I am in no way, shape or form certain about this chapter. I mean I like it for me but I’m never sure how you all are going to feel about my writing even if you’ve told me time and time again that you’re enjoying the story. Anyways, after the long wait, here it is and I’m jumping to next one right away. Not saying it will be out tonight but at least you know that it’s in the works.
There’s nothing Lucas would prefer more than to remain with Alaine. He just doesn’t think it wise to have her stay with him in the guest house while Seth apprises him of this Angus situation. Not after her hysterical response to those pictures.
It irks him that his time has to be so divided and consumed by so many different things. These goings-on hardly afford him a minute to focus on her. He has to split his attention between making allowance for his company and keeping abreast of Claudia’s condition while trying to sniff out Angus’ hiding spot, among other things. It shouldn’t be. All he wants is to drop it all and take Alaine somewhere -- just the two of them.
For now, what he can give her is a slow stroll around the grounds simply to keep her distracted.
For the second time, she laughs hard at something he says -- a raucous sound that makes him laugh too -- as he regales her with another tale about his childhood here on this property.
Although her clammy fingers maintain a tight grip on his hand, he is content that his efforts to divert her thoughts aren’t in vain. Even as her laughter begins to fade, he relishes the sound. Hearing it raises fine layers of goosebumps over his skin and sends a tingling across his nervous system. It’s the most satisfying thing he’s ever heard.
Regretfully, their walk ends too quickly on the doorsteps at the front of his parents’ mansion.
Using his free hand, Lucas turns the doorknob and pushes the door open for Alaine.
“You’ll be okay?” he asks while looking down at her face.
She nods her reply while swallowing around the lump of emotion in her throat.
“I’ll be as quick as I can,” he promises.
Before he can turn to leave, she catches him at the crook of his arm and tugs him back towards her. Leaning up, Alaine presses her already kiss-swollen lips to his. As unexpected as it is, Lucas responds right away.
Resting one hand lightly on her waist, he palms her face with the other. This time he doesn’t press for anything more than what she gives. Just this sweet, soft exchange is all he needs.
He could spend the rest of the day just like this but respectfully, he allows her to retreat and as she does, he can still taste the shyness on her lips.
That makes him chuckle.
They’ve done so much together already. Just last night she’d massaged him until he’s certain he saw the glistening, golden aura surrounding the gates of heaven. And he’d returned the favour...twice over. Now she’s looking at him with those adorable pink highlights in her cheeks.
They remind him of how unused to all of this she is and of his mission to ensure that nothing and no one hurts her.
“I’ll see you in a bit,” Lucas says before leaving her standing there to hurry his way back.
The second he leaves, Alaine pulls in a sharp breath and holds it in. She’s about to enter his family’s house and she doesn’t want to do it with tears spilling out of her eyes. Particularly because Lucas isn’t there to play advocate. If anyone sees her crying, it’s bound to spark a discussion she doesn’t want to have.
After stepping over the threshold, she turns around to close the door so that it doesn’t make a sound. Then she begins to tiptoe her way across the hardwood. Her eyes dart quickly around surveilling her surroundings while her ears strain to listen for any noise that will alert her to the presence of others.
Her heart develops that irregular, nervous pattern notifying her that she needs to breathe. Slowly, she lets out the air in her lungs and fills them up again while quickening her pace towards the bottom of the stairs.
The deeper into the house she walks, the richer the scent of food in the air becomes. It’s a reminder of her impending lunch with Lucas’ family.
Since this isn’t her first time meeting them, she probably shouldn’t be this anxious. It’s not like the first time was terrible. They’d been a friendly and receptive bunch.
They’re good people, she tries to tell herself. But for whatever reason, it still feels like she’s going to be on trial. Today, they’re going to be judging her worthiness to be with one of their own.
Considering his life is probably in danger because of her, she’ll most likely fail their test. What will they do when they learn how sick Angus is? They’ll want him to distance himself from her, for certain. What loving parent wouldn’t?
That thought almost makes her whimper. Lucas is the only thing keeping her from breaking down completely. He has a quiet strength and assuredness about him that she’s come to rely on. What will she do if he decides to walk away? Could she even blame him if he did?
The sumptuous aroma coming from the kitchen causes a rumble in her stomach -- an obvious complaint against its neglect. As fulfilling as the meal promises to be, she doesn’t dare to investigate. Instead, dreading the thought of running into someone without Lucas playing advocate, she makes the decision to escape to his old bedroom before being seen.
As she begins to climb the stairs, she tries to recall how to get there. The only thing she remembers clearly is that his is the only bedroom on the third floor.
It almost seems like they’d created his own little world for him up there. Coupled with what he’s already divulged about his childhood, thinking about it is like a splinter piercing her heart making it bleed for him.
Her mind takes her back to the guest house where he’s currently trying to figure out how to save her from a deranged man. She has no idea how he does it. How he deals with so much and remains so selfless -- unlike her.
She cringes at the way she reacted and accused him earlier. The logical part of her brain had known that he was only trying to help. But at the time, her emotions had been running rampant and she’d succumbed to them.
She hates having no control over what is happening to her and backing down wasn’t coded into her DNA.
Now Lucas has taken it upon himself to play the knight in shining armor while relegating her to the role of damsel in distress. She should be included in whatever it is they are planning or at the very least, know about it.
It’s her guilt that did the thinking for her and caused her to agree to leave -- guilt over consuming his time; guilt at the potential scandal he is facing; guilt for accusing him when he is only trying to protect her and guilt for blaming him.
Chastising herself for letting him seduce her into leaving, she hastens her flight up the three sets of stairways only giving cursory glances to the family portraits lining the wall when she hears the heavy timbre of male voices not too far away.
With a sigh, she concedes that the last thing Lucas needs is an anxious, emotional female hanging over his shoulder.
At the top of the third-floor landing, she pauses briefly to get her bearings before walking to the door that she’s certain might be his bedroom.
Earlier, Shernie hadn’t really given her the time to peruse her new environment. The girl just kind of dragged her around from room to room. As she steps inside the bedroom, it’s easy to see that this was Lucas’ space. Everything about it just seems so very...him -- from the pale gray on the walls to the extremely dark hardwood on the floor and especially the display case of trophies.
She tries to imagine a younger version of him in here. A beautiful little boy with curly dark locks and those special gray eyes.
To help her fantasy, she examines the photographs set on the dresser, inside the glass showcase, and on the bedside table.
In the first frame she picks up he must have been only about three years old. Alaine smiles at the pretty baby boy he used to be. His hair was a thick, his eyes large and luminous and his lips a bright shade of red like it was stained with candy.
He is sitting on his father’s shoulders on a pristine white sand beach, with aquamarine waters and the corners of his eyes crinkle with laughter.
Who took the photo? she wonders as she sets it back in its place.
They say a picture tells a thousand words and the next photograph Alaine handles tells a sorry story. Lucas is about eight but the glimmer is completely gone from his eyes. He looks haunted and scared with a ghost of a smile on his innocent face. She can almost imagine the photographer forcing it out of him.
Wishing she could have been a comfort for him at that age, she pulls the photograph against her chest. An acute sense of anguish washes through her as she remembers the horror stories he’d told her.
Despite her melancholy, she puts the picture back down and picks up the next frame she comes across with a little giggle. He was a skinny thing as a teen but still so breathtaking and beautiful. She cocks her head to the side trying to wonder if he merely posed with the guitar he is holding or if he can actually play. Something tells her that Lucas isn’t one to put on a show, so she imagines whoever took this one must have caught him unawares.
The bedroom door pushes wider soundlessly brightening the light entering the room. That’s what alerts Alaine of his presence as he steps inside. With the frame still in her hand, she smiles widely and holds it out so Lucas can see exactly what she’s looking at.
“I know, I know,” he says. “I’m gorgeous but I do love the way you ogle me.”
Laughing and rolling her eyes, she sets the picture frame aside as he walks across to meet her.
“That was quick,” she tells him. “Did Seth leave?”
“Lunch is about to be served,” he informs her. “And I think my services are better used here. And no. Seth did not leave. I invited him to eat with us.”
“Wow,” Alaine breathes with a chuckle. “That’s progress.”
“Do you mind?” he asks.
Shaking her head in answer, she muses, “I can’t believe families actually eat together. It’s really nice here, Lucas. Thank you for bringing me. Do you still play?” she asks pointing to the picture.
“Probably,” he says with a shrug. “It’s been a couple of years since I held a guitar.”
“You were a late bloomer,” she notes at how small he is in every picture.
“Don’t remind me,” he groans.
Then the look in his eyes turns predatory. “Although,” he says thoughtfully. “Other things were quite impressive by then,” he whispers while tugging her to him by the material of her dress.
He presses her so close she can feel the shape and length of his anatomy growing against her hip. “Still is, wouldn’t you say, Ms. Knight?” he teases and nips at her lips.
Though the air in her lungs already starts to become heavy and her body begins to react like it always does when he shifts to this type of mood, she tries to escape his grip. The more she struggles the tighter his arms snake around her and the more defined his erection becomes.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” she breathes feigning innocence.
“No?” Lucas questions. “I’d be happy to remind you,” he cajoles.
He dips his head to tease the crest of her breasts appearing between the V neck of her dress and places open-mouthed kisses over her skin.
Although she knows that she should stand her ground not to do this here on principle -- out of respect for his parents’ home -- Alaine finds herself arching into his kisses giving him more of her flesh to please. His lips do away with her fight rather swiftly as she moans her need and pleasure.
Those kisses on her skin turn ravenous as Lucas travels down her body to kneel in front of her. He reaches up under her dress to fist the waistband of her underwear.
Before he starts skimming it down her legs, he looks up at her for approval.
“Tell me you want this,” he orders.
“I...” she stammers when he slips a finger beyond the scrap of silk to tease her naked flesh.
“Tell me,” he orders again. “And it’s yours.”
“How much time do we have?” Alaine hears herself moan before she can stop the words from falling out of her mouth.
Lucas smiles his victory and answers, “not long but don’t worry, baby. There’s still a lot I can do for you.”
He drags her underwear down quickly then rises in one smooth motion.
She squeals when he lifts her off her feet with one arm around her waist. Pressing her lips to hers, he swallows the rest of the sound while walking towards the bed. There, he topples her onto the soft surface and follows her down.
“This has to be quick,” he mumbles against her lips and moves down her body one more time. “Lift your leg for me,” he commands.
Holding her breath in anticipation of what is to come, Alaine obediently raises a knee over her shoulder.
With no more preamble or his signature nips and sucks, he brands her with his tongue, exactly where she needs him.
“Shhhh, baby,” he lifts his head to caution at her loud, startled cry. “Or I’ll have to stop.”
“I’ll be quiet,” she whimpers.
Appreciative of how quickly her body always responds to him, he slips his thumb down between her dampening folds and stops at her entrance.
“Can you?” he challenges.
“Yes,” she promises on a gasp as he dips a finger slowly inside her.
This time, Lucas savors the taste of her skin as he kisses a path up her inner thigh -- first one then the other -- until she starts to writhe beneath him.
“Shhh,” he says breathing the caution against her sensitive flesh before pressing his tongue to her slickness again.
It’s a battle but she sticks to her word, biting into her bottom lip to keep from verbalizing the pleasure sparking through every nerve in her body. She traps Lucas there between her legs by tangling her fingers in hair and raises her hips to meet his mouth.
It happens so fast, she didn’t expect it. She has to clamp her hand over her mouth to stifle a yelp at her sudden rise to the edge and her quick tumble over. She pants and gasps and shudders uncontrollably while Lucas keeps her hips firmly pinned to the bed. Mercilessly, he keeps going until she falls limp beneath him.
While she lies there sated and starving for breath, he kisses his way up her body then leans up on his elbow to whisper in her ear, “I love how you do that.”
Unfortunately, they only have a limited amount of time before someone comes to call them down to lunch. There’s no way he’ll find any satisfaction at this moment. He pulls away and shakes his head when Alaine turns to kiss his mouth.
“If you do that, I won’t stop,” he warns and rolls onto his back to stare up at the blank ceiling rather than the temptation beside him. Once satisfied that he’s regained the ability to breathe without feeling like he might explode her turns to her again.
She’s languid and looks well loved even if he hasn’t actually made love to her as yet. Pleased with himself, Lucas chuckles and smooths a few wayward strands of hair away from her face.
“If you don’t want to look like the cat that ate the canary, I suggest you go freshen up,” he tells her when he hears footfalls climbing up the stairs. “Someone’s coming. Bathroom. Scoot,” he orders.
As she eases off the bed, he swats her behind playfully and laughs when she turns around to wink at him.
A few seconds after she enters the bathroom, he springs up from the bed to answer the knock on the door. Lucas comes face to face with the suspicion in his sister’s amber eyes.
“Mom says lunch is ready,” she informs him while trying to peek beyond his frame blocking the door.
“Lose something?” Lucas asks and shifts to obstruct her line of sight.
“Where’s Alaine?” she inquires.
“In the bathroom,” he replies. “And by the way, you are in a world of trouble,” he warns. “I told you not to show her that book.”
“They’re just pictures, Lucas,” she complains. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see the harm in...”
“You disregarded what I told you,” he snaps. “Now get going. I’ll deal with you later.”
Ignoring the promise of retribution in his tone, she folds her arms across her chest and narrows her eyes at him.
“What have you guys been doing in there?” she questions with playful accusation.
Knowing he won’t be able to keep the flush creeping up his neck a secret, Lucas shuts the door without another word.
“You’re whipped,” Shernie calls beyond the closed door her tinkling laughter fading as she walks away.
Lucas moves across the bedroom to join Alaine where she is in front of the large mirror.
“Jesus, Ali,” he laughs.
She regards him with wide eyes and swollen lips. Her skin is flushed and her hair is still in disarray but at least her attire is not one that gathers wrinkles. It’s the only part of her that doesn’t speak of debauchery.
“There’s no way they won’t know,” she frets. “How are you so unaffected by what happened?”
“I’m affected, baby,” he assures her. “And the longer we stay in here is the worse it’s going to get.”
Coming to stand behind her he says, “you wear my loving well and if we stay here, I won’t let you out of this bathroom. We’ll finish what we started.”
Her expression turns thoughtful while her eyes old his.
Lucas swears softly, pressing himself against her rump. He kisses along her neckline and murmurs, “I really have corrupted you, haven’t I?”
“You’re not helping,” she moans.
“I really don’t care if they know, Ali,” he swears.
Lunch was a chatty affair but not in an unbearable way. It was interesting watching this family interact and comparing it to how composed they were in public.
Except for a few surface questions, like how they met, no one really tried to zero in on her relationship with Lucas. It seems like they touched on every other subject but that one.
However, someone did raise a question about her kinship and closeness with Seth. That was the most uncomfortable thing that happened during the entire meal and the way all three of them froze made it that much more awkward.
Alaine can barely remember who broke the strained silence that followed with the way her guilt over her treatment of Seth through the years threatened to clog her airways.
All she knows is that the moment passed and she was very grateful when it did. No one said anything else about it and Lucas had placed a firm, consoling hand on her knee.
As soon as it was over, he disappeared though and dragged his complaining teenage sister along with him.
“What trouble has Shernie gotten into with Lucas now?” Shanice asks no one in particular while she begins to gather the dishes everyone left at the table.
Although there’s a bit of humor in her tone when she says it, her question makes Alaine cringe.
Not wanting to be the source of contention within The Bright household, and not wanting to be a liar either, Alaine doesn’t dare say what the disagreement between the two stems from.
“I couldn’t say,” she answers.
“They do this all the time,” Shanice assures her with a flippant wave of her hand. “Shernie is energetic, curious and sixteen. And Lucas is Lucas. Their personalities clas constantly but whatever it is will be water under the bridge in a hot second.”
Unaccustomed to idle chatter, Alaine simply smiles. “She’s lovely and friendly,” she offers.
“She’s a handful is what she is,” the lady laughs. “Can you grab those for me?” she asks indicating to the dishes on the other end of the table.
Dutifully, Alaine loads her arms with the plates, glasses, and cutlery then moves to follow Lucas’ stepmother to the kitchen.
“Just set them down in the sink,” Shanice tells her while making herself busy wiping down the counters. “I’ll load them in the dishwasher later.”
A pregnant silence hangs between them after that. It’s clear to Alaine that Shanice has something to say while the woman struggles with her uncertainty of how to deal with Alaine’s skittish nature.
Deciding to just bite the bullet she says, “I don’t want you to feel pressured into talking to me about your relationship Lucas,” and Alaine’s stomach hollows out.
“But if you do need to talk, he told me what happened and it may help to talk to someone,” Shanice continues to say. “I have two ears which, as a doctor, have probably heard it all.”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” Alaine answers in the hope of ending the conversation.
“We can start with something simple,” Shanice presses. “How are you feeling?” she asks and motions Alaine over to occupy one of the stools.
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Alaine responds as she moves away from the sink. “One minute I tell myself that I’m okay and in the very next, I’m not,” she admits. Then she adds quickly, “but Lucas is great. That has nothing to do with him. He’s sweet and thank you for inviting me here,” she rambles quickly. “Your home is lovely.”
“It’s a long way from where I came from,” Shanice admits with an appreciative smile. “Most people think that everything I have my husband gave me. They have no idea how hard I’ve worked. But there is nothing wrong in accepting a little help along the way,” she advises. “Lucas told me about his job offer and you turning it down,” she explains.
Alaine groans inwardly while wondering exactly how many cats Lucas let out of the bag. She’s never had her life analyzed by anyone before and to say that it is unnerving would be an understatement.
Maybe his stepmother thinks that their friendly chat is supposed to be some sort of therapy but right now her skin is itchy like she’s about to break out in hives. This is precisely what she’d been hoping to avoid. She hates being put on the spot and had she known attempting to be a good guest by helping to clear dishes would have yielded this, she might have done otherwise.
Not wanting to be rude or dismissive, she bites into her bottom lip and keeps her feet planted against the strong urge to flee.
As she continues to stare down at the counter, she silently prays for some sort of intervention, preferably in the form of Lucas, so she can wring his neck for putting her in this position.
Either oblivious to her discomfort or maybe she’s choosing to ignore it, Shanice says, “he cares about you, you know.”
At that, Alaine’s eyes jump to the woman’s face and Shanice nods with a little smile.
“In all the time I’ve known Lucas, I have never seen him with a girl or woman for that matter. Not romantically anyway. Don’t get me wrong,” she prattles on. “I’m well aware that none of these boys are virgins but Dion and Carter bring their girls around. The only other time I remember ever hearing the mention that Lucas liked a girl was when he was around twelve,” she lowers her voice to say. “He was always distant but one time he let it slip to Dion that there was a girl at his school. I don’t think it went anywhere though. Lucas was so shy.”
This time Alaine smiles at Shanice’s reminiscence as she leans into the counter spewing her tale like this isn’t only the second time they’ve met.
“You’ve really done something to him,” the lady tells her. “Maybe my daughter is right. You are a unicorn.”
Suddenly loving the metaphor, Alaine laughs. Growing less wary, she looks at Shanice and says, “I’m sorry, I’m not very sociable. I don’t know how to converse with people.”
However, as the afternoon passes, she finds herself relaxing while her companion chatters on about everything until she gets roped into the conversation. She’s not sure how it happens but here she is sitting at the island in a stranger’s kitchen discussing everything from seasons to politics and eating ice cream.
So engrossed she becomes in the conversation, she misses Lucas’ entry and the way he remains, watching her for a bit. It confuses him that he is able to enjoy her relaxed look and lyrical laughter with an ache in his heart.
Motioning to Shanice with a shake of his head not to disturb Alaine, he slinks away just as silent when he hears his stepmother say, “I was very sorry when Lucas told me what happened to you.”
Automatically, Alaine’s fingers glide over her tender cheek. At a loss for words, she sniffs back the threat of tears and shrugs her shoulders in a show of defeat.
Shanice reaches over to squeeze her hand comfortingly.
“Yesterday morning, when I met Lucas, he was in tears,” she tells Alaine. “I’ve never seen Lucas cry before. Not in sickness, not over anything.”
At Alaine’s shocked expression, Shanice chuckles.
“Yes, Lucas cried,” she repeats. “I won’t go into the details but I thought you should know that. Us girls have to stick together,” she suggests conspiratorially.
“I’m worried about him,” Alaine confesses.
“Why?” Shanice asks.
“He keeps thinking of what might happen to me and I keep thinking what if Angus tries hurt him?” she admits. “I could never forgive myself anything happens to him because...”
“You care about him,” Shanice muses to which Alaine nods.
“So much,” she declares.
“Well I am glad,” Shanice tells her. “He needs this. I’m no psychologist, but I see the difference you’ve made. He’s never said to me but I know he had a rough childhood with Claudia. He’s told you?” she asks surprised when Alaine drops her gaze to her hands.
“I can’t break his trust,” Alaine answers.
“I’m not asking you to,” Shanice tells her quickly. “I’m just glad you crossed our paths at that wedding. Yes, I remember you,” she says to furrow in Alaine’s brow. “Lucas’ response to you at that wedding was simply unforgettable.”
“Oh my God,” Alaine groans.
Without giving her a chance to recover, Shanice asks, “did you use the ovulation kit?”
Though Alaine freezes for a second, she replies, “I think we’re clear.”
“You should still take a pregnancy test in the next week or so,” Shanice suggests. “Just to be on the safe side. Are you on any birth control?” she presses and adds swiftly, “I’m not trying to get in your business. I’m asking because you’re what? Twenty years old? You and Lucas are young. You don’t want to be tied down by an unplanned pregnancy. It is a strain on any relationship, trust me, I know. I had Dion when I was in college. A medical student at nineteen on a scholarship. His father was a TA at the time and older. As soon as he found out, things went downhill and just on kept rolling. I’m not saying that Lucas is going to walk out on you if you do become pregnant. I’m saying you have your whole life ahead of you.”
“I’m not,” Alaine answers.
“If you want, I can give you something,” Shanice offers.