Hi guys, I figured you all are wanting a new chapter by now. So here it is. Don’t forget to leave a comment or vote or something. Thanks for your patience.
The rain starts sometime before three in the morning. At first, it’s gentle -- a steady, soothing patter against the glass walls that cruises Alaine into a more settled sleep.
Knowing that this sudden change in the weather will add an extra chill to the night, Lucas reaches for the duvet to place around them.
It isn’t until he is certain that she is fully under that he finally grants himself permission to close his eyes.
The soft sounds of nature is a welcomed intrusion -- one he hopes will serve him as well as it does the girl in his arms.
He needs to sleep. The two weeks he spent in Italy were horrendous. As terrible a mother as Claudia is, watching her so prone and lifeless while a machine did her breathing for her wasn’t easy to witness. There is a very real possibility that his mother will die and it wasn’t until he saw her that Lucas that it hit home. His stepfather was and still is eager to pull the plug on her but not if he has anything to say about it. It’s the latest source of contention between the two of them but he has every intention of pushing the envelope with this.
If after ninety days Claudia hasn’t improved, then he will make the decision. Until he sees fit, she will remain where she is.
His mind had been so bothered by that weighty decision, he hadn’t managed to steal more than a few winks of sleep here and there. He can’t bring himself to hope that he will do so peacefully tonight either. On top of everything, Alaine’s fretful cries are still echoing in his head. Added to that is the worry that his seed could be taking root inside her.
Lucas sighs softly but keeps running his lips over her hair just to remind himself that she is okay -- at least physically. For now, that will have to suffice. It’s the only thing he can really console himself with. He’s hoping that the dawn will bring clarity with it. Maybe then it will be easy to decide where to go from there.
Taking comfort in that thought -- that tomorrow is another day -- Lucas pulls a deep breath and listens to the background noise of the increasing intensity of the rain as it punishes the walls outside.
The thunder starts not long after. At first, it is a far away rumble -- so soft, he isn’t even sure he’d heard it but the sound plucked him out of the haze of sleep that had just begun to wrap itself around him.
He aligns his eyesight to the heavy clouds outside and the faraway flickering glow of the lightning then looks down at Alaine.
With sleep now clouding his mind, he wonders whether the last few hours had been nothing more than a terrible nightmare. He pays close attention to Alaine’s cheek. The swelling there is hardly visible in the dark but the faint flash of lightning uncloaks the discoloured contusion. Unable to help himself, Lucas places a light kiss over the bruise.
Hoping that the thunder moving incrementally closer will not wake her, he closes his eyes again and prays that the sounds of nature will be enough to drag him down.
The next time he opens his eyes, the elements outside rage in a mini storm and the sun is already brightening the sky. The clock to his left shows that he’s gotten at least three hours of sleep.
More than anything, he would like to stay here with Alaine but there is just too much to do. With regret that he has to leave her lying there by herself weighing down on him, he eases his arm out from under her head and slips out of bed.
Using an app on his phone, he draws the heavy curtains to keep the sunlight from disturbing her much needed rest before heading to the bathroom and then downstairs to work out his frustration and fatigue.
On a particularly loud crash of thunder, Alaine bolts upright with her heart in her throat in a room still shrouded by darkness.
Her eyes search the unfamiliar territory frantically for anything recognizable.
The first thing she notes as her gritty eyes struggle to focus are the aromas that she is becoming acquainted with -- all of which are associated with Lucas. He always smells like expensive cologne but because she pays such close attention to everything about him, the subtle hint of clean linen and citrus from his shampoo are always identifiable.
Once she is certain of her surroundings and that everything is fine -- that she is safe, here, with him -- she takes a deep breath dragging the comfort of knowing that he is close by into her lungs.
Feeling that it’s alright to relax, Alaine leans back into the pillows and closes her eyes with a soft sigh.
Immediately, those disturbing images -- the ones she’d used Lucas to block out -- flash behind her eyelids forcing them apart in an effort to banish the scenes. Even then her efforts to be rid of them are useless. Awake, her mind is buffeted.
Now that the effect of the painkillers has worn off, she is acutely reminded of her injuries. The pinch in her wrist is more pronounced than she remembers. Alaine looks down and flexes the joint to examine it. Gingerly, she touches her throbbing cheek and winces.
How bad is it?
Yesterday, she hadn’t the courage to look.
Pulling back the sheets Lucas had wrapped around her, she sets her feet on the cold floor and reaches for the shirt she’d pulled off his body last night.
It’s only then she notices the drawn curtains and smiles. He takes care of the littlest things when it comes to her. For a brief while, she allows thoughts of his goodness to replace the horror in her mind until one critical memory surfaces.
“Oh no,” Alaine breathes to herself in panic.
Her eyes widen as she thinks, oh god! What had she done?
Lucas hadn’t seemed upset after mentioning the little mishap she’d generated last night. Or had he been upset?
He could have been since, despite his pleading for her to stop, she hadn’t listened. Except to remind her that it happened -- that he’d come inside her -- he hadn’t said anything else about it so she has no real idea how he feels.
Alaine blows out a ragged breath while trying to think of the best way to approach this predicament. The possibility of having a baby with a man who isn’t her...
The thought remains unfinished as she tries to figure out just what Lucas Bright is to her.
Friend with benefits
These different labels float around in her overworked mind making her groan.
One month ago, life was a simple path between the buses and trains it took to get from home to work and back. Now there seems to be a limitless number of forks in the road.
It’s been a while since she’s been plagued by a debilitating migraine, but one is definitely on the horizon. Unfortunately, her prescription medication is at her apartment and it’s not somewhere she wants to be right now.
Crawling back into bed, hiding under the sheets and never coming out seems the only appropriate response to this entire situation; but Lucas. If it weren’t for worry for him, that’s exactly what she would do.
She has to see about him; to ensure that he too, is okay. The more she thinks about it the clearer it is that last night, he wasn’t.
“You’ve been through worse, Alaine,” she says while trying to convince herself to face today. “You’ve survived worse.”
With another encouraging breath, she walks to the bathroom to face herself and assess what damage Angus had done.
Directing her attention to the figure staring back in the bathroom mirror, tears automatically form in her eyes.
Today wasn’t supposed to be like this. It should be a happy day. She should have woken up happy with the man she loves. It shouldn’t be this.
Sniffling, Alaine grabs one of the washcloths sitting in the cabinet and runs it under the hot water. She dabs it carefully over her wounded cheek then fingers the bandage concealing the cut under her neck. They appear much smaller injuries than she initially thought.
The effect of seeing them and the memory of how she got them and who put them there, however, is no less severe.
Time is lost to her as every part of the incident replays in her mind and tears continue to stream down her cheeks.
Why did this happen to her?
Softly, she voices that sentiment. “Why me?”
If only she’d been quicker, stronger, smarter, more careful, none of it would have happened.
She curls her small fingers into her black, tangled tresses, fists the strands and tugs hard until her scalp hurts.
If it wasn’t so long, maybe her attacker would not have bested her. She might have been able to outrun him.
In contemplation, Alaine scowls at her reflection. All she needs is a pair of scissors to solve that problem.
That is how Lucas finds her when he enters the bathroom -- tear stained cheeks, her fingers of one hand gripping her hair and the other put through the holes of a set of thin silver scissors she fished out of his shaving kit. The shears are already opened and poised to cut off her beautiful locks -- one of the features he absolutely loves about her.
During his workout, he’d convinced himself that his heart had done as much breaking as it could. He’d tried to believe that the worst was over and things can only go up from there. Obviously, that was a miscalculation.
For a brief moment, all Lucas can do is stare at Alaine as his heart continues to shatter painfully.
Assessing the scene, he asks, “what are you doing?” while his forehead creases in concern.
Alaine watches him for a beat without responding, then chokes on a sob.
“He pulled my hair,” she confesses hoarsely. “That’s how he got me. He pulled my hair.”
Lifted from his suspended state by the defeat in her voice, Lucas takes two urgent steps forward.
“Babe,” he says softly while pulling her against his chest.
Without resistance from her, he retrieves the scissors from her hand to set it down on the vanity. Equipped with no other point of reference than his sordid experiences and completely unsure of what to do, he turns her to the mirror again when her cries quiet.
“You are so beautiful,” he tells her while combing his fingers through the disarrayed mass of light curls.
Still uncertain because of her lack of response, he adds, “and your hair is one of the first things I noticed about you. I love your hair,” he says. Then he asks, “may I make a suggestion?”
This time, she nods though she eyes him curiously.
“I think that you should give it some time before you make that decision,” he suggests.
“It’s just hair,” Alaine reasons between broken breaths. “It can grow back.”
Behind her, Lucas nods his agreement.
“You’re right,” he tells her. “So if after you’ve thought it over, you still want to cut it, I can do it for you myself.”
She scowls at him with an amused and incredulous huff.
“I do have some expertise in this field,” he jokes and feels a sense of satisfaction when she chuckles softly.
Unable to hide her amusement, she asks, “why am I laughing at this? That shouldn’t be funny.”
“It was a long time ago,” Lucas reminds her with a shrug and a smile.
“Hence the reason you are not cutting my hair,” she tells him.
“I bet I would do a better job than you,” he teases.
“Probably,” she agrees and laughs a little harder.
The lyrical sound is sobering. Lucas closes his arms around her middle and hides his face in her hair hanging over the crook of her neck. Though he is happy that he could do that for her -- make her laugh in the face of adversity -- and he is thrilled that she allows him, the pain in his heart and his guilt over his failure to protect her pull a fresh wave of tears from his eyes -- tears and sorrow that he doesn’t want her to see.
“Thank you, for being here for me again, Lucas,” Alaine says.
While he tries to regain his composure, he nods against her skin but can’t suppress a sniffle as he wipes his face against his shirt that she is wearing.
Forcing a smile on his pretty lips, he straightens and holds her watery gaze in the mirror.
You don’t need to thank me, Alaine,” he responds. “I’m where I want to be.”
She turns around in his arms and palms the cheek where she’d hit him last night.
“I’m so sorry for hitting you,” she says, her eyes welling anew. “That was so wrong of me, especially after what you told me. I...”
Turning into her touch, Lucas kisses her palm, not to tell her that it’s okay because it wasn’t, but simply because he doesn’t know what to say.
“I’m sorry,” she tells him again.
To try to take her mind off everything else, Lucas leans down to kiss her long and slow. Without separating their lips, he lifts her up and sets her bare bottom down on the smooth, cold surface of the vanity.
A shiver, both from the way he possesses her and the icy feel of the counter on her skin, runs through Alaine.
She parts her legs for him to step between them then he sets his hands on her hips beneath the shirt to pull her closer and angle her body so they fit together perfectly.
This is just to distract her, Lucas reminds himself even though his body is begging for more. He needs so much more than this impassioned kiss to drown out the sounds of her crying.
From the position of his hands on her body, he can feel that she is wearing nothing underneath his clothes. All he has to do is undo his pants and he will have access to her wet heat.
The deeper he goes into these thoughts, the more demanding his touch on her body and his kisses become. The warning bells not to repeat last night are there prominent in his mind, but Alaine meets every thrust of his tongue in her mouth and she grinds her body against him until they both grow breathless with want.
Gathering what little strength he possesses when it comes to resisting Alaine, Lucas pulls away with his chest heaving. His heart is thumping heavily against his ribs and in each beat resonates the words he so desperately wants to say to her.
I love you, Alaine.
All it takes to convince him that now is the right time and that she deserves to know how he feels is her lifting her beautiful eyes to meet his. That’s all it takes.
Hoping to siphon out some of her courage for himself, Lucas rests his forehead against hers and closes his eyes.
“You know,” he begins to say but hesitates. “There’s something I want to say to you,” he continues after pulling in a deep breath and releasing it. “I’ve never said it...I mean...I’ve never said I love you to anyone before,” he admits. “I’m not sure how to or if it’s the right time or...” he trails off.
When he looks at her again, he finds Alaine’s eyes are like saucers and she’s stopped breathing.
Is he moving too fast? he wonders. Maybe she’s not ready and this is a mistake.
Reading the uncertainty and fear in his eyes and wanting him to continue, Alaine swallows deciding to take the leap.
“I’ve never said it either,” she admits. “Do you want to say it?”
Giving her a small, nervous smile he says, “I do. I-”
They both turn to a red-faced Delah standing awkwardly at the opened doorway.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbles. “Seth is here and asking for you. Not you Alaine. Lucas. Mr. Bright. I’m just going to go,” she rambles before stepping out of the bathroom and the pulling the door behind her.
“Wow,” Lucas states. “Your sister seriously has the worst timing.”
Alaine chuckles but agrees then sighs as he begins to rain soft kisses over her forehead, cheeks and finally her lips. That last one is so soft but skillful, it causes her breath to catch. Kissing him always feels so good, she eases herself up for more.
Lucas gives in and smiles against her lips.
Deciding that now probably isn’t the best time to say what he wants to since he has to leave for a bit anyway, he looks at her regretfully and says, “I need to step out for a while.”
“Oh,” Alaine answers, her disappointment edging to the fore in that simple reply.
“I don’t want to leave you,” he assures her quickly. “I probably should have left already but I didn’t want to before you woke up. It makes you happy that I waited?” he asks when a smile brightens her face.
“Very,” she admits.
Thrilled by her admission, he kisses her again swiftly and pulls back just as quickly for fear he might lose control and finish what they started right there on the vanity.
“I really want to stay,” he explains. “But I must. I wouldn’t go if it could be avoided.”
Trying to suppress the sadness sprouting inside her, Alaine fixes her wavering smile and says, “It’s fine. I want to shower but I have nothing to wear.”
“I like seeing you in my clothes,” Lucas tells her. “Help yourself and I’ll try to be quick.”
After a final lingering kiss, he slips out of the bathroom but pauses behind the closed door to take a fortifying breath before having to face the world.
Slightly invigorated by her long, hot shower, Alaine makes up her mind to come out of hiding. She exits Lucas’ bedroom carrying the comforting fragrance of his shampoo in her hair and his body wash on her skin.
Still unsure if she is ready to face anyone else, she drags her feet across the landing.
“That was very intense and awkward,” Delah says from her position in the kitchen when she notices Alaine coming down the stairs.
Realizing that it’s too late to change her mind and go back the way she came, Alaine quickens her pace and flops herself down onto a stool at the counter.
“And your timing sucks,” she mutters in reply. “Even Lucas said so.”
Delah offers her a wry smile. With neither of them particularly inclined to address what happened last night, an oppressive silence descends around them. Each feels the weight of the other’s unexpressed emotion but it wasn’t until Delah moved here to New York that the sisters really began to assemble a real relationship.
All the years of estrangement is an impossible hurdle to crush in the wake of such a serious situation.
Alaine leans her forearms on the edge of the counter and twiddles her fingers. She looks at her sister wiping down the already shiny surface and shakes her head.
Maybe it would have been best if she’d remained holed up in Lucas’ bedroom, until his return. Then this very uncomfortable situation would have been avoided.
However, last night, she’d pushed Delah and her attempts to console her away to throw herself at Lucas instead. Now there is the possibility that she might become pregnant with his baby.
She considers sharing it with Delah the lighten the mood but shakes the thought out of her head.
Mentally, she rolls her eyes at her guilty conscience. She shouldn’t have to feel sorry for anybody but herself right now and far less guilty.
But she feels both, toward Delah.
“So?” Delah asks interrupting the mini battle in her mind.
Alaine lifts her eyes to meet her sister’s. What she sees there is an annoying reminder of her experience. It’s pity and sadness and everything that makes her feel like a victim looking back at her. At least with Lucas, she can lose herself in passion and forget, however temporarily. He distracts her with his tenderness and care, with his kisses and his touch. Being with him makes her feel better.
Yet, her guilty conscience over her treatment of her sister and her concern wins the day.
“I’m fine,” Alaine says but it comes off a little more snappish than intended.
Reading the cues, Delah quickly changes the topic.
“I take it the two of you are serious then?” she asks. “What I walked in on seemed far beyond casual and don’t even try to deny it,” she adds at the opening of Alaine’s rebuttal.
“I don’t know, maybe. I guess. Yes,” Alaine concedes. “I think he was going to say that he loves me before you came in.”
“In a bathroom?” Delah questions with her face scrunched up in disapproval. “Seriously? You guys have zero romantic flare. What would you have said, if he did say it?”
Avoiding her sister’s last question and downplaying the excitement she feels at the prospect of Lucas being in love with her, she shrugs her shoulders.
“Does it matter when?” she asks.
“I guess not,” Delah responds as her mind shows her a glimpse of the first time Harlan said he loved her. Erasing the mental picture, she asks, “why didn’t he say it last night while you guys were...”
“Wait,” Alaine says cutting her off. “How do you know what we were doing?”
“This place has really great acoustics,” Delah informs her with that coquettish look on her face. “And I don’t think you all were trying to be quiet. All of Manhattan probably heard you.”
While Delah’s funny bone has obviously been tickled, Alaine has the decency to blush with mortification.
“Seth was here!” she exclaims. “And Isabella!”
“And me,” Delah says with a laugh.
Enjoying her sister’s embarrassment a little longer, she pours herself her third mug of steaming coffee and sips on it.
“Seth disappeared somewhere after the first moan reached our ears and Izzy was asleep,” she finally admits setting her sister’s mind at ease.
“And you?” Alaine questions.
“I couldn’t very well go wandering about his apartment, Alaine,” she confesses with a shrug. “I turned on my playlist to drown out the sounds. Now, forget all that and tell me, are you okay?” she finally gets the nerve to ask.
“I’m fine,” Alaine says, then adds, “I think I will be.”
“There’s that Alaine spirit,” Delah notes. “I was going to suggest an ice pack for your face last night but...and anyway it’s not that bad,” she offers while looking at Alaine’s cheek. “Nothing a little makeup can’t cover.”
You would know Alaine thinks. Awashed with shame because of that thought, she avoids the concern in Delah’s eyes.
“He seems to really care for you,” Delah says. “How about some breakfast?” she suggests. “I made extra in case you wanted something.”
Disinclined to reject her sister’s efforts, Alaine sighs and answers, “sure.”
Delah stills in her task of putting eggs on a plate to look at Alaine again.
“I know this is hard,” she says. “But it helps to talk about it. I’ve had my share of trauma too and shutting everyone out only makes it worse.”
“I’m not shutting you out,” Alaine argues. “I just don’t know what you expect me to say.”
At the sound of Delah’s silence, Alaine glances up and shakes her head. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I know you are just trying to be supportive but it’s all so fresh,” she admits with a cringe and shuts her eyes in the hope of making the images this conversation creates in her mind disappear.
Delah reaches out to touch her hand and she flinches uncontrollably.
Seeing her sister struggle against a fresh wave of tears as her alabaster skin reddens while she sniffles, Alaine’s own tears begin to flow. The silence that settled around them earlier returns so she works her brain to think of something to get rid of it. Other than walking away and leaving Delah in her distress, the only thing she comes up with is Lucas spilling inside her last night.
It’s a juicy topic. The kind that her sister appreciates. As much as she likes to keep her private life private, witnessing her Delah breaking down again, compels her to let the cat out of the bag.
“Ummm Delah?” she calls. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure sis, anything,” Delah responds as she leans across the counter to stroke Alaine’s hair softly.
With a blush painting her cheeks pink, Alaine says, “Lucas and I...” but stops.
“I’m no prude, Alaine,” Delah chuckles perceptively. “I’ve been in the business for quite some time.”
“Well we’ve never used protection but last night was the first time that he...” she tries to explain but trails off again. Hoping that she doesn’t have to spell it all out for Delah, Alaine looks at her with wide, expectant eyes.
The lost look in Delah’s eyes quickly transforms to one of understanding.
“Oh,” she says. “Well how do you feel about it?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” Alaine admits. “It’s terrifying, I guess. And Lucas didn’t say anything. We haven’t talked about it.”
“Are you ready to be a mom?” Delah asks. “It’s not easy. Although, having a billionaire’s kid will be a lot different from my situation,” she assesses as her eyes sweep over the fancy apartment.
“It’s not something I ever thought about,” Alaine says. “And Lucas...I mean we aren’t even official as yet. I don’t know if we ever will be.”
Delah huffs at her.
“I don’t know about that, Alaine,” she says. “From what I see that man is in love with you.”
With her head bowed, she mumbles, “I would kill to have him look at me like he looks at you.”
“What?” Alaine asks.
“Oh, you know what I mean,” Delah continues with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“Clearly, I don’t, so why don’t you explain it to me,” Alaine demands and folds her arms across her chest.
“What I said came out wrong,” Delah explains. “He’s a handsome and rich man. Every woman probably wants him to look at them with adoration. You’ve been through an ordeal, so you’re blowing this way out of proportion.”
“Don’t patronize me,” Alaine retorts stepping off the stool. “Why would you even say that? You know what,” she says silencing any further attempts from her sister to explain. “I don’t want to know. Always the same selfish Delah. I don’t know why I thought time made you any different.”
Forgoing the offer of breakfast, Alaine stalks away from the counter, ignoring her sister’s calls for her to come back.