And as we spun into the intoxication of our passionate interlude, I said to myself, this time. This time is the best.
The boat docked while we’d been lost to each other in our stateroom. The drunken crowd had dispersed and The Magnolia was quiet—as if we were the only ones on Earth. Enveloped in Hudson’s arms with the gentle rocking of the water underneath, I slept better than I had in ages. I guessed he did too, if his mood had anything to say about it. His jet lag seemed to have finally been relieved. Oh, the power of great sex and a good night’s sleep.
We left before dawn, slipping off soundlessly. Jordan was waiting at the Maybach when we reached the top of the boardwalk. This time there were no reporters, no flashing bulbs—it was just the two of us and our driver as Hudson and I climbed into the back of the car.
Once on the road, I sidled up to Hudson, or as close as the restraints of the seat belts would allow. With his improved spirits, it was time to talk about the future. “I’ve been thinking about who’s going to manage The Sky Launch.”
My head was tucked under his chin, but I could hear the smile in his voice.
I chuckled. “No pressure.”
“Yes, pressure. Lots and lots of pressure.” He stroked his hand down my hair. “I want you to run the club. I’ve always wanted you to run the club. I’ve told you that.”
I sat up to look at him. “I know. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.”
“I want to do it. I do. And I think I have the ideas and the marketing sense to pull it off.”
I’d only received my MBA a little more than a month before. I’d never been in charge of an entire business by myself. Hudson was being overly optimistic about my qualifications, especially when he intended to have very little to do with the day-to-day operations. “I adore that you think so highly of me, H, but I’m still lacking practical experience. Which was what I was looking forward to learning from David.”
Hudson rolled his eyes—an odd gesture on such a solemn face. “David would have held you back. You have more genius in your little pinky than—”
I cut him off with my finger to his lips. “Stop it. Your perception of my abilities is tainted.”
He kissed the top of my finger before he covered my hand with his and moved it to his lap. “It’s not.”
“Anyway.” There was no use arguing the subject. It was partly what had kept us at a standstill since he’d first brought up the idea. He believed I could do more than I believed I could do. It was endearing and empowering, but also overwhelming.
Still Hudson’s faith in me had worn me down. “I want to run the club. And I’m telling you yes to running the club—”
His eyes lit up. “Yes?”
“But on one condition.”
“That I also give you my body and soul? If you insist…”
I smiled but otherwise ignored his flirting. “I want to hire another full-time manager to share the load. Someone with the experience I don’t have.”
He considered. “I don’t see a problem with that. But I’d still want you to be the point person. And, hell, I’ll still throw in my body and soul.”
“Fine. That’s what I want.” I corrected myself before he could turn my words on me. “I mean I want to be the point person.”
“You don’t want my body and soul?” He twisted my words anyway. Of course.
“Shut up,” I scolded. “I already have that.”
“That you do.” He wrapped his arm tighter around my waist and kissed me on my forehead. “Go ahead and put an ad out today. Unless you already have someone in mind?”
“That’s just it.” It was hard for me to ask this. I’d been so insistent about me doing my job without Hudson interfering, but now I needed him to.
I pulled away. It felt too odd to be in his embrace while discussing business. Too much like some form of nepotism. “Well, there’s no one at the club qualified. No one who knows more than I do. And if I put an ad out and got resumes…I just don’t think I’m going to find the type of person I’m looking for. Especially not as quickly as I need them. But maybe you, with your connections and everything…”
“You want me to find someone?”
I bit my lip. “Yes.”
“I haven’t even told you the type of person I’m looking for.”
He sighed. “Then tell me.”
This was hard for him too. I recognized that. He wanted to assume he knew what was best for me. Maybe he did. But if I was going to be his point person, I needed to have some control. “I’m thinking someone who has a history of managing a club or a restaurant, even. Someone with a resume. Someone who would know the right numbers for what should be incoming and outgoing and could handle the staff. I’d want to do most of the marketing and behind-the-scenes business while he or she would work more of the day-to-day operations. Or night-to-night operations, I guess is a better way to put it. Would you be able to find someone like that?”
“When would you want them to start?”
“Immediately. That way David could help with the training.”
“Like I said before, done.”
“Really?” I had expected more of an I’ll-see-what-I-can-do response. Hudson was powerful, but part of his effectiveness came from not making promises he couldn’t keep.
“Yes, really. I already have someone in mind. I’ll set something up.”
There. I’d done it. I’d agreed to run the club and it was happening under my terms. “Perfect.”
Hudson traced my cheek with his finger. “You know all you have to do is ask and it’s yours.”
A sudden wave of anxiety rolled through my belly. I turned to face the back of Jordan’s head. “Actually, I don’t know that, and honestly, that sort of makes me uncomfortable.”
Hudson put his hand on my neck. “Why?”
There were lots of reasons. But I settled on the most obvious. “I don’t want to be the floozy manager who only gets things because she’s f**king the owner.”
My eyes were still on Jordan. He was so good at his job—he didn’t even flinch at my crass language.
Hudson, it seemed, preferred that the conversation remain between us. He leaned in to whisper in my ear. “First of all, I love that you’re f**king the owner. Please don’t stop. Second, that’s not why you get things. You get things because you’re qualified. If you’d shown up to the interviews after the symposium, you would have had people fighting for you. But third, and most importantly, you get things from me because you’re my other half. Everything that is mine is yours. My connections, my money, my influence—it’s all half yours.”