Hudson comes out from the back hallway with their bags. “You have a lovely daughter, Mrs. Everett. She’s done really well for herself here, and I look forward to seeing her photography all over Phoenix.”
“What are you talking about?” she says sharply.
He looks at me like he’s shocked. “You didn’t tell her?”
I shake my head no, even though I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about. He clears his throat. “I’m a business owner, and I’m also friends with one of the premiere commercial architects in Phoenix. We’re talking with him, and there’s a possibility that Christine might be his go-to photographer for art in his new buildings.”
My mother at least has the grace to look surprised. And for just a second, she even looks pleased. “Well, that’s very nice.”
“You’re right, it is,” he says, as I open the door for him. Out by the car he shakes her hand since she wouldn’t let him do it when he first arrived. “I hope that I can get to know you more in the future.”
She doesn’t say anything. It’s because she doesn’t lie, and she’s not sure she wants to get to know him better. Hudson wraps his arms around me from behind while we watch them drive away, sour looks on their faces. “Thank you,” I say.
“Smother them with kindness,” he says.
I practically snort. “They won’t appreciate it.”
“Maybe not, but it could be good in the future if they don’t already hate me.”
I lead him back into the house. “Well, this is home. I know it’s small.”
He shrugs, “Is that what they said? I think it’s a fine size house. Especially since you live alone. Were you ever to live with someone else, it might get a little bit cramped.”
Sitting down on my couch, he grins. “I like it.”
“Wait a second,” I say. “How did you get my address?”
Hudson’s grin turns a little sheepish. “I looked up your billing address from the Halloween ticket.”
“Sneaky,” I roll my eyes. “I could be really mad at you, you know. For invading my privacy like that.”
“Are you mad?” It’s a genuine question. He’s not smiling anymore.
I walk over to him and straddle his lap, pressing my lips to his. “No, I’m not mad. You showed up at the perfect time.”
“I didn’t know how else to show you I was serious.” His arms pull me closer. “I knew there wasn’t anything I could say that would convince you that I don’t care about who we are in the club. It’s fun, but I want you. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Especially because I’m falling in love with you.”
My breath stills in my chest. The words don’t seem scary when he says them. They seem natural and perfect and of course that’s what I’ve been feeling. How could I not? “I love you too.”
His lips crash onto mine, and he squeezes me tight so that our bodies are entirely aligned. We’re so close that I can feel how hard he is and what he wants. “The bed is more comfortable.”
“Which bed? Yours or the guest room?”
I laugh against his lips. “I don’t care, just take me to a bed.”
He picks me up and carries me to my room, laying me out and following me down. I can’t seem to stop kissing him. “This was one of my fantasies too, you know.”
“Being in my bed?”
“No.” He shakes his head. “Telling you I love you, and having you say it back.”
The smile on my face is so wide that it hurts. “Say it again.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
One Year Later
The crowd of people that have showed up here is insane and daunting. I’m not sure how Hudson did it. There’s no way this many people are here because they’re fans of my work. I glance towards the entrance of the gallery where still more people are coming in.
What Hudson told my mother was true, he did talk to his friend the architect, and now my photographs are in most of the new corporate buildings in Phoenix. But tonight, this is my first solo exhibition. Not the photos I gave to the buildings, but the ones that I truly love. The ones I hung onto because they were truly special to me. I even went back to that fountain. With Hudson. It’s the only photo in the entire gallery that has a person in it. He was taking a look at the fountain and the way the light was hitting his face was perfect and I just snapped the shot.