After this chapter, I'm going to try to drop at least five chapters in one day so as not to leave any nail biting cliffhangers.
Things with Angus come to ahead in the next chapter. I promise, no matter what happens, this story is a feel good, happily ever after sort of story.
Lucas had finally given in to his tiredness some time around three in the morning. Watching Alaine sleep had made him feel like a psychopath himself so he'd set the phone aside, lain back on the sofa in his office and closed his eyes. His conscience had agonized over his obvious obsession with her, likening his fixation with Angus. The difference between him and Angus is the fact that he'd never hurt Alaine. He'd die first. Plus, he'd already proven that if she wants nothing more to do with him, he'll let her go, even if the process may kill him.
This morning wakes up before the sun with an extra dose of eagerness to get the day started in his step.
He goes back to his full forty-five minute workout as opposed to the uninspired routine he'd picked up in the last five days. Yes, Alaine walking out had had a devastating impact on every facet of his life. He'd been devastated, destroyed, demolished. The world he'd constructed around her had crumbled and burned. He watched the ashes blowing away on the wind in his mind's eye.
This morning, he'd swear he that he is in an alternate reality. Alaine has walked back into his life and already, her presence has a contrasting effect. All appears to be right with the world and it would be if there wasn't this general sense of wrongness dogging his steps.
Angus is the fly in the ointment. But Lucas has every intention of dealing with him swiftly.
He stands in front of the mirror in his bathroom and takes extra care with his grooming. There are dark smudges around his eyes from loss of sleep, but in time, they'll disappear. Alaine is his tonic that helps him achieve a good night's rest.
He walks to the full length mirror in his closet to make a final assessment of his efforts and straightens his tie and jacket, though unnecessarily.
While bounding down the stairs, he feels light and buoyant and whistles a tune -- a country song that he'd heard via the radio not to long ago, of all things -- on his way to elevator. At the time he'd heard it, Lucas had been in the heights of heartbreak. He'd scoffed at the words. They'd seemed like blasphemy. The creator and singer had been heretics to him. It hadn't been a great day to be alive back then.
Today, Lucas's tune has changed.
He meets Seth in the garage and thankfully, driving out this early in the morning proves to be a wise idea. At 7:15, he knocks at Alaine's door. Although they forty-five minutes to officially begin the work day, it's still cutting it close.
Since she knows him so well, she is ready and waiting. Alaine swings open the door. Her wide, greeting smile and the delight in her pretty eyes floor Lucas. She doesn't give him a chance to pick his jaws up from the floor either. She flings herself into his arms. Unprepared for that too, the impact of her body basically colliding with his sends him rocking back on his heels.
"Easy tiger," he chuckles but wraps her up tightly to his chest. He places a firm kiss to the top of her head then peppers her face with the same until he gets to her lips.
"Come on," Lucas says as he takes her hand. "Let's see if we can beat traffic.
They do with six minutes to spare. Like he'd done the day before, he walks Alaine into the lobby of the office building and waits at the elevator to keep her company until it arrives.
"I'll have to be a little earlier tomorrow," Lucas says. "Will seven work for you?"
"Seven's fine," she agrees. "Lunch, same time?" she asks.
"Yes," he confirms. "I'll pick you up right here. Do not go out on your own."
They both watch the lights above the elevator doors as it descends. Two stops before it gets to the lobby, Alaine surprises Lucas again by placing a gentle kiss on his lips.
"I love you," she tells him.
"I love you too, baby," he answers and though he wants to lengthen the stay of her lips on his, he lets her direct the duration. All he does his place a hand just above her hip bone because he can't help it.
Once she steps inside the elevator and the doors close, Lucas feels bereft. The earlier high he'd been riding abandons him quickly, leaving his spirit to plummet quickly into a dark pit of foreboding. All morning long, he tries to climb out of it. He tries to send a message to Alaine to try to lift himself out of the dungeon but struggles with what to say. So he changes his mind. He considers calling her instead but, not wanting to impart his heaviness onto her, he forgoes that idea too.
A ray of sunshine penetrates the dark cloud subduing his spirit when his phone vibrates and he sees her name on the screen.
That's all the message says but it sets of a carnival of emotions inside Lucas. Another text follows in quick succession.
Alaine: I feel weird.
Lucas: What do you mean by weird?
Alaine: I don't know. Since you left this morning, I've just been...I can't explain it.
He smiles softly.
Lucas: You feel it too? Maybe we're just missing each other. Do you want to play hooky? We could disappear for the day.
Alaine: I'm up to my eyeballs in work but I wish I could. Maybe I could stay over tonight? If that's okay? Please? We don't have to do anything that you don't want to. I just really miss you.
Lucas: Yes, please!
She sends a smiling emoji after that and though it signals the end of their conversation, Lucas uses that brief connection to carry him through until lunch.
When Seth stops parallel to another vehicle to drop him off at the front of AeroTech, a traffic warden, standing guard in the vicinity, waves him along.
Seth swears under his breath but drives off.
"I'll have to use the parking garage," he tells Lucas.
Once the car is situated in a parking spot all the way in the back, Lucas gets out. The hairs at the back of his neck stand up and he looks around quickly trying to find the direction of the danger that he feels lurking in the dim tomb beneath the streets.
"Are you alright," Seth opens his door to ask.
To save time, Lucas was supposed to have called Seth once he had Alaine in hand and Seth would have driven out to meet them. He feels ridiculous for changing the plan and making such a request but he says to Seth, "walk with me."
They both hurry out onto the sidewalk, both suspecting but neither knowing for sure, whether Angus is watching and if he is from what perch.
Seeing Seth trailing Lucas into the building with his eyes canvassing their surroundings in the lobby puts Alaine on high alert.
"What's going on?" she asks Lucas as she takes in the queer look on his face.
"Nothing," he tries to assure her. "Just the same thing we spoke of earlier."
Since having to take the little detour around the block to get to the underground parking garage and then walk around to the front of the building shaved some time off the clock, Lucas chooses a nearby restaurant for their date. The cloak of heaviness draped over his spirit doesn't budge even if the greatest source of his happiness is currently sharing a meal with him.
Unlike the day before, their time together is punctuated with long periods of silence and little glances that communicates far more than could ever be expressed in words, without turning the conversation into a whole soliloquy.
I love you.
They say it all and so much more in just a glance.
Somewhere in the middle of their date, Lucas's phone rings.
"I thought I'd turned this off," he mutters but looks at the screen. The annoyance filtering into him from the disturbance subjugates his already dour mood even further.
He answers, listens and rubs his forehead in frustration.
"Fine, I'll be there soon," Lucas says then ends the call.
He gives Alaine a look of regret. "I'm sorry," he says. "But I've been called back to the office.
Unable to hide her disappointment, Alaine answers, "oh. I'll just get this to go, I guess."
"I'm sorry, baby," he says again. "But yesterday, I walked out of an important meeting to see you and the opportunity to meet with a potential client has arisen and may never present itself again since other businesses are sniffing around," he explains.
"I know whatever it is has to be important," Alaine says. "It's fine. Will you be available at five?"
"I should be," he answers as he pushes back his chair. "If I'm going to be late, I'll call and you can go to my apartment and wait for me or I could pick you up from your place. If I am late that is."
Alaine nods to everything he says. She calls their waiter over and instructs him to have their lunch wrapped up to go.
At the last possible second, she says, "we still have half an hour. What if I come back to your office with you?"
Her eagerness to continue in his company breaks Lucas' melancholy enough to let him smile. He takes a second to mull it over then agrees by saying, "that's actually not a bad idea."
Rather than wading through traffic, the opt for quick walking to office from the restaurant. A thought occurs to Lucas while they're walking up the front steps so he stops abruptly to turn unexpected to Alaine.
Part of his plan is, as much as possible, to flaunt his relationship with Alaine in Angus's face. Hopefully, it's enough to rile him into making some sort of rash decision and a few mistakes with it. The niggling sensation, that Angus has had his eyes on him for at least a part of the day drives Lucas to put part of that plan into action by giving him a show.
Using Alaine's hand in his, he hauls her closer before dropping his head to kiss her.
Initially, the actions surprises Alaine. Thinking nothing of it, she surrenders to his longing for her and lifts herself up on her toes to make it easier for the both of them.
Lucas places a hand over her back to support her and enjoys the way she deepens their little encounter.
"This was definitely a good idea," he murmurs against her lips before kissing her again.
When he pulls back, Alaine actually swoons. She sways on her heels, her eyelids fluttering with the effort to remain open. That kiss had stolen the breath from her lungs it was so deep so she inhales deeply to replace it.
As the fog clears, realization strikes her a second later. She gasps.
“You did that on purpose,” she scolds.
“That’s a ridiculous statement,” Lucas says, keeping her imprisoned in his arms for added effect. “I don’t see how two people can engage in any such activity accidentally. So yes, I kissed you intentionally.”
“You know what I mean,” Alaine retorts and plants her feet to disengage their bodies. “Angus could be watching,” she whispers. “That’s why you did it. I’m not going to be a part of this, Lucas. Don’t use me that way. You’re lucky I know you well enough to know not to hit you,” she threatens and grows more irate when he laughs.
“You’re right,” Lucas tells her. “To catch a rat you need to set a trap. Emotion usually throws people off their game. I need him to do something stupid but that doesn't that I didn't absolutely want to kiss you or that I didn't enjoy doing it. As a matter of fact, the way you kissed me back, I completely forgot my initial intent."
“What idiot told you about catching a rat?” Alaine asks, climbing the steps quickly as he hauls her along by the hand.
“Experts,” Lucas replies as they enter the building.
“Please reconsider this, Lucas,” Alaine begs as they ride the elevator to his office. “For me. Don’t do this. You can’t open yourself to that kind of risk. Being alone with Angus...”
“Seth and Tawny will be there, baby,” Lucas reminds her confidently. “I won’t be alone and the more I think about it, the more I think this will work.”
“And the more I think it’s foolish,” Alaine counters. “You’re not thinking straight, Lucas. You have your plan. Don’t you think Angus has one too?”
“His plan is you, Alaine,” Lucas answers knowing well that he isn’t going to change his mind and ready to resign the topic. “You are his end game and I can’t have that. If I can get him on my turf, with my rules, I have the upper hand,” he says guiding her through the opened elevator doors to introduce her to his new assistant.
“Get Erin back on the line for me,” he tells Mrs. Sheffield after they’ve exchanged pleasantries.
She regards him quizzically with her eyebrows pulled together in confusion and asks, “ Erin Sanders?”
When Lucas nods, she replies, “Okay,” with a shrug.
Pulled immediately back into debate with Alaine, Lucas has little chance to review her strange reaction to his request.
The phone in Lucas’ office rings as soon as he steps inside. “Hold that thought Ali,” he says, picking up the receiver. “Good day Erin, wonderful to hear from you again so soon...Well I was under the impression that you were trying to get in touch with me...that’s odd,” Lucas says his eyebrows cinching together as the woman on the line let’s him know he is mistaken. “It’s my mistake then. I apologize and I look forward to meeting again next week.”
Lucas hangs up and mutters, “That was odd,” to himself. As if thinking better of it, he picks up the phone again. “Mrs. Sheffield,” he says into the mouth piece. “Who did you say called?”
“I’m sorry sir,” she replies. “I didn’t say anyone called. You asked me to call Erin Sanders not a minute ago. Are you okay, Mr. Bright?”
“Yes, thank you,” Lucas responds. Deep in thought, he sets down the receiver in it’s cradle.
“Are we continuing this conversation?” Alaine pounces immediately.
Lucas sighs, her question serving as a distraction to the wheels churning in his mind. Something just doesn’t feel right.
Thankfully and to both their relief, their discussion, doesn’t escalate to a heated argument like their last disagreement. However, Alaine learns today that Lucas is stubborn. Negotiating with him is like dealing with an immovable object. This time, she refuses to be the unstoppable force that throws their newly rekindled romance into chaos.
When a somber Seth walks in she uses him as a target for her angst. “You,” she points accusingly at Seth. “Talk him out of it,” she commands. “You shouldn’t have agreed to this.”
“Someone spotted Angus leaving the building yesterday,” Seth announces.
Both Lucas and Alaine fall silent.
“They think he was meeting with someone,” Seth continues. “An employee but we have no idea who it was.”
Lucas’ blood runs cold as he looks down at Alaine, standing rigidly beside him. “Are you certain?” Lucas asks. “What time was this?”
“About the time you were down in the garage,” Seth answers and hands over his phone with a picture of Angus covered in a dark hoodie over a baseball cap. “Someone’s given him access to the building.”
That information causes Lucas to swear under this breath. “What about the cameras,” he asks. “Didn’t they pick up anything?”
“We don’t know what happened,” Seth says begrudgingly. “We have nothing on camera from yesterday. There's chunks of footage missing."
“How?” Lucas questions. “How is that possible?” And how can he not know that? The answer to that question is simple. His life has been a roller coaster these past few weeks.
Between Claudia and Alaine, he’d drop the ball, he’d skipped meetings and briefings and so many things he prides himself in when running his company. That’s how it happened which means this place really is not secure and Alaine shouldn’t even be here.
“We need to get you out of here, now,” he says to her.
She agrees with a stiff nod. Not wanting her terror on display and wanting to be strong for Lucas, Alaine squeezes the hand closed firmly over her fingers.
“I just need to use the bathroom,” she says.
Hoping that she won’t collapse into a panic in front him, she tugs her hand out of his.
“Be quick,” Lucas tells her.
However, Alaine needs more than a minute. In the bathroom, she paces the length of the space, while trying to convince herself that everything will be fine and tries to find a bright side. Maybe now, Lucas will forgo his insane plan. Ending her pacing, Alaine faces her reflection in the mirror.
“This is your fault,” she accuses herself. “You did this. You should have stayed away. Why didn’t you stay away?” she cries softly
Running water over her face to camouflage the tears forming and falling swiftly, is a futile attempt. Dabbing her eyes repeatedly to try to remove the signs, she continues her inspection. Too bad more tears form and spill. So she washes her face again, frantically and feels herself losing her grip.
Alaine tries to breathe beyond the panic and jumps with a yelp when Lucas wraps his knuckles swiftly on the door. In order to convince him that she is indeed using the facilities, Alaine reaches across to flush the toilet, runs the water for a few seconds and then turns on the automatic dryer.