Meet The Grandparents
An early post as promised. Hopefully, it will be the first of three I put up during the day. Please for those of you who don't mind, leave your thoughts in the comment section. Don't forget that if you haven't done so as yet, please leave a like or love and share this story with someone you know will like it as much as you do.
Despite what Lucas says about Italian summers, driving through the quiet northern countryside during spring in the haze of the early morning sun is breathtaking. Signs of the new season are already in the air.
Living in New York City the past few years surrounded by concrete, Alaine has missed this sort of scenery. The only true way to appreciate her new surroundings would be to roll down the windows, she figures. She’d like to smell the earth and the trees. She’d like to listen to the sounds of nature around them. She’d like to feel the crisp, clean breeze tugging at her hair and slipping between her fingers and along her skin.
Too bad it’s so nippy.
Maybe as Lucas suggested, she might get to experience all of it if they really return for the summer. For now, she has to take in the view like this -- with the windows rolled up.
Against his warnings and castigation, she never tries to sleep throughout the drive. Instead, she spends much of the time peering through the heavily tinted glass trying to soak in every detail. She can’t believe that he would suggest she close her eyes and miss this.
“I can guarantee you, we will come by this way again,” Lucas promises. “Many times before we go home,” he assures her.
“But it won’t be the same,” Alaine reasons. “I can sleep later. Right now, this is like unwrapping a really nice gift.”
Though he knows that she will pay for it later, he rests his case with a shake of his head. If jetlag doesn’t get her eventually, a migraine probably will. He certainly hopes against the latter. They’ll both pass the day miserably if that happens. Either way, sooner or later, tiredness is going to take over her body and her stubborn spirit at some point. ′
Mentioning the possibility of her suffering through a debilitating headache is a sure-fire way of convincing her to get some shut-eye. For fear of jinxing her, Lucas keeps quiet.
He maneuvers the car along the northern roadways enjoying the feel of being home more than he had on his recent visit. There’s still the legal mess surrounding Claudia’s health care to untangle. Kurt has been fighting tooth and nail to pull every string there is in an effort to work his way around it.
Lucas hates to think that way, but sometimes he feels like if it weren’t for his grandparents, he probably would not be putting up so hard a fight to keep his mother on life support. Sometimes, he wants to throw in the towel and say to hell with it.
The thought shames him, in fact.
What kind of son thinks that way about their mother?
Sometimes being who he is just becomes too much of a burden. For Alaine’s sake, if not his, he’s promised himself to have a good trip this time around and he’ll do his best to keep it.
He steers the car onto the lane leading up to his vast property and smiles at the way her eyes widen. His family’s New Jersey estate pales in comparison and he knows it. It would fit into this one a few times with some acres to spare.
“Welcome to wine country, baby,” he says with a pleased grin. “This is a vineyard,” he explains. “It’s been in my family for generations.”
“This is amazing,” Alaine gasps with awe.
From a distance, she can see the massive stone structure standing like a citadel on the crest of the hill. The small glimpse through the windscreen and rolled-up windows cannot prepare her for the sight once Lucas pulls up in the front yard after their endless journey up the small dusty road. Just looking around her at the two-story majestic mansion and the surrounding acres of flat land, the dips and valleys, the mountain ranges far out along the outskirts swathed in morning sunshine is enough to shift her focus away from what comes next.
“Wait until you see the other house I’m going to purchase,” he tells her.
“The other house?” she questions.
“It’s not anywhere near here and not nearly as big as this one,” he explains. “But it’s simply sublime. We’ll have a view of the Mediterranean from almost every corner.”
“What are you going to do with this one?” Alaine asks.
“What do you mean?” he queries.
“Do you plan on selling it?”
“Of course not,” he replies. “Why would I? My family has owned this vineyard since time began. It’s very successful.”
“Then why do you need another house?” she asks in confusion.
“Because,” Lucas answers. “Even if I’ve already inherited it, this is not mine in the true fashion of being mine. One wing has been converted into a bed and breakfast. Another section is the staff quarters. I share the main area with my grandparents. Tourists tour here all the time. There's not enough privacy for the things I want to do with you," he jokes. Then he explains, "Italy is my home and I want something that’s mine. Something I’ve earned. This belongs to me because I’m the first and only son of Claudia. We should get inside,” he reminds her.
Those last words worry Alaine so much, she doesn’t try to argue his logic.
“I’m really nervous,” she admits. “You didn’t give me any time to prepare my winning smile.”
“Good thing everything about you is winning then,” he assures her. “I understand you’re nervous but I promise, they’ll love you,” he tells her. “They’re elderly folks so they’re up before the sun and probably waiting. They’re expecting you.”
Alaine takes a deep breath to steel her nerves as she opens the door. The first blast of mountain breeze that hits her visibly makes her shiver.
“Your coat,” Lucas scolds but she is already standing in the yard and closing the door behind her.
He hurries outside with it in his hand and rounds the hood of the car to stand behind her and place it over her shoulders.
"I don't want you getting sick," he warns. "I do have plans for you."
Before Alaine can express her sentiments about those plans, a wiry framed woman with loose brown hair bespeckled with white appears at the front door.
“My grandmother,” he tells Alaine.
While he raises a hand to wave at his nonna, he places the other on the small of Alaine’s back to urge her stiff form forward.
The woman starts down the front steps from the porch rattling off words in Italian through her large smile. She heads straight for Lucas and takes his face between her palms before kissing him smack on the lips.
Alaine does her best to suppress the humor tickling her funny bone as she notes the heat creeping up his neck turning his skin red. The responses he gives his grandmother are also in rapid-fire Italian and that effectively wipes the comedy out of the situation.
She has no idea what they’re saying. What if Lucas’ grandparents don’t speak English? She won’t be able to communicate with them. How will she know what they really think of her? Worse yet, what if they think she’s not good enough for him because she can’t speak their language or because she’s not Italian? How will she let them know that she is madly in love with their grandson?
“English nonna,” she hears Lucas say. “We have a guest.”
Alaine forces a timid smile on her face but is a little relieved that at least one of her worries has been laid to rest.
“Hello,” she greets with a little wave when the woman turns to her.
Her wise light brown eyes shift down to where Lucas holds Alaine’s hand in his and realization lights up his grandmother’s features. She says something again that Alaine doesn’t understand but from the harsh tone of her voice, the certain reprimand, she cringes and shrivels a little.
Until Lucas laughs beside her.
“This is Alaine,” he informs his grandmother. “And yes, she’s my girlfriend,” he responds to whatever it was she’d said.
He peers down at Alaine with both fondness and humor in his eyes, the latter forcing him to repress a stupid grin promising to split his cheeks.
This is the first time he’s used that word in any place other than in his mind. The surprise of hearing him utilize it registers on Alaine’s face. He shrugs at her quizzical expression as his delight begins to wane.
It’s true that they haven’t gotten down to the nitty-gritty of their relationship status. They haven’t made it ′official’ as yet. At least not to this fine detail. But he’d hoped for a better reaction from her than this.
What did she expect him to say to his grandmother? This is the girl I’m casually sleeping with because we made an arrangement?
She is his girlfriend dammit!
That’s what she’s been from the moment he kissed her on his plane. That’s how he’s treated her almost from day one and he’s grown weary of skirting around the fact. She just has to deal with it already.
Quelling the urge to huff his frustration, he studies his grandmother's reaction to Alaine. Her eyes crease around the corners with her ecstatic smile.
“Bella,” she breathes. “Beautiful,” she corrects quickly. Then she gives Lucas a thumb’s up.”
Reaching out, she takes Alaine’s face with both hands as she had done with Lucas. For a second, Alaine freezes from fear that she is about to get a wet one right on the kisser. Thankfully, it’s only her cheeks on the receiving end.
“Welcome,” she tells Alaine. “I am happy to meet you.”
Stuffing aside his complaints with her for the while, Lucas mouths, “I told you,” to Alaine.
At least she gives him a smile this time. A wide one that causes a twinkle in her eyes. It’s so radiant, he could be convinced that she was pleased with the title he gave her in his introduction.
“Come, come,” Lucas’ grandmother says and begins leading the way to the steps. “It is cold. I cannot wait for my Carlo to meet you,” she chirps as she walks on ahead. “Lucas did not tell me about a girlfriend.”
It’s not until she gets to the front door that Alaine notices that he did not follow. The engine of the vehicle they arrived in purrs to life behind her and she looks around in confusion. She turns to see him reversing out of the front yard. His sudden unexplained departure increases her nervousness by leaps and bounds.
Having no other choice, she follows his grandmother into the house. Though on the outside the structure maintains the rustic Italian architecture, everything about the inside is modern and screams of Lucas’ influence. There’s a touch of him in every facet of the design. The house is ruled by modern layout, furniture, and technology.
While perusing her new home for the next two weeks, Alaine follows his grandmother into the kitchen silently. She’s not one to open conversation with strangers and she’s happy that the woman doesn’t press.
When they get to the kitchen, his grandmother pats one of the stools around the island in silent command for her to sit.
“I am Nessa,” she says as she moves towards the stove. “My husband, Carlo,” she explains slowly. “Is outside. I forget your name.”
“Alaine,” Alaine responds as a cup of steaming tea is placed on the wooden countertop in front of her.
Lucas enters the kitchen then to see her warming her hands around the mug. He smiles to himself. It feels like this is where she belongs. In the one place where he spent the happiest portion of his childhood.
“I had to put the car in the garage,” he explains to Alaine. “Claudia would throw a tantrum if I left it to the elements.”
His grandmother’s shoulders slump at the mention of her daughter's name. She sighs a sad sound and mutters a prayer while making the sign of the cross. The air in the warm kitchen turns solemn and feeling like an intruder, Alaine drops her eyes while Lucas walks across to wrap an arm around his grandmother’s shoulder.
Sniffling her tears away, she pats his hand and says, “I will get your grandfather. He will be pleased that you are back.”
She doesn’t look at either of them as she walks away and again Lucas feels the burden of his guilt for his earlier thoughts.
“I’m just going to put the bags in our room,” he tells Alaine. “I’ll be right back.”
“What? No?” she hisses in a whisper. “I’m not sleeping in the same room as you. Not here.”
“Pray tell, why not?” Lucas directs to her with raised eyebrows.
“Because this is your grandparents’ home,” she responds. “I’m serious this time. It’s not happening.”
“It’s my home, Alaine,” he corrects in a stern cautionary tone. “And we are not doing this again. I don’t have the time nor the patience for it. You are sleeping with me and that’s final.”
Ready to put her foot down, she scoffs and narrows her eyes at his dictatorial tone.
“Don’t,” he warns.
Not bothering to check his irritation he says, “if it’s sex your worried about, don’t worry, I won’t touch you. I’ve never forced you to do anything you haven’t wanted to do. And you’re not waking up in the middle of the night screaming so you can send my grandparents into cardiac arrest. What century do you think this is?" he protests with vehemence in his tone. "Grow up a little."
Too stunned and feeling the force of his temper as if he'd pummeled her with his fists, Alaine slumps in the stool. She turns away so Lucas won't witness the devastation wrought by his tirade. She can already feel the tears welling at the backs of her eyes but she forces them down.
Swallowing against the urge to cry, all she responds to him with is a dejected, "okay."That one word spoken so softly is like a bullet going through glass. It shatters Lucas.
Already chastising himself for taking his vexation out on Alaine, he stands there with his eyes raised to the ceiling. He hadn’t meant to go off on her. None of the frustration he feels is even her fault. What makes all of it far worse is that one-word answer she gave in response to his verbal assault. He’d have preferred it if she returned his fire with fire. The one time he wishes that she would be stubborn and defiant, she adopts the personality of a cornered mouse and leaves him feeling a jerk.
“I’m sorry,” he says in earnest.
Still too stunned by his reaction to speak, Alaine says nothing. She hears his shuffling, uncertain steps crossing the floor in her direction but she can’t bring herself to look at him. All she manages is a stiff nod.
A slow burn continues to build in her chest and starts to expand even if she tries her best to will it away. The tears form on their own and start to spill down her cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Ali,” Lucas begs as he moves to stand in front of her. “You know I didn’t mean it. I would never...I’m sorry, baby,” he pleads. “Please,” he implores even if he’s not sure exactly what it is he’s begging her for.
Understanding? Forgiveness? Something other than a two-syllable word?
“I’m sorry,” he says again.
After taking a deep breath, she replies, “it’s fine,” with steel in her voice. “I’m not your girlfriend anyway, right?” she tells him. Although if it hurts more than anything to say it she adds, “this is still an arrangement and you’re the boss. I’m sorry I lost sight of it. Your room it is.”
Lucas scowls down at her. Mentally, he tries to reconcile her logic with what they’ve been sharing for the last few weeks. He wants to tell her that she is wrong -- that it’s so much more than that -- but his grandmother pushes through the kitchen door with his grandfather in tow.
The two of them look so pleased, he forces his features to appear relaxed despite his inner turmoil. Alaine does the same wiping her eyes quickly to dry them and for that he is grateful.
Together, they gather around the dining room table for a hearty breakfast his grandmother prepared. The growing tension between him and Alaine becomes harder to ignore.
Whether his grandparents notice the awkwardness, Lucas can’t tell. They happily demolish the English language for Alaine’s benefit. He looks at her fighting to participate in the conversation through the strain on her face and feels a mixture of gratefulness for her effort and remorse that he’d caused her discomfort.
The lump in his throat and churning in his stomach make it impossible for him to eat. From the way Alaine picks at the food, he suspects she’s suffering equally. It’s strange the way that makes him feel a little bit better.
Because he wants to deal with the situation before it gets out of his hands, he says, "Alaine is tired," to his grandparents. "We both are. It's been a difficult week. Can we finish this..."
“Of course,” his grandmother answers in understanding. “Rest,” she encourages. “I will take you to your room."
After that, she gets up and hurries to the kitchen. She returns with a tray and sets Alaine’s uneaten breakfast on it. Her hospitality and eagerness put a genuine smile on Alaine’s face -- Small but genuine.
Eager to escape their company lest the damn walling her tears gives way to a deluge, Alaine pushes her chair back from the table. While she does, it takes a lot for her to avoid glancing at Lucas but she ignores him completely. She's not angry at him, she's just really hurt.
If she was certain that she could have made it through breakfast without shedding a tear, she would have been happy to stick it out. As it was, her brokenness was threatening to topple her in the presence of these strangers.
She couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t sit there and pretend to be fine. Neither could she open him up to such scrutiny if her hosts dared ask her or him or both of them what was wrong. So she'd taken the out he'd given her.
The spread that Nessa Ferrerai prepared smells divine. Mini frittatas and mozzarella vegetable strata -- whatever they are -- would be mouth-watering. Alaine's appetite, just like her delirium, has been sucked out of her.
There is a soft knock on the door before it opens, admitting a very chagrined and contrite looking Lucas.
“May I come in?” he asks from the doorway.
“It’s your room,” Alaine responds and moves her food around her plate with her fork.
He steps into the room and turns around to face the door to click it shut. For a few seconds, he stands there watching the brown wood until he feels certain enough to address Alaine.
“My grandparents are happy you’re here,” he turns around to say.
Alaine looks at him leaning against the for a potent second.
“Are you?” she asks pointedly. Then her demeanor and tone soften. “I thought you were,” she mumbles with her head bowed. “You weren’t obligated to bring me, Lucas,” she reminds him. “I’m not your responsibility and you can put me on a plane right now if you want. And I didn’t ask you to lie to your grandmother about what I am to you."
She takes a deep steadying breath and raises a hand to stop him before he can speak. Fighting another wave of tears and squaring her shoulders for whatever is about to come, she says, “so if you don’t want me here, I will go back to New York right now.”
“What are you talking about?” Lucas asks her.
His strides eat up the space separating the two of them and he takes a seat beside her on the bed.
“That’s not it and I think you know that, Alaine,” he tells her. “I’m just...you’re here because I want you here,” he tries to convince her. “I need you here with me more than you could possibly know. There is no excuse for the way I spoke to you. I’m not even going to try. I’m just so sorry that I did,” he says. “I wish I could take it back. Please, forgive me, baby,” he requests.
Placing a finger beneath her chin, he raises her bowed head to plead, “tell me how to make this up to you. I don’t know how to make it up to you. I’ve never...I don’t want you to go,” he assures her. “Do you want to go back? You being here is all that I want. Don’t go,” he amends to take the option of leaving off the table.
Moved by his words, she reaches out to touch his cheek. Visibly the tension in his body expels in the breath he was holding. He leans in to kiss her and though she doesn't yield, it's enough that she doesn’t push him away.
The saltiness of her tears -- tears that he’d caused -- are like lashes from a whip ripping into him.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he says again and rests his forehead against hers.
Her only response is a nod.
Lucas breathes deeply and takes her hand in his.
“I have to go to the hospital,” he explains. “You should eat and try to get some rest maybe. I’ll be back as soon as I can and when I get back, there are some things we need to talk about, okay?” he promises.
“Okay,” is her simple reply.
“Ali,” he implores again.
“It’s fine, Lucas,” she tells him. “I’m fine.”
Out of desperation and unmindful of the tray of food beside them, he pulls her to lie beneath him on the large bed.
“I don’t know how to do this,” he whispers. “I don’t know how to be what we are trying to be. But I am trying so hard, Alaine. I’m trying to be more than what I am with you.”
“What do you think you are?” she asks softly.
“I know that I am someone who doesn’t deserve you,” he admits. “But I never meant to hurt you, Alaine. You have to believe me,” he begs with his eyes closed.
“Lucas, Look at me,” she says and he obeys the command with dampness clinging to his lashes.
“I'm not going to hold this against you,” she assures him. “This is one hitch in over a month’s worth of things that you have done so perfectly. But you really hurt my feelings," she explains.
"I know," he tells her.
"But everyone messes up, right?” she continues to try to make him feel better. “It’s not like what you said didn’t make sense. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I guess it’s not what you said that’s the problem. It’s how you said it.”
"I know," he replies again. “I have a lot to learn but please give me a chance to,” he requests. “I don’t know if this makes it better but I told them that we need to be in the same room. I told them that you have nightmares.”
“Oh boy,” Alaine jokes. “Now I’m a weeping female them?”
“You are not a weeping female,” Lucas states firmly. “You are strong and brave and I admire that about you, greatly. I'm really sorry, Ali."
She leans up while tugging him down to seal their lips in a soft and slow kiss. At first, Lucas doesn’t respond. He allows her to guide their reconciliation until he is no longer able to resist the sweet pull of her lips. Taking possession of her mouth, he teases them apart until he is able to meet her tongue with his.
The way he does it causes heat to unfurl in Alaine’s belly and her eager response makes Lucas growl. So simply, their kisses grow from sweet to passionate to sensual.
When he pulls back to look down at her, her eyes flutter open and she smiles.
“That was a very nice kiss,” she whispers.
“Thank God,” Lucas responds. “Tell me that means you forgive me.”
“I do,” she replies. “What time are you leaving?”
“Soon,” he informs her. “I really suggest you try to get some rest. I have a meeting with Claudia’s doctors and attorneys. We’re supposed to deciding if life support should be terminated,” he confesses. "So I could be a while."
Alaine’s eyes widen expressing her shock and concern.
“I didn’t know,” she says apologetically. “I’m sorry...I...”
“Don’t,” he says. “I don’t want to talk about it. I should get going. Try to sleep," he cautions again.
"I can go with you," she offers.
“It’s best if you stay here,” he suggests.