Not meeting his eye, I picked up my shorts from the floor, ignoring the thrill that ran up my spine from his suggestion of possessiveness. “That sounds awfully relationshippy to me. I thought you didn’t do relationships.”
“I don’t do romantic relationships. Sexual relationships are another thing entirely. Why are you getting ready to leave?”
Avoiding his question, I dove for my shirt at the foot of the bed, but Hudson beat me to it. “Stop,” he said, holding my shirt out of my reach. He put his finger under my chin so that I would look him in the eye. His brow creased in confusion and his tone held sincerity. “I want you to stay. And, if you are so inclined, I’d prefer that you not be dressed.”
I wanted to melt under his invitation, but I refused to be affected. “You’re dressed,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest again, sounding like a pouty child. The knot of anxiety was tightening, and I was grabbing at anything I could to try to stand my ground.
“As soon as the food’s here, I’ll be happy to lose the clothing. Would that make you feel better?”
“Yes.” But that was my hormones talking. My hormones wanted him naked. And hard. And slippery with sweat.
But my brain wasn’t sure it was a good idea. “I don’t know,” I corrected.
Still holding my chin, he brushed my cheek with his other hand. “What’s going on inside your head, precious? Are you going to run off every time we have sex?”
He wanted to have sex with me again. My girl parts clenched at the thought. But, as my arousal piqued, so did the terror throbbing in my veins. Usually sex ended any interest I had in a guy. Except for before—when nothing ended my interest in a guy and I obsessed about them endlessly. And now—when every part of my body screamed with the need to have more of the man in front of me. Oh, f**king god, was I falling into old patterns?
I turned away. “I hadn’t really thought this would be more than a one-time thing, Hudson.”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me to him. “Alayna.” He searched my eyes, looking for an answer I knew he wouldn’t find because I didn’t have the answers myself. “If you don’t want to have sex with me again, you need to tell me.”
“I do!” His hands on me, and his piercing eyes elicited the truth from my lips. “I do,” I said again softly. I threw my arms around him and pressed my face against his chest, nuzzling his hard pecs. He returned my embrace. So warm. He felt so warm and safe and strong. Like he could shield me from whatever scared me. Like the reality of him—the reality of what he was to me—might be enough to keep me from needing more.
“What is it?” His voice was light. He stroked my hair, and my panic lowered half a notch. “Tell me.”
Tears threatened and I was grateful he couldn’t see my face. Was I doomed to live the rest of my life afraid of becoming close to people? To men? “I’m not good at relationships. Of any sort. I have…issues.” What the f**k was I doing? Casual sex meant no sharing of inner secrets. But it felt good to say it.
“Like what?” Hudson’s hands tangled in my hair, soothing me. “Does this have anything to do with that restraining order?”
The floor dropped from underneath me. I couldn’t move. “You know about that?” No one knew about that. At least, very few people. Brian, my support group, Liesl had heard bits and pieces. But I would never have told Hudson. I broke free of his arms and fell onto the bed, burying my face in the blankets. “Oh, god, I’m so embarrassed!”
He laughed and lay on the bed next to me, his head propped on his elbow near mine. He rubbed his hand across my backside, massaging my tense muscles. It felt so good that, had I not been dying of humiliation, I’m sure I would have moaned.
When he spoke, his voice was low and at my ear. “I know intimate things about you, precious—the way you look and the sounds you make when you’re about to come—and you’re concerned about this?”
I groaned into the bed, half from misery and half from the pleasure I felt from his fingers on my back. I turned my head so he could hear me talk, but away from him so I wouldn’t have to see his face. “It was a big deal. The biggest deal. Like my biggest secret. I thought my brother had buried it.” I rose up on my elbow and turned to eye him. “And are you saying I should be embarrassed about how I look and sound when…you know?”
“I needed to know anything that might come up about my pretend girlfriend. It wasn’t necessarily easy to find, but not incredibly hard. It’s been buried now.” He cupped my cheek, his eyes growing dark. “And never, never be ashamed of how you look or sound at any time, especially when you’re about to come.” He circled his nose around mine. “I’m honored to be acquainted with you in that way.”
“I’m mortified.” I let my head fall back on the bed, but stayed facing him. “About the restraining order, I mean. I don’t know how to react to the other.”
He ran his hand across my face and through my hair, each stroke setting off an electric charge that sparked in my core. It relaxed me and comforted me and made me feel like Jello. He could have asked me anything right then and I’d have surrendered. “Because it makes me feel all weird and tingly. And turned on.”
“Fantastic.” He grinned. “But I meant, why are you mortified?”
“Oh.” I flushed. What I’d said in error was actually less embarrassing than what he had really asked. But since he was still stroking me with that magic hand of his that had more power than Chinese water torture, I answered him that, too. “Because it’s evidence of my crazy. You know, when I said I love too much? The restraining order is part of that, and I like to pretend it never happened.”
“Then it never did.” He kissed my nose. “We’ve all done insane things in the past. I’d never hold it against you.” He stopped stroking my hair, and looked somewhere beyond me. “Just another reason romantic love holds no interest for me. People get crazy with it.”
Then he relaxed and focused back on me. “But going back to the heart of this conversation—why does that have a bearing on a relationship between you and me?”
I sat up, unnerved by how easily he dismissed my past behavior. “I freaked out, Hudson. About a guy.” He wasn’t taking me seriously and I needed him to understand. “Several guys, actually, but it was the last one that ended not well.”