You Undo Me
Sorry to say, this is only a filler chapter to help move the plot along (mostly the spark between Lucas and Alaine). I'm still so happy that you're choosing to read it. As usual, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Also if you are enjoying this story, feel free to share it and vote on it. That would mean so much to me.
The events of last evening still have Alaine’s mind in a muddle. They haunted her so persistently through the night, she’d barely managed more than a few winks of sleep. With all the mixed signals Lucas effuses, it’s hard to keep up.
One minute he seemed to have wanted her. The next minute he was running away. In the subsequent minute, he was looking at her like she was something to be devoured. Shortly thereafter, she attempted to ease his distress and what did that earn her? A sharp rebuke and a firm thrust to arm’s length again. At the rate he’s going, she’s bound to short circuit.
She hasn’t an inkling where she stands with him.
What is certain, however, is that it can’t continue. Alaine is unwilling to subject herself to his rejection. There’s been enough of that in her twenty-one years to last a lifetime and from the people who are supposed to love her, no less. She’s learned to deal with it but she has no obligation or intention to accept it from Lucas.
Never mind his good looks. Never mind who he is. And never mind the way her heart dances to the merry tune her blood hums whenever he touches her or says her name or smiles at her. She’s not giving him the power to play puppet master with her emotions.
They’re not supposed to be meddling in feelings anyway. This is supposed to be strictly business.
Reminding herself of that, Alaine dresses hastily in the articles of clothing her sister packed for her; each movement mirroring the determination driving her thoughts.
If there’s one thing life has taught her, it’s how to pull herself up by her own bootstrap. That’s exactly what this situation requires. Yesterday’s damage can’t be undone, but she can definitely ascertain what happens next.
Before stepping out of this luxury hotel’s bedroom to face Lucas, she just has to put things back into perspective.
The gooey, romantic talk has to end. No more shows of affection in private and when in public, must be limited to hand holding and nothing else. And only when necessary.
Her intention is to tell him just that. But there’s one little problem.
Her attire defeats her purpose.
Alaine looks at herself in the mirror and huffs. How can she play the role of indifference successfully when she is wearing an outfit designed to do the precise opposite? No one will take her seriously in this.
Thanks to her sister’s machinations, Lucas is going to take one look at her and think she is begging him for it.
The featherweight material of the pink chiffon blouse contours perfectly to the shape of her braless breasts. There is literally nothing left to imagine – expect maybe the colour of her pebbled nipples poking into the soft fabric. As for the loose, black shorts she’s wearing, they ride low on her hip and the hemline doesn’t make it to mid-thigh – and in this weather.
For the hundredth time, Alaine wonders what her sister had been thinking.
When she glances at her phone where it’s lying on the bed, she realizes that there’s not much time left before they have to leave. Hiding in here makes no sense.
Lucas hasn’t checked on her this morning. Which says a lot. Had he, Alaine might have been willing to be more tolerant of his odd behaviour.
She doesn’t understand the situation that caused him to lock away something as simple as a kiss. However, she understands that it must have been a huge deal for him to ask her, just like it had been a huge deal for her to consent. It must have been even harder for him to admit that she was his first.
That’s the only thing preventing her from ending their affiliation. That and the fact that he’d looked so pained and vulnerable while he slept. Seeing him that way awakened something ferocious and protective in her.
Only fear of how he would react had kept her from curling up beside him and soothing him into peaceful slumber. She wanted to wrap herself around him like a shield to ward off the demons he was battling.
And the way he’d begged for her. To save him?
Thinking about it now, Alaine’s heart responds in the same sorrowful manner. She’d like to know from what he needs salvation.
However, the fact that he has so plainly avoided her only lends credence to her decision to revert to their original agreement. Lucas doesn’t want her. Neither her help nor her pity. That much he’s made clear.
She is not aware that in his own state of distress, Lucas has paced outside her bedroom many times since the sun came up. Each time, he tried to work up the courage to raise his fist and knock, his feet led him away instead.
He wants to apologize.
After driving Alaine away last night, sleeping was impossible. Whenever Lucas closed his eyes, he saw her.
The many conversations where his father tried to reason with him about his frivolity with women came back like a slap in the face.
“Someday, son,” his father had said. “You’ll meet that one special girl. What will you have to offer her after you’ve given so much of yourself away? Try to keep something for her, hmm?”
Lucas had dismissed those words with his usual quiet rebellion. His issue with his father’s life coaching isn’t that it’s old fashioned. He's sure there is some wisdom in it. However, Arlington doesn’t know that he lost that part of him which he could have offered a life mate a long time ago.
There can be no special someone out there for him. Who would want the tarnishment that he is?
Aside from a handsome face, money and the pleasure of sex, he has nothing else to offer a partner. All that’s left of his heart is a faint echo in the place it used to beat.
Whatever he had managed to salvage of himself after the force of Kurt and his mother, he’d lost to a parade of women. Alaine deserves better than that.
The victory when a woman falls to his charms makes him feel alive for a brief while. He likes that they do his bidding. Once the deed is done, he goes back to being a sullen reflection of a broken man. Until the next encounter. All of it is hollow. Just like his life. Just like him.
Now, those misdeeds loom large – in judgment. He can’t imagine anyone treating Alaine that way. The thought makes him sick. He can’t imagine that she would be able to see beyond the burden of his past either.
The only thing of value he had left was his first kiss. That was untainted. He’d sealed it away, not with the intention of sharing it one day. It was the measure of himself that he kept. A way to assert control when he was at the mercy of his stepfather's debauchery. But surrendering that part of him to Alaine had been beautiful.
If someone asks him what is the one thing about last night he will never be sorry about, it would be that. He will apologize for everything else but not for the kisses they shared.
Her lips on his had been everything. A sweet tonic for a heart that needs revival. A lighthouse for a ship lost on the dark expansive ocean. Water to a parched tongue. Life to a dying soul.
How can he apologize for needing it like he needs the oxygen keeping this shell of a man alive. He’ll treasure these memories forever.
The rest he can do penance for.
His biggest worry is what she thinks about his nightmare. What explanation can he give for calling out her name in his sleep? He’s not certain how much she’d heard, but what if she wants an explanation? He can’t give her one. Not without ruining everything.
That doesn’t excuse the rough way he treated her. As for the lasciviousness with which he perused her in the light of the refrigerator. It was despicable.
Hopefully, she can forgive him for this next part because while he cannot be sorry that she got his first kiss, he’d stolen hers knowing fully that he could offer nothing more than that.
The only other thing he can give her is quietly excusing himself so that she can find someone worthy of her smile and purity.
But the thought of Alaine with someone else makes Lucas nauseous. His mind forms an image of the faceless man who will stand by her side and give her all the things he can’t. Maybe it will be her delivery guy – Angus – who earns the right to her sweet smiles and lyrical laughter.
And her innocence, his mind jeers. Lucas tries to quell the anger the thought provokes. He has no right to her but he doesn’t want to think about Alaine with anyone else.
Although he has no real idea of what he is going to say to her this morning, Lucas walks to the bedroom door again. It’s silly to put off facing Alaine any longer. Any second from now, she is going to walk out of that door anyway. And then what?
It’s better to get the situation in hand and not appear a coward and a brute.
Gathering courage, Lucas inhales deeply to calm his jumpy nerves.
When he knocks on the door, the pulse at Alaine’s neck skips.
“Alaine,” he calls, the hesitation in his voice apparent. “May I come in?” he asks when she doesn’t answer.
“Yes,” she replies after taking a deep breath in the hopes of calming the excitement coursing like a wild current through her veins.
Setting aside his apprehension, Lucas goes over his icebreaker in his mind one more time before opening the door.
“I arranged for break...”
He tries to force the rest of the words out of his suddenly dry throat. But once he pushes his head beyond the doorjamb, one glance at Alaine and Lucas loses his ability to speak. Followed by his trend of thought.
He hovers at the opened door for a few seconds, drinking in the sight of her, before stepping inside and closing it behind him.
Instead of walking across the room and making use of the bed like he wants to, he leans against the hardwood for support.
Alaine in the early light of day is a glorious vision. She leaves him faint and it’s not just the fact that she is dressed to tempt the conviction of the devout. Her beauty is the equivalent of a punch to the gut. She leaves him winded and reeling.
“My sister...” Alaine begins to explain but Lucas’ silent inspection causes her to trail off.
“I know,” he reminds her. “You told me last night. I can’t imagine what she was thinking,” he adds and rolls his eyes.
Despite herself, Alaine chuckles. He's assessed Delah's intention rightly and though Lucas returns her soft laughter with a smile, it bothers him that Alaine’s sister would put her at this kind of risk.
What if he was one of those men who doesn't know how to take no for an answer? What if he was one of those who thought a woman's intent is in the way she dresses and the vibes she emits. Those thoughts give him a chill.
“I don’t know how I’m going walk out there in this,” she says at the same time Lucas rambles.
"You won't have to," Lucas tells her. “I’m sorry about last night.”
His apology makes Alaine’s heart lurch. Forgetting her worries with her attire because hearing what he has to say is much more important, she asks, “for which part exactly?”
“Everything except the kiss,” he admits with a bit of reserve.
For a second time, Alaine's heart surges against her ribs.
“Everything except the good parts,” Lucas amends. “The dancing too,” he mumbles.
She smiles again and tucks an invisible tendril of hair behind her ear.
That seems to be a thing of hers when she is nervous, Lucas notes. Similar to the way she bites her lip when she’s thinking. It has to be since her hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
“Are you, sorry?” he questions. “About...”
“No,” she interrupts with a slight shake of her head. "I mean I'm a little confused but, I'm not sorry."
Once he feels like he’s gained his feet under him again, Lucas pushes off the door.
"What are you confused about?" he asks.
The way he prowls across the room towards Alaine renders her immobile, speechless and quickens her pulse. The closer he gets the faster her earlier resolve ebbs away. He doesn’t slow down nor stop when there is nothing but the fabric of their clothing separating their bodies.
Lucas walks her back until she is trapped between the hard wall behind her and his solid frame in front. As nervous as she is, Alaine still meets his eyes.
“You undo me,” Lucas admits softly, to eliminate her confusion. “I don't know what to make of it either. I don’t even think you know you’re doing it,” he adds with tenderness and sincerity in his voice and eyes that turn Alaine's insides to jelly.
Unable to resist the call of the soft flesh peeking between the hem of her shirt and the low waistband of her shorts, Lucas curls his fingers to shape of Alaine's hip, his warm fingers teasing the skin there.
“Then I will do my best to remain inconspicuous to you,” she challenges and is surprised by her ability to form a coherent thought when she is certain she is having a heart attack.
Not while you're wearing that you won’t,” Lucas says with a smirk. “And I’m not sure it's even possible. You're irresistible. You test my restraint, do you know that?” he warns and runs a finger along her cheek.
Alaine swallows her whimper and the desire to tell him that she doesn’t want him restrained. Reading those thoughts in her eyes, Lucas sighs her name, the sound sliced between caution and a plea.
If he ducks his head to kiss her, she will not protest. If he runs his thumbs over her nipples, she won’t offer resistance. Should he lift her delectable little body to wrap her legs around his waist and topple them onto the bed, she will be a willing participant.
“I want...” he begins but pauses.
“What?” she asks softly, then runs her tongue over her lip before securing it between her teeth.
“You shouldn’t look at me that way,” Lucas tells her. “You should push me away.”
“Why?” Alaine asks, her voice as gentle as his.
The rueful, wistfulness in his eyes and his little smile breaks her heart.
“Because I’m no good for you, Alaine” he answers after a moment spent wishing he could be. “I cannot give you what I don’t have.”
Before she can answer and say that it should be her choice, Lucas closes his eyes and steps back with a regretful sigh, effectively severing the moment.
“Just what was your sister thinking?” he asks and shrugs out of his jacket. "Cover yourself," he says, holding it out to Alaine.
Obediently, with a blush creeping up her neck, Alaine pulls her heavy ponytail aside and turns around to allow Lucas to slip the sleeves up her arm and set it in place on her shoulders.
Like his tuxedo jacket, she all but disappears inside. Seeing her in his clothes gives Lucas the sense that she belongs to him.
With that thought, he takes the liberty of reaching into the coat to dislodge her hair, trapped inside. He sweeps it back from the neck, his fingers leaving a fiery trail on her skin and returns the heavy mass to a cascading stream down her back.
“Better,” he comments when she turns to face him.
Alaine nods her head in agreement and takes the hand he extends with a smile.
"Thank you," she tells him.
"Don't thank me," Lucas tells her. "My motives are not solely based upon chivalry and the fact that it's freezing outside. Other men looking at you the way I have will drive me to murder," he confesses.
Alaine's outburst of laughter does its job of oozing like a warm balm inside him, soothing his troubled mind.
If there is one thing he's learned about spending time with her, it's that he loves the sound of her voice. He craves her smile and laughter and he enjoys making her happy.