I've been working and reworking this chapter all week long and yet I'm still not satisfied. It's another filler chapter but soon we'll be off to Italy. A few of you might be a bit frustrated with me but again I ask that you just be a bit patient. That thing that you are looking forward to is coming. Please don't forget to leave a comment or review or both if you haven't done so as yet. And if you've gotten this far and you like this story, please hit like button. Thanks for reading you guys.
No part of last night had gone according to plan. As a matter of fact, just about everything went to shit from the moment they entered the penthouse at the hotel. Lucas isn’t certain which part of what they had to deal with was worse -- the intruders, finding out that Angus is here in Vegas or the terrible migraine brought on by all the stress that he had to watch Alaine suffer through.
Those things hit her without warning.
She’d inched out of the bathroom in their new hotel room squinting against the dimmed light in the bedroom. Right away, he'd known that she was in pain. The most he could do for her was switch the lamps off to lessen the strain on her eyes and hand her the doctor prescribed medication with a bottle of water.
"Lie down,” he’d encouraged in a barely audible whisper.
She’d done so still wrapped in a wet towel and he dared not try to remove it. That’s how bad it was. To say that he had been grieved to lie there helpless while she hurt is a gross understatement. He couldn’t even offer her comfort. Under her agony, she hardly tolerates his presence far less his touch. Nor the sound of his voice. All he could do was listen to her whimper and moan in distress while willing those pills to kick in quickly to knock her out.
He’d sat back against the headboard with his hands lying limp and utterly useless by his sides. He’d ached to hold her; wished he could take away the hurt. He’d absorb it as his own if it were possible.
Literally, he could do nothing.
The only consolation he’d gotten was that, right before nodding off, she’d shifted to place her head in his lap. That little bit of movement had pulled an agonized groan from her. He’d grimaced when he heard it and clenched his fists to keep himself from reaching for her or running his hand over her hair. It wasn’t until she was well asleep that he’d finally given himself permission to touch her.
This morning, Lucas stands beside the bed and tries to rub the stiffness out of his neck. Falling asleep while sitting up is something he will never repeat. At the time, he’d just been too afraid to adjust Alaine's body so that he could lie down comfortably.
Mentally glossing over the items on his to-do list for today, he moves quietly to stand in front of the wide windows overlooking the city.
The first thing he needs to decide on is whether they’re even attending the award ceremony tonight. This will not be the first time he is the recipient of an award but it will be the first time he has his own special someone by his side to share it with. Up until last night, the prospect had been exciting. Now it’s a matter of whether attending is worth putting her at risk.
That judgment call will set the pace for the rest of the day.
The personal shopper is scheduled for eleven a.m and the stylist at four in the afternoon. Those things take time if he recalls correctly. He remembers what it was like when Claudia subjected him to her fittings and hair appointments. Painstaking is the word that comes to mind. As a child -- even one with his smarts and patience -- the process had been unbearable.
After last night, he’s not sure that Alaine will be up for something like that. If her condition isn’t improved, he’ll have no choice but to cancel going and hire a proxy to attend in his stead.
He glances back at her prone form and his lips quirk up into a little smile. There is absolutely nothing wrong in spending an uneventful day here at the hotel; and tomorrow...well, tomorrow they will be off, with an ocean between them and their nemesis.
In the event that she is up for a night out, there is the issue of security to deal with. Seth has proven capable to a degree. He certainly has a knack for gathering intel and taking charge in a situation. But Angus too has proven that Seth alone as their sole line of defense is no longer adequate.
To do his job, to keep the promise he made to Alaine of ensuring that she is safe, he must insist on an increase in their detail.
For all he knows, Angus could have eyes on them right now. The sick bastard had probably watched that live video last night -- witnessed their terror -- and gotten off on it.
Lucas still can’t shake the dread that had gripped him in those few seconds when he heard her scream to the time he realized that what was happening was actually a ′joke’.
He sighs softly and rests his forehead against the cool glass.
At least, after security reviewed the footage of in and around the hotel, they got confirmation that Angus never set foot within its vicinity. At least those foolish boys hadn’t reported their room number to him otherwise things really could have turned out differently.
Still, the man could be anywhere...watching and waiting.
“One more day,” Lucas reminds himself softly.
One more day and they won’t have to worry about it so closely. For a little while, he can put the What ifs in his mind to rest.
What if he can't save Alaine. What if Angus doesn’t get caught. What if next time Angus is the one waiting. What if he kills her. What if...
Those thoughts are likely to drive him insane.
There can’t be a 'next time', Lucas thinks.
There won’t be a next time, he promises himself.
Alaine opens her eyes at half-mast to test her pain level before blinking them open fully. She’s still a little bit groggy but that’s expected after taking her pills. The most important thing is that her headache is gone. Now she can give her attention to Lucas. It had been impossible to do so when she was certain her brain had been about to explode.
Turning her head to the side, the first thing she studies is his rigid stance in front of the windows. Then she realizes that these glass fixtures are not nearly as stylish as the ones in the room they vacated last night. Not that she minds. The visual effects are just less stunning.
It might have been nice to watch the sunrise cast it’s golden glow over the city from the top floor -- to see it color the sky different shades. Or to make love at dawn with their panoramic view in the background just like Lucas likes to.
Her features shift into a frown.
Nowadays, they can't seem to enjoy the simplest things in peace. There’s almost always something standing in the way. If it’s not Lucas’ schedule or his work; if it's not something she has to help Delah out with, it’s Angus.
That’s how their life is now. The constant interruptions are starting to get irritating.
No longer able to endure the silence or the burden of his stiff posture, she lifts herself on to her elbows. At some point during the night, she’d lost the towel she’d fallen asleep in. The sheet slides off her body exposing her soft breasts, bare stomach, and pools at her hips.
She tries to think of the perfect, sexy greeting. Something that will really get his attention and encourage him to return to bed. Maybe they can get in a little of what he promised last night before everything went down the toilet.
Nothing comes to mind.
Rolling her eyes at her own ineptitude, Alaine settles the usual, “hey.”
The sound of her voice makes Lucas' heart jump.
Her greeting might not have worked but when he turns around to look at her, his appreciative gaze as it travels up her body proves that she needed no words to awaken his desire.
Giving him her best sultry look, Alaine sweeps a hand through her hair gathering the heavy mass to one side and leans back so he can enjoy a better view.
“Hi gorgeous,” Lucas breathes.
She snorts her answer. It’s not a sexy sound at all. After falling asleep in tears and with wet hair, she’s probably anything but. She still loves the way his eyes devour her body though.
They track back to her breasts again and lower to her abdomen. She beckons him with an inviting smile to come closer. To her disappointment, his feet remain planted by the window.
“Have you been up long?” she questions.
“A little while now,” he responds. “How are you feeling?” he asks and turns around to face the city.
Alaine frowns at his back. She’s not exactly surprised that he doesn’t take advantage of what she's offering. This is Lucas after all. Though she can tell he wants to pounce on her, he’d never do so after her ordeal and especially not after a migraine attack.
Not unless she prods and pushes him a little further.
“My headache is gone,” she admits.
“That's good,” he tosses over his shoulder. “I know I said we could do some sightseeing today,” he continues with his back still toward her. “But given the situation, I don't think it's a good idea. Angus could be anywhere,” he concludes.
Not wanting to burden him further, she agrees without argument and begins to rise from the bed.
Lucas turns around at the sound of her moving and has to shake himself out of an erotic fantasy that leaps into his mind.
“I’m sorry, Ali,” he tells her before turning to look out the window again.
“What are you sorry about?” she asks.
He can feel her coming closer. He senses her presence when she stops behind him and if he wasn’t so much bigger than her when her arms wrap around his waist, he would have leaned his weight onto her.
He sucks in a breath enjoying the sensation of her naked flesh pressing into his back and braces his palms on the wall of glass in front of him.
“Are you sorry about us too?” she inquires. “Because that’s why this is happening.”
“Never,” he answers immediately. “I could never regret you,” he affirms. “But this is escalating because of me and the longer we’re together. It’s probably only going to get worse if he isn’t caught.”
Stepping around him she says, “this situation is what it is because Angus is insane. You've said as much before. Have you ever thought of what would have happened if I hadn’t met you?" she questions. "I couldn’t have survived any of it on my own. You’ve saved me from him, Lucas,” she reminds him.
“I get that,” he assures her.
He places his hands on her small, naked waist and stares down at her face. The expression on his face turns grave like whatever he is on his mind is of utmost importance.
“I need you safe, Ali,” he tells her. “Do you hear me?”
Looking up at him and understanding what he isn’t saying she responds softly, “I hear you and I want you safe too."
Lucas nods again and closes his eyes as he leans down to take that kiss he's wanted since he woke up this morning. It's not slow or gentle in any way. He's a starving man who's been deprived of something that's become a necessity in life. He plants his lips on her and she throws her all into kissing him back. He groans into her mouth and deepens it as he yanks her against him.
Swearing under his breath, he says, "we don't have the time right now."
Both breathing heavy, he presses his forehead against hers while they both try to regain their composure.
“You’re naked in front of a window,” Lucas points out as he shifts his body to hide her from the view of the other high rises around them. “Cover up,” he orders.
She frowns at him again but moves to comply.
"Do we have plans this morning? And what about the award ceremony," she asks.
“I’m not sure we should go,” he answers.
He follows to stand beside her as she grabs the towel from the bed to wrap around her body. She kneels by their luggage lying on the floor to rummage for something to wear.
“I was thinking of sending someone in my place,” he announces.
“You were thrumming with excitement about it,” she looks up at him to say.
“I was excited about sharing the evening with you,” he confesses. “Whether I do that here or there doesn’t matter. But if you want to, we can.”
“Of course I want to,” she determines. “I understand that you are afraid for me and I am terrified for you, baby,” she explains.
From her crouched position on the floor, she pulls a little dress over her head and stands to face him.
“But we can’t let him dictate every day of our lives,” she huffs. "Don't let him ruin this. And tomorrow we'll be out of here anyway."
Lucas puffs out a breath and looks up at the ceiling.
“In that case, I’m going to have to increase security,” he informs her. “Seth will be here in a little while to discuss the details. Would you like to order breakfast?”
After a day of primping and preening, Alaine examines the results in the mirror. She’s never been one to be overly conscious of her appearance but even she can admit that she looks rather spectacular.
Her hair has been piled in a high bun that stretches the already tip-tilted corners of her eyes further. Something called smokey eyes transforms the gold flecks of her irises into bursts of flames from a solar flare. Her lashes are longer from the sweep of the mascara brush and her lips, glossy and pink, are still swollen from her tryst with Lucas a bit earlier.
Just like when he did it this morning, his kisses had been hard and deep. Fierce even.
She bites into her tender bottom lip as she remembers how tightly he'd held on to her. How he'd wrapped an arm around her waist while she was straddling him. He'd used his hold to raise her hips enough so that he could assume control. Then he'd taken her just as fiercely. It wasn’t until she’d fallen against his shoulder like a ragdoll that he’d slowed his thrusting.
"I can't get enough of you," he'd grunted while he came.
Although they'd found release together, he was still fully erect inside her. He’d made love to her with tenderness after that. His gentle caresses were reminiscent of their first night together. He'd treated her as if she was made from some kind of precious material.
Not once did his gray eyes stray from hers. The love swirling in their bright gray depths had kept her pinned -- body, heart, and mind.
When she was close he’d whispered, ”I need to come inside you again.”
He hadn't needed to ask for permission. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't be the first time he'd taken such liberties since she started birth control. But hearing those erotic words dripping with ecstasy while he was looking at her had pitched Alaine out of her body and sent her hurtling into the stratosphere. She’d tumbled into in a series of shudders that propelled him right after her into oblivion.
He'd come with a soft whimper. That's the only sound he'd made but she'd experienced the force of his release in every bunched muscle of his body as he throbbed inside her.
Never has she felt so cherished as she did in those moments. She never imagined that this man, looking so regale as he enters the bedroom in the hotel suite would be the one to make her feel beautiful.
He is positively, without a doubt, the most handsome man she’s ever encountered. When they'd just met it used to be almost too much to look at him.
He holds her enthralled gaze in the mirror and raises a knowing eyebrow at her.
“You're checking me out again,” he states playfully when she blushes. “You wore white,” he notes with a pleased smile.
Alaine looks down at herself and gives him a little curtsy.
Flushing even brighter beneath the approval in his stare she replies, "per your not so subtle hints. You like it?"
“You are a vision, Alaine,” he answers as he walks up to her. “I hope you never tire of hearing me say so.”
“Believe me, I won’t,” she says and he joins in her chuckle.
“I got you something,” he admits. “I’ve had it since valentine’s day, honestly. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to give it to you,” he says. “After last night, I realized that there is no better time than the present.”
He places a soft kiss on her bare shoulder and sets a turquoise colored box on the dresser in front of her.
“Open it,” he whispers beside her ear.
As she picks up the box and studies it like it’s something from another planet, he says, “after you told me that you hadn’t received a gift in almost ten years, I knew I wanted to shower you with whatever your heart desires and more. I want to give you everything, Alaine.”
Those words reach into her to touch the very source of her life. She’s never heard anything sweeter. Turning around with tears already glistening at the corners of her eyes, she looks up at Lucas and sniffles.
“You’ve already done that,” she tells him.
Normally, her tears would bother him but tonight they don’t. He reaches down to dry them with his thumbs while she lifts the lid on the box.
Say it to me, Alaine, he wills her. Tell me that you love me.
But she continues to regard him with her own beseeching branded in those lovely wide eyes.
The space around them brims with that unspoken emotion. When neither of them speaks, Lucas decides to end the quiet.
“This suddenly seems very serious, doesn’t it?” he says in a hushed tone.
“It does,” Alaine agrees.
“You haven’t looked at it,” he reminds her.
Closing her eyes, Alaine throws her arms around his neck and pulls him closer.
“I don’t think I need anything more than what you’re already giving me,” she sniffles.
“Well, I already bought it,” Lucas jokes.
She chuckles, steps back and looks down.
“Lucas,” she exclaims with just a hint of chastisement in her voice. “Are these real?” she questions.
“Is there any other kind of diamond?” he asks. Then he orders, "turn around for me,”
He strips her neck of the impersonal silver chain provided by the personal shopper and replaces it with diamonds. Diamonds that are supposed to express the depth of his feelings.
The intricate, delicate strip cut in a floral design hangs between the crests of her breasts and deliberately, he runs his finger along the studs.
“It’s perfectly feminine,” he whispers. “Just like you. Now, your hand, my lady.”
She offers up her left wrist. He replaces the heavy, silver bangle with the dainty bracelet of the same design.
“I’ve never put jewelry on a woman before,” he confesses. “I’ve never done anything like this. But earrings seem a little more complex,” he says pensively. “I can try to put them on you if you want me to. Preserve the moment for a little bit longer," he smiles.
“You’re ridiculous,” Alaine teases. “I didn’t get you anything,” she protests while slipping the dangling earrings in her ear. “I’ve never gotten you anything.”
Kissing her neck he reminds her, "you once said I already have everything. Now that you're in my life..." he starts to explain but stops when Seth clears his throat at the door.
“If you’re ready,” he says to Lucas and Alaine. “Remember, we’re on a schedule.”
Lucas offers Alaine his arm. She slips hers through his crook and grabs hold of his bicep with her free hand to keep herself balanced in her thin heels.
Once they leave the protective walls of their hotel room and step out into the hall, he tenses perceptively and goes on high alert for danger.
A keen sense of regret over not keeping Alaine inside where it's safer starts to expand inside him. Anything could go wrong when they step out of the building. He should have listened to his gut instinct and just picnic here until the time came for them to leave Las Vegas.
He steals a covert peek at her out of the corner of his eyes and knows that it's too late to turn back. Alaine will never agree to it.
Two men in dark suits flank both sides of the elevator. Instead of making him feel more at ease, their presence serves to incite his trepidation. Everything that can possibly go wrong passes through his mind.
"Goodnight, sir," they both greet.
Lucas acknowledges them with a stiff nod while one pushes the button that summons the car. Although they've gone over the strategy a few times during the course of the day, Seth rattles it off again while they wait. He's suddenly all business and that scares Lucas even more.
“Relax, baby,” Alaine suggests in a whisper.
He looks down at her then and feels a clenching in his heart.
If anything happens to her...
They ride the elevator alongside the two suits and Seth with no one expressing a single thought for the entire 40 story descent.
The doors open to the lobby and the two men standing in front of them step out quickly. Lucas has to haul Alaine by the hand to keep up. Her little heels click against the glossy floors and he wonders just how much damage they’re doing to her already injured leg.
They race out of doors into the warm Las Vegas evening air and Alaine stumbles a little.
“Can you all slow down?” Lucas asks with a huff.
“It’s better to move quickly,” Seth informs him.
They head in the direction of the three dark SUVs parked out front. The passenger side door of the one standing in the middle hangs open and five additional bodyguards stand in wait.
The extreme situation hits her like a ton of bricks. More than that, all of this must be costing Lucas a fortune.
Her fingers fly to the diamond necklace resting on her chest as she thinks of the debt she's incurred since they met. The sound of Seth's voice distracts her from her thoughts of how uneven their relationship is.
"This way, Mr. Bright," Seth says.
His air of professionalism floors Lucas and he calls Seth on it.
"I didn't know you had it in you," he jokes.
“I’m feeling generous,” Seth replies.
“You almost had me fooled,” Lucas says.
After they've climbed in, one man dressed fully in black joins Seth in the front passenger seat. The remaining four disappear into the two other vehicles.
They pull away from the sidewalk in succession and Alaine turns questioning eyes to Lucas.
“Do we really need all this?” she asks. "They all have guns."
“I’d hire the secret service if it were possible,” he informs her. “And it’s to ensure that everything goes smoothly tonight,” he explains.
“Who are they?” Alaine asks.
“Off duty servicemen,” he tells her. "They all have experience transporting high-value assets and under more intense circumstances.”
Whether they stay out of sight is of the smallest concern but afraid to put an even bigger damper on the evening, Alaine lets the matter drop.
Their drive is over an hour long. During that time, she peppers Lucas with chatter about the award ceremony more to distract themselves than anything else. It takes his best evasive measures to keep from revealing that he is one of the recipients tonight.
The few interludes of silence she gives him, he feels no compulsion to wrack his brain for something to say. They can sit there saying nothing and feel completely at ease.
Occasionally, he points out a few areas of interest along the route and rattles of information about it off the top of his head. At the speed they’re traveling, Alaine often has to crane her neck to catch a glimpse of whatever it is he is showing her.
As they approach the venue, Lucas takes her hand in his anxiously playing with her fingers. Alaine feels her heart plummet then accelerate with nerves, excitement, and fear.
The car barely comes to a stop and the vehicle is already swarmed by photographers blinding them with flashing lights from their cameras. The only thing keeping some semblance of order is the thin rope barrier blocking off the melee and some burly men reminding them not to step out of bounds.
“Okay love birds,” Seth turns around in his seat to say to Lucas and Alaine. "Ready?”
The question prompts Lucas to place a finger under Alaine’s chin to direct her attention to him. “If you don’t want to, just say the words,” he offers.
“I want to,” she assures.
Their door is pulled open by someone outside. As soon as they step into the limelight, Lucas grabs hold of her, plasters a smile on his face and lifts an arm to wave to the crowd.
The red carpet happens in a blur. Literally. Alaine can't focus on anything but the storm of flashing lights. The number of questions thrown at them makes it impossible to answer anyone.
"Sorry, no interviews," Lucas says to one reporter.
She follows Lucas’ lead, posing for pictures for a few frenzied minutes while ignoring questions.
When finally they are ushered away, Lucas breathes his relief.
"If it gets to be too much, we can leave," he says Alaine. "And if your shoes become uncomfortable, there's a pair of flats in the car."
“You think of everything,” Alaine gushes.