“Alayna…” Hudson warned.
I let go of Jack’s hand and turned to look at my man who was now standing. His stance was foreboding, even with his hand tucked casually in his pocket. His jaw flexed and his eyes darkened with warning. It was surprisingly hot.
“Jealousy doesn’t look good on you, son.”
I disagreed. Jealousy did look good on Hudson. Quite good indeed.
A low grumble came from the back of his throat.
Jack cocked his head. “Did he just growl?”
Though Jack was clearly not Hudson’s competition, I understood his reasons for feeling that way. It wasn’t worth it to try to convince him otherwise. “Obviously I’d love to talk more, Jack, but it doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea.”
He took a sip from the clear drink in his hand as he eyed his son. “No, it doesn’t.” Again, he addressed me, his free hand on my shoulder. “I’m glad you’re still here. In his life, I mean. Even though he’s a stubborn oaf that blames me for all the wrongs in my relationship with his mother—”
“Are you saying that you aren’t at fault?” Hudson challenged.
Jack’s face lit up. “He’s speaking to me!”
Hudson wiped his brow. “Ah, Jesus.”
“Anyway, I’m glad you’re with him, Laynie. He needs you more than he probably realizes. And there’s no doubt he recognizes your worth. That boy has real feelings for you.” His eyes drifted to Hudson. “Look. He’s blushing.”
“He is!” Mira exclaimed excitedly. She was a hopeless romantic and never pretended otherwise.
“I am not.” But Hudson’s protest only darkened the red in his cheeks.
Jack laughed. “See? His love for you is written all over his face.”
Hudson stepped forward and put his arm possessively around my waist. “Could you stop pawing my girlfriend?”
Jack rolled his eyes but removed his hand from my shoulder.
The whole scene was amusing, not to mention a big a turn-on. I didn’t at all mind when Hudson got all alpha male on me. In fact, I may have even provoked it in him. “I’ll have to tell you more how appreciative I am when we get together sometime.”
“No, no, no. Not happening,” Hudson fumed.
Jack chuckled. “Look at you rile him up on purpose. You’re a wicked little woman, Alayna Withers.” He looked us over, as if taking in all of who we are and what we meant to each other. “Perfect.”
“That’s it. We’re done here.” Hudson turned me away from his family.
“Talk later,” I called over my shoulder.
“Monday!” Mira reminded after me.
Yes, Monday. At the boutique. With Stacy.
A knot formed in my gut. The thought crossed my mind without permission—what was on that video? Was there actually something I should be concerned with?
I wouldn’t watch it, whatever it was. I’d said I didn’t need to.
But wondering about it still—that I couldn’t help. I was only human, after all.
Hudson escorted me out to the deck and I let thoughts of the video float away in the breeze.
I turned into him and surprised him with a deep kiss.
“What was that for?” he asked when I came up for air.
“No reason.” Except that I needed it. He seemed to need it as well. “You know there’s no reason to be jealous of me and your father, right?”
“Uh huh.” He pushed out of my arms and took my hand, leading me up the deck.
“He’s attractive. I won’t deny that.”
He was in front of me and couldn’t see my smile. I was only teasing him, but he needed to know that I’d never betray him with Jack. “There’s nothing between us. No chemistry at all. And if you stopped wanting me, I’d never retaliate against you like that. I’m not Celia.”
He spun toward me. “I know you’re not Celia. You don’t think I f**king know that?”
His heated reaction threw me off guard. “I…didn’t…”
He pulled me back into his arms, clutching me tightly. “And don’t talk about me not wanting you. Ever. It’s not even a breath of a possibility.”
I wrapped my arms around him, shocked by his desperate tone. “Okay. I won’t.”
He kissed my temple. “Thank you.” He held me like that for a long beat before he relaxed his grip on me. “The fireworks are getting ready to start. I have a spot reserved for us at the bow.”
“The bow?” I was so not a boat person.
“The front of the yacht. We’ll have an excellent view.” Though his eyes were perusing my body, and I wondered if he wasn’t talking about the view of the sky.
“Awesome.” I let my own eyes graze his perfect form before shaking myself out of my lustful stare. “I need to use the restroom before the show starts. I’ll meet you there?”
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a key. “Use the one in our stateroom. No lines. Number Three. It’s just in there.” He nodded toward an entry back into the ship. “Oh, and when you come back, I’d like you not to be wearing any panties.”
I grinned as I took the key from him. “You got it, H.” I knew what that was about. He’d felt threatened by his father and by talk of not being together. Having me at his beck and call was another way for him to feel reassured. Silly man with his insecurities. How did he not know that I completely belonged to him?
It only took a few minutes to find our stateroom. It was beautiful and grand like the rest of the ship and as large as our bedroom back at The Bowery. I didn’t linger, eager to get back to the show and, more importantly, Hudson. I used the bathroom, leaving my underwear hanging off the side of the tub, and returned to the deck just as the sky lit up with the first explosion of light.
Hudson was waiting for me at the front—the bow—of the ship. He’d acquired a spot at the railing between two small caterer stands where partiers could set empty glasses. Though there were still people everywhere, it gave us a little bit of seclusion, as bodies weren’t pressed right up against us like they were around the rest of the yacht.
Not that I minded a body pressed up against mine. As long as it was Hudson’s.
His eyes lit up when he saw me. I handed him the stateroom key, which he pocketed, then he held out his hand for mine. “Come here.” He tugged me in front of him.