinked, straightening, and realized it wasn't the first time he'd called her. "Sorry."
In that one instant Alex saw her fatigue, a wrenching sadness, and he said, "Perhaps you should call it a day?"
She looked down at her watch and inhaled. "Dang. I still have the tables to…" She left the kitchen, calling for the helpers. He heard rapid-fire instructions, then a burst of laughter. Alex slipped around the edge of the doorway, moving through the dining room and stopping just out of sight. People, mostly young men with rippling muscles, surrounded her, but she didn't seem to notice. He wasn't listening to the conversation, only watching. Something he did a lot around her lately.
Madison gave her instructions, then bumped into him when she turned. "Go eat," she said, pointing to the kitchen.
Alex stared down at her for a second before his lips quirked in a half smile. "Yes, ma'am."
Alex sat at the counter, ducking trays whisking past him, people lugging boxes in and out of his garage and watching her vanish, then reappear minutes later. He hadn't eaten more than a couple bites when she clapped her hands and called an end to the day. She saw the group to the door and Alex found it more interesting than sitting alone in the empty kitchen.
* * *
A few minutes later Madison closed the door and faced him. "See. Peace and quiet, as promised."
"I didn't mean for you to railroad them out of here."
"Hey, take it while you can. They'll be back at eight in the morning."
She crossed the foyer, shooting quickly past him and back into the kitchen. He followed like a hungry animal, sliding into the stool and forking a chunk of sausage. "You're a good cook, Miss Holt." Why did his place feel suddenly smaller with just the two of them there?
"Thank you." Her back was to him as she loaded the dishwasher, wiped counters and restored his kitchen, which hadn't seen this much activity in a year, before turning to the counter. She busied herself with storing the remaining pastries in a container, covered them with white sauce, then leaving it on the counter with the lid cocked.
"Let them cool some more, then put the container in the fridge before morning, please."
Alex muttered something, he didn't know what, because he couldn't keep from watching her – her bare tanned legs, her round behind tucked into frayed jean shorts. And while his mind replayed the accidental collision in the garage, his body gave it clarity, thickening as he recalled the sweet heat of her straddled over his thigh. Good grief, he didn't need this, he thought, shoving a forkful of sausage in his mouth.
Alex shifted on the stool, swallowing. "Have you eaten?"
She faced him, her brows drawn. "Yes. We ordered out." She flicked a hand to the stack of pizza cartons in the trash. "Oh, you had some messages." She fished in her back pocket, then laid the stack of paper beside his plate. "Miss Murray called twice, asking if you'd returned. She wants you to call her back immediately."
He didn't, nor did he glance at the messages. He just ate, thinking that in the middle of juggling all her duties, she managed to make him a really nice dinner, yet she ate takeout pizza with the work crew. A woman like her ought to be doing this for a husband, not him, he thought.