Forever with You (Page 6)

Forever with You (Fixed #3)(6)
Author: Laurelin Paige

“Alayna, talk to me.” He was behind me, wrapping a towel around my body as he dripped onto the floor.

I shook my head and ran to the bedroom.

Hudson followed. He grabbed my upper arms and turned me toward him. “Talk to me. What is it?”

My body heaved with the anguish. It wasn’t a new pain, but one that had been with me for the better part of a week. I just hadn’t fully expressed it yet—not to Hudson, not to myself.

“You. Really. Hurt me,” I managed. The words were broken and hard to get out between sobs.

“Just now?”

“No.” I swallowed and tried to calm myself enough to speak. “You really hurt me. With Celia. When you believed her. Instead of me.” The pain was so raw, so fresh. Even though he’d made amends and we were together, the remnants of that betrayal still clung to me. I’d tried to move on before the scar had formed, and now, unexpectedly, the wound reopened.

“Oh, Alayna.” He pulled me into his chest. “Tell me. Tell me all of it. I need to hear it.”

“It hurts, Hudson. It hurts so much.” I took a ragged breath. “Even though you’re here. Now. And we’re together. There’s a hole.” My sentences were short and broken. “A deep, deep hole.”

His body tensed around me and I felt the degree to which he shared my grief. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If I could take it back, if I could change how I reacted…I would have chosen differently.”

“I know. I do. But you didn’t choose differently. And you can’t take that back.” My voice strengthened as the ache inside surfaced. Like I was throwing up. Once it started, there was no stopping, and the process was uncomfortable and suffocating.

I pulled away from him, still in his arms, but no longer buried in him. “You can never take that back.”

“No. I can’t.” He pushed my wet hair off my shoulders.

“And that changes things. It changes me.”

He paused, worry etching his face. “How?”

“It makes me vulnerable. Exposed.” I suddenly became aware that he was wearing nothing. It was fitting. Because, even though I was wrapped in a towel, I’d never been more na**d in front of him. “And you know now. That you can hurt me.” I choked as my tears returned. “You can hurt me real bad.”

“Alayna.” He pulled me back into him, his voice thick with emotion. “My precious girl. I never want to hurt you again. Will you ever be able to…forgive me?”

I nodded, unable to respond verbally. Yes, I could forgive him. I already had. But it didn’t change how much it hurt. It didn’t change how much healing still had to occur.

Hudson rocked me in his arms as I cried, intermittently kissing my head and apologizing. After a while, he swept me into his arms and carried me to the bed. He curled up with me, holding me against him.

When I’d finally finished with the tears, I sat up against the headboard with a hiccup. “Huh. I don’t know where that came from.”

He sat up next to me, wiping my cheeks. “You needed to let it out. I understand.”

“You do?”

“I do.” He put a tentative arm around me. “Is it okay that I’m here?”

“Yes! Please, don’t leave.” I clutched him, afraid that he would go.

“As long as you want me, I’m here.”

“Good.” I relaxed, letting my heartbeat return to a normal pace. “All that?” I gestured abstractly, referring to my sob scene. “That was just…”

“Healing?”

“Yeah. Cathartic. The last step of all that before stuff. I think I have some closure now.” I felt cleansed—inside and out. I smiled as I traced Hudson’s lips with my finger.

“I admire your optimism, but old pain has a way of showing up from time to time, even when life is going well.” He caught my finger in his hand. “I’m sure we’ll both feel this way every now and then.”

I took a long breath in. I couldn’t stand that I’d hurt him too. It almost pained me as much as his betrayal.

“Don’t dwell on it.” His voice was soft. “We have the future to make up for the hurts we’ve caused each other.”

Right then, I was ready to dedicate my life to making up. Was I really thinking of us as forever? Well, at least long term.

I twisted my lips at the thought. “This is a new beginning for us, isn’t it?”

He leaned forward to brush my nose with his. “No. This is better than a beginning. This is what happens next.”

“I like that.”

He leaned in and kissed me, sweetly and luxuriously, with promises of all the other things that would happen next. As if there was nothing in the world to do but lavish me with love.

Chapter Three

Hudson called into the office the next morning, deciding to work from home. I’d already made arrangements to be gone from the club for the next several days so I didn’t bother going in either. We spent our time in the library, each of us working on our own projects, not talking much, which was fine. Exhausted from jet lag and lack of sleep, Hudson was in a mood. Even grumpy, I was glad for his presence. It was comforting just to be with him.

I did leave the apartment but only to get a wax and attend my group therapy that evening. When I returned, Hudson was passed out in our bed. I let him sleep.

Before I joined him, I got a run in on the treadmill and texted Stacy. Thanks, but no thanks, my message said. I probably didn’t need to respond at all, but it gave the issue finality. I slept soundlessly the whole night through.

The next day was a holiday—the Fourth of July. Hudson surprised me by taking me to brunch at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. Afterward, we walked through the park, holding hands and enjoying each other’s company. We were good—it felt right being with him. Easy.

Yet there was a tangible fragility between us. We were cautious with each other, handling one another with kid gloves. Hudson’s lingering fatigue didn’t help the situation.

Later, getting ready for the evening’s fireworks display, Hudson came up behind me as I primped in the bedroom mirror. He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed along my neckline. “We’ve been pu**y-footing around each other all day,” he said at my ear. “I’m warning you now that I’m done. It’s time for me to start treating you like what you are: Mine.”

My breath caught sharply.

“And yes, that means that you’ll be f**ked later. Hard.”