Found in You: Page 15
Then I let it out in one slow exhalation.
"What in the hell was that about?"
One stressor gone, the other still stood by me. At least I couldn't get arrested for speaking to Celia.
I headed up the ramp toward the main part of the club, hoping to somehow escape my anxiety attack.
"Laynie?" Celia pressed, following after me.
I shrugged. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You could cut the tension with a knife."
I opened my mouth to deny it but what was the point? "Was it that obvious?"
"Yeah. It was. Wanna talk about it?"
I stopped walking and paused.
"Ooh, there's hesitation." Her eyes twinkled with the anticipation of gossip. "Let's talk about it. But not here. Over coffee."
I rubbed my fingers over my brows, trying to alleviate the throbbing behind my eyes. "All right." I didn't have the energy to argue or make up an excuse. Besides, I needed a drink, and since it was too early for liquor, coffee would make a fine replacement.
"Great! I'm sure you need to lock up. I'll head to the coffee shop next door and get us a table."
Fifteen minutes later, Celia and I were seated at my favorite cafe in Columbus Circle. I'd already downed a third of my iced double espresso and was realizing that maybe caffeine was exactly the opposite of what I needed because now my shakiness had increased to full-on jitters.
Celia had so far filled the conversation with easy topics that I was able to respond to with only one- or two-word sentences. Meanwhile, my head spun, unable to concentrate on any one thing for any length of time. The one thing I was sure of was that I shouldn't be having coffee with Celia Werner. Should. Not.
"So who was the guy?"
I rocked back and forth in my chair. "No one. A client."
"That's a lie and you know it. There was all that weird vibe stuff going on."
Her eyes bore in to me, but I was unwilling to give anything except a one-shouldered shrug. What would I tell her, anyway? Hudson didn't even want me talking to her, let alone telling her big important things. And if I did explain about Paul, what if she told Hudson?
Shit, shit, shit. Hudson.
I had the distinct feeling that he would not approve of my working with Paul Kresh. And it wasn't like it was something I could necessarily hide. Hudson did own the club, after all. Fuck, f**k, f**k.
Unaware of the turmoil in my mind, Celia tried another method of getting the dirt. "I mean, I get it. He's yummy, as in I wouldn't mind having him in my bed for a night or twelve."
I chortled. "Good luck with that. His business partner is also his girlfriend." Of course, Paul had been engaged when he hooked up with me. "On second thought, you probably still have a chance."
"Obviously you speak from experience."
No shit, Sherlock. I was about as experienced as you could get when it came to Paul Kresh. I knew his habits, his patterns, his workout schedule. Details of his life I'd committed so deeply to memory that they were impossible to forget. Keeping it all bottled up wasn't helping. I'd learned to cope through talking. I needed to talk.
"Tell me. You know you want to."
Celia was right. I did want to tell her. So I did.
Hudson had told Celia a few things about my past, but I wasn't entirely sure what so I told her everything. When I finished she was silent and wide-eyed for several seconds.
"Damn," she said finally.
"Like, ugh. I don't even know what to say." She took a deep breath and straightened from her leaned-in position. "Does Hudson know?"
"He knows about the restraining order, of course. He told you about that, didn't he?"
She nodded. "He mentioned something about it."
I tried not to be embarrassed that he'd shared that with Celia. I'd already guessed she knew that much. It made sense why he'd told her. She was in on the scam we'd tried to pull on Sophia and it was important that Celia knew all the details, I supposed.
Whatever. It didn't matter what Hudson had said or why, because now I'd told it all to Celia myself. "But he doesn't know I met with Paul today. I didn't know I was meeting with him until he showed up. Now I don't know what to do."
I sipped at the straw of my iced espresso that was mostly water by that point. "The obvious answer is to not work with him. That's what I have to do. And Paul can say whatever he wants, but I can't put myself and The Sky Launch in that kind of jeopardy."
"There you go! You got it worked out." Celia's eyes narrowed as if she were considering. "Except..."
I had a whole bunch of "excepts" running through my mind. Except working with Paul would be good for the club. Except I owed him. Except he might get mad and cause me trouble if I didn't go on board with his scheme. Except I really wanted Hudson to think I could do good things with his club.
I wondered what Celia's "except" was. "Except what?"
"Party Planners Plus is getting a really good name around town. It's impossible to please my mother and she was almost happy with what they did at the MoMA. That's saying a lot. They'd do great things for the club." She took a sip of her nonfat latte. "And Hudson would be proud."
"Are you reading my mind?"
She smiled. "I'm just thinking logically." She set her drink down and seemed to go into planning mode. "Would you have to work with Paul hands-on?"
"No, I think I could go strictly through Julia."
"You could make that a stipulation to signing a contract with them."
"But Hudson would freak! My brother would freak!" I said it before I remembered that I'd cut Brian out of my life. "Not that I'm speaking to my brother, but he worked his ass off to get me out of the whole Paul debacle."
Celia didn't bat an eye. "Don't tell him. Don't tell either of them."
"How can I hide Paul from Hudson? He owns the club!"
"Your contact is going to be with the girlfriend, right? If Hudson happens to see the paperwork-which is unlikely-it will say Party Planners Plus. If I remember correctly, Paul's not even really an owner. It's legally all in Julia's name."
"Right, right. That's right." I was impressed. Celia was actually good at this scheming stuff. "But since that's the case, maybe I should tell Hudson."
"You can tell him, but if I know Hudson-and I do-there's no way he'll let you keep that contract. He's too protective of things he considers his. And in this case, that's not only The Sky Launch, it's you."
My feminist side wanted to get pissy at being considered a man's object, but the in love side-the more dominant side, at the moment-blushed in agreement. "I know. It was worth a shot though."
"So you have two options: forget the contract or forget telling Hudson."
I didn't like either choice. But I wanted that contract. Badly. So badly I could taste it. And feeling like it was a way to pay back Paul made the decision all the richer. "I won't tell him. I'll work with Party Planners and Hudson will never be the wiser."
"Then I won't tell him either." She put her hand up and dangled her last finger. "Pinky swear."
Her promise made me feel better. Made me feel like I had someone on my side. Made the lie seem less likely to explode in my face. "Thank you. Talking to you really helps me figure things out."
"Of course it does." She smiled in that way where she knew she was adorable and made no apology for it. "Hey, why didn't you call me this morning anyway?"
I took another sip of my watered-down drink while I decided if I should tell her the truth or make up an excuse. After I'd been honest about everything else, I settled on the truth. "I didn't think it was a good idea to see you. Hudson wasn't happy when he found out we chatted yesterday."
"Hmm. I imagine he didn't." She rubbed her lips together, and I wondered briefly how she kept her gloss looking so fresh all the time. "Well, tell you what," she said after a minute. "We don't have to tell him about this either. I didn't tell Jordan I was going to go find you so I'm sure he wouldn't say anything. You could just not say anything either."
The thought had crossed my mind, but only fleetingly. "I'm not sure if I'm good with keeping it from him." The list of things I wasn't telling Hudson was getting much longer than I felt was acceptable. My past with David, working with Paul, now seeing Celia behind his back. I looked at my watch. It was only a little after one. Was that too early to have a beer?
"Sure, I get that. I'm not trying to encourage keeping secrets or anything, but he's so weird where you're concerned. Protective or something. The last time I talked to you, he was pissed for days. He thinks I'm going to turn you against him or something." She rolled her eyes. "But it's up to you. Just let me know so I'm on the same page."
"Okay." But I planned on telling Hudson about Celia. We were supposed to be working on honesty and the weight from two secrets was heavy enough without adding a third one.
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