Found in You: Page 39
Fierce is a bigger name and can offer a better payout. They'll still be working with the Pierce name. Kresh will have nothing to complain about."
"Good plan. Thank you." If I'd only come to Hudson in the first place, he would have arranged a deal like this and I wouldn't have put anyone-myself-in a precarious position. My stomach churned with self-loathing. "I'm sorry, Hudson. I'm sorry you have to clean up my mess. I'm such an idiot."
"Shush up." His arms were around me again, holding me, comforting me when it was the last thing I deserved. "Stop feeling guilty. It's our mess, remember? And I want to clean it up. It's one of the things I'm capable of. Let me."
"All right." I took a deep breath, letting all my worry and regret out as I exhaled. "All right, I'll let you."
Hudson pocketed his damp handkerchief, and I could feel his disposition change, could feel him moving away. "Now, Alayna. What else do you need to tell me?"
"What-what do you mean?" I was still recovering from the last horrific confession. What other information did I need to disclose? At this point, I was ready to spill everything.
Hudson took his jacket off, folding it and setting it on the back of the sofa. "When we started this conversation, you thought I was talking about something else. Someone else." His eyes pierced me. "Who did you think I was talking about?"
Honesty. I owed him honesty. "I thought you were talking about David."
He backed up until he was leaning against the wall. I hated that he needed the support. "You told me there was nothing between you and David."
"There's not. Anymore."
"But there was."
I could see the pain across his face. It killed me. It was exactly how I'd feel if I found out there had been something with him and Celia. I wanted to go to him, to hold him like he'd held me, to make it better.
I stepped toward him, but he put a hand out to stop me.
"It was nothing, Hudson. We were sort of together. But not really. We didn't go on dates or anything or tell anyone about us. Just, when we worked late, alone...things happened." The words tasted awful in my mouth.
"Did you sleep with him?"
"No. Things never went that far." This hadn't been the first time the subject had been broached. "You've asked me this before and I told you no then as well. I wasn't lying."
He shot me a challenging glance. "I also asked if you had wanted to and I never got a straight answer."
"I don't know the answer." I considered leaving it at that. But I knew it would always hang over us unless I let it all out. "Yes. I suppose I did. Once upon a time. But not now." Again, I wanted to move toward him. This time I stopped myself before he did. "There's nothing now, Hudson. You have to believe me."
It was after several long seconds that he spoke. "I do."
"You do?" I couldn't hide the shock from my voice.
"Yes. You don't look at him the way you look at me."
"Of course, I don't."
"But he looks at you the way I look at you. The way I imagine I look at you."
"No, he doesn't." Yes, David had feelings for me, but they didn't compare to the way Hudson felt about me. "You're exaggerating."
Hudson straightened and began pacing. "I'm not. It's a problem and I can't have it continuing."
"What does that mean?" I knew the answer without having to ask, the dread washing over me in a thick wave.
"It means he's going to have to leave The Sky Launch."
"Don't even joke." As if Hudson was the type to kid.
"Does it seem like I'm joking?"
"Hudson, no. You can't do that." My voice was louder than I would have liked it. I'd prefer to be stoic and cold like him, but that wasn't me. "You can't fire David because of a stupid fling we had before I even met you. He's the responsible one at the club. He's the one who said we needed to end it."
His glare was heart-stopping. "You aren't helping your case."
"But you can't fire David because we messed around once upon a time. It's over. It's not fair. It's not fair to David." I felt very near to throwing a tantrum. I may have even stomped my foot once.
Hudson returned to the bar to refill his Scotch. "It was going to happen anyway. Regardless of what you and he..." He took a deep breath and I knew from the awful pain in his eyes that he was thinking about David and me together. They were horrible thoughts. Things I never wanted him to have to imagine. But there wasn't anything I could do. I'd certainly thought of him and Celia in the same terrible ways. It was painful and heartbreaking, but endurable.
Hudson would endure as well.
Despite his misery, I had to ask, "What do you mean by it was going to happen anyway?"
He shook his head, took a gulp of his drink and set it down. "This isn't how I wanted to tell you. It was meant to be a surprise at an appropriate time. But the truth is that I've wanted to make a management change since I bought the place."
I leaned against the sofa back, not wanting to hear anymore, unable to stop the inevitable words.
"Alayna, I want you to run the club."
"I bought the club for you."
A shudder ran through me. "What are you talking about? You didn't know me when you bought the club."
I cut him off. "You told me you were already looking at the club. The fact that I worked there influenced you. Never did you say anything about buying it for me." In my head, I replayed everything I knew about our strange meeting. He'd seen me at the symposium, but I hadn't known that until later. He came into the bar, once. We'd flirted and he'd given me a big fat tip and a trip to his spa, behavior that in itself was psycho-aggressive. None of it warranted the purchase of a business. If that was the real reason he'd bought the club-well, then he was crazier than me.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want to seem too forward."
"Well, too f**king late for that."
He continued with an annoying degree of impassivity. "It wasn't as insane as it sounds, Alayna. It was business. I saw you at the symposium and knew I needed you working for me. Since you weren't taking any interviews with companies, I had to buy the company you were already at. Yes, I was attracted to you. Yes, it influenced my decision to pursue your talent, but wanting you working for me was the driving force of that pursuit."
It wasn't an uncommon scenario. Smart-minded business players often made large company purchases simply to get control of a talented workforce. "Then you got what you wanted. I am working for you. I don't have to run The Sky Launch to be working for you." I ran my hands up and down my arms, trying to get warm. "I have an important role, and I don't need anything more right now."
He stepped toward me, his impassivity replaced with vehemence. "Alayna, you have so much potential!"
"Stop it! You sound like my brother. Don't decide that I'm wasting my potential. I'm building up to it at my own speed. I'm not ready to run a club, Hudson." My hands flew expressively as I spoke-pointing at him, then at myself, then flinging madly at my sides.
Hudson chortled. "You're going to have to be ready. Otherwise someone else will have to step into that role when David's gone."
"Then this isn't about me at all! It is about David. You can't fire him. You can't!"
"It's about you, Alayna. No one but you." The calm exterior he'd adopted after the Paul Kresh situation was completely abandoned now. "I told you I don't share. I won't share you. Not with him. Not with anyone. I will bend over backwards to give you everything you need and want, but this is the one thing I have to have in return. Fidelity."
"I am faithful. I've never been anything but faithful. I have no desire to cheat on you with David or anyone. I'm yours, like you said."
"Yes. You are. Mine. And I should have gotten rid of him the minute I suspected there had been anything between you."
The truth of what he was saying hit me in the gut. "In other words, you don't trust me."
"I don't trust him!"
"It doesn't matter if you trust him as long as you trust me!"
His face transformed into a bitter expression I'd never seen before. "Today I discovered you kept both your relationship with David and your recent interaction with Paul Kresh from me and you're talking about trust? Good timing, Alayna."
Ouch. But I deserved that. David, however, did not. "I told you why I didn't tell you about Paul. And this is why I didn't tell you about David. Because I was afraid you'd overreact, and wow, here you are trying to fire the best employee The Sky Launch has!"
"You're the best employee The Sky Launch has."
Under different circumstances, his faith in me would be flattering. "I beg to differ. I wouldn't be worth shit without David, and I don't want his job."
Hudson leaned forward, his eyes dark. "It's not an option. You want to work at the club, you'll work in the position that I choose."
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