Authors: Laurelin Paige
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Contemporary, #Romance, #New Adult, #Contemporary Romance
FOREVER WITH YOU
Book 3 in the Fixed Trilogy
by Laurelin Paige
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
© 2014 by Laurelin Paige
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
First edition January, 2014.
The following story contains mature themes, strong language, and sexual situations. It is intended for adult readers.
I took a deep breath and stared at the door of apartment three-twelve. Whether or not I wanted to go any further, I hadn’t decided. Actually, I couldn’t remember deciding to come this far. But here I was—my heart pounding and hands sweating, debating the pros and cons of raising my fist to the wood and knocking.
God, why was I so nervous?
Maybe more deep breaths were in order. I took several—
in, out, in, out
—and examined my surroundings. The hall was long and empty. Gold-framed abstract art lined the walls. Though the building was nice and in a good part of town, the carpet was old and threadbare. Rose petals were strewn across the floor in front of the threshold a few doors down. Must have been left over from someone’s romantic gesture.
To the other side of me, the elevator opened. I looked over and saw a couple walking in the opposite direction. The man, dressed in a nice suit, held his hand to the small of the woman’s back. Her blonde hair was tied up in a perfect bun. Even from behind, they were beautiful to look at. It was obvious they were in love.
Funny how I was seeing romance everywhere. Perhaps it was my state of mind.
I turned back to the door in front of me. It was plain and ordinary, but something about it felt ominous.
Well, might as well get this over with.
I pulled my bag higher on my shoulder and knocked.
Nearly a minute went by and no one answered. I leaned my ear against the door and listened. It was quiet. Maybe I had the wrong unit. I checked my hand where I’d scribbled the address in red pen, but it had rubbed off from my sweat.
It didn’t matter. I knew I was in the right place.
“Try the buzzer,” a man said from down the hall.
“The buzzer?” I asked, but he had already gone into his own apartment.
I hadn’t noticed a buzzer, but I searched the wall by the doorframe anyway. There I found a small circular button. Strange I hadn’t seen it before. I brought a trembling finger up and pushed.
A loud bark ripped through the air, and I nearly jumped out of my shoes, my heart pounding in my chest. I wasn’t usually afraid of dogs, but I was already so anxious that it took very little to set me off. Movement sounded from inside and a voice talking sternly to the animal. Seconds later, the door opened.
Stacy stood in the entryway, her face more welcoming than she normally was with me. Her overly bright smile sent a chill down my spine. She was dressed casually in a faded t-shirt and jeans—not at all the attire I was used to seeing her in when she worked at Mirabelle’s boutique. She was barefoot and her toes were painted with a pale pink polish. She looked relaxed. Comfortable.
I felt just the opposite.
Her grin widened. “You came.”
“I guess I did.”
She didn’t move to let me in, so I stood where I was, awkwardly shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Did she hear my knees knocking? I was sure she must.
“Oh, sorry! Come on in.” She stepped aside and let me move past her.
I took a tentative step inside, scanning her apartment. It was nice. Not nice like Hudson’s apartment—Hudson’s and
apartment, rather—but nicer than the studio that I used to reside in on Lexington Avenue. The space was sterile and cold, though completely immaculate except for the kitchen table to my left. It was covered with stacks and stacks of papers, reminding me of the top of the file cabinets in David’s office back at The Sky Launch.
“This way.” Stacy gestured to a couch in her living room. It was a twin to the sofa in Hudson’s office—brown leather with oversized arms. I’d admired the design so much that I’d ordered a similar, less expensive one for the office at the club. Hudson and I had christened that couch, actually, with a round of heated sex. Stacy’s version was not the cheaper variety, and with as prudish as the woman seemed, I doubted that she’d christened it with anyone.
Weird, though, that we all had similar taste.
Actually, what was weird was that I was there finding out Stacy’s taste at all. Why was I there? The tight knot in my gut said this was the wrong decision. I should leave.
Except, I couldn’t. Something kept me there with an intense force. Like my shoes were metal and the floor a super magnet. I knew it was all in my head—that I could physically walk out the door anytime I wanted. Yet there I stayed, compelled against my better judgment.
I threw my shoulders back, hoping it would make me feel more confident, and took a seat. I sunk lower than I’d expected, my knees sticking up higher than my thighs. I looked and felt ridiculous. So much for being self-assured.
“So sorry,” Stacy apologized. “The springs are broken. Scoot down further and you’ll bounce back.”
Awkwardly, I lifted myself from the concave spot and moved further down the sofa. I sat slowly, testing for firmness. Thankfully, the springs were indeed intact. My poise, on the other hand, was not.
Stacy settled into the armchair next to me. A large gray cat rubbed against her leg, hissing in my direction. The unfriendliness of the cat reminded me of the barking from earlier. I looked around, but found no sign of a dog. Stacy must have locked it up in another room. It was odd that she’d have both pets in such a small apartment. I’d never figured her for an animal lover.
But I’d never figured her to wear jeans and a t-shirt either. It was all the unexpected that had me on edge, I told myself. That’s all.
“Can I get you anything? Water? Iced tea?”
“No, thank you.” I crossed my legs. “Actually, I’m sort of on a schedule. Do you mind if we get this over with?” It was a lie. I had nowhere to be. I didn’t even have a driver waiting for me. I’d taken the subway instead of asking Jordan to bring me. Jordan reported to Hudson, and I didn’t want him to know about this visit.
“Yes. Of course.” She stood and crossed to her television. I noticed her computer was plugged into it, and when she turned on the set, her desktop showed on the large flat screen.
Having lost its leg to rub against, the gray cat moved over to my leg.
Great. Now I’d have gray fur all over my black pants. How would I explain that to Hudson? Maybe I could change before he noticed.
Stacy chatted as she scrolled through files on her computer. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure if you’d come. You hadn’t seemed interested before. I was surprised to get your text.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure I’d come either. Curiosity won out.” Maybe it was because of the animal at my feet but I couldn’t stop thinking about the
curiosity killed the cat
Fuck, what was I doing? Was it too late to change my mind about this?
It wasn’t too late until she actually started the video. But I couldn’t turn back now, could I? I’d never be able to stop wondering what secrets Stacy held about Hudson.
Maybe I should have asked him about it instead of showing up here.
“Well, I set up in case you did come. I just have to load the file. Hold on. It’s here somewhere.”
It seemed to take hours for Stacy to search through her computer. Each second that passed felt like agony. Thoughts of what could be on her video nagged at the edges of my mind—Hudson betraying me in various forms. I tried to shake the images away, but they clung, nipping at me, begging for my attention.
I’d chewed half of my nails ragged before I finally sought to relieve the tension. “Perhaps you could tell me what’s on it while we wait.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” She gave me another warm smile. “You won’t believe it until you see it. But trust me. It will change everything you know about Hudson. He’s a liar, you know.” She never smiled this much. It was as if she took pleasure in my discomfort. As if she were delighted to destroy my relationship with Hudson.
“He’s not a liar. I trust him.” I was the one who’d lied to him. Hudson had done nothing but proven himself over and over.
Her certainty sent goose bumps down my skin. There was no way she was right. I knew Hudson. He didn’t have secrets from me.
“Ah! Found it!” Stacy said in a sing-song voice. “Are you sure you don’t want anything before I start this? Water? Iced tea?”
I gritted my teeth, the knot in my belly tightening with every passing second. “I said, no thank you.”
“Popcorn?” She laughed. “I always like popcorn when I’m watching TV. Popcorn and M&M’s.”
“Look, Stacy, this isn’t entertainment for me. You say you have something that will make me feel differently about Hudson. Do you think I’m looking forward to this?”
This was ridiculous. What was I doing here, behind Hudson’s back no less? I should be talking to him, asking him about this stupid video instead of sneaking off to watch it. I didn’t even know if I could trust the woman in front of me. Maybe this whole video thing was a trick.
I stood to leave. “I shouldn’t be here. I have to go.” I headed toward the door.
“No! Wait! It’s already playing.”
Again, curiosity got the better of me. I turned back to the TV. The screen was dark, but there was a muffled voice in the background. Little by little, the voice became clearer. It was Hudson.
“I want you, precious. Whatever it takes to make that happen. Whatever I have to do. Whatever I have to say. I have to have you in my life.”
The screen was still dark, but I recognized the words. He’d said them to me—earlier. At the club.
“Is this some kind of a sick joke?”
“Just be patient.” Stacy giggled.
The screen began to lighten and the picture came into focus. Hudson lay on a bed facing away from the camera, completely naked. I glanced at Stacy, furious that she had seen my boyfriend without clothing, but Hudson’s next words drew me back to him. “Whatever I have to say, precious. I have to have you in my life.”
They were familiar words, but I’d never seen this scene before. I didn’t know that bed or that room. I hadn’t been there when this had been filmed. I shook my head—
no, no, no
. Those were
name. Whom was he sharing my words with?
The camera began to move, zooming around Hudson. I held my breath, waiting to see whom he was speaking to, not wanting the confirmation.
But as the camera zoomed closer, the focus blurred. So much so that it was impossible to make out what was going on or who was on screen. It was like looking through a dirty windshield or a cloudy contact lens. I blinked over and over, hoping to clear the blur, to bring the picture into clarity. I was desperate to see what was going on, desperate to see who was there. Even though I didn’t want to, I was compelled.
I went to the TV and slapped my hand on its side, trying to sharpen the image. “Show me, dammit,” I screamed at the picture. “Show me what you’re hiding!”
I hit the television again and again, my hands red from the force, my breath ragged from the effort. I had to see, had to know. My gut told me the truth—the video held the answers. What I needed, what I was meant to see was here on this screen. Beyond the blur was what I dreaded most, my deepest fears, my darkest imaginings—the thing that could ruin everything.
The thing that could tear me and Hudson apart for good.
I awoke in a panic, sweat beaded along my brow, my heart racing. I knew it was a dream, but the feeling it left was intense and vivid. Stupid, really. It wasn’t real.
But it wasn’t the dream video that had me in a panic—it was what might be on Stacy’s real life video. She’d said it was some sort of evidence about Hudson and Celia. I’d blown it off earlier in the night, but maybe I shouldn’t have because now it was seeping into my subconscious thoughts.
I glanced over at Hudson asleep next to me. Usually we remained in constant contact while we slept. His missing warmth exacerbated the “off” feeling that still clung to me after my nightmare. Not wanting to disturb my lover, I ignored the pull to snuggle into him and instead climbed out of bed, grabbed my robe, and headed to the bathroom.
Splashing cold water on my face, I took deep breaths and tried to calm down. I’d never been prone to nightmares. Even when my parents had died, my dreams had remained sweet and calm. My obsessive mind did enough work during the waking hours—sleep wasn’t where I fleshed out my problems.
I wasn’t obsessing like I had in the past, though. And there were problems still to be worked out. Yes, I was happy and in love. But the past week had been heartbreaking and stressful with Hudson in Japan and our relationship in limbo. I’d kept secrets that I wasn’t sure he could ever completely forgive me for. And he’d betrayed me in his own ways—going behind my back to remove David as the manager of The Sky Launch. Then, the worst, he hadn’t defended me. He’d chosen to listen to the lies of his childhood friend who was playing her own game where I was the pawn.
I knew our love outweighed the heaviness of those mistakes. He proved he knew it too when he arrived at the club earlier that evening, surprising me with his declaration of commitment to our relationship. Though he still hadn’t said the three words I longed to hear, I didn’t
them. I felt his love in every fiber of my being. Felt it as he’d made love to me on the dance floor with care and attention that spoke volumes. We were together for the long run, through thick and thin—it was apparent now and with that knowledge there should be a freedom from anxiety.
Except we still hadn’t worked out all our trust issues, and that had me feeling edgy. Plus there was this video that Stacy claimed to have. What did it show? Did I want to see it? Was it simply a trick? Or was it actually significant?
It bothered me enough to make me restless and unsure. Make me obsess while I slept.
I told myself.
It won’t affect anything with Hudson.
But the unease that encased me said differently.
Hudson startled me, but the tempo of my already accelerated heartbeat barely registered the shock. I peered over my shoulder at him standing in the bathroom door. He looked as he always looked—sexy and aloof. The sight of his naked body caused my breath to intake—every time—even when thoughts of jumping him weren’t on my mind. I bit my lip as my gaze traveled down his body. Well, maybe thoughts of jumping him weren’t as far away as I’d assumed.
He came behind me, his gray eyes probing mine in the mirror. “Are you okay?”
It crossed my mind to lie, but I wasn’t doing that anymore. I’d gotten a second chance with this man, and if we were going to make things work, I’d have to be better at sharing.
I needed to tell him about Stacy’s video.
And I would. But I needed a few minutes to regroup. “I just had a bad dream, and now I can’t sleep.”
His brow creased with worry. “Want to talk about it?”
I shook my head. Then changed my mind. “Yes. But later.”
“Hmm.” He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed my head. “How about I get a hot bath going for you in the meantime?”
“That sounds heavenly.”
He let me go and started to the task. I leaned against the shower stall as Hudson bent over the large soaker tub and turned on the faucets. It was impossible not to admire his hard body, not to want to lick along the muscles of his abs, to bite the tight curve of his ass.
He glanced up at me. “Those are naughty thoughts clouding those brown eyes.”
My lips curved up into what I hoped was a suggestive grin. “Are you joining me?”
“In the naughty thoughts or in the tub?”
I swatted at his luscious behind. “The tub.”
“I’ll join you in both.” It was three in the morning on a weeknight. He had work in the morning. And the man had jet lag from a week overseas. But he never faltered at caring for me. He was always there. Even when I kicked him away to Japan, he still made sure I was looked after—sending his sister to check in, calling the doorman to deliver messages. When would I stop being surprised by his attention?
Never. That’s when.
I undid my robe and hung it on a wall hook, enjoying the lust in Hudson’s gaze as I stood naked before him. I stuck a toe in to test the heat. The water was perfect—almost too hot, just like I liked it. I stepped in and leaned forward so that Hudson could slide in behind me. It dawned on me that we’d never bathed together. How could it feel like we’d been through everything yet there was so much we had left to experience? It was a comforting thought—to realize that we were still only in the new, that we could look forward to more.
When he was settled, I leaned back against his chest.
He nuzzled his nose along my cheek. “This is nice.”
“The temperature is perfect.” My muscles were already loosening in the warmth, the tension of my dream easing.
“I meant holding you.” Hudson’s voice was soft, as though his words were difficult to admit. “I’ve missed this.”
God, I’d missed it too. That was one of the reasons I felt so uneasy—I was still recovering from the time we’d been apart. My mind was still processing what I’d almost lost—everything.
I’d almost lost everything.
That was surely why I was so worried about Stacy’s supposed evidence. The questions that remained between us didn’t help my anxiousness. We still had so many things left undeclared.
We soaked in silence for long comfortable minutes. When the water began to cool, Hudson reached for a bottle from the built-in ledge behind the marble tub. He poured a dab of soap into his hand from my cherry blossom body wash—a new favorite scent of mine—and worked it into my skin with deep massaging strokes. When he’d finished with my arms, he nudged me forward to continue the treatment on my back. Then he pulled me against him and bent my legs so he could reach every part of my body.
Last, his fingers splayed along my belly and up my chest. He spent a sweet amount of time on my breasts, kneading them with just the right amount of pressure until my nipples perked up. He nibbled at my earlobe and one hand began its descent to my lower regions. The thickening of his cock against my lower back told me exactly what was on his mind.
But first there were things to say. I didn’t believe there was anything worrisome enough to crush our potential future together, but big enough that things had to be said.
I turned to straddle him, the water sloshing at my sudden movement.
Lacing his hands in mine to keep them occupied, I began. “We have stuff to work through.”
His eyes stayed pinned on my breasts, as he raised an eyebrow. “We do?”
“We do.” I bent my head to catch his gaze. “Who’s going to run your club?”
His smile was mischievous. “You.”
I smirked but didn’t agree. I also didn’t disagree. He claimed he wanted me to take over The Sky Launch, but I was convinced it was only an excuse to get rid of David Lindt. Hudson achieved part of his agenda—David was leaving in a little more than a week to take over one of Hudson’s clubs in Atlantic City. I’d been pissed, but as the idea had settled over me, I’d realized it had been the right move on Hudson’s part. Working every day with my ex wasn’t exactly a good idea. I wouldn’t want Hudson working with one of his exes, after all.
It didn’t mean I was ready to run the club myself.
I also wasn’t quite willing to give it to someone else.
Perhaps that would have to be tabled for a time when Hudson’s cock wasn’t pressing against my core. His cock could make me say
His fingers still linked with mine, Hudson began to seduce me with his lips, leaning forward to take my breast in his mouth.
I sighed with pleasure, my body yielding to him. My head, however, was still wrapped up in details. “And what happens next with Celia?”
His lips left my breast. “Really? You want to talk about Celia now?”
to talk about her. But I need to know that she isn’t a threat to me.” I swallowed the unexpected lump that formed in my throat. “To us.” I hadn’t realized how scared I still was about her possible influence on my relationship with Hudson.
“Hey.” Hudson cupped my face in his hands. “She’s not a threat. She has no solid proof of her claims, and she’s not pressing charges. Even if she did, I’d still be here with you. You know that.”
I nodded weakly. “But what about going forward?”
“Simple. We don’t see her. We don’t speak to her. We don’t answer her emails.”
don’t?” Of course
wouldn’t see her—I hated the bitch. But what about Hudson?
. I don’t have room in my life for anyone who is against us.”
Another wave of tension rolled off of me. “Your mother is against us too, you know.” I was pressing my luck. Sophia Pierce, monster that she was to both her son and me, would likely always be a staple in Hudson’s life. I would never ask him to cut her off. Though I disliked her, I recognized the importance of family.
“I know.” Hudson sighed, his hands leaving my face. “At least she hasn’t tried to sabotage us. If she does, I’m done with her. You’re the only one that matters.”
“Thank you.” I kissed him softly. “But I hope it doesn’t come to that. It would be nice to believe that there could one day be reconciliation where Sophia is concerned.” It had only been a few days since I’d reconciled with my brother Brian. It had relieved a constant knot in my belly that I hadn’t even been aware of. The same scenario wasn’t likely to happen with Hudson and Sophia, but, hey, what did I know?
My thoughts travelled back to Celia, her reasons for playing me still unclear. “But why did she do it, Hudson? Why was Celia against us?”
. Me.” His jaw tightened. “She’s mad at me.”
“Still? For what you did all those years ago?” My heart panged at his obvious torment. Hudson wasn’t proud of his past and how could he be expected to move on when it kept coming back to haunt him?
Then anger took over. “I don’t care what you did to her—she’s a bitch. It was awful and terrible and horrible to do what she did. Especially when she claims to be your friend. Is she still in love with you? Is that her problem?”
Hudson lowered his eyes. “If she thinks she loves me, hurting you isn’t the way to win my affection.”
“Well, she certainly acts like a jealous lover.”
“Without reason.” He brushed his hand across my cheek. “Celia and I have never had anything together. Nothing. Except for…” His voice softened. “Except for what I made her believe I felt for her.”
“She knows that wasn’t real.” I hated that this still tormented him. “And that was forever ago, now. If she’s trying to get you back, it seems she already did that when she slept with your father and trapped you into claiming to be the father of her baby instead of Jack. Why didn’t you tell me about that, by the way?”
“I should have.” His tone was filled with regret.
“Yes, you should have.” It would have made things much clearer to me about his relationships with both Celia and his father. And it had been yet another thing that stood as a wall between us—though most of the secrets keeping us apart had been mine. That was my regret.
Hudson released his hands from mine and swept them down my ribs. “It didn’t feel like it was my secret to tell.”
“Okay, that’s fair.” I shivered as his fingers kneaded the skin at my hips. He was getting restless, wanting more, wanting me. The time for talking was nearing an end. I had to jump to the meat of my concerns. “But some things have to change between us. We have to be able to share these things with each other. You could have at least told me you had good reasons not to trust her, reasons
shouldn’t trust her.”
“And you could have honored my wishes when I said don’t see her.”
“Yes, I could have.” I let out a sigh. “We both have to change. We have to put everything on the line, Hudson, as much as possible. We know now that we’re together, thick and thin, right? We have to trust that more than anything. We can’t be afraid of our secrets and our pasts. Both of us. Honesty, open doors, transparency.”
He cocked a brow. “Nakedness?”
Yep, I was losing him. “You’re such a perv.”
“I agree.” He leaned forward again to lick a bead of water from my nipple. “I am a perv where you’re concerned.”
I smirked. Which was difficult considering how his tongue on my breast made me crazy. “Hudson, stop. I’m serious.”
“I know.” He leaned back against the tub. “And I agree with everything else you said. We need to be honest.”
“Good.” I put my hand up to stop him before he resumed his seduction. “Hold on. I have one more thing.”
He was getting impatient but trying not to show it. I almost decided to leave the rest of our conversation for later. But the memory of my nightmare and the cold foreboding feeling that lingered in my chest pushed me forward. “What happened between you and Stacy?”
“Stacy?” He seemed confused. “Mirabelle’s Stacy?”
“Nothing happened.” He was bewildered by my question. “What do you mean? Like did I date her? I took her to a charity event a year or so ago. But after that, nothing.”
“And I didn’t sleep with her,” he added before I had to ask.
That was comforting. But that wasn’t the reason she concerned me. “Is there a reason she’d have a vendetta against you? Or reason to distrust you?”