He took them, his expression still tight. “I’m not keeping them. Excuse me a moment and I’ll be ready to go.” He disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the door open.
“You’ll be ‘ready to go?’” I hadn’t expected him to be going with me. He didn’t respond, though, or I didn’t hear his answer over the sounds of water running.
“Did you say something?” he asked when he returned. He put on his suit jacket and held his hand out to me.
I took his hand, realizing he no longer smelled like me, his hands washed and his teeth freshly brushed. It was practical, but I deflated as he officially distanced himself from the passionate scene of moments before. “I hadn’t realized you were going to the club.”
“I am.” He pulled me through a main door into a corridor with another elevator. This one, I guessed, led to the main lobby instead of his office. He let go of my hand and pushed the call button. “Is that a problem?”
I shrugged though I wanted to say, Hell, yes it’s a problem. You befuddle and dazzle and distract. How could I present my ideas with Hudson’s hot eyes on me, staring at his incredibly wicked mouth that had recently devoured me with such skill? Especially when his hot eyes and wicked mouth gave no indication that anything out of the ordinary had occurred.
Unwilling to be that honest but unable to let it go, I pushed. “Why did you have me meet you here when you could have met me at the club?”
“Privacy, Alayna. I can’t imagine you would want to experience that at the club, would you?” The doors opened and he ushered me into the elevator. “Do you regret coming?” The smile in his tone emphasized the double meaning in his words.
“No,” I answered quickly as he pushed the L button. “I regret you not coming.” I couldn’t think of a time when a man had let me take all the pleasure without receiving any of his own. It made me feel even more vulnerable in front of him.
“You’ll have opportunities to rectify that.”
And then thoughts of rectifying that raced through my mind, touching Hudson’s na**d body, his shaft in my hands…
My sex felt swollen and needy. Again.
Damn. Not what I needed at the moment. I had to get my head in the game. Which would be easier without the object of my desire standing next to me, his arm brushing at my shoulder. “Just after all your talk about not being my boss and all that, I didn’t think you’d show.”
“David may want advice. I should be there.” He peered down at me. “Also, I’m curious. Is that going to bother you?”
“I wasn’t prepared. That’s all.”
His eyes lit with understanding. “You’re nervous.”
He shifted behind me, wrapping me into his arms. “Don’t be. You’re perfect. You’ll be perfect.”
I sunk into him. That’s what I’d needed—his touch after such an intimate act. I’d felt bereft and exposed. I needed reassurance, not just about the business presentation I was about to give, but about his feelings, or attraction, or whatever it was he had for me.
As we descended, I turned my thoughts to David and the presentation I was about to give. Oh, god, David. A new horror struck me. “Could we…?” I didn’t know how to ask what I wanted to ask. “Do we have to, um, do the pretend thing today?”
“You don’t want David to give you extra points because he thinks you’re dating his boss.”
“Right.” And since I still might marry David one day, my sham with Hudson required delicacy. Though the idea of marrying David sounded less appealing than it once had.
“We can keep it under wraps for a day or two, if you’d rather.”
“Thanks.” Anxiety crept into my belly as I wondered how I planned to balance the men in my life and all the facets of my relationships with them: the fake romance with Hudson, the wannabe future with David, the severing of dependence on Brian, the real sex with Hudson, the possible promotion from David. I shivered and pulled Hudson’s arms tighter around me.
He misread my anxiety. “You know what they say to do about nervousness,” he whispered in my ear. ”Imagine your audience naked.”
I raised my brows. “You and David?”
“No, precious. Just me. That’s an order.”
Hudson’s commanding tone sent a trickle of desire to pool between my thighs. Somehow I didn’t think picturing him na**d would be any help.
Jordan waited for us on the street in front of the building in a black Maybach 57. I’d never been in a luxury car and my natural reaction would have been to gush and salivate, but I held in my enthusiasm, trying to appear more unaffected than I actually was. I did recline my seat, taking advantage of the footrest, while Hudson attended to some work issues. He typed away on his Blackberry and made several phone calls.
I should have been focusing on my presentation, but listening to him conduct business fascinated me, his commanding tone and demand for respect radiated so naturally in even the simplest directives. Usually when he spoke like that to me, I felt shaken and off-balance. But when I witnessed him speaking that way to others, or perhaps because of what had transpired between us, I felt empowered. As if I could embody those qualities myself through osmosis.
We arrived at the club five minutes before the scheduled meeting. Hudson stayed in the car for a while, allowing me to go in first instead of together. In the office, I found David setting up my laptop.
“Hey,” he said in greeting. “Are you ready to show off those brilliant brains of yours?”
I wondered if David knew about Hudson’s plan to attend or not. Either way, I didn’t want him to know I knew. “Should I start?”
“No, Pierce said he might come. You should give him a few minutes.”
Hudson walked in seconds later. “David,” he said, shaking his hand. “Alayna.” He nodded at me, and I wondered if this was out of consideration to me, knowing that his touch drove me beyond distraction. Or did touching me do the same thing to him? I couldn’t imagine that could be true—he compartmentalized so naturally, I had to think his thoughts were sincerely only on the moment at hand.
Beginning my presentation of ideas took the most effort, but with my PowerPoint slides to rely on, I easily fell into the zone, soon forgetting my audience. First, I focused on the operational aspects of The Sky Launch, items that threatened our competitiveness with other clubs, suggesting an increase in hours and days we were open, a retraining of key personnel, and a unified mode of operation between bartenders and wait staff. Then I moved to marketing recommendations, emphasizing a total rebranding with a spotlight on the bubble rooms.