Where Did You Go?
I've given up and I'm just posting. There is a bit of dialogue in there. As usual waiting for the honest opinion of you who are reading.
A soft, regretful sigh escapes Alaine when Seth pulls onto her street in Far Rockaway, Queens.
“Is everything alright?” Lucas asks with his usual thoughtful concern.
How is she to answer that question?
Before Alaine responds, she surveys the line of three-story brownstones with a strange ache in her heart. Soon she will exit this vehicle and Lucas will remain. He will leave her here and return to his deluxe apartment somewhere on the Upper East Side. Since he’s made no mention of it, there is no telling when she will see him again.
Although they came upon some indefinable even ground after their moment in the bedroom back at the hotel, Alaine doesn’t want to voice those worries. Everything that’s happened between them does not automatically make her brave enough to take such a forward step. Elusiveness has always been her way and she hasn’t the slightest clue how to be anything else.
Choosing to suffer in silence she replies, “perfect,” instead of I think I’m going to miss you like she really wants to.
The truth of it is, each mile that took her closer to home during the journey from Washington saw her descend deeper and deeper into a state of melancholy.
She’d tried and had successfully pretended that nothing was amiss the entire way. Not letting any of her despair show had been hard but she’d done it.
Now that the end of their time together is here she could deny it no longer and thus, just now exhaled that long, deep breath of sadness that alerted Lucas to her distress.
He feels the same way. If it were at all possible, Lucas would have suggested they spend the day together. He’d given it a lot of thought, actually. It would have been easy to change their flight time. They could have ordered room service and have breakfast in their suite. Even if it was cold, he could have given her a tour of the nation’s capital. Maybe they could have stolen a few kisses too. That’s what he really wanted to do.
However, although today is Sunday, prior obligations kept him from suggesting all those things.
As he’d promised, Lucas treated Alaine to a tour of his private jet as soon as they leveled out in the air. As entertaining as the trip had been, Alaine just couldn’t best the deep-seated sadness she felt.
Neither could Lucas, though he’d been an exceptional host the entire way.
Things had almost gone awry when she’d suggested that the well-equipped bedroom is where he hosts his many consorts.
Lucas had taken immediate offense to that line of questioning and that had only made Alaine feel worse.
“Not that it’s any of your concern, but I’ve only ever entertained business on my plane, Alaine,” he’d scolded.
“So why am I here?” she’d challenged.
To that observation, Lucas had regarded her with a curious thoughtfulness in his eyes but gave no reply. In the end, Alaine had simply apologized for her crass assumption and for hurting his feelings. That had seemed to be enough for him.
“Don’t worry,” Lucas had told her. “I’m made of much sterner stuff.”
Yet, there had been a pain behind that response. It was potent. Despite his best efforts, he had failed in shutting off its transmission.
At that moment, Alaine had recognized him as a kindred spirit. His anguish had been as real as she remembers hers to be. It had been in more than just his voice and his eyes. Alaine had felt it in her heart. It spoke to her.
She’d had to fight the temptation to pull him into a hug.
As is customary for him whenever they share some emotional bond, Lucas had eventually walled himself behind an air of self-assuredness.
Entirely new to that plain of connection with another individual and lacking the know how to address it, Alaine had allowed him to sever the tie.
A profound longing seized her then and hasn’t let go since. She would love to say that it’s not the idea of missing him that generated this wretched feeling that is multiplying exponentially now that Seth stops in front of her building. But it would be a lie.
She is going to miss Lucas.
Like he’d read her thoughts, he tells her, “I enjoyed your company.”
The words drag Alaine’s eyes away from the typical New York scene outside.
“I’d like to see you again,” he continues eagerly. “I believe that was our agreement if we enjoyed each other’s company. It’s up to you, of course,” he adds with hopefulness in his gray stare that entraps Alaine.
“Okay,” she agrees.
Lucas scowls at her. “What does that mean? Okay?” he asks.
“What you just said,” she replies, her inexperience with these matters making her a little unprepared for his interrogation. Not to mention, now she feels dumb.
“Use your own words, Ms. Knight,” Lucas tells her. “Explain yourself.”
“I need you to be honest with me,” he urges when she remains mute. “Don’t say what you think I want to hear. Did you have a good time with me or not?” he asks and holds his breath while awaiting her answer.
“Yes,” Alaine replies.
Relief washes through Lucas. Yet he demands, “say it.”
“I had a good time with you,” Alaine mumbles.
“I’m glad,” he states. “Do you want to keep seeing me? Is it something you want to repeat?”
“Yes,” she supplies, again and again, Lucas scowls.
“Say it,” he coaxes a second time.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” Alaine complains.
“I’m aware,” Lucas acknowledges. “Neither have I but, life is about learning, adapting and evolving,” he suggests. “Just say that you want to keep seeing me, but only if you do.”
The words when she speaks them, “I want to keep seeing you,” is a breathlessly whispered truth.
“Good,” Lucas tells her.
“Not so fast,” Alaine interjects when he reaches for the door to escort her outside. “I need to know that you’ve accepted my terms.”
“I have, without question,” Lucas agrees, enjoying the forthrightness she displays. “For the duration of our arrangement, there will only be you and me. I’ll walk you to your door.”
“Mmmm,” Alaine hums, squinting thoughtfully. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be seen in this neighborhood,” she suggests.
“Why not?” Lucas questions.
“It’s not your Upper East Side,” she warns.
“You live here. I think it’s safe enough that can walk the streets. Let’s go,” he commands brusquely.
Ignoring her protestations, Lucas steps outside into the bright sunlight and Alaine follows behind him. It’s become a natural development in the relationship now for him to reach for her hand and a natural response for her to link their fingers together.
A tenant just exiting the building holds the gate open for them but not before a glance of approval in Lucas’ direction.
“You go, girl,” she tells Alaine.
Ignoring the comment, Lucas thanks her for her thoughtfulness as they step inside the overly warm building.
Easy conversation drifts along with them up the length of the stairs.
In appreciation of his physique in that made to fit t-shirt and bootcut jeans, Alaine sneaks little covert glances at Lucas. She knows what those lean muscled arms and chest feel like now and no more simply because of circumstance. She’d touched him, he’d held her, because they both wanted to.
“Well this is me,” she says when they get to her apartment.
“Thank you for last night,” Lucas says. “It really was a pleasant evening with you and educational,” he teases.
Despite her flaming cheeks and thundering heartbeat as she wonders if he will kiss her goodbye, Alaine responds, “I should be the one thanking you. It was magical. I’m not sure how many girls can say their date splurged twenty-five thousand dollars for a first date.”
“It must be a rare occurrence,” Lucas agrees with a laugh. “I don’t know how I’m going to outdo myself on the second date when I’ve already set the bar so high,” he tells her. “On the bright side,” he continues. “I don’t think you are acquainted with anyone else who can top that.”
Realizing that he is only stalling to linger longer in her presence and remembering that he has a prior engagement, Lucas slips Alaine’s bag off his shoulder and hands it to her.
“I’m afraid I must leave. If my schedule was clear I would have loved to spend the day with you,” he admits. “But I would like to kiss you goodbye.”
“I’d like that too,” Alaine confesses.
Nervously, Lucas closes the gap between them and sets both hands on the small of Alaine’s back to draw her even closer. Their bodies fused together, he leans down to press a soft, lingering kiss to her lips – so slow and achingly sweet.
“I wonder why it is that you never kiss me back,” he notes then he leans back to look down at her.
“Honestly?” Alaine asks as she blinks her eyes back into focus. “Your kisses are the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt and I just want to enjoy it. I’m nervous and afraid I will ruin it.”
“You couldn’t,” Lucas tells her softly. “But I suppose that’s a good thing,” he says with a smile and tightens his hold on her. “You will kiss me back someday, Alaine.”
Dropping his hands, Lucas takes a step back. “I will see you soon,” he promises.
After that he turns away, huffing a sigh as he does so.
Not yet ready to be relieved of his company, Alaine follows Lucas to the top of the landing. She watches as he descends the stairs with that confident gait she’s witnessed cracks in.
When he gets the door, he turns around, surprised but happy to see her standing there. The pleased smile that spreads his beautiful lips almost sinks Alaine to the floor.
“You can go in now,” he tells her and offers a wink before stepping out into the chilly air.
Something has happened between them. It’s still indescribable but there is definitely a change. Alaine can feel it. It’s been a materializing in subtle, barely noticeable increments since they met. But last night’s was of cataclysmic proportions.
Part of it, Alaine surmises, is that she is more curious about her reaction to Lucas than she is apprehensive. She is also ecstatic that seems to feel the same.
After stepping into her apartment and closing the door, Alaine relaxes against it and shuts her eyes. Images of Lucas dance across her eyelids. She can’t help the grin his memory summons nor the sigh of contentment that leaves her throat.
Her trip was unexpected. All in all, it had been enjoyable in the company of the only man who’s ever commanded her emotions like the winds on the ocean.
Raising a hand, she touches her lips which are still tingling from the sweet, gentle kiss Lucas had laid on them. Again Alaine wishes that she’d been able to find enough of her senses to kiss him back.
Next time, she promises herself, her grin widening at the possibility.
“I guess that went well.”
Alaine’s eyes fly open and a guilty, embarrassed flush that she’s been caught daydreaming about a man peppers her neck and cheeks. So wrapped up she’d been in her remembrance of Lucas, she’d completely forgotten that her sister is here.
Delah leans her shoulder against the wall at the entrance of the small, dim hallway with a smirk on her face.
“I want details,” she presses as Isabella runs across the room and barrels into Alaine.
“I missed you, Auntie Alaine,” she squeals, her slim arms wrapping around Alaine’s legs.
“I missed you too princess,” Alaine responds and hoists the growing girl against her hip. “Oh, you are heavy,” she says before allowing the little girl to slide down her five foot two frame.
“Don’t look so smug,” Alaine scolds her sister. “I am practically naked, Delah,” she accuses.
When Alaine looks down at herself she realizes that she is still clad in Lucas’ jacket.
“You should be thanking me,” Delah reasons.
“What for?” Alaine argues. “My boss looking at me like his last meal the entire way home? And thanks for these,” she adds, fishing the box of condoms out of her bag to toss them in Delah’s general direction. “As you can see, I did not need them.”
“He probably does want to eat you out like his last meal,” Delah chimes suggestively. “I don’t care if you didn’t go all the way. Something happened and I want to hear all about it. And, it’s better to be prepared and safe,” she adds while she walks towards Alaine to make a dramatic show of placing the box of prophylactics back in her hand.
Huffing in exasperation, Alaine walks past her sister and heads for the bedroom to pull a bra out of her dresser.
“You don’t need to wear that,” Delah announces after following Alaine into the room. “Your breasts are so perfect and bouncy.”
“I kind of want them to stay that way,” Alaine retorts.
Hoping to avoid more conversation about her evening with the charming Lucas Bright, she asks, “so what are we up to today? I don’t have to be at work until five.”
“I am content to veg out all day,” Delah counters before flopping herself back on the bed. “School hunting has us pretty beat.”
“What about a job?” Alaine asks coming to lie next to her sister.
Delah scoffs. “I didn’t even graduate high school, Alaine,” she says bitterly. “I’m not sure how I am going to convince anyone to hire me in this great big world of New York City. After I have Izzy settled in school I will try to find something. I didn’t come here to freeload off you forever.”
Understanding that her sister must be uncomfortable with their arrangement and disappointed with her lot in life, Alaine ignores the accusation in her tone.
“That’s not what I meant,” Alaine assures her. “For now I am temporarily employed with Lucas, but I brought up your situation with Mona. Once I have a permanent job, you can take my place at the flower shop. It’s not white collar but it’s okay pay. I’ve survived on it. I just know you would rather be independent.”
“Thanks for having my back Alie,” Delah responds with a sigh. Doing her best to push her despondency aside and the thought that she might have been better off with her abusive ex, she chirps, “So enough of this grown-up talk. Let’s get back to your billionaire hottie. And this came for you,” she says while stretching across the night table.
Alaine accepts the small, unmarked white envelope and turns it over in her hand. “Are you sure it’s mine?” she questions.
“I don’t...I guessed it was. Someone must have slipped it under the door last night. I found it on the floor this morning. No one knows I’m here. It has to be yours. So? What happened last night?” Delah presses
“Nothing happened,” Alaine replies but her blush gives her away as Delah regards her closely.
“You’re lying,” her sister accuses. “Now dish, but keep your voice down,” she urges and slips her eyes to her daughter where she is playing in the middle of the bedroom. “Did you....”
“No,” Alaine exclaims aghast. “He...he kissed me,” she finally admits. “That’s all.”
“Oh my God!” Delah squeals. “He is so hot, Ali. What’s wrong?” she asks when she notices Alaine’s frown. “Didn’t you want him to kiss you?”
“I did,” Alaine replies. “It was sublime,” she confesses dreamily. “But I didn’t kiss him back. I had no clue what to do and I was afraid if I tried to, I would only ruin the moment.”
“It was your first kiss?” Delah questions incredulously.
She nods then shrugs. “After what happened to me, I just kind of shut down to those things. I’ve been so scared.”
“Does your Lucas strike you as that sort of person?” Delah asks when Alaine stops speaking. “Someone you should fear?”
“I don’t know what he strikes me as,” Alaine admits.
“I can tell you what he strikes me as,” Delah giggles and Alaine swats her arm. “Seriously, do you feel afraid when you’re with him?”
She feels many things with Lucas – confusion, exasperation, anger, lost. However, the warmth and care and passion she’s found in him override them all. Fear has never been among the myriad of emotions he evokes when she is with him. If anything, she feels safe and protected.
After careful consideration of her sister’s words, Alaine shakes her head.
“Then he doesn’t strike you as someone you should be afraid of,” Delah posits. “He strikes you as someone you want to sleep with.”
“He does not,” Alaine says with a gasp.
“Oh please,” Delah huffs. “Everybody feels that way about someone at some point. Lose your inhibitions. Embrace this. I certainly would.”
“On the odd chance that you are right,” Alaine concedes. “What’s the requisite waiting period?”
“Until you have sex with someone?” Delah asks for clarity. “I’d say two weeks,” she suggests with a shrug. “That depends on you really. But he looks ready to go to me,” she sings. “My sister has her own personal ‘Jesse Caine’. A brooding, billionaire, bachelor.”
“Who’s Jesse Caine?” Alaine asks raising an eyebrow.
“You’ve been living under a rock,” Delah says as Isabella bounces onto the bed.
“Who’s Jesse Caine, Aunt Alaine?” she asks flopping between her mother and her aunt.
“I have no idea baby,” Alaine responds. “But your mom was just about to tell me about him. ”
“No she wasn’t,” Delah says getting off the bed.
Reaching into her unpacked suitcase, she grabs a novel and tosses it at Alaine. “He’s a character in this book which you need read,” she commands Alaine. “You have to read so you can know what to do when the time comes,” she says in that sultry tone. “Come on baby girl,” she calls to her daughter. “I think we should allow Aunt Ali some time to rest.”
With only a cursory look at the shirtless man in a tie and a woman’s hands splayed on his sculpted chest from behind, on the cover of the book, Alaine sets it aside.
She lies back on the bed and closes her eyes, imagining her time with Lucas.
There is a lot she doesn’t know about him, but she knows that he has her longing for things that she dismissed years ago.
The moment he kissed her on the plane it seemed like he'd opened her eyes to him and everything else ceased to exist. Then he’d danced with her, sang softly in her ear. Plus he’d subjected himself to her clumsy attempts at kissing.
Alaine breaks into a wide grin, until the thought, this is just a contract, reaches in to steal her nirvana.
Banishing the images and the hopefulness stirring inside her, she picks up the unmarked envelope. A sinking feeling hollows out her stomach. This is probably what envelopes laced with anthrax look like, Alaine thinks.
Considering she has few friends and doesn't know enough people to have enemies, she pushes the thought aside as silly.
Making her decision to open it rather than crumpling up the small package and dumping it in the garbage, Alaine breaks the seal.
Where did you go? I missed watching you.
That's all it says. There's no salutation, no date, no signature. Just those that cryptic message. Assessing that the message could have slipped under the wrong apartment door, Alaine sets it aside.
Her mind isn't given the chance to contemplate other possibilities as her phone chimes and a message from Lucas lights up the screen. Forgotten is the note and chill it raced up her spine.
Lucas: I guess you wanted to keep a part of me with you. You could have just asked. I’d have given you more than my jacket.
Alaine: I’m so sorry, sir. Thank you for loaning it to me. I’ll return it when I see you again. If I see you again?
Lucas: Sir? No thanks necessary ‘Ma’am’. Wear it to bed tonight. Keep me close. And you will definitely be seeing me again. Soon.
Lucas: You should try to get some sleep. Travelling can have delayed tiring effect and I believe you have to work later. P.S. I miss your lips.
Alaine smiles at his last text and contemplates an appropriate response. After many failed attempts spent typing and deleting, she lets out a frustrated huff.
Should she say she misses his too? But that sounds really corny. So she settles for: Maybe next time I’ll kiss you back.
Lucas: Promise me you will.
Alaine: I promise I will kiss you back next time.
Lucas: Good, I will hold you to it. Get some rest, Alaine. I’m a heading to a meeting but I’m not sure how I’m going to concentrate. The thought of your lips on mine is very distracting.