This is a much shorter chapter. I realize that I should have probably tried to incorporate it with the previous chapter but here we are. Not a lot i
A little too soon, sunlight peeks through the gap between the closed curtains lining the windows in the hotel suite. Alaine protests against the intrusion with a groan and then again at the tiny pokes and prods along her ribs through the sheets that pull her from her dream. She tries to hang on to the fading image of Lucas and her walking along a pristine beach.
The whispered, “hey, sleeping beauty,” against her cheek yanks her from the tropical paradise and lands her back into their hotel suite.
Giving up on getting any more much-needed sleep, Alaine blinks her eyes open, pouts and mumbles an incoherent objection into the pillows.
At Lucas' insistence, she complains, "let me sleep, please," and tries to swat his hands away. "I'm tired. I've been prevailed upon."
He laughs that familiar deep, happy rumble and continues to tickle her under the sheets. Very easily, he keeps thwarting her attempts to wiggle out of his grasp.
Breathless and panting, Alaine finally gives up and loosens her grip on her sheet allowing him to drag it off her naked body.
Alaine looks down at herself and shakes her head at all those little red and purple spots decorating her skin. She huffs but holds back the reprimand. After all, she had been the one who initiated what in fact turned out to indeed be a very long night.
“I’m glad you had fun,” she tells him.
Belatedly noting that he is already dressed and smells like he's been outdoors she asks, "you went out?"
After Lucas nods, she questions, "where did you go?"
Without uttering a single word, he picks up the shopping bag he'd rested on the floor when he reentered the room. Placing it on the bed in front of Alaine, Lucas leans back to gauge her reaction.
He gestures for her look inside and she rewards him with curiosity in her expression before dropping her eyes to search out the contents of the plain white paper bag.
"Oh my god! No way! Lucas!" she exclaims.
Because he was half expecting her to put up a fight, he laughs his relief over her obvious excitement.
"You truly are an enigma, Alaine," he says. "I couldn't get that reaction out of you over diamonds and yet..." he chuckles. "It's your preferred brand, right?" he asks.
"I'm afraid to even touch it," she declares.
Lucas reaches into the bag and pulls out a large box. He rips off the bow the sales lady decorated it with and lifts the lid to pull out a new laptop. Without ceremony, he hands it to her.
She lets out a giddy giggle and accepts the item eagerly. Remembering her nakedness, she draws the sheet to cover herself before opening the device and firing it up.
To her delight, it's already formatted so she can't imagine what time he left her to get this done.
Once the display lights up she is greeted with a picture of Lucas and her gracing the screen. It's obviously a 'selfie' that he took. One in which she is fast asleep with him beside her wearing a little smirk.
Trying to recall exactly when he might have taken it, she concentrates hard on the image.
“The day after the fire,” he reminds her. “You fell asleep beside me in my bed. Do you remember? I felt like such a creep for staring at you. I just couldn’t believe you were there.”
Alaine regards him intently. Whenever his voice picks up that far-off note of wistfulness and his eyes hold hers with this kind of intensity, words simply fail her.
She urges her tongue to dislodge itself from the floor of her mouth but it remains resting there heavy and utterly useless failing her again like it's done countless times before.
“It’s a twelve-hour flight at least,” Lucas says interrupting the poignant period of silence settling between them. “You’ll need some form of entertainment,” he continues. “May I?”
Taking the laptop from her, he moves deft fingers over the keys.
“I put a few movies on there and as well our favorite book and a few others with rave reviews on mature content. It helps to study," he says suggestively. "I want you to be a diligent pupil."
She hits him playfully.
“What?” he asks feigning innocence. “They’re to increase your knowledge.”
Unprepared for the way she launches herself into him, Lucas topples backward. He has little time to save them from her momentum as she knocks him off balance so they both go down to the carpet in a wild tumble -- laptop included.
Alaine shrieks, both of them grabbing for her latest gift and coming up empty-handed. Lucas lands on his ass before falling back with her straddling him.
He can't see a damn through her silky curtain of hair covering his eyes but he knows the source of the acute pain cutting his breath short.
He tries to chuckle and acknowledge her show of gratitude by saying, "you're welcome," but it comes out as little more than a hollow squeak.
"I think you've ruined any chance of me ever fathering children," he wheezes.
"Oh god," she gasps as she moves hastily off his body. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" she asks.
With his eyes closed, he groans, "I need a second."
When the pain begins to subside, he sits up and looks at her incredulously.
"What was that about?" he asks with a little laugh.
"You are the most thoughtful person I know and you're so good to me," she explains. "I got a little over-excited. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine. Warn me next time," he jokes. "Come on, let's get some food in you," he grunts as he picks himself then her off the floor. "We need to start making tracks."
"Don't go far," Lucas cautions Alaine.
She hates being kept on a leash. She hates being told what to do and she especially hates being treated like a child but with Angus somewhere in Las Vegas, what other choice is there but to accept being ordered around.
"Sure," she answers before wandering off into the nearest shop inside the airport.
It's been a few days since she's been searching online for a suitable gift for Lucas. Something meaningful to show how much she appreciates him. After his latest purchase in her name, he's upped the ante and her urgency to find something.
She doubts that a store inside of the airport will offer anything suitable or anything that he doesn't already own but she heads in to browse anyway. Her time would be better spent doing this that remaining idle while Lucas and Seth hash out whatever it is they are hashing out now.
She browses the perfume and jewelry duty-free shop with little interest. Other than watches, she's already noted that Lucas isn't the jewelry wearing type and while she is familiar with the fragrance of his cologne of choice, she has no idea what the brand is. Something expensive, she imagines because the light scent lingers long after he leaves a room.
She pauses over the glass showcase of watches and cufflinks. Those she knows he likes. He has two drawers in his walk-in closet dedicated to these alone.
"Is there something I can help you with?" the store clerk asks her.
"I'm just browsing," she answers. "I'm trying to find a gift for my...for my...that guy," she says pointing to Lucas standing with Seth a few feet outside the glass windows. "I know he likes watches but he already has a ton of them and cufflinks too."
"What about jewelry," the man asks. "We have these love gold and diamond bracelets," he offers.
"He doesn't own any," Alaine informs him. "I want to take that as a sign that it's not something he likes."
"Or maybe it's just not something he wouldn't get for himself but would appreciate if it came from someone else," the man offers.
Alaine ponders on that for a moment with her head cocked to the side. If she had more experience doing this maybe it wouldn't be so difficult. The entire experience of finding a gift for Lucas is a stark reminder of how much she missed growing him. She never had the opportunity to purchase a gift for her father. Not for his birthday or Christmas and especially not for father's day.
It's not that she hadn't wanted to. It's just that she knew it wouldn't be well received. Her father and her never had that kind of relationship. For a time, he treated Delah like a princess and then even that stopped. Mostly, he just growled at Alaine to stay out of his way.
The last thing she ever gave her father was that card her teacher had her make in Kindergarten. When she gave it to him he'd left her to watch while he ripped it up and dumped it in the garbage.
"You're nothing to me," he'd said.
That afternoon she'd waited for the tears to come but even at age six, she was seasoned from all his rejection.
She knocks the thought out of her head and returns to her purpose for stepping in here in the first place. It certainly wasn't to reminisce about how much her father never loved her.
Taking another glance at Lucas and Seth, she smiles to herself. There are at least two people in the world who she knows care about her.
On that note, she determines that she should get Seth something as well.
What do men like?
What do they like? That is the more apt question.
For Lucas, she's certain it's not a wristlet and Seth is an even bigger mystery.
"I'll keep that thought in mind," she says to the attendant before leaving the store.
“...and a woman to be added on her security detail,” she returns in time to hear Lucas say. “I don’t want another bathroom incident. Someone has to be able to go with her."
Without losing a beat, he drapes an arm across her shoulders as soon as she moves up to his side.
"I already have a few candidates lined up," Seth answers. "I'll send you a copy of their files and do the interviews once I'm back in New York."
"Well alright," Lucas says. "If that's all, we should get going."
Stepping out of Lucas' hold, Alaine walks up to Seth. She goes up on the tips of her toes to hug him and say, "thank you," into his ear.
"Go have fun," he tells her. "I'll have this all sorted when you get back."
He steps back from her and accepts the handshake Lucas offers.
"I'll be in touch," Lucas says before he and Alaine turn away.
With time to spare they take a leisurely walk to the first-class lounge. It feels like a weight has been lifted off Lucas' shoulders and he can't leave Las Vegas fast enough. Their conversations lulls into a quiet stroll and Alaine sighs her contentment beside him.
The sound touches something deep inside Lucas. He leans down to place a kiss atop her head while maintaining their unhurried steps.
“Our first international trip together,” he announces. “I think this should be documented.”
With his phone in hand, he snaps a few quick photos until a familiar voice offers, "I'd be happy to do that for you."
“Ian,” Lucas greets accepting the hand offered to him. “It’s good to see you. I’d heard you were in Japan.”
“I came back in time for the award ceremony,” Ian responds and reaches for Lucas’ phone. “Smile you two," he suggests. Then he says, "It’s great to meet Lucas’ light at the end of the very dark tunnel,” to Alaine. “I’m Ian Gaines, by the way.”
“Alaine Knight,” she answers with a little wave.
“Ali,” Lucas interjects. “Ian is actually Judah Gaines’ son. You remember you met him at the charity dinner a few weeks ago. He spoke to you about a job at AeroTech.”
After saying those words, he looks at Ian pointedly.
“Of course,” the man says with a light chuckle. “Send in your resume then. I'm sure we can find a suitable position for you."
“She already has,” Lucas responds.
They watch Ian walk away. When he is well out of earshot Alaine turns to Lucas with her arms crossed.
“Why would you do that?” she hisses.
Feeling nonchalant about the whole encounter Lucas resumes their easy pace towards the lounge.
"Do what? he asks.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know,” she scolds. “I’m so embarrassed. Now if I get this job it will be because of you. I’m supposed to be paving my own way remember?”
Not at all surprised by her resistance, Lucas responds, "pave away. But there is nothing wrong with accepting a little help along the way."
"Now the Gaines are all probably going to think that I use you as a crutch to get what I want," she huffs."
“Why do you care so much what people think, anyway?” Lucas asks as he sinks into his seat sectioned off from the common room by a partition. “I don’t.”
“You can afford not to,” she mumbles and takes a spot beside him. “The rest of us have to earn respect and I can’t earn respect if everyone thinks my boyfriend...What?” she asks when he grins at her.
“Boyfriend huh? Aren’t you presumptuous,” Lucas jokes and laughs harder when she blushes.
“I just mean - we - you, just forget it. The damage is done already,” she sulks and sinks deeper into her darkened mood when he continues to chuckle beside her.
“No damage has been done, Ali," Lucas says to smooth her ruffled feathers. "Ian is a good friend who owes me many favors.”