Hudson (Page 72)

Hudson (Fixed #4)(72)
Author: Laurelin Paige

And then all hell breaks loose. My rage, already bubbling just under the surface, ignites in a blaze. “Goddammit, Jack.”

“It’s my business to tell,” he says, “and I’m tired of this lingering lie.”

“It wasn’t a lie we told for you.” For as much as I’ve resented that I had to keep his secret, I guarded it wholly. There are too many people who will be hurt by this unveiling. My mother. Celia’s parents. Alayna, because I never told her. It was a secret best kept to the grave.

Now the room swarms with the aftermath of this. Sophia’s crushed. Celia’s embarrassed. Jack’s…relieved, it seems. I’m surprised to realize I don’t care as much as I once would have. Everything in my world is dimmed next to the spotlight of my precious Alayna.

In the bustle, she slips away. I rush to follow her, not making the elevator before the doors close. I take the other elevator down and find her in the lobby.

“Alayna,” I call after her. She waits for me, but when I reach her, I realize I don’t know what to say. So I settle on, “Why did you leave?”

“Isn’t it obvious? That was a madhouse, and I didn’t want to be there anymore.”

“Yes, that it was.” There are words sitting at the tip of my tongue. So many of them. Which do I choose?

“I, um…why didn’t you defend me up there?” she asks before I’ve decided how to respond. “Are you that mad about the David situation? It’s me that’s supposed to be mad at you, remember?”

Was it only this morning that I transferred David to my club in Atlantic City? It seems like a lifetime ago that I was worrying about her and him. I don’t regret my decision to move him from The Sky Launch—that club belongs to Alayna—but I admit that I was underhanded in my dealing with it.

Now that feels benign in comparison to the malignancy that I’m about to inflict upon our relationship. But if we have any chance of working past our issues, I have to be sure we’re both mentally able to handle the task.

“Wait—” She realizes it before I have to say it. “You believe her.”

My jaw twitches. I don’t know.

“Hudson?”

I put my hands on her upper arms. “I believe in you.” They’re the truest words I’ve ever spoken. “And whatever you need, I want to give it to you. If you need help—”

“Oh my god, I can’t believe this.” She backs away from me. “I can’t f**king believe this.”

I clench and unclench my fists as if it will somehow help me hold onto her. “Tell me that you didn’t do it. Tell me you didn’t call her. Tell me you didn’t see her.” If she tells me she didn’t—I’ll believe her.

But she doesn’t.

It’s confirmation that she’s lied to me. I can’t bear to think that she’s done it willfully. She has to be acting out of her illness. It’s the easiest thing to believe.

She shakes her head. “It’s not how it looks, Hudson. I didn’t stalk her or harass her or whatever she’s claiming. Are you on her side or mine?”

“I’m on your side. Always, your side.” How can she not know this by now? Everything I do, everything I say, it’s always for her.

“Then you believe me?” Her eyes are soft, pleading.

It’s not that simple.

I stick my hands in my pockets. If I don’t hide them away, I’ll pull her into me, and then I’m afraid I won’t ask her the hard questions. “Did you call her?”

“Yes! I said I did upstairs!” She pulls her phone from her bra and shoves it toward me. “Here, you want to see? Take it! You’ll see all the times I called her since that’s what you seem to be concerned with.”

I ignore her outstretched hand. “I don’t want proof. I want to help you.”

“I don’t f**king need any help!” She throws the phone across the lobby. It shatters when it lands.

She stares at it while I stare at her. She’s hurting. She feels like I’ve let her down.

But she let me down as well. I’m hurting too. I’m new to this pain, and I don’t know how to deal with it. Her constant betrayals are wounds that I know I can learn to ignore, but I’m not sure how or if they’ll ever completely heal.

She turns and runs. Out the front door.

I follow. “Alayna, come back here.” I catch her by her wrist. “I’ll cancel my trip. We’ll find the best treatment—”

“I’m not sick.” She yanks her arms from my grip. “Go to Japan, Hudson. I don’t want to see you.”

Jesus, Japan. I’m supposed to be leaving in a couple of hours. “I’m not going to Japan now.” I’ll cancel everything for her. There is nothing without her.

Still, she walks away. “Go to Japan,” she calls back to me. “I don’t want to see you for a while, if not ever. Got it? If you’re at the penthouse when I get home, I’ll find somewhere else to sleep, and I don’t mean for just one night.”

She keeps walking. I let her.

I watch after her for long minutes though. I chose wrong; I know that. I probably knew that as I was pushing treatment on her. She’s not sick. She didn’t do the things Celia accused her of. She was in her right mind when she went behind my back.

I have a new decision to make. I can either choose to let this pain weigh me down and ruin our relationship forever, or I can choose to make my own transgressions right.

The decision’s easy. I won’t lose Alayna. Before I can try to win her back, though, there is an obstacle that must be dealt with—Celia.

***

Crying and yelling meet me when I return to my apartment. Celia and my father are in a screaming match, my mother’s sobbing. Or pretending to sob. There’s no actual tears. Brian is studying the artwork on my walls, seemingly trying to be invisible.

I almost feel bad for the guy.

I don’t feel bad for anyone else. In fact, they need to leave. “Thank you everyone for the chaos in my living room. It’s time for all of you to go now.”

Brian heads first toward the elevator, as if he’d been simply waiting for permission before he bolted.

I stop him. “Not you. I’d like you to stay, if you don’t mind. Alayna has asked me not to be here when she returns, but I’d rather she isn’t alone.”

Brian’s mouth opens, his eyes darting. “I suppose that would be fine.”