Surprise! Two chapters back to back. Bet you weren't expecting that! Leave a comment in the end pretty please. Let me know what you think. I crave your input.
The cabin of their business class flight to Las Vegas is heavily air-conditioned. Alaine’s little spring dress and sandals are no match for the cold. While she slumbers on his shoulder, Lucas feels the tremors in her body, so tucks his leather jacket around her.
“Would you prefer a blanket?”
He looks up at the stewardess and finds her smiling at him.
"Yes, please," he whispers so as not to disturb Alaine.
When the stewardess turns to leave, her eyes remain on him just a little longer than necessary.
About six weeks ago, he would have appreciated her attentiveness and flirted a little. Maybe the night could have progressed into something beyond this interaction.
Now, he accepts her notice as nothing more than dutiful courteousness and goes back to his reading. This little fairy, fit so perfectly against him, is the only person he can give the credit for the changes he’s made to the man he is. Or the man he was.
He remembers cautioning her that she shouldn’t fall for him.
"Maybe you’re the one who’ll do the falling..."
That was her response then. He had no idea how right she had been nor how content he would be with it. He's blissfully happy even.
The past few days, with the two of them living together is everything he never knew he wanted. He’s always been a solitary person. Maybe both nature and nurture should had seen to that. He'd never been allowed to have friends over. His trips outside had been few and far in between and always heavily supervised. Those were his stepfather's rules and his word was law.
Most of his boyhood days had been spent in confinement, cowering in his quiet room, hoping to be forgotten by a belligerent drunken, drug addict.
When physical harm was no longer enough, Kurt had tried to ruin him further, almost irreparably.
Almost. That's the operative word.
He'd escaped -- scathed -- but at least he'd gotten out. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't outrun the demons though. Then he met Alaine.
Lucas peeks down at her resting features. The thought of losing her is unbearable. He'd come so close to it. That memory is never too far away.
At least they have this trip to keep her out of danger for a little while.
She snores softly on his shoulder. Happy that she is able to get some rest, he tries his best to keep still. Since the incident with Angus, it's been difficult for her, in particular, to sleep through the night.
The bruise on her cheek has faded significantly. Only a faint spot remains. To the unsuspecting eye, it will go unnoticed. Other scars, however, he understands, all too well, run deep.
He still carries that ache in his heart that she had been hurt and so close to danger. Somehow the pain magnifies whenever she wakes up in night sweats or when he wakes and she isn’t beside him in bed.
He would seek her out, mainly to offer comfort but it always turns into something more. Last night had seen them in a deliciously heated exchange at three in the morning with her bent forward in front of the mirror above the bathroom vanity.
There are so many fantasies that he still has to fulfill with her. Hopefully, it takes them a lifetime. Although he hasn't stated it expressly, by now she should know that he has no intention of letting her go. He loves her immeasurably and he's sure she's aware of that too. He plans to tell her soon. Some time on this trip for certain.
Stay with me, Ali, he’d murmured in supplication while on the cusp of ultimate ecstasy last night. Thank God for birth control because coming inside her body without anything between them is the sweetest thing.
Just that thought and he feels himself stirring again. He has to caution himself, not now. Not here.
The stewardess reappears and he is grateful for the momentary distraction. He accepts the blanket from the smiling brunette and secures it around Alaine's shoulders before immersing himself in his tablet screen again.
“We’re about to land sleeping beauty,” he whispers into Alaine's hair a long while later. “Take a look at Las Vegas at night.”
She awakes dazed and confused.
“I slept?” she asks.
“You snored too, so embarrassing,” he answers with mock seriousness.
“I do not snore,” she argues.
She rubs at least two hours of sleep from tired eyes and looks out of the window.
“Oh wow!” she exclaims softly then turns to Lucas.
Excitement replaces her fatigue and her smile turns his heart over. To see pleasure on her face, even if it is just because of this, makes him feel like a superhero.
“This is amazing, so many lights.” she squeals and leans in to kiss him.
Her lashes fan out against her skin as she closes her eyes. When she opens them again, she finds Lucas watching her. There are no words for the intensity in his gaze. All she can do is stare into the light gray depths and lose a little more of herself to him.
The pilot turns on the seat belt sign. That and the voice of the stewardess declaring their imminent arrival intrude on their private moment. Lucas leans back against the headrest and takes her hand in his.
He doesn't know as yet what promise life holds for them but he wants to find out. This is the most content he's been since...he simply can't recall.
“Put your seat belt on,” she scolds him.
He smiles and obeys.
“Not your boyfriend, huh?” Seth teases while she waits with him to retrieve their bags.
Alaine remembers that conversation with him vividly. The one where she had vehemently denied the status between Lucas and her.
"Shut up," she responds with a blush in her cheeks. "No words of caution for me this time?" she counters.
"I'm just glad to see you happy, Ali," he tells her. "Plus he seems..." he starts to say and pauses to search for the right word. "I don't know," he continues. "Transformed, I would say. You two seem to be good for each other."
The man in question has taken a leave of absence from them leaving them to collect their bags. She has no idea where he went to when he said, "I'll be right back." All she knows is that he will be.
She regards her cousin and feels a thawing in her heart towards him. Every effort he'd made over the years to reach out to her, to apologize, every time she'd shut him down, flood her mind. Once again, he turned out to be the difference between life and death for her.
"Seth?" she calls softly. "Thank you. I know I haven't said it as yet but after years of hating you and blaming you, I just didn't think a thank you alone would be enough for saving my life," she explains. "Lucas told me what you said," she sniffles and tries to swallow the lump in her throat. "I'm such an emotional basket case," she informs him.
Crying in public is not something she wants to do. Not with the new status naming her Lucas' woman gained from the press. It's certainly not wise with the person feeding their photos to the public still at large.
“There’s nothing to thank me for,” Seth answers. “I should have gone to the police and...”
“Ready?” Lucas asks slipping his arm around her waist. His sudden reappearance cuts Seth's apology short.
The residual wetness in Alaine's eyes instantly draws his features down in a frown.
“What's wrong?" he questions.
"No, I'm great," she answers. "I was just saying thank you to Seth for...you know."
Lucas nods in acknowledgment. He owes Seth everything.
“So,” he says when they are comfortable in the back seat of the car. “My mother’s personal shopper will bring a few articles of clothing to the hotel tomorrow. You can have your pick of what you would like to wear to the award ceremony in the evening. You can have anything you like really," he amends. "She’s also made a hair appointment for you. I know you would have loved your sister’s help but..."
“I understand," Alaine tells him. "Isabella has school. I get it and you wouldn’t let me shop in New York so.”
“Alaine, it’s for your safety," he reminds her.
“I know, baby, but I can’t be locked inside your apartment forever," she reasons.
pleased with how easy it is for her to use that term of endearment now, Lucas holds off on starting a quarrel with her about safety. He does wish that she would start to refer to his place as our apartment though. That reminds him of the thought needling his mind. At a more opportune moment, he'll make the suggestion.
“Well you will be free to roam Las Vegas while we're here,” he offers. “With an escort, of course," he adds. "Once we're in Italy, you'll have your freedom. Hopefully, druing that time, Angus will be caught."
Alaine heaves a sigh. Anytime one of them mentions Angus' name it dampens her mood. She hates the power he has to steer her emotions. It feels like he has a hold on her. Like he's suffocating her.
He's also the only source of contention between Lucas and her. She hates talking about what happened and Lucas is determined to get the details out of her.
"I don't want to talk about," she's told him already. Yes, it's unfair but she's just not ready as yet.
The shift in her mood sullens the atmosphere around them. Lucas regards her and retires the topic. This is why he prefers to deal with the issue of Angus without her involvement. He prefers to bear the burden of it alone if it means keeping that look off her face.
“So, I was thinking,” he says to try to get her back in high spirits. “Before we go to the hotel, would you like to do a little night time site seeing?”
“How is it that I have no idea where we’re staying here?” she asks, shaking her head.
“I would like to think it’s because you trust me," Lucas posits "Do you?”
“I must,” Alaine replies.
How else would she explain the carte blanche she awarded him in her life. As a person depending on herself for the majority of her existence, it is surprising. However, it feels good to let go and let Lucas.
“I do,” she amends. “It’s strange I guess. What’s the name of the hotel?”
“Windsor Palace," she responds.
“Sounds very British,” Alaine says her eyes trained once again on the outside lights they zip past.
“There’s a Windsor Castle,” he informs her.
The ride from the airport to their destination is short.
As promised by every video and travel blog she'd read, Las Vegas at night is truly sensational and overwhelming with its sights and sounds.
Lucas feeds her excitement by offering a walk along the Las Vegas strip before retiring to the hotel. It was an offer she accepted with childlike glee.
They walk hand in hand, with Seth sticking close, while she examines everything she can to the smallest degree.
“We should get to the hotel, babe,” Lucas tells her as she stops before the Bellagio Fountain. “We’ve been at it for a while now. You’re starting to tire, I can tell.”
“I’ve always wanted to see this,” she tells him, her eyes alight with mirth as sparkling water erupts in an unrivaled and graceful display from the pond near her .
“Oh Lucas,” she beams. “Thank you for this.”
“We can come back anytime, Ali," he tells her. "But it's been a long week so far. It's s going to be a long night tomorrow and an even longer day on Friday. I'm tired," he confesses. "Plus," he comes to whisper in her ear. "I have every intention of making love to you in every corner of that room. It's best we get started tonight. You want that don't you?"
"Oh yes," she replies.
“Let’s go then,” he orders.
Seth follows close behind as they enter the hotel. Overcome by an inexplicable uneasiness, Lucas keeps Alaine close to his side in the lobby while they are served by a heavily made-up receptionist with the name Tammy tagged over her very generous left breast.
Three hours away from New York, he knows his anxiety is unfounded and so tries his best to quell it. Or at the very least to let it show so that he doesn't spook Alaine. He chalks it up to the new and crowded environment.
“Our finest suite for you, Mr. Bright,” the reception says fluttering her lashes and smiling a too bright smile.
Lucas accepts their key with thanks and leads Alaine in the direction of the elevators.
“I don’t think she likes me very much,” she announces while they wait for the doors to part.
“I like you, and that’s all that should matter,” he answers.
Inside the elevator cabin, Alaine stands with her back to Lucas and leans all her tired weight into his sturdy frame. His arm encircles her waist to hold her there and he kisses her hair.
“You feel nice,” she breathes.
If they were alone, he would take some liberties with her. For now, he let’s his mind roam freely.
Alaine shakes her head and chuckles.
“Whatever you’re thinking, stop,” she whispers, but wiggles against the firmness developing behind her.
“I can’t help it, sweet girl,” Lucas says for her alone to hear. “I remember our last visit to a hotel. I can’t wait to get you inside and alone.”
The hotel room is grand and Alaine gapes. As her eyes sweep across the space a few more befitting adjectives come to mind, like opulent.
No one needs all of this space for two measly nights. The room can easily accommodate fifty people and it's going to be just the two of them here.
Alaine turns to Lucas, a protest on her lips, then thinks better of it. She’s made this argument before regarding his blatant disregard for cost. It’s pointless.
She tours the immediate space admiring the interesting architecture and spectacular view. When she turns from the panoramic scope provided by the heavy convex glass windows, it is to find Lucas’ eyes fixed on her.
He does that often nowadays -- stare at her. It’s not uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, she enjoys the way he peruses her. Sometimes with tenderness and longing, other times it’s with a feral heat that quickens her pulse and turns her inside to puddles. This expression though, the one he is wearing now, feels warm and soothing, like his embrace, despite the fact that he is all the way across the room.
Whatever he and Seth are discussing, she is once again not privy to it. Later she will ask and he will again, skirt around it. Deciding against ruining the night, Alaine opts for continuing her tour around the suite.
“I’m going to go look around,” she announces.
“Okay babe, don’t get lost,” Lucas jokes in return.
Governed by her thirst, she saunters to the heavily stocked bar. Lucas isn’t much of a drinker. He has the occasional glass of wine and a hard drink or tow after her ordeal, but she can’t imagine he requested that the bar be this well-stocked. Three bottles of sparkling cider do catch her attention, however. Those she believes he's had a hand in. His attentiveness never ceases to amaze her.
She leaves the two men then, with her water in hand and heads for the main bedroom. When she gets to the door, her pace slows.
Calm down Alaine, she cautions herself. There's no one here.
Yet, for some reason, her sense of self-preservation kicks into overdrive and screams at her to go back from whence she came.
The fear giving her heart palpitations, she ascribes to residual trauma and being in a new environment. She quells the urge to call out to Lucas and pushes forward into the bedroom.
Plush carpet sinks under her flats and the very large bed catches her attention. The promise Lucas made to her on the strip comes to mind.
Her fears abandoned, she forges ahead into the bathroom with renewed courage. She'll have a luxurious soak in the bathtub to prepare for her night with him.
There's no way she's letting Angus ruin this for her too. He's not here and he can't hurt her here with Lucas.
She pauses at the bathroom mirror to splash water over her face. The woman revealed in her reflection is changed from who she was six weeks ago. She’s the same, yet different, somehow.
In her periphery, she's certain she sees the shower stall moves.
Alaine shakes her head in denial. Her eyes have to be playing tricks o her. Still, she squints into the mirror, watching, studying, focusing.
“I’m losing my mind,” she mutters, yet starts to back up, inch by slow and fearful inch towards the door.
Terror rises in her throat, trying to choke her. This time, there's no mistaking it. She knows that the door to the shower stall moved. For one petrifying second, she is immobile as a masked figure steps out of it’s hiding place, a silver blade in hand and the lights go out.
An ear-piercing, blood-curdling scream reaches Lucas and seth in the living area. The phone drops from his hand and he is in a mad dash in the direction Alaine disappeared.
It’s his name ripped from her throat. Her terrified voice ringing in his ear. It's his worst fear come to life and his mind screams...
I know, this is a terrible place to leave you hanging.