No Blonde, Blue-Eyed Delivery Guys.
Another rushed chapter simply because I wanted to get it done. So here it is guys. Book One complete. Leave your thoughts below in the comments section. Leave a like or a thumbs up in the book competition.
Kneeling on the floor in Lucas’ closet, Alaine places the final few items neatly into his suitcase. He stands leaning against the wall quietly watching her as the sadness in his heart permeates his entire being.
Now that the time is nearing, she won’t even look at him. She hasn’t looked at him since he answered that phone call that interrupted them in his office. It's easy to guess why. She's conflicted but he wants anything for her to look at him and draw him into the sunburst of gold dancing within the lovely green of her eyes.
“You don’t have any slippers,” she notes with her head still bowed in the task.
“I don’t,” he confirms.
“Everybody should own a pair of slippers, Lucas,” she posits to make idle conversation and prevent herself from cracking wide open. “What about going to the beach?” she asks nonsensically.
“Not a fan,” he answers simply.
The hardness in his voice finally draws her attention to him and that she would look at Alaine makes Lucas breathe a relieved breath.
“I’ve only been a total of two times, myself,” she admits as she begins pulling the zipper on the suitcase. “Why don’t you like it?” she asks.
“Too many fond memories,” is his cryptic reply. “You don’t like the beach?” he questions.
“I do,” she tells him. “But with trying to keep my scholarship and working to keep a roof over my head, I never had the time. Memories like what?” she asks him.
“Ahh,” Lucas tells her. “But I’ve given you so much information about me already. I think it calls for a little reciprocity,” he suggests. “I’ll tell you the next time I see you,” he promises. “But only if you tell me about you.”
Alaine cocks her head to the side to consider him and his offer.
Admittedly, she is curious about all the holes in all the stories he told her last night. However, just the thought of dredging through the cold muck of her past is enough to set her teeth on edge. Thinking about it is hard enough. It's something she stays on the periphery of her mind. She's never forgotten it. Even if she could she won't allow herself to because she's survived.
Saying the words out loud is something entirely different. Only one time she'd tried to talk about it and never again. Not since her mother’s shocking reaction. What will Lucas think should she tell him? He probably won’t slap her but he'll maybe call her a liar. She couldn’t bear to see him look at her with that kind of contempt.
“Do we have a deal?” he asks with his hand stretched down to where she is still on the floor.
His voice pulls her out of her mind and she regards his hand like it’s a snake about to strike. Hesitantly, she takes it and says, “that seems fair.”
Lucas pulls her off the floor and into his chest to squeeze her in her hug. Then he kisses her with a kiss measured with desperation.
“I’m sorry about this,” he apologizes like he’s already done a thousand other times. “I’ll be back. I’ll try to...”
“Stop,” Alaine says softly as she frames his face in her hands. “You haven’t done anything wrong, Lucas,” she assures him. “Stop apologizing. You have to go to your mom. I understand.”
Feeling more choked up than he could have ever anticipated, Lucas nods instead of vocalizing his response. He clears his throat and looks down at the little woman who has changed the landscape of life. She came with the force of natural disaster and altered everything.
“You can stay here if you want,” he suggests. “Keep the place warm for me.”
“What would I do here by myself?” she queries. “That’s kind of you to offer, but it’s fine,” she tells him. “I’ll go back to my apartment.”
Again, Lucas holds back the words that she could be in danger and it would safer for her to stay here.
Pressing his head to forehead he pleads, "I know you're tough and independent but don't forget me, Ali."
“How can I?” she replies her heart breaking at his request.
“I’ll call you, okay?” he promises. “And if you need anything – anything at all – call me, text me it doesn’t matter what time, baby. I will answer.”
Alaine rests her face against his chest and sniffles into his shirt.
“I’ll miss you,” he confesses again even if there is much more he wants to say.
He can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but there is only one word that can be ascribed to the way that he feels. It’s frightening and he's not sure he's ready for it. He wants to tell Alaine to. Not knowing if she is ready for it either, keeps him from expressing as much.
His heart turns over in his chest as she says, “I’ll miss you too. So much.”
Quickly, she adds to change the subject in the hopes of stemming the flow of her tears, “is there anything else you have to do?” and tries to extricate herself from his firm hold.
“No, I’ve covered everything,” he says. “All that’s left is to take you to your apartment.”
The expression on her face mirrors the longing inside him and he can’t help but hope that she feels at least a fraction of what he’s already starting to feel for her.
It’s so easy to read the way she’s trying to pull away from him and not just physically. Maybe all of that would change if he spoke four simple words.
Come with me Alaine.
They want to pour out of his mouth. Instead, he says, “I’m all set,” and grants her wish for freedom by letting his arms fall to his side.
“Okay,” she answers while an interminable loss threatens to swallow her now that he’s put distance between them.
“Alaine,” Lucas says adopting his business voice. “I know you don’t like Seth,” he declares. “But I’ve asked him to stick around for you. Please,” he adds to stop the protest already forming in her mind. “You don’t have to talk to him,” he explains. “But let him drive you to work. He’s there for your safety,” he says as he tucks her hair away from her face. “It will make me feel a heck of a lot better. I haven’t forgotten than fire, baby,” he reminds her. “I will never forget it and neither should you,” he says, his expression grave.
Too weak to argue, Alaine nods and Lucas breathes with relief to know that she will be safe in Seth's care. He reaches for the handle of his suitcase with one hand and takes Alaine’s in the other as they head out of his closet to get to the elevator.
She follows him silently with a tremor in her hand encased by his.
“This isn’t goodbye, Ali,” Lucas tries to assure her as they step inside the metal box.
She looks up at him and offers the brightest smile she can muster while her mind tells her that it could very well be goodbye.
She’d slept with him, yes. But that’s not a sign of commitment. Especially not for a confessed libertine. He has no obligation to her.
She doesn’t know any Italian woman personally but it’s common knowledge they are supposed to be gorgeous and sultry. Just look at his mother.
He’ll forget about me, her mind convinces her.
An all-consuming ache develops inside her zapping her strength.
Why had she allowed herself to fall in love with him when she knew it wouldn’t last?
The atmosphere in the SUV is no different than it was in the last few moments they spent in his apartment and the elevator. It is heavy with a deep-seated sadness. Alaine huddles in her own corner trying to gain some distance and perspective. If this hurts as much as it does now, what happens when he no longer wants her?
“Baby,” Lucas implores beside her.
She turns a smile to him to try to seem in better spirits but he can’t be fooled. The little spark of light that usually glimmers in the mixture of green and gold is not there.
“I promise, Ali,” he tells her. “I am coming back for you,” he says with so much determination, she could almost believe it.
“Just in case you don’t, I enjoyed this weekend,” she tells him. “It was the best,” she says weakly.
Reaching across the seat, Lucas pulls her against his chest to kiss her firmly, willing her to read what he feels in it.
“I am coming back for you,” he repeats. Then, hoping to make her laugh, he adds, “you owe me six months, remember? And no blonde, blue-eyed delivery guys,” he states with seriousness.
Thinking that his jealousy is adorable, Alaine giggles. “Those are rules,” she reminds him.
“No, Ali, I’m serious,” Lucas says as he looks her in the eyes. “Stay away from him. I can’t explain it but there is something wrong with him. Promise me,” he requests.
Alaine huffs but the stern glare she receives makes her nod. “Okay, I promise," she agrees.
“Good,” Lucas says.
When Seth parks beside her building, Lucas leans in for a kiss. It starts slowly at first. Forgetting the company of their driver, the kiss builds with so much intensity, Seth steps out onto the sidewalk to offer them privacy.
As much as she enjoys being with him, Alaine knows he’s pushed the time limit far enough already.
“Your flight,” she reminds him.
“I’ll miss you, Alaine,” Lucas says in answer.
“I’ll miss you too,” she replies.
As has become customary, Lucas holds her hand all the way up to the landing in front of her apartment and lingers there a moment longer.
“Remember,” he says. “Stay away from Angus.”
Leaning up, Alaine places a chaste kiss on his lips and answers, “I promise to stay away from Angus.”
For the first time since meeting her, Lucas walks away from Alaine very conflicted. Since he met her, he always had a buoyancy in his spirit. Today, his heart is full with what he feels for Alaine but it’s also heavy with sadness. That heaviness shows itself in the slump of his shoulders and tight set of his jaws. The pain and uncertainty about leaving her are clear in his eyes.
If there was any way to avoid going, he would.
His mother always had terrible timing, he thinks and is immediately ashamed of the thought.
As he reaches the top of the stairs, he turns around hoping to see Alaine standing there like she normally does. His heart breaks a little more when he sees her ducking into the apartment and the door closes behind her with a resounding thud.
Usually, she would wait for his footsteps to fade. This time, she rushes into the apartment and goes directly to the window overlooking the street.
She watches as he pauses outside the vehicle to exchange words with Seth.
“I’ve told you my suspicions about Angus,” Lucas says. “If I’m wrong about him, fine. But I need your word that you will look out for her. Make sure she is safe. Anything she needs. You make sure she is okay.”
A mutual understanding passes between them.
Lucas turns to look up at the apartment to find Alaine watching him through her window. A smile pulls his lips when he realizes that that's why she'd hurried into the apartment.
He waves at her, and she smiles too before blowing a kiss to him.
He wants to do something silly, like reach out and catch it, place it over his heart. But he winks at her instead. From all the way on the street, he can see her grin widening and concludes that she's probably blushing. Just one more thing to miss about Alaine. That tell-all shade of crimson.
Short on time, Lucas climbs into the SUV. Suddenly he feels like a little child again leaving the safety of his father’s home to burrow back into the belly of the beast.
This time it's Alaine who is his safety. But he couldn’t ask her to leave everything to go to Italy with him. Not after just two nights together.
From the window in the apartment across the street he watches them. They don’t look happy today. More important, she doesn’t look happy. A thrill runs through his body. There is hope. There is a chance that he can make her his.
Now if the prick would just leave her alone. Can’t he see she isn’t happy with him?
“You’ll be happy with me Alaine,” Angus whispers in the empty apartment.
Yes, he can make her happy. She’ll see.