“Where are you staying? The Waldorf?” I surprise him with my accurate guess, but he simply nods. “I’ll arrange to have your things moved over here. The guest room is down the hall. Make yourself at home.”
He nods and heads to where I’ve directed him, happy for the escape.
Celia’s tried to sneak past me while I was speaking to Brian, but I catch her before the elevator arrives. “And I didn’t mean you should leave. We have to talk.”
Her eyes are red and tired. “Hudson, I’m not in the mood.”
“Oh, let’s not talk about mood.” My delivery is even and cold. I’m actually surprised I have as much patience as I do for her. Inside, I’m boiling.
“Do you not realize what just happened here?” Her voice is low, but she’s seething. “My parents are going to f**king kill me. They were never supposed to find out about me and Jack.”
“It’s called karma, Celia. You reap what you sow. And today you sowed a lot of bad karma. Would you care to explain?”
“I’ve done all my talking. I have to be somewhere now, so pardon me.” She brushes past me into the waiting elevator.
She won’t get away this easy. I step in after her. “I’ll see you down.”
Celia rubs at her temples. She’s not happy about this, but she has little say.
“I’m coming too.” My mother sticks her hand in just as the doors begin to close.
I may actually snarl when I say, “Take the next elevator.”
But my mother isn’t fazed. She slips in despite my command. “I’m not staying another minute here with that man.”
That man is standing behind her, a surly expression on his face. “I’ll take the next elevator.”
I suppose expecting Jack and Sophia to travel down to the lobby together is a bit much at the moment. “Fine,” I concede. I wait for the doors to close before adding, “Though I’m surprised you don’t mind being with this woman.”
Celia throws me a glare.
My mother throws me a glare as well. “I know Jack. He’s the one who’s responsible. It wasn’t her fault.” She wraps an arm around Celia. “He took advantage of you, honey. I understand. He was the grown-up. You were the child.”
Celia leans into my mother’s embrace, putting on the full victim act. “Thank you, Sophia. That means more than you could know.” She even dabs at her eyes, which, as far as I can tell, are dry.
“Jesus Christ,” I mutter. They’re more alike than I’d ever realized.
My mother scolds me as she affectionately pats Celia’s arm. “I’m not happy with you either, Hudson. Covering for that cheating bastard—”
“I wasn’t—” I don’t finish the sentence. It’s not worth it. She’ll never understand. “Whatever. I’m not going through this with you, Mother. Work out your feelings about this on your own.”
“I don’t know why I expected sympathy.” Her terse tone is well-practiced. “I forgot who I was dealing with.”
I roll my eyes. “Like mother, like son.”
“That’s not how the saying goes.”
Celia straightens and pats Sophia with the consolation I’ve denied her. “This must be so hard for you, Sophia.”
As if she wasn’t the exact cause of all the hard.
My mother takes the inch and yanks it a mile. “It is. It’s devastating.” She continues as the elevator doors open in the lobby and we step out. “God, it feels like so much of the last ten years have been a lie. The baby. The baby wasn’t even mine at all.”
This time it seems tears might actually be forming in her eyes. Somewhere deep inside, there’s a piece of me that acknowledges this is a big loss for her. As unhealthy as it was to do so, she’d focused so much of her energy on her dead grandbaby. The child that would have continued her union with Jonathon Pierce. Today’s revelation had to shake her to the core.
But frankly, at the moment, I don’t give a f**k. “Save it for your shrink. I said I didn’t want to hear it.”
Meanwhile, Celia has tried to sneak away again. I trot after her, abandoning my mother. “Hey, hey, hey.” I grab her by the arm and escort her across the lobby and out the front doors. “We aren’t done. I’ll see you to your car.”
“I didn’t drive.”
“I’ll wait with you until your driver shows up.”
“I was planning on taking a cab.”
“We’ll cab together.” I don’t let her interject another excuse. “Celia, we’re having a conversation whether you want to or not. And we’re having it now, though you are welcome to choose our location.”
Her shoulders fall as she surrenders to defeat. “Cab, then.”
We hail a cab and slip in the back. I dive in the minute she’s finished giving her address to the driver. “This scam of yours, Celia—it’s not cute. It’s not even clever. It ends now.”
“I love how you immediately assume that anything I say is a scam. You can’t ever give me the benefit of the doubt?”
“I did give you the benefit of the doubt. I believed you when you stood there and told me you were happy for me. That you would give up this experiment with Alayna. Blatant lies is your trick now?”
She stares away from me out the window and shrugs. “I changed my mind.”
“And now you’re changing your mind again. Alayna is not your subject. Your experiment is over.”
Her head spins to face me. “Is there a threat buried in there? Let’s not forget that I know things you don’t want shared.”
There’s not a question of what she’s referring to. Yesterday, I could have said the same about her. But the biggest secret I had over her has now been revealed. I have little to hold over her at the moment, though I plan to change that. And fast.
In the meantime, though, I’ll have to gamble on her loyalty. Not to me—to the game. “You won’t tell Alayna that I played her. You won’t tell anyone. It’s against the rules.”
“You’re concerned with the rules? The game is over for you. What do you care about the rules?”
Her nonchalant attitude incites me. “How dare you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me. How the f**k dare you?” It’s too much. All of it. Not only what she’s done to Alayna, but the insinuation that the way I taught her meant less to me than it did to her. It was my way of life, for Christ’s sake. How dare she act as though I had no respect for it? “I always adhered to our law. I did everything exactly as I said I would, even with Alayna. My only sin was to fall in love. And that was never against the rules.”