The New Driver
Okay guys, here is my first installment of my early twelve tide promise. I hope you enjoy it and I will be back tomorrow with another update. If you are reading, don't forget to leave a like or a comment or both would suit me just fine. Also, add this book to your library and remember to hit the follow button on my profile to receive my irregular updates.
By the time she makes it back to Lucas’ apartment, Alaine feels off balance like she’d just gotten off one of those intense roller coaster rides and she hasn’t gotten her feet back under her as yet. Part of it has to do with how she’d spent the last two days. They’d been in a rush to cram as many activities in those forty-eight hours; ahead of their schedule to leave Italy. It had been fun. She’d laughed and danced, sampled wine again, had even attempted a sip of whisky -- under Lucas’ unwavering supervision this time. The take away had been the same. No matter how costly it is, alcohol just isn’t her cup of tea.
They’d visited historic, national sites and had taken a million photographs to commemorate her maiden international trip and their first as a couple. In the end, they’d both been worn out. Lucas, she imagines, must be even more exhausted than she is. While working hard to ensure that she had a grand ol’ time, he’d had to squeeze in hours as head of his multibillion dollar company as well, along with visits to the hospital, and the thousand other things that he juggles.
Although their flight back had been via private jet, it had been long and had pretty much siphoned off what was left of her energy. She’s weary down to her bone marrow and that goes without mentioning the things she’d engaged in back at the new apartment with Lucas. She anticipates that wherever he is, he must be worse for wear. On most days, he acts as if he is the energizer bunny on speed. This time, she’s certain that when he crashes it will be hard. Accordingly, Alaine makes a mental note to give him the chance to get as much sleep as possible once he gets home.
Her new driver hasn’t made her short return stateside any easier. After less than one hour with her, Alaine can already tell that Tawny Rivers means serious business -- just by the mere fact that Tawny refuses to refer to her by anything other than ‘ma’am’, even if it’s clear that they’re no more than a decade apart in age.
The rapid fire safety instructions that her new driver had shot at her still has Alaine’s brain reeling. Everyone would think that having a personal bodyguard and all the upgrades made to security protocol would allay her fears. Quite the opposite is true. Before today, she hadn’t even been aware that Lucas followed any such stringent security measures.
Now they’re talking in all this strange strategy jargon that she’s yet to wrap her mind around. If anything, this only magnifies the gravity of the situation.
Tawny had told her that she plans on being her shadow; that she has every intention of keeping her eyes on Alaine and that supervision will extend to when she uses a public restroom. Thankfully, that’s not something that will occur very often. She may no longer have the freedom of movement that she’s accustomed to having but she still has some control over her bladder.
The plan is for her bodyguard to remain hidden while trailing her to better ascertain the movement of their sleeping target -- Angus. If Alaine wasn’t so terrified, it would probably make more sense to her. Mostly, she feels like she going to be a sitting duck. Or something to use for target practice. Despite those misgivings, logic dictates that all of this is necessary. Lucas’ worries and his elaborate efforts to keep her safe are warranted.
Their retreat couldn’t have lasted forever and now that it’s officially ended, they’re back to business as usual. Alaine knows that Lucas wishes that he could keep her in his pocket all day, everyday to ensure that nothing happens her. On top of that being absolutely ludicrous, she’s not willing to forfeit that much of her independence no matter how much she loves him. As a result, they’ve both settled for the next best thing; Tawny Rivers -- a qualified, experienced guard who had literally taken a bullet for a previous client.
It’s scary stuff. Which is why, Alaine will accept being taken to the bathroom like a three-year-old rather than facing Angus on her own.
Lucas had gone as far as buying her a brand new SUV, as if it was nothing. The lengths he's gone to ensure her safety are truly surprising. And this way, it should make it more difficult for her stalker to tail her like they learned he had been doing.
The thought of him creeping around behind her makes her shudder as Tawny maneuvers the sleek, black, bulletproof vehicle down into the underground garage beneath Lucas' building. She parks it in the parking slot written goddess.
Lucas' antics are enough knock the memory of Angus back for awhile. Alaine shakes her head but giggles. The gesture might be silly but it’s also cute and turns her heart into a puddle.
When the engine shuts off, she tries to issue a command to her tired brain to remember what it is that Tawny had told her. Since she comes up completely blank, she opens the door for herself and hops out of the backseat.
The driver’s side door pushes open shortly after she shuts hers and her driver steps outside to survey her with a critical eye.
“What?” Alaine asks. “Did I do something wrong?”
“What are the rules, ma’am?” Tawny asks.
The sternness in her features has Alaine fighting with herself to not fidget. Stumped and feeling stupid, she replies, “umm...Oh, this is Lucas’ garage. It’s secure. I didn’t think...”
“You need to think,” Tawny interrupts. “You need to think like someone whose life is in danger.”
Properly scolded, Alaine mumbles, “right. I’m sorry.”
For her attempts at an explanation and apology, she receives Tawny’s unimpressed, unmoving mask as a reward.
"I get out of the car first,” her driver reminds her. ”I survey the environment. I get the door. This is my job and both our lives on the line.”
Alaine nods again.
“Of course,” she replies. “I just...I’m not used to all this.”
“Get used to it and quickly,” comes Tawny’s short reply. “I need you to cooperate with me otherwise, this is recipe for disaster. I need you to understand that one misstep and one or both of us could be killed. Got it?”
When Alaine nods her head for the third time, Tawny dictates, “let’s go.”
After that, she says nothing. She simply walks ahead.
Behind her Alaine sulks and begins plotting ways to negotiate with Lucas to trade driver with her.
Taking a deep breath to calm her jumping pulse, she follows Tawny into the elevator. On the screen on the wall, a newly added feature, they both have a view of each room in the penthouse.
“Everything looks clear,” Tawny tells her. “You are still to let me look around first,” she warns.
“I will remember that,” Alaine answers.
They fall into a tense silence. After the chewing out she’d just received, Alaine isn’t surprised. Her bodyguard isn’t here to become her bestie.
When the doors slide open to the penthouse, her shoulders sag with relief. Obediently, Alaine waits for Tawny to disembark and follows with a timid step forward. She knows that the apartment is empty but Tawny’s rigidness has her feeling like Angus might jump out of the kitchen cabinets or something.
Her eyes dart around her familiar surroundings. A bit overrun by nostalgia, a little smile tilts her lips upwards. Every square inch around her holds a memory with Lucas -- many of them fun or sensual and others sad and heartbreaking.
Her earlier assessment had been right. She’d missed being her with him. This feels like home. It’s a place of acceptance and love like she’s never known. In that instant, Alaine makes up her mind. Once this is over and the threat Angus poses has been neutralized and her sister’s tenuous situation stabilizes, she will accept Lucas’ offer to move in with him.
Tawny returns from searching each room and says, “remember, I’m here if you need anything.”
“Thanks,” Alaine replies.
She walks deeper into the living area with her small heels clicking on the floor and walks to the window to remember the look of Manhattan’s skyline from the penthouse floor.
“I’m allowed to stand here, right?” she asks Tawny.
Once she’s left on her own again, Alaine pulls her phone out of her bag.
Alaine: Hi, honey. I’m home.
Those ellipses appear immediately. She smiles to herself. These days, she’s incapable of imagining a life without this -- Lucas -- and all the trappings of being in love with him.
Lucas: I like the sound of that, baby. Is everything okay? How’s your new driver working out?
Alaine: I think I got a strike today. Everything about her is so severe. Can we trade? I’ll make it worth your while...
Lucas: As intriguing as that sounds, I must decline. We chose her for this exact reason. What did you do to warrant a strike already?
Alaine: *sigh* I’ll tell you about it later. How’s business?
Lucas: Business is bright 😄 but I miss you. So much.
Alaine: I miss you too. This place is really big and quiet and I wish you had come home with me. But I will be here with our new reading material until you get home.
Lucas: Not fair. No reading the good parts without me. I’m now at the station. I will fill you in when I get home. I love you, Ali.
Lucas: Please try to remember to let Tawny get the door for you next time.
Alaine: Hey, how do you know about that?
Lucas: I’ve got my eye on you. Plus, Tawny has already reported your infraction with her supervisor.
Alaine: well that’s just perfect. That’s three against one, you know. It’s unfair to gang up on little old me. When will you be home?
Lucas: I can’t say, babe. I’m going to have a chat with the detective now. I’ll talk to you again soon.
Already bored now that her distraction is over, Alaine switches to her phonebook to call her sister.
“How’s Italy?” Delah asks.
Alaine frowns at the sound of her sniffling.
“I’m not..." she starts to explain but defers to ask, "Delah, what’s going on? Is Izzy okay?”
“Ali, it’s Harlan. He’s found us. I didn’t want to tell you. But I...”
“What!” Alaine interrupts. “How? Where are you? Where is he? Where’s Isabella? I am back in New York at the apartment.”
“You are? Why are you back so soon?” Delah asks. “I’m at Seth’s apartment. Can I come up? Please?”
While waiting for Delah to arrive, Alaine paces anxiously. She doesn’t know this Harlan Jackson personally nor how he’d wormed his way into her sister’s life. But she has heard enough of him to know that he is rotten. She’s seen him in the bruises on her sister’s body. She also knows him through the terror in her niece’s eyes.
What makes her sister's situation worse is that, she doesn’t have a Lucas to stand between her and danger. She doesn’t have him to hold her when the nightmares become too real. What she does have is sister who is fed up of shitty people who think they are here to simply take and torment.
There has to be something she can do. Once she gets the full story, it will get done.
When the elevator doors open again, Alaine bypasses Tawny toting in the rest of her luggage to rush to Delah and Isabella as they step into the living room.
“Tell me what happened,” she demands.
Right after embracing Delah first, she lifts her niece into her arms.
“Ma’am,” Tawny says.
Alaine faces her driver and accepts the brown envelope handed to her.
“I picked this up at the front desk,” Tawny tells her.
“Is it safe?” Alaine asks.
“It appears to be some type of document,” Tawny explains.
Alaine nods but regards the official looking envelope with some skepticism. A huge part of her brain dictates that she break the seal but she quickly decides against it. She’s not the type of girlfriend who snoops. She doesn’t want to be either. With that thought in mind, she sets it down on the counter.
“How did your ex find you, Delah? Is he here, in New York? Did you see him?” Alaine rattles off.
With shaky hands and more sniffles, Delah surrenders a legal document to Alaine.
Fighting a sob, she says, “he’s claiming that I kidnapped Izzy. I have one week to go back to Idaho or he is having me arrested. A bailiff delivered that a few days ago. God, I can’t stop crying,” she wails. “He wants custody of her, Ali. What am I going to do?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Alaine scoldss.
“After what you’ve been through? I didn’t want to burden you,” Delah admits. “But I don’t know what to do. If I go..” she chokes.
Trying to adopt Lucas' calm voice of reason -- the same one he uses on her whenever he wants her to believe that all will be well, Alaine interrupts and says, "let's think rationally."
Usually when Lucas does it to her, his method works. Delah's shoulders continue to shake.
“This has to be a ploy,” Alaine posits. “He wants to get you back in Idaho. That’s all this is.”
“Well it’s working, Ali. If I don’t go back, I’ll go to jail,” she gasps. “I’ll lose her either way. I have to go back. I'd rather..."
“It will be fine, Delah,” Alaine tries to assure her. “When you first came I suggested you make a police report. Did you?” she inquires.
But her hope plummets as Delah’s features crumble even further. She shakes her head at Alaine in dismay.
Alaine tries to contain her disappointment. Now without any proof of Harlan’s abuse, there’s no way to belay the terms of this court order in her hand. She tries to think past her own rising panic to come up with a solution but Delah’s weeping disrupts her ability to concentrate.
“How did he find you?” she questions.
“Our picture was taken with you and Lucas that day we went shopping for your trip,” she explains. “Do the people doing this have any idea the damage they cause, following people around and messing with their lives? Don’t they care? Look what it’s done to you? What am I going to do, Ali?”
Alaine’s mind jumps to Lucas. She hates having to burden him with something else but what else can she do? A five year old’s life is at stake. With his soft spot for children, she knows that he will want to help.
Placing a reassuring hand on her sister’s, she guarantees her that they will find a way.
After Delah leaves to take Isabella to a play date, Alaine is left on her own. She blames herself for her sister’s situation. She’d promised Delah safety and asylum just like Lucas had done for her. Instead, her life has tossed them both back in the wind for a wolf.
To distract herself from how their lives are unraveling before their eyes, she drags her suitcases upstairs to empty it’s contents, including all the new work attire that Lucas had forced her into buying. The upcoming interviews should have her stoked. She’s been waiting on these opportunities for so long. How can she be jubilant with this new turn of events?
Mostly because she needs to be occupied, she goes through trying to mix and match her outfits like the stylist had suggested before arranging a few of them among Lucas’ things in his closet. She might not be moving in just jet, but she does plan on spending a few nights a week here with him.
That activity doesn’t take her too long, so in order to kill more time, Alaine revisits her interview points. She rechecks her email to confirm the day and time of each meeting and then lies in bed willing Lucas to come home.
It would do her well to catch some shuteye before he arrives, but her mind keeps going back to Angus and Delah’s sorry situation. A bit of resentment surges inside her. It's a feeling that's very familiar. She'd nursed and harbored it in her heart towards her father, his sleazy brother, Seth, Angus and now this Harlan Jackson, whom she's never met...until Lucas happened.
Alaine allows the feeling to take root inside her again as a reminder that she should never ever repeat the mistake of letting her guard down with any man again. With anyone for that matter.
A long time later, she hears Lucas call from downstairs, “babe? I’m home."
At the sound of his voice, the relief and the excitement that had taken a backseat since she'd learned of Delah's woes return in waves and swamp her.
She may resent every other male in this entire universe but her heart will never allow her to experience anything but love for Lucas Bright.
Her eagerness to reach him, to feel his arms around her, to hear him say that everything will be fine, causes her to stumble as she skips off the bed. Tears pool in her eyes and though they blind her, she scurries from the bedroom and down the stairs.