There’s not much to say except that I am sorry for the late update. At first I just couldn’t find the right words but then the holidays and politics got the better of my attention. I produced this short chapter in record time today so it might be lacking a bit. Look forward to the next in about an hour or so.
Alaine takes a little time before responding to Lucas in the hope that those few seconds are long enough to fix her expression into something which doesn’t reflect the absolute terror that’s taken hold of her since New York’s Skyline had come into view about a half an hour ago.
Once they’d stepped out of JFK to meet Seth waiting outside, a dark, heavy cloak had enveloped her spirit and each mile that takes them deeper into the heart of the city, the weightier and drearier it seems to become.
Feeling marginally composed, she turns to him and has to clear her throat to answer, “what’s up?” with all the fake cheeriness that she can find within herself infused into those two words. Then immediately, she returns her attention to the dreary brown and gray of the wet and cold city; lest the tears welling behind her eyeballs spill free.
They should have remained in Italy.
Although he’d agreed to leave without argument, the worry in Lucas’ eyes has been there challenging Alaine since she’d announced her need to return home. Now, added to her fear, she feels guilty over cutting short their small reprieve from peril and that only worsens her mood. The fact that she’d also stolen him from his hospitalized mother and grieving grandparents offers no help either.
And for what had she done it? To cart him back into danger all for a job! What kind of girlfriend does that?
It’s turning out to be an all around shitty day for her. Just as shitty as the dark clouds hanging overhead, delivering a slow, steady sprinkle of ice cold rain against the window.
Being the sweet man that he is, Lucas hadn’t put up even the slightest measure of resistance to her request. His family clearly needs him too but Alaine hadn’t been the least bit surprised that he’d chosen her over them. Maybe she’s a tad selfish but that’s the only thing that’s been able to elevate her spirit a little way out of the doldrums.
She’s never been one to feel any sort of attachment to a place or things. Nor people for that matter, so it’s strange to find herself panting to be back in Italy where she’d spent only one week.
There is no crisp, cool breeze and clean country air here in New York. There’s no more safety either. She’d left that all behind. As soon as they’d stepped outside at the airport, she’d been hit with that familiar wall of thick humidity, that New York atmosphere and a hefty dose of reality. Angus is probably, most likely waiting for her somewhere out there.
The green of Nature and white mountain peaks that she’d gotten used to outside their bedroom window have been replaced with brick and glass towers. Now the peaceful aimless walks she had taken with Lucas will become a frenetic, mechanical race to get somewhere and accomplish something. It could even turn to a race for their lives. Dealing with Lucas’ forthright grandmother would be far better than the mere possibility of landing in Angus’ clutches again.
The thought draws a very slight shudder through Alaine’s body. Lucas feels it through their joint hands. He pauses from tracing lazy, comforting circles over Alaine’s knuckles and asks, “is, everything alright?”
Her response to his gentle inquiry is a soft sigh.
The weight of her dour mood obscures everything that should be important including the sacrifices that this man has made for her. No matter how much she tries, the slump in her spirit refuses to break.
Shame on her for ruining their vacation; shame on her too for not being a better girlfriend.
“Are you okay, love?” Lucas repeats.
This time he brings his fingers up to her chin and tilts her face in his direction.
Hidden just beyond the concern in his gorgeous gray eyes, Alaine can read the warmth and the immeasurable love there. She feels her gut twist.
Nothing in her life could have prepared her for Lucas. She hadn’t been aware that people like him existed.
“I think I’ll be fine,” she answers with a little smile as her mood shifts to the smallest degree with her pleasant musings.
She closes her fingers around his again, rests her head on his shoulder and admits, “I was just thinking.”
“Anything you want to share?” Lucas probes.
After a pause, Alaine replies, “I’m ready to be here with you. I thought I wasn’t because I’m so scared but this is what’s important. I’m ready to see my sister and niece.”
Lucas presses a soft kiss to hair and says, “being here together is pretty important,” with a tiny smile of his own.
Slowly, he coaxes her into deeper conversation until she lifts her head to study the view outside and notes with no small amount of intrigue, “wait, I thought you said we were going home. This isn’t the way you your apartment.”
Surveying the townscape around them, Lucas nods his confirmation to her observation.
If it weren’t for Alaine’s stubbornness and refusal to move in with him, his apartment could well be their apartment. Despite his best techniques of persuasion, the little waif remains resolute.
“I did something,” he confesses sheepishly.
“Oh no,” Alaine groans. “What did you buy now?” she asks and fixes her features into a disapproving scowl.
“I haven’t bought anything,” he answers. Then he adds, “as yet. I wanted you to have a look at it first. Though, I have made a refundable deposit,” he stresses. “In the event that you do not like it. It’s highly unlikely that you won’t.”
“Lucas,” Alaine protests.
Craving her indulgence he says, “just wait. I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise. But I promise that it is completely necessary.”
Twenty minutes later, all twenty of which were spent in playful banter about his need to be more frugal -- something that Lucas strongly objects -- Seth comes upon a three story apartment building.
“We’re here,” he announces.
“Lucas,” Alaine scolds gain. “Tell me you didn’t buy a building for me specifically.”
Still in his jesting mood, he answers, “Okay, I didn’t buy a building for you. I am in the process of purchasing a unit in this building and your name will be on the title.”
When she opens her mouth to argue serious this time, he quickly cautions by saying, “I don’t want to hear any arguments from you, Alaine. You’ve forced my hand. Please,” he amends when she crosses her arms, a clear indication that she is, at the very least, peeved because of the assertiveness of his command.
“Proceed with an open mind,” he requests.
Although Alaine huffs, that is the extent of her protest. After Seth opens the door for them, she follows Lucas up the walkway to the gated front door in silence.
With the swipe of an automatic key, the lock detaches with a soft click and allows Lucas to pull the gate open. He uses a regular key to unlock the dead bolt then turns the lever to push the front door open.
“This will be your very own Fort Knox,” he tells Alaine as they step inside. “Please indulge me, babe,” he requests when he turns to see the sour look on her face. “What is your first thought?”
She pulls in a deep breath but as she opens her mouth to speak, Lucas interjects, “and nothing about money or expense.”
She narrows her eyes at him but her mouth closes, locking in her comments about how much this grand gesture must be costing him. It takes her mind at least another five seconds to formulate another reaction from her initial one but she finally concedes, “it’s lovely.”
“Thank you,” he responds. “Anything else?”
“I like all the windows,” she says as she walks farther inside. “There’s a lot of natural light and the floor is gorgeous. I like it.”
Smiling his pleasure, Lucas nods and follows the click of her heels from the entry way and living room into the kitchen.
“The building has four separate units,” he begins to explain. “Each with their own entrance. That way it’s easier to determine on video who comes and goes. Video surveillance will be broadcasted to your phone and mine as well as Seth’s and all other e-devices,” Lucas says by way of information. “All the windows have been fitted with metal shutters on the outside. You can control them with the push of a button.”
Torn between whether she should launch herself into his arms or rake him over the coals for doing this behind her back, Alaine gasps, “oh my god. How much is this costing you?”
Determined to ignore her, Lucas continues, “it’s four bedrooms. The fourth is in the basement. We will discuss it’s occupancy shortly. There’s also a nice deck and sizeable back yard for city standards. I guess by now you know that it’s for you.
“Lucas,” Alaine begins to sputter. “I can’t...I appreciate...I just,” she fumbles.
“I get it,” he interjects to rescue her. “You want your independence. You don’t want to be indebted to me. But that’s not what this is about. I simply don’t know what else to do, baby,” he beseeches. “You’ve turned down my invitation to move in with me and I am trying to accept that. This is the only other way I can think to try to keep you safe. I am asking you -- no begging you --” he amends. “Please, understand where I am coming from.”
At this point, his pleas are no longer just with words. Rather, his eyes hold hers, searching, negotiating, pleading with her as his hands curl around her upper arms and he steps closer.
The fight visibly drains out of Alaine with the tears spilling fro her eyes when he says softly, “I am so afraid, Ali. I am so afraid that he will hurt you. I am so afraid to lose you. I am afraid I won’t be there again when you need me. I don’t know how else... Please, let me do this for you.”
“You keep making these elaborate gestures, Lucas,” she says after a while spent with her throat straining as she tries to compose herself. “And I don’t know how I can repay you. I can’t. I may never be able to.”
“Now you’re just talking nonsense,” he counters. “That’s what boyfriends do, right?” he tries to joke.
Growing serious once more he says, “I have the money. Let me do this for you. Let me take care of you, baby. If you want, as soon as he is caught, you can move out, sell it. Whatever you want.”
She surrenders, however ,reluctantly with a nod of her head. Lucas gives her a smile of victory and drops his hands to close them over her fingers.
“So, grand tour?” he suggests.
The two of them wander from room to room over the light hardwood floor covering all the levels.
“Obviously we’ll need to furnish it too,” Lucas announces. “I did a lot of things, Ali. So be prepared,” he warns.
Alaine laughs lightly.
“What am I going to do with you?” she jokes.
“And we are not fighting about it,” he adds.
“I have furniture,” she argues.
“What you have is not furniture,” he informs her. They’re instruments of torture.”
By the time they enter the final space, her bedroom, Alaine is at a loss for words. The fact that Lucas had unselfishly taken her sister’s situation and safety in consideration as well completely bowls her over. A one bedroom apartment would no doubt have been markedly cheaper but here they are in this luxury apartment that will easily accommodate the three of them.
“Your closet is walk in,” he announces to regain her attention. “You’ll need the space for all the things I am going to buy you.”
She scoffs lightly, tears pooling in her eyes.
“And finally your en suite, madam,” he directs and looks at her with eager excitement.
She walks in, does a full circle in the open space and stops to look at him where he leans against the door.
“Do you like it?” he asks.
“I do,” she confesses. How can she not? It’s perfect. “When did you do this? Why?”
“While we were in Italy,” he answers to her first question. “And do you really need to ask?” he responds to the second. “I love you, Alaine. I will do anything for you.”
“I love you too,” she sniffles before leaning up on tiptoes to kiss him.
His response is swift and demanding as he presses her back into the wall to take full advantage of the opportunity to plunder her mouth.
“I do have a question,” Alaine says breathlessly when he releases her.
Lucas’ lips quirk into a guilty, knowing smile. “What is it?” he asks with feigned innocence.
“The rest of the house is unfurnished,” Alaine notes.
“Yes, that is true,” he replies tugging her against him to feel is growing need for her.
“Why is there already a bed in my bedroom?” she asks.
Lucas tucks an arm around her waist to easily lift her and commands, “wrap your legs around me, goddess. I thought we might baptize the apartment before you move in.”
“Baptize?” Alaine questions with an incredulous peal of laughter that transforms to a squeal as he walks across the room to drop her unceremoniously on to the bed.
“What do you think?” he asks. “Do you want me to make love to you in your new apartment?”
But already, his lips are pressed against the soft spot of her neck and trailing downwards while his hand leads a fiery path north beneath her skirt.
Already on the wide open roadway to delirium, Alaine just remembers she has an interview in two days.
“No marks, baby,” she gasps when his masterful fingers find her.
He slows his teasing to say, “Where it can’t be seen.” And hustles on to say, “I’m sorry, love, we have be quick. I did something else. God, I love how wet you get for me,” while easing a finger into her. “So fast, all the time,” he moans at the feel of warmth and silk and snugness.
Later, Alaine plans to ask just what else it is that he had done. She will remember to scold him for it too. For now, this, his fingers, his lips, his hardness which will eventually be moving inside her, driving her to the height of ultimate bliss is all she can concentrate on.