Monster Prick Page 13

Sex and a meal? My new favorite combination. With a smile on my lips, I get back to work, knowing my evening looks promising.

* * *

Knowing I had plans with Hudson tonight made the workday drag by incredibly slowly. Finally five o’clock rolls around, and I grab my purse and scurry to the exit. I want to go home first and freshen up before heading to his place. When I arrive at my apartment, I rush inside and fly through the small space like a crazed person. Brushing my teeth, and touching up my makeup so I look refreshed.

Now I’m waiting on his doorstep. As I bring my hand up to knock, terrified regret flashes through me. What am I doing here? Was Melanie right all along? Is this going to end in a terrible crash-and-burn scenario, where I’m just a heartbroken shell of my former self when it’s all over?

When Hudson opens the door, I’m greeted by the smell of roasting chicken and my stomach growls, perking right up. The stale peanut butter and jelly I had for lunch was a long time ago. And the sight of Hudson with a dishtowel slung over one shoulder, wearing a plain gray T-shirt and jeans, is a very nice one. Oddly sexy and domestic at the same time, like he's welcoming me home.

“Hi,” I offer, not sure why I’m suddenly feeling so shy.

Hudson’s features soften as he gazes down at me. “Are you doing okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie smoothly. Honestly, I’m freaking confused about what this is. I had sex with my brother’s best friend, not even twenty-four hours ago, and now here I am again. I’ve never done anything remotely this crazy before. It has paranoid thoughts flying through my mind—like, what if my brother drives by and sees my car parked outside Hudson’s place? I’d have no plausible explanation. And witnessing a murder is something I’d rather not do tonight.

“I hope you’re hungry,” he says, ushering me inside.

I follow him to the kitchen and my eyes widen. It’s an absolute mess. Bits of onion and potato peel are peppered all over the counter. A huge pan of roasted potatoes and a whole chicken rests on top of the stove. A dish of green beans and a plate of warmed dinner rolls sit on the kitchen island.

“Did your refrigerator explode?” I giggle.

He chuckles back. “I guess I was hungry. And I didn’t feel like ordering takeout.”

I step closer, surveying his work. Wow. He did all this for me? The chicken smells incredible and the potatoes are perfectly cooked, with little crispy edges just like I like. “I didn’t know you knew how to cook.”

He shrugs. “One of the benefits of being raised with a housekeeper who made us a big family dinner every night. I guess all those years doing my homework at the kitchen island while Greta cooked rubbed off on me.”

I knew Hudson’s family had money, but I guess I never paused to consider how different his upbringing was from mine. He opted to spend most of his free time over at our house, which is weird given that his parents' place boasted a pool, tennis court, and an in-home theater.

“Do you want to set the table while I finish up?”

I nod and he hands me two heavy porcelain plates. When he invited me over, I assumed we’d eat pizza off paper plates in front of the TV before heading into the bedroom. A home-cooked meal, served on real china, eaten while I cast nervous glances over at him from across the feels a lot more serious. Intimate. I kind of like that, but it also bothers me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because he’d said this was going to be just sex—strictly educational, nothing more—but this already feels like more. Ignoring the tightening in my belly, I dutifully take the plates and the silverware and set them on his dining table, where two glasses of ice water are sweating rings into the dark wood.

“I hope this is okay.” Hudson joins me at the table, placing the chicken and side dishes in the center. “Help yourself.”

I dig in, helping myself to a good portion of everything he’s prepared. Hudson does the same, but I can’t help but notice he keeps glancing in my direction.

After a few bites, which are delicious, I work up the courage to ask him about the elephant in the room. One of them, anyway. “ said you talked to my brother.” Might as well get it out in the open. Besides, I don’t think I’ll be able to concentrate on anything else until we discuss it.

Hudson sets his fork down beside his plate and wipes his mouth with the napkin. “Yes. We had a meeting earlier about one of our buildings.”

“How did that go?” I want to know if he was nervous, if he felt guilty, but his impassive expression and nonchalant tone make him very hard to read. Then again, he was always the type to hold his cards close to his chest, never overreacting or stirring up drama. It’s probably what makes him so good at business. He’s level-headed and calm.

He shrugs. “Don’t worry, Gracie. He doesn’t suspect anything.”

My stomach twists again.

“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” he adds, his tone turning somber.

“I know,” I squeak out. That’s the thing, I do want to. I’m just worried about what happens when all of this inevitably comes to a crashing end.

“Will you tell me more about your job? I never got to hear the details, since your happy hour was cut short. Do you like the firm?” He leans forward, placing his elbows on the table.

I almost sag in relief, thankful for the change in topic. “Actually, I love it,” I say, surprised at the sincerity in my voice. While I haven’t exactly adjusted to waking up at six every morning and fighting traffic on my commute like a Real Grownup, I love my job. I fill him in on the details of my team's current project, a downtown renovation of a whole city block. Instead of his eyes glossing over with boredom, he nods with interest and asks insightful questions.

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