Found in You

Found in You: Page 28

The Pierce family was spread over two tables pressed together. I scanned the faces as the host set up an extra place setting for me, the unexpected guest. Chandler, Hudson's teenage brother, and Sophia, her face expressionless. Next was Jack, Hudson's father, a real charmer. It surprised me that he was sitting next to his wife since he openly detested her. Across from them were Mira and Adam.

That should have been everyone, but near me, their backs toward me so I hadn't spotted them at first, were Warren and Madge Werner. And Celia.

I tensed, so many warring thoughts in my head, emotions so strong that they spread through my body. Hudson hadn't invited me, hadn't wanted me at this social function, but Celia had been on the guest list all along. Was that the true reason he hadn't told me about Sophia's birthday? Both of us had agreed not to see her. Yeah, I had gone back on that deal, but at least there wasn't a chance that I was going to jump her. At least I hadn't almost been engaged to the woman. Had he not invited me to this dinner because of that silly agreement, or was it because he wanted to be alone with her? Well, alone as in without me, anyway.

And Celia, whom I had confided in and bonded with just that afternoon, hadn't mentioned the dinner either.

My eyes flew from the blonde to the man standing next to me. His face was even. This was why he'd been quiet. He knew I'd be upset.

I was.

I couldn't take it. I had to bolt. Through gritted teeth, I hissed, "I thought you said this was family only."

Then I turned and walked away.

Chapter Eleven

Before I was out of earshot, I heard Hudson defending my departure. "She left something in the car. Excuse us a moment."

Fuck, he was coming after me.

The sure way to lose him was to head for the bathroom, not that I put it past Hudson to follow me in, but I didn't know where it was located, and I'd already made it past the host's desk. My eyes scanned the hallway. There were the elevators, which would require waiting for a car, and a door to the stairs.

I took the stairs, and, realizing fifty flights down in heels was maybe not a good idea, I went up.

The breeze hit my face as I stepped onto the roof, the heavy door slamming behind me. I kept walking.

The roof was practically abandoned, so I knew the sound of the door shutting behind me was Hudson. Still I kept on, rushing through the gardens and leisure seating arranged across the building top, trying to find a spot where I could be alone, where I could breathe, where I could sort out my paranoia from the legitimacy of the situation.

At the corner wall, I stopped. I leaned over the edge of the cement enclosure, gulping in huge lungfuls of air. Deep breathing was the only thing keeping me from breaking down into sobs.

His footsteps were quiet behind me, but I still heard them, as if I was hyper-attuned to his movements. He stopped before he got to me, reaching out to me with speech instead of his body. "The Werners are practically family."

At least he was smart enough to know why I'd run. And brave enough to not pretend otherwise. He deserved credit for that.

But I couldn't give him anything but disbelief. "Right. Uh-huh." I didn't turn toward him. I didn't want to see his face as he explained. If his expression said I was being ridiculous-it would break me.

"What, do you think I didn't tell you on purpose?" His voice was calm despite his words.

I spit out a harsh laugh. "You don't want to know what I'm thinking."

"Actually, I do."

I spun around. "No, you don't." I backed up until the high corner wall met my back. He didn't get it. Chances were that my feelings were magnified-I had no way to judge their validity when I was this upset. Experience and counseling taught me to not deal with these situations until I calmed down. I needed time to get calm.

"Trust me when I tell you I do."

"Hudson, you can't say that when you don't know what I want to say. It's not good. In fact, you need to leave me alone. Or I'm going to blame you for things. Things I'm probably overreacting about and you're going to be offended. And I'm going to lose you."

That was the only thing I knew for sure. That whatever I said, whatever I felt, it would drive him away. My intense emotions had never failed to scare off the men in my life. Even my own brother had grown tired of dealing.

"You aren't going to lose me." He took one step toward me. Not cautious, but completely sure. As if to say he had complete control of the situation. As if to say, just try to back me down.

I pressed harder against the cement behind me, wishing I could disappear inside it. I didn't want him to witness me like this. "You haven't seen this side of me, Hudson. You don't know."

"Then I need to stay. I need to see every side of you."

He was so calm. I shook my head and bit my lip, fighting off the tears that threatened. Fuck, I couldn't cry. Eventually I'd have to go back to that restaurant and I didn't want to be tear-stained.

But if Hudson stayed, if he pressed me, I didn't think I could keep it together.

Or maybe I could tell him. If we were going to share things, then shouldn't this be one of them? Shouldn't he be the one person whom I could go to about anything? He'd always brought me peace in the past, when I'd explained what was going on in my head.

"Go ahead. Ask me."

"It won't be asking; it will be accusing." I continued to fight, but my defense was weaker.

And underneath all the accusations rolling in my mind, one thought kept repeating: It wasn't fair. Not f**king fair. None of it-my parent's dying, my father's drinking, my past obsessions, whatever led to now when my history of crazy made it impossible to determine whether or not what I was feeling at the moment was valid. Whether I should be laying into Hudson over his deceit or whether I should be apologizing for running out.

"Do it. I want to hear it. I need to know what you're thinking. Trust me."

Trust me. It always came to that. I either trusted him, or I didn't.

And the simple fact was that I did. Trust him.

I swallowed. "You didn't invite me tonight because you knew she'd be here." It was barely a whisper, but he heard me.

He nodded once, saying he understood. "That's not true. I told you why I didn't invite you. And I did invite you in the end. You're here."

"But you didn't want to at first." I stared at my shoes, but my voice strengthened as I fell into the accusations waiting on my tongue. "That's probably why you had to doll me up. To show up Celia, whatever your game with her is. It wasn't about your mother at all."

"You're right."

My head whipped up.

"You're right that it wasn't about my mother. It was about you. I wanted everyone to see how beautiful you are. How beautiful the woman who loves me is."

His statement stirred up my fury. Was he turning my love into a trophy? Into a weapon against her?

It sure felt as such.

"Celia," I spit her name. "You wanted to show Celia, you mean."

He shook his head again.

"She's here, Hudson!" I didn't care that I was shouting. The few people on the roof could enjoy the scene. I didn't even notice if anyone's head turned, I was so wrapped up in my anger. "She's here with free rein and I had to beg to be here.
And you told me you wouldn't see her without me. What is she to you?"

"Nothing. An old friend."

"Bullshit." My voice cracked, but, so far, the tears were staying in my eyes. "Otherwise you would have told me about this dinner from the beginning. You were hiding it from me." I pointed a shaky finger at him. "Because you knew she would be here too."

"I didn't know." His lids closed in a long blink as he took a breath. "I suspected," he conceded. "But she's not here because of me. Her mother is my mother's best friend. You know that."

"Fuck that. She's twenty-eight years old. She's old enough to not go to every goddamn function with her mother. She's here for you."

"And I'm here with you." His tone was solid, unwavering. Such a contrast to mine.

"She's still in love with you."

"And I'm with you."

He closed the gap between us, and I secretly sighed in relief, placing my palms against the wall for support. He braced his arms on either side of me, caging me in. "I'm with you."

My fingers curled inward, trying to hold onto something. Having no success against the cement, they flew forward and gripped onto his jacket instead.

He took that as an invitation to move closer. Or he just moved closer, not caring if he was invited or not. He pressed his body against mine, and I couldn't help but press back into him, soaking in his warmth. I'd feared my words would scare him off, and even though my doubts hadn't yet been stilled, he hadn't gone anywhere. He was there.

There and wanting.

His erection pressed against my belly.

My eyes flew to his, surprised. He was turned on? How did...why was...did my doubts do that? Did my messed up anxiety make him want me more?

"I'm hard for you and only you."

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