Hudson: Page 21

I haven't spoken to her in days and she's eager for news. Not wanting that to disrupt my night, I figure I better speak with her before Alayna arrives.

Shortly after three, I walk out of my office, briefcase in hand, and ask my secretary to clear the rest of my afternoon. Then I come up to the loft through the main elevator so that even she doesn't know I'm still in the building.
It reduces my chances of being disturbed.

Once in the loft, I make the call I've been dreading.

"It's about f**king time," Celia says in place of a greeting.

"Since when have frequent check-ins been a requirement?" I look longingly at my bar, but I'd prefer to have all my senses about me when Alayna arrives later.

"They're not a requirement. They're a courtesy." She's calmer, though. "Right now, I don't even know if this is a go or not."

"It's a go." I massage the bridge of my nose and a bitter taste gathers in my mouth. It's guilt that I'm feeling. While there are few emotions that I'm familiar with, guilt is one I know full-well. It's the monkey on my back. I carry it everywhere.

"Good." The satisfaction in her voice carries through the phone. "Then our first outing is this Sunday at your mother's charity event?"

"It is." I won't tell Celia I'm seeing Alayna before then. Nor will I tell her the nature of our time spent together for no other reason except that it's none of her business. I actually believe that Celia would approve-the more time I spend with Alayna, after all, the more likely she is to become attached. That is the risk I'm taking with my soon-to-be lover, but I have faith in Alayna.

Besides, I can't help myself.

Though not necessary, Celia and I have previously agreed that she will be present at the major events of our scam. I suspect she'll try to push her way in for more, and that I will not allow. "Is that all you need, Celia?"

"No. I'd like to hear the details."

I shake my head even though she can't see me. "I'm not sharing details. Not today and not in the future. I'm not checking in with you. You will not call me regarding the situation." I sense she's about to interrupt me, but I speak over her. "I've arranged things as you've requested, Celia. And I'll follow through, though I realize I have no reason at this point to do so."

"Because you own the club now? Hudson, you know as well as I do that I would find another way to follow through with my experiment." The click of her heels on the floor suggests she's pacing as she talks. "I'm invested in this project now. I won't let it go. It has such great potential. Frankly, I'm disappointed that you aren't as intrigued as I am by the emotional psyche of Alayna Withers."

I am as intrigued as Celia. More, I think, but I won't give her the satisfaction of confirming that.

So I divert. "I don't believe you're going to see the results you believe you are." Especially after spending time with Alayna. Every minute in her presence I'm more convinced that she's stronger than she looks.

Celia chuckles. "We have different hypotheses. That only intrigues me more. You know that."

I do know that. I also understand it. A memory flashes into my mind-a similar situation, a similar conversation. The subject was a woman who worked for one of Celia's design accounts. Her fiancé had flirted with Celia, rather innocently, at a company party. It was enough to interest Celia in a game. We devised a scheme where I told the subject that her betrothed had been unfaithful. It was my theory that the subject would forgive the indiscretion. Celia believed otherwise.

The scam had very little interest to me except for the difference in our theories. We fabricated proof that I presented to the woman. It was believable. In the end, the subject did forgive her fiancé.

But she also let me f**k her against the wall of the ladies bathroom.

She either didn't much value fidelity or it was a revenge f**k. Either way, I was pleased-my hypothesis had been correct. Celia's had been wrong.

Letting Celia know I differ in opinion about the predicted conclusion has only increased her invested interest in the experiment with Alayna Withers. It was a mistake, I realize now. I'm usually not so sloppy. Is it because I've been so long out of the game? Or is it Alayna that throws me?

I really have no idea.

A beep in my ear indicates a text has come through on my Blackberry. "Celia, I have a matter I need to take care of." Whatever the message is, at least it's an excuse to get off the phone. "I'll see you Sunday at the event."

I don't wait for her goodbye before ending the call. Then I check my texts. The message is from Jordan, who is now officially driving Alayna rather than simply tailing her. He's just picked her up and is bringing her to my building now. Bringing her to me.

I prepare for her the best I can, brushing my teeth and removing my suit jacket. Inside, I'm a ball of nervous energy. I don't remember the last time that I looked forward to sex with this much eagerness. College, maybe? High school?

No, I don't think I've ever been this anxious. That realization stops me in my tracks. Not wanting the situation to get out of hand-or to scare Alayna off-I decide that I'll go slow. When she arrives, I'll keep my contact to a minimum until we both have a chance to settle in. I'll order dinner first. We'll take our time moving to the bedroom.

I pace the floor by the front door in anticipation of Alayna's arrival. Minutes before I expect her, my phone rings. It's business-Roger Kingsley, a board member at Plexis. He wouldn't be calling on a Friday afternoon if it weren't important. "Roger," I bark as I answer. "What's going on?"

Roger proceeds to apprise me of the situation emerging at Plexis. Profits have been down, and some of the other board members are interested in selling. A sale would result in the dismantling of the company. A lot of jobs would be lost.

"The board is seriously considering this latest offer," he tells me.

"Fuck," I mutter under my breath. I loosen my tie and unbutton the top of my shirt, attempting to relieve the stifling feeling that's overcome me. This news upsets me. One of the few things I care about is my corporation. I do not want my employees screwed like this.

"It's not going to get better, Pierce," Roger says. "I know you're coming on Monday, but Grant and some of the others are planning to take a vote over the weekend."

I'm about to deliver another string of curse words when I hear her knock.

She's here.

I open the door and there she is-gorgeous and flushed. Her outfit is on the modest side compared to the other things I've seen her in, though her striped shorts could be a little longer. Her legs are lean and toned, and I'm already imagining them wrapped around me.

Suddenly I don't give a damn about Plexis. I only care about her.

Somehow I pick up on my cue to speak in the phone conversation. "Roger, I don't want to hear that we lost this company because my staff wasn't able to foresee the possibility of separation." I hold the receiver away from my mouth. "Come in," I whisper to Alayna.

She enters, and I shut the door behind her. I turn to look at her. She's devouring me with her eyes and it sparks my own want. The energy that passes between us is thick and palpable. Jesus, I thought I was excited before. Now, I'm desperate for her.

Roger's in mid-sentence, but I'm done with this call. "Take care of it, Roger. I expect this to be resolved before I arrive on Monday."

I toss my phone on the table, my eyes still pinned to Alayna's. Silence blankets us. It's not uncomfortable, necessarily, but it's heavy.

"Hi," she whispers. She can't take the anticipation. She's nervous. And adorable. And sexy as all f**k.

I can't help but smile.

Then she's in my arms, her mouth crashing against mine. For the barest fraction of a moment, I remember my plan to go slow. And I quickly abandon it. She tastes too good, her tongue licking into my mouth, swiping across my teeth. She's as desperate as I am, and I'm determined to meet her needs.

I'm also determined to touch her. My hands find their way under her shirt, and soon I'm caressing her br**sts. They're firm and perfect. Her ni**les are already pebbles under her bra. I need her undressed so I can touch them and suck them. I need her underneath me.

But then that strange desire returns, the one from yesterday. The one where I want to make her feel good more than I want to find pleasure for myself. It's so intense that I forget the aching need surging through my veins.

I force myself to push her away. "Jesus, Alayna. I want you so bad, I'm not behaving."

"Hudson." Her voice is breathy and full of want. She steps toward me. "If this is misbehaving, please don't stop." She slides my shirt off my shoulders-damn, I hadn't even noticed she'd worked open the buttons-then leans forward and licks my chest.

Involuntarily, I groan.

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