One of my biggest concerns is always the length of my chapters. I timed this one. it's 4179 words and takes about 23 minutes to read. Is that too long? I've read books with like 8000 words or more in a chapter and I truly enjoyed them. This one also has a lot of dialogue. Don't forget to let me know what you think in the comments below. Thank you for reading.
The driver’s side door opens and closes. Lucas hears it. He can hear Seth’s muted footfalls on the pavement outside. Still, he can’t bring himself to let go of Alaine.
The handle on his door rattles as Seth tries unsuccessfully to pull it open but it’s not until his driver knocks on the window that Lucas finally makes a move to lift Alaine off him.
He can feel himself losing his grip on everything he's lived by. They're slipping away from him in quick intervals. Afraid that he will reveal exactly that if he looks at Alaine, he avoids meeting her eyes.
Taking a deep breath, he shifts her bra back in place and zips up the front of her dress for her.
Now that he is a little more composed, he looks at her, shakes his head and laughs.
“Everyone is going to know what we just did, little fairy,” Lucas tells her. “You’re like a glow stick.”
Strangely, he has no issue with anyone knowing. The way Alaine wears his possession actually thrills him. Inadvertently, by that alone, it's like she belongs to him.
There is nothing he can do about her tousled look but he ensures that she is decent.
Shrugging his shoulders, he unlocks the door and offers her his hand when they step outside.
Alaine finds Seth giving her a warning look. Ignoring him she asks Lucas, “where are we?”
“A race track,” he answers.
“Why are we at a race track?” she asks but allows him to lead her along.
“It’s a surprise,” he informs her.
A man and a woman are already waiting for them at the front of the building.
Lucas pulls the girl aside to speak to her in hushed tones with his hand on her bare shoulder. She nods repeatedly to whatever he says and looks at Alaine with a doubtful expression.
The girl is tall. Almost as tall as Lucas. Unbidden, the memory of his comment about his certain appetite comes back to Alaine’s mind. How had she let herself forget that?
She frowns at how close the two of them are standing. Whoever the girl is her body is filled out in all the right places in her tank top that exposes her midriff and jeans that fit her like body paint.
Alaine looks down at herself in her dress and tennis shoes and feels diminished. She wonders if Lucas has a particular type. His assistant, Natasha is also tall and lithe.
When Lucas looks up, the smile he is wearing disappears in the face of her crumbled expression.
Walking away from the woman he asks her, “what is it, Ali?”
Because she knows that she has no right to be jealous, she responds, “nothing,” while trying to seem in better spirits.
Though unconvinced, Lucas tells her, “okay. Please, go with Mila. She will get you fitted and I will meet you outside.”
“Fitted?” Alaine queries. “Fitted for what? Where are you going?” she asks when he makes a move to walk away from her.
“I haven’t come in my pants since I was a teen,” he growls against her ear. “I’m going to the washroom. Trust me, babe,” he says then places a quick kiss on her lips. “We’re having fun today. Go ahead, I’ll meet you,” he reminds her.
Reluctantly she leaves him to follow after the woman named Mila. Lucas however, remains rooted to the spot staring after she long after she disappears around the corner.
“You okay?” Seth asks when he comes to stand next to him.
“I have no freaking idea,” Lucas answers.
Seth narrows his eyes as he studies his boss. The lost look that Lucas wears shocks him. He laughs because apparently, his concern is misplaced. He should be more concerned about the man beside him than for Alaine.
“As long as you take care of her, man,” Seth advises and pats Lucas on his shoulder.
For once, Lucas could care less about the informality of the gesture.
“Go with her,” he says to Seth.
His driver leaves him to follow his orders but Seth's advice ′as long as you take care of her’ stay with him. The words reverberate in his brain for the umpteenth time since they were uttered. They stalk him through the corridor and to the bathroom, where now, cold water from the sink, runs wastefully through his fingers, while he contemplates the man staring at him in the mirror.
He almost can’t recognize himself. It’s the same gray eyes that have always looked back at him he sees but they no longer look hopelessly beaten and resigned.
Can he do that? Can he take care of Alaine?
It sounds simple enough. He can certainly provide whatever she wants. However, if he believed that’s all his driver meant, he would not be standing here thinking on it like a topic in Quantum Mechanics.
Lucas takes a deep breath. Up until two weeks ago, or more likely, three years ago, he was resigned to casually blow his way through doable women, who wanted as little as he did. Sex.
The memories are sickening. That’s how he’d lived and one of the many reasons he doesn’t deserve a someone like Alaine. If he has to burden someone with himself, it should be someone just as tainted as he. Not the innocent girl he deflowered last night.
But as selfish as it is, it's she that he wants and after last night and this morning, it’s too late to change his mind. He can't turn his back on her now. Truth be told, he doesn’t want to.
“I can do it,” he whispers in the empty bathroom and hopes that his own words will not make him a liar. He’ll do his best.
“I can take care of her,” Lucas repeats, this time with determination.
A quick rap on the door clears his thoughts.
“She’s still trying to find one that fits,” Seth says when he enters.
Lucas chuckles. He hadn’t factored in her diminutive stature when he came up with this idea.
“Just let her use mine and roll up the sleeves and legs,” he tells an amused Seth.
Again Lucas wonders about the rift between the two.
“Were you all ever close?” he asks and Seth’s features shift to a hard mask.
After a moment he admits, “she was like a little sister to me.”
Then what the hell happened?” Lucas wants to ask. What did you do?
He wants to demand an explanation but knows through his driver’s sudden defensive stance that he will receive none today. Additionally, what right has he to pry?
As quickly as his irritation flared, it subsides. Today is about Alaine. He just as to build her confidence in him and maybe then she will let him in.
He follows Seth out of the bathroom and down the long hallway. His destination is the track, but his mind is with Alaine.
Walking into the bright sunshine, Lucas smiles despite his troubled mind. He’s happy because of her, which begs the question, is she happy with him?
He runs his hand over the smooth paint when his motorcycle is brought out. Not too long ago, this had been one of his thrills. Teetering on the edge of danger was always a way to remove the edge.
How is it possible that one tiny woman could change everything so dramatically and without mustering much effort? All she had to do was look at him and he was done for from the start.
Nervously he waits for Alaine with his question in mind. Are you happy, Alaine? The ‘with me’ part he would table for a later date – when he gains the confidence.
She appears through the doors dressed in biker’s garb and shielding her eyes from the brightness of the sun. As he instructed, the sleeves and legs have been rolled up to fit her small body.
Her heart jolts when she sees Lucas posed against his motorcycle. He remains there and smiles that smile – the one that completely disarms her.
Two weeks in his company, and she’s yet to grow accustomed to his good looks. Alaine gathers her wit enough to say in the most matter-of-fact tone she can muster, “I cannot ride a motorcycle.”
Straightening when she stops in front of him, Lucas tells her, "all you have to do is hold on, babe."
He uses those terms 'babe' and 'baby' so often now, they've started growing roots. Feeling warm all the way to her toes, Alaine asks, "to what?"
"To me," Lucas replies. "This baby is mine. So is the track."
Alaine has never seen anything more enticing than this moment as he stretches his leg over to sit astride the rumbling beast. He smooths his hair off his face and slips dark sunglasses up his straight nose.
She clears her throat while her lady bits reacts to the picture he makes.
“You own a race track?” she asks to keep her imagination from veering off tangent.
“I own a race team,” he corrects.
He picks up the helmet hanging on the handlebar and beckons her closer. When she stands beside him, he secures it over her head. Then he pats the seat behind him and waits expectantly.
“Hop on gorgeous," he says. "Let me take you for a spin.”
“Where are your suit and helmet?” she asks him.
Lucas smiles at her concern and motions to her outfit. “You’re wearing them," he tells her. "I’ll be fine, Ali.”
Reaching out to take her arm, he tugs her closer. He lifts the sunglasses into his hair to look her in the eyes and takes both her hands in his. "I need you to hold on to me," he tells her. "Hold on to me, Ali," he repeats. "Please don't let go."
There is so much intensity in his silvery eyes, so much that seems to be hidden within his words, breath and words fail Alaine.
Lucas has to prompt a response from her by gently squeezing her hands.
"I won't," she promises.
“Good,” he responds.
He brings the visor down over her face then assists her clamber behind him. Once she is seated, she places both hands on Lucas' side but tightens her grip as he revs the engine.
“This way,” he says and takes both her arms to snake them firmly about his mid-section. “Hold on, baby," he calls above the purr of the engine. Then he adds, "tight," before moving cautiously onto the pitch.
He goes slowly, praying she doesn’t loosen her hold on him. Before long, she relaxes her weight onto his back so he accelerates just a little. Every time he takes the bend she squeals and he loves the way she clutches him tightly.
I’ve got you, babe, Lucas thinks.
They go a few rounds around the track with him accelerating at the start of each one until the rumble in his stomach reminds him that neither one of them has eaten anything for the day.
Lucas pulls to a halt where they started their ride and dismounts. He helps Alaine out of her helmet at asks, "are you okay?"
She nods but sways and his hands shoot out to steady her.
"Easy," he urges. "Give it a minute."
Once her vertigo subsides Alaine gives him a glowing smile. "That was pretty awesome," she tells him. "Scary but awesome."
He takes in her red-faced excitement and feels his heart skip that now usual beat. It’s frightening and extraordinary the control she has over the way he feels.
Brushing disheveled hair off her face, Lucas lifts her off the bike with ease. She clings to him while her legs regain their integrity.
“I felt like I was flying,” Alaine tells him then places a kiss on his cheek.
“I’m glad you liked it," Lucas says. "Do you want to try?”
She eyes the yellow monster doubtfully. “I don’t even have my driver’s license,” she announces.
“We’re on private property, sweet girl," Lucas informs her. "Come on," he encourages. "Two rounds. I’ll teach you.”
“I really don’t know about this, Lucas," Alaine says. "Remember how I warned you that dinner with Angus was a bad idea? I’m getting the same vibe now.”
“Dinner with Angus turned out to be a pretty damned good idea to me," Lucas says and winks at her.
Her blush climbs up to the roots of her hair. "Two rounds," she agrees.
Lucas learns right away that she is a quick study. All it took was a few minutes instructing her what to do and already she knows how to handle the machine -- however, cautiously.
She moves slowly over the pitch with his hands stationed firmly at her hips. A position that plants ideas in his mind, enkindling his desire for her. He wants back in his apartment, but not yet. If he is going to do this, it has to be more than just the physical and he’s willing to do the work.
Gripping the handlebars, he takes control bringing them to a stop and hops off the bike.
“How often do you do this?” Alaine asks swinging her legs over without finesse.
She stumbles and he is there immediately to catch her. Whatever else she was about to say gets lost to his lips when he descends on her as soon as he pulls off her helmet.
Lucas smiles at the dazed look in her eyes when he pulls back. She blinks up at him as he tucks her hair behind her ears.
“To answer your question,” he says. “I don’t do it nearly as often as I used to. It was a good way for me to unwind. Now I have you.”
Although he expected that his confession would be met with silence, he still feels the sting of disappointment that she doesn't acknowledge it.
Alaine remains speechless but at least this time she doesn't try to hide from his gaze. It's that look in her eyes that keeps him undeterred. When he has to be, he is a determined man. So far he's determined that he wants Alaine.
He leans against the motorcycle and hauls her into his arms with the back of her head resting on his chest. The question he wants to ask her pops back in his mind again, causing his heart to lurch. He wants to know but he's afraid to voice it. That is until he places a soft kiss against her neck and she tilts her head back to look up at him.
Lucas tightens his arms around Alaine's waist and says, "I'm happy, Alaine," with a sigh attached to it.
It sounds like he's reached an epiphany and each of those words in his pronouncement ring true especially with the way he smiles down at her.
"Me too, baby," Alaine tells him. "Thank you for today. And last night," she adds.
"My pleasure," Lucas says. He buries his face in her hair and inhales deeply. Then he places a quick kiss on her up-tilted forehead.
She didn't say you make me happy, Lucas but he will take her confession as an inadvertent admission of being happy with him. It might be a coward's way out but for now, that's how he will deal with it.
"I'm starving," Lucas announces. "Are you hungry?" he asks Alaine.
"I could eat," she answers.
On a regular day, Alaine's lunch would be something she fixed hastily in her own kitchen. On occasion, she would visit one of the many little food joints located on the street where Mona's little flower shop used to be. Since meeting Lucas, she's been treated to nothing but gourmet.
When they pull up to the fancy restaurant with the name CF's sprawled in fancy gold calligraphy over the front door, she looks down at what she's wearing and frowns.
"I'm not dressed for this place," she informs Lucas.
"Don't worry, they know me here," he tells her as he climbs out of the SUV.
"Of course they do," Alaine grumbles but walks with him.
The Maitre d’ greets him fondly. The two men exchange words in fluent Italian. Alaine regards him with pleasant surprise, though she has no idea why she is when he did tell her that he is not a born American. She is even more surprised when he leans down unexpectedly to place a kiss on her forehead.
The Maitre d' grins at them before turning sharply to lead the way to an empty table.
“They really love you here,” Alaine notes after the man leaves them alone.
“I own it,” Lucas admits with a dismissive shrug.
“You own a restaurant?” she asks her incredulity showing on her face.
“I own a lot of things,” he informs her.
“Why CF’s?” Alaine questions.
“Claudia Ferrerai," he explains.
For the briefest of moments, a cloud casts over his features. Alaine recognizes it as hurt. Obviously, he is not a mama’s boy and she can’t help but wonder about their relationship.
“After your mom, that’s sweet Lucas,” she says then waits to gauge his reaction.
"Not really," he answers. "She gave birth to me."
The words are spoken devoid of emotions which confirms what he'd already suggested. The two of them are not close. So she can't help but wonder why he would even bother naming a restaurant after her if they aren't.
“And Italian?" she questions. "I didn’t know you spoke it,” she says to swerve away from the topic that appears to be too uncomfortable for him.
“I was born there," Lucas explains. "My mother is Italian. I lived there for my first nine years of life and we visited often after that. I still visit my grandparents. I do business there. I own properties and we always spoke it when she didn’t want my stepfather to know what she was saying," he offers.
The memory of the way he always paid for that indiscretion makes Lucas shudder. Claudia didn't care that he was always the one who received the punishment whenever they dared to speak in their native tongue in her husband's company.
Often times, it was the back of Kurt's hand to his face that shifted the conversation back to English.
"You weren't close to your stepfather?" Alaine asks.
Still lost in his memories, the way he always gets, Lucas admits absently, "I was close with his fists."
It's Alaine's audible gasp that pulls him from his mind. He looks up to find her looking at him with pity.
"Lucas," she says.
“It was a long time ago, Alaine," he says with a flippant wave of his hand, though that's the exact opposite of how he feels. "Nobody's hitting me now,” he adds.
Shifting his attention to inspect the menu and feeling her horrified look acutely, he continues, "our day has been going really well. Let's not ruin it with dark talk. I've gotten so comfortable with you, it slipped out. Next time, I'll be more careful."
“I like that you’re comfortable with me,” she admits and reaches across to stroke his hand resting on the table.
Lucas moves his focus to her fingers over his own then looks at her.
“You’re not at all what I expected," he admits.
“Oh?" she asks. "What were you expecting?”
“I don’t know, but not this," he says. "Three years ago when I saw you at that wedding you were closed off and cold. But that’s not who you are. You are light and heat and mystery and so much more.”
Before Alaine can respond, a voice, thick with an Italian accent, speaks above her.
“Bella, shall we have a photo?” the Maitre d' asks.
Alaine can hardly tear her eyes away from Lucas' entrancing stare to give the man her attention. She finally glances up to find him beaming down at her with his camera at the ready.
“Sure thing,” Lucas answers. “Come here,” he tells Alaine.
Perplexed, she gets up from her seat. There is no telling what Lucas is up to when he wears the little smirk that she's come to love.
As soon as she is within his reach, he takes her hand and tugs her down onto him while indicating to their photographer to take the photo.
Alaine lands in his lap, one leg stretched up in the air, and hears the shutters click. She hears it again when Lucas sweeps a kiss across her lips. His expression is truly unfathomable when they break apart, but it captivates her.
The shutters click again.
“Perfetto,” the man says. He smiles down at the screen while flipping through the pictures he took.
Not taking his eyes off her, Lucas repeats, "perfetto."
They go through their meal with Lucas making a concerted effort not to return to talks about his childhood. At the same time, he makes the decision to not bring up Alaine's old injury anymore. If it's that uncomfortable and painful for him when his past comes up, he can't imagine that whatever hers is is easy to think about.
Turn about is fair play after all. He shouldn't expect her to share with him if he can't do the same.
“Do you speak any other languages?” Lucas asks Alaine since their conversation has taken a turn at knowing generic things about each other.
“I do,” Alaine confesses with a little smile.
His eyebrows quirk up with interest. “Which one?" he asks.
“Code,” she tells him, impressed with her own wittiness.
Her answer draws a chuckle from him.
“You can work for me,” he suggests. “I have a fine IT department.”
Unsure of whether she should be grateful or insulted by the offer, Alaine gives him a slanted glance. Whatever she should feel, she knows she must decline on principle.
"That's very kind of you, but no thanks," she says.
"Why not?" Lucas questions.
“Because I want to make my own way in life,” she explains.
“And you would be," Lucas tells her.
Shaking her head, she replies, “not really. You would be making my way for me and I don’t want that.”
“It’s a legitimate job," Lucas argues. "You forget, I have your resume and had every intention of hiring you, once our arrangement was finished.”
His mention of their arrangement plucks the cloud she's been floating on all day right out from under her. It's a healthy reminder of what they are.
After giving herself a second to recover from her disappointment, she finally manages to say, "I would never be able to earn my place there. Not while I'm sleeping with you. I'm not going to be that girl."
“And what girl would that be?” Lucas asks, trying to ignore the way her sudden glumness rubs off on him.
“The girl who needs a man to make it,” Alaine points out.
“Alaine,” he says, lifting her chin with his fingers. “That’s not what this would be.”
“No?" she questions. "I am sleeping with you now. I would forever be known as the girl who is sleeping with her boss.”
Disinterested in started an argument with her here, Lucas changes the topic by saying, "I like your tense. Sleeping with...present continuous."
Alaine turns her eyes heavenward but chuckles.
“Come home with me,” Lucas requests suddenly.
After his reminder that this is just an arrangement, Alaine considers going back to her apartment the better option. However, the invitation in his eyes and voice are compelling.
“I like you in my apartment,” Lucas announces when she doesn't answer. “I will be honest," he says. "I want you again. I want to hear my name on your lips when you come.”
"Lucas," she scolds and looks around her to see if anyone is paying attention to them.
“Look at me,” he commands softly.
Leaning his elbows into the table, he says, “I know you want me too. I can sit here and tell you everything I am going to do to you, Alaine until you are ready to come at my words. Or you can come to my apartment so I can show you.”
That's all it takes for her to cave as her body begins to react to the promise in his words.
“I’ll come with you," she says.