Found in You

Found in You: Page 25

"It's..." He shook his head. "It's nothing."

So much for lightening the tension. "Seriously? You can't say it's nothing and expect me to let that drop." I added an awkward laugh to cover any shrillness that might be hiding in my tone. Inside, the paranoia built in my chest-paranoia that absolutely drove me insane and, like the most determined weed, was almost impossible to kill once it took root. I had to fight it, I couldn't let it win.

Hudson's jaw twitched. He was considering. Or trying to make up a good lie. Finally he spoke. "I'm going to a dinner with my mother."

Sophia. Just thinking about her made my spirits sink. No wonder Hudson didn't want to bring it up.

"Oh." I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to sort the situation out. "But we're going to dinner now."

He didn't bat an eye. "I was planning to eat light."

"You were planning to eat twice? We can skip dinner. Eat with her. I can catch a bite later." That sounded like an understanding girlfriend, right? Because that's how I needed to sound, despite the fact that I felt anything but understanding.

"I'd rather eat with you and skip dinner with her."

"Then do that."

"I can't. It's her birthday. She expects me there."

And there it was. The rest of the story. "Today's your mother's birthday and you weren't going to mention it?"

He removed his arm from behind me and dropped it into his lap. "It's not like you two are close."

"But you are!" I swiveled as much as the seatbelt would allow so I could face him. "She's your mother. Your family is important to you, whether you want to admit it or not. If I'm important to you, too, then shouldn't you share what's up with them?"

He met my eyes, piercing me in such a way I had to brace for his words. "You are important to me, Alayna, and me not telling you about this has no reflection on that." He relaxed his stare. "You were going to be at work, there was no reason to even mention it."

"But now I'm not working..."

"And now you know."

I knew because I'd dragged it from him. I knew because my circumstances changed and forced him to have to tell me. And the only reason I'd planned to be at work in the first place was because Hudson had conveniently arranged for me to be. He'd worked to keep this dinner from me. Did he really think that he could pick and choose the things he chose to share in a relationship?

Maybe he did. To his credit, he hadn't had a real relationship before.

And wasn't I picking and choosing what I shared with him?

I didn't want to think about that. My secrets had no bearing on the conversation at hand. My secrets were still safe. His was not. And finding out he'd kept something from me didn't feel right, it didn't feel good. He should have told me. Hell, he should have invited me!

I blinked back a tear that was threatening to fall. "Is it just going to be you and her?"

"No. The rest of my family will be there, too."

My lip quivered. "And you're still not going to invite me?"

"No, I'm not."

I didn't say anything. Tears were falling now and I didn't think I could talk. God, since I'd been with Hudson, I'd turned into a total crier. How embarrassing.

Hudson moved to wipe away a tear, but I pulled away, not wanting his touch.

"It's family only, Alayna. Not a big deal."

"Family only. Yep, I get it." I tried not to let that sting. Of course I wasn't family, but I'd been welcomed by most of them-by Mira, her husband Adam, by Hudson's father Jack. And now Hudson wanted me to live with him. Didn't that automatically earn me invites to family events?

"Family only. And you don't get along with Sophia. Why would you want to be there?"

"Because you're going to be there." I wiped my wet face with my palm. "And we're a couple, Hudson. When we were pretending to be a couple, you wanted her to see me with you all the time. Now that we're really a couple, you don't. That doesn't make any sense."

"Now I care more about you than her, and I'm not going to subject you to an evening with my mother." His voice was steady. In another situation, I might have admired his continued calm, cool, collected bit, but right now all I could think was, how is he not affected by this? By me?

"Can't you understand that you not letting me go feels like you're leaving me out of your life?" My voice cracked.
"It hurts."

"I'm not leaving you out of my life. I'm leaving her out of your life."

"It doesn't work like that. You can't protect me. Besides, it feels like an excuse. It feels like you're ashamed of me or like I'm not good enough to be with your family." I was beginning to doubt my decision to move in. Gratefully, I hadn't said anything yet. If he was setting up barriers between us, was cohabitating really a good idea?

"Don't be ridiculous. You've been with my family many times."

"Then why not tonight?" That was exactly my point. If I was good enough for them before, why not now?

His silence told me he wasn't willing to explain.

If he needed to be alone with his family, then all right. But I couldn't help how I felt. Crushed, that's how I felt. Absolutely crushed.

I needed to be alone before I got awful with him. I didn't trust myself not to.

Scanning the backseat, I spotted an intercom on each door. I undid my seatbelt and scooted to the door away from Hudson. I depressed the button. "Jordan, can you drop me off at my apartment?"

With lightning speed, Hudson hit his own button. "Ignore that, Jordan."

"I want to go home, Hudson. I can't be with you right now." I could barely see through my tears, but I heard him unbuckle his seatbelt and then felt him slide across the seat to me. "I don't want to be touched right now. Please."

He ignored me, pulling me into his arms. I resisted, which was senseless, really. He could overpower me in a heartbeat.

Still, I leaned into the door, pushing him away.

"Stop it. Stop fighting me." He caught each of my arms in his and held them, his hands circling my forearms with strength I couldn't hope to defeat. "Stop fighting."

"Then stop hurting me," I sobbed.

He knew I didn't mean physically. He wasn't gripping me that tightly.

"All right." He let go of me, his voice full of resignation. "You can come. If you really want to be part of this awful night, then you are welcome to join me."

My tears had frozen, surprised that I'd won. I'd never won these battles. They usually ended in me groveling, and then, when the guy refused to take me back, I would resort to crazy behavior. Like stalking. And stealing mail. And showing up at places where I knew the guy would be.

It never ended with me still with the guy.

Maybe because I was so relieved or because I was in shock, or more likely because I suddenly felt overwhelmingly guilty about the whole conversation, I burst into a new set of tears.

"Now what?"

My crying continued, but this time I let him pull me into his arms. "I'm such a bitch," I said into his shoulder.


I lifted my mouth from the material of his jacket. "I'm a total bitch. I didn't mean to pressure you into an invite, and I did. I won't go, I'll stay home." He'd asked me out of duress. It felt shitty.

Hudson pulled me tighter against him, kissing the top of my head. "You're not a bitch. And you didn't pressure me into anything. You're coming with me. It will be awful, but at least it will be awful together."

Wiping the tears from my face, I raised my eyes to his. "Are you sure?"

"I'm completely sure it will be awful."

I chuckled. "Are you sure I can come?"

He leaned his head against mine, placing a hand on my cheek. "I am. I want you there. I always wanted you there." He trailed his hand down my neck. "But my mother is mean and terrible and she wants to hurt me. And she knows the easiest way to hurt me is to hurt you." His hand at my waist gripped me tighter, his fingers digging through my dress into my skin. "I can't bear to watch you go through that."

It was my turn to assure him. I reached up, placing my hands on the sides of his face, forcing him to look at me. "Nothing she says or does means anything to me. Do you hear me? I already won. I have you."

His eyes clouded-not simply with the lust that often darkened his gray hue when he looked at me-but with emotion that I could only name as love.

He pulled me even closer, as if he could pull me into him if he tried hard enough. "You do have me. Completely."

I don't know if I moved to him or he moved to me, just that our mouths were together, shifting in such a way that it was much more than kissing. It was a declaration-a statement of a union between the two of us that we couldn't yet express in any way besides with our bodies.

When he pulled away, I was breathless and flushed.

His eyes lowered to my outfit. "You'll need a dress. We should have time to stop by the boutique." He reached across me and pushed the intercom. "Jordan, change of plans. Take us to Mirabelle's."

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