This surprised me. “He talks about me?”
“All the time.” She said it as if it were the most matter-of-fact thing in the world.
My heart flip-flopped. “Hmm. I never knew.”
I left Norma’s office feeling lighter than when I’d arrived. She’d assuaged my doubts about Hudson’s fidelity and had even given some insight on his relationship with Celia. More and more, the video seemed to be a sham.
Walking to the elevator, my better mood quickly quieted as I remembered I had to get past Hudson’s office again. If Jordan had texted him, he’d certainly be on the lookout for me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bump into him or not. If I saw him, I’d have to explain why I was there.
But I’d see him. And that sounded both glorious and painful.
I walked cautiously down his hall, trying my best to keep my heels quiet on the marble floor, all the while keeping my eyes pinned on his closed office door. Which was why I didn’t notice he was standing in front of me until I bumped into him.
There it was, the sound I loved above all others—my name on the tongue of the man I loved. The way he said it, reverent like a hymn, like a lullaby—it kindled the emotions I’d been attempting to bury deep inside. Goose bumps scattered down my arms and my chest grew tight. So tight, so ready to burst.
I started to say something, but my voice was gone.
Hudson wrapped his arm around mine. “Let’s talk in private, shall we?” He led me to his office. “Hold my calls,” he said over his shoulder to Trish. Then he shut and locked the door behind us.
If the circumstances had been different, the whole dominating alpha mood he was in would have been hot. Okay, it was still hot. No matter the circumstances. And I’d been a bad girl—going behind his back and speaking with his employee. Maybe if I was lucky, I’d get spanked.
Wow, wasn’t I feeling optimistic?
“Well, hello, H.”
He released my arm. “What are you doing here, Alayna?” He looked and sounded tired. His eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with dark circles. Was he losing sleep over me? Or were work and an unfamiliar bed the more likely cause?
Even with the bags, he looked delicious. I’d wondered many times if I’d ever get bored of his devastatingly good looks. If so, it wasn’t today. His simple presence affected me—aroused me, flustered me. Pissed me off. The combination of attraction, frustration and desperation put me in an odd mood—a cross between flirty and feisty with a whole lot of bitter on top.
“What am I doing here in your office? You dragged me in here, remember.” I walked away from him, dragging my hand along the top of the couch.
“Don’t be cute.” Though I sensed a smile behind his straight-man routine. “I meant in the building.”
I peered at him over my shoulder. “Maybe I came to see you. I tend to stalk when I feel dismissed by a man.” It could happen. It had happened before. With him, even.
Hudson heaved a sigh. “You didn’t come to see me. You arrived on this floor over half an hour ago and are just now coming by my office.”
I spun toward him. “How the f**k do you know everything I do? Jordan? Your security cameras?” I knew it was my bodyguards, but I wanted his confirmation. And saying it out loud, I realized how much the situation ticked me off—if he was watching my every move, I didn’t feel so bad digging into his life. As far as shitty behavior went, the two were on par in my book.
“I’m not going to feel guilty for the lengths I go to in order to protect what’s mine.” He crossed his arms over his chest, his already broad shoulders expanding.
And I didn’t miss his words. I might have licked my lips.
I tore my eyes away from him, breaking the hypnotic trance he had me in. “Yours, huh? Don’t make me laugh.” I seemed to be back at the angry phase of grief. It was an interesting and a thrilling change to the constant pain I’d been experiencing.
My rage spurred Hudson’s. “Jesus, how many times do I have to go through this with you?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged dramatically. “Maybe a couple hundred more times. Because I’m obviously not getting it.”
He turned his back to me, running his hand through his hair. When he faced me again, he was relatively calmer. “Why. Are. You. Here?”
I battled over telling the truth and keeping it to myself just to spite him. My bitchy mood was voting for spite.
But I was fighting for him, not against him. Honesty it was. “I came to see Norma.”
His brows rose. “About Gwen?”
I covered my face with my hands then dropped them. “About you, you dummy. I don’t give a shit about anything but you.” My throat tightened with the truthfulness of my declaration. “Jesus, how many times do I have to go through this with you?” I threw his words back at him. Guess the spite was coming along with the fight. It helped keep away the tears.
“You came to talk to my employee about me?” His eye twitched and his jaw was tense. From my experience, that meant he was pissed. Beyond pissed.
And I’d been going for romantic.
I threw more of his words back. “Don’t guilt me for protecting what’s mine.”
His eyes sparked. That remark hit him—in a good way. In a way I didn’t know I could anymore. As if he were moved by my possessiveness.
I took advantage of his surprise and softened my approach. “I only wanted to see for myself if she was into you. If you had something going with her.”
Bitterness crept back in. With a pointed finger, I said, “And don’t you dare talk to me about trust because you know I get jealous about her, and you aren’t around to help reassure me.”
Every other word I said was pointed and harsh. I’d hated feeling so distraught. This new temperament wasn’t any better, but at least I was getting it out. It was like shedding my skin and underneath was nothing but raw and rugged emotion.
Hudson leaned his hip against the couch, regarding me closely. When he spoke, he was calm and controlled. As always. “Did you get what you came for?”
I bit my lip, not wanting to give away any ground. Carefully, reluctantly, I answered. “She thinks a lot of you. She respects you and admires you and she recognizes you’re physically attractive—don’t let that go to your head.”