The Girl In The Red Dress
I seriously thought of deleting this chapter, but I thought it might be helpful to the plot to show how Lucas and Alaine's lives work when they are apart. I gave a short view of Alaine with her sister in the last chapter and so here is Lucas with his brothers. But the next chapter is more Lucas and Alaine mushy stuff and things start to get heated in more ways than one. I hope this one is not too disappointing.
Morning breaks on Monday a solemn gray. Lucas wakes lazily but in high spirits. It dawns on him that he’s had almost six hours of peaceful, dreamless slumber, though again, on the long leather sofa in his home office.
While uninterrupted sleep is a novelty, falling asleep in this room is not. It’s a practice that has followed him into adulthood.
When he was little, the sofa in what used to be his father’s office had doubled as a bed for many a night in his effort to find sanctuary from his stepfather’s violence and his mother’s contempt.
Long after Arlington had moved out, the room still smelled like him. Lucas found comfort in that. Being in his father’s office reminded him of a time when he’d felt safe, happy and loved.
Late in the night, he would sneak out of his bedroom in their Las Vegas home to settle in the study. His eidetic memory would then take him on a journey, reproducing scenes of the times he’d spent there with his father.
They had often conversed about the things Lucas’ hungry mind sought answers to. Sometimes they played chess. Sometimes, he would listen in on Arlington’s business calls and then offer unsolicited advice.
His father often looked at five-year-old Lucas in awe, then he’d beg him not to burden himself with the worries of adulthood.
“You’ll have enough time for that, son,” Arlington would say. “Right now, I just want you to be a kid.”
Then he’d ruffle Lucas’ hair or lift him onto his lap or do something, anything to show his son – ′his boy’– affection.
Other times were spent in easy silence. While his father worked, Lucas read books well beyond anything an ordinary child his age should have had the ability to comprehend.
Eventually, when sleep stole him from consciousness, his latent mind would awaken to chase those precious memories off and replace them with the nightmarish actuality he dwelled in.
Back then, sleep always had to have been light to avoid Kurt’s early morning tirades. And always so fitful. When morning came about, it brought along a crippling fear. To this day, Lucas can’t shake these habits.
Most mornings he still wakes with that dreadful palpitating heartbeat, until reality creeps in to reassure him.
Today is very different.
Sitting up, Lucas stretches noisily. Instead of rising quickly to be rid of the effects of his troubled dreams he’s used to having, he rests his head against the back of the chair and looks out the heavy glass window.
It’s the time of day when dawn rises to meet the night. A moment when light and dark can coexist without one dominating the other.
Eventually, however, the soft beams of the rising sun, working beyond a mass of heavy clouds and manhattan’s unmoving skyline, will infiltrate the darkness and illuminate the day.
The darkness is no match for the penetrating rays. Despite the long reaching shadows, the light will win. For some reason, he finds the sentiment comforting.
Her name forms in his mind conjuring images as if in real time.
Alaine. Does she wake with the dawn like him? Lucas wonders.
The thought makes him smile. If ever he finds a way to get her here and in his bed, he will wake her with the sunrise to kisses down her body and then slip leisurely inside her.
Exasperated with his thoughts and his body’s immediate response to them, Lucas groans. Still, he is tempted to construct a text message to say ‘good morning beautiful’.
Thinking that he should try to exercise some restraint when it comes to Alaine, he ignores the urge, rising instead to brew coffee.
Mondays are the absolute worst. He hates Mondays. Jackie doesn’t come in today. Consequently, every irksome task is left to him.
Like this one.
Lucas snares at the complex coffee machine with the coffee bean grinder, he’d never bothered to learn how to use. It’s probably not even difficult but it just seems so menial.
Turning away from the device, he reaches into the cupboard for the jar of instant coffee.
He stares at the neat rows of supplies, wondering when Jackie had rearranged it.
After a few tries opening and shutting doors, he finally locates the large jar of dark roast. He hates that generic stuff but every Sunday and Monday, Jackie’s off days, he is forced to endure this insipid dark brew.
Again his mind shifts to the little raven-haired fairy because almost everything reminds him of her. He simply can’t help it. Like right this instant, Lucas remembers that she has a thing against his Monday morning pick-me-up.
If she were to spend the night, ever, he’ll have to find out what it is she prefers in the morning so he can have it on hand – tea? juice? nothing? He doesn’t know.
The thought is funny and Lucas chortles. Other than Jackie and Seth and his previous driver, he’s never invited anyone else into this sacred, drama-free space. Not even his own father.
Yet, he would like to share it with Alaine.
If it was possible, he would clear his schedule and give her a spectacular day. Realistically, they both have to work and he has shirked quite a few duties already just to engage with her.
Beset by thoughts of Alaine, and with no idea how else to clear them, Lucas shakes his head.
His phone resting on the countertop chimes. Hope rises that it is some little message from Alaine that lets him know that she is thinking about him just as hard. Logic asserts that it is not and that is sorely disappointing.
As he suspected, when he shifts his eyes over the screen, it’s nothing more than a reminder that he needs to get a move on and start his day.
He picks up the phone and thinks of giving her a call to hear her syrupy voice. Just like every temptation that’s bombarded him since he left Alaine yesterday, Lucas disregards the urge.
Settling onto the stool to wait for the electric kettle to whistle, he opens up his schedule on the laptop sitting on the counter. The first thing he needs to get done is recalibrating his agenda. Doing so requires an early conference with his administrative assistant.
Forgoing calling Ms. Ingram, Lucas types out a swift email dictating solutions for the alterations he had to make to accommodate Alaine. By the time he is done, the water for his flat coffee is ready.
While sipping from the steaming cup, he runs through the plethora of notifications on his phone – most of which require urgent attention.
His morning routine is well tabled. By the time he is done with his cup of joe, Lucas has attended to the most pressing items on his list and has caught up on the latest in world news from a selection of broadcasting networks.
He also needs to address to the single text alerted on his phone from his younger brother, Carter. While reading the message a deep frown mars Lucas’ features.
Carter: Don’t forget this morning. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on that ass whooping.
Lucas chuckles. Ass whooping? Yeah right!
Religiously on Monday mornings, for about an hour and a half, the younger Bright men meet. Because Lucas’ busy schedule doesn’t permit spontaneous sibling socializing they have it time-tabled. Otherwise, he’d never get to see his family.
He’d actually contemplated bailing on them today. How else would he be able to insert sneaking off to see Alaine into his schedule? Something has to give.
For now, Lucas holds off on sending a reply. His brothers are an inquisitive pair. If he cancels, they are going to want to know why and that is not something he is ready to explain.
Rising from the stool at the kitchen counter in his lonely apartment, Lucas carries his mug to sink before heading for his home gym.
He wraps his hands and squeezes them into fists to test their mobility. The playlist for the day sends Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ spilling through the speakers via Bluetooth.
If he had hoped to dispel his thoughts of the little fey during his rigorous workout, this song is the wrong way to go.
He really loves the shape of Alaine’s body. He wants to map every dip and curve and commit them to memory. Then he wants to follow the path of his hands with his lips until she cries his name in ecstasy.
As one thought of Alaine rolls into another–thoughts of her laughing, smiling, kissing him, beneath him, above him – Lucas intensifies his workout.
He remembers everything about her so vividly. Even the scent of her skin. It would be lovely to taste her too find out whether she is as sweet as she smells. Her kisses in the hotel’s bed had been so innocent. He wants to do it again but this time, they won’t stop.
After forty-five minutes, Lucas grunts through the last ten bench presses. The little fey won’t leave his mind. Strangely he likes her there. Unfortunately, unlike the song he set to play on repeat during the course of his exercise, he can’t fall for Alaine. He can’t allow her to fall for him either.
He wants her body and that’s it. That’s all they can ever be.
Setting the weights back on the rack, Lucas sits up and sends a reply to his brother. He wants to see Alaine but he won’t give in. Not today.
Lucas: I’ll be there. And ass whooping? How many of those have you ever given me?
With his body dripping wet from a workout that he anticipated would at least dull his yearning to see her, Lucas heads off to his bedroom. Maybe the time with his brothers will be distracting enough.
Once he abandons the lonely apartment, Seth drives them upstate while Lucas sits on his tablet reviewing the plans for a new server farm in the Caribbean. Only he can’t focus. Since feeling that welt on Alaine’s foot, he has been inundated with questions about her old injury.
“Why doesn’t Alaine like you?” he asks.
The question startles Seth because his boss is not someone he would call a conversationalist. Actually, the man has never said more to him than grunting out orders. Also, it’s not a question he is prepared for.
Glancing at Lucas in the rearview mirror, Seth shakes his head as the weight of the question settles in his chest. “You don’t like me either,” he notes with little interest. “And you don’t really have a reason. I guess I have that effect on people.”
“You’re very informal,” Lucas states. “And you talk too much. You talk to yourself.”
Seth laughs. “Fine, I won’t talk then,” he says. “You’re the boss.”
Slightly annoyed with the impudence, Lucas backtracks. “Alaine,” he demands. “Why? Is it because of her injury?”
“What do you care?” Seth asks, his irritation rising. “She’s not your responsibility.”
Lucas almost growls that he does care, but he bites back the words.
“I’m not sure she would want me discussing this with you. Or anyone for that matter,” Seth finally offers him with a sigh. “I didn’t hurt her. Not physically. I failed her. I failed to protect her,” he explains around the huge lump clogging his throat. “She needed me and I let her down.”
“How old was she?” Lucas asks, his tone more tempered in consideration of Seth’s sudden somber tone.
“Thirteen,” he says softly. Then he begs, “don’t ask me to say more, please.”
Out of respect for Alaine’s privacy, Lucas agrees with a nod but Seth’s ambiguous responses only raise more questions and his need to have answers.
How bad was it? What had been done to her? If his driver hadn’t hurt her as he’d convinced himself, then who did? Had the person paid for hurting her?
He wants to know.
While he tries to form those answers as to what could have Alaine in pain for almost ten years later, Lucas’ gut twists with images he imagines.
They ride the rest of the way in silence. When Seth pulls up in the race track’s private parking lot, Lucas is happy to escape the tension their brief discussion created.
Carter and Dion are already waiting.
“Going for the cup?” Lucas jokes as his younger brother walks toward him clad fully in racing gear, with his helmet hanging in his hand. “You must be very serious about that ass whooping.”
Unscathed by Lucas’ jibe, Carter seats astride his motorcycle. “I can’t let anything happen to this face. Or body,” he says with a shrug. “Not even in death,” he continues with a wink and a grin.
Both Lucas and Dion roll their eyes at him. Granted, the boy at twenty-one is the epitome of ‘heart breaker’. Maybe more so than Lucas had been. His eyes are a lighter and brighter shade of gray. They seem to jump out at you.
The credit of that can be given to the soft brownish hue of his skin and the shock of reddish brown hair. And that one freckle smack in the middle of his dimpled cheek and his saccharine smile are supposed to be panty droppers Lucas has heard.
“Hey dipshit,” Dion greets as he claps Lucas on the back.
The term of endearment, if that’s what it’s supposed to be, has always grated on his nerves but Lucas has never complained about it. When it comes to his family, he’s always accepted his lot.
“Good to see you, Dion,” he replies.
As usual, whenever they meet, Lucas can’t help but study his brothers. It’s hard not to compare himself to them. It’s hard not to wonder why his father had chosen a life with them instead of him, leaving him at the mercy of Kurt to be beaten and disparaged.
It’s not that he blames them for the tribulations he’s suffered through. How can he? They were children themselves. He was just always jealous that his father loved them more. Maybe he still is a little.
But he did not come here for that. Choosing to close the door on his musings, Lucas walks to his own motorcycle. He came here to forget, however briefly, the green and gold-eyed fey.
“Well, alright children,” he says after taking his seat. “Class is in session.”
Lucas brandishes his Bright yellow sports bike and black and yellow helmet, zipping dangerously around the track ahead of his two brothers. He dips low to hug the final curve, grinning with the rush and freedom only going full throttle can give.
By the third race of the morning, he pulls to screeching halt. Shortly after, Carter zips past him only a close second behind. They wait, both removing their helmets and lounging against the purring machines until Dion comes in.
“That’s three in a row,” Lucas tells Carter. “Maybe I’ll take that ass whooping another day.”
“I almost had you that last time,” Carter notes.
Lucas chuckles. He really hadn’t but he’ll keep that bit from the youngster.
“You should have gone pro Luc,” his younger brother suggests. “It’s not too late.”
“Except, Arlington would have a conniption,” Lucas counters. “I’m good with the occasional spin.”
“You two idiots are insane,” Dion accuses when he finally stops beside them. “There are no medics here jackasses. What if you had gotten into an accident. This is supposed to be fun. Not a competition.”
“You’re a doctor,” Carter offers with a flippant shrug.
“And off duty moron,” Dion reminds him. “I have no gear here, except maybe a Band-Aid in my car.”
“It was a race, Dion,” Lucas argues. “The point was trying to win.”
“Yeah well, I really want to keep my face,” Dion grumbles. “At those speeds, if you get into an accident, you’ll be unrecognizable.”
Lucas raises his hands in surrender to his older stepbrother. Dion, Shanice’s first born and still ever the more responsible and sensible of the three of them. Somebody needs to be.
At twenty-eight, he is a doctor and stands taller than Lucas and Carter who are the same height at six feet. He's more firmly built as well and sometimes, Lucas wishes he could mimic his natural confidence and flare.
He’s a good looking chap too, with smooth brown skin and eyes as rich as milk chocolate. What would Alaine think about them?
The thought is uncomfortable. They’re better and more deserving of someone like her. He is well aware of that. If he has any intention of pursuing whatever is between them, he’ll have to really wow her. He can too. They all have money. A lot of it. But he is the only self-made billionaire in the family.
"So," Dion says turning to Lucas. "How was your charity event? he asks.
"The usual," Lucas replies with a shrug.
"Usual," he repeats, nodding his head thoughtfully. "Nothing eventful happened? he asks. "Sayyy...I don't know. A girl maybe...?"
Trailing off and without giving Lucas a chance to formulate a response, Dion fishes a magazine clipping from his pocket. "Because, uhh," he says as he unfolds the paper. "This looks rather eventful to me."
Lucas grabs the printed images of Alaine and him and frowns. "So this is what this morning is?" he accuses. "An ambush? To gossip? She's a girl in red dress," he argues dumbly.
"She's a girl in a red dress on your arm and your lips," Dion says, pointing to the smaller picture in the corner.
Lucas shakes his head, but not in denial. He'd driven all the way here with one intention. To escape his thoughts of Alaine. It had been working too but so much for that.
Even if he could explain the situation with Alaine, he doesn't want to talk about her with anyone. Not yet.
He ignores the barrage of questions and declines their offer to go another round as well as the invitation to lunch. Not with Arlington and Shanice. He would walking into a trap. Before the end of their meal, they would probably want him looking at engagement rings.
Despite himself, Lucas chuckles. The little fey unexpectedly followed him to the race track. He's not a religious man per se but that has to be some kind of signs.