Found in You

Found in You: Page 23

If Hudson had never been interested in playing Norma, then she was similarly safe.

On the other hand, Hudson had told me more than once that he'd never wanted to play me either. Did he refrain from playing Norma for similar reasons? Because he felt something for her?

The idea made me sick with jealousy.

And it didn't give me any answers as to whether or not she was special to him now or in the past. If I really wanted to know, I'd have to look closer at Norma. I made a mental note to do a Google search in my free time.

Then I deleted the mental note.

What the hell was I thinking? Internet-stalking was for the old Alayna Withers. I would not stoop to that level. Hudson wanted me with him. Always. What other proof did I need to know I was the important woman in his life?

We halted the conversation to let the waitress serve us. When we were alone again, I started up as if we'd never stopped. "You're probably right. I don't know why I'm worrying about it, really. I'm the one he asked to move in with him, not her."

"Exactly." Her smile vanished. "Wait, what? He asked you to move in? That's awesome!"

It was awesome. Utterly awesome, and for the first time, I let myself truly feel the awesomeness of it rather than just the fear. I played it casually though, shrugging it off as no big deal. "I don't know. It's too soon. Isn't it too soon?"

"Whatever. Are there rules about these things?" Celia talked around a forkful of salad. "When Hudson knows what he wants, he doesn't hesitate."

I tried not to let it bother me that Celia knew Hudson cold. "He told me pretty much the same thing." I swallowed. "When I told him no."

"You didn't!" She gasped and her expression matched her surprised exclamation.

"I did. Well, I said I'd think about it."

Celia was beyond excited. "And now you've thought about it and you're going to say yes. You have to say yes. How can you not say yes? This is Hudson Pierce!"

"I don't love him for that reason." Not because he was world-renowned billionaire business mogul Hudson Pierce, anyway. But because he was who he was-unique and special in so many ways.

"All the more reason you have to say yes.
And that's exactly why you're the one he wants. You aren't caught up in the show that surrounds him. You can't imagine how few people are." She pulled her loose blonde hair to one side of her head. "Jesus, Alayna, you're perfect for him. You have to move in. You'll break his heart if you don't. He so obviously loves you."

Was it really that obvious? "He still hasn't said it."

"But didn't he? Asking you to move in with him...that seems like saying it to me. In the only way Hudson can."

Just like how he'd needed to show me the night before how he felt about me with his body since he couldn't say it with words.

Okay. Maybe Celia had a point.

Or she simply understood my lover way better than I did.

"Damn it." I had wanted to be responsible this time. Wanted to ride this relationship with caution, to not f**k any of it up like I usually did, and here both Hudson and Celia had compelling reasons to throw all caution to the wind. "I do need a new place to live."

"Get out! This is perfect then. Like, fated or whatever."

It had been convenient that I'd found Hudson just when Brian had decided to stop supporting me. I hadn't ever bought into the idea of fate or destiny, but maybe there was something about being meant for each other that deserved to be credited. Or else Hudson merely had impeccable timing. Whatever the reason, we'd found each other, and thinking about the immensity of that made me choke up. "Ah, I can't talk about this anymore. It's making me all twitchy and emotional."

Celia smiled with equally watery eyes. "But you're going to say yes, right?"

I gave an almost imperceptible nod.

"You are!" Celia clapped her hands together. "I feel like I should hug you. I'm a hugger. But we're eating and in a restaurant so maybe that would be weird. This will have to do." She placed her hand over mine and squeezed.

I was beyond grateful that we were at a restaurant because I was not a hugger. The hand squeeze was a good compromise and actually sort of nice. It was good to have a friend that really understood the things I was going through. That's what Celia was now to me-a friend.

She was still beaming when she took her hand off mine. "When are you going to tell him? Tonight?"

"No. I don't think so. I have a meeting at eight-thirty so he's taking me to an early dinner at six and I don't want to tell him when we're rushed."

She frowned. "You have a meeting? Tonight?"

"Yeah. Why do you think that's weird?" Or was I misreading her expression?

"Not weird. Just horrible that you have to work on a Friday evening. Doesn't the fact that you're sleeping with the boss award you certain privileges?"

I laughed. "You would think. It was Hudson that set it up for me, and I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth."

"Oh. Interesting." She smoothed her eyebrows with her index finger, as if they would have gotten out of place. "Who's the meeting with anyway?"

"Aaron Trent."

"Wow. Major score, Laynie." For a minute I thought she might give me a high five. "I guess you can't complain about landing a meeting with Aaron Trent. Even if it occupies your Friday night."

"And that's the privilege I get for sleeping with the boss. Good contacts. I owe Hudson big time." I thought about what I'd said. "Except he hates being referred to as my boss."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?"

"So I'll tell him I'll move in tomorrow. No big deal. Then I can plan some way special to tell him." Or at least make sure that there would be time for celebrating after, because there was no way I'd make it through that conversation without being mauled. Not that I was complaining.

"Hey, can I borrow your phone a minute?" Celia held her hand out expectantly.

"Uh, yeah." I unlocked my screen and handed it over, curiosity lacing my tone.

"Thanks. Mine is acting so stupid. It doesn't ring half the time, which I figure is part of the reason I never get to the phone." She dialed some numbers on my phone and waited. "See? Not ringing." She hit redial and tried again. "Nothing. I guess I need to take my phone in. Thanks."

"No problem." I took my phone back and stuck it in my bra. "Oh, I, um, I didn't end up telling Hudson I saw you yesterday."

"Decided it was too tricky of a convo?"

"It never came up. And then after today-"

"You aren't going to tell him," she finished for me. "I wouldn't either. I mean, I really don't want to encourage secrets, but this is really no big deal. And Hudson would make it a big deal."

"A huge deal." Especially considering the subject matter of our discussion. "So we're good keeping it on the down low?"

"I won't say a word. Pinky swear."

"Pinky swear." I waved my little finger in the air, mimicking her.

Hopefully pinky swears actually counted for something in the rich, exotic world of Celia Werner and Hudson Pierce. Because things were going so well in my life, and that meant I had so much to lose. All it would take is a little slip of the tongue from one of us to knock down my beautiful house of cards.

Chapter Nine

The rest of the afternoon flew by as I finished up my marketing plan for my meeting with Aaron Trent. Then, an email from Julia with suggestions for package changes occupied me long enough that I had to put off going to my apartment for another time. All in all, it was a productive day, and by the time Hudson texted that he was on his way, I was famished and eager to see my man.

I stopped at the upstairs bar when I saw purple hair dancing behind the counter. "Liesl!" It hadn't occurred to me how much I'd miss my co-worker when I changed my schedule to work days.

"Hey, girlfriend!" Liesl knew me well enough to know I preferred to keep my personal space. Instead of a hug, she offered a high five. "You're looking hot." She chomped her gum as she looked me up and down. "Things must still be good with Houston Piers."

"Hudson Pierce," I corrected. "Say it with me."

She blew a big bubble and let it pop. "I know his name. Now. I just like dickin' with you." She grinned. "Tell me all about you and the psychotically hot one. And start with the sex."

"That would take a while." I suddenly wished I wasn't on my way out, that I had time to sit and chat with my friend. I'd lied to her like I'd lied to everyone when the Hudson/Alayna coupledom was pretend, even though I'd ached to tell her the truth. And at the sight of her, I ached again to tell her how amazing things were going, but I'd have to give her the backstory to explain why things were different than the last time I'd said things were amazing. Given the chance, I'd tell her everything. But I didn't have that chance at the moment, and a sadness settled over me at the realization of how far apart we'd grown over the last couple of weeks.

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