I'm posting this one for the time being. As usual, those of you who don't mind, please leave a comment below to let me know what you think and thank you in advance for doing so.
In front of the full-length mirror resting against the wall in her small bedroom, Alaine makes an assessment of her attire.
She smooths her hands down the front of the knee-length, black skirt, ironing out imaginary wrinkles, then turns to the side to give her profile a quick study.
Delah’s sudden presence in the doorway draws her attention.
“What do you think?” Alaine asks.
Delah folds her arms across her chest, leans against the door frame and glares at Alaine with disapproval.
“Is there a new Men in Black movie coming soon?” she teases. “Are you auditioning for a role?”
Scowling at her reflection, Alaine replies, “What do you mean? He said to wear a suit.”
“You look like you’re joining the secret service,” Delah chides.
She walks into the room to stand behind her younger sister. Fitting her hands beneath the collar of the black jacket, she begins to tug it off Alaine’s shoulders.
“By suit, I imagine he means business attire,” Delah tells her. “Not pallbearer.”
Finding the analogies funny, Alaine throws her head back with laughter. “It can’t be that bad,” she says but allows Delah to pull the sleeves down her arms anyway.
“It’s boring,” Delah informs her as she tosses the jacket onto the bed. “And ballet flats!” she exclaims after examining Alaine's choice of footwear. “Seriously? You are beautiful,” she adds. “You have dynamite curves; use them. A hot billionaire is interested in you as more than whatever you all are...”
Perceiving the denial that Alaine is about to spew, Delah silences her with her raised palm.
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” she declares. “I’ve seen the way you look at him. I’ve also seen the way he treats you,” she says. “This is a good thing, Ali. So keep the man interested.”
In response to her sister’s observations, Alaine makes a face at the mirror. Delah might be dead on, however.
It's true that the circumstances which brought her to Lucas’ apartment were terrible but the two nights she spent there with him had been something special. He’d been so sweet and attentive at a time when she needed it.
As usual, recalling her near demise makes her shudder. It’s been almost seventy-two hours, but whenever the memory surfaces, it’s almost like being back inside Mona’s little flower shop with the flames reaching for her.
Alaine sighs at the thought of her friend who is still clinging to life in the hospital.
Guilt pummels her whenever she thinks of him.
After selfishly denying his request for a date, he’d risked his life to save hers. She has to find him, to say thank you. But how? How can she do that when he feels that way about her and she doesn’t return those feelings?
It’s not surprising that her mind returns to Lucas and his touch, his kisses, his thoughtfulness, his body, the security in his gentle hold.
Alaine tries to shake herself out of those musings, but once her mind cruises on to Lucas lane, it’s hard to find a detour.
He isn’t the relationship kind, he’s no romantic hero, he’s said. Declarations she reminds herself of constantly.
But these claims strongly contradict the man he’s shown her and she is having a difficult time convincing herself to heed the caution when he is such a fine man and a generous soul.
Trying to steer her mind back to the task at hand – undressing before she is literally stripped by her meddling older sister – Alaine shakes her head as if she can shake thoughts of Lucas that way.
She swats at Delah’s hands to halt her efforts of undoing the button and zipper at the back of her skirt.
Still, her interest in Lucas won’t wane.
Casual relationships are a thing nowadays, she tells herself. If that is all he can give her, she can do that. Can’t she? But how could she have kissed someone she has no feelings for? How did she let him do the things that he’d done to her?
That’s when it dawns on Alaine.
Oh my God! she thinks, her eyes widening.
She has feelings for Lucas.
Briefly, Alaine entertains the idea of asking her sister’s advice. Delah often seems wise in the ways of relationships. Except when it comes to her own it would seem.
To this day, she is yet to file a report against her ex with the police like Alaine suggested, despite the recent scare.
Yes, it turned out that Harlan wasn’t the culprit but that is beside the point. What’s stopping him from coming after her?
Alaine scraps the idea of seeking her sister's wisdom.
Just the fact that Lucas is indeed ‘hot’ as Delah so aptly describes him and he is a billionaire, her sister will likely advise her to go all in.
“…And I love the way he makes time for you,” Delah continues gushing as she flits across to the closet. “I can’t imagine managing his empire gives him the freedom to do much else,” she chirps on as she buries her head among Alaine’s things hanging in the armoire.
Although Alaine rolls her eyes, the more Delah continues to testify of Lucas’ winning personality, the more hope continues to bloom in her chest.
It also doesn’t matter that she tries to tell herself that pursuing anything with him will likely end in disaster.
“I’ll just keep a safe distance,” she mutters softly.
“I have the perfect dress in mind,” Delah announces, her voice muffled by fabric.
Still standing in front of the mirror, but this time stripped down to her underwear, Alaine scoffs. Granted, she is not an expert in fashion but the clothes she chose really can't be that bad.
After rummaging through Alaine’s things, Delah pulls the desired dress from the rack and bends down to retrieve a pair of pointed-toe heels.
“Got it,” she sings.
Presenting the ensemble to Alaine, she says, “this, with these,” while she smiles excitedly.
“You know I can’t wear heels,” Alaine reminds her.
“He’ll carry you again,” Delah posits. “Maybe you’ll finally get that kiss right.”
To hide from her sister’s investigative eyes and to conceal her blush, Alaine turns away from Delah.
The open-mouth gasp that fills the air tells her that she didn’t do so quickly enough. Intent on escaping the barrage of invasive questions she knows is coming, Alaine bolts from the bedroom.
Delah’s long legs carry her swiftly out the door. By the time Alaine makes it to the bathroom and tries to push the door close, she wedges her foot into the little crack.
Pushing her way inside the small space, she demands, “spill. Every detail.”
“Okay he’s kissed me and I’ve kissed him,” Alaine admits, hoping that her explanation will prompt an end to the discussion.
“More than once? Open-mouthed? Is he good?” Delah questions quickly.
“Delah!” Alaine protests.
“What?” Delah responds. “That’s the type of thing siblings are supposed to share,” she reasons.
Feeling her excitement bubbling over, probably the way a teenage girl’s would, Alaine relents but bites back a happy squeal.
“He’s so good at it,” she admits dreamily as her mind ships her back to Lucas’ living room sofa.
Ignorant of the rapturous look she wears, and the cloud of lust hooding her eyes, Alaine revels in her reminiscence.
Delah’s jaws drop again. “Good at what?” she squeaks.
Careful to keep her voice lowered so her daughter doesn’t overhear their conversation, she hisses, “Oh my God, Ali. You did it!”
“Did what?” Alaine questions.
Delah gives her a suggestive look.
“I have not!” Alaine declares and palms her flaming cheeks. “Not exactly,” she amends. “I don’t think. We haven’t gone all the way,” she concludes.
And maybe after today, her cheeks will forever be stained crimson.
Communication between Delah and her is much easier after almost two weeks together. The problem is, her sister is now too idle and vested in her non-existent love life with Lucas.
“Can I get dressed please?” Alaine asks. “I don’t want to be late.”
“Fine,” Delah relents. “But this,” she says while gesturing between the two of them. “Isn’t over.”Not long after her ensemble is complete, a knock raps on the front door of her apartment. Assuming it can be no one else but Lucas, Alaine’s heart skips a few beats. She rushes forward to answer it but her excitement plummets when she comes head to chest with Seth.
Unable to keep the disappointment from her eyes and the irritation from her voice, she asks, “where’s Lucas?”
“Good morning to you too,” he answers. “Mr. Bright sent me to pick you up and asked that I convey his deepest regrets that he cannot be here to collect you this morning,” he says dully. “Did I get that right?”
Alaine can’t help her little snicker. “Sounds like him,” she admits.
“Whatever,” Seth says. “You look good, Alaine,” he adds. “But take those damn shoes off before you break your neck on the stairs.”
Instead of following the sage advice, as Seth moves away from the door, she places a hesitant hand on his shoulder for support.
Surprised, yet pleased, he turns back to look at her before they descend to the exit.
Seth holds the door open for Alaine and together they step into the bright morning.
She sinks into Lucas’ preferred seat behind the driver after Seth opens the passenger side door. Every breath fills her with his essence, an indication that not long ago, Lucas was here.
Alaine feels wrapped in him. The thought of him lingering over her skin is arousing – a delicious and now familiar sensation that she no longer has the will to fight.
They pull away from the curb and before long, without Lucas’ company and chatter, the drive becomes too quiet.
For a while, Alaine keeps the urge to text him on a short leash. Lucas could be busy, hence the reason he isn't here this morning. But the yearning inside her soon turns overwhelming.
It’s a strange sensation. Possibly this is what missing someone feels like.
Trying to pinpoint another time when she felt that way proves fruitless.
Maybe after her move to New York, she had a general feeling akin to this. It was more a longing for the familiar spurred on by being in a strange land. Nothing in her memory comes close to this sweet ache.
The wait to see Lucas, to hear his voice and whatever else he might be willing to give to her seems impossible. Running out of patience, Alaine settles for the next best thing.
Alaine: Where are you?
As soon as his phone vibrates inside his Jacket pocket, Lucas yanks it out. His hope that this notification is from a particular girl had him forgetting all about his sore wrist. Smothering the oath on his tongue, he grimaces and squints at the screen in the bright sunlight. An uncontrollable smile takes over his face.
Lucas: Missing me?
Lucas: I am sorry I could not make it this morning. Already on site. Where are you?
Alaine: En route. Missing me?
Lucas: Severely. I can’t wait to see you.
Alaine’s smile is so wide her cheeks hurt. Her heart does a funny little dance in her chest. She rolls her eyes at herself but cannot subdue the giddiness that comes with knowing that Lucas wants to see her as much as she wants to see him.
After almost an hour in the back seat, Seth pulls onto a field at the front of a newly constructed building.
When Lucas sees the dark SUV, his heart starts drumming. Since Alaine left his apartment very early this morning to go back to hers in order to get ready, he’s done little else but think of her.
It had pained him to see her go. An emptiness settled in his apartment and took up residence inside him since the elevator’s doors closed her off to him. It’s only magnified since then.
What makes it worse is, there’s no telling if or when she will want to return.
By now this thudding in his chest is customary and he no longer frowns at the still foreign stirrings, thoughts of Alaine and seeing her create. They’re actually an enjoyment now – a world away from emotions he’s grown used to contending with.
He watches as Alaine steps out of the SUV with a pair of large sunglasses fitted over her loose hair to keep the strands out of her face. She smooths her hand nervously down the front of her long sleeve, burgundy pencil dress.
It’s still amazing how stunning she is – how beautiful she looks – whether covered in ash, wearing just his t-shirt or in form-fitting clothing.
Everything around him fades into the background as Lucas watches her.
“Is that the girl?” he vaguely hears his younger brother ask. “She’s even hotter in person,” he comments.
Lucas is too distracted to respond. He ambles down the makeshift stairs attached to the recently erected stage with one goal.
“I’m coming with you,” Carter announces.
Dion sticks out his hand to stop him. “I don’t think so,” he says.
Lucas is long gone so he doesn’t hear the little scuffle that ensues between his siblings.
He smiles, surreptitiously stalking Alaine’s steps as she follows Seth to the main sitting area.
Weaving his way through the small crowd, he keeps himself clear of her line of sight until he comes to stands behind her.
Pressing his body close to hers – so close he feels the little tremor run through Alaine’s body – he whispers into the crook of her neck. “Looking for me?” he asks before taking the chance of placing a quick kiss just below her ear.
Another shiver runs through Alaine. She whirls around, her glowing smile Lucas’ reward.
His heart seems to stop for a full three seconds before slamming against his ribs.
The first thing she does is reach up and brush his hair aside to examine the cut on his forehead.
Lucas doesn’t think to stop her.
An unmistakable bond exists between them now. They both feel it. Though Alaine hadn’t spent the last two nights warming his body and bed, they were the most fulfilling hours of his life.
Like a lost pet, just come home, Lucas enjoys her show of affection.
“That looks much better,” Alaine says. “What about your other injuries? You took off your brace,” she scolds in one breath.
Taking her hand his, Lucas lets his lips graze over the soft skin on the back of her hand. Pleased with her flush, he releases his hold and flexes his wrist minimally to soothe her worry.
“It’s not bad,” he explains. “It’s only for a few moments, Ali,” he adds when she gives him a stern look. “You can put it on for me as soon as we’re finished here. But, an introduction with my family will have to wait since we are close to commencement. You look really beautiful,” he comments.
“I’m nervous,” Alaine admits. “And thank you. You are handsome, as ever.”
“As ever?” Lucas questions, his eyes glinting with playfulness. “Does that mean you thought I was handsome three years ago?”
Alaine giggles but doesn’t satisfy his curiosity.
When his phone buzzes in his pocket, Lucas lets out a little regretful moan.
“I’m being summoned,” he states.
Leaning down again, this time he places a kiss on Alaine’s cheek, very close to her full, glossy lips.
It’s a real pity they’re in public.
As he walks away, Alaine hears the shrill ring from the phone in her purse. Had it been on vibrate she would have ignored it. But the loud, incessant tone draws too much attention her way.
She reaches for the device and her eyes search out Lucas when she sees his name on her screen.
Lucas: That wasn’t the kiss I wanted to give you, baby.
Alaine: What kind did you want to give?
Lucas: The kind that leads to my hand between your legs.
Alaine blushes and secrets the phone away lest someone glances over her shoulder to read the content of her text. She clears her throat and looks around to ensure that no one notices how flustered she is.
Her eyes land in those of a dark-skinned man who tips his head in her direction and gives her a smile. Unsure if the gesture is directed at her, Alaine looks around again.
No one else is paying him any mind, so his attention must be aimed at her.
Instead of responding, she frowns at the stranger.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen,” a voice announces over the speakers. “If everyone could just take their seats. We are ready to begin.”