Here it is! Tell me how much you love Seth at the end of this!!! The next is coming soon and t
Alaine wakes with a start in the middle of the night. She slaps her hands over her mouth, trapping in the scream in her throat so it comes out as nothing more than a shrill squeak this time. Her nightmares have been getting progressively worse and more constant.
She brings one hand over her thundering heart and like she's done every night since she'd walked out of Lucas' life, she extends her other arm to what should be his side of the bed. Her fingers curl into and fist the cold sheet.
He’s not here.
The tears form and fall from her eyes before she even realizes that they're there. Tears of helplessness and hopelessness, loneliness, heartache and sorrow. That's all the last five days have been for her. She's endured five unbearably lonely days and nights so she's all but ready to give up to go crawling back to him.
It’s really, very strange that for twenty-one years of her life she'd lived without Lucas Bright and in such a short space of time, he’s infiltrated every cell in her body making it hard to breathe -- to exist, now -- without him.
She settles back down against the pillow and grabs the other, where his head should be, to cradle against her chest. It offers no comfort whatsoever but she grips it tightly it as if by doing so while wishing hard that was him would teleport Lucas into her arms.
Like she's done every night after being ripped from sleep by the devil with blue eyes tormenting her dreams, she stares up at the dark ceiling and tries to find solace in her memories.
Those memories inflame her worry for Lucas. She wonders how he is fairing. If he sleeps peacefully or whether his dreams still keep him awake as well. She considers calling his number just to hear his voice. Delah had gotten her new phone, since for the last five days, she's mostly avoided the outside world like there's a plague running. Lucas wouldn't have this number so he wouldn't have any idea that it's her on the other end of the line. She wouldn't need to say a word. Just hearing hello from him will suffice. Maybe the sound of his voice will get her through the night.
Automatically, she reaches for the phone on the bedside table. She types in his name to gain access to the home screen. Her thumb hovers over his name -- the only one in her contact list -- and remains there.
She can't bring herself to do it.
After reminding herself of the reason she'd left, Alaine fortifies her resolve. Instead of calling Lucas, she accesses the few photographs of the two of them stored in the memory to remember the glint in his eyes and his gorgeous smile.
In one of her favourite pictures of him, Lucas is bare-chested. Alaine giggles like a school girl as she recalls the day she'd snuck up on him to snap the photo. Her stealth skills had been laughable. He'd caught her and he'd mocked her for it. He'd been a good sport, though, because he'd posed and flexed his muscles for the camera.
Remembering what happened next suffuses her cheeks with heat. She can't recall exactly what had led to those events but she'd wound up on her knees with her mouth full of him. He'd praised her for taking the initiative, encouraged her with his moans of pleasure and pleas to keep going. Before she knew it, he'd been pulling her back up to her feet, turning her back towards him and pressing her up against the nearest wall to bury himself inside her.
Although she knows that it's a bad idea to go down this road, that it will only chip away at her resolve while strengthening her need to go back to him, Alaine unlocks image after image of Lucas in her mind.
Just like every other night since she'd left him, she knows that there will be no more sleep for her before the sun comes up anyway. So she submerges herself in a sea of memories and hopes that despite her insomnia, she will be able to function on her first day at work tomorrow. And just like every other night, she ends up weeping into her pillows like someone had just died.
Hateful sunlight creeps slowly into her bedroom through the windows of the apartment that Lucas paid for. If it had felt wrong to accept this place when they'd been together, now, it feels like by being here, she is committing a punishable offense. Today, once she can muster the energy, she will begin the hunt for a new place to live.
Despite her bleak outlook on life, Alaine doesn’t want to be late for the first day of work. She trudges to the bathroom and avoids the mirror. Looking at her reflection will only confirm what she already knows. She is a gaunt looking mess. Her skin lacks it’s usual luster, her hair is lame, limp and unwashed and her eyes are swollen, red and sore from crying.
She drags the t-shirt she'd worn to bed for the past five nights over her head and brings it to her nose to take a long sniff. It belongs to Lucas and still smells of his cologne. Somehow, it had stowed away in her luggage on their return from Italy. She considers it a small miracle because wearing it to bed every night has brought her a sort of demented kind of comfort. As long as it smells like him, she has no intention of washing it.
That's how much she misses him. That's how much she wants to see his face while he's standing in front of her and not just in a lifeless photograph. That's how much she wants to touch him. But she can't risk his life anymore than she already has.
By the time Alaine puts herself together, Delah is already working in their new kitchen briskly preparing breakfast and Isabella's snack for school.
The only thing she has left to do is have Delah take a minute or two to fashion her hair into a professional hairdo and apply a layer of makeup to her face to cover the evidence of her misery. Then she'll be ready to leave. It just seems wrong to show up to work on her first day looking like death warmed over.
"Hey," she greets as she comes to occupy one of the stools around the counter.
"Hey, you," Delah answers. She doesn't pause her flitting from one task to the other while she says to Alaine, "you think you can manage breakfast this morning? We've got freshly squeezed orange juice, toast and eggs or I can make some waffles or something else if you'd like."
"No but thanks," Alaine answers.
Delah stops what she's doing to look at her.
The look of sympathy on her face makes Alaine slump further into herself. She hasn't explained the situation between Lucas and her even if Delah has been pushing to find out. It's not that Alaine doesn't want to share. As a matter of fact, she's considered that it might be great to have someone to talk with about it. However, it's another risk that she's not willing to take.
Seth comes by too often and the two of them have grown so chummy these days, during his unannounced visits, she just knows that they will gang up against her. If she tells Delah why she left Lucas then Delah will tell Seth. Seth will then ride Alaine by telling her how stupidly flawed and dangerous her plan is. Not to mention he, most likely, will feel an obligation to tell Lucas. In the end, it will lead her right back where she'd started. She simply can't allow to that happen. The moment he learns of this, Lucas will feel the need to step in and she's not sure that she'll possess the strength to walk away from him again.
As a result, she carries her sorrow in silence.
Plus, Delah has problems of her own and lady justice is bearing down. Her sister only has two more days before she has to present herself before Idaho's family court.
“I’ll just have the tea,” Alaine responds. She reaches across the counter for the jar holding her stack of chamomile tea bags that Lucas' grandmother had given to her on the day they were leaving Italy.
Though Delah doesn’t utter a word, her look of disapproval causes Alaine to avert her eyes.
She's keeps quiet about her sister’s poor diet these past few days and doesn’t voice her opinion on Alaine’s general appearance either. Instead she says, "let's get you looking all spry for your first day. I'll pack you a light lunch when you're done, in case you feel like eating."
A little later, while applying a layer of gloss to Alaine's pink lips, Delah continues to note her sister's sadness.
"Just call him, Ali," she says. "You're miserable. I'm sure whatever it was that happened can't be that bad. You guys can work it out."
“It’s not that simple,” Alaine offers.
“Then explain it to me,” Delah begs. “Because, literally, from where I am standing, in a bedroom he is paying for, this whole situation makes no sense. That man loves you and he wants to make whatever went wrong, right. Otherwise, he'd have kicked us out on our asses by now."
“I can’t be with him, Delah,” Alaine growls with exasperation.
"Why not?" Delah demands.
When Alaine remains mute, she adds, "so, I'm assuming that you're the one who ended things?"
To that Alaine gives a solemn nod but that's all the information that she is willing to surrender.
Fighting back a sob, she chokes, "I miss him. I miss him so much and I just - I can't - How can I love him so much?"
“Then why, Ali?” Delah questions. “Did he do something wrong? It can’t be anything worse than what Harlan’s done to me. Anything less than that is forgivable,” she offers.
On the contrary, Lucas has done everything perfectly and to remove any doubt from Delah's mind about his character, Alaine whispers those exact words.
“Then why are you throwing this away?” Delah presses.
It's another question that Alaine leaves unanswered. Straightening her backbone with a deep breath, she says, "are you done? I don't want to be late."
Delah nods and takes a step back to survey her handiwork with a frown.
Rising from her stool, Alaine tells her, "I'll look into the plane tickets for Friday afternoon. We don't want to miss your court date."
“Seriously, Ali,” Delah says. “You’re just starting a new job. You can’t skip out on work.”
“I’m coming with you,” Alaine argues stubbornly. “I won’t let you face this alone.”
And though Delah tries to wear a brave face, her eyes turn to her daughter just entering the bedroom and the mask slips in the form of tears pooling in her eyes.
It is because of this that Alaine knows that she is doing the right thing by going back to Idaho with her sister. Somehow, she'll make it work with her new boss. After all, he is Lucas' friend.
Once they're all ready to leave the apartment, she helps Delah to herd all of Isabella's stuff to the front door. Her niece runs ahead of them. She pulls it open and skips off the front steps straight into Seth's arms.
"Seth," she squeals in excitement.
Alaine doesn’t hear their exchange, because the sight of him infuriates her so much. She glares at Seth and huffs her displeasure as she follows Delah outside and locks the door behind her.
Why won’t he leave her alone?
He could lead Angus straight here in that ostentatious vehicle. She'd think that as a professional, he would know to drive something a little less conspicuous. Sure, the SUV is black but it's hard to miss that sleek custom design.
With every intention of catching the bus to work this morning, she brushes wordlessly past Seth.
“Hey,” he calls while grasping her by the arm.
“What are you doing here, Seth?” Alaine demands.
Planting her feet so she doesn't slip on the wet pavement, she tugs herself out of his hold.
“I’m starting work today and I need to catch the bus," she tells him. "And you can tell Lucas to stop wasting his time. I'm not coming back and you need to stop spying on me."
"God, you are frustrating," Seth sighs. "And stubborn and I have no idea why he is so infatuated with you," he adds.
Alaine balks at the insult but she absorbs it to remind herself that for now, that's exactly how she needs to be. It's better this way.
"And if you want that message delivered, then you're going to have to deliver it yourself," Seth continues.
"Well, if you're not going to be useful, what are you doing here?" she asks.
"I'm here because Lucas knows that you're starting work today," he explains.
He pulls the phone she'd left back at the apartment out of his back pocket and holds it out to her. "I am to see you safely there and back. There are also a few other things he figured you might need in the back seat -- like clothes," Seth continues and rolls his eyes.
Irrational, though she knows it is, for some reason, the idea of Lucas getting rid of every sign of her in his apartment causes Alaine pain.
Unable to keep the bitterness from creeping into her voice she says, "how thoughtful of him." Her answer should have been noncommittal but she fails miserably and it doesn't go unnoticed.
“He’s not doing so good either, you know,” Seth offers. “Don’t make me take these back, Ali," he begs. "I feel sorry for the dude. Take the phone. Talk to him, please so I can get my regular job back.”
Hesitantly, Alaine accepts the device from Seth and glides her thumb over the screen. A picture of Lucas and her now sits in the place of the wall paper she'd had of just him. He's always done sweet little things like this but Alaine knows that he'd done this one for a specific reason.
To remind her.
"This is why you came here?" she says to Seth as her lips begin to quiver. "To make me cry?"
"I'm just fulfilling my new job description -- playing cupid," he answers. "Please, get in the car," he tells Alaine. Then he turns to Isabella and says, "you too rug rat. How would you like a ride to school in this baby?"
When she reads the excitement on her niece's face, Alaine resigns her resistance. Seth holds open the door to the backseat. She climbs in and breathes in a lungful of Lucas. If she closes her eyes she can envision him so clearly occupying the space beside her. Once she settles in her usual corner, she opens the single text message alerted in the notification queue.
Lucas: Congratulations on the job. I knew you would do it. Have a wonderful first day.
There’s no 'I miss you'. No 'I love you'. No 'please, come back'. No terms of endearment. Just these bland cordial words, lacking the affection of someone in love. They’ve been diminished to mere acquaintances it seems. Alaine could almost convince herself from these words, that Lucas is happy to be rid of her.
Though she reminds herself that it's for the best, she must have been hoping for more. She hadn't thought it possible but her spirit sinks a little deeper down into the depths of despair. She swallows against the burning in her throat while contemplating whether or not to reply.
“I’m on loan to you until you come to your senses,” Seth says when he eases into the driver’s seat.
“Where’s Tawny?” Alaine questions.
He swings around in his seat to give her an incredulous look.
“You really think he would leave you in the care of someone he doesn’t know or trust?” Seth asks. “She’s on surveillance duty.”
“Surveillance?” Alaine repeats. “If you’re here, then who’s with Lucas?”
“No one,” Seth answers with a pointed look that makes her shrink into her seat. “He drove himself to work this morning.”
Terror grips her heart.
“Why did he do that?” Alaine asks. "Why would you let him do that? It's not safe."
“You didn’t think of that before you decided to go AWOL?" Seth scolds.
Now that he has Alaine is not in a position where she cannot flee since she's boxed in by the child lock, he unleashes on her.
"What were you thinking?" he asks. "Then again, sometimes you're too selfish to think about anybody but yourself. What did you think he was going to do? Release you in the hands of a stranger? Let you fight your way out of this situation on your own? The man loves you, goddess," he reminds her.
Once he catches Alaine's reaction to the term, he turns around, starts the SUV and pulls out of the driveway.