A New Type of Arrangement
I'm not saying anything about this chapter except please, please, please leave your thoughts in the comments.
The window seat in the bedroom of Lucas’ Italian home provides a good vantage point for Alaine to watch him travel slowly down the long, dusty dirt road in his mother’s car. She perches her behind down on the comfortable cushion and stretches her legs out in front her. Having a mind to attempt finishing her breakfast, she sets the tray down on her thighs but finds that her appetite hasn’t returned. It could have something to do with the food going cold but mostly it’s because of the way her heart aches for him.
Even with the incredibly tenuous or maybe non-existent relationship between her parents and her, she cannot imagine having to bear the sort of responsibility that Lucas has to carry.
To determine whether her mom lives or dies? She cannot fathom it.
He does a good job of camouflaging his pain and fears but sometimes, they seep through the cracks in the facade he wears so well. Today, they had poured through.
Now, watching the glowing red of his tail lights grow smaller and smaller with the distance, she chastises herself for not insisting that he take her along.
She should have been adamant about that. It seems fair that hers be the shoulders he leans on in difficult times. How often has he been that for her? He should be able to depend on her too for the same support and comfort and love that he offers so freely.` Maybe had she not been still licking her wounds, she would have pressed the issue.
The bright blue that had colored the sky when they’d just arrived is now obscured by thick clouds rolling in over the peaks of the snow-capped mountains. It looks like it’s about to storm but that seems fitting. The weather matches her mood.
Alaine closes her eyes against the build-up of tears in her eyes again.
Lucas Aiden Bright.
Just thinking his name makes her heart sigh.
He’s New York’s most eligible bachelor, business magnate, chick magnet, prodigy, the one everyone wants to be or at least imitate and so many other things.
To her, he’s just a man -- multi-layered -- who sometimes has an easy smirk and other times a reprimanding stare.
There are so many who want what he has. Would they still be so covetous if they knew the pain he hides? If they knew that being him comes with so great a cost?
The hurt and anger that burned so hotly within her earlier, a result of his outburst, has long since dissipated. Now that she's had to time to analyze what was really bothering him, she finds that she cannot fault him for it. She understands. As a matter of fact, she should have known that there was something weighing heavily on him otherwise he never would have lashed out the way he had.
Obviously, he’s not the only one who has a lot to learn when it comes to being a significant other. As things stand, he’s doing a far better job at it than her and she has to play catch up. She has a long way to grow if she is going to be the type of woman he needs. Hopefully, it won’t take her too long to find her groove.
At least, once he told her what was really wrong, she’d wanted to promise him that everything would be okay. That in itself was a small consolation and evidence that she isn’t totally inept when it comes to meeting his needs. It brightens her grim outlook on her ability to be a proper girlfriend to him.
When he’d risen from the bed to leave, she’d felt compelled to follow him. She’d stood in the door and held his hand, hugged him and kissed his lips again. It had been a show of solitude. A promise to be there for him. A sign to let him know that he has her support. He’d accepted it with a smile.
Maybe she can’t promise him that all things will be bright and beautiful but she can promise him other things like no matter what, she’ll be here.
“Wow,” he’d said against her lips as she ended their kiss. Then with his forehead pressed to hers, he spoke in the gentlest tone, words that seemed to wrap around her heart.
“I feel you, Ali,” he’d said. “Even if you haven’t said it yet, I want you to know that I know. And I will be ready to hear it, whenever you’re ready to say it.”
Immediately, she’d known what he was talking about. Maybe there was a part of her that had known exactly what had ruined their celebration that night after the award ceremony when they got to their hotel suite. That could be the reason that, once he whispered those words this morning, everything had clicked into place.
Lucas had said ‘I love you’ to her and she’d missed it.
She can remember it now as clearly as if it’s just taking place.
He’d kissed her while they were still in their seats. She hadn’t heard what he’d said above the cacophony of sounds filling the auditorium but they were there breathed upon her lips.
It’s as if her heart confirms it too.
How could she have missed such a pivotal moment in their relationship? On top of everything else, it’s no wonder why he’s so wound up. She’d have been devasted, possibly embarrassed beyond recovery if she expressed her feelings and he didn’t respond.
Now it feels like the fate of their relationship is in her hands. He’s placed it there and she’s not going to disappoint him.
She’s literally never spoken those precious, coveted words to anyone before but the feeling is there. Love for Lucas has infiltrated and permeated ever cell in her five-foot frame. In her head, she’s imagined a thousand ways that she can confess her love to him. It’s always there on the tip of her tongue. For some reason, they just never make it past that point.
She sighs softly and continues to watch the black Porsche until it disappears from view. Despite the weightiness of her musings, she laughs at herself as she wonders whether he realized that she’d chosen to watch him leave like some love-sick teenager.
How could she have thought that he’d been with another woman while he was here? Lucas has never given her a reason to distrust him. Quite the contrary, in fact. He’s given her every reason to place her heart and her life in his hands.
This time, it appears their roles need to be reversed. She has to be the one to make the bold moves in order to assure him that he's not alone in it. His feelings are reciprocated.
As her mind works to decide on just what she can do to make up for the despair she’s likely caused him, her inexperience acts like a huge wall standing in her way. However, she’s proven time and again that nothing stops Alaine Knight. After another stern internal pep talk, she solidifies her resolve.
Now that she’s certain of what she must do, her appetite returns with vigor. She finishes the breakfast but remains there by the window trying to think up the best way to approach this new juncture in their relationship.
With the intention of getting her phone to search the internet for best practices when confessing one’s feelings, she leaves her perch and walks across the room. Grabbing the device from her bag, she goes back to the window and settles there to begin her research.
Long moments of scrolling through websites and watching videos later, indecision and maybe fatigue pulls her eyelids down and they stay that way.
That’s where Lucas finds her when he returns. He enters his bedroom to Alaine breathing evenly with her phone lying on her chest, her empty platter on the floor and an arm and a leg hanging down from the window seat.
Shaking his head, he rolls his eyes at her but forms the idea that she’d missed him so much, she’d sat there waiting for him to come home. It’s a bit of a stretch. However, it’s a fun thought to play with. After the rough couple of hours he’d just had, he welcomes these nonsensical musings.
To his grandparents’ relief, they’ve stayed the executioner’s hand a little while longer. Kurt will have to wait the full ninety days before he can petition the courts again to end Claudia’s chances of making a full recovery.
Feeling more victorious and thrilled about it than he anticipated, he considers waking Alaine to share the news but refrains. He also keeps himself from running a hand over her round bosom appearing over the neck of her tank top. One of his prime outlets for working out his frustration sometimes is her body. Again, he reminds himself that she's tired.
He knows that she can't be too comfortable where she is, however. He has no choice but to move her to the bed. Before doing so, he admires the way the afternoon light spilling through the window plays with her hair and skin. All he can think is...wow. Just wow.
Those are the only words that come to mind to express how beautiful she is.
After drinking his fill, he decides to have a bit of fun with her. He pulls his phone out of his pocket to snap a picture of her. The sound of the shutters working causes her to stir but that's the extent of her movement. He sets the device down on the windowsill and fits his hands under. Because she's a featherweight, it's easy to manipulate her body against his chest so he can carry her across to the bed.
While laying her down, he tries to adjust the pillows to ensure that she is comfortable but the jostling movements cause her eyes to fly open like wide saucers. A scream wells but dies in her throat when she recognizes a pair of insanely gorgeous gray eyes.
“It’s me, baby,” Lucas says. “You’re okay,” he whispers and climbs in beside her. “Go back to sleep.”
“You’re back,” she says softly. “What happened? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he responds. “Go to sleep sweet girl, we’ll talk about it later.”
He wraps her in his arms, inhales her sweet fragrance along the column of her neck and closes his eyes too. He has no intention of falling asleep. All he plans to do is to steal a little comfort for himself. Having this with Alaine is everything and if only for a little while, he can bask in it until he has to contend with the world outside their little nest again.
A dream has Alaine its clutches and refuses to let her go. She can feel herself sweating but not because of any type of heat. It’s fear that has her skin damp and chilled. She tries to break free but it feels like her chest is constricting and she’s stifling. The inability to breathe feels so real that she’s certain she’s going to die in her sleep.
Lucas is lying beside her. She can feel his presence there in his warmth pressed against her side. His heavy arm is looped around her abdomen and his chin resting lightly against her hair. She can feel every breath he takes and yet he doesn’t know that she is losing the battle for breath.
The words help me are there in her throat but they refuse to be articulated in anything more than a gurgle of soft sound in her throat. She’s going to die in this dream. Whatever is keeping her there is going to kill her.
Tears sting behind her closed lids as the shadows in her dream develop a face and take form with blue eyes and blonde hair towering over her. He won’t ever let her go. Lucas, she can see him but he is too far away to help and she tries to run to him but her legs refuse to work.
"You're mine, Alaine," she hears Angus' distorted voice claim. "He can't have you. Leave him or I'll kill him. You're mine."
The beat of her heart turns impossibly frantic as silently she begs Lucas to help her.
She’s trapped and she will die and she will never see him again. Losing him is one of her biggest fears and it comes alive in her nightmare. Angus will hurt him and it will be her fault.
In a dream, Lucas moves further and further away from her until he disappears completely. He never even knew she was there screaming for him to save her.
She tries to shriek his name when nothing of him remains in the spot where he stood but it comes out as little more than a pained moan.
The sound rouses Lucas beside her. Still groggy, his eyes stinging, he sits up and tries to figure out what it was that woke him up. Another whimper comes from Alaine. He looks down at her restless features and knows that she is being terrorized in her sleep.
The first time it happened he’d been so scared when she woke and screamed down the apartment. Rather than try to shake her out of it, he’s since learned that it's better just to soothe her. So he whispers to her with gentle touches until she seats upright with his name whispered on her lips.
Right away, he pulls her into his arms to help ease the trembling in her body.
“We’re okay, sweetheart,” he assures her softly. “I’m right here.”
She takes a deep breath and sags against his shoulder.
After giving her a moment to recover, he asks, “what was it this time?”
“I don’t remember,” she answers. “I’m so sorry about this. I thought I would leave the nightmares behind.”
“You don’t have to apologize,” he tells her. “I’m glad I’m here to chase them away. It makes me feel useful.”
Despite her still thundering heartbeat Alaine chuckles and feels his smile as he kisses the top of her head.
“Sometimes, you say the strangest things,” she responds.
“There’s nothing strange about it,” he says. “I guess I feel like I’m more when I’m with you.”
She scowls up at him with amusement in her gemstone eyes and says, “I’m too tired to try to dissect that.”
“It’s true,” Lucas tells her as he lies back and takes her down with him. “This isn’t boasting but I’ve had a lot of women want to date me. I just never felt like anything more than a handsome face with a lot of money and I was alright with that, honestly. You are the only person I’ve wanted to see me as more than that. The only woman I felt I needed to work to impress.”
Out of habit, he places an absent kiss on her shoulder as she soaks up his high praise.
“I like being with you, Alaine,” he confesses. “There was this girl that I liked when I was in high school,” he starts to explain. “I was so shy back then, I never tried to speak to her. The guidance counselor said that I was reclusive. I wanted to prove him wrong so I was working up the nerve to talk her...” he says but trails off.
“What happened?” Alaine asks.
“My step-father,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone. “The point is, you are the only other girl that I’ve liked this way since and it’s so much more than that with you. I want to date, Alaine,” he continues. “For real. No arrangement. No timeline.”
She leans up on her elbow and smiles down at him while her fingers walk over the column buttons along the front of his shirt.
“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?” she asks.
“I’ve yet to take you out on a date,” he reminds her.
Alaine laughs then. “We’re in Italy,” she tells him. “You spent twenty-five thousand dollars on a meal for our first date. And might I remind you that we flew in a private jet to attend said date,” she continues. “I’m not sure how many women can boast that.”
“That’s true,” Lucas responds pensively. “But what I’m getting at is that I want us to be official and truly exclusive. I want to date you for real,” he clarifies.
Ignoring the way his heart starts to thump in his chest he adds, “At the airport, you mistakenly called me your boyfriend and here, I deliberately called you my girlfriend.”
“Go on,” she encourages when he pauses.
“Could you have meant it when you said it accidentally?” he asks.
When she opens her mouth to speak, he flattens the pads of his fingers over her mouth.
“Because,” he continues. “I meant it when I said it earlier. I get that I probably should have talked to you about it first but you feel like what a girlfriend should be to me, Alaine,” he explains with hope shining in his eyes. “I should have asked you before so I’m asking you formally.”
He pulls himself into a sitting position and takes her face in his hands to ensure that she is looking at him when he asks, “Alaine Knight, do you want to be my official, exclusive girlfriend?”
To play devil’s advocate she asks, “what about your no relationship rule? I haven’t forgotten that.”
“I realize that might seem like a roadblock,” he admits. “But all the rules went out the window the moment I saw you at that wedding. I think my first glimpse of you sealed my fate. My heart never beat so hard as it did that night and right now,” he says.
Taking her hand he places it over his chest. “So?” he questions. “I’m taking the risk and asking again since you haven’t answered as yet. Will you do me the honour of being my girlfriend?”
A smile shouldn't be painful but Alaine's facial muscles start to ache from her wide grin.
The word yes seems stuck behind all the emotions and glee welling inside her. Trust Lucas Bright to make something like asking to be in a relationship sound beautiful and poetic. Since she can’t seem to form the word, she leans up and starts kissing him slowly at first until desire takes over and she straddles him.
“I’m taking this as a yes,” Lucas growls against her lips. “But say yes, Ali.”
Even if he demands it, he doesn’t give her a chance to answer. With one hand in her hair and the other gliding down her back to cup her butt, he pushes her closer against that part of his body that she’s awakened.
“Yes,” she says finally between kisses. “A million times yes. I’m yours, Lucas.”
He growls his approval but pulls back to look at her.
“I have one more request,” he states. “Do you really not want me to make love to you here? If not, it’s fine but I’m checking us into a hotel.”
Alaine giggles at him. To answer his question, she pulls her tank top over her head and tosses it aside.
Pleased beyond the capability to express it, Lucas lies back against his pillow to await whatever else she plans to do. She divests herself of the bra pushing her pert breasts together.
Lucas’ eyes slide away from hers to focus on them and his gray ones glow with carnal assent. He doesn’t go back to kissing her lips. Instead, he focuses all his attention on the twin globes until she starts begging him to do more.