She's A Woman
I hope that you my readers are having a wondering weekend. However, if you are overwhelmed by anything, I hope you will find some respite within the words in this chapter. Whenever I feel a little down, I like to lose myself in the pages of a good book. Yes, I am aware that it's a little rough but I know that some of you are waiting for this. No matter the mood, do enjoy. Don't forget to leave a comment.
Lucas’ Aurora had introduced the idea of meeting up with celebrities early on in their trip and Alaine has no idea why she had agreed in the first place. For some stupid reason that she cannot begin to decipher, the prospect had been appealing. The streets of New York are littered with famous people for god’s sake. She’s never once been interested in a single one. She’s never even seen a foreign film to recognize any of the people here and yet, she’d found herself not just agreeing to go but purchasing this ridiculous outfit that had cost at least three months salary just so she could fit in with Lucas’ people.
From the very onset, as soon as she’d entered this place she’d known that she’d made a mistake. This isn’t her scene. Although their outfits had made it clear that she shouldn’t expect the gathering to be cultured or sophisticated, she’d been expecting something far more low-key and private. There might not be any punk rock bands dominating a stage screeching into a microphone but as far as Alaine is concerned, this is the equivalent of a rave.
The music is too loud. The neon strobe lights sweeping across the darkness are a heavy strain on her eyes. A cloying mixture of bodily fluids, cologne and alcohol mingling in the closed space overpower the flow of oxygen so every now and again she has to pull in a deep breath just to keep her lungs functioning. The taste is resting on her tongue. It’s slid to the back of her throat and there it remains threatening to make her lose everything she’s eaten for the day.
She’d been teetering on the edge of a migraine through most of this foreign experience and in the span of a few painful heartbeats, when Aurora’s lips touched Lucas,′ she’d lost the balance that she’d barely been clinging to.
In a haze, Alaine blinks away the fat, pesky teardrops collecting on her lashes. She stumbles blindly through a sea of sweaty, half-clothed bodies to make her escape while doing her best to avoid being touched by wandering hands with wicked intentions.
Her stiletto clad feet, make it difficult to wind her way through the crowd but she manages to stagger towards a set of doors filling her blurry vision. She throws all her weight into it almost tumbling into the darkness outside. Fresh, cold air fills her lungs so she gulps it down in an attempt to relieve the pressure in her chest.
Lucas had been kissing Aurora. It makes no sense.
From the top of the stairs, she’d recognized him sitting in what passed as the VIP section. Seeing him there -- knowing that he’d come for her again -- had made her sob with relief. While she’d wanted to run down to meet him, fling herself in his arms and beg him to take her home, she’d had to creep cautiously down each step with her hands clutching the railing to keep form tumbling to her death.
On her descent down the winding staircase, she’d lost sight of Lucas but for moment. The next second when her eyes found him again he’d been kissing another woman.
Her pace towards him had halted altogether and she’d watched in confusion until his eyes met hers. The initial joy over seeing him that had sent her heart soaring drained away with such swiftness it’s sudden departure had left her feeling cold and faint.
It had only taken a split second for Alaine to make the decision to run.
Blood courses too quickly to her already pounding heart and overactive brain. Both organs feel like they might explode. Alaine grips her head between two hands in a frail attempt to contain the steadily growing pulse in her temples.
Her airways constrict inching her towards a panic attack the likes of which she hasn’t experienced in years. The ache in her chest and head increase with each passing second and rends a mournful sob from deep inside her.
Why does it feel like she’s dying?
She tries to understand what she saw as the world around her starts to close in and spin leaving her standing in the middle to decipher the chaos.
Aurora and Lucas had been kissing while he remained there with her hands on him like it was a regular occurrence.
She’d seen it. It still makes no sense and yet it had happened.
I love you, Lucas had said to her just last night. Had he meant any of the things he’d said?
Headache, heartache and whatever had been fed to her in those drinks make it difficult to concentrate.
Willing the world around her to right itself, Alaine sways a little as staggers along to lean against the glass wall for support. She presses her forehead against the chilled surface hoping for some kind of respite from the pain but finds none. Closing her eyes, she tries to shove the image of Lucas with Aurora out of her mind to focus on pulling in steady breaths. None of it work. As a matter of fact, the sudden motion pitches her stomach into a rebellion that has her fighting against the rising urge to gag.
The sudden realization that she is all alone out here in the cold night hits when a breeze makes her shiver. She looks down at the skimpy black outfit that Aurora had chosen and wonders what she had been thinking coming to a party of strangers dressed like this. She’d been inviting trouble. What’s more, her flight away from Lucas had led her outside in secluded, unlit area all by herself.
Alaine’s eyes dart over the shadowed landscape suddenly hearing every rustle and skitter produced by things that live for the night. Her body begins to tremble and she’s not certain whether it’s what she’d witnessed, the chill in the air, her fright or a combination of all three making the shaking in her bones so violent.
What she does know, is that she needs to get back inside. If anything were to happen to her out here no one would know. No one would hear her screams above the loud music vibrating the thick glass walls.
Challenging the lack of will to return indoors, she straightens on unsure legs. She just plans to go back inside where light and sound will exacerbate her pain, where she will encounter the man she wants to avoid and the covetous Italian dancer who’d stolen his kiss, she will demand her phone back from said dancer, call a taxi and put herself up into a hotel for the night.
And tomorrow...? Tomorrow she has no idea what she’s going to do.
Sniffling back her tears now flowing freely down her cheeks, she takes a dangerous minute on her own to fortify her spirit and ensure that she knows what she’s going to say to Lucas. Hiding from him is pointless anyway. No matter if she spends the night at a hotel, her passport and the rest of her belongings are at his house. She’ll have to face him anyway.
“You can do this, Alaine,” she prompts herself as determination narrows her eyes.
Swiping at the tears running her making down her face, she in the direction of the door and pulls it open. A firm body slams into her propelling her backward on the thin heels. Two firm hands reach out to grab and keep her from falling then pull her forward until she's pressed against a warm, sturdy chest.
Despite feeling like her brain is submerged in a puddle, the scream rising in her throat quiets immediately. Those arms closing around her are so familiar she remains standing between them. By now, she knows this presence, this warmth, the security in the quiet strength even in the dark with her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Relieved, Alaine forgets her quarrel with Lucas and clings to him allowing her heart rate to slow to the steady rhythm of his.
“It’s me baby,” he says softly. “It’s me. I’ve got you. What are you doing out here alone?”
Because this may well be the last time he holds her like this, she stays there in his embrace for a little while longer. The thought makes her heart fracture until Alaine sobs her pain.
Lucas’ arms tighten around her as his own guilt becomes overwhelming.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers contritely. “I’m so sorry, Ali. I don’t know what that was. I didn’t kiss her. I would never hurt you.”
His voice snaps her back into that moment just before she’d ran so she wrenches herself out of his hold.
Lucas takes an immediate step forward her to reach for her but she holds out a palm to stop him.
“Don’t touch me,” she snaps. “Don’t you dare touch me again.”
Helplessly, he obeys her order and drops his arms by his side. Since he’s never been in this situation before, he has no idea how to make her see that what Aurora did means absolutely nothing to him especially now that she’s restricted his ability to show her.
Her face curls with disgust directed at him inflicting a blow on Lucas that is worse that any physical punishment he’d ever endured.
“Don’t look at me like that, Alaine,” he whispers. “Like you hate me. I didn’t...”
“She likes you,” Alaine interrupts as jealousy buries her rational thought. “She stole your kiss from me. How could you let her? I’m supposed to be the only one. Those are the rules.”
“They are, little fey,” Lucas replies to the accusation in her wavering voice. “But I didn’t want her to kiss me,” he explains in a gentle appeal. “I did not kiss her, Ali,” he says again.
“But you hesitated, like you wanted it,” Alaine cries.
“I didn’t,” Lucas tells her.
Taking a chance, he moves one step in her direction only to have her inch back again to put more distance between them. She wobbles in the knee-length high heeled boots and it’s only then Lucas takes note of the faint odour of alcohol.
His eyebrows draw inwards in confusion as he leans in to sniff the air around Alaine.
“Have you been drinking, Alaine?” he asks with a note of disbelief and censure in his tone.
Afraid that she might hurt herself in those shoes, he steps forward to offer his body as support but she raises a stubborn palm to ward of his advance.
Lucas suppresses a flare of aggravation. He begins unbuttoning his shirt and shrugs it off so he’s left standing in nothing but a white t-shirt in the cold night. Stretching out his hand, he offers the article of clothing to Alaine but stubbornly, she refuses to take it. The material remains hanging off his fingers occupying the inches between them fluttering lightly in the breeze.
“You’re cold,” Lucas admonishes. That’s all he can say since she doesn’t want the apology he’s offered for something he hadn’t even done nor encouraged.
“She’s prettier and taller than me,” Alaine says with a sniffle.
She wraps her arms about her shivering form. This time Lucas gives her no chance to protest or reject him. He moves quickly to fit the shirt over her shoulders ignoring her cry of outrage in the process.
Despite the current situation, he finds himself chuckling at her observation.
“Almost every adult I know is taller than you, baby,” Lucas teases. “But that’s one of the things I love about you.”
“Love?” she questions.
She looks up at him with such hopefulness in her sad eyes -- a sadness that he’d help put there -- his guilt wipes the humor off his face.
“We’ve had this discussion,” he reminds her gently. “But we’ll have it again when you’re more yourself. I love you, Alaine,” he tells her and raises a soft touch to her cheek. “And as for anyone being prettier than you? You are the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Now can we please get out of this cold? Are you ready to come home?”
Too exhausted to keep fighting, Alaine soaks up the dream words and allows herself back into his arms. Happily, Lucas receives her and places her firm kiss atop her head.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he says again. “But that’s some outfit. You’ll have to wear it for me again some time,” he leans down to whisper against her ear while tracing his fingers over the bare skin at her waist.
“Just so you can take it off?” Alaine jokes.
Laughing, Lucas says, “oh no, I have very imaginative fantasies when it comes to you, Alaine Knight.
The fact that she joins him in laughter makes Lucas breathe a deep breath of calm.
“How did you find me?” she asks.
He tips her chin upward so that she can look at him. With all the sincerity he has to offer, Lucas assures her, “I will find you anywhere.”
When she tips her head to the side to regard him silently, he asks, “what is it? I know you’re still upset but Ali, I swear, I...”
She reaches up to quiet him with the tips of her fingers over his lips. Lucas takes her hand in his and and kisses each finger individually. He just needs her to know that he is sorry. He needs her to not doubt him. He craves the look of love and devotion in her eyes instead of wariness and hurt.
“I do believe I am going to kiss you in a darkened corner after all, Lucas Bright,” she whispers and giggles at her own joke.
His brows furrow in confusion. Briefly, Alaine considers explaining that three years ago on that night at the wedding when they first saw each other, she’d been adamant about not kissing him in dark corners. Instead, she dismisses thought and says, “I’ll tell you later, baby. Now, kiss me.”
She doesn’t need to tell him twice. Eagerness directs the movement of Lucas’ lips over hers. It’s not sweet or gentle. For a while it’s power and possession, a reminder to herself and him that they belong to each other; that what they share is no dalliance. It’s real and binding and permanent.
As she submits to him with her fingers in his hair, possession gives way to love. Lucas adjusts his attack on her lips to a slow but simmering caresses that makes Alaine sigh.
He might not be able to erase the memory of what she’d seen but hopefully it will fade from her mind with time and those they’ve already made together, those they will continue to make will be enough to override the hurt he’d read in her eyes and heard in a sob.
She looks up at his face soundlessly and a slow smile turns her features and brightens her eyes. Lucas traces his thumb over her cheek.
“Don’t doubt that I love you, Alaine nor how sorry I am,” he tells her.
Giving in to the urge to comfort him, she says, “I love you Lucas,” before kissing him again.
With an arm slung over Alaine’s shoulder to keep her clipped to his side lest he lose her again and hers hooked around his waist for the same purpose, Lucas guides them around the large glass house until they reach the front lawn.
While they walk, he convinces her to tell him about how she’d spent the day but for now doesn’t mention her phone nor the fact that he'd been trying to reach her all day. Tomorrow will be another story.
They stop at the foot of the steps leading to the front of the house. Lucas leans Alaine against the wall and takes her face in his hands.
“Do not move from here,” he warns.
“Where are you going?” she asks.
“There are photographers swarming the gate,” Lucas explains. “A taxi is waiting outside. I’m going to try to get him to drive up to meet us but it's a bit of a walk. Will you stay?"
“What about my stuff?” she asks. “They’re in...”
Unable to speak Aurora’s name, Alaine amends, “she has them in her car.”
“We’ll get them,” Lucas promises. “Please, do not move, okay?” he requests. “I will be right back.”
Alaine nods and stays put.
A few minutes later, she notices the dark SUV crawling up the driveway. As soon as it stops beside her, Lucas hops out of the backseat. He takes Alaine’s hand in his to tug her closer to his side and stands there looking up at the front door.
“What are we doing?” she queries in a whisper. “My feet hurt.”
“I was finally able to get Aurora on her cellphone after trying all day,” Lucas explains. “She’s supposed to meet us out here with your things. Do you want to sit in the car?” he offers.
Being in no mood to face the woman who has soured her experience in Italy, Alaine nods and pulls herself out from under Lucas’ wing. He moves to aid her clamber into the waiting taxi and earns himself a provocative view of her round ass and a little of what is lying beneath the adhesive black leather.
Since he’s already expressed his appreciation for the risqué attire, he gentles the rebuke on his tongue to say, “next time, how about if you wear this only for me?”
Once she’s comfortably situated, he steps away from the car but leaves the door open so that Alaine can trust that the conversation he is about to have with his friend is wholly innocent.
She steps out of the front door with her hair flowing about her shoulders and her short dress just as revealing as Alaine’s. Admittedly, Aurora is a gorgeous woman but all Lucas feels is irritation as she walks towards him.
“They are in my car,” Aurora says without meeting his eye. “Wait here a minute.”
He gives her nod but turns to glance at Alaine though the opened door. If she is concerned about the two of them dialoguing, Lucas almost would not be able to tell with the way looking straight ahead. Except her posture is anything but relaxed. It's tense, radiating with anger and makes him feel like he really had betrayed her.
He moves closer the door and leans against the side of the car while in the hopes of putting her at ease. Alaine’s hand closing over his lying loosely by his side sends a frisson of relief and happiness through him. Wearing a little smile, he gives her small fingers a gentle squeeze and keeps them there in his cold palm.
Aurora returns after a few minutes with two large gift wrapped parcels beneath her arms and Alaine’s small bag swinging in her other hand.
“We need to talk, Rory,” Lucas says in a tone that should brooch no argument.
He retrieves the items from her hands but the taxi driver comes around to relieve him of the load.
“We do not,” Aurora replies. “I am a little tipsy. It was nothing. I apologize."
Indicating to Alaine, she adds, “she is a sweet child.”
Lucas understands exactly what she means. He’d battled his own doubts about Alaine’s tender age of twenty-one. Generally, not his type but in the end, her being five yeas his junior had been no deterrent. His conscience had absolved him of that guilt the moment he'd kissed her. Alaine is an adult. Nothing was going to stop him from pursuing her and no one is going to make him guilty over it either.
“She’s a woman,” Lucas corrects just managing to keep from stressing, my woman. “We will talk,” he assures her. “I expect you at the house tomorrow when you’re not so tipsy.”
Not giving her the benefit of another glance, he slides in beside Alaine. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t look at Aurora though. The fact remains that she’d kissed him. Aurora had kissed him! It’s there in his mind. Even if he wants to, he will never be able to forget it. The feel of her will always be there lurking somewhere in his mind. The guilt of it stirs anew and shames him. The fear that Alaine may forever hold it against him -- that she might never trust him implicity again makes him feel sick.
The thought drives him pull Alaine to his chest just to dull the memory of another woman’s lips touching his.
"To the heliport," he directs the taxi driver.
For the entire way home, he holds Alaine while considering the catastrophic rippling effects of what Aurora had done.