Found in You

Found in You: Page 31

At least hell is where anyone who spends time with her feels like they've been sent."

He deserved a standing ovation. But he simply got open-mouthed stares as he walked away from the table.

Sophia was the first to speak. "What a drama queen." She took a bite of her chicken.
"I was merely pointing out that we had a chance at a Pierce grandchild and now it's gone."

"Talk about drama queen..." Though his head was bowed, Adam said it loud enough that the whole table heard it.

Sophia glared at her son-in-law, but it was Hudson who drew the attention of the table. "I could have a child with Alayna."

I nearly choked on the bite of food in my mouth. Sure, I'd been thinking that Hudson could have a kid, but it hadn't for a moment crossed my mind he would have one with me.

Okay, maybe it had crossed my mind for a moment. But a small one. Certainly it wasn't a thought I'd ever share out loud.

But when Hudson had said it, had said it out loud like that to everyone, a strange warmth spread through my chest. It wasn't the low, deep burn of desire, but something different. Something related to the love that I felt for the man, mixed with a dash of hope.

I wanted to share that feeling with him, let him know what it did to me that he'd said it, and I tried to catch his eye. But he was focused on the plate in front of him, taking another bite of his crepes as if talking about having children-children with me-was every day and unremarkable.

Maybe he didn't mean anything by it. I felt the bubble of warmth dissipate as I recognized the possibility that he merely meant it as a line to rile his mother up. In which case, it worked.

Sophia set down her fork and turned in her chair, ire blazing through the cool mask she usually wore. "Are you talking marriage and children already? It's early for that Hudson. Incredibly early."

"Oh, Mother, don't be so old-fashioned. You don't need to be married to have children." Hudson took a swallow of his wine, continuing the nonchalant façade. But when he set down his glass again, I caught the twitch of his jaw, the only betrayal that inside he was boiling. "And what Alayna and I are discussing is frankly none of your business."

Sophia's eyes narrowed. "You brought it up."

"I was stating that I could father a child and that would continue both your precious bloodline and your precious name." His voice was oddly calm and strong all at once. I imagined it was the tone he took in the boardroom. It was powerful. Controlled. Sexy as hell.

Then he delivered his punch line. "And the only person I could ever imagine wanting to have a child with is Alayna."

The impact wasn't any less having heard him pronounce the possibility a moment before. It rang through the air as if every other sound had been muted, as if it were the lead violin in a string concerto. A lonely piercing sound that made people notice.

At once, all three Werners shifted in their seats, and even though Celia and Hudson were never a couple, were never meant to be together, the tension his statement created was as extreme as if the violinist's bow had crossed against a too-taught string. It was so much. Too much.

"Hudson, I..." My voice trailed off. I had no idea what I planned to say. I just wanted the tension to end, to get rid of the general air of hatred I felt rushing at me from so many eyes.

He picked up on my cue. Placing a reassuring hand on my leg, he gave me an apologetic glance before turning back to Sophia. "The point is that you need to let the past go, Mother." His tone was softer, but still held weight. "There is still a future to look forward to. For all of us."

He turned back to me, our eyes locking, and then, instead of me telling him how it felt to hear him talk about a future with me, he told me. He told me with that long silent stare, his hand stroking up and down my thigh in a way that was more comforting than sexual. With that look, he said everything-how much he believed in us, how good we were. How much he loved me, even though he couldn't yet say the words.

Then the tears that I'd managed to keep at bay earlier filled my eyes.

"If you'll excuse me," I said, breaking our stare. "I need to use the powder room."

I made it to the bathroom and took a stall before the tears spilled. There weren't many-a few, each of them happy and sweet and filled with promise. With love.

I heard the bathroom door swing open and shut a handful of times before I'd finished my brief cry. I peed and flushed, then, after washing my hands, made my way to the vanity to freshen up my face.

Fortunately, happy crying didn't muss up my face as much as ugly crying. I continued to grin like an idiot as I leaned toward the mirror to dab at the small smudge of mascara under my left eye.

"You look perfect," someone said behind me.

I glanced sideways, meeting Celia's reflection in the mirror.

Immediately my smile disappeared.

"You just need a touch of gloss. I have some if you want to borrow." She opened her tiny purse and pulled out a lipstick wand.

"No, I don't want to borrow anything from you." I pushed past her, headed for the exit.

But she grabbed me by the forearm. "Hey, wait!"

I pulled my arm away from her grasp but stopped my retreat. I might as well hear what she had to say, whatever grandiose excuse she had about keeping Sophia's birthday dinner a secret from me.

Folding my arms in a dramatically bored stance, I nodded for her to speak.

Naturally poised Celia for once looked awkward, fidgeting from foot to foot.

"I'm not waiting all night. Speak."

Her forehead creased in confusion. "Why are you angry with me? I could feel the tension all through dinner. You wouldn't even look at me. Which is why I followed you in here. Why are you mad?"

"Don't play dumb, Celia. It doesn't suit you."

"I'm not playing. Spell it out for me." Her arms were at her sides, her body in a totally open position, as though she had nothing to hide. "Please."

"Celia..." Was I being ridiculous? Again? Maybe I was letting myself be influenced by Stacy's cryptic warning about the blonde beauty.

I sighed, deciding to put it out there. "I saw you today and you didn't mention anything about this dinner tonight. And you know that I didn't know because I told you that I had no plans to see Sophia and that I had a meeting tonight. All the while, you're saying you're rooting for me." My voice was calm, straightforward, less accusatory than I felt. Maybe I was learning from Hudson.

Celia echoed my sigh. "You're right, you're right." She looked at her shoes, mumbling. "I thought that might be it." Her gaze met mine again. "I didn't say anything, you're right, and I should have. But you were happy and beaming and things were going good, and when I realized that Hudson hadn't told you about the dinner, I didn't want to stir things up between the two of you."

"Or you wanted him for yourself tonight."

"No! I told you, I'm not after Hudson." She ran her hand across her forehead, delicately, as though not wanting to mess up her foundation but so used to the cautious movement she didn't have to think about it. She was a thoroughbred through and through. So out of my league.

I dismissed the flash of envy and focused on her words.

"Look, Laynie, I'm on your side. I am. Can't you see what would have happened if I'd brought it up? You would have cornered Hudson about it and then you'd have to tell him how you found out and that would mean you'd have to tell him about us chatting about him behind his back. And he brought you anyway! So it all worked out. Everything's good!"

"Yeah, everything's great." I reacted before I'd truly digested her words. Once I did, I saw the truth in what she'd said. Honestly, if our roles had been reversed, I would have probably done the same.

I bit my lip. "God, I'm sorry. I just...I don't know who to trust. It feels like so many people are against us."

Her face eased, her worry replaced with a comforting smile. "That's so not true. Sophia is against you. She's the only one. And my parents, but they're only trying to do what they think is best for me. It's a silly parent thing. They don't understand. Obviously."

She meant they didn't understand that she'd never been with Hudson. They didn't realize that her baby had not been his. "Why won't you tell them? It's been years, you said so yourself. Why don't you or Hudson admit the truth about the baby?" I'd been wondering about it since I found out. It would solve so many problems. "If you really cared about his happiness, you'd tell the truth and set him free."

"It seems like that would be the right thing to do, doesn't it?" Her eyes glazed over as she was thinking, remembering perhaps. When her focus returned, her expression was apologetic. "It''s complicated. I can't say more than that. I'm sorry, I wish I could. But it involves more than just me. You have to trust me, this is best for everyone.

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