Found in You: Page 47
And when I called to check in, she'd left a message for me."
"She set me up." I said it to myself more than anyone else. "Stupid, stupid, stupid." Mira had warned me about her. And Stacy from the boutique. Even Hudson had said I shouldn't hang around with Celia. I hadn't listened. So stupid.
"And the staff at A Voce can confirm that Alayna just walked up and joined me when I was about to have lunch the other day."
"What, did you pay them off?" I spit the words out.
"I didn't have to. It's the truth."
Our lunch that day had been uneventful. If she hadn't paid them, then she'd probably told the hostess she was dining alone. Then when I showed up, it looked like I was invading her lunch. And I'd left before her-she could have cornered the waitress and complained about me, setting the scene for them another way.
Jack perched on the arm of my chair. "And what did you do, Celia? Did you notify security?"
"I didn't want to be rude." Her blue eyes sparkled. She was enjoying this game of hers. Was this whole thing a ploy to get Hudson by getting rid of me? Or was it revenge for the con he'd pulled on her years ago?
Or-the worst thought of all-had she learned manipulation from him? Had they played these games together?
I looked to Hudson. He'd said nothing since he called my name when I first arrived, his face steel, no emotion showing. I couldn't tell whose side he was on. And that worried me-he should be on my side, shouldn't he? Automatically?
"It's bullshit." I spoke to Hudson alone, not caring who else believed me. "She's lying. We were having lunch together. She invited me."
"She also harassed me in the restroom," Celia said. "On your birthday, Sophia."
"I did not!"
Celia put a hand on Hudson's arm. "I told you that night, remember?"
"I don't need a reminder." He pulled his arm away from Celia's grasp and my heart buoyed with the small victory.
She pretended his rejection didn't faze her, turning to Sophia, her ally. "He refused to believe me then too."
"He's blinded by the sex," Sophia said. "It's not real."
I ignored Sophia. "She told you I harassed her?" I tried to meet Hudson's eyes, but he kept them fixed on the floor.
I thought back to the night of Sophia's birthday, how Celia had been talking to Hudson when I left the bathroom. He'd been withdrawn afterward. Was this the reason why? Because she'd accused me of harassment? "Why didn't you say anything to me, Hudson?"
He didn't answer, but I could think of a reason he hadn't told me-because I hadn't said anything to him. God, the secrets we'd kept. Now they could undo us.
My stomach flipped as if I was going to throw up. "She approached me in the bathroom. I went in first, remember? And there was no harassing." I snapped my fingers, suddenly remembering I had proof of the real conversation we'd had. "Mira was in a stall at the time! She'll back me up."
Celia's face faltered for only half a second. "Mira's always hated me. She'd lie to get me out of the picture."
Jack chortled. "God, Celia, now you're dragging Mira into this? How low will you go?"
Sophia scowled at her husband. "Stop attacking the victim."
"Oh, Celia is anything but a victim." Jack's tone held a wealth of subtext. He obviously had his own issues with the Werner girl. On another occasion, I'd be itching to know what that was about.
Celia sighed-the kind of sigh that was for nothing but attention. "Please, don't think of me as a victim, Sophia. I'm not complaining. I'm really not. I'm just...scared." She wrung her hands in front of her. "I suppose it's my fault. I stopped by the club one day-I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd be friendly. She asked me to coffee. I went, but I regret it now. That seems to have been the trigger point. She begged me not to tell you we'd met up." She turned again to Hudson. "I should have told you immediately. I'm sorry."
My only consolation at the moment was that Hudson refused to meet her eyes as well.
"This is ridiculous. You're the one who suggested I didn't tell Hudson." Why was I even giving Celia the satisfaction of addressing her? "She's twisting everything!"
Hudson stepped away, looking out across the room toward the windows.
Celia followed after him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Again he flinched away.
She straightened her spine. "I don't know if you know this, Hudson, but when I talked to her that day, she was obsessing over some guy from the past-Paul something or other. She was trying to set up a deal with his company so she could be close to him."
Rage spread through me like wildfire. "You f**king bitch."
Jack put his hand over mine, trying to calm me.
Celia stepped closer to Hudson. "I'm only here because I'm worried Laynie won't get the help she needs. You have to help her, Huds."
All I could see was red. "The only help I need is a cleanup crew for after I destroy your pretty face." I lurched from my chair. Immediately Jack and Brian were at my sides, holding me back.
"Laynie!" Brian admonished.
Jack was more soothing. "Stay calm. Getting violent isn't going to fix anything, even though it might feel good."
"Do you hear her, Hudson?" Sophia stood and faced her son's back. "She threatened Celia. In front of everyone."
"Mother, stay out of this."
I held on to Hudson's words like a lifeline.
"Hudson, you have to get rid of her. She's dangerous. Celia tells me she has a record. Why on earth would you let her into your life when you knew these things about her?"
"Shut up, Mother." Hudson spun, brushing past both women. He stopped in the center of the room, finally looking at me.
I clung to his eyes with mine, trying to get my balance as the world tilted around me. I couldn't read everything in his expression, but I could see definitively the one thing he'd told me so many times-I'm with you.
Sophia's voice sounded muffled and far away as I remained in the safety of Hudson's gaze. "It makes sense why she'd be obsessed with Celia. She knows you belong together, Hudson, and she's jealous.
Celia was pregnant with your baby. She can't compete with that, no matter-"
Jack let go of my arm. "Aw, shut the f**k up, Sophia. It wasn't even Hudson's baby. It was mine, you ignorant bitch."
Then my connection with Hudson was lost as all hell broke loose.
Celia's skin went ashen.
Hudson's face blazed with anger. "Goddammit, Jack."
If I hadn't been so dizzy from the accusations that had occurred before, then I would have been more of a participant in the scene. Instead, I was frozen, watching in horror as the secret unfolded at lightning speed.
"It's my business to tell," Jack said, "and I'm tired of this lingering lie."
"It wasn't a lie we told for you," Hudson said.
"I never thought it was. It was to protect Celia's ass. And I'm sure some of it was you protecting your mother's feelings. Heaven knows why you care about how she feels when she obviously cares nothing for how you feel."
"I don't understand." Sophia sank into the sofa.
It was Celia's turn to be comforter. She sat next to Hudson's mother. "Sophia, I'm so sorry. It was a mistake. I was drunk. It was a long time ago."
Jack laughed. "You weren't that drunk. And I know what you're all thinking, but she seduced me, not the other way around."
"Your baby wasn't Hudson's?" Sophia didn't want to believe it. I could hear it in her tone.
Celia continued to plead for forgiveness.
Jack headed to the bar and began making a drink as he spoke to no one in particular. "Hudson stepped up because he knew her father would freak about the age difference, though Warren's had some pretty young little mistresses himself. Granted, it's different when it's your daughter. Anyway, Hudson said he felt responsible for some reason or another. Never could figure that one out."
He turned to face the room, glass in one hand, decanter in the other. "But I'll tell you what, and I can't prove any of this, but I'd bet my life that the whole thing was a set-up. She knew Hudson would claim that baby. That's the only reason she came knocking on my door to begin with. To trap him."
"That's low, Jack," Celia seethed.
"You're one to talk." I said it under my breath, not wanting to draw attention to myself.
She caught my words anyway. "Let's not forget why we're here. Not to discuss the past but to discuss Laynie's future."
"I think that topic is on hold for the moment." Jack brought the glass of amber liquid to his wife.
Sophia took it from him, her hand shaking. "You and...Celia?"
"Don't act so surprised. We haven't been faithful to each other for years."
Sophia took a long swallow of her drink. Then she stood and threw the rest of it in Jack's face. "You coldhearted ass**le. I've always been faithful."
Jack wiped bourbon from his eyes. "One word for you sweetheart-Chandler."
"Chandler is yours. I don't know why he doesn't look like you. I'll get a blood test to prove it if you want me to.
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