Hudson leaned back in his chair, placing his arms on the rests. “I’m a very high profile man, Alayna. Convincing my mother that we are a couple requires putting on a show for the world. That means you will be ‘on duty’, so to say, at all times. When we are together around other people, we will play the happy couple. When we aren’t together, you must still act as though you’re mine.”
Was it my imagination or had he emphasized the words you’re mine? Either way, goose bumps travelled down my skin.
“You can’t tell anyone that we are not really in a relationship.”
I creased my forehead and my mouth suddenly went dry. “I hadn’t realized that.”
“No, I suspected as much.” He narrowed his eyes, gazing my reaction. “Are you still interested?”
I didn’t really have a choice. Either accept it or give into Brian’s wishes. Besides, whom would I want to tell? Liesl. And David. Was I still thinking about David with tall, hot, and devastatingly handsome sitting in front of me? Yes. Because David had the potential of being real. And frankly, I didn’t know that I actually liked Hudson beyond the whole physical thing. I certainly shouldn’t.
“How long would we keep up the act?”
“As long as we feel we can without imposing too much on our personal lives. The longer the better, obviously, but if my mother sees that I am capable of falling in love, she won’t try to press me into a loveless marriage, even if you and I have ‘broken up.’”
“Are you still interested?”
“It’s eighty thousand dollars, Hudson. That’s a drop in the bucket for you, but for me…I understand if I have to work for it.”
He relaxed, nodding. “Good.” Hudson pressed a button on his desk.
“Yes, Mr. Pierce?” The sweet timbre of the receptionist’s voice filled the room.
“Send him in, please, Patricia.” Hudson stood and pressed another button on his desk.
I’d heard her answer the phone as Trish when I’d arrived and I wondered if he was opposed to nicknames for people in general, or if he just knew the weight of using a proper name—the power it held over people.
The doors opened and a dark-haired, muscular man in a black suit walked in. If Hudson hadn’t already sent my horny button into overdrive, I was pretty sure this guy would have set it buzzing.
“This is Jordan,” Hudson said, crossing around to the front of his desk. Jordan nodded. “He’s been assigned to drive you to and from work and anywhere else you may need to go.”
Not that I wanted to turn down such a beautiful gift, but one thing I loved about NYC was alternate modes of transportation. My parents died in a car accident. Cars weren’t my favorite. “I don’t need a driver.” Then, so I wouldn’t seem ungrateful I added, “I usually get my exercise running home.”
“Then he will drive you to work and follow you home when you run to make sure you arrive safely.” Before I could argue, Hudson eyed me sternly. “Alayna, my girlfriend would have a driver. She’d also have a bodyguard. I’m willing to forego the bodyguard if you use my driver.”
I took a deep breath. “All right.”
“He’ll be waiting downstairs to take you to the club when we’ve finished. Thank you, Jordan.”
Jordan nodded again and then left the office. Hudson pushed a button and the doors shut behind the driver.
“And Alayna, wipe that look off your face. Jordan’s g*y. I wouldn’t have hired him for you otherwise.”
I folded my arms over my chest, embarrassed and chided. Also, I decidedly did not like Hudson. Beyond the sexual appeal, anyway. “Anything else?” I couldn’t look at him.
He leaned back to sit on the front edge of his desk, his body close enough to touch without much movement on my part. “My mother is hosting a charity fashion show on Sunday. That will be our first outing as a couple.”
“Okay.” I crossed my leg over the other, his close proximity making me fidgety. And while I was so affected by him, I realized he’d been nothing but business since I’d arrived. Had his move on me the night before been a way to insure I’d accept his proposition? If so, he was a total ass.
“Your loans will be written off as of nine a.m. Monday morning. A written confirmation will be sent to you.”
“Don’t you want to wait and see if we pull this whole thing off first?” I hadn’t meant to come off snotty. Well, not entirely. I was beginning to feel like a deal he was negotiating. I didn’t like it.
“I’m really not worried about it, Alayna.” Hudson seemed on edge as well. “But if you prefer, I’ll postpone the write-off by one week.”
“Fine, whatever. Do I sign some agreement or something?”
“I’d rather there isn’t a paper trail on this.”
“But if anyone questioned my loans being paid off—“
“I would pay off my girlfriend’s loans.” Of course he would. “And any other debt. Do you have other debt?”
“No.” I had a Visa I’d charged up. He didn’t need to know about that. “Is that all?”
Hudson shrugged, the gesture out-of-place for such an assured man. “Unless you have any other questions.”
I hesitated to ask, but I had to know. “When we’re together, in public, I mean, I can hold your hand and…kiss you?” I peered at him through my mascara thick lashes.
The corner of his lip twitched. “I expect you to. Often.” Um, wow. “Anything else?”
Thinking about kissing him, I ran my tongue over my lower lip. “No.”
“Then the business portion of this meeting is done.” He stood and moved back around to his side of the desk. He removed his suit jacket and hung it on the back of his chair. Fuck—the vest, tight across his torso, showing his lean muscular middle—yeah, it was distracting.
Hudson stood in front of his chair and leaned on his desk, his palms flat in front of him. He stared at me for several seconds, and I itched to know what he was thinking. When he spoke, his tone was low and even. “In about two minutes, Alayna, I’m going to come around this desk and kiss you until you’re wet and gasping for air.”
“But first, let me clear up one thing that I suspect may be an issue. This charade is mostly about me convincing my mother. I will be saying and doing things—romantic things, perhaps—that are not genuine. I need you to remember that. Out of the public eye, I will seduce you. That will be genuine, but it can never be misconstrued as love.”