Here it is guys. Finally! All 3,000 plus words. Remember this is part of a bigger chapter so the better half is still to come. I won't hesitate to say that it needs work but since I promised, I am posting.
From the backseat of the SUV, Alaine peers through the heavily tinted windows and out at the ocean of metal surrounding them. She’s never been caught in one before but this lunchtime rush hour traffic is brutal.
The SUV comes to a lurching stop again as, not for the first time since they happened upon this gridlock, Seth barely avoids grazing the bumper ahead them. In spite of her seatbelt, the sudden motion jolts Alaine forward before forcing her back into her seat.
It would be wrong of her to utter the growl of frustration gurgling in her throat, especially since Lucas made time in his overwhelming schedule to see her. However, driving in this calamity is enough to try the patience of a saint.
She considers that the two men occupying the car with her should be elevated to that status since neither appear perturbed by the goings-on around them.
In the driver’s seat, Seth continues to chew his gum. Silently and clearly unbothered, he stakes out the scene behind his dark sunglasses as yet another impatient motorist tries cutting across into their lane. He attempts to wheedle his large vehicle into the inch of space between them and the yellow taxi in front.
If Seth allows this man the courtesy of stealing their spot, she will do more than just growl. There is every likelihood that she may lose it and strangle him.
Beside her, Lucas calmly communicates the details of the ribbon cutting ceremony and the lunch she is expected to participate in on Thursday.
Meanwhile, around them, mayhem reigns.
For the last twenty minutes or so, Alaine has done her best to cope. It’s becoming clear that sufferance is not one of the virtues she possesses.
She inhales a long, slow breath to try to maintain some semblance of calm. The rows of brake lights become one cloudy, red blur as her eyesight loses sharpness.
It’s been at least a minute since their last lurch. They’ve been at a complete standstill and this suspension in stasis is wearing her nerves thin.
What makes it that much worse is all the noise. Though the windows are raised, the blaring horns and the frequently squawked profanities from motorists and pedestrians alike grate her eardrums.
She would love to roll down the window to yell some sense at the surly New York populace. Yes, it’s a busy city and everyone seems to have somewhere to be and something to do but, how can they not see that their impatience only contributes to the pileup and the racket sets tempers aflare?
Aren’t streetlights supposed to control the flow of traffic? As far as Alaine can see, everyone just seems to be doing whatever they want.
She wants to raise the point. Looking at Lucas beside her and Seth in the driver’s seat is, however, very discouraging. She seems to be the only who has a problem with their current situation.
The entire experience makes public transportation that much more appealing and Alaine is left to wonder why anyone would task themselves with driving in Manhattan – in New York for that matter.
When Lucas invited her to lunch, she’d imagined sitting at a restaurant within the vicinity of her place of employment. Not crossing the Manhattan Bridge. At this rate, she will never make it back to work on time.
“Are you listening to me?” Lucas questions, his voice guiding her through the fog of her waning forbearance.
She blinks herself back into focus and looks at him.
While trying to decide what to do – whether stick with their lunch date or take a rain check – she tries to recall the last thing he said.
“Is it absolutely necessary that I meet them?” Alaine questions.
“I suppose not,” Lucas admits. “They won’t shut up about you. It’s either that or something far more uncomfortable. You’re not obligated,” he assures her. “I can always say you said no.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Alaine scolds. “I won’t have your family thinking that I am a…shrew.”
Lucas chuckles because shrew is not the word he expected her to use.
These little quirks about Alaine, how prim and proper she is, truly makes the idea of sleeping with her fun. Her limitations are a mystery that he would love to solve. Will she be vocal in bed? Or the meek mouse she sometimes appears to be? How far will she let him take her?
He can take her so far.
Because they are not in the right setting for these thoughts, nor his neglected body’s reaction, Lucas tries to refocus his attention.
He’s never had this difficulty controlling himself before. That just makes Alaine all the more intriguing. Once these images of making love to her take hold of his mind; they are not easy to dispense. They linger to torment his flesh.
Alone, he enjoys these wild fantasies, even if at the end the occasional use of his hand leaves him unsatisfied. Here in the back seat of his car, in moving traffic and with her as company; however, there is little he can do, except pray that the surge of lust heating his blood dissipates quickly and Alaine doesn’t take notice.
Maybe, if they get to that juncture in their relationship, she won’t mind a little tryst in the backseat. A man can hope.
Smiling at the hilarity of his own thoughts, Lucas shakes his head heavenward. This girl must have him under some kind of powerful magic.
Usually, at this time of day, he would have still been buried in work. Instead, here he is, enduring this hellish traffic and not in the least bit annoyed by it. All because he wants to spend time with her.
“So you’ll go?” he asks, hoping that the continuing discussion of sitting around a lunch table with his father, stepmother and teenage sister will purge him of these carnal longings.
Decision made, Alaine unclips her seat belt and responds, “it doesn’t seem I have much of a choice. We’re never getting out of this traffic,” she states. “This has been fun, but you can let me out here.”
“What?” Lucas asks in surprise. “Why?”
“Because almost half my lunch hour is gone,” she explains. “And I haven’t been fed yet. Unlike you, I am not my own boss. I have to open the shop.”
When she reaches for the door, Lucas quickly unsnaps his seat belt and vaults across to her side. Leaning his body over her, he covers Alaine’s hand where it is positioned on the door handle with his to keep her from opening it.
Her eyes are wide with her bewilderment as she looks up at him staring down at her. Then those sparkling green and gold gems narrow quizzically while he tries to find something to explain his weird behviour.
“How will you get back?” he asks.
Still stunned and excited by his proximity, Alaine takes a moment to answer. The spark that flared and flamed hotly inside her on Saturday evening reignites and sets her pulse racing.
Her eyes implore Lucas to do more than just tease her with his nearness. She wants him to kiss her. If she was bold enough, she would lean up and close the distance. But alas, she is not.
“The subway,” she finally breathes. “What are you doing?” she asks him softly since he continues to imprison her against the door.
Because he does nothing but stare at her with manic desperation, she grabs the handle again.
“Lucas,” she protests when she opens the door and he pulls it shut.
“I’ll go with you,” he announces suddenly.
“What? No, you won’t,” Alaine replies.
Lucas bubbles with laughter. “How many times have you told me that I am not going to do something that I am going to do?” he asks as he resettles in his seat.
“You are not riding the subway,” Alaine orders. “Are you crazy?” she asks while trying to assess his motive. “Have you ever even ridden the subway?”
“I have. Once,” he states. “When I lived in the UK. I don’t imagine it can be much different than here. You ride the subway and you’re so itty bitty.”
Alaine glowers at him for that comment.
“Do you want to make it back to work or not? Because that is the only way I’m letting you out of this vehicle,” he declares.
Though loathe to involve her cousin, Alaine feels she has no other choice. “Seth,” she calls.
The sound of his name coming from her is so unexpected, it startles him. “What’s up?” he asks while glancing at her through the rearview mirror.
“Could you help me make him see reason?” Alaine demands.
“Seth, Ms. Knight and I are getting off here,” Lucas counters. “You may take the car back to the office if you can figure your way out of this mess.”
“Mr. Bright,” Seth begins to protest.
“Do it,” Lucas orders.
Before either one of them can offer any further argument, he opens his door and steps out into the middle of traffic.
Left with no other choice, Alaine follows suit.
“What. Are. You. Doing?” she asks him with an incredulous burst of laughter. “I was going to suggest a rain check. If you’re taking the subway, put away that watch,” she commands.
Figuring that doing so might set her at ease, Lucas acquiesces. He makes a dramatic show of removing the timepiece and stuffing it into a pocket inside his jacket.
“There,” he tells he now. “Now can we go?”
Shaking her head at him, Alaine does the unthinkable. She reaches for his hand. The action is so bold and unexpected, now Lucas is lost in a stupor. It’s not until he feels her tugging on his hand that he realizes that she is already on the move, trying to direct them through the heavy human traffic. Helplessly, he allows her to drag him along with surprising swiftness.
Together they descend into the stuffy, buzzing hive below ground. At this hour, they’ll be lucky to get a train that isn’t completely packed but Alaine is undeterred.
She stops at the turnstile to fish her metro card out of her bag. After one swipe, she crosses the mechanical gate. On the other side, she turns around, folds her arms and regards Lucas with amusement.
He narrows his eyes at her.
Alaine throws her head back and laughs her gaiety at his predicament. The lyrical sound pulls Lucas’ lips into a smile that he fights to no avail.
“Are you done?” he asks with mock seriousness. “You’re going to inspire a queue.”
Relenting, Alaine hands over the card.
“Not that way,” she announces with glee when he tries a second and third time only to have his efforts rejected.
The buildup of grumbling commuters at his back, causes him to huff his frustration.
“Give it to me,” Alaine tells him.
Expertly, she passes the card through the machine and holds back a chuckle when he makes his way through.
“I’m glad to see you are once again amused at my expense,” Lucas tells her, though he is not in the least bit bothered by it. She has a refreshing spirit that he simply wants to bask in.
Just as stunned as he was the first time she did it, Lucas tightens his hold when Alaine takes his hand to guide him across the platform through the milling throng. The feel of her soft hands controlling him could almost make him forget where he is. Almost.
It’s an uncomfortable and unsanitary location as far as he can see.
In the midst of the anxiously waiting commuters are a few characters who he could easily label as unsavory. He can’t help but be thankful that Alaine had the foresight to caution him about his watch. It’s an even better thing that he'd listened. That alone is enough to cause worry over Alaine having to go through this every day.
There is nothing here that would encourage him to try the subway a second time. Especially not the mixture of odours.
“This is what you endure every day?” he asks pityingly. “It’s so hot and putrid.”
“I told you not to come,” Alaine reminds him, blandly.
It's a comment he chooses not to express his disappointment over. He came to be with her.
After one metal tube rolls in noisily and Alaine makes no attempt to board, Lucas looks at her pleadingly. “How long do we have to wait down here? It’s a furnace, Alaine,” he complains.
His expression shifts to one of horror when she plants her but down onto one of the benches. When she offers him spot beside her, Lucas gives her a horrified look and shakes his head.
"As soon as I procure a decontamination chamber," he informs her. "I feel unclean enough as it is," he complains.
That process keeps up for a while until Lucas growls in frustration. “If we were going to waste time down here, why didn’t we just remain in the car? Above ground?” he complains. “Where the air is actually breathable.”
“It won’t be long,” she tells him. “I only take certain trains.”
“Why?” Lucas asks as he studies the map of the subway. “They all seem to be going in your direction.”
“Yes,” she agrees. “But I avoid the overly crowded ones.”
“It seems I’ll need a list of all the things you don’t do,” he observes. “Look this one doesn’t look too crowded,” he tells her when another train chugs down the track.
Breathing an audible sigh of relief, Lucas follows Alaine to the opened door, stepping aside to allow the few disembarking riders through.
Though he doesn’t question her about it now, he has his suspicions about her hang-ups. Whenever he thinks about them, his blood curdles. It’s because of those suspicions that he allows her the corner seat near the door and reluctantly settles in the one right beside her after ensuring that it isn't dirty.
If he has anything to say about it, this will be the last time she uses public transportation.
“What do you suppose they will do if I kiss you?” Lucas tells her after they ride along in silence for a few minutes.
Confused by his question, Alaine responds, “What?”
“There’s a woman there pretending to be taking selfies, but she forgot to turn off her flash,” he states. “Most of them are watching but pretending they’re not. Do you think they’ll break into a frenzy? And you did not kiss me back, Alaine. You promised.”
Too taken aback to answer, she pats his hand where it’s resting on his thigh.
“Next time,” he whispers.
When they make it back to the flower shop, her lunch hour is gone. Alaine knows that Mona will not complain if she takes the extra time. As a matter of fact, for Lucas, Mona would likely approve since it involves Alaine ’living a little’ as she called it.
On principle, Alaine can’t bring herself to do it. She would never abuse their relationship that way.
Now that they’re here, she has no idea what Lucas intends to do. Does he plan on passing the afternoon here with her? She’s not opposed to it. As a matter of fact, the concept of spending more time with him is thrilling.
“I’ll be in in a bit,” he tells her as she unlocks the door.
Nodding, she tries to figure out what he is up to but leaves him on the sidewalk to enter to shop. From her spot behind the counter, she observes Lucas’ three short phone calls. Afraid that he might think that she’s been staring at him all the while, she quickly averts her eyes and ducks her head to hide her blush when he slips the phone in his pocket and opens the door.
“I ordered you lunch,” he explains as he walks up to her. “It should be here soon.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Alaine tells him. “I could have gotten something up the street.”
“I made you miss lunch,” he answers.
“That’s very sweet and thoughtful of you,” Alaine gushes. “I’m glad you came,” she offers.
Heartened by her confession, Lucas smiles. “Me too," he tells her. "I only wish I could stay longer.”
“You’re not having lunch with me?” Alaine questions, her disappointment apparent.
“I want to,” is his quick but honest reply. “I’m actually overdue at office. I called a car. Maybe after work?" he suggests. "Seth said you usually get off at five?”
“Yes,” Alaine confirms. “A taxi? Is that safe for you? Taking a car without your bodyguard? ”
“First, Seth is not the only security in my employ,” he says. “And in certain situations, I work with a security company, which I will be using today. Second, I will definitely be tied up at five. May I call you? We can have dinner or…something? If you want.”
“Okay,” she agrees.
Even if it is impossible to forget that he has a date with her, Lucas reaches for his phone to set a reminder to call her five.
Not very long after that, his driver for the afternoon calls to announce that he is outside the building as two long pairs of legs show up to block the door.
Regret engulfs Lucas. When he looks at Alaine the feeling escapes in a sigh. He really wants to stay. Pushing off the counter where he's been leaning to converse with her, offers a wry smile.
“Time to go?” Alaine asks to keep talking to him.
“I’ll call you, Alaine,” he promises while nodding his reply. “At five.”
“Okay,” she agrees softly.
Changing his mind after turning away from her, Lucas walks nervously back to counter. The little ache in Alaine’s chest is overrun by excitement. Before he voices his request, she already knows, so eagerly nods her head.
Lucas smiles and leans across the glass to kiss her softly. This time he is not disappointed. Although not expertly, Alaine did at least try to kiss him back this time.
"Thank you," he tells her.
As he leaves with invigorated steps, he can’t help but wonder when their next lesson will be.
Alaine trudges through the half of the heavy burger that she’d had to slice on account of its size and the large container of fries. When Lucas ordered for her, he must not have taken her stature into consideration.
Unable to eat anymore and thinking that her sister and niece wouldn't mind sampling the pricy meal, she stuffs the container back into the bag it came.
Thoughts of these two filter easily into her mind these days and no longer solely out of worry. When Delah first showed up, Alaine had no idea what she was going to do. There was no way she could have turned her sister away, but that night, all Alaine had initially seen was a predicament.
Now she is just thankful to be with the two of them. Other than that she is also happy because their presence is what led Lucas her way.
Meeting his family is going to be intimidating. His posh talk and her reaction to him aside, Lucas is actually quite down to earth. The problem is that if she finds it so difficult dealing with him when they’re alone, how will she fair when they’re among his people? She has no idea who they are nor how they will respond to her. Essentially, by their standards, she is a nobody. To that, she worries her bottom lip.
Bethany would probably have no qualms about googling them. Delah would probably advise the same. It’s probably the smart thing to do. Had Alaine been meeting the family of a regular Joe, like Angus, she doubts their lives would be splayed over the internet for the whole world to see.
Giving in to that temptation feels like a gross invasion into their privacy so she refrains.
Poor Angus, she thinks as she remembers their earlier encounter. He really is a nice and decent person. If she ignores his little outburst this afternoon, he is very mannerly and respectful. That’s how she’s always known him. He probably just needs to find someone who returns his interest.
Though she’s never played matchmaker before, Alaine considers that if her friend Bethany is single, maybe she wouldn’t mind meeting a kind delivery man.