Found in You: Page 27
The length was short enough to show some leg, but the flowing shape would only hint at my curves rather than hug them like many of my dresses did, leaving more to the imagination. It was a different style for me and that might have been what had prevented me from the same vision Hudson had. But he knew my body well, better than I did.
"He's right. It's perfect for you." I'd been so mesmerized by my reflection, Stacy's voice startled me.
I turned to her and found her expression had softened. It occurred to me that she was comparing herself to me as much as I compared myself to Celia, that she was measuring her flaws against mine. It was enough to send a person into dark depression. At least, that's what that kind of thinking could do to me. Again, I felt sorry for her. Or maybe it wasn't pity, it was something else-solidarity, maybe.
Stacy reached up to adjust a strap. "He has good taste."
Her tone suggested she wasn't talking about the dress. It hinted at more. The connection I felt with her, odd though it may be, led me to prod. "But...?"
Her forehead creased. "But what?"
"I sense there was more to your statement."
She looked away, busying herself with adjusting the breast cups of the dress. "It's not my place."
"Go ahead. Whatever you have to say, I can take it." Did I sound too eager? What I was hoping to gain from the conversation, I couldn't say. Maybe I was simply curious.
That was a lie. I was obsessed. No matter how "well" I was, no matter how healthy, I'd always be drawn to dig deeper, to find out as much as I could about the people I was attracted to. This was no different. Stacy had something to say regarding Hudson-something that might give me insight into the man I loved. I had to keep digging.
When she didn't offer more, I nudged her. "I know you've dated Hudson before."
She let out a sharp laugh. "Is that what he told you?"
I took a deep breath, hoping the words I chose to speak would keep her talking. "He hasn't told me anything about you. I've seen a picture of the two of you together at an event or something."
"Right." She nodded as if she knew exactly what picture I was talking about. "I was his escort for the night. We never dated."
"Escort?" My mind immediately went to hookers and high-priced call girls.
"Not that kind of escort. I never slept with him."
A huge weight lifted off my chest at her admission. I knew Hudson had slept with other women. Of course he had, but I didn't want to think about it. Because if I did, that's all I'd think about-him and whomever, sharing the intimacies that he and I shared now. So knowing that Hudson and Stacy never had that-it was a relief.
With that worry abated, I could concentrate on the other thing niggling at the edge of my brain. If they hadn't dated, if they hadn't slept with each other, yet Stacy emanated such scorn-
Then I got it. "Oh. I think I understand." She'd been one of his victims. One of the women whom he'd played-made her love him with whatever he said or did, then discarded her. It made me sick, and I hated that about me. I didn't want to feel sick about the things Hudson had done. I wanted to love him enough to look past anything.
But I was human. And even though I did love him past anything, it wasn't pleasant to focus on the things he'd done that had hurt people.
That thought was the one I clung to-if it made me feel this way to realize the brokenness of his past actions, then Hudson must ache inside, carrying the weight of these mistakes. I surely ached from the damage I'd inflicted on others-my strained relationship with my brother, how I'd hurt the men in my past. Paul...
I dismissed the name of my past lover and refocused on Stacy.
"Maybe you do understand," she was saying. "And maybe Hudson's changed. But I should warn you-"
"I don't need to be warned." It was absolutely schizo how I went back and forth from encouraging to defensive. I bit my lip and when I spoke again, I tried to assume the calm and inviting posture I had before. "I mean, he's already told me everything." I hope.
Giving voice to my fear, Stacy raised a brow and asked point blank, "Has he?" She let it sink in for a moment, letting me wonder.
She gathered the dress I'd been wearing off the floor. "Believe whatever. All I'm saying is he's not what he says he is." She hung it as she talked. "No matter what he tells you, it's a lie."
I'd been around this before: He tells me he won't lie and if I believe that, then I can believe everything he says. But if that is in itself a lie... "But it's not just what he said," I thought out loud. "He's shown me who he is. And Celia said-"
Stacy froze. "Celia Werner?"
Her face grew serious. "Don't believe anything she says either. They're together."
"They're friends." I meant for my tone to be insistent, but it came out weak and, again, defensive.
"They're together." Her tone succeeded at insistent. "Or they were. I can prove it too, if-"
The door opened, cutting her off. Unlike Stacy, Hudson didn't knock. He simply took his place in the world. I loved that about him.
"Gorgeous." He wanted me and it showed in every part of him from his posture to the gleam in his eyes, to the thickness of his voice.
And everything Stacy and I had been talking about vanished from my mind. My knees went weak with desire, and whatever doubts I had disappeared. He was there fixed on me. How could I be anything but sure? Sure about him, about me. About us.
"Thank you." I glowed; I could feel the warmth in every part of my body, reaching toward him. "It is gorgeous. You chose well."
"I did. I chose you."
How was I possibly still standing upright when it felt like every part of me had fallen into delight?
He saw what he did to me, his lips curving into a knowing smile. "She'll wear it out." His eyes never left me even though he spoke to Stacy.
Our conversation came rushing back to me, and the sweet feelings Hudson had brought became jaded. I should drop it, let myself stay lost in that happy, warm place.
But she'd said she could prove it...
"Hudson, I'll be a minute. I need to freshen up my face."
He nodded, and I realized he meant to wait while I reapplied my makeup. But I wanted him out of there, bad idea as it was.
I caught sight of the shoes that I'd worn earlier, sticking out from under the rack where I'd flung them. "Would you mind picking out some other shoes for me, H? Those ones don't quite go."
He followed my gaze to the discarded shoes. "No, they don't. I saw some silver heels that would look stunning."
Like me, Hudson had an appreciation for shoes. It was another one of the things I adored about him.
"Grab them for me?" I didn't have to tell him I'd let him f**k me in them later. He knew. He'd be the one to decide that anyway. He could dominate me all he wanted. Fine by me.
"Sure thing, baby." He winked and I smiled at his endearment. He was so unused to any terms of affection that they all sounded strained and forced on his tongue. Except for when he called me precious. That one came out with complete sincerity.
He opened the door and left to hunt for shoes. Stacy began to follow him, but I reached out and grabbed her forearm.
"You said you could prove it." I hoped my whisper wasn't as shaky as it sounded to my own ears. Was I actually doing this? Giving in to my doubts about Celia and Hudson? This was not a healthy move. It could very well be the beginning of spiraling into a loss of control. Or maybe I'd already lost control, because against my better judgment, I couldn't keep myself from asking. "Can you really?"
"Yes. Not here, but-"
"Give me your phone."
She pulled her phone from her pocket, and I entered my number in before handing it back to her. "You can text me." It was a bad idea-inviting doubts with whatever so-called evidence Stacy had to share.
But on the other hand, my mind could make up a pretty hefty dose of horrible things that Stacy might produce to prove a more-than-friends relationship between Celia and Hudson. The real proof was probably much less malignant.
At least, that's what I kept telling myself.
We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after eight. This time Hudson waited for Jordan to let us out of the limo, for appearances perhaps. I'd never been to this restaurant and knew nothing about it, hadn't even caught the name. I only knew we were back Uptown. We rode the elevator hand-in-hand to the top floor in silence. I was quiet because I was nervous-nervous to interact with Sophia again, especially if she wasn't aware I was crashing her birthday party.
I couldn't say why Hudson was quiet. Perhaps he was nervous too.
"Mr. Pierce," the host said, recognizing Hudson. "Your party is already seated. Right this way."
We followed him into the restaurant toward windows that overlooked the city, the tree cover of Central Park the highlight of the view.
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