Found in You: Page 22
"It pleases me for you to spend the night with me, too." He wiped his mouth with his napkin and set it over his plate. "And as long as we're talking about it, it would please me if you would spend all your nights here and if all your things were here as well."
I froze. There it was. At least, I thought that there it was. I needed clarification before I freaked. "What are you...I don't know what you're saying."
"Yes, you do. But I'll spell it out if that makes you feel better." He stood and took his dish to the sink as he spoke. When he returned, he remained standing, leaning against the breakfast bar behind him. He probably didn't realize the impact of his towering presence. Or perhaps he did. Perhaps it was purposeful. He did know how to mold a situation to his favor.
"Yes, spell it out." My voice squeaked, unsure whether to be excited or terrified.
"Why do you need your apartment? Your lease is almost up. Move in here."
I didn't even bother asking how he knew about my lease. If I thought about it too hard, I'd worry about the safety of my other secrets. Besides, I was too stunned by his statement to be able to think about anything but those three words: Move in here.
"I love that I can still shock you." Hudson tilted his head, looking at me from a new angle. "But I'd prefer that this wasn't one of the times that I did. What about that plan is shocking to you?"
Shaking, I set my spoon down. Even though I'd only eaten half of my fruit, there was no way I was eating more. I could barely formulate thought let alone think about chewing and swallowing. "Well, um, it's just, it's awfully soon."
He frowned. "It is. It's unfortunate that a lengthy time span is regarded as such an important element to appropriate landmarks in relationships. It shouldn't be a factor."
"But shouldn't it?" I shifted on my chair to face him head-on.
"Not for me. As I said before, when I have a plan, I commit. I plan to be with you as much as possible. And not only in the carnal sense. Moving in is a logical way to make that happen."
I stood, gathering my dishes to take to the sink. I had to clutch them against my body so he didn't hear them rattle in my unsteady hands. "And that's another reason it might not be a good idea. It seems a little like a business plan. Like this is the next step on a list. Not very romantic or anything."
His voice tightened. "I didn't realize you were in need of romance. You know that's not in my nature."
"Hey." I waited until he turned to face me, the breakfast bar between us. "That's bullshit. You say you aren't romantic, but you really are very much so." The things he'd said the night before, for example. "I wasn't complaining about your romantic overtures."
"Then what are you complaining about?" He seemed genuinely confused.
"Nothing! I'm complaining about nothing."
"You were complaining about the way I asked you to move in with me."
"No, I'm not." I shifted my eyes. "Okay, yes, I was. A little, but that's not why I'm saying no."
This took him aback. "You're saying no?"
"No." Wait. "I mean, yes." Except, I didn't really want to say no. I wanted to be with Hudson all the time, like how he'd said he wanted to be with me. Still, the length of time we'd been together... "I mean, I don't know."
Hudson came around the bar and put a hand on each of my upper arms. "Alayna, do you know how you feel about me?"
"Yes. I love you. You know that."
"Then move in with me."
I bit my lip and tugged on his lavender tie. "I have to think."
He put a finger under my chin and lifted my face so I was forced to meet his eyes. "Why?"
"I just do." I pulled away, unable to concentrate with his hands on me. Unable to stand my ground with the electricity surging between us as it always did when we touched.
Turning back to the sink for distraction, I dumped the grapefruit shells into the garbage and ran water over our dishes. "This is big, and yes, it would make things easier and I can't deny that I want to-"
"Then do it."
"-but I don't know if it's the right thing to do." I turned off the water and flicked my wet hands over the sink. Without facing him, I admitted the heart of my hesitation. "I'm falling for you too hard, Hudson. Too fast and that scares me."
"Falling? Or fallen?"
Both. Every time I was certain I'd met my max capacity of love for him, that I'd fallen as far as I possibly could, he'd go and do or say something spectacular and I'd find I loved him even more. "Either way, does it matter?"
"If you've already fallen, then why are you worried anymore about whether it's too hard or too fast? It's already done. That's how I'm approaching it."
There it was again-an allusion to the way he felt about me without an actual declaration. That was a problem right there, wasn't it? How could I live with a man who couldn't even say he loved me?
I took a deep breath and turned to him once again. "Can I just have a little time to think about it? When I'm away from you?"
He stiffened. "Are you suggesting that I'm pressuring you?"
"I'm suggesting that you're distracting. And yes, it's pressure, whether you mean for it to be or not. And honestly, a tiny bit manipulative. And with your past, it does cross my mind that maybe you want to control me, and that this is the easiest way for you to do so."
His expression hardened and I ran to him, wrapping my arms around his neck. "Now, don't, don't be upset, H. I'm not saying you are manipulating me or that you want to control me, I'm saying I need time to think. To be sure. Give it to me. Please?"
"If that's what you need." His tone was chilly, his arms remaining at his sides, even as I held him.
I curled my fingers into the hair at the back of his neck. "Hudson!"
"Don't be like this."
He remained stiff. "I'm not being like anything."
"Then are we okay?" I pressed kisses underneath his jaw, wanting-no, needing-him to yield to me, to give in to my embrace.
He exhaled, finally wrapping his arms around me. "Of course we are." He kissed the top of my head. "Always."
Hudson's driver picked him up at the same time Jordan arrived for me. The minute I was alone in the backseat of the Maybach, I pulled out my phone to call Liesl. I had to talk to someone about Hudson's move-in proposition, and she was the person I turned to when things got rough. I stopped before I dialed, however. Liesl had worked for me the night before. She'd likely still be sleeping. Besides, even though she knew me, she didn't know Hudson. Not truly. Knowing Hudson was a vital part of helping me make a sound decision.
But there was someone who did know Hudson-knew Hudson very well. And I had her number.
When Celia didn't answer, I hung up and redialed as she'd instructed. It took until the third call before I got through to her. I considered telling her my news on the phone but decided we might need something more personal. At least, I needed something more personal, so we arranged to meet for lunch at one.
Celia was already seated when I arrived at A Voce. I waited until after the waitress had taken my order for an iced tea and chicken and watercress salad before diving into conversation.
Though I'd planned to lead with Hudson's invitation to move in, it was something else entirely that came out of my mouth. "What do you know about Norma Anders?" She'd invaded my thoughts several times since she'd put her hand on Hudson's and he'd called her by her first name.
Celia's brows rose. "Ah, you heard about the slut."
"You mean, Hudson and-" My stomach churned. Maybe I shouldn't have asked.
"Honestly, I don't know for sure. It's not like Hudson discusses his conquests with me. And if I had to guess, I'd say no because if he had f**ked her-sorry, that was a bit coarse, but you know what I mean-if he had, then he'd be done with her and she certainly wouldn't still be working with him."
I wanted to grab on to Celia's words like a lifeline and believe there was no way Hudson had been...intimate...with Norma Anders. But there were holes in her theory. "That's if he slept with her when he was still, you know, messing with women. He hasn't done any of that for a while, right? Like not in the last two years."
Her forehead creased. "Uh, yeah. Of course."
"So Hudson could have slept with her after he'd started therapy and then it wouldn't have been such a big deal for him to keep her employed."
Celia nodded. "I get you. But I still don't think so. Here's the thing. Norma's always been after him. From way before he ever had therapy. And I can't tell you how many functions I went to where I watched her try to seduce him, hence the reason I refer to her as the slut. Yet despite all her attempts, he never made any move to play her."
"Which makes it all more likely that he'd go to her after therapy. Trust me, I know." It made perfect sense. The people I'd dated since therapy had been the safe ones, the men I didn't feel intensely about.
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