This is probably the last post for the day. I think my brain is all tapped out. I'm not even sure this makes sense but that's the gist of it and I'm posting it anyway.
I feel like I should prepare you guys for what comes next. This is not a spoiler but things do come to a head with Angus in the coming chapters.
The last thing that Lucas had wanted to continue to do was sitting through that meeting. After he’d finally been given the chance to converse with Alaine, his mind had been thrown into chaos. Talking to her, however briefly and impersonal it had been, had made it difficult to concentrate. Additionally, not long following the moment he’d retaken his seat at the head of the conference table, he’d received a follow-up on the conversation he’d had with his lawyer yesterday.
He’d tried to convince himself to make it through to the end of the meeting. Seth is right, he needs to be at the helm of his company. The management team can handle things in his absence but a ship needs it’s captain and over the last few weeks he’s been an overly delinquent leader.
His best efforts to pay attention had been eradicated each time the excitement over the thought of seeing Alaine again had set everything inside him dancing.
Internally, he weighs the pros and cons of giving in to his desire to blow everything off for one more day. The reward of looking into her eyes, of standing near her, of touching her had seemed to insurmountable to resist.
Before he’d had a reason to go to her, his longing for Alaine had been to much to contain. Now, it’s like a river overflowing it’s banks and sweeping aside all that stands in it’s way.
Particularly because Alaine had hinted that she’s been crying, he’d felt that she might need him as much as he needs her.
A part of him still doesn’t understand the reason behind her tears. It was her who’d left him, after all. If anyone has the right to cry, it should be him. And yet, knowing that she’s distressed awakens that part of him that can’t stand the thought of her being unhappy.
So, he’d grabbed his jacket and walked out on his management team. Well aware of the type of woman that Alaine is, he’d assessd that she’d likely take issue with him showing up unannounced on her first day at work. He’d imagined her crossing her arms over her chest, one tiny foot tapping her impatience and indignation while glaring at him.
Even if he’d had that image in his mind and could guess exactly what she would say to him, he’d opted out of calling her because he’d also reasoned that she would either ignore the call or shoot him down.
None of things had acted as a deterrent as he’d ridden down to the garage beneath his building. Seth is right about his attitude with his business but Dion had been right about what he needs to do to win Alaine back. The latter of the two is what is of utmost important to him.
Since his driver isn’t with him for the time, Lucas had done the smart thing. In the event that Angus had been watching, he’d decided to switch his usual vehicle out for an ordinary company issued car.
For the entire short drive to AeroTech, the prospect of seeing Alaine again had made him giddy. He hadn’t dared raise his hopes too high except to pray that when she did see him that she would remember how things can be between them. It’s that simple. All he wants is for her to remember and be open to giving them another chance. And if she can’t then she would have to tell him to his face and not sneak out of his life like thief in the night.
Because of his standing with Judah Gaines, the company’s founder and owner, Lucas had had no problems getting in. He’d made that walk through AeroTech’s doors many times before.
A smile at the first employee -- a young woman -- he’d met in the tech department had been all it took to learn Alaine’s whereabouts. That had bothered him as he’d considered that Angus’ angelic face could probably give him access to her just as easily.
He’d planned on letting Alaine know that as soon as he met her but when he finally completed the trek to the server room, the scene before him is not what he’d been expected.
Lucas finds that he is not at all displeased with not seeing the look on Alaine’s face right away. He takes a moment to enjoy the view of her gorgeous rear end in the air. There’s not a doubt in his mind that it’s her waving her ass around for anyone who walks in to see.
He lifts his eyes heavenward and shakes his head before walking fully into the room while wondering just what the heck she’s doing down there. Very briefly he considers hauling her to feet and scolding her for displaying her wares in such a manner but his consternation is quickly replaced with amusement as she grumbles incoherently to herself.
The woman standing guard, he imagines her colleague, asks her a question.
“How soon after meeting someone can you tell if you’re in love?”
“Shh...,” Lucas says to her when she finally notices his presence.
She responds with a nod, her eyes wide with shock and a little bit of awe when he stops beside her.
He feels rather lucky to have come in when he did. Now he will be privy to what is truly in Alaine’s heart. It feels like eavesdropping but it also feels like fate has smiled down on him again.
His already accelerated heartbeat increases wildly in anticipation of the words he longs to hear.
Sadly, her reply is the greatest disappointment Lucas has ever experienced in his life. Even more so than the day she walked out.
“I wouldn’t know Greta. I’ve never been in love,” she says.
Had he meant nothing to her, at all?
Logically, Lucas knows that the ground beneath him isn’t moving but he feels the world around him sway. He considers slinking away with his wounded heart. Should he do that, he’ll forever be left to wonder if it had all truly meant nothing to her. He’d be left to remember and never forget this day with no closure. Plus, he simply cannot associate those words with the woman he’s spent the past couple months sharing his life with. He'd risked his heart. More than that, he'd risked his life and everything esle to be with her. To protect her.
It makes no sense.
He swallows his hurt and sets aside his curiosity about her position on the floor and asks, “Is that true, Ms. Knight? Never?”
She gasps and Lucas can see her spine stiffen.
Her reaction actually makes him glad since it proves that she’s affected by his presence. She straightens on her knees and raises her beautiful eyes to look at him.
Not breaking eye contact with her, he adds softly, “that wounds me. Deeply.”
Rather than address him, she scowls at her female companion and says, “you’re not in love, Greta.”
Alaine surmises that she can’t be. How could she be in love with someone else while looking at Lucas the way that she is.
When she finally makes it to her feet to stand in front of him, Alaine takes a deep breath.
God how she’s missed him; his face, his essence, his warmth, just everything about him. Though she doesn’t know why he would show up here and on her first day of work, she is just happy to look into those bright gray eyes in person again.
While pondering her feelings for Lucas, Alaine gauges Greta’s reaction to him. Up to today, she still doesn’t understand why he’d chose her when he can clearly have anyone he wants. Women swoon - she’s swooned - over Lucas and she’s never swooned over anyone else in her life.
Yes, she loves him with all her heart and though the pain in his eyes and voice, unmistakably caused by her words just now and her actions, she dares not tell him so, now.
She wants to cry, launch herself into his arms, tell him about Ian Gaines and her nightmares. She wants to hear that he still loves her and he wants her to come home to his apartment. Instead, Alaine takes another deep breath, this time covertly, to steady her heart and nerves.
“Never, Ali?” he repeats.
He doesn’t bother trying to hide his hurt. He lets it all out on display for her to see.
“What are you doing here, Lucas?” she asks with a bravado that she doesn’t feel.
Lucas clears his throat to try to get rid of the hurt that her callousness lodges there. Her lack of regard for the pain she’s caused is confounding. While looking at her, trying to understand, he guesses that his brother had been wrong and his advice had been way off the mark.
He’d always known that this response from Alaine had been a possibility. He’d told himself that he’d been prepared for it -- that he’d wanted an explanation. Now he’s not so sure his heart can take it.
For self-preservation sake, he goes against his need for answers from her and says, “I have some news about your sister’s case.”
“You do?” Alaine questions.
Before she can stop herself, she takes a step closer to him.
“What is it?” she asks while trying to contain her composure.
Looking at Greta, Lucas suggests, “maybe somewhere more private?”
Greta takes that as her cue to step outside. “I’ll be right out here if you need me for anything all,” she explains to Alaine but with her eyes still trained on Lucas.
Once he is certain that she is out of earshot, Lucas says, “he couldn’t get the case thrown but...” he adds when Alaine’s features crumble. “He did seek a continuance and he got it, pending an investigation into claims of battery and child abuse brought up against Harlan Jackson. She will still have to appear in court but at a later date.”
“Wow,” Alaine breathes.
“I’m just sorry he couldn’t do better, Ali,” he adds. Uncertain whether he still has the right to refer to her by pet names, he corrects, “I mean, Alaine.”
By the looks of things, he may well have to revert to the very impersonal, Ms. Knight.
“What? No,” Alaine says and fights the temptation to reach out and touch him. His sorrow comes at her these overwhelming waves and all she wants to do is soothe him.
“That’s great. That’s so great,” she cries softly. “Thank you. This is more than enough.
Because he doesn’t want her gratitude, Lucas ignores it and reaches into his pocket.
“Here,” he says while handing her a business card. “It’s the name of a family lawyer in ‘no hope’, Idaho. Apparently, she is really good and is expecting your call.”
Alaine takes what he offers and stares down at the card. Tears blur her vision and fall like raindrops onto it’s glossy surface. “I’m crying on my first day at work,” she mumbles to herself as she sniffles. "Great."
“I’m sorry,” Lucas says, taking a step back from her. “I thought you would want to know right away but of course...I should have called or waited...I just...”
I really wanted to see you, he wants to say.
Silence settles between them again. Lucas rubs a nervous hand over his forehead and stares down at his feet.
“Do you have a pen?” Alaine asks suddenly and chuckles. “I have to complete this and my stupid pencil rolled under the...that’s why I was on the floor. I was trying to get it.”
He smiles then and reaches inside his jacket to pull out one of those expensive ones inscribed with his name.
“Try not to lose this one,” he jokes.
“Thank you,” she says before reaching for it.
Their fingers meet and linger on the soft touch both needing the contact, both wanting more and both standing firmly waiting for the other to make the first move.
“I should get back to work,” Alaine says breaking the moment first.
“Of course,” Lucas agrees as she steps away.
The sight of her turning away from him triggers a vision of her slipping further and further until it becomes too late for the two of them.
That’s not what he wants, dammit!
Reaching somewhere deep inside into the reserves of his courage, Lucas reaches for her arm. He takes hold of her in a light grip and says, “baby, wait.”
Deliberately, his hand glides over her soft skin until he gets to her fingers and links theirs together.
“I’m sorry,” he pleads with her. “I’m so sorry about what I said about your sister. I know how important she is to you. And you were right about my intentions with Claudia,” he rushes out in one breath. “I had been hoping to win her affection or at least her attention. but that was before you. Since you, Alaine, I haven’t wanted or needed to feel anything from her. You’re all I want, Ali. All I need and I’m so sorry.”
Alaine’s hand trembles in his. He holds her tear filled gaze with hopefulness swimming in his and waits for the words that he knows she wants to say. He can already see them in the fat droplets rolling down her cheeks.
She squeezes his hand and Lucas would swear that she’d closed her delicate fingers around his heart.
“Ms. Knight,” Ian’s voice interrupts from the doorway.
He steps into the server room, looking between the two of them with irritation directed at Lucas and accusation leveled at Alaine.
Lucas drops her hand and takes a step back.
“It was my fault, Ian,” he says. “But it was an emergency. I needed to see her.”
“Hmm,” Ian hums. “Of course it was. Why else would you bother my new employee on her first day at work?” he asks with the same type of scolding in his voice pointed at Alaine in the look he gives her.
Lucas eyes him speculatively. For Alaine’s sake, he says nothing. She looks both embarrassed and annoyed enough and he’s not certain whether he’d caused the latter. For some reason, he'd expected her to put more space between them but she takes a small step closer to him.
Lucas feels his protective wings spreading. To wrap them around her, he gives a reassuring glance.
She wipes the tears off her cheeks and says, “Thank you for this, Lucas. I’ll have Delah call her right away.”
“Are you done here?” Ian asks Alaine.
“Not quite,” she answers. “Is there something else you need?”
“Yes, actually,” he responds, though it’s a lie.
With that, he fits his hand deliberately against Alaine’s waist to guide her out of the server room.
Lucas swallows down a growl. Before he can stop himself, he calls, "Ian. May I have a word?"
The man drops his arm. Alaine looks pleadingly at Lucas. He gives her a little reassuring smile before striding down the hall a short distance away with Ian on his heels.
“I didn’t ask you to do this so you can get handsy with my girlfriend,” Lucas warns.
Leaning against the walls, Ian chuckles. , "Is she, though?" he questions.
His response gives Lucas pause. He glances in Alaine’s direction and wonders if she’d been telling others that they’re not together anymore. Quickly, he learns that either way, whether or not she'd announced that she is a free woman from the rafters, it doesn't matter to him. He’s never experienced such a possessive streak in his life. It makes him crazy.
He turns back to Ian and says, “that’s none of your concern. She’s mine and you it would do you well to note that I don’t share.”
“All’s fair, my friend,” Ian states with a shrug.
“It is,” Lucas calmly agrees. “And if you don’t back off, I will make this very personal.”
Ian cocks his head to the side to look at him with incredulity on his face. “Surely, you wouldn’t blow a lucrative business deal with my father over some girl.”
She’s not just some girl, Lucas wants to yell. He settles for, “I assure you I will. As it is, your father stands to lose much more than I will gain from this. I trust you will remember that.”
With those parting words, he walks back to Alaine.
Feeling emboldened and a little invigorated by crushing a would be opponent, he asks her “will you join me for lunch?”
Alaine doesn’t know what exchange passed between the two men but she can literally feel the manacles of Ian’s presence loosen. She gives Lucas a small and brief smile of gratitude.
“Yes,” she answers.