I wrap my hands around her wrists. “And you’re supposed to be watching your blood pressure. Stop shoving.”
She wriggles out of my grasp and puts her fists on her hips. “If my blood pressure’s spiking, it’s not because of the shoving. It’s the man who’s being shoved that’s causing me anxiety.” She moves again to push me, but this time I catch her first.
“There’s no reason for me to be causing you anything. Everything’s good. Sit down.” I direct her to the bench where she sits without any pushing. “Do you need me to get you some water?”
“No,” she snaps. “I’m perfectly hydrated, thank you very much.”
Something about her demeanor sparks a similar confrontation. Her rehearsal dinner. I’d pulled her away from her party then too. God, I’m such a f**ker of a brother.
For old time’s sake, I ask, “Don’t you need to be with your guests?”
“I’m on a potty break. It’s fine.” Her narrowed eyes show a hint of humor, and I know she caught my reference. Then she’s animated again. “And what do you mean everything’s good? Did you talk to Alayna?”
I lean a shoulder against the door. “I did.”
“And?” She’s almost as eager as I am to have us back together. It’s nice to have someone in my corner.
“And I proposed.”
“You’d be proud of her. She said no.” It hadn’t been one of my finer moments. I’d been desperate and bold and brazen. I hadn’t had a ring. It had been the solution I’d concocted on my ride back into town. I thought that proving the lengths I’d go for her was the answer to our problems. As if lack of dramatic gestures had been our issue.
“Which is understandable.”
Alayna already explained it in hard-to-hear words—she loves me, but she can’t stand to look at me. She can’t ever trust me again. I’m an idiot to think that she’d want to spend her life with me.
But I’m feeling masochistic and think maybe I should hear it again. “Is it?”
Mirabelle’s nicer about her response. “You broke her heart, Hudson. You don’t fix that with a proposal.”
I want to ask, then how do you fix it?
But I don’t voice the question. I’m afraid the answer is you don’t.
So instead, I slump on the seat next to her and assume an air of confidence. “It’s good, though. I’m going to win her back. I’m not giving up until I do.” They were the words I’d shouted after Alayna when she’d walked away from me earlier. She didn’t look back. I pretend that doesn’t mean anything.
Mirabelle lifts her head to study my face, surprise etching her expression. “When the hell did you turn into a romantic?”
I shake my head. “I didn’t. I just remembered that I’m a man who gets what he wants.” And I want Alayna. Need, actually. I need her like I need air to breathe.
“Yeah, don’t use that line with her. That’s not romantic at all.” She makes a face to further prove her distaste.
I hadn’t meant to use the line, but now that Mirabelle’s scoffed so openly at it, I have to know. “Why not? It’s worked before.”
“Maybe to get laid.” She pauses for a second. “And now that I think about that…ew.” She shudders. “Anyway, cocky and dominating is not what’s going to win back trust and affection.”
“How the f**k do you earn back trust?” I don’t mean to be so crass, but I’m frustrated.
And, also, I get it. There’s nothing—nothing—that Celia could ever do to earn back my trust. Is that how Alayna feels about me? She probably should. As she said, there’s no forgiving that kind of betrayal. Now I know.
But she also told me that she still loved me. Even if she hadn’t said it, I saw it in her eyes, on her face. I felt it in the way she had to fight to keep from running into my arms. If she’d said she hated me, maybe then I could let her go on with her life. Without me. But because she still has love, well, I can’t give up on that.
Huh, maybe I did turn romantic after all.
“Time,” Mirabelle says. I hadn’t expected her to answer. “Give her space. Let her know you’re still fighting for her. But don’t do anything that will get you a restraining order.”
Time and space. Every second away from her kills me. Every inch between us feels like miles. But I can try. If that’s what she needs, I can do my best to give her that.
Mirabelle rubs a hand in small circles over her belly. “Do you have anything specific planned to show her you’re still thinking about her?”
In truth, that’s why I’m still sitting in Alayna’s dressing room—I was paralyzed, trying to figure out my next move. So far I’d come up with nothing.
Except as I’m caught in the hypnotic rhythm of my sister’s hand motion, I suddenly remember something from long ago. “Someone once told me,” I say, “that the way to win a girl’s heart is to do things that prove you’ve noticed who she really is.”
I’d used that wisdom to win me girls in the past. Always as part of a scheme, and that made it hard to consider it as a tactic now. Yet it had been good advice.
Mirabelle eyes me. “You’re seriously going to develop your game plan based on something I told you as an inexperienced teenager?”
I frown at her word choice. “Not a game, but yes, my plan is based on your suggestion.”
She raises a brow, and I assume she’s unhappy with my idea.
“Do you have anything better?” I hope my exasperation isn’t too apparent.
“No. The idea’s great. Simple. Romantic. It’s really the best you got.”
“Then what was that look for?”
She breaks into a grin. “You. Asking my opinion about your love life. I told you that you would one day.”
Her smile is contagious. “Don’t get cocky. It’s not good for the baby.” I poke at her ribs where I know she’s ticklish.
She bats at my hand and squeals. “Stop it. You’re making me laugh, and my bladder can’t take it.”
“Go take your potty break.” I stand and help her to her feet. Then I open the door and stand back to let her pass.
In the hallway, before she goes toward the bathroom and I toward the back door, she asks, “Are you going to be okay?”