Bargains and Birthday Wishes
Unfortunately, it seems it will be only this long chapter tonight. I'm not sure what you guys think but I think it's sweet. Please be patient with me while I feel my way around as a new author.
With a plan in mind – one that Lucas isn’t privy to...yet – and her nervousness about it barely contained beneath the surface, Alaine walks through the automatic doors at the entrance of the hospital.
Lucas follows behind her clad in off-brand clothes to help conceal his identity. A baseball cap would have served him well but the sore on his forehead would not permit it. To help cover the wound and further try to hide who he is, he’s let his hair hang over his brow and placed dark sunglasses over his face.
Alaine glances back at him over her shoulder and falters in her steps. Her heart rate skyrockets. What she is about to do is probably a terrible idea but after much pleading, Lucas won’t do it himself. So she has no choice but to force his hand.
His condition doesn’t appear to have worsened. But he doesn’t seem improved either. That has her worried.
Unsure of how Lucas will react and whether she should even be doing this, she walks up to the counter and solicits the attention of the three women dressed in scrubs sitting behind the desk.
“This isn’t the burn unit,” Lucas complains when he pulls up beside her. “Hi,” he says absently to the nurses. “What are we doing here?” he asks Alaine. “I thought we were seeing your friend.”
Ignoring him, Alaine gives her attention to one of the women. “A few hours ago, my friend was hit by a bicycle,” she starts to explain.
Lucas’ head snaps in her direction, his eyes as wide as saucers behind the dark lenses “What are doing, Alaine?” he hisses in a harsh whisper.
“You’re getting checked out,” she informs him calmly, though her heart his flailing against her ribs. Dismissing his complaint, she turns to the nurse again.
“He has headaches and…”
Before she can finish her statement, Lucas grasps her by the upper arm. “Excuse us,” he directs to the nurse then drags Alaine to a discreet corner.
“What is this?” Lucas demands. “What do you think you’re doing? This isn’t how I operate. I told you, no hospitals” he says, shaking his head at her. Immediately, he regrets the action as the room starts to spin.
“I’m sorry,” Alaine tells him.
She raises a hand to palm his cheek and looks up at him. “You are not okay, Lucas,” Alaine tells him with earnestness. “You need to see a doctor and conveniently, we are at an institution teeming with health practitioners.”
“If I need to see a doctor, I will do so privately,” Lucas counters. “I can’t believe you would try to trick me,” he starts to say but pauses when Alaine frowns.
“I wasn’t trying to trick you,” she interrupts. “I just didn’t know how else to convince you that you need help. Please?” she requests. “I’m worried. Can you do this? For me?”
One look into those doe eyes and Lucas feels his resistance melting and his anger fading, rapidly. He huffs a sigh and curses his weakness when it comes to this woman.
“Fine,” he breathes.
Feeling triumphant, Alaine gives him a radiant smile. His hand shoots out to stop her when she starts to leave him to head back to the reception area.
“Not so fast,” Lucas states.
Regarding him with increased worry, Alaine asks, “what is it?”
He cocks his head to the side and looks down at her, his perusal making her even more nervous.
“I want something in return,” he tells her.
“What?” Alaine asks, incredulously. “You can’t be serious. We’re doing this for your health.”
No,” Lucas corrects. “I’m doing this for you.”
At a loss for words, Alaine scoffs her reply and crosses her arms over her chest.
“So it’s only fair that you do something for me in return,” Lucas explains.
This time, she laughs. “You’re obviously joking,” she replies.
Realizing from his silence that he is indeed very serious, Alaine throws down her hands in surrender.
Okay,” she agrees. “What do you want?”
Lucas continues to regard her, pensively.
The things that come to mind are completely inappropriate to put into words and not just because of where they are. While one day, they may arrive at such a point in their relationship – a place where she is comfortable bargaining her body to him – they are nowhere close to that at the moment. However, he can be patient and collect his payment at a later date.
Reaching out, Lucas takes a lock of her hair between his thumb and forefinger. As he rubs the silken strands, he steps closer, so their bodies are almost touching.
Alaine swallows and the air in her lungs get stuck there.
Lucas nips at his bottom lip and looks down at her behind his dark lenses. Somehow Alaine can feel the carnal promises of all kinds of pleasure in those gray eyes even if she can’t see them.
“I haven’t decided as yet,” Lucas answers, his voice low and sexy. “But believe me,” he leans down to whisper against her ear. “You owe me, baby.”
Shell-shocked, Alaine gapes after him. He leaves her standing there to recover her senses and walks casually back to the counter. Like he hadn’t just bargained with her. There is no denying the sexual connotation behind his words. Sex for a doctor’s visit. And for his own good!
Yet, Alaine finds herself smiling, with no argument on her tongue.
She takes a few more seconds to see herself fully composed.
Every now and again, Lucas glances back at her, a teasing smile that he does his best to control, pulling at his lips.
Every time he does it, Alaine’s face heats up. Other parts of her do as well. This is one sexy man. A simple look from him, one whispered promise and her body is manipulated into a sex-crazed frenzy.
What will happen when they go all the way?
Needing more time to settle herself, Alaine dallies where she is a little longer and watches as his the pen in his hand flies over the form the nurse handed him, essentially sealing her fate to him and whatever he is planning.
When she feels restored, she walks back to meet him just as the nurse asks, “Next of Kin?”
Pensively, Lucas glances from the paper to Alaine when she stops next to him.
“Alaine Knight,” he informs the nurse.
Shocked once more, Alaine’s eyes fly to his smiling eyes.
“I accept,” she tells him. “Does that mean my debt is cleared?”
Lucas snorts. “Absolutely not, Ms. Knight,” he tells her. “Not by a long shot.”
“You two are cute,” the nurse says with a little chuckle as she comes around the counter. “Now, Mr. Bright,” she calls while looking over the form. “Why don’t you come with me?”
“Can she come too?” Lucas asks, indicating to Alaine.
“Sure,” she replies.
Stopping before an examination room, she pushes the door open and says, “take a seat and someone will be with you soon.”
That word soon grates on Lucas’ nerves. He’s heard it before. Right at his hospital, in fact, and just last night. It had left him sitting in a waiting room for over an hour.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he complains as he eases himself up to sit on the bed.
Alaine comes to stand beside him. She props her hip against the cold metal railing and crosses her legs at her ankles and her arms over her chest. Placing a hand on his thigh, she stares at Lucas with a tender look in her eyes.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” she tells him. “And despite your ridiculous deal, thank you for doing it.”
Lucas smiles and huffs a breath. Unable to stop himself, he leans forward with the intention of kissing Alaine. It’s too bad that right at the moment, the door pushes open and a doctor in a white lab coat walks in.
“Lucas Bright,” the graying man announces, his eyes trained on Lucas’ chart. “Sorry to interrupt,” he adds when the two of them jump apart. “The Lucas Bright?” he asks. “You know, your technology runs my home and my car. My wife and kids don’t know how to function without it.”
No matter how many times he hears those words, Lucas still feels a sense of pride whenever someone compliments him on his achievements.
“Thanks,” he responds with a sheepish smile.
“So, hit by a bicycle,” the doctor states. “Ouch. Let’s take a look at you.”
The doctor flashes a penlight in Lucas’ eyes. “Mhmm,” he hums to himself.
“I told her, I’m fine,” Lucas says as he squints against the intrusive brightness of the little flashlight.
“Lucky for us men,” the doctor answers. “We have women to tell us when we’re not. A head injury is not something to be taken lightly,” he states while observing the wound on Lucas’ forehead. “And getting hit by a bicycle can be fatal,” he informs them.
“So?” Alaine asks anxiously. “Is he okay?”
“He has a concussion,” the doctor announces.
“See?” Lucas interjects. “I told you, I’m fine.”
“Except you’re not,” the doctor cuts in. “I’m going to order a few tests. Other than your wrist, are you experiencing any other pain?”
“My hip,” Lucas answers with a shrug. “My side.”
“Alright, lie back,” the doctor orders.
Much later, all the tests reveal that he has no recent broken bones, the wound on his head is superficial and his concussion is mild. For all of those things, Lucas is grateful. But Alaine doesn’t understand his sudden sullen mood.
She trails behind him as they walk to the elevators. Since receiving the results of his tests, Lucas has been silent. It’s scary because, at his behest, she wasn’t allowed into the room to discuss the doctor’s findings.
He’d known exactly what the doctor would uncover and he couldn’t let Alaine hear it.
All she had been told, after they exited the doctor’s office, was that he is fine and should go home to rest. The doctor had patted Lucas’ upper arm as if he was offering comfort after discovering something terrible. A heavy rock had sunk to the bottom of Alaine’s stomach as she stood in the hallway waiting for either one of them to tell her something.
That’s all Lucas had said.
However, he doesn’t seem fine.
“What did the doctor say?” she asks as the elevator close.
Lucas runs his hand over the back of his head and pulls in a lungful of air.
“You’ve had a lot of broken bones,” the doctor had joked as he looked at Lucas’ x-rays.
That’s why he doesn’t go to hospitals. This is why he uses only one private doctor. For fear that the secrets of his past will come to light.
“You must have been an active kid,” the doctor had continued absently until he looked up from the images in his hand and into the cold, stark truth written on Lucas’ face. A truth that, once faced with the memories of his past, cannot stay hidden.
“I would appreciate it if this stays between us,” Lucas ordered, his jaws clenched tight. “I don’t want to tell you what happens if anyone finds out about this,” he’d threatened.
Accordingly, the doctor fed the x-rays into a shredder.
“He said I’ll be fine,” Lucas answers Alaine once his remembrance releases him.
Only, she’s not convinced.
The elevator takes them to the burn center and her spirit plummets further. Since last night, she has no idea what happened to Mona. So engrossed she’s been in her own issues, thoughts of Mona’s well-being had been relegated to the sidelines.
After a quick rapport with the nurses at the reception station, Lucas walks down the quiet, white hall with Alaine.
“Come with me?” Alaine requests while she stands outside of Mona’s hospital room. “Please?”
She glances up at Lucas standing beside her. He obviously has his own battle dealing with. She can see it in his eyes. She shouldn’t burden him with hers. But, she can’t do this alone.
This man is the only other person, besides woman lying injured behind the door in front of her, who she knows she can depend on. Now, more than ever, she needs his support.
The word no never crosses Lucas’ mind. One look into Alaine’s tear-filled eyes is all it takes for him to submit. He is learning very quickly, that it’s difficult to deny her anything. He nods his agreement and slips his hand in hers as she pushes the door open.
At the entrance of the room, Alaine takes a deep steadying breath.
Almost dying, learning that the fire was set and her thing with Lucas has her on an emotional roller coaster. Her tears flow so often and so easily and Mona’s pale and prone form lying in the hospital bed is too much to bear.
Her arms, lying over the pale blue sheets, are wrapped in white gauze from her fingers up to her elbows to cover the burns. The many tubes hooking her up to complex machines, beeping and whirring – the only real signs that she still has life in her body are frightening.
Her name leaves Alaine’s lips painfully. “I’m so sorry,” her voice trembles.
Lucas walks with her to stand near the bed and places a comforting hand on her shoulder. A sob rips from Alaine’s throat. To quiet it, she turns her head to Lucas’ chest and buries her face in his shirt.
Forgetting his own woes, Lucas gathers her closer. His fingers tangle with the hair at the back of Alaine’s head as he holds her there against his body. He has no idea what to say to offer her comfort, so he places a soft kiss atop her head. Despite the sharp stab of pain in his wrist, he tightens his arm around her.
“Who would do this?” Alaine hiccups between sobs. “Why would anybody do this?”
“I don’t know,” Lucas whispers and turns his eye to the comatose woman on the bed. “But I’m here to help. Whatever you need. Whatever she needs. I’ll do it, okay?” he promises. “Shhhh, baby,” he croons when Alaine’s sobbing increase.
For a long while, they stay that way, with Alaine in his arms, pressed against his chest, both content to let it happen.
With her there, Lucas lets go of his worries for a while. How can he focus on anything else when she needs him?
“How long have you worked at the flower shop, Ms. Knight?”
Before answering the fire officer sitting across from her in Lucas’ living area, Alaine swallows down her anxieties. The answer is one she knows off the top of her head. However, she doesn’t want to say anything that would impede their investigation. Whatever she says has to be accurate to help Mona. So she takes her time.
Beside her, Lucas reaches out to take her hand resting on the sofa between them. The little encouraging squeeze he gives her fingers prompts the answer out of her.
“Four years?” she answers.
The officers continue with their routine questions. They keep back-tracking for reasons Alaine cannot understand. It’s no surprise when she begins to feel that familiar dull throb at the back of her eyes, head and near her temples. A migraine. And she doesn’t have her medication with her.
Sensing her exhaustion, Lucas grazes his thumb soothingly over the back of Alaine’s hand.
“Is there anything else?” he asks the officers. “It was a long night,” he explains.
“I think we have all we need for now,” one man says. “But if you remember anything else, please give us a call,” he directs to Alaine.
“I’ll see you all out,” Lucas states.
When they rise to leave, he whispers to Alaine, “You should go lie down. Preferably in my bed,” he adds. “And we’ll be even.”
He winks and she blushes. Obediently, Alaine does as he wishes.
“There’s one more thing she forgot to mention,” Lucas says to the officers as he walks with them to the elevator. “She said somebody carried her out of the building.”
“Yeah,” one officer tells him. “A guy named Angus Maloney. Said he’s the delivery guy and he was in the area. We will look into this Harlan Jackson. Take care, Mr. Bright. You and your lady.”
Liking the sound of the term, Lucas smiles and turns away from the closing elevator doors to jog his way across the room and up the stairs.
When he gets to his bedroom, Alaine is sitting in the middle of his bed with her legs crisscrossed under her. She makes such a pretty picture there. Lucas pauses at the door, leans against the wall just to admire her beauty.
She looks at him with that perfect shade of pink tinged in her cheeks and a smile on her full lips.
Pushing off the wall, Lucas says, “so, I have some information for you,” he says as he walks to take a seat beside her. “Your delivery guy saved you.”
Surprised by the news, Alaine asks, “Angus?”
“That’s what they said,” he confirms with a sigh. “Do you like Angus?” he asks softly. “Like more than a friend?” he presses and looks down at his hands. “Did you before I came along?”
“No,” Alaine answers urgently. “Angus and I are friends that’s all.”
“Good,” Lucas responds with a relieved smile. He’s not sure what he would have done or felt if she’d answered yes. “But I am glad he was there to save your life. Look, I know that you’re overwhelmed,” he rushes to say in order to get off the subject. “So if you can’t make the ribbon cutting on Thursday, it’s fine. I’m a considerate employer.”
“Well, that’s very generous of you,” Alaine tells him. “I won’t let you down. You’ve been there for me and I will be there for you. I promise.”
Staring at her and feeling the effects of her words warming him from the inside out, Lucas shakes himself out of the compulsion to seal her promise with a kiss.
“Now,” he tells her. “How about we do something to take your mind off fires and other things?”
“The doctor said you have to rest and that’s exactly what you’re going to do,” Alaine orders.
A protest forms on Lucas’ lips. Thinking better of it, he says “okay, I will. If you stay with me.”
He lies back against his pillow and feels instantly better. With his eyes closed, Lucas pats the spot beside him. Alaine scowls and nibbles her bottom lip in contemplation.
On a huff, she relents and Lucas smiles as he feels her crawling up the large bed to lie beside him.
Pulling his phone from his pocket, he uses an app to unveil a large television ensconced in a slot within the plain gray walls.
“Wow,” Alaine states. “That is ridiculous.”
“Judgey,” Lucas accuses to the obvious jab about his extravagant living. “I’m a young man with too much money and not enough love, he states. "Maybe I’m compensating.”
Pondering his response, Alaine looks at him to gauge the seriousness in his words. Casually, Lucas flips through the channel and pretends that he isn’t under scrutiny.
“How old are you anyway?” Alaine asks.
“You’ve never googled me?” Lucas questions, his hand placed dramatically over his heart. “I’m offended.”
“I was respecting your privacy,” Alaine explains. “I know the information is out there but it feels wrong to invade.”
“Hmmm,” Lucas says thoughtfully. “Thanks?”
Picking up her phone she announces, “I am going to do it now,” before typing his name into the search engine. “Your birthday was Valentines’ Day?” she exclaims. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s just another day,” he answers with a shrug.
“I wonder what the birthday of rich kid is like,” Alaine muses. “You're twenty-six years old and six feet even,” she notes.
“It’s not all that you might think it is,” Lucas informs her. “And I’m pretty sure it’s six feet and a few millimeters,” he responds.
Ready to retire the topic of his childhood, he asks, “what are we watching? When is your birthday?”
“I’ll be twenty-two on December 11th,” Alaine tells him.
Rolling onto her side, she places a hand on Lucas’ cheek to draw his attention away from the widescreen. He follows her action, turning his cheek into the pillow.
“Why didn’t you tell me your birthday was Valentines’ Day?” Alaine asks.
Absently, she sweeps her fingers through his thick locks and Lucas leans in to enjoy the unfettered display of affection.
“It’s not something I celebrate,” he explains. “Neither is Valentine’s Day.”
“But you were so sweet,” Alaine reminds him.
He smiles and says, “I was, wasn’t I?”
Without thinking it through and before she can lose her nerve, Alaine leans up to place a tender kiss on his lips.
Surprised by it, Lucas’ breath catches in his throat. But he will never miss out on the opportunity to have Alaine’s kisses. Leaning in to give her permission to explore his mouth with her teeth and tongue, he relinquishes the lead to her as currents of electricity travel from his lips to charge the rest of his body.
The kiss is a slow sensual dance – a meeting of lips that steals his breath and heart. He touches her face softly, glorying in the tenderness until he feels the compulsion to deepen it slightly.
Hearing Alaine's sigh is everything. Lucas smiles against her lips.
“Happy birthday, Lucas,” she whispers to him.
Their eyes lock in a moment of intensity that has him at a loss for words.
“Thank you, Alaine,” he says finally. “I hope you are with me for Christmas and New Year’s if that’s the way you plan on celebrating them.”
She hits him playfully.
“Independence and Easter too,” he adds.
Sleep eventually claims Alaine. Not Lucas. He watches her where she is, tucked against his side with that feeling expanding in his chest.
Damn! He thinks. Just what is she doing to him?