Invite me to go with you. I willed him to say the words, Come with me.
With what felt like great reluctance, he pushed me away. He tucked himself in, zipped up his pants, and stood to face me, his fist on his hip as if trying to decide what to do about a problem that had arose unexpectedly.
It was surprising that I could still be hurt when I was already in so much pain. Wasn’t there a limit? Where the ache would become so unbearable and my spirit would simply cease to go on? If there was a threshold, I hadn’t met it yet. Because that look on his face—it pushed me further into the depth of the hell that I was in. It crushed me.
I didn’t want to be his problem. I wanted to be his life. After all, he was mine.
Then, all of a sudden, everything changed. He dropped his hand to his side and his expression melted and transformed, and for the first time in days, the look in his eyes said I was the center of his world again. The crux of his universe. The core of his existence.
He reached for me, and instantly I was back in his arms. He clutched me tightly to him, with determined devotion. “God, Alayna, I can’t do this anymore.” It was almost a sob. “I can’t bear to be apart from you. I miss you so terribly.”
“You do?” I leaned back to look into his eyes, to see if they told the same story.
He settled his hand at my jaw, his thumb tracing the line of my lower lip. “Of course, I do, precious.” His tone was uneven but sincere. “You’re my everything. I love you. I love you so much.”
My heart thudded in my ears and the world closed in around me as if there were only Hudson and me and nothing else.
He’d said it. He’d said it twice. Said it, and meant it. I felt the sincerity in every cell of my body.
And with just those three little words, the darkness scattered and the sky cleared. The heaviness that had cocooned me for days fell away, and I was left new and beautiful in its place. It was he who’d finally taken the step, had metamorphosed enough to deliver what I needed to hear, but it was me who was now the butterfly—me who could finally soar.
And still, as I was already flying, I needed to be sure. “W-w-what?”
His lips fell into an easy smile. “You heard me.”
“I want to hear it again.” I held my breath, afraid that if I stirred at all that the spell would be broken and I’d be alone in our bed at the penthouse, that all of this would be a dream.
But it wasn’t a dream. And I wasn’t alone. And I was in the arms of the man who was saying once again, “I love you.”
“You love me?”
He brushed his lips over mine. “I love you, precious. I’ve always loved you. From the moment I first saw you. I knew before you did, I think.” He tilted my chin to meet his eyes. “But there are things—things in my past—that have kept me from being able to tell you. And now…I have to do this…this thing. Finish this deal. Then, when I get back, we’ll talk.”
“We’ll talk?” I felt like a parrot, repeating his last words, but I was delirious, my mind hazy with happiness. It was all I could manage.
“I’ll tell you anything you want to know. And if you still want me, I’ll come home.” He swept a strand of my hair behind my ear, seeming to need to keep touching me as badly as I needed to be touched.
God, he’s such an idiot! “Yes, I want you home. Of course I do. We belong there together. There’s nothing you could say that would make me stop loving you. Nothing. I stick, remember?”
He sighed into me. “Oh, precious. I hope that’s true.”
“It is.” It was the truest thing I knew, like the way the sun knew to rise in the morning, the way a rosebud knew to blossom in the spring. He was in my veins, in the innermost recesses of my heart and soul. I’d love him until I died—through death, even. Through fire, through hell. I’d love him through eternity.
And now I believed he might love me that way too.
I dug my fingers into his jacket and shook him softly. “Say it again.”
“You’re such a spoiled girl.” He circled my nose with his. “And I love…spoiling you.”
I leaned back and smacked his chest.
“And I love you.” He pulled me back toward his mouth. “I love you, I love you. I love you.”
Hudson and I kissed and cuddled right until the moment he was supposed to leave, neither of us wanting to end our reunion. Hand in hand, we walked out of the building together. He invited me to ride with him in the limo to the airport. I considered it, but Norma was accompanying him, and the look in Hudson’s eyes said he’d have his way with me, no matter who was present.
We did get a chance for a goodbye kiss. “I’ll miss you,” he mumbled against my lips.
If he wasn’t going to say it, I would. “You could ask me to come to L.A.”
“Someone keeps reminding me about a club that she has to run…” He ran a hand down my bare arm, sending chills down my spine. “And I’m going to be swamped. Though I’d love you there, you’d be ignored.”
Briefly I wondered if he had an ulterior reason for not wanting me to go with him, but I didn’t let the thought stay. He was right. I had responsibilities at home. His recognition of that was a big step on his part.
But I pouted all the same.
Hudson kissed my forehead. “Don’t pout. Stay here, go to David’s going away party on Sunday, I’ll be back by Monday.”
“Back to the penthouse?” I wanted his reassurance once more. I could bear a few more days if he’d come home for good.
“Back to our house, yes.” He brushed one more kiss against my lips then got in the limo and rode away.
Though Hudson and I were still apart in the literal sense, the fact that we were a couple again made all the difference in our distance. Finally, we were happy and in love. Happy and in love like we’d never been before. I fluttered around work all shift like I had wings. Gwen introduced herself to me, claiming we’d never met. David, on the other hand, spent the evening being glum. He blamed it on his impending move, but I knew it was me. He’d been hoping Hudson and I were over. Thank god we weren’t.
Even across the miles, Hudson showed me things were different. He had flowers sent to work—a bouquet of wildflowers that looked exactly like the patches we’d seen in the Poconos. He also texted me, something he rarely initiated. I’d received several before I had the chance to look at my phone.