These chapters are popping up faster and I'm happy about that as I am sure you faithful readers are as well. I hope you enjoy this one and if you do, please leave a note in the comment section. As always, I am so grateful for my little readership.
Twelve hours on a plane should be a named form of torture. This time Alaine doesn’t bother trying to suppress her groan. Another glance at her phone reveals that barely five minutes have elapsed since she last checked the time and a mere two hours since boarding their nonstop flight to Italy. Even with books, movies, and Lucas’s company, the next ten hours are going to be intolerable.
“How do you do this all the time?” she directs to Lucas.
“Thank God you’re in first class,” he replies with a roll of his eyes. He presses his lips to her temple and goes back to the tablet screen in front of him. “It’s only been two hours, babe,” he reminds her.
“Twelve hours just wasting away,” she mutters in a manner that suggests she had paid no heed whatsoever to his logic. “Someone has got to come up with a quicker method for travel,” she complains. “I actually have a few ideas. I could pitch them to your company.”
“But it will be worth it beautiful,” he says. “And I am always open to brilliant ideas.”
Her response to his obvious enjoyment of her suffering is pouting and whining.
“If it’s that bad, we’ll take the jet on our return,” Lucas suggests. “I’m sure flying privately will afford us greater opportunity to kill twelve hours in a more...pleasurable manner,” he suggests. “In the meanwhile, here.”
With that, he hands her his tablet.
Still pouting, she asks, “why didn’t you use the jet?”
“I love when you want me to do things for you,” he replies. “But you’re always saying that I’m a spendthrift. I thought you’d be pleased with me trying to pinch pennies.”
“Pinch pennies,” Alaine scoffs with disbelief. “Exactly how much is this trip costing you?”
Without looking at her, he responds, “a lot less than it would have cost to take the jet. Just be content with that.”
Unable to help it, she laughs at the smart-ass response.
“Fair enough, I suppose,” she concedes.
Her eyes take interest in the lines of small white letters, numbers, and symbols across the black screen of the device in her hand.
They raise a tingle of excitement in her. It’s a terrible shame that despite her scholarship, she’d had to shell out so much money to attain that college degree and she’s yet to put it to use.
With all that has transpired in the last month or so, developing software has been the farthest thing from her mind.
To the layman, everything on the screen would appear as gibberish. To her, it’s like food. It seems her dormant synapses spark to life, immediately firing electrical pulses throughout her brain.
Feeling a little pleased with himself that he could inspire her out of her gloom, Lucas settles back into his seat and closes his eyes.
“We can take the jet back you’d like,” he tells her. “All you have to do is ask.”
She looks at him, scoffs at the idea that he would use a private jet on her whim and goes back to the device in her hand.
Lucas blinks an eye open in time to catch the incredulity in her features and shakes his head.
She truly has no idea that he will do anything for her. She is also oblivious of how beautiful she is with her lustrous hair, glowing skin, sexy eyes, luscious lips, a buoyant upper chest, slim waist, flared hips and a nice tight and round ass. Plus, she has those shapely legs that he loves to feel clenching around him. She is just gorgeous. Everything a perfect symmetry in his eyes and wrapped in a nice miniature package.
He gives her a once over, noting how much more pronounced her hips are when she sits in those skin-tight jeans.
Damn! And she is his.
It always gets him, the fact that she’s not been with anybody else. The thought creates a longing to truly brand her, his. How would he do that? For now, all he can do is hope and do whatever it takes to make her stay.
Looking at her now, regret that he’d not taken his private jet burns in his chest and a little further south but they definitely will on the return trip.
She catches the look in his eyes and her cheeks take on the shade of a light pink rose.
“I may blush,” she whispers with her attention already returned to the screen. “But it’s all written in your eyes.”
Lucas clears his throat guiltily and points to the tablet in her hand to deviate from the current topic.
“This is a new software I’m working on,” he says. “I could always enlist the help of my IT department but it is for personal purposes for the time being,” he explains. “I prefer to keep it close to the vest.”
“A security software,” she muses. “You’re doing this because of me.”
He gives her a nod but his lack of words and the pain in his eyes tell it all. Her incident with Angus hurts him and he is still carrying the blame.
“Yes,” he says finally. “I wish I was further along. It’s developing a little slowly because somebody always has me distracted.”
“Then you need a lesson in discipline,” she retorts with a cheekiness that makes him laugh. “I haven’t looked at code in so long,” she admits. “I hope I still know what I’m doing.”
“Well while you’re at it, might I suggest you try to think of a spiffy name too?” he requests.
“Yes sir,” she practically purrs.
A minute into her study of his work, she glides down in her large comfortable seat and props her legs up on the footrest in front of her.
Lucas peeks down and smiles at the picture she creates. She’s one of those programmers who gets lost in her work, he can tell. He’s already been forgotten and probably her annoyance with her confinement too as she immerses herself in the black screen.
While she is occupied and no longer complaining, he allows himself to relax against the headrest and closes his eyes again.
This last week had been a test. A test of his will. A test of his sanity. A test of his patience. A test of how far he will go for Alaine. Everything about it had been difficult. Now thousands of miles in the air he tries to slacken the tension in his muscles for the first time in days. At least for a little while, the girl he loves is out of harm’s way. That’s enough to make him breathe a bit easier.
A short while later, his head lolls to the side.
“That didn’t take long,” Alaine whispers.
She watches Lucas’s handsome face and feels that now very familiar flip flop from her heart to the pit of her stomach.
Although he’s fallen asleep, his features are far from relaxed. There’s a pinch in his brow that reminds her of someone in pain and hard lines around his mouth. Those dark circles around his eyes are no surprise either.
He’s drained and she knows it. Aside from preparing for this trip, their entire week had been a whirlwind of activities. Not to mention all the nights of interrupted sleep.
The latter is mostly her fault. She wakes in panicked sweats, usually with her scream penetrating the night and he is the one stuck with dealing with it.
How I love you, Lucas, she thinks and gives him a gentle nudge.
“I am pretty beat, baby,” he admits apologetically.
He opens his eyes long enough for her to see the regret in them before he sighs and seals his eyelids again.
“I know,” she replies. “It’s okay.”
The softness in her tone encourages him to look at her one last time. His lips quirk up in a one-sided smirk when he catches her watching him still. He would joke about her not being able to keep her eyes off him, but his brain feels is shutting down.
While Alaine’s eyes remain on him, she leans in to press a sweet, gut-warming, toe-curling kiss on his lips. It’s tender but fulfilling and everything the kiss of a woman in love should be.
Lucas breathes her in -- her breath, her scent, her energy.
Too abruptly, she straightens breaking their connection. He is about to pull her closer to continue but she pats her thighs inviting him to use her as a pillow.
“Come here, baby,” she urges him.
His eyes spark with life before he glances around the cabin to see if anyone is paying attention to them. Most of the other passengers have already resigned themselves to their prison for the next few hours. Some are watching the inflight movie. Others clicking away at their computers. A few are already asleep. What’s clear is that no one cares about anybody else on the plane.
Lucas shuffles around to close the curtain to shield them from the rest of the cabin. As he adjusts himself to rest his head in her lap, his childlike smile makes her giggle. He continues to shift about in an attempt to make himself comfortable and only settles down when he can look up at her face.
Their gazes meet and hold summoning this awkward churning inside him. Caressing her cheek with one hand, he snakes his other arm around her back and wraps it about her waist.
All he needs to do is show her how much he loves her. Once he can convince her that all of her is safe with him, including her heart, it might be easy for her to accept her feelings for him as well.
He never imagined that he would ever play this role. The loving, doting boyfriend. The example he grew up with was toxic and unhelpful. He never wanted anything that resembled it. But whatever exists between Claudia and Kurt, he knows now, it’s not this.
This with Alaine is different; vaguely reminiscent of his father and Shanice. It’s something he hopes, with time, they can aspire to be. He just has to show her that they can.
Leaning up, he invites her in for another slow kiss. When he resettles and opens his eyes, it is to her smiling face.
Of course, she loves him.
It’s written there so plainly for him to see. He doesn't understand what is preventing her from speaking it.
Lucas turns his face to press a soft kiss to her abdomen. After that sleep claims him swiftly.
Alaine’s attention is split between the screen in her hand and his handsome features. She takes the time to trace his cheekbone and jawline. She palms his cheek and runs a finger over his pink and sensual lips.
They quirk up in that little side smirk.
Startled, she scolds, “I thought you were sleeping.”
“I thought you were letting me sleep,” he retorts, his voice a little groggy. “No don’t,” he objects when she takes her hand away. “I like it. How are you doing, with the app?”
“I’ll make some notes,” she replies while trailing her fingers through his freshly trimmed hair. “Sleep baby,” she orders softly. “I know you’re tired.”
Lucas nods and heaves a heavy breath.
Alaine, don’t you know yet you love me? he thinks before closing his eyes.
Eight hours into this stupid flight and she still feels tortured. The app worked as a distraction until Lucas awoke and took it from her. Even worse, her eyes burn but her brain can’t seem to find a resting place.
At least there's only a little more than four to go. So she tells herself. To help her cope with being cooped up for so long, she tries to pretend that they only just took off. If she can trick her mind into thinking that then maybe it won’t feel like she’s being swallowed up by insanity.
How many time zones have they crossed by now?
Sensing her heightening impatience and feeling sorry for her too, Lucas says, “we’re getting there,” from his position on her lap.
She looks down at him but refuses to vocalize her irritation. This trip is as much about him as is it is about her. He already has his injured mother to deal with once they land. That’s enough of a burden by itself without adding her selfish whining over the length of a flight to it. She’s determined to make it as stress-free for him as possible.
Instead of groaning and whimpering or marching to the cockpit to demand that the pilots land the plane at the next available airport just so she can stretch her legs and breathe something other than recycled air, she focuses on how good he feels where he is using her as his personal pillow.
“You should probably try to get some sleep,” Lucas warns. “You’re going to have jet lag and the time difference will take some getting used to. I don’t want you crashing on me.”
“I wish we had a layover,” Alaine grumbles.
“Where?” Lucas counters. “In the middle of the Atlantic? No thanks. It’s only a few more hours,” he reminds her. “Try to sleep and I will review your notes.”
He moves off her legs and sits up in his seat with a little stretch.
“Reverse roles?” he suggests.
Though aware that she most likely won’t sleep, Alaine grabs her neck pillow to place over the front of jeans. She settles herself down and curls herself up into the seat with her face to his abdomen.
For the next five hours, Lucas finds himself trying to be a source of entertainment. He uses idle chatter, reading, and movies to occupy Alaine. Not once does she close her eyes and he finds himself more than grateful when the familiar landscape of the country of his birth comes into view.
He urges Alaine up to take a look through the window. When she does, she turns back to look at him with a mixture of relief and excitement blended in her wide eyes and smile.
He can’t help returning it. Italy is the one place that he really considered home. He loves it here. Even more so now that he gets to share it with Alaine.
The thought of visiting Claudia at the hospital or running across Kurt is not nearly as disturbing as they were the first time around.
After circling the airport for a time, the plane glides towards the landing strip and falls with a heavy thump and a shudder onto the tarmac.
Alaine’s yelp fills the cabin making Lucas and a few other passengers laugh. She colours from embarrassment and he pats her thigh as consolation.
They disembark quickly and get through immigration just a swiftly and in no time, their luggage is delivered right at their feet.
Before exiting the arrival lounge, Lucas helps Alaine into a warm sweater and coat, then secures a thin scarf around her neck.
Now that he has her here, he is eager to get to his place. There's so much to see. So much that he wants to do with her and not nearly enough time to do it all.
Examining the new addition to her wardrobe she comments, “I don’t remember buying these.”
“You didn’t,” he answers. “But I noticed that you did not pack enough warm clothing. Even if it’s supposed to be spring, it’s colder weather here. Put these on.”
She accepts the pair of finely crafted brown leather gloves from him and notices that they match his own.
“They’re just clothing, Ali,” he says to her little pleased smile.
“It’s not the clothes,” she answers. “It’s that you thought about it. Thank you.”
When he produces a knitted hat from his carry-on, she releases her dark tresses from the high bun so the heavy mane tumbles down around her.
Momentarily, Lucas stands there entranced but not enough to miss the glances of other people around them that stay on her just a little longer. He feels an immense surge of pride to have this beautiful woman on his arm. Gone are the days when he feared she would easily choose another man over him.
“Do I pass inspection?” she asks.
He closes the small gap between them with a little step.
“You’ll do even better when I get you alone,” he responds with that hungry look in his eyes.
Alaine isn’t sure which she should be more scandalized over -- the fact that he said that in public in a busy airport with so many people milling about within earshot or at the way her insides melt into a heated puddle because of his salacious promise.
In the aim of keeping a more mundane topic, she lifts her gloved hands and asks, “how did you know what size to get.”
“I’ve had those hands on my body enough to know what size they are by now, sweetheart,” he responds in a velvety voice.
A rush of colour warms Alaine’s cheeks. He chuckles softly but decides to keep anymore bedroom talk for when they are alone. Sometimes, he just can’t help wanting to see her battle her desire to hold on to her composure.
“Let’s get you out of here,” he says in lieu of the list of other scandalous phrases on the tip of his tongue. “You look tired. I told you to sleep on the plane.”
“You can’t just command someone to sleep, Lucas,” she tells him. “Your code was imprinted on my retinas and running through my mind the entire time. It’s like you woke my brain up.”
“You can try to sleep in the car,” he suggests. “It’s a long drive to my grandparents’ so...”
“What?” Alaine hisses in panic. “You didn’t tell me I was meeting your grandparents.”
“You’ve met my entire family, Ali,” Lucas argues. “What’s two more? Let’s go.”
She gives him a wary look and worries her bottom lip. Lucas reaches down with his thumb to free said bottom lip and kisses away her sulkiness.
“I think it’s much better when I do that,” he says. “What is it?” he asks her.
“I think fathers are easier to impress than grandmothers,” she mumbles.
“They’ll just be happy to meet you, babe,” he tries to convince her. Grabbing her suitcase to lug behind him, he says, “shall we?”
The warm clothes came in handy while they were outside the airport in Italy’s chilly spring air waiting for the car to be delivered. After about the first twenty minutes of driving ensconced in the heated seats and warm interior of the sleek Porsche, both Lucas and Alaine have to disrobe.
A sultry fragrance clings to the interior of the car. Alaine noticed it as soon as she climbed in. However, she declined the temptation to question Lucas about who the car -- rather the perfume scent -- belongs to. Surely it can’t be his grandmother. She can’t imagine any respectable aging woman wearing such a come hither fragrance. What she does know is that the smell belongs on a young woman.
She shuffles through possible explanations in her mind, including that Lucas probably mistakenly spritzed some on himself or that he gave someone -- a friend probably -- a ride. Either way, it’s been almost two weeks since he left Italy. That would have to be one heck of a brand of perfume if the scent lasts that long.
Or whoever rode with him was a frequent visitor.
“I would like for us to come back during the summer,” Lucas tells her.
Though she’s still stewing about whichever woman was with him on his last trip and the accusation from her own mind that she has no right to be jealous since the terms of their relationship hasn’t been outwardly defined, she is grateful for the distraction his conversing provides.
She smiles over the fact that he is already making plans for them for the near future. That makes her feel a little bit better. Their arrangement should end in July if they stick with Lucas' prescribed time frame. There just seems to be this non-verbal agreement between them now that they both want more time. At least so she thinks.
Besides that, they do seem way past just an arrangement. If she has to be honest with herself, to her, they’ve reached boyfriend/girlfriend status even if he hasn’t asked her as yet. If he doesn't before the end of their little escape here, she’s promised herself that she will work up the nerve to speed up the process and broach the topic herself.
“It’s really beautiful,” he continues to say. “Especially at sunrise. Everything is an effervescent green.”
As if it was listening for his cue, the sun peaks over the undulating terrain behind a mass of white clouds. It’s like a spotlight distributing golden rays across the sky, lighting it up with purples and azure, orange and white.
“I’ve never seen a sunrise like this,” Alaine muses.
She looks across to see Lucas wearing a soft smile.
“I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done,” she tells him again. “You didn’t have to do any of it. Maybe somebody else would have left after all the trouble but you haven’t. You’re here giving me this.”
“This is nothing Ali,” he responds with sincerity. “If you only let me, I’ll give you everything.”
“It is everything,” she tells him. “No one has ever wanted to take care of me before. I’ve always had to take care of myself.”
Confessing that causes her eyes to mist over and makes Lucas’ gut clench.
“I’m sorry for being a cry baby,” she sniffles.
“You never have to worry about that again,” Lucas assures.
“You know, if you were serious when you warned me not to fall for you, you’re making it really hard,” she tries to joke.
Lucas laughs at that. He remembers those words all too clearly. When he’d spoken them, he did try to convince himself that he meant each one. Now he’d do anything to take them back. If they’re standing in her way of her loving him, then he wants to obliterate them from her mind. And he will. Here in Italy.
“Good,” he responds.