“That’s really nice,” I say softly.
“And thankfully my family was supportive of the whole thing. They pretend they don’t know what kind of club I run, but they do. The whole town probably knows. It’s maybe six hours from here.”
I look up at him. “So you’re the reason the club is in Phoenix and not somewhere in L.A.?”
“Maybe a little, but we wanted somewhere that needed it and was also a tourist destination. L.A. has plenty of places where someone can find what they need.”
The fire is mesmerizing and so is the sound of his voice. I want him to keep talking. “What did you want to do before this?”
“I never really knew, to be honest. People wanted me to be some kind of athlete, and I was good at it. But I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. This landed in my lap and I never looked back.”
I feel brave in this moment, like there’s nothing between us and we know each other completely, even if we don’t. Even if I can’t ever really be myself with him. I want to share something with him. I want to open up because it feels right and powerful in this moment. “Hudson, I’m glad I spilled my coffee on you.”
He smiles, and leans down to kiss me. “I’m glad too.”
“I would never have done something like this on my own. Being here with you makes me feel alive.”
We’re silent for a second, and then, “You said you grew up in a small town too?”
“Yeah,” I say, “Aguila. About an hour and a half from here. They’re exactly like what you said.”
“But you’re here.”
“I’m here. Even if they don’t want me to be. Artists aren’t exactly the pride and joy of the town.” That’s enough. I don’t want him finding out any more about who I really am. I couldn’t take it if it ended because the real me doesn’t live up to the woman I’ve made him think that I am in here.
“What kind of artist?” he asks.
I pull him down to kiss me me, and I reach down and stroke him where he’s still half-hard. “That depends,” I say. “What kind of artist do you want me to be right now?”
Hudson rolls me onto the couch and covers my body with his. “How about an artist in pleasure?”
“I can do that.”
A couple of weeks later, Hudson strokes his hand down my face as we lay together, sweaty and panting. “You’re beautiful.”
I blush at the compliment. I’ve never considered myself beautiful, and neither has anyone else. So I can’t possibly believe that he really thinks that, even if he did say it the day we met. It’s not me, it’s this bold person I become when I’m here. Not the real Christine. It’s the club Christine who takes matters into her own hands and dares to be sexual and wild. To let a man tie her up and fuck her in front of a club full of people. But even if it isn’t true, it’s nice to hear. “Thank you.”
“You know, other than that you’re an artist and you grew up in a small town, you’ve never told me anything about yourself,” he says.
“Why not?” His voice isn’t accusing, just curious.
I shake my head. “Why ruin it?”
His hand snags my hip and he pulls me closer. “Give me something. What do you do for a living?”
I swallow, my mouth going dry. “I work in a photography studio.”
“And do you like doing that?”
“I do,” I say, nodding. “Even though I prefer doing my own work.”
“What do you photograph?”
I shift so I’m more full on my side, and touching him a little less. I’ve never been really comfortable talking about myself, and the way Hudson is looking at me—as if it’s the most interesting thing he’s ever heard—makes me nervous. “I do environmental photography. Most people would call it landscapes, but it’s not just landscapes. Alleys, parking lots, rooms, whatever.”
“Because you can tell a lot about a place from just looking. It’s not just the people that make up a place. It has its own character. It influences you just as much as you influence it.”