“There can’t be anything important enough to interrupt this conversation.”
And even smoother lines.
I opened my mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the door opening. Sasha entered with a tray of food and drinks. I watched as she set down a plate of sea bass and a glass of Sancerre in front of Hudson and a glass of iced tea in front of me. Hudson must have preordered, but how did he know I’d get iced tea?
He must have sensed my question. “I asked Liesl what you usually drank. If you had said you wanted something different, I wouldn’t look quite so cool at this moment.”
That earned him a smile. Whatever his game was, he was working for it. “Hmm, cool is not quite the word I’d use for you.” Hot, blazing, volcanic. All of those words were much more appropriate.
“What word would you use for me then?”
I blushed and delayed answering by taking a swallow of my tea.
Thankfully, Sasha spoke at that moment. “Anything else, Mr. Pierce?” I raised my brow. Would he invite her to call him Hudson as well?
Nope. No first name basis for Sasha. Only me. Well, didn’t that have liquid pooling between my thighs?
The door had just shut behind Sasha when Hudson asked again. “What word would you use for me, Alayna?”
The way my name sounded in his sensual voice brought goose bumps to my skin. “Controlled,” I said, without hesitation.
“Interesting.” He took a bite of his bass and I watched, hypnotized by the way his mouth curved around the fork. “Not that controlled isn’t an accurate description of me. But I had thought from the look on your face that you would say something else.”
I began to ask what he had expected me to say, but I wasn’t certain I wanted to walk through that door he’d opened. He didn’t press it, spending the next few minutes eating in silence.
Wanting to let him eat, I turned my body to look at the club below me. Even with my eyes averted, I felt Hudson’s presence hanging on me like a cloak. I wondered about the man sitting across from me. Why had he bought The Sky Launch? What did he want from me? And the most intriguing question, how did I feel about this domineering male who bossed me and chastised me and made me want to climb on to his lap and rub against him like a kitten? Yeah, he was good-looking, but did I like him? Or was he just another rich pompous ass that I was inexplicably drawn to?
“I know why you agreed to dine with me, Alayna.”
I turned back to face him and stilled, wondering where he was possibly going. First of all, I hadn’t actually agreed to dine with him, if that’s what this was. He’d sort of led me there. Secondly, many of the reasons I hadn’t fought against coming with him would be embarrassing if he voiced them. They were numerous: to find out his plans for the club, to get a promotion, to make David jealous. To get in Hudson’s pants.
No, not to get in his pants. That could not be on my list of reasons. Could. Not.
Hudson took a swallow of his wine, then wiped his perfectly formed lips with his napkin. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t intend to help you with your desire to make management.”
I fidgeted, not knowing if I should relax or be disappointed. On the one hand, that was probably the least humiliating reason he could have mentioned for me dining with him. On the other hand, there went my promotion.
“That doesn’t mean you won’t be promoted.” Did Hudson have some sort of mind-reading capability? It would explain how he did so well in the business world. “David said you’re quite capable, and I’m sure you’ll get the position without my help. I may own The Sky Launch, but I am not your boss. David is your boss and will continue to be unless the business no longer thrives under his command.”
Well, then. I could live with that. David had all but guaranteed me a place in management. Plan back on track. And it likely meant that Hudson wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time around the club. I might have sighed audibly.
Hudson leaned back against the couch, draping his arm across the top. “But I didn’t invite you here to discuss the club.”
Finally. I swallowed. “Why did you invite me?”
A hint of amusement crossed Hudson’s face. “Perhaps I like you.”
I shuddered as a thrill traveled up my spine. But I didn’t trust that he was merely trying to pick me up. He was taking too long to make his play, and that would never be Hudson’s style. There was more.
God, I hoped there was more. If he was just trying to pick me up, what the hell was I going to say?
I took a sip of my iced tea, wishing it were something stronger. When I lowered my glass, I said, “Perhaps I’m seeing someone.”
“You aren’t. No man would let his woman wear the outfit you wore yesterday. Not in public, anyway.”
The mention of the outfit I’d nicknamed trouble and the idea that any man would let me do anything ruffled my feathers. “Perhaps I’m not into controlling boyfriends.”
His mouth twitched slightly. “Very well, Alayna.” He cocked a brow. “Are you seeing anyone?”
Of course I wasn’t seeing anyone, damn it. I looked at my lap, my expression telling Hudson all he needed to know. Why did this man make me so flustered? I was a confident, well-spoken woman on a normal day. But not around him.
I sat straighter, attempting to find some semblance of sure footing. “That isn’t why you invited me, Hudson. You have an agenda.”
“An agenda.” Hudson made a sound that I think must have been his version of a chuckle. “Yes, Alayna, I have an agenda.”
And then, instead of sharing his agenda, he changed the subject. “I presume you enjoyed your time at my spa last week.”
Startled by absolutely everything he was saying, I attempted to follow the topic swing. “Oh, I didn’t realize you owned…wait…” And the light went on. “The gift was from you?”
“Yes. Did you have a nice time?”
“No. Way.” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. Actually, physically, literally dropped.
Realizing my remark hadn’t expressed what I meant it to express, I tried again. “I mean, yes, I had a nice time—a wonderful time, in fact—but no way could you have done that. Why did you do that? You shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why ever not?”
A whole range of reasons ran through my head, number one being because it was creepy and psychotic. But I had been called both of those things many times and would not throw them easily at another person. I grabbed for the next reason. “Because that’s big!”