Okay, this needs a bit of smoothing over but I hate cliffhangers as much as the next person so I'm posting it as it is and will do the once over tomorrow. Please don't forget to let me know what you think in the comments section. Plus, if you like this chapter, hit that support me button guys! Happy reading.
“Alaine,” Lucas roars.
Her name tears from him with anguish, fear, desperation while he charges forward heedless of Seth's warning behind him to wait. He urges his legs to move faster but it feels like they can’t carry him swiftly enough across the large suite.
By the time he gets to the bedroom door her screaming has died and his heart seems to stop along with it.
God no! Please no, he begs. He can’t be too late.
Again Seth tells him, "slow down. Wait."
“Answer me, baby,” Lucas calls ignoring him. He pushes his way inside the room and finds it empty so runs towards the unlit bathroom.
The overhead light flickers on suddenly putting a halt to his tracks. The bright beams blinds his eyes for a millisecond. He blinks until his vision adjusts and hesitates at the scene he encounters.
He was expecting Angus but held the hope that Alaine was overreacting about something...like a bug, maybe.
Instead, he finds two men standing over her, one wearing a mask while the other hides behind a handheld camera... laughing.
Who the hell are they? What is this? he wants to demand. But Alaine’s soft sobs and her quaking body huddled against the wall in a corner spur him into action.
When the man holding the knife advances, Lucas loses the ability to think straight. Ignoring the blade, he launches himself at the masked intruder, with Seth on his heels.
The man doesn’t put up a fight, but fear and anger have already numbed Lucas' senses. He presses his fingers into the man’s throat and uses all his strength to slam him up against the wall.
Seth sheaths his gun and pins the other in a chokehold while twisting his arm so the camera tumbles onto the floor with a loud crack.
Lucas doesn’t hear their strangled pleas for mercy and he is too far gone to listen to reason.
“Dude, take it easy,” one of them cries. ”It’s a joke. A prank. Please.”
Their pleading falls on deaf ears. Their voices are distorted and overwhelmed by the basslike pounding of his heart and drowned by the wracking sounds of Alaine’s fretful crying.
“Boss,” Seth tries to intervene.
The futile warning only serves to tighten Lucas’ fingers around the intruder’s throat. The man gasps. He sputters and struggles for air. He claws at Lucas' wrist pleading for release to no avail.
“Mr. Bright,” Seth calls again but his voice is still distant and unable to penetrate the thick fog of blind rage that’s engulfed his boss.
“Lucas!” he shouts this time.
With a gruff growl, Lucas snaps his head to the side to find Seth watching him. The voice in his head demanding blood and retribution starts to quiet and the haze begins to dissipate.
The entire situation starts coming together when the large knife in the intruder’s grip falls onto the tiled floor with a dull thud rather than a loud clatter. Puzzled, Lucas looks down at the rubber prop then back at the assailant.
Whatever this is, they are still going to pay for it.
Squeezing a little harder on the muscle beneath his hand, he drags whoever the clown is up on tiptoe and throws a hard punch to his gut. The blow lands with a sickening thump. Only then does Lucas let go of the man and takes a step back.
The body clad fully in black crumples near his feet wheezing and coughing and fighting for air.
Lucas cannot bring himself to feel a modicum of regret. As a matter of fact, he has some difficulty resisting the compulsion to strike again at the man writhing and groaning on the floor. If it wasn’t for Alaine, he might have.
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he orders Seth, “deal with this,” and turns his attention to where she is still curled up by the door.
The way he feels -- the undiluted rage heating his blood -- belies the care he puts into handling her trembling body.
“It’s okay, baby,” he tells her softly when she flinches away from him.
It is with a lover’s touch that he gathers her close to his chest, lifts her into his arms to carry her into the bedroom.
Even if he kisses her hair and speaks to her in the gentlest of tones, she remains inconsolable. The extent of her fright and force of her sobs, rock her entire body against him. When he sets her down on the bed, her grip around his neck strengthens in a silent plea to remain with her.
“Shhh, you’re okay, my love,” he whispers while trying to quiet his own adrenaline-induced trembling enough to offer her comfort. “I’m here,” he assures her. “I’m so sorry I let this happen, baby,” he croons.
Internally, he tries to ascertain exactly how it did occur. It shouldn’t have. He’d been extremely careful not to mention this trip to anyone who did not need to know about. Other than his family would have already had it penciled in their calendars, Natasha is the only other person who knows his schedule. He can’t imagine that they would have announced his whereabouts to anyone. Especially not his family. Not when they know the situation surrounding him and Alaine.
Despite his frenetic inner ramblings, he continues to speak gently to Alaine.
“It’s okay, love,” he tells her. “You’re okay now.”
They remain that way for a while, her clinging to him and him to her, both fearing to release the other.
Alaine’s sobs gradually decrease with his soothing care but the tremors continue to vibrate through her body. She’s scared and has every right to be.
Although he won’t voice the assumption of out, Lucas fears that this has somehow been orchestrated by Angus. Maybe she’s formed the suspicion on her own, but he won’t push it.
Whether or not it is her stalker responsible for these events, this is a serious breach in his security and had the potential to be so much worse.
It's his fault. He'd gotten complacent. That's why it happened. He’d allowed himself to get comfortable in the notion that being miles away from New York would automatically render them safe. He should have ordered that the hotel room be searched before he brought Alaine here.
He’d dropped the ball and now look what’s happened.
His inability to keep her safe pervades him with a turbulent sense of dread. The idea that Angus can so easily circumvent his security sends icy fear down the length of his spine.
While his mind works through his thoughts as they crash into each other, he kisses her hair, her forehead, whispering little nothings in her ear as she hiccups into his chest.
“Who are they?” Alaine asks between hitching breaths. “What do they want?”
“I don’t know, baby,” Lucas replies. “But I will find out. Just try to relax okay, Ali,” he suggests. “I know it can’t be easy. You’re so terribly shaken.”
She nods and sniffles into his shirt.
When Seth knocks on the door, Lucas lifts his head to look at him.
“Not here,” he says to the grave expression on Seth's face.
“You’re gonna want to hear this, now,” Seth responds. “Is she okay?”
Lucas glances down at Alaine again. She still has him in a death grip and gives no indication that she is aware that Seth even entered the room. He honestly cannot say if she is okay. How can she be after this? Still, he nods his head to his driver.
“Ali,” Lucas says. “I need to figure out how this happened,” he explains and tries to rise. “I need to find out what’s going on.”
He has to peel himself out of her stranglehold. When finally free, he eases off the bed but she follows him immediately.
’No,” Lucas tells her with a shake of his head. “Stay here. Rest,” he orders. Then he turns his attention to Seth. “Check the suite make sure there are no more of them.”
“I want to know too,” Alaine argues.
She is deliberate in trying to steel her voice to give the illusion of calm composure. Under the threat of more tears, her voice still cracks letting her down.
Lucas steps forward and cups her face in both hands. “And I swear as soon as I know, I will tell you,” he promises.
He doesn’t want to a fight with her over this but he knows it's coming. Over the course of the time they've known each other, he's learned the stubborn set of her shoulders.
After what they just endured, he'd prefer to avoid a squabble. Everything that happened took less than a minute but it had felt like forever. In its wake, he's drained.
It was a rude awakening of how quickly their lives can change. She could have been hurt or killed. He could have killed someone.
"Ali," he starts to say.
“It’s not you that they scared,” she objects before he can finish.
“That’s your argument? Not me they scared?” he asks in disbelief.
He grabs her hand, placing it over his still pounding heartbeat.
“Do you know how many things I imagined when I heard you screaming?" he declares. "I am scared Alaine," he informs her. "I am terrified for you. Other than locking you in my apartment, I don’t know how to keep you safe.”
The defeat in his voice, in his eyes, in his posture, kills the argument on her tongue. She focuses on the thrashing pulse of his heart beneath her hand and softens.
“Stay here, Alaine,” Lucas requests softer this time. “Let me hear what they have to say and I promise I will tell you everything," he says again.
When she agrees with a barely audible, “okay,” he kisses her knuckles, then her tear-streaked face. Finally, he settles a soft kiss to her lips.
He's lost count of the number of times he's tasted her tears in the last week. Whenever he does, he's always that much more determined to see this Angus situation resolved.
Seth returns to the room after his thorough search of their surroundings and clears his throat to alert them of his presence.
"It was just the two of them," he announces.
“It’s safe now, Ali,” Lucas tells her.
He follows Seth to the door but stops there for a moment. Turning around, he looks back to where Alaine stands on her own. She looks more frail and afraid than he's ever seen her before.
This has to end, he thinks to himself.
“I’ll be right back,” he tells her. “Just wait for me.”
Seth hasn't said anything about their two intruders so he doesn't know what to expect. He follows his driver to the living area and sees the backs of two heads, one red and the other dark, occupying the sofa in a room that he is paying for.
The calm demeanor he's been grappling to hold on to starts unraveling rapidly.
He'd had plans for the evening -- a late-night dinner on the balcony with Alaine. Champagne -- cider for her -- to celebrate their little getaway. He'd planned to see if she could be cajoled into sampling her first alcoholic beverage even if he had already determined that she would likely hate it.
Then he would present her with his gift. A little token to commemorate the next step in their relationship. He would ask her, Alaine, will you be my girlfriend?
He would tell her how much he loves her. Maybe she wouldn't have been able to say the same to him as yet, but he was ready to risk it because he wants her to know. He was ready to explain that he can wait until she's ready. He was willing to accept whatever she can give him for the moment.
Instead, he has to deal with these two and the fact that they've likely carted danger along with them.
Lucas walks around the sofa, to face the offenders. Initially, he had no intention of sparing them but one look at their faces and he doesn't know what to do.
His eyebrows cinch together in a deep scowl.
The one who wore the mask might be around eighteen since he's sprouted a sparse layer of chin hair but the cameraman can't be older than that. No, he's younger for certain -- sixteen at the most.
Lucas regards them and scoffs.
What is he supposed to do here? They look terrified.
“Start talking,” he commands.
“We already told your muscle...” the older one starts to say in an attempt to sound brave.
“Give me your gun Seth,” Lucas orders cutting him off.
Reluctantly, Seth removes the gun from the holster under his jacket. He looks at his boss, to convey his disapproval. Nonetheless, he places the silver and black piece in Lucas' outstretched hand without argument.
“Now,” Lucas says. “Do you know who I am? You broke into my hotel room, attacked my girlfriend in the bathroom with a knife...”
“It's fake,” the younger one cries.
"I don't really care," he posits. "I am well within my right to defend myself and the people I care about. So you are going to talk or I will do what my bodyguard should have done in the first place.”
To himself, to Seth, to the intruders, he sounds convincing but Lucas glances down at the gun and wonders if he has it in him. Could he really shoot them?
Then he thinks of Alaine and knows...
“We do pranks,” the cameraman explains his quick response disrupting Lucas' train of thought. “We’re on youtube. We take challenges from people, dares.”
“A dare?” Lucas repeats his incredulity dripping from his voice.
The last of his calm evaporates. With it, the path to forgiveness closes. These two clowns put his life in danger -- Alaine's life in danger. And for what? Hits on him youtube?
He huffs his disbelief.
“How did you get in here?” he demands.
"Look, we didn't know..." the older man tries to explain.
"How!" Lucas shouts cutting him off.
“We got uniforms from a buddy of ours who works here," the younger guy says. "When he dropped off your bags," he says indicating to Seth. "I played your bellhop and I let him in after," he explains and points to his friend sitting beside him.
“Why did you choose us? Why this room?" Lucas asks.
The two of them exchange looks.
“Why?” he repeats.
“Some guy dared us," one of them offers. "He paid us to do it. He said his girlfriend was cheating with some rich guy and he wanted to get back at you guys publicly."
Angus, Lucas thinks.
He wants to hit someone to vent his frustration. Swallowing down the urge he asks, "what's this man's name? How did he pay you? Where?"
They both shake their heads.
“We don’t know his name alright," the older one offers. "He paid cash yesterday, on the strip. I think I need a doctor," he groans and clutches his abdomen.
Unable to muster any feelings of remorse, Lucas tells him, "you'll live." He holds up a picture of Angus on his phone and asks, "Is this the guy? Is this him?"
"It looks like him," the younger one responds. "The guy we met had red hair and like a birthmark or something on his face. It was night," he mumbles.
Lucas swears under his breath while beating back the desire to go on a rampage.
“How stupid are you two?” he seethes. “Call the manager,” he directs to Seth. “Get him here now. Call the police. And break the damn camera," he instructs.
Seth accepts the gun from Lucas, holstering it immediately.
“What? No!” The cameraman pleads. “The video was live. Even if you break the camera, it’s already out there.”
Seth holds his pleading gaze and slams the camera on the floor regardless. To flourish his efforts, he crunches the remains under his shoes.
"You're lucky I didn't shoot you both," he reminds them.
“You assaulted us,” one boy argues. “You don’t need to call the police. It was a joke.”
"Shut up," Lucas tells him. “I want that video taken down now," he orders Seth. "You two are going to tell the police everything, every detail about this man that you have. And you pray that something comes out of it or else I will come after you. I don’t care how young or promising you think you are," he threatens.
A lot happened in the last half hour or so. The room was a whirlwind of activity. Now Lucas is just happy to see everyone leaving.
“The young man who surrendered his uniform to participate in this sick joke has been fired, Mr. Bright," the night manager informs him as they walk towards the door to the suite. "All three are in police custody. On behalf of Windsor Palace, I offer my sincerest apologies and your duration here will be complimentary, of course.”
“I want a different room,” Lucas tells him.
“But this is our best suite, sir," the man replies.
“I don’t want it,” Lucas snaps.
“Very well, sir," he answers quickly. "We will have another room prepared for you right away," he says with a little bow.
"Thank you," Lucas tells him in a more tempered tone.
He watches the night manager walk out of the penthouse and wonders what the purpose of all his wealth is if it can't even ensure that girl he loves is safe. Sometimes, he tries to find a silver lining in difficult situations but in this one there are none.
Left on his own for the while, he sits on the sofa staring out at the lights of Las Vegas. His home. A place he'd never been comfortable or happy and tonight only compounds it.
He has no idea what he is going to say to Alaine after promising her the truth.
“You said you were coming right back.”
Her small voice draws him out of pensiveness. He turns his head in her direction and holds out his hand.
“It took a little longer than I thought,” he says apologetically. “Come here, baby," he requests.
She quick steps her way across the room. As soon as she stands in front of him, Lucas pulls her to sit on his lap and holds her in a tight embrace.
“You’re shaking,” Alaine notes.
She looks down at the distress in his features and places a soothing hand on his cheek.
"Lucas, I'm fine," she tells him. "It's fine. I overreacted," she explains. "I'm sorry."
She presses her lips to his. He resists with a shake of his head, squeezes his eyes tightly shut but says nothing.
“Lucas, it was a prank," Alaine says with a shrug. "It happens to people like you sometimes. Rich people, right?” she says searching his face. “We were just the unlucky ones this time."
"Ali," he says but stalls.
"You’re scaring me," she whispers. "It was a prank.”
“Except it wasn’t,” he breathes softly. “Not really. Angus has your phone, Alaine," he finally informs her. "He paid those guys to break in here. He's here in Vegas.”
"No," she says shaking her head in denial. "No," she repeats. "How could know?"
“I’m so sorry, Ali," Lucas tells her. "I should have been quicker finding your phone. I should have had it disabled sooner. I thought we could use it to find him. I should have been more careful. I..."
“Stop,” she tells him softly. Trying to be the pillar of strength that he's been for her since the moment they met, she reminds him again, “this isn’t your fault. And I'm fine. We're both fine," even if she is anything but.
"It could have been him that bathroom," Lucas sighs.
“But it wasn’t,” she says firmly. “It wasn’t, my love. We just have to be more careful.”
Lucas' eyes shift to look up into hers. My love. she called him.
For a little while, he allows himself to forget the terror of the night and holds her closer. He hides his face in her shoulder inhaling her fruity fragrance.
“I called the service provider too late,” he says his tone apologetic. “But it’s been taken care of now. The problem is, he has our schedule. He had access to the passcodes to my apartment. The day I left for Italy, I put them on your phone, just in case you changed your mind about staying there. He had access to the video feed," he laments. "Everything I put on there, he’s had access to it. He’s had access to you.”
“No he didn’t," Alaine states. "I’m not an idiot, Lucas. Everything on that phone was encrypted. If he had access to your schedule, I guarantee you, he didn't get it from me."
At that, Lucas pulls his head back to look at her with narrowed eyes.
"You don't think he could have worked his way around those?" he asks for argument's sake.
"Absolutely not," Alaine replies. Then she gives him a wry laugh. "The only thing he would have had access to is my home screen. I guess it was silly and a bit sentimental to keep 'Lucas' as the password. Everything else was locked. If he did have access to those things," she goes on to explain. "Don't you think he would have resorted to something more drastic than a prank?"
"I was certain he got that information from your phone," Lucas mutters more to himself than her. Frustrated, he closes his eyes and throws his head back against the sofa.
"Look at me, baby," Alaine commands and takes his face in her hands.
She adjusts herself to sit astride his hips in preparation to replace the tremor in his body with a different kind of shaking. She nips at his lips and trails kisses down his neck while hands glide down his sides.
"I'm fine," she tells him again as she presses her core onto his zipper. "We're fine."
Though his body reacts swiftly, Lucas grips her oscillating hips to still her movement.
“There could be cameras in here," he warns. "We're getting another room. Regretfully, it won't be as nice as this one. But we'll be safer."
“I don’t care what the room looks like,” she tells him relaxing in his strong embrace.