Long overdue, I know but here it is. I still ask that you leave a little comment below, vote or write a review if you haven’t done so as yet. Thank you so much for reading.
Spilling his guts to his stepmother wasn’t part of his original plan but Lucas just needed to unload to someone. If he hadn’t witnessed Alaine’s near breakdown in his bathroom earlier, she would have been his first choice especially since his latest worry concerns her. As much as he wanted to, she couldn’t be that person for him today. Plus, he needed the wisdom of a professional without having to consult a stranger.
Men like him -- rich, powerful men with less than pristine backgrounds -- have been destroyed by littler than what he’s shared with Shanice today.
He’s not about to let his life’s work be reduced to material for satirical late night shows. All it would take is one word getting out -- one whisper in the right ear -- one drop in the bucket to capsize everything he’s built.
That’s probably his greatest fear and it’s not a chance he’s willing to take.
As a result, he asked Shanice to dismiss her driver for a few minutes so they can talk in private.
Who better to trust with his woes than the woman who’s been faithfully married to his father for over twenty years?
He’s never spoken to her on such a level before but now he leans against the door in the back seat of her car waiting for her to say something about what he just shared.
He’d told it all; everything about Angus and Alaine and his fear that she might become pregnant with his child. Parenthood is not something he’s ever sat down to contemplate. Now that it’s on his doorstep, he knows that he is not ready for it.
Instead of offering the sage advice he is expecting from a doctor of her caliber, all Shanice does it stare at him.
She tries to contain her surprise and digest the mouthful he just fed her. Her mouth opens to say something, works for a little while to form a sentence, then closes unsuccessfully.
Feeling embarrassed, Lucas groans. “This was a bad idea,” he says shaking his head. “I shouldn’t have dumped this on you. I guess I needed...I don’t know what I needed,” he admits and squeezes his eyes shut.
Shanice reaches over to touch his hand. “No, I’m just processing,” she tells him with her lips curving into a smile. “I’m glad you called me.”
In all the years she’s known him, Lucas has never -- not once -- sought her out to talk or ask her advice. His call was unexpected but she jumped at the opportunity. She’d been on her way to a consultation -- lucky for him -- in the city. However, she would have happily postponed those plans to meet with him.
When he said, “I need your help,” over the phone, she’d had to curb her enthusiasm to remember to ask him if he was alright.
I don’t know, he’d replied and something sunk in her gut. She’d feared the worst -- that he was terminally ill, that he’d killed someone, that he’d been arrested or some woman was accusing him of assault. She’d imagined everything on the list of worst nightmares a parent can experience.
Now a little uncontrollable laugh bubbles from her. She never expected the emergency to be Lucas falling in love and possibly getting his girlfriend pregnant. Granted, it’s a terrible time to feel joyous at the prospect of becoming a grandmother. Considering the terrible circumstances that led to their little...mishap in the first place, she shouldn’t be this happy. But it just feels so good that she’s finally earned the trust of her stepson she can’t help but be thrilled.
“What do you need from me, Lucas?” she asks.
He shakes his head and shrugs.
“Becoming a father is not the end of the world,” Shanice assures him. “And I guarantee if that is the case -- if your girlfriend does become pregnant-- the moment that you listen to your baby’s heartbeat, you are to going to fall in love hard.”
Feeling no inclination to fight her on the girlfriend comment, Lucas replies, “I’m just...I’m not ready to be a father. I haven’t the slightest clue how to even love her and I do. I love her but a baby? I’m not even sure I know what I’m doing,” he states then swallows hard. “What do I do?”
“No one is ever ready to be a parent,” Shanice answer. “But there are options. First of all, it sounds to me like you haven’t spoken to her about it. You need to. Ultimately the choice is hers if she wants to have it.”
Lucas breathes deeply.
“Secondly,” Shanice says. “There is emergency contraception. However, that is not always a guarantee,” she explains. “If she’s already...ummm...ovulating,” she says then looks at Lucas to gauge his reaction.
As she expected, his eyes widen and his eyebrows shoot almost all the way to his hairline.
Suppressing a smile, Shanice pats his hand reassuringly. “If she already has,” she repeats. “She can still try the pill but there a very high chance that she will become pregnant. At that stage, there is really nothing you can do except wait a couple of weeks before taking a pregnancy test.”
“How do I know if she’s...you know?” he asks.
“A simple ovulation test will tell if she’s already at that stage in her cycle. If she isn’t, then she can take the pill. It will prevent ovulation thus preventing pregnancy.”
“How soon does she have to take it?” he asks.
“The sooner the better,” Shanice tells him. “You can pick up an ovulation kit at any pharmacy. Even a grocery store. I’ll go with you.”
“Actually,” Lucas says with a sheepish expression on his face. “You wouldn’t mind if I st this one out?”
“No problem,” Shanice says as she finally releases his hand.
She opens her door, then her umbrella before slipping out of the backseat of her car and into the wet weather outside to say a few words to her driver.
Lucas looks out the window to see her dart across the street between heavy traffic and then up the block. He drags in a deep breath holding it in his lungs before releasing it hoping to alleviate the heaviness in his chest.
Everything just feels like too much now -- too much for his head and heart. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he consults with his map app to locate pharmacies in the area.
Unable to sit still, he opens his door and bounds for the direction Shanice quick walked in.
The rain lessens to a drizzle but by the time Lucas gets to the front door of the building where he guesses his stepmother is, his hair is soaked. Rivulets of water drip from his head and down into his collar causing a chill in his bones that makes him shiver uncontrollably.
Usually, torturing himself with this kind of extreme cold provides a means of escape from his mind but nothing he’s tried can ease the unrest growing inside him.
It’s all too fresh.
He could go inside to find Shanice and take respite from the weather. Better yet, he could have remained in the warm backseat of her car parked two blocks away.
Sitting stationary when his brain is so restless made him uneasy so he’d chosen to walk in the rain instead. The problem is, he can’t very well follow her into an aisle of feminine products, ovulation kits, and pregnancy tests. That is absolutely out of the question.
Even if he rarely ever pays attention to headlines that don’t involve global issues or business, it’s not hard to imagine what they will read when the video feed of him purchasing these items get leaked to mainstream media. Hence the reason he chooses to stand out here freezing his ass off in the rain.
The door to the building pulls inwards and Shanice steps outside. Lucas pushes off the wall trying to hide his trembling from her but her perceptive eyes have already caught on to it. She fixes her features to hide her scowl of disapproval and fights the urge to pull her stepson in for a hug -- one she suspects he needs but doesn’t want.
He’s already plastered on that face -- the one that says he’s an island -- so she knows that whatever moment they shared is in the past.
Although it’s pointless, since he is almost drenched, Shanice opens her umbrella over the two of them.
“You’re going to make yourself sick,” she cautions Lucas. “You should have waited in the car.”
Silently, he accepts the paper bag she hands him but pays no heed to her motherly tone.
A deeper sense of dread settles in his stomach when he peeks at the contents in the bag. An ovulation kit, pregnancy test and a box of emergency contraceptives stare dauntingly up at him.
“So she uses the test and then what?” he asks.
Holding her sympathy in her heart where he can’t see it, Shanice replies, “depending on the results, that’s for you two to decide. She doesn’t need to take the test, Lucas,” she advises. “The morning after pill...”
“But I can’t just bring up the pill,” he lowers his voice to say. The frustration he feels come through in his tone and the way he shoves his wet hair away from his face. “I can’t buy it and present it to her after what...just take it,” he tells her.
Obediently, Shanice reaches into the paper bag, pulls out the box and stuffs it in her coat pocket.
“If after we’ve talked she agrees to take it then, I’ll come to pick it up... I don’t want her to feel like I made the decision without her,” he explains.
“Okay,” Shanice agrees. “I understand that and you’re right. You’re a good person,” she reminds him as she always does. “Go home, get changed,” she suggests. “Why don’t you come to the house tomorrow. Both of you. The change in scenery might be good for her,” she says as she leans in to kiss his cheek.
“Thank you,” Lucas answers.
“You’re welcome, love,” Shanice replies before walking away.
He watches until she rounds the corner out of sight. Instead of finding his own driver, Lucas opts to continue walking in the light rain. He’s only a few blocks from his apartment building and he’d only ruin the leather seats in his SUV if he got in all wet anyway.
After stuffing the small package under his arm, he shoves his cold hands into his pockets and hunches his shoulders against the icy air as he crosses the street and weaves his way through traffic.
With narrowed eyes, Angus observes the exchange between Lucas and the woman he’s learned is his stepmother from a short distance away. He wishes he could hear their exchange but any closer and it’s a guarantee he will be spotted.
Why people so impressed with Lucas Bright -- he’ll never know. Obviously, the man is not as smart as he wants everyone to believe. It was so easy to track him.
If Lucas was any good for Alaine, he wouldn’t be where he is right now. He’d be with her. How could he choose to be out on the streets after he heard what she went through last night?
If it were him, he would not let her out of his sight. He’d hold her to let her know that she is safe with him.
Angus sighs wistfully.
That just goes to show that she not important to Lucas and yet, she’d chosen him.
He just has to show her that he, Angus, is the better choice. What happened yesterday was a mistake. He hadn’t meant to take things that far. He’d planned to go out the window like he always does when he hears the front door to her apartment open. But he’d waited to get a glimpse of her first. Then he’d heard her on the phone talking to Lucas and he just lost his head. If she gives him a chance to explain that he loves her then she will understand and they can still be together.
After the woman walks away from Lucas, Angus debates briefly whether he should stick with his plans for him or follow after her. Deciding to leave the family alone, at least for the time being, he trails Lucas’ steps.
With his height, he has to be careful so as not to draw attention to himself. He sticks with the crowd weaving his way through the throng approaching Columbus Circle and keeps his body bent forward so he doesn’t stand a head or more over everybody else.
If he’d been able to procure that gun already, he would use it right this second. He’d aim and fire directly at Lucas Bright’s head or maybe at his chest straight into his beating heart for trying to take Alaine away from him. Either way, it would be somewhere that ensured he was dead. Then, Alaine would be free to be his.
It seems like fate that the idiot would choose this morning of all mornings to walk along the crowded Manhattan sidewalk without his security.
Angus closes his fingers around the hilt of the knife sheathed inside his coat pocket. He can imagine what it would feel like to plunge it deep into Lucas’ side and feel his life ebbing out of him. He’d enjoy watching his blood flow staining his hands red.
With that picture in his mind, unconsciously, his strides lengthen eating up the space between him and his mark. Maybe he will never have Alaine, but he can’t let Lucas have her either.
He dies today.
Angus’ determined steps come to a sudden halt.
Two people plow into him as he watches the man who drives Lucas around plant a hand on Lucas’ shoulder.
Lucas jerks around to face Seth and that turns him right in his direction. Ignoring the chaos he’s created on the street and the profanities shouted at him from one man whose belongings go scattering out of his hands, Angus ducks quickly out of Lucas’ line of sight before the commotion can draw attention his way.
“I doubt this is wise,” Seth says when Lucas whirls towards him. “What’s more, I know that you know it isn’t, hence the reason you’re so jumpy,” he accuses. “I told you to come back to the car. I can’t do my job if you’re running wild in Manhattan,” he scolds.
“I just needed a minute to myself,” Lucas replies.
“Look, I get it,” Seth tells him. “And I’ve got mad respect for you for sticking with Alaine after this. Someone else might have bailed. But how do you think she’ll feel if something happens to you? Angus got away,” he reminds him. “He’s out there and chances are he isn’t done with her.”
“He’s not done with her,” Lucas notes. “He’s after her, not me.”
“I know you’re not that stupid,” Seth mutters in frustration. “He’s probably just getting started with you.”
Expecting Lucas to follow after him, he begins walking back to where he parked the SUV.
“Why do you think he sent you those pictures of her?” Seth turns to Lucas to ask. “It’s a threat. If you don’t step away, you’re his target as well and it’s pretty damn obvious that you’re not stepping away.”
Knowing that his driver is speaking the truth, Lucas reaches out to trap him by the elbow.
“I don’t want her to know about that,” he tells Seth.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Seth warns. “Just like it was a terrible idea to keep this out of the news,” he adds. “The whole city should be looking for this guy but you’re paying through the nose to keep it quiet. I gotta wonder why.”
“You’ve forgotten your place,” Lucas spits angrily.
“Yeah?” Seth questions. “You think I give a shit what my place is right now? Or about you firing me? You’re hiding the man who...”
“Hiding him?” Lucas scoffs cutting him off. “I want to put a bullet in him. What would you have had me do?” he growls. “Do you have any idea what would happen to her if this got out? I might as well through her to the wolves. Even if she’s the victim, her life would be placed under a microscope and there will be nothing I can do about it. They would pick her apart just because she is with me. That’s how this life works -- how my life works. Is that what you want?”
The helplessness he feels has Seth clenching his jaws, fisting his hands and swallowing the rage burning inside him.
Watching his driver battling his emotions just like he is trying to do right now makes Lucas sigh.
“Believe me,” he says in a more tempered tone. “I want this guy caught. I want him dead. But keeping this quiet is what’s best for Alaine. Do you think she can handle a media circus on top of everything else?”
Conceding that his boss might know more about these types of situations than him, Seth stows his disapproval and picks up a fast pace to get out of the freezing rain.
“Fine,” he says after a while of walking in silence. “We’ll do it your way...for now.”
Lucas returns to the apartment tired, anxious, angry and prevailed upon by a legion of other unspecific emotions. Relieved by the silence that greets him in the living room, he takes a moment just to enjoy the quiet.
The daunting, white Duane Reade paper bag and his favourite Manhattan burger, he sets down, before sinking into one of the stools standing around the counter. He rests his head against the cold countertop and sighs.
Being outside had been like a raw gaping wound. Seth is right. Angus is somewhere out there, waiting, maybe watching. A chill runs down his spine at the thought of him hurting Alaine again and then again as he recounts those agonizing hours he’d spent on the plane, after hearing the fight for her life.
By now his teeth are chattering. He hadn’t spent enough time in the heat of the SUV to warm himself and he’d been out for longer than he anticipated.
How is Alaine feeling Now?
He walks to the kitchen sink, running cold water over his face to wash away the evidence of the fresh tears he’d shed on her behalf.
Exhaustion, just like the cold, has seeped into his bones as well. Normally, he’s not a regular sleeper, but last night, it had been an enemy. He’d managed to snag a couple of hours but those had been interrupted each moment he had to lull Alaine back into slumber.
When first light turned the sky a joyless gray, he’d opted for a workout and a shower under freezing water. It had been a useless punishment. The cold had done very little to distract him from everything else and has been pointless all throughout the day so far.
Picking up the bag with their lunch and the paper bag from the pharmacy, Lucas goes in search of the woman who occupies his mind endlessly.
There’s no putting off facing the reality of their situation any further.
He takes his time climbing the stairs. Pained, heavy footsteps lead him in the direction of the master bedroom.
The door is ajar so he can hear soft voices filtering through. She’s listening to the news. Lucas frowns because of the distinct memory of Alaine telling him that he never watches the news.
Angus Maloney’s name reaches his ears over the speakers making him scowl.
His trip to the police station had been fruitless. They know nothing other than what Alaine told them. All they have is a fake address, registered under a fake name. Frighteningly, that fake address is directly across the street from Alaine’s apartment.
Detective Murphy, the one he’d learned is lead on the case, had seemed mildly annoyed by his appearance in her office; not that he cared. Until Angus is either in their custody or better yet, dead, he will be breathing down their necks.
After a deep breath to prepare himself, Lucas enters his bedroom.
Alaine paints a pretty picture curled up there in the middle of his bed. That’s all he notes before his attention is stolen by the face looming on the large screen.
Lucas feels a tick in his jaw. This wasn’t supposed to get out.
He watches and listens for the mention of Alaine’s name or for her face to be plastered on the screen as well. To his relief, all the reporter says is that Angus is a person of interest in an ongoing police investigation.
“...anyone with information should call the number on the screen.”
One second ago, Alaine’s eyes had been burning holes through the television screen but Lucas’ entry distracts her. Her eyes consume him now.
Despite his troubled features, she can’t help but note how irresistibly handsome he is.
Her mind wanders to what might taking root in her womb.
If she does become pregnant, who would their baby take after? Him or her?
Maybe a little bit of both would be nice.
Her lips curl into a distant and wistful smile. It’s strange because not a few hours ago, she’d been petrified by the idea of motherhood.
Lucas’s answering look of curiosity drags her out of her fanciful musings of a beautiful family with the two of them and their son or daughter.
“What’s going on in that head of your?” he asks.
Her eyes drop to the two bags in his hand. At the sight of the restaurant logo on one of them, her stomach either protests its neglect or growls its approval as the smell of food permeates the air.
The mention of Angus Maloney’s name once more by the news reporter snags his attention back to the screen. Lucas scowls at the t.v. Or maybe it’s directed at Angus’ face. Growing angry at seeing the man who attacked her become famous, Alaine shuts off the large black box to reclaim Lucas’ attention.
“You’re cold,” she notes as she looks appreciatively at the show of flesh beneath his opened collar.
“Are you checking me out, Ms. Knight?” Lucas asks with mock indignation. Then he smiles and says, “I think you’re checking me out.”
He walks over to the vanity, drops the bags down on the top of it before shrugging out of his leather jacket. He undoes the remaining buttons on his shirt before tossing it off and onto the floor. Then he pulls his damp t-shirt off to stand bare-chested in front of her.
Alaine looks at him with an approving nod. If he hadn’t made it as a businessman, he could have been a model. Happy for the distraction and the chance to distract him she replies, “as a matter of fact, I am.”
“Like what you see?” Lucas teases.
“Mmm, you are eye candy,” she answers with a blush.
Noticing the shiver that runs through him, she pushes herself up against the pillow and frowns.
“Why are you wet?” she asks.
“I think the better question is, are you going to do anything to get me warm?”
Alaine smiles and breaks into a giggle that accentuates her cheekbones, particularly the purple bruise on her cheek. Lucas’ eyes rest on that area and something leaps in the gray pools wiping the smile off his face.
Their playful flirting ends swiftly as they stare at each other. Alaine looks away first. She doesn’t like what she sees in his when she looks at him. Though he tries to mask it, she can see the pity he feels for her and the blame he’s ascribed himself.
She closes her eyes against the tears threatening to spill over. She won’t allow herself to cry simply because she won’t have him feeling any worse.
Lucas sighs and picks up the bag from the pharmacy. He walks over to sit next to her on the bed. The way she stiffens and pulls herself away from his touch makes him hurt. The feeling only intensifies with the way she quiets her cries to little whimpers.
His little fairy is broken but he’ll do anything to see her whole again.
“Baby,” Lucas implores softy while he moves to embrace her.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
“Don’t apologize, Alaine,” her tells her his own voice made rough by repressed emotion. “You have every reason to cry. Come here,” he orders before pulling her to sit on his lap. “I’m here for you Ali, whatever you need,” he promises.
“You’re wet,” she breathes as she hides her face against his neck.
“But not so cold now,” he says then presses his lips against her hair. “I’m sorry I left you this morning,” he says honestly. “I keep screwing up in that area. I’ll do better, babe. I promise.”
His sincerity and gentleness has her heart fluttering. Alaine relaxes even further against him, releasing a soft sigh. Idly, she runs her finger up and down his side.
This time, the shiver that goes through his body is not entirely associated with the chill he brought in with him from being outside.
“Where did you go?” she asks.
Instead of answering, Lucas tips her head back so she can look up at him. He leans down to press his mouth over hers. She angles her head to receive the sweet, sensuous exploration of his lips and tongue. Sighing her contentment, yet again, she lets her fingers travel up his body to linger tenderly on his face.
This time as they hold each other’s gaze, it is with an uninhibited revelation of undeclared love.
“I went to see Shanice,” Lucas confesses. “It’s not a cell phone or an air bed,” he tries to joke as he hands her the paper bag.
The distraction his kiss created a little while ago, disappears from Alaine’s eyes when she pulls out the pregnancy test and looks at him quizzically.
“That is for later,” he informs her.
She pulls out the ovulation predictor kit next and they both sigh.
“Where is your cellphone?” Lucas asks to delay the conversation they need to have for a little while longer. “I tried to call you earlier to ask if you wanted something to eat.”
With her attention riveted by the two boxes in her hands, Alaine shrugs. “The police took stuff as evidence from my apartment. They probably have it. Did you buy these?” she asks stunned that he would.
“No, Shanice did,” he admits.
And There it is. The thing he’d been dreading; shock, accusation, and apprehension all written on her face.
“You told her?” Alaine hisses. “How could you?”
“I did. I had to talk to someone, Alaine,” he says as she pulls herself away from him. “I would have had no idea what to begin to look for,” he explains, hoping for her understanding.
In hindsight, he can see that he probably should have mentioned to her his intent to solicit his stepmother’s advice. Especially since, now that he thinks about it, Shanice is most likely going to tell his father that he might be a grandfather soon and Arlington will likely tell somebody.
Shaking the thought out of his head, he quickly tries to appease her. “I hope I did not overstep but I didn’t think I had much of a choice,” he says. “It wasn’t easy but Shanice is an Ob/Gyn. We can find out if there is a chance that you can become pregnant and decide if we’re going to do anything about it.”
“That’s why you went out today?” Alaine questions.
Lucas gives her a solemn nod. “Mostly,” he answers. “I also when to the police station. I spoke to your detective and a few other things.”
The guilt she felt earlier about her actions that brought them to this juncture in the first place returns to replace Alaine’s anger. It’s her fault they are where they are now. If she hadn’t forced him, none of this would be happening.
“I’m really sorry about this,” she whispers.
“It’s done,” Lucas replies softly. “Let’s just see what the test says, okay?”
“Will she tell the rest of your family?” Alaine asks.
Lucas reaches down to smooth the worry out of her brow.
“I didn’t expressly state that she couldn’t about her being quiet but Shanice is a professional. However, I can’t imagine she will keep it from my dad. And once it gets there, they’ll be planning a baby shower,” he says and rolls his eyes.
Alaine chuckles, despite herself. “Lucas,” she says.
Already presuming what she is going to say, he cuts her off.
“Don’t say anything, Alaine,” he tells her. “Let’s just find out and we’ll take it from there.”