He nodded as he took my hand. He held it much longer than he should have, his thumb caressing along my skin, sending unwanted goose bumps down my arms.
I pulled away, hoping he hadn’t noticed. Though I felt nothing for David, my body still reacted to his. He was plain but attractive—his eyes a dull blue, his hair dark blond and curly. He worked out but had a stocky frame. He’d never been my type, and my reaction was likely only out of habit. But it was enough to make me feel a weight of sudden guilt—I shouldn’t hide my past with David from Hudson. I’d been quick to accuse him of keeping secrets in our relationship, and here I was doing exactly that. It was wrong, and I knew it.
I also knew I wouldn’t tell him. I doubted he’d let me continue working with David if he knew we’d had a past, and if he found out on his own, my silence might help in my defense. I’d explain to Hudson that I didn’t say anything because there was nothing to say. He’d understand.
Maybe if I kept telling myself that, I’d eventually believe it.
Hudson was already home, jacket discarded, when I got back to the penthouse that evening. He met me as I stepped out of the elevator, greeting me with a lush kiss that swept me off my feet.
“Well, hello to you, too.”
“You’re late,” he said against my lips.
“I worried.” His mouth swept across my cheek and down toward my earlobe.
My eyes widened both in surprise and at the yummy thing he was doing to that sensitive spot below my ear. “That something had happened to me?”
“That you weren’t coming.”
I pushed him back to meet his eyes. “Why Hudson Alexander Pierce, did you worry I’d stand you up?” It was silly to even think about. “Don’t you realize I’m the kinda girl that sticks?”
He leaned back in to rub his nose against mine. “If you acted as smart as you are, you would have stood me up weeks ago.”
“Good thing I don’t act smart.”
“Good thing for me, yes.” He released me and took my purse off my shoulder, which he stowed in the coat closet. Then, weaving his fingers through mine, he tugged me after him through the foyer toward the living room.
“Guess what.” I admired his back as I followed him, his taut muscles visible through his dress shirt.
“You don’t have to work tonight.”
I stopped short, my hand slipping from his grasp. “How do you always know everything?”
“I don’t.” He turned back to face me, a smile toying on his perfect lips. “But where you’re concerned I make an effort. David called me this afternoon and asked if I approved of you making your own hours.”
“And you said, ‘Yes, because then I can conform my schedule to Alayna’s so we can f**k as much as possible.’” I laughed at my horrible imitation of Hudson’s voice.
“I said I thought it was a good idea.” Instantly, I was back in his arms. “But I was thinking what you said.” His mouth circled above mine, teasing.
“I love you.”
He moved tighter into me. “I hope that my ability to change your working hours is not the sole basis of your fondness for me.”
“It is not. Trust me.” This time I kissed him, licking along his upper lip.
When he pulled away, his eyes were clouded with desire. “Dinner’s ready, precious.”
He led me to the dining room where the table was set with a bouquet of white orchids, two lit candlesticks, an opened bottle of wine, and two place settings at one end.
He waved his hands toward the candles. “These would have a more dramatic effect if it weren’t so light in here.”
“Yes, it’s terrible that your penthouse has floor-to-ceiling windows that let in so much sun,” I teased. “Honestly, it’s lovely.” Our eyes locked for a moment, caught up in each other.
Jesus, if we kept looking at each other like that, food would have to wait. I was already feeling moist in my panties.
Noticing the aroma of fresh herbs, I broke our gaze and looked toward the quiet kitchen. “Where’s the cook? Did she abandon you?”
“She did not. She cooked and then she left. Our plates are waiting under the warmer.” He pulled a chair out, gesturing for me to sit. “I presume I can manage the service without her.”
I kept my eye on him as I sat. “Honey, you don’t need anyone’s help with service.”
“Hey now.” He tapped my nose with his finger as he delivered his reprimand. “Food first. I need my energy to keep up with you. But if we get through dinner, perhaps there will be dessert.”
“A naughty dessert, I hope.”
“No hoping necessary.”
Hudson poured white wine into my glass before filling his own. Then he disappeared into the kitchen returning a few minutes later with two plates of food. He set a plate in front of each of us and then sat down. Together we dined catty-corner from each other, tangling our legs under the table. We chatted about our day and when I told him about my bachelorette party ideas for the club, he was both supportive and impressed.
“Do you want me to get you in touch with my company event planners? Not that they’d be helpful in the pre-wedding party arena.”
“Nah, I got some things set up already.”
He took a swallow of his wine, and I guessed it was difficult for him to let me keep the reins on my project. But when he set down his glass, he seemed resigned. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
The meal was delicious—chicken breast stuffed with sundried tomatoes and artichokes. Sautéed zucchini and jasmine rice accompanied the chicken. I’d stayed at work all afternoon, arranging meetings for the week, and had skipped lunch. It wasn’t until I was eating that I realized how hungry I’d been.
“This is so good, Hudson,” I said when my plate was half-clean. “Wherever did you find this cook?”
“She used to be sous-chef at one of my restaurants. Things didn’t work out with her and another staff member, so she works privately for me now.”
I thought for a moment about what I knew from Hudson’s portfolio of businesses. “Fierce?”
“That’s the one.”
Fierce was one of the hottest restaurants in the city. The head chef had a reputation for being a complete hard-ass. I didn’t have to ask if that was the reason she’d left.
My work-oriented mindset of earlier lingered into the conversation. “Would she consider working at The Sky Launch?”