Lost and Found
I don't know if you love me or hate me as yet, but we are that much closer to what it is you guys are waiting for. I promise it's coming.
I'm satisfied with these last two chapters. Please don't forget to let me know what you think in the comments section
Lucas checks his watch again. Almost ten minutes he’s been waiting.
This was a bad idea.
He knew it from the moment Alaine said she needed to use the bathroom. He knew it when she refused his company and he definitely knew it when Shernie volunteered herself.
Yet, he tries to convince himself that Alaine is okay; that she still needs her independence.
Where is she? he thinks and has to talk himself down from following in the direction she went with his sister.
He lifts his head to the glowing exit sign over the doorway where the two of them disappeared to when he notices movement there. To his disappointment, it’s neither Alaine nor his sister.
A man walks from that area with his broom and spade in hand working over the floor.
The janitor, Lucas surmises and also knows that the building must be closing down. He scrubs a frustrated hand over his forehead and reaches for his phone to call his sister.
It takes three rings for someone to answer and it’s not Shernie’s voice on the other end of the line.
“Shanice?” Lucas questions rather than muttering the few swear words swimming around in his head.
“I confiscated Shernie’s phone,” she informs him.
“Shit,” Lucas mutters before hanging up.
He lifts his panic-stricken eyes to Seth and announces, “I’m going after her.”
Just then, the janitor reaches the end of the row where he and Seth are standing.
“We’re locking it down, guys,” he says to them.
“I just need to find my girl,” Lucas tells him. “She went to the bathroom.”
“The exit on that side is already locked down,” the man explains. “If that’s where she went, she won’t be coming back through here, I can already tell you that.”
“Where will she...” Lucas starts to question.
“Outside and around back.” That’s all the man says before he starts moving on.
Neither Lucas nor Seth require further instructions. They both make a dash for the front of the building with Seth barking orders to the rest of his men via his communications device.
“I need you to listen to me,” Seth orders to Lucas when he is done issuing his commands.
He grabs Lucas who is walking a few paces ahead of him by the sleeve of his jacket.
In his urgency to get to Alaine, Lucas wrenches his arm free and pushes his way through the revolving doors until the cold night air whips him in the face.
“Stop,” Seth orders right behind him.
Not breaking stride, Lucas growls, “we don’t have time for this. She’s out there...”
“I know,” Seth responds cutting him off.
“Then why are you wasting time?” Lucas demands.
“Because you can’t go barging in there half-cocked,” Seth explains. “No one has seen Angus for the night. We’ve kept close watch but just in case there is a situation, I need you to keep your head on straight. This is what you’re paying me to do. Let me do my job.”
Properly scolded, Lucas concedes and lets Seth take the lead.
“I’d prefer if you hung back with your family,” Seth suggests. “I know that’s not going to happen,” he adds quickly before Lucas can protest. “Just stick close to me.”
They make it a few feet around the building before they run into Shernie navigating her way across the dimly lit yard. Lucas immediately looks behind her for Alaine. A heavy rock drops in his gut when he realizes that his sister is indeed alone.
This is the confirmation that he was right when he suggested that either he or Seth go with Alaine.
It takes every ounce of discipline he has to keep from grabbing Shernie by the arms to shake her.
“Where’s Ali,” he demands in a tone that conveys his consternation. “Where, Shernie?” he repeats without giving her a chance to answer.
“Would you relax,” she says and steps around him. “She’s fine. The line back there is a mile long. Nobody is going to kidnap her in that crowd,” she continues and rolls her eyes. “Besides she told me I could leave.”
“Is nothing serious to you?” he growls under his breath.
He could stand here arguing with her from now until eternity comes; Shernie will continue to do Shernie. Sometimes -- a lot of the time -- she’s a selfish and thoughtless brat. Standing here and arguing that point will only delay their quest to find Alaine, so he won’t push it. Not right now.
While she continues to defend her actions, more to herself that anyone else, Lucas orders her, “go find your parents now,” and turns to follow after Seth.
The first door that they reach, Seth rattles the handles.
“Shit,” he mutters when there is no give. “Did you try her number?” he asks Lucas only to receive a scoff in response to the nonsensical question.
Alaine’s number would have been the first Lucas would have tried if she had her phone on her.
“She left it at the hotel,” Lucas grumbles in answer -- something she will never make the mistake of doing again. She will just have to swallow down her distaste for carrying purses and humor him, Lucas determines. Or wherever she goes and whatever setting, she will just have to tote her rucksack along with her.
Their search for an unlocked door becomes frantic as they make their way around the wide building.
“What the hell was I thinking letting her go alone,” Lucas chastises himself. “This place is huge.”
“We’ll find her,” Seth assures him in his usual composed manner. “There’s been no sign of him tonight,” he reminds Lucas. “We’ve combed the property, checked with security regularly.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s not here,” Lucas says.
“I’m confident he isn’t,” Seth tells him.
Eventually, they come across a trio of women exiting the building.
“Hold the door,” Seth calls to them. “We’re looking for someone. She has dark hair, green eyes, about five feet, and she’s wearing a white dress.”
“I think we all know who you’re looking for,” one woman answers with her eyes on Lucas. “I promise, if it were me, I’d never leave your side,” she states.
The blatant suggestiveness in her tone grates on Lucas’s nerves. Suppressing his impatience, he asks in a measured voice, “please, it’s important. I need to know if you’ve seen her in there.”
The three of them exchange looks and all respond with a shrug and a shake of their heads.
Stepping around the crew, Lucas follows Seth into the building and the two of them continue their desperate search questioning other guests they come across. Their hunt to find Alaine turns up nothing.
“You told her to find you once she was done, right?” Seth says. “She must have gone in search for you,” he concludes.
Even with that logic telling him that she is most likely okay, Lucas can feel his panic rising. That sense of impending doom he’s been feeling since last night mushrooms to capacity. A pounding begins at the base of skill and drives its way up to his temples until his head starts throbbing.
They go back the way they came and into the semi-darkness with him ready to start shouting her name all over the grounds. The more they search the milling crowds while dodging those people wanting to drag him into conversation, the more afraid Lucas becomes.
Each second that passes cements his fear that Seth is wrong. Angus is here and he’s taken her.
He stands on the lawn and performs a slow three hundred and sixty-degree turn only stopping when a small body bumps into his back.
“This place is humongous,” he hears behind him.
The moment Lucas recognizes her voice, he spins around and pulls her to his chest in a fierce grip.
“What are you thinking, Ali?” he scolds with his arms still around her. “What are you thinking? Do you have any idea how long we’ve been searching for you? Do you know how many scenarios played in my mind?”
He sets her back but keeps his firm hold on her upper arms. His initial anger gives way to relief but still, he pulls her aside out of earshot so no one will overhear the reprimand she’s about to receive.
“Come here,” Lucas says sternly as he drags her to a private corner.
“I’m sorry,” she says when he stops hauling her to the side of the building. “I tried to find you but when I got there, the doors were locked and it’s like a maze in there. “I’m sorry,” she repeats. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
Rather than telling him how petrified she had been on her own inside that scarcely lit cavern, she decides to put the terrifying experience to rest for both of them. In an attempt to appease him, she leans up and places a kiss on his lips.
He accepts her peace offering and her sweet rambling apology allowing his anger to diffuse completely.
“Be careful next time, okay,” he warns. “And from now on, you carry your phone with you. I don’t care in what or where you have to stick it.”
“Or maybe you guys could have found a lady security guard person,” she suggests.
“They’re harder to come by on short notice, apparently,” Lucas answers. “Either way, you’re never separating yourself from your phone again. Got it?”
This time, without argument, she nods.
A shrill whine breaks the silence around the grounds and leads to a massive explosion of lights illuminating the sky. Another follows in quick succession, then another.
Lucas takes Alaine’s hand again and leads her back to the waterfront at the edge of the property. He stops beside a glowing fountain and stands at her back with his arms around her waist.
Loving the feel of his sturdy frame behind her, she leans her weight against his torso to enjoy the magnificent display. When he nuzzles her neck and places a soft kiss there, she angles her head to give him better access.
“Are you okay, baby?” he whispers against her ear. “That had to have been terrifying.”
“It was,” she admits.
“I should have gone with you,” he says.
“I ordered you not to,” she reminds him. “I’m sorry that I don’t listen.”
The sound of his deep, warm chuckle sends a shiver skittering along her spine.
“Call me crazy, but I enjoy your stubbornness,” he replies and immediately rues speaking those words. “Please don’t make me regret saying that,” he pleads with another laugh.
“I’ll do my best,” she promises.
“Are you tired?” he asks. “If you are, we can go back to the hotel.”
“I’m perfect,” she answers softly.
“Okay,” he whispers back with a tenderness that steals her breath.
“Thank you for sharing tonight with me,” Alaine tells him.
“Your sister wasn’t too pleased about missing the after-party,” Alaine says as they begin their ascent in the hotel’s elevator. “I feel terrible.”
“Okay, one, she doesn’t deserve to go,” Lucas answers with his features set in a hard mask. “Two. she was never invited since it’s no place for a sixteen-year-old. And finally, it wasn’t safe for you. I’m not willing to risk you over a party, no matter how much whining she does,” he adds with finality.
“You’re angry because she left me. It wasn’t her fault,” Alaine repeats for the umpteenth time. “I told her she could leave me, Lucas. And it’s not like she would have been on her own at the party. We would all be there. A little fun...”
“That’s not the point,” he interjects. “Shernie gets away with too much and it’s not good for a healthy personality. I was very clear that she shouldn’t leave you and yet, she did because it wasn’t convenient for her. She has to learn.”
Alaine doesn’t say anything else on the subject. Mostly because her experience with children is limited to her four-year-old niece who she’s known for a little over a month.
“You’ve probably made her hate me,” she mumbles. “You didn’t have to be so harsh with her.”
“Hardly,” he says confidently. “She doesn’t know how to hold a grudge. It’s one of her redeeming qualities.”
There is a fondness in his voice that warms her heart. Alaine smiles to herself while reminiscing on their pregnancy scare. So far, the way he deals with his kid sister, she’s certain that he’ll make a good father someday.
A dull ache had begun a slow creep up her leg since her frantic hustle to find Lucas after she left the bathroom. She’d pushed it when she stood on the lawn wearing those thin heels. Not wanting to exacerbate her discomfort since she has her own plans for Lucas tonight, she leans against the wall to remove the murderous shoes.
Before she can slip one of them off, Lucas stops her and sweeps her up into his arms.
“I’ve got you, baby,” he tells her.
“You’re spoiling me,” Alaine says.
“This isn’t spoiling,” Lucas answers. “And I’m not doing it for you. This is for me,” he says, his face a serious.
Though she is a little embarrassed since they’re not alone in the car, she’s still beside herself that this man is so attentive to her needs. Soon, she relaxes into his solid chest.
The first time he held her like this, they hadn’t known each other as yet. Even then, his arms had been like a safety net -- warm and dependable.
Maybe in actuality, everything might not be okay but any time Lucas holds her like this, she is reassured that somehow, they're both going to come out of this alive.
“Do explain,” she laughs.
The elevator doors open and he lags behind Seth and their two guards as they lead the way down the hall.
“Well,” he begins to explain with feigned seriousness. “If I allow you to remove your shoes here, when we get to the room you are going to want to shower and tonight I prefer to have you beneath me instead of against the shower wall. If you get into that shower, I will turn you around and f...
“Stop,” Alaine admonishes.
Her cheeks burn hotly and her eyes dart to the trio a short distance away.
She doesn’t mind his evocative words. It’s his way, she's learned. Sometimes he gets crude with his language when they make love and she's gotten used to it. Surprisingly, she enjoys it. They add fuel to the flame. They send her into this passion-filled frenzy. She doesn’t mind that he knows how to talk filthy. So long as it’s not a public affair, like this one.
Since letting go of her inhibitions, she is not too concerned about where he takes possession of her body either. No surface is off-limits, she's also learned. She’s been bent over his home office desk. She's been ridden on the dining room table in the middle of lunch and they've even taken it to the floor.
They’ve done it all.
All, except one that she finally intends to give him tonight.
“Does that suit you?” he asks.
She looks at him with coyness in her eyes that has Lucas clearing his throat.
In her mind, she goes over the seduction she has planned for the evening. It accelerates her heartbeat and excites the other parts of her body, already awakened by her erotic thinking.
Now that he’s expressed what is in his mind, she is encouraged to step off the shoreline and dive into the deep end. The question that remains is whether she should ravage him as soon as they enter the suite or take it slow.
Her research said that a slow seduction is good, but men don’t mind hard and fast. Lucas has proven that he is a fan of both.
Other than that night of his sensual massage, she’s never initiated their lovemaking again and he’d returned that favor in kind multiple times. When he'd finally let up on her, she'd fallen asleep pleasantly plundered and exhausted.
“Oh Alaine,” Lucas says with a deep inhalation of breath. “I wish I were privy to your thoughts.”
Her cheeks turn a deep scarlet but she doesn’t shy away from the heat and promise in his eyes.
They remain near the entrance of the suite while Seth and his team complete a full search of their room. Upon their return, Seth's firm nod gives them permission to enter. He retires to the adjoining bedroom and the two burly men bid Lucas and Alaine goodnight and assume their positions in the hall.
Now that they're alone, the cloud of lust that had been slowly developing expands quickly, but Lucas plans to make tonight meaningful.
He walks to the minibar where he pops a bottle of champagne for himself and cider for Alaine.
She walks to meet him and takes the glass he offers.
“What are we celebrating?” she asks.
“Tonight, us, our trip tomorrow, us,” he repeats listing the things he's grateful for. “I’m happy, Alaine,” he confesses. “I never thought I could be to tell you the truth. I have a lot of things. Expensive things,” he adds indicating to his designer suit. “I've worked really hard to afford them on my own because I never wanted to have to depend on anybody for security, ever again. My mother watched her husband abuse me and my father was never wise about it. I knew I only had to depend on me. I worked almost round the clock every day to fill my days so I wouldn’t have to concentrate on what was missing in me. I wouldn’t have to concentrate on the reasons I could not find happiness. Until I saw you. That was the first time I went home and questioned my method of existence. I wanted something and that night I knew I could not have it. For the three years after that, I tried to search for that feeling just seeing you planted in me. I never found it again. Not until the day you walked into my office. At first, I tried to convince myself that it was just physical. You’re beautiful and sexy as hell. I told myself you were forbidden fruit and I wanted you. But I’ve come to realize it is so much more than that and I don’t just want you. I want to earn you.”
Alaine opens her mouth to speak.
“Let me finish,” he says with a nervous laugh. “That look you have in your eyes right now, babe, I want to earn it. I want to be worthy of it and of you. I don’t want us to be something that happened because your life is in danger. I want us to be real, like two people who met under normal circumstances.”
“We are real,” Alaine tells him when he finally pauses. “Does it matter that our circumstances aren’t normal?” she asks.
He becomes thoughtful while mulling her take on things over in his head.
“I suppose not," he finally answers. "I guess what matters most is where we’re going. On that note, you said that you were looking for a new apartment. I don’t want you to. Why not make mine your home? Our home," he clarifies. "Stay, Ali. Don’t go.”
A part of him expected her to be excited -- that she would launch herself against him and say yes with a happy laugh. The part of him that knows her anticipated this silence. It persists and he waits with breathless anticipation and fear that she is going to reject his offer.
Both surprised and confused she finally questions, "you want me to move in? Permanently?"
“You’re already living there,” Lucas tells her. “It works. We work. Together. Tell me that you can see that."
“Yes,” she agrees. "We do work."
“And it will be safer,” he continues to petition. “You’ll be safer with me.”
When she takes a step back from the counter standing between them, Lucas feels his heart fracture.
He’d put it all out there tonight.
He’d said 'I love you' to her and got no response. He’d poured his heart out before a live audience, and again here and now and what does he get in return? She continues stepping away from him.
Setting his glass down, he asks, “Why didn’t you tell me you were planning on moving out?”
“I never moved in,” she reminds him. “I thought it was supposed to be temporary. It’s only been a week,” she continues to explain. “Don’t you think this is too soon?”
Lucas doesn’t say a word. He shuts his eyes wishing for the briefest of moments that he could do the same against the different emotions roaring for dominance over his heart. He tries to explain it as embarrassment over her rejection, but really and truly it’s hurt.
Deep and searing hurt.
“I said something to you tonight,” he says his voice gruffer than he wants it to be. “You haven’t responded.”
“What are you talking about?” Alaine asks, her confusion growing.
She can feel him pulling away from her and it is in more than the steps he takes toward the bedroom. What does it mean? What is happening? Not two minutes ago they were both happy.
“Lucas,” she calls. “Tell me.”
“No,” he says adamantly. “Forget it. I guess it wasn’t important,” and he spits and continues walking away.
When he gets to the hall, he turns to face her again. His features are strained, mirroring the extent of the pain she’s inflicted on him tonight.
“If you think about everything I’ve said tonight, Alaine your brilliant brain will figure it out," he assures her. "But rest assured, I won’t be saying it again.”
And he means it. He won’t say it again. Not until she does.