I don't know about you guys but I simply love Lucas.
Lucas has a way of catching Alaine off guard. To be fair, when he first mentioned the ribbon-cutting ceremony he had suggested that she learn the reason for it. But that was before the fire – before she’d almost died. No one can blame her if her priorities have shifted since then.
There’s no way she could have guessed that he is the one responsible for this entire event. So she looks at him where he is sitting on the stage in awe.
Once the preliminary welcome is complete, Lucas crosses the stage to light applause. He settles behind the podium prepared to address the crowd. Before he does, he searches for the exact spot where he arranged for Alaine to be seated. His eyes land on her immediately and a little smile pulls his lips when he sees her answering blush. Absently, his hand moves to cover the spot over his trembling heart.
Remembering where he is, Lucas breaks free of her hypnotic gaze to greet his small audience.
Whatever he says as an introduction makes everyone laugh.
All except Alaine.
This little event sums up everything she already knows about Lucas – that he is a good man. It makes it that much harder to fight her developing feelings for him.
His charity constructed an entire state of the art shelter and recreation facility for abused women and children.
Alaine feels her heart swell with warmth and pride. Tears well in her eyes while he delivers his concise speech. As he concludes, she joins the rest of the group in a standing ovation.
Apart from her mind and heart warring between each other to decide on what she should do about her feelings for Lucas, it becomes very difficult for her to concentrate on the rest of the ceremony.
From where he is seated on the stage, Lucas keeps throwing these little playful, flirtatious glances her way like he isn’t being observed by the media. It makes Alaine nervous. He even tosses in a wink when she fits him with a look of disapproval. It serves its purpose and forces a reluctant smile onto her lips.
So enthralled she becomes by his bright spirit and little distractions, what she gleans from the rest of the ceremony seems to be nothing more than a hastily constructed telegraph.
Alaine surmises that the words that she did happen to hear were the ones that highlighted the very important points.
Lucas fairs no better than her. For a while, he did try to bring his thoughts about Alaine to heel. He did so long enough to deliver his short speech even if her presence made him extremely nervous. So nervous, in fact, his hands were actually shaking the entire time. Since then it’s been hard to pay attention when she keeps looking at him with those beautiful eyes.
He redirects his focus once again to the Mayor’s vote of thanks. The man has been thankful for the last five minutes at least. Lucas suppresses an exasperated huff. He wishes they would just hurry up.
If the city really wants to show its gratitude, a handshake would do just as well. Anything short which will get him out of the limelight and back to Alaine quickly would be met with greater appreciation.
Surprised by the sound of applause, Lucas joins in and stands. He’s ready to make his exit but must adhere to protocol – chat with the mayor, stand for pictures and graciously decline requests for interviews.
Once all these are finished, he indicates for the spokeswoman from his PR department to take over. Once she assumes her place in front of the cameras, Lucas ducks off the stage with one purpose.
He finds Seth first and the two take a detour to the refreshments table before seeking out Alaine. They find her hiding behind a news van.
“Something to drink?” Lucas offers.
She accepts the glass from him and takes a tiny sip. “You were very distracting,” she immediately scolds him. “I almost didn’t hear a thing.”
“As were you,” Lucas informs her. “Why were you biting your lip?” he queries. “Were you deliberately trying to get a rise out of me?” he leans down to whisper in her ear.
Shocked by the insinuation, Alaine exclaims, “I was not! You were making me nervous.”
Lucas chuckles at her flaming cheeks.
“Did I?” she questions after a while, her lashes fluttering suggestively.
“Did you what?” Lucas asks in a hushed tone. “Get a rise out of me? Instantly,” he states and begins to study her with slow appraisal.
He takes his time to admire her most luscious areas, starting with her lips before his eyes drift further down her body.
It seems as if she was sewn into the dress with the way it fits every sensuous angle – snug at her chest, contouring the swells and crests of her breasts and the curvature of her waist. And then those hips.
“Stop it,” Alaine warns.
“No one can see us,” Lucas tells her.
Although he laughs, there is nothing funny about the situation. He’s never wanted a woman this way.
“It’s time to introduce my family,” he says. “But I have a bit of a problem with you looking like this. Distract me,” he orders.
When Alaine’s eyes automatically move down his body, he snaps his fingers in front of her face. “You’re not helping, babe,” he cautions.
“Oh, sorry,” Alaine tells him. “So what’s your mom’s name?” she asks. “I’m meeting them and you haven’t told me anything about them.”
There is no quicker way to quench his desire – discussing the train wreck that is Claudia. Lucas gives Alaine a wry smile.
“My mother is Claudia Ferrerai,” he admits and awaits her reaction.
“Wait. Your mom is a supermodel!” Alaine exclaims.
“Was,” he corrects. “She’s retired now. But you won’t meet her today,” he informs her while trying to cover his disappointment. Claudia’s busy schedule would never allow her to make time for something like this. For him.
“What about your dad?” Alaine asks as Lucas slips his free hand in hers to guide her away from the van.
“Arlington Bright,” he supplies and this time Alaine gapes.
“Well that explains you,” she says before she can stop herself.
Lucas Laughs. “What does that mean, Ms. Knight?” he asks.
“It means I know where your looks come from,” she explains. “And your wealth.”
Lucas responds to her last statement with is a derisive snort.
Oblivious to his darkening mood, Alaine continues to goad him.
“Let me guess,” she teases jovially. “Daddy gave you a small loan of a million dollars to start your business?”
Lucas stiffens by her side. “I resent that,” he answers tersely and releases her hand. “I’ve worked for every penny I have,” he states.
Suddenly he stops walking and turns to look at her, his handsome features pinched into an angry scowl.
“I had a ten million dollar trust fund,” Lucas tells her. “My grandparents on my father’s side left it to me. I was too young and since I lived with my mom, my dad made her trustee. By the time I was old enough to inherit there was under seven hundred thousand dollars left in it and I let her have it.”
He doesn’t know what exactly prompted him to divulge all of this personal information. He never discusses these things. They are the things that eat at his soul. But Alaine thinking that he’d depended on mommy’s and daddy’s clout to get ahead is upsetting.
And what had Claudia done with the money? She’d spent it on her husband with full knowledge of his treatment of her only son.
“Mission accomplished by the way,” Lucas snaps, his tone scathing.
Still stunned by the sudden foul change in his mood and thoroughly scolded by it too, Alaine’s mouth works as she tries to think of something to say.
“Lucas,” she finally gets out with the intention to apologize, although she has no idea why a joke would set him off.
“A topic for a later date,” he grumbles, his voice cold and detatched. “Let’s just get this done with.”
“So you’ll be joining us for lunch?” the woman Lucas introduced as his step mother asks Alaine.
With the current strain between her and Lucas, Alaine turns to him for confirmation. He doesn’t even spare her a glance. In fact, for the entire brief introduction to his family, he’s been closed off and distant, his features set in hard, forbidding lines.
“I…” Alaine says and pauses since she has no idea what to do.
“She will be,” Lucas answers without looking at her.
“Okay,” his stepmother replies as her eyes shift questioningly to her husband.
Not wanting to make the situation more awkward than it already is, she extends her hand to Alaine again. “Well it was lovely to meet you,” she tells Alaine. “And I hope I will again after today. Lucas,” she greets and leans in to place a kiss on her stepson’s cheek.
As soon as his family bundles into their idling vehicles, Alaine turns on her heels to run away from Lucas. She’s never been so humiliated in her life.
She has no intention of going anywhere with him after that. No one has ever made her feel so small and insignificant. And considering her background, that’s saying a lot. He’ll just have to explain her absence to his family.
Intent on calling a taxi, she sticks her hand into her purse to pull out her phone while her heels dig angry divots into the pristinely manicured lawn.
Mentally, she curses her diminuitive stature and the shoes on her feet for preventing her from stalking away from him as quickly as she would like.
This is the last time she will be burned by Lucas’ ever changing moods.
“Ali,” Lucas calls behind but she ignores him and the regret she hears weighing heavily on the way he says her name.
“Ali, wait,” Lucas calls again and holds his breath as she totters unsteadily in her shoes.
“Dammit,” he mutters under his breath.
To close the distance between them more quickly, he breaks into a slow jog.
“Please,” he says as he catches her by the elbow and takes it as a good sign that she doesn’t immediately snatch her arm away. “Slow down,” he pleads.
He hates that he addressed her so brutishly. He hates that he embarrassed her in front of his family.
The easiness in their relationship has dwindled because he couldn’t control his emotions. The longer Alaine remains silent with her eyes averted from his, is the worse it seems to get.
He still hasn’t learned how to deal with these changes she’s causing inside him. Now it’s clear what he will lose if he doesn’t.
“What?” she demands, the hardness in her voice reminding him of the situation he created and why he had to chase her down.
Lucas heaves a heavy breath. “I’m sorry,” he states. “I’m truly sorry, Ali,” he adds. “But there are things about me you don’t know,” he explains sorrowfully. “Things I’ve done that I don’t want you to know because…” he continues until he fumbles with his words. “When you said what you said,” he amends. “It just reminded me of all the reasons that I am no good for you. All the reasons I don’t deserve you. All the reasons you shouldn’t want me.”
All the reasons I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not too late to let her go, his mind interjects.
He could let Alaine go. They haven’t gone that far into their relationship. He could end things and she can walk away unscathed. Yet his grip on her arm tightens.
Alaine finally looks up at him with a crease in her brows. He expects her judgement, maybe castigation. But all he sees in her eyes is confusion, hurt and the misgivings that his words and actions today caused. Gone is the light of intrigue and admiration in her pretty eyes. Lucas realizes that he really wants to get it back.
“I haven’t asked you to be someone I deserve,” Alaine tells him softly before resuming her steps.
While things between them aren’t copacetic, Lucas accepts the small victory that she doesn’t run away from him this time.
With his hold still firm on her arm, he steers Alaine in the direction of the SUV.
Trying to comprehend the meaning in what she said, Lucas’ features twist into a scowl once more. She could have chosen any number of things to say in that moment but that’s not what he was expecting.
“I don’t know what that means, Ali,” he says. “But I do know you deserve...
“Stop, Lucas,” Alaine demands.
The firm but gentle rebuke has him biting back the remainder of his statement.
“Give us a minute, Seth, please,” Alaine says when they reach the idling SUV.
The order surprises Lucas but he nods his confirmation to Seth and the driver steps aside as they climb into the back seat.
Despite the heavy pounding of her heart, Alaine angles her body toward Lucas.
The barriers he is trying to erect between them could be tangible. For a while, she is afraid that her inexperience makes her inadequate to reach beyond them. But she is well acquainted with loneliness. She understands what it is to hurt. She also knows what she wishes someone would have done for her. Maybe most importantly, she senses that he is hurting too.
All his cryptic messages begin decoding in her mind – Uncelebrated birthdays, the life of a rich kid is not all what it seems, he has sex with women but doesn’t need kisses. He’s no good. He’s tainted. By what?
Of course he’s hurting.
The slump in his shoulders breaks her heart.
Nothing beats a trial Alaine, she encourages herself as she reaches between them to take his hand in hers.
“Lucas?” she calls softly. “So far all you’ve shown me is kindness and care and thoughtfulness," she reminds him. "No one has ever treated me the way you do and you did it all your own. I never asked for any of it.”
She pauses hoping he will say something. “I like the person you are now,” she continues when he chooses silence. “I like the person you are to me.”
He gives her a quick glance – one of surprise – then returns to staring straight ahead into the driver’s headrest.
Gliding tentatively closer to him, Alainee says, “Everybody has secrets. But those secrets, whatever they may be, are not definitive,” she declares firmly. “If yours are so heinous, I can tell that they are not you. I can tell that they don’t define you. I can also tell that they hurt you,” she says softly.
Hoping that those words are enough to at least pacify his demons, she interlocks their fingers. "I realize we’ve just met but you’re a good person, Lucas Bright,” she adds. “I mean, look where we are.”
Because she doesn’t know what else to say, Alaine sits quietly awaiting his reactions to her words.
They hit him with the force of a well aimed sledgehammer. For a minute Lucas is lost, staring at nothing, while trying to make sense of the kaleidoscope of emotions and images seeping through the craquelure of his broken self-image.
Alaine places a kiss against his knuckles and repeats, “you are a good person, Lucas,” and rests her head just below his left shoulder.
He’s never let anybody close, but in this instant, Lucas wants to bare his soul. He wants to receive the comfort of her words and the warmth in her arms.
He inhales a shaky breath and glances down at her profile resting over his chest and wonders if she can hear the warring in his heart – She is perfectly perfect. She’s better off without you. I can be good, for her. I want to be. Can you?
Her voice breaks through the clutter in his mind.
“And you’re a pretty good kisser too,” Alaine announces unexpectedly.
The statement is so far removed from what they are supposed to be hashing out, Lucas frowns down at her and shakes his head with disbelief. Yet, a little smile breaks on his lips and transforms into a soft chuckle.
Feeling a strange sense of relief, he questions, “Yeah?” Then rests his cheek against her hair.
“Mhmm,” Alaine replies. “Do you want to remind me?”
“I do,” Lucas admits. “But first I need to apologize, I...”
Alaine leans up and snuffs out the rest of his apology with her lips. Gladly, Lucas accepts the offering fusing them together in a slow kiss that shifts his world on his axis.
Her small hand glides over the buttons of his shirt and rests above his belt buckle. He shudders as her fingers roam across to his side. Being with Alaine is like a little slice of heaven.
Wrapping one arm around her waist, Lucas lifts her easily onto his thighs to begin the plunder of her mouth while giving his fingers free reign to explore her dips and curves - north to south - in the backseat of his car. She sighs when his hand glides up her inner thigh, bunching the material of her dress over her hips.
Breaking their kiss, he breathes her name softly. “Look at me, baby,” he requests. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Lucas admits when she obeys his soft order.
“I believe you,” Alaine tells him. “And there is no need for you to do penance,” she adds right before claiming his lips again.
Her fingers sink into his hair and she adjusts her body to straddle in legs.
Accepting the soothing balm of her forgiveness, Lucas smiles to himself. The backseat of his car will be an interesting first for him. Not one that he is opposed to with Alaine. The windows are tinted enough and with the grounds almost empty, no one would know.
But Alaine’s first time should be special. He’ll maintain that, even as she grinds her body against him and he wants to command that she do it again.
Afraid that he may embarrass himself if she continues, Lucas grasps her hips to slow her movement.
“Baby,” he says against her lips. “We’re in public,” he reminds her.
Lucas feels her nod in response and hears her muffled agreement but she continues kissing him passionately and his fingers slide a little higher under her dress.
“Seth is waiting,” he says to keep himself grounded. “So is my family,” he adds.
“Touch me,” Alaine counters and Lucas lets out a weak whimper.
“We can’t,” he reasons. “Not here, baby. Not like this.”
Lucas withdraws his hands but keeps them firmly on her thighs while he directs their passionate kiss to a slow stop.
When he looks at Alaine again, it is with wonderment in his eyes.
“You are truly something special, little fairy,” he tells her. “I knew it the moment I saw you.”