Like It's The Last Time
I had every intention of posting this earlier but I had promised my kids that I would make them donuts. So, that's where I've been. Finally, here it is, the second of the three posts I promised you guys. It's another 5k. I hope you all don't mind. Thanks for reading and commenting and voting and reviewing.
Alaine: Can’t wait. Let me know how it goes. I’ll come to you right after work. I love you. I miss you, baby. And...whatever happens, we’ll deal with it together.
Four hours after sending that text to Lucas, Alaine feels as if she’s about to break out in hives.
Could the day pass by any slower?
A thousand times, before leaving her apartment this morning, she’d thought to come up with a reason why she couldn’t go into work today. Trying to find a plausible excuse that would leave her feeling as guilt-free as possible had proven difficult while trying to concentrate on not getting pummeled by Tawny.
How can she take a sick day if she isn’t really sick? How can she fake an emergency when there isn’t one? She can’t lie about those things, especially not now after what Lucas and she have survived. It just seems so wrong.
Now, she regrets that she’d decided to come in. For one, Tawny had been merciless -- has been merciless from the first day they’d started working out together. There had been no easing into their sessions for Alaine and today, the thoroughness of her distracting thoughts had seen her taking a beating during her kickboxing class this morning. Tawny had taken advantage of Alaine’s inability to concentrate. Now, every muscle in her body is complaining and she knows that she will be wearing the results of her distraction for the coming days.
It was Lucas and his doctor’s appointment that she couldn’t get out of her mind. For some reason, after every single one, he always settles into a glum and she worries away the day, wondering what will happen if he doesn’t get the good news he’s hoping for.
Work was supposed to have provided a distraction from the thing distracting her.
Except it doesn’t.
The second hand on the little white clock on the wall in the tech department moves as if it’s swimming through molasses. Alaine could almost be convinced that there was some elemental force at work messing with it just to mess with her. A few times, she checks her own watch and the time on her phone and computer screen just to be sure. Each time she does, they’re all perfectly synced.
“Are you alright?”
She looks up at the sound of her supervisor’s voice but it takes a second for his question to register.
“Oh, yeah, perfect,” she replies.
“Are you sure? You...” he pauses. “I’m not trying to...you just seem a little distant this morning,” he finally finishes.
He looks a mite uncomfortable and flushed so Alaine gives him a reassuring smile. One that she suspects he becomes quickly aware isn’t 100 percent genuine.
“Look, I’m not trying to get into your personal affairs or anything but...god I suck at this,” he says chuckling at himself. “Do you need to take the rest of the day off, is what I’m asking. You look...troubled?”
“No,” Alaine answers and immediately wants to slap herself for being foolish. “I’m fine, Ian.”
“Are you sure?” he asks again.
“Thanks but I’m sure,” she replies.
He moves away from her desk with reluctance in each step and a bit of a sigh. Not a sound that she can hear -- more a lifting of his shoulder and his back and then a slumping of the same when he releases a breath -- but it’s eloquent enough that she can read his despondency.
Since her first week of work, Ian hasn’t openly tried anything with her again. He’s never tried to touch her, or ask her out or even mention her relationship with Lucas for that matter, but he does a poor job of keeping whatever it is that he might be feeling for her to himself. Whether he’s aware of that -- that he’s letting them slip through the cracks is doubtful. All in all, she’d told Lucas the truth. She’s not uncomfortable with Ian Gaines anymore. However, she is very cautious not to encourage him.
The sound of her phone chiming blows every thought of Ian out of her mind. Alaine grabs it quickly and clicks on the message from Lucas.
Lucas: Hey babe, I just came from ‘the doctor’. How soon after work will you get here?
She frowns at the message.
That’s it? That’s all he’s giving her after all the time she’s spent worrying about him? Where’s the champagne and confetti emoji she’d been expecting?
Alaine: Is everything okay?
Lucas: I’ll tell you about it when you get here.
And that’s when the hands on the clock really slow down. A minute seems to stretch on for an entire hour. As it gets closer to five o’clock, she begins cleaning up her desk and packing away her things as calmly as possible. At five on the dot, she pushes her chair back from her desk and walks to the elevator, her feet carrying her there swiftly, well aware of Ian’s surreptitious gaze following her out.
With the office emptying, the lift stops on just about every floor, letting people off and on. The ride down to the lobby is slow as it is every day around this time. Bearly managing to hide her impatience, Alaine elbows her way out of the slow-moving crowd, hastening her steps to the door.
Outside, the air is nippy. Although late, fall has declared itself so she pulls her jacket a little closer to her body. As soon as her feet cross the threshold, a man and a woman flank her on both sides and walk her down to the sidewalk where Tawny waits with the car idling and the door already open.
It’s still a bit odd to have a team of men and women following her every step but over the months, she’s grown used to it.
Refusing to let Tawny see just how sore her muscles are from their sparring session this morning, Alaine straightens her gait and plasters a smile on her face when her feet hit the pavement.
“Ma’am,” Tawny greets in her usual stoic tone.
“I’m going to ruffle your feathers one of these days, Rivers,” Alaine promises as she climbs in.
The door closes behind her. Soon after, Tawny moves in behind the wheel with her co-captain settling into the seat beside her.
Alaine takes a deep breath and crosses her fingers when the SUV pulls into the line of heavy traffic. Lucas hadn’t mentioned anything about his check-up today so she can’t help but wonder why.
The rush-hour pile-up is heavy so it will take them a while to get to his apartment. For every inch they gain in the journey, her heart rate seems to double along with her worry. But she hopes, oh, how she hopes, that he hadn’t suffered another setback.
Closing her eyes, Alaine rests her forehead against the cool window.
She wants Lucas to be healthy in body and sound of mind. Not because bad news will change how she feels about him. She loves him. Whether or not he’s able to function sexually won’t change that. But he deserves to be happy. He deserves to catch a break.
God knows that society won't give him one.
Over the months, he's suffered a slew of criticism from the public. People of all walks of life have expressed their unsolicited opinions about the shooting and about his money and why he should be happy anyway -- ‘despite his limitations’ they had said. Strangers who have no idea who Lucas is and about all he’s been through had had something to say about it and it hurts her for him.
He has no reason to complain. He should be happy that he’d been born with a platinum spoon in his mouth. There are millions of people suffering with disabilities who have it far worse than he does.
There had been an outpouring of love and support, yes, but the others had packed on the vicious criticism as if they'd just been waiting for an opportunity to spew their venom. Some of them had expressed how his suffering had thrilled them. People are so cynical and cruel and loose with their words and Alaine had wanted to lash out at each one of these naysayers on his behalf.
She's seen Lucas try to act as if the things they have to say don't affect him but she knows better. That so many people had wished for his death or longed to see him confined to a wheelchair all his life had slaughtered his faith in humanity. It had taken her a while to realize it, but Alaine suspects that this had to have been part of the reason he’d been so depressed. Every negative, abusive word must have struck a blow to his overly generous heart.
It’s one of the reasons he sees an enemy in every face now. Why he’s so stringent on security. Envy is a poisonous emotion.
When she opens her eyes again, she has to force back her tears. Today is not the day to cry especially not if Lucas hadn’t received good news.
She looks at the city as it shifts around her through blurry vision, noting the changes to the landscape now that summer has finally relented and made way for fall's frosty fingers to grab hold of the weather.
She’s never liked this season. Autumn. Other than being too cold, it’s always managed to remind her of her solitary existence. Every year she was lucky to have Mona’s invitation to celebrate the holidays with her family. With immense appreciation, Alaine had accepted the offers and enjoyed the meals. None of it had changed the fact that on those mornings, meant to be shared with loved ones, she’d woken up alone. It didn’t change the fact that after their feasting, she had to return to the same tiny apartment devoid of company and the warmth of celebration. Her birthday falling smack dab in the middle of all the festiveness has always been particularly brutal.
At the time, she had been bent on maintaining her single status. The loneliness which had gripped her heart on those nights was never insurmountable with the big picture floating around in her brain. It hadn’t easy, but she’d always worked up the courage to brush off the suffocating solitude as inconsequential, because she had a goal-oriented plan, leading to the path of a career woman. There was no time for distractions of any sort - especially not of the male variety. The plan was supposed to have been full-proof. It had been, as a matter of fact -- until Seth happened. Because of him, Delah and Isabella happened. The penultimate result is Lucas. Ultimately, it’s not something she regrets. Her path is the same. It’s just no longer Alaine alone to face the world.
This year, the season promises to be very different.
December 11th - her birthday - is coming around very quickly. To say that she is looking forward to spending that time with Lucas is a gross understatement. knowing the type of man he is, she can expect something extravagant.
Or maybe it might be something simple. She doesn’t know, but can hardly wait.
As for the rest of it? Alaine is just as eager to see each of those special holidays unfold with him and the fraction of her family that’s with her.
Never before privileged with the chance to participate in all the trappings that go along with Christmas – the decorating, shopping lists, and everything else -- she wants to get started. As a matter of fact, her shopping list, although still a short one, is almost complete. She'd poured all her effort into it but the most elusive gift is the one for the man she loves. It’s always hard to come up with gift ideas for Lucas.
Thinking about him now, she just remembers her plan to change into something befitting the occasion. She rolls up the privacy glass and shucks out of her work clothes, replacing it with something simple. The top shows just enough cleavage and the length of her flared pants just enough legs to invite Lucas’s attention but not enough to be blatantly sexual and desperate in case he’s not been cleared for what she has in mind.
The closer they inch towards his apartment the more anxious she comes. By the time Tawny parks in the garage, Alaine is a bundle of nerves. They're sparking like a live wire as she steps into the elevator to take her to the penthouse suite and she has to pull in a breath and hold it in just to get her heart rate to slow down. She's nervous and excited, just as she had been that day in his office for the so-called interview which had put them in each other's path. Except, this time, he's not waiting with some silly proposition.
These days, the memory of their initial encounters always makes her smile. What if she had turned down his offer?
He, most likely, would not have been shot.
The thought is like a bucket of ice water dumped over the flames of her elation. Alaine tries to shake it off and puts on her best smile as the doors open to Lucas's livingroom. She was expecting him to be right there waiting for her, just as he normally does. The fact that he isn't, fills her with even more dread.
Instead of her doting boyfriend, she meets Jackie first, in the kitchen.
“Ms. Alaine,” the housekeeper greets, with a warm smile.
Jackie's eyes sweep over her - semi-skimpy outfit and all - and lands on the overnight bag in her hand.
The memory of the housekeeper walking in on she and Lucas having sex is never far from her mind, so in response to Jackie's sharp eyes, Alaine blushes. She still tries to avoid prolonged conversations with her because of this. The memory is no less embarrassing than the day it had actually happened. Jackie on the other hand never seems fazed. Not even in the slightest.
"He's in the gym, dear," she supplies before Alaine can get a word out.
She continues moving about the kitchen, preparing something that smells so delicious, it reminds Alaine that she'd only managed to pick at her lunch on her break.
Before seeking Lucas out, she climbs the stairs to his bedroom, drops her bag in his closet, and walks into the bathroom to put a little extra effort into her appearance. After refreshing her hairdo, washing and drying her face and dabbing a light scented body mist at her wrist and behind her ears, she finally goes in search of him.
The door to the gym stands wide open. The thought that he'd probably left it that way, knowing that she would come makes her lips curve into a smile. It's very like Lucas to do something like that - a small gesture but very sweet and enough to make her feel warm all the way to her toes.
While he hasn't taken note of her presence as yet, Alaine takes the opportunity to observe him. He might be smaller and not as toned as before but she can't help but enjoy the view. Plus, she loves seeing him like this -- all lean and sexy and shirtless. Whatever Dion had told him today must not have been bad because he seems to have regained some of his confidence as well and goes after the bag hanging in front of him with a vengeance.
Relaxing against the door frame to watch him work, Alaine unconsciously lifts her thumbnail between her teeth, and a dreamy gleam glazes her eyes.
Sweat drips down Lucas’ bare torso. He grunts with the effort of each assault he lands against the heavy punching bag. His muscles and lungs burn from disuse and the sudden exertion, but he won’t quit. He’s never been one to quit. To think that he’d come so close on so many occasions irks him and he's still extremely disturbed by thoughts of how he'd treated Alaine.
Forgive yourself for that.
So says his psychologist. But it's easier said than done. The worst part is that he will never be able to forget the pain in Alaine’s eyes whenever he lashed out. A pain that her watery smile of understanding had done nothing to shield the hurt he'd hurled at her from him. He has a lot to make up for...Somehow he has to. He must. She hadn't deserved it.
Those were Dion’s words to Lucas today like he had won something instead of lost the last six months of his normal life.
He doesn’t want pace.
Ease yourself back into a routine.
How can he ease when it feels like he has been in an extended loop on cruise control for almost a year? He doesn’t need pace. 'Time is of the essence' has taken on a whole new meaning now that he's been given a clean bill of health. As such, what he requires, craves, is a stream of constant motion to remind him that he’s alive. He knows just where to start too.
For that, he needs his woman.
Just where is she? She should have been here by now.
His first order of business, is making love to her – today. Repeatedly, if his body can tolerate it. If she can endure how ravenous he is for her. Then, when she is probably too weak to think properly, he will divulge his plan for the next month. It’s unlikely that she won’t put up a resistance but he has no intention of backing down. She has to agree.
Six months ago, before the incident, he'd promised to court her properly. With recuperation hadn’t been how he'd planned to do it but that's what the last few months have turned out to be. A lesson in slow courtship. His interpretation of the term had been elaborate, romantic gestures to impress her. Quite frankly, she deserves the best he can offer.
Confinement to his apartment and limited mobility had made that almost impossible. In the days when he'd started to improve both in body and his mood, it turned out to be the simple things which drew them closer -- reading together or watching a movie and spying on other tenants in the surrounding buildings who had left their blinds up. As much as he enjoys lavishing Alaine with the finer things that he can afford, for the most part, he hadn't needed to spend a dime to see her eyes light up with joy and satisfaction. Sometimes, all it had taken was a gentle touch from him, a nice compliment, a look even, to make her happy.
Yes, he'd occasionally surprised her with the candlelit dinner and expensive gift or spontaneous walks through central park. He'd even had her serenaded by one of her favorite singers. The attempt he'd made to dance with her the shore by the lake had very nearly landed both of them in the water. Had she gotten upset? No. She'd broken into hysterical laughter.
Without his usual finesse on their makeshift dance floor, he'd fumbled. He'd needed to lean on her for some support but in the end, when he'd rested his head against hers, humming softly for her alone to hear, and she'd settled into his arms, there had been no doubt in his mind where his future would be.
Yet, it was the times when they were alone together just talking that they truly experienced each other.
While she'd lain with him in bed, or on the sofa or even during his physio, he was able to cajole stories out of her about her childhood and life in New York, before him. Some of those she still holds close to the vest. If time permits, Lucas wants to hear them all. She’d done the same to him, traversing through the maze of his many memories, to find little flashes of light in all the dark ones. Pleasant memories that were drowned in a black sea of horrible experiences.
There are a few of those. The one that stands out most is a beach. He was little then but he clearly remembers Arlington and Claudia. By his recollection, they were still a family that day.
We’ll make our own memories baby, Alaine had whispered while lying against his chest after he'd shared one harrowing encounter with Kurt that had landed him at the bottom of the stairs.
Many good ones to override the bad. Just you and me, she'd added.
His heart squeezes all over again at the way she'd looked up at him with all the love in her eyes for him to see. To think he’d almost lost that - her. All he wants is to hold on to her with a fierce grip and never let go.
With those thoughts of carving out a future for them in a cruel world filled with people anticipating their downfall, he continues his assault on the punching bag and grows more aggressive.
He’s a survivor. He’s strong. He’ll be stronger. He has to be for Alaine. For himself. Angus hadn’t won. Neither had Kurt and her uncle. Neither had Claudia.
Two of them have. Lucas and Alaine. They're the victors. The true overcomers in all of this.
The faces of the men he counts as foes fade suddenly. Huffing, Lucas drops his arms to stare up at the ceiling, enjoying the burn in his muscles. It’s a sign of life so he relishes it. When he drops his gaze, they land in Alaine's.
How long had she been standing there?
His eyes narrow as he takes in her reflection in the mirrored wall in front of him. A smile pulls one corner of his mouth.
“What are you doing?” he asks, feeling suddenly self-conscious. He picks up his towel to run over his sweat-soaked, hair, sticking to his face and dripping salt into his eyes.
“Enjoying the view,” Alaine admits unabashed and finally takes a step into the room. “I take it you’re okay?” she queries.
“Clean bill of health,” Lucas admits, turning back to the bag.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks. "I was worried..."
"I was getting a hair cut and then my father dropped by," he explains and raises his fists to the bag again. “Ten more minutes and I’ll be done here,” he tells her. “I need to get back to routine and I don’t want to break it.”
Alaine pouts to express her disappointment. That’s not the greeting she'd expected. She'd thought -- no, hoped -- that once he saw her, he’d do what he'd promised last night. Take her against the wall.
Instead, he goes back to giving the stupid punching bag his attention, though, with less focus than when he hadn't noticed her presence.
She stalks slowly across the floor to stand behind the object of his focus and leans her weight into it. Then, she leans her head to the side to peer around its girth at Lucas.
He freezes mid-punch to gawk at her. "What are you doing? Are you crazy?" he scolds. "I could have hurt you."
She pouts in response and bats her long lashes at him.
“I want to show you my new skills,” she says coming around the bag.
Lucas quirks up his eyebrows with amusement when she stands before him, puts up her dukes, and throws a light punch against his chest. Her eyes cruise over the scar there. He looks down at it too. When he tries to find her eyes again, they’ve already dropped to her feet.
“Ali,” Lucas says, knowing that she must be close to tears again.
She refuses to look at him.
To distract her, he says, "let's see what you've got."
This time she smiles. “Why don’t we make this interesting,” she suggests.
Straightening, Lucas responds, “I’m listening.”
“Every time I pin you,” Alaine begins to explain. “You lose some clothing.”
Lucas chortles at her, his eyes alight with mirth and interest. “And you?” he questions
“The same,” she replies.
“Hmm,” he hums thoughtfully. “I’m at a disadvantage here, Ali,” Lucas says. “You’re wearing way more clothes than I am and that just doesn’t seem fair.”
Alaine looks down at herself and mimics his thoughtful expression. Then she peruses his shirtless upper half, long sweats and bare feet.
“Well,” she replies, looking up at him. “You have over a foot on me. That’s an advantage right there and there’s nothing I can do about it. The clothes stay, Bright,” she objects. “Ready?”
They spar. Although it’s playful, Lucas is happy to see that she has some skills. However, she’s losing. There’s no way he was making her win. It has more to do with the fact that he wants her naked, instead of him wanting to be the victor or showing off his dominance.
Alaine lands on the floor with a low oomph. She'd thought he would have shown her some mercy. Obviously he’s not trying to hurt her, but as the doting boyfriend, she'd thought he would indulge her at least a little.
Closing her eyes, she scrunches up her face in an exaggerated grimace and whimpers. For added effect, she sinks her teeth into her bottom lip, rubs the back of her head, and lets out a long pained groan.
Panicked, the effect that she was hoping to draw out of him, Lucas kneels beside her, quickly.
“Baby,” he calls softly but Alaine refuses to pry her tightly shut eyes open. Instead, she groans again.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn't think...Let me see. Talk to me, babe,” he urges when she continues to just lie there.
As he leans in to get a better look, Alaine maneuvers her body quickly. The action is so sudden, she catches him completely off-guard. The next thing Lucas knows, he's knocked on his ass, she jumps on top of him and pins his shoulders to the mat.
The stunned look in his eyes makes Alaine giddy with laughter.
“Yesss!” she shouts triumphantly with a dramatic show of pumping her fists in the air. “Your turn, Lucas. Strip.”
He chuckles at the victory dance she does while straddling him. “You cheated,” Lucas accuses. The complaint dies quickly and is replaced by a rumble in his throat when desire strikes him like lightning as she continues to move against him, right there.
The sight of her buoyant upper chest, snug in her push-up bra that does her figure every kind of favor is a conduit for the zinging in his nerves and the heat traveling through his veins. All the blood in his body pools in one direction so swiftly, it leaves him dizzy and Lucas has to close his eyes and breathe deep to counter the feeling.
Her hips take on a more sultry and deliberate pattern of movement and his own seem to follow of their own volition. Afraid that his eagerness might get him off right then and there, Lucas grips her underwear-clad hips and moans softly but stops her.
“What are you doing little fairy?” he asks.
The huskiness in his voice draws Alaine's attention to his lips. Lucas sees her intent and wonders why they had bothered playing this game in the first place.
Foreplay? He hadn't minded but the gig is up. She leans down at the same time that he eases his head off the floor. Sparks fly when their lips meet. Maybe it's the fact that they both know what this is going to lead to but that kiss holds more power than anything they've shared before.
His fingers seek the back of her head, sinking in her silky hair to pull her closer for a kiss fueled by lust, deprivation, and desperation.
Without even realizing that he's doing so, Lucas's free hand directs her hips back into a tantalizing rhythm that rocks her flesh over him while her own fingers roam everywhere.
For now, he's willing to ignore the barriers between them - his sweats and her underwear -- just to enjoy her unbridled passion.
Before long, he rolls them over so she's beneath him and she dips her hand into the waistband of his pants. Lucas pulls back to look at her, his eyes glazed with arousal but stays her hand.
He wants her. He wants her here and now. Rather than sating both their desires, he takes her fingers and brings them to his lips for a gentle kiss before turning his attention back to her plump, ravaged lips. Just as gently, he uses his kisses to guide her out of a lust-filled fog.
“Not like this goddess,” he tells her softly. “Not here.”
Because after so long -- after what they’ve struggled through -- he wants to take his time to relearn every facet, every dip, every crevice on her body. He wants to love and savor her like it’s their last time and then do it all over again.
They both deserve better than a quick romp.
"I've got plans for you."