David, thinking I was only out of sorts because I was missing Hudson, suggested I take some time off, but the club gave me a sense of purpose. After meeting with Trent, I continued working nights instead of days. At least then I could stand behind the bar and go on autopilot. I worked myself long and hard and when I got back to the penthouse in the early hours of the morning, I hit the treadmill until I couldn’t stand anymore. That was the only way to fall asleep—to get myself so exhausted that I slipped easily into a coma.
Without my phone, Hudson tried to contact me in creative ways—at the club, leaving messages with the doorman, calling the penthouse phone, which I never answered. I stayed true to my self-proclaimed edict that time apart would be good for us. Except, as the days stretched by, I hadn’t managed to figure anything out. I’d hoped to gain clarity in his absence. Instead, I just felt lost.
It was after one of the longer nights that Mira showed up, when I’d stayed so long closing the club that the sun was already planted in the sky. I’d changed into workout clothes and ran from the club to The Bowery. The traffic seemed light. It was Sunday morning, I guessed.
Mira was waiting in the lobby, sitting on a couch in the foyer with her hands resting on her swollen belly. At the sight of her, I felt warmth for the first time in days.
She stood when I approached her.
“He sent you to check up on me?” I was beaming. I missed Hudson so horribly and his attempt to reach out through his sister was a nice touch.
Unless he’d sent her to break up with me.
The smile left my face instantly at the thought.
“You’re not taking any of his calls, Laynie. What else was he supposed to do?”
“He already left notes with the doorman.”
“Did you read them?”
“Not so much. I was afraid of what they’d say.” Like that I needed to be out of the penthouse by the time he came home.
“Did you think he was breaking up with you?” She laughed. “No. Way. Even if he wanted to, I wouldn’t let him. And he doesn’t want to. Trust me.”
I hadn’t realized how worried I’d been about the prospect until Mira had relieved the tension with those few simple words. My shoulders relaxed, and my jaw didn’t feel so tight. Now I wished I hadn’t thrown away his messages.
But here was a message in the flesh.
I tilted my head toward the elevator. “Want to come up?”
“I was counting on it.”
We didn’t talk as we rode up to the penthouse, and all I could think about was how much I probably stunk from my run and how I hoped that Mira was really there to tell me Hudson would be home soon.
“Can I get you something?” I asked as we stepped into the vestibule.
“Um, mind if I raid your fridge? I just ate breakfast and I’m still starving.”
I dropped my purse and key on the floor. “Go for it.”
She knew her way around and I followed her into the kitchen. While she poked about in the fridge, I grabbed a couple of glasses from the cupboard. “Want anything to drink?”
“Water’s good.” She stepped away from the fridge, carrying a veggie tray and a block of cheese.
Before the door shut behind her, I reached in and snagged a bottle of water then poured half in each of the glasses. When I’d turned back, Mira had made herself comfy at the breakfast table. I grabbed a knife and plate for the cheese and joined her.
“So,” she said, chomping down on a piece of celery. “Lots of crazy went down here last week.”
“We’re jumping right into it then? No small talk first?” Personally, I was glad. I hadn’t wanted to be the one to seem eager for the dirt.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve been dying to talk about this with you. Do you not know I’m a gossip fiend?” Mira reached for the knife and began working at the block of cheese.
“You hadn’t known about Celia’s baby either?”
“Nope. No clue. I was always sure it wasn’t Hudson’s. I don’t know why—I was barely fourteen when it all happened, but he never seemed to be into her. They never even kissed or anything that I saw. And, trust me; I was the type of sister that saw a lot.”
I could picture Mira as a perky young teen, spying on her brother whenever she had the chance. “Somehow I don’t doubt that.”
“I didn’t ever think it was Dad’s though.” She took a piece of the cheddar and layered it on top of another celery piece. “I still can’t think about that. It’s gross.” She shuddered then bit into her celery/cheese sandwich.
Talk about gross.
I moved my eyes from her snack of questionable taste and pretended to study my nails. “How is your mother dealing with the news?”
Mira shrugged. “Who knows? Every time she starts to feel something other than bitterness she simply refills her bourbon.”
I nodded, surprised by her openness. “Good times.”
I hadn’t actually spent much time alone with Hudson’s sister. I’d assumed she was as closed-off as Hudson, hiding her true thoughts and feelings behind a veil of happiness where he hid his behind cold stone walls. Perhaps I’d been wrong.
“Mom will get over it. Or she won’t. Whatever.” She paused to finish chewing her celery. Then she frowned. “I don’t know why she was so attached to Celia to begin with. I’m sorry about that.”
“Whatever. You aren’t responsible for your mother’s bad taste.”
She giggled. “I know, but it’s embarrassing. Celia’s such a bitch.” Mira leaned back in her chair. “She’s always been…I don’t know…fake. I’ve never trusted her, but I still can’t believe she did this to you.”
It was my turn to shrug. “It was my own fault. Not because I stalked her, but because I didn’t listen to the warnings not to get mixed up with her.”
“I know you didn’t stalk her.” Mira rolled her eyes. “Please. Do you think I don’t? Why would you do that? It’s not like you at all.”
Her confidence in me was startling. As well as completely off base. I’d figured my obsessive days were out in the open now for the whole Pierce family. It was nice to know it wasn’t the case.
But I was tired of secrets and bitter about my predicament. “Joke’s on you, I guess. That’s exactly like me. I used to do that crap all the time. Stalk people, I mean. I have a record.”