It took Chase a couple of tries before he got the edges to line up perfectly. As she watched his nimble fingers slide along the crease of the second program, her cheeks heated.
He looked up, fingers pausing. “So now that I’m here, you’re just going to sit there and…stare at me?”
Madison blinked and snatched another program. “I’m not staring at you.”
“Sure.” He drew the word out.
“Certain you don’t have something better to do?” Dividing the programs into halves, she again wanted to strangle her mom.
“Better than annoying you? There’s no such thing.”
Madison tried to ignore the teasing tone to his words, but it was hard. A small grin broke free and after a couple of moments, they fell into an easy, companionable silence as they worked on the programs.
The quiet was broken by Chase’s low chuckle, drawing her attention. “What?” she asked, wondering what she had done now.
“It’s just strange seeing you do this. Crafts aren’t your thing.”
Relaxing, she steadied the growing pile between them. “You never struck me as a craft guy, either.”
He laughed again. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“You’re making sure that Mitch and Lissa’s wedding goes off without any problems.”
“And helping you.”
Madison smiled at that. “And helping me. By the way, I’m really grateful you are helping, because this would’ve taken me forever.” Pausing, she placed another on the stack and reached for one more. “But I’m sorry my mom conned you into doing this.”
Chase’s fingers stilled over the program, and his gaze met hers. It was crazy. Dressed down in worn blue jeans and a black shirt, he was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. And the moment was sort of perfect.
Even with the deer head staring over his shoulder like a total creeper.
His gaze moved to the program in his hands. “Your mom did mention you were doing this now.”
His sentence seemed loaded, like she was missing the punch line or something. Tilting her head to the side, she waited. “Okay?”
“But she didn’t ask me.” The tips of his cheekbones flushed. “I figured you could use the help.”
Her mouth opened but nothing came out. Sure, he was just helping her fold programs out of the goodness of his heart, so it wasn’t a ringing declaration of love, but still…
Chase cleared his throat. “And with all this wine laying around, someone needs to keep an eye on you.”
Madison laughed. “I’m not a wino.”
“You were last night.”
He arched a brow. “You were dancing on a bench with some tool.”
Shaking her head, she smiled. “His name is Bobby.”
“I think his name is Rob.”
“Oh.” She bit down on her lip. “Same difference.”
He leaned forward, tapping her knee with his knuckles. “And you sat down in the middle of the pathway.”
She remembered. “I was tired.”
“And you started talking about how big the moon was.” He sat back, grinning. And suddenly… God, suddenly it was five years ago and everything…everything was normal between them.
Her chest ached, but in a good way.
“It was like you’d never seen the moon before. Surprised you still don’t think it’s a ball of cheese in the sky.”
She threw her folded program at him. “I’m not five, Chase!”
He picked up the paper. “But you were that tipsy.”
Giggling at his comment, she grabbed the box of programs and realized it was empty. Scooting over, she reached into the other one and pulled out a dozen place-card holders. Disappointment swelled when she realized they’d be done within an hour.
Madison also remembered what she’d said to him last night as he held her so tenderly in his arms, which was proof that she hadn’t been that drunk.
She had admitted that she missed him—missed this. Just being together, teasing each other or sitting in comfortable silence. Back in the day, they could go for hours like this. It was why for the longest time, she believed they were meant to be together.
Seemed silly now and maybe even a little sad, but she didn’t want this moment to end. Most importantly, she didn’t want to miss him anymore.
Chase watched her stick the little cards into the holders, wondering what had caused the glimpse of sadness that had flashed across her face. The smile was back now, and she was telling him about the project she was delving into at work. He lo—liked her like this best.
He could easily see her with someone, just sitting around, shooting the shit, and still being incredibly sexy. Maddie had this ease about her, a natural charm that drew people in. Some guy was going to be a lucky son of a bitch one day.
The cold slice of air that came out of nowhere and shot down his neck was hard to ignore.
Pushing those thoughts away, he told her about the couple his manager had caught last weekend in the storage room. “Stefan got an eyeful when he went back to get fresh towels.”
Madison tipped her head back and laughed. “And this was at Komodo? Don’t they have to go through the employee lounge for that? How did they get back there?”
“One of the waitresses left the door unlocked.” He grinned as her laugh bubbled up again. “Stefan said they had their iPhones out and were filming the whole thing.”
“Wow.” She snickered. “Amazing multitasking skills.”
Her eyes rolled. “Yeah, there’s nothing more romantic than getting it on while someone is shoving a phone camera in your face.”
An image of Maddie under him, naked and writhing, getting it on with a camera, and then without the camera, flashed in his head.
Yeah, not romantic, but sexy as hell. It suddenly felt stifling in the small room, and he tugged at his shirt collar.
Maddie’s brows furrowed. “What are you thinking about?”
“You don’t even want to know.”
A sweet, hot flush swept over her cheeks, and she quickly returned her attention to sticking the cards in the holders. It didn’t seem possible, but the swelling between his legs was increasing. Jesus. H. Christ.
Chase stretched out his legs. Didn’t help. “So…”
She peeked up. “So what?”
“So when are we going to be doing this for your wedding?”
For a long moment, long enough to realize what a crap hole he’d just stepped into, she said nothing as she stared at him. Chase started to laugh it off, but then she spoke.
“I don’t know if I’ll get married.”
A real fucked up part of him shouted with glee and that was wrong, because she wasn’t his, she would never be, and he wanted her happy. And Maddie could never be happy alone forever.
“You’ll get married, Maddie.”
Flecks of green churned in her eyes. “Don’t patronize me, Chase.”
Leaning back, he held up his hands. “I’m not patronizing you. I’m just being realistic.”
She whipped a holder out of the box and slammed the card into the poor thing. “Can you read the future? No. I didn’t think so.”
“I don’t know why you’re getting so bent out of shape.” He reached over and swiped the card holder out of her hand before she bent it. “There’s just no way that some guy is not going to fall head over heels in love with you. You’ll have a big wedding like this, a great honeymoon, and have two kids…”
Damn, those words felt like nails coming back up his throat. And hell, they seemed to piss her off more.
Rising to her knees, she grabbed the stack of programs and placed them in their box. “I’ll get married when you get married.”
Chase let out a startled laugh. “Bullshit.”
She shot him a glare as she started putting the card holders into the box. “What? You’re above love and marriage?”
“I’m just not that stupid.”
Her indignant huff was a clear warning. “That’s right. Just sticking your dick wherever you want is good enough for you?”
Worked for his father… Well, not really. He watched her for a few seconds, then grabbed the box and pulled it away.
On her knees, she stopped with two card holders in her little fists. Déjà vu swept over him. Except Maddie had been six, and instead of those silver stands, she’d held two massacred Barbies that he and Mitch had cut the heads off of.
Her eyes flared green. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” he said, sobering quickly.
Maddie’s eyes narrowed. “Give me back the box.”
“Give me back the box, or I will throw these in your face.”
He doubted she’d do that. Well, he hoped. “What’s your deal? I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up over my saying some guy will fall in love with you.”
“Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that a couple of hours ago, I was half naked in your arms and we were seconds away from going at it against a wall?” Suddenly, her eyes popped wide and cheeks flushed. “Forget it—forget I even brought it up.”
Something in his chest swelled, because even with his thick skull, he got why she was angry, but then the feeling deflated, because it didn’t matter. “Aw, hell, Maddie…”
“I said forget it.” She stood and relatively gently placed the last of the card holders in the box. “Thanks for your help.”
“Damn it.” He placed the box aside and shot to his feet, catching her before she made it to the door. Her eyes dropped to his hand and then flicked back to his face. “What happened between us—”
“Obviously meant nothing,” she cut in. “You were just looking for a place to stick—”
“Don’t ever say that,” he growled, now pissed off just as much as she was. “You’re not someone I’d be looking to do that with. Got that?”
Maddie blinked once and then twice. Wrenching her arm free, she swallowed. “Yeah, I think I got that.”
Before he could say another word, she stormed out of the room, slamming the door in his face. Minutes went by as he stared at the space where she’d stood. When it finally sunk in why she was pissed with that last line, how she’d probably perceived what he’d said, Chase cursed again.
Thrusting a hand through his hair, he looked down at the neatly folded wedding programs and then to the door. It was better if she believed he didn’t want her. Maybe even better if she believed he did but just for sex, because if he were with her, he’d break her heart.
Madison was full of restless energy when she returned to the cabin, relieved to find Chase hadn’t somehow beaten her back. There were still two hours left before dinner, and she needed time to work off the anger and pent-up frustration.
Things had been going great between them, and then he had to bring up getting married, going as far as to say that she would end up with another man. Didn’t he see how cruel that was after what they’d almost done? After what she’d wanted from him for years?