Die A Little
This morning is not one of those mornings that he can dilly dally for too long. He should have been up already for his early morning meeting with the detective assigned to Alaine's case. The dread still churning in the pit of his stomach has kept in there a little longer but that much about him hasn't changed. He's still a stickler for punctuality. So while he would prefer to stay here with her for the entire day, he counts down the seconds to 6:00. If he wants to be early, he needs to move now.
He crawls off the bed with all the willingness of a lazy house cat and moves around the apartment, getting himself prepared with a mock-up version of his usual morning routine.
Once he has himself put together, he walks back to the bedroom and finds Alaine still sleeping.
There's this strange feeling inside him driving him to soak up every second that he can spend with her. He moves across to kneel next to her side of the bed and runs the back of his fingers over her cheek stroking her hair off her face.
Though her eyes are still closed, her lips twitch with a little smile. She turns into his soothing caress and places a kiss to the inside of his wrist.
Sometimes, her little displays of affection catch him off guard.
Lucas swallows the lump lodged in his throat to whisper, "good morning, beautiful."
She blinks to focus her tired eyes on his face and gives him a full smile.
"Good morning, handsome," she replies. Noticing that he's already dressed, she asks, "what time is it?"
“It’s early,” Lucas responds. "6:35."
He gets off his knee to take a seat beside her so she scoots over a little further to make room for him.
"I wanted to let you know that I'm heading out early today," he informs her.
That funny feeling leads him again to study every angle on her face, like he might need to store up perfect memories of her features for rainy days. To combat the odd sensation, Lucas sucks in a deep breath and holds it in his lungs for a second before letting it out quickly.
"This is the first time in a while that we won't be spending the entire day together," he states.
Summing that up as the cause of the melancholy subduing his spirit, he forces some buoyancy into his voice. "It feels like our honeymoon is over."
Alaine scrunches up her nose and gives him a little pout. "It does, doesn't it," she says.
Lucas leans down to press her swift kiss to her lips then leans back just a little bit to say, "I'll see you later, okay."
"Ok--" Alaine starts to agree but when that feeling Lucas had suppressed only a moment ago rises like a tidal wave and swamps him. He leans back in, smothering the rest of the word with a deep, gentle kiss this time, hoping that it can do away with whatever that sensation is.
The kiss might be limited to only her lips but he might as well be touching an exposed nerve. Alaine shivers. Her toes curl. Goosebumps come to life over her skin as with a simple kiss, Lucas strokes everything inside her.
"I love how you do that," she breathes when he slows his assault.
Still hovering close so their lips are almost touching, he asks, "yeah?"
She nods her response and drops her eyes to his mouth in a silent request for him to do it again.
Lucas smiles at her. His face heats up with a rare blush so he shakes his head.
"The things you do to me, Alaine," he complains.
"Turn about is fair play," she shrugs.
Knowing that he needs to leave and that if he doesn't, he will be late, Lucas reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out a box.
"I got you something," he states.
"Again?" Alaine questions. However, she doesn't say anything more than that as she opens her palm to accept it.
“You have a habit of being late for interviews,” Lucas accuses. “This is to remind you of the time today."
Alaine scoffs at the playful insult and laughs as he lifts the lid himself and pulls out a thin gold and diamond studded watch to slip the bands around her wrist.
"That was one time," she reminds him.
“Yes, and I will never forget it. You walked into my office eighteen minutes late,” Lucas teases. “I'm not sure your new potential employer will be as forgiving as I was. Plus, the memory of that lacy bra is forever branded in my brain.”
The memory of how riled up she'd gotten about the way he'd blatantly appreciated the exhibition she'd unwittingly put on for him and now -- how desperate she gets to have not just his eyes but his hands on her as well -- makes Alaine laugh.
If anyone had suggested three years ago that she would be here with Lucas Bright and so in love or that the feeling would be reciprocated, possibly a hundred times over, she may have laughed in their face. But here they are with him looking at her like she'd hung the moon and all the love and passion he feels swimming in his brilliant gray eyes.
“I love it. It’s beautiful. Thank you,” she tells him.
"I'm glad that you do," Lucas responds. "Your interview is at nine?" he questions.
"Yeah," she answers softly. "Thank you for everything, Lucas," she says again. "You're so good to me. I'm not sure I deserve this...you."
Without thought, she launches herself at his chest with her arms around his neck and the sheet tangling around her body.
On top of feeling off-balance already, her gushing emotions threaten to undo Lucas. It's no real wonder why he's so emotional. The threat on his life doesn't just scare him. He's lived with the threat of death before. However, should today or any day soon from now really be his last, he wants to ensure that Alaine has only pleasant memories of him.
Whatever meets him when he steps out onto the streets today, he wants her to remember the two of them like this. He tightens his arms around her and just holds her there. It feels like they both somehow know that the end might be near.
In order to force more words out of his mouth, Lucas clears his throat.
“You must be tired,” he states. "You should probably try to get a bit more rest before the big interview. Some brute kept you awake for the most of the night," he tries to jokes.
Despite the playfulness infused into his words, Alaine doesn't miss the hint of strain in his voice. She'd read the concern in his eyes as well.
"Baby?" she says beside his ear. "You know you can talk to me right?"
“I do,” Lucas answers.
She pulls back her hug to look at him and says, "I've come to understand the ways that you make love to me."
Not only does her observation come as a surprise, they intrigue Lucas too. So much so, as much as he needs to leave, he finds himself too curious to just let it go.
He quirks one eyebrow up at her and says, "have you, now?"
"I have," Alaine declares.
The self-satisfaction in her voice makes him laugh.
"Enlighten me, then," he requests.
"Well," she starts to say and shutters her eyes from him behind her long lashes. “Sometimes you are playful, other times you are passionate, attentive and vocal about what you want,” she continues. “But last night you were silent and intense. That has only happened a few times and it is always when something is bothering you.”
Her little, shy explanation has electricity crackling between. Sometimes, like last night, he forgets that she's still young when it comes to sex. After returning to the apartment from reading that note, he'd been raw with her and he knows it. He'd been firm, demanding and thorough. He'd been rough in his possession and relentless and she'd taken everything he'd given.
The memory of how she'd wept makes Lucas wince.
“Did I hurt you?” he asks softly.
“No,” Alaine replies quickly. In order to soothe the doubt and guilt she can already read in the shift in his demeanor, she says, "I like everything we do together. But I know you, Lucas. What was in that envelope?"
For a beat, Lucas remains watching her in silence. In that short span of time, he considers keeping up with the pretense that the envelope was nothing more than what it seemed to be. He just wants to protect her -- to keep this from messing up her day. The idea of lying so bald-faced while looking into her eyes is just as troubling as the contents of the letter. Solemnly he nods his head to her question.
“Angus?” she probes.
Lucas' one word choked response communicates pain and regret and anger.
Alaine nods her acknowledgement and breathes a slow breath.
“He knows that we’re back. He must have the building under surveillance,” he continues. From there he spills the details of the note, shows her the expertly edited portrait of Angus and her in an explicit sexual position and divulges his intention to meet with the detective about his other suspicions this morning.
“Why didn’t you tell me this?” Alaine asks.
“Because I didn’t want you to be afraid, like you are right now. I hate to see the fear in your eyes, Alaine,” he admits. “I would give anything to just see you happy again.”
“I don’t want you hurt either,” Alaine says. "It's clear that he's coming after you too and I think maybe it’s best if I...if we..”
“Stop,” Lucas orders. “I know where your mind is heading and I'm not leaving you. You're not leaving me. Not because of this. I’m not going to get hurt and neither are you.”
The determination in his voice almost has Alaine believing that they will be alright.
“Tomorrow Tawny will have a partner, so will Seth," Lucas explains. "We’ll increase security until this ends and, Ali,” he adds. “But I need you to reconsider moving in with me.”
She doesn’t reply.
While Alaine yearns to have him like this everyday -- to wake up to his touch and gorgeous gray eyes -- there are other factors to consider. Instead she throws herself back in his arms.
To Lucas, it feels like a part of him dies a little at her silent rejection. She might not have said no but that's what her lack of answer is. Still, he accepts it.
"We'll be fine, baby," he assures her. "I love you."
“I love you too, Lucas,” she responds in his ear. “More than anything.”
But her actions -- or maybe it's her inaction -- that causes him to doubt the truth of that statement.
When she pulls back, Lucas does his best to not let the mask hiding his hurt and disappointment slip. He's afraid he won't be able to keep up the ruse for long with her studying him so intently.
As if she understands his inner turmoil, she claims a sultry kiss from him until he moans into her mouth. At least, that much he knows is true. Her passion for him is undeniable and she stokes the flames of his desire like no other has.
"That should keep you entertained in your boring meetings," she tells him.
He laughs. "Thanks," he says. "But I really need to get going."
Rising from the bed, he looks down at her and warns in a stern tone, "keep your phone on you, Alaine. Don't make me worry. And please, be careful. Do not go anywhere on your own. Use Tawny."
"I will," she promises.
Lucas glances at the time on his wrist and walks to the door. "Knock 'em dead, babe," he says.
Detective Reena Murphy jogs down the steps in front of the precinct into the late winter morning air to the SUV parked across the road. The driver she's come to know as Seth Knight, cousin to the victim, opens the door to allow her into the backseat. She does so with a heavy sigh as he door closes behind her.
She has Lucas Bright's type pegged -- a rich guy who thinks that just because they fund the city and grease the Mayor's pockets that the police are there as their beck and call.
Never mind that she has a shit ton of unsolved cases on her hands, one call form Lucas Bright, she in turn has to call her husband to let him know that she will be late coming home after working the night shift. He hadn’t take it too well, especially since he is on his own preparing their twin boys for school this morning.
She looks at Lucas with a critical eyes and wonders how can someone this young amass so much wealth and power, such respect, that she, a decorated officer, more than ten years his senior, has to do what he bids at the snap of his finger? There's a mad man on the loose and she has no doubt that Angus Maloney is a mad man and just because of Lucas' say so, she can't divulge much detail to the media to help apprehend the guy.
“Mr. Bright,” she greets.
Despite her irritation, she extends a courteous hand to him but puts a lot of bite into her next string of words.
“It’s so nice to meet you at seven in the morning after my night shift.”
The driver, who'd joined them shortly after she'd entered the car turns back to look at her but like the dutiful foot soldier that he is, says nothing. She wants to tell him that his skill might be better used protecting and serving the public but if someone was offering her the kind of salary that he makes, she'd probably go private too.
“I’m very sorry, detective,” Lucas says contritely.
Accepting her firm handshake, he adds, “I wish it were under different circumstances.
At his humble response, she regards him with both surprise and curiosity. She's not sure what she'd been expecting from him this early in the morning. Probably to be berated that she isn't doing her job well enough or quickly enough for his taste. But she certainly hadn't anticipated meeting this man who looks like someone had just kicked his dog.
"I'm sorry," she offers. "It's been a long night."
"Would you like a coffee?" Seth offers from the front seat.
"If it's better than what's brewing in there," she says and points at the police station. "Sure."
He leaves them without another word.
Lucas doesn't tell her that it had been a long sleepless night for him as well. whatever her attitude might be, he needs Detective Murphy on his side -- On Alaine's side.
“Please, tell me you’ve made some progress,” Lucas begs softly and hands the detective the threatening note.
She peruses it in silence then gives him a look of sympathy and understanding.
“He came to our home,” Lucas continues to plead.
The detective shakes her head. "I'm not sure what you want me to do," she shrugs. "You've tied my hands. I understand why you don't want media involvement but the tip line would be ringing a lot more if people knew what this monster has done."
"You understand what would happen if I do that?" Lucas says. "Her life will become a circus."
"For a while, maybe but it's our best bet of tracking his movement is by having eyes on the streets looking out for him. No one knows what he's done. They see his innocent looking features on the news and that's just what he is. Another young man whose life the police wants to ruin. Right now, he's probably just a victim of some big conspiracy to the public and he's probably garnering their sympathy."
"There has to be another way," Lucas states.
"If there is one, I haven't figured it out as yet," she mumbles. "The longer he's free, the bolder he gets," she tells him and waves the letter at his face. "Most likely, he didn't deliver this himself. He would have paid someone. But we will review video surveillance around your apartment building to be sure."
“What if he’s working with someone?” Lucas questions. "We think he might be."
“I highly doubt it, Mr. Bright,” Detective Murphy says. “People like that don’t share their obsession. Again, most likely it’s a random stranger, just like he did in Vegas. There’s not much some folks won’t do for a buck these days. Someone meets a college kid struggling with student loans and asks them to do something as simple as deliver a letter."
She shrugs. "It's easy money."
“So what now?” Lucas asks. “What are we supposed to do. Sit on our hands until he attacks again?”
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s all you’re doing."
She gives him a perceptive look. Seth returns with a tall glass of coffee and settles into his seat behind the wheel before turning around and handing it to her.
"Thanks," she tells him. “I’m sure you are aware that these things take time. In the meanwhile, tell your girl to be careful. We are working to find this guy, Mr. Bright and we will. I don’t want him on the streets any more than you do.”
"That's it?" Lucas asks. "Your platitudes do nothing to keep her safe."
Ready to end their meeting, to at least get home to kiss her children before they go off to school, she reaches for the door handle.
"I wish I could tell you more. Unless you loosen the reins a bit so I can properly do my job, there's not much else that I can do but track his movements as best as I can and wait for him to make a mistake. I can't go banging on every door in the five boroughs to find him."
She pushes the door open and steps outside but turns to him one more time. "She's a small girl. Have her learn some self-defense. You as well. It may just save your lives."
Lucas watches after her as she darts around traffic to cross the street and climbs the steps to the police station but not really seeing her. His mind works, contemplating his options. Neither he nor the detectives are making any headway in locating Angus. He is free to threaten and torment all that Lucas holds dear. He won't allow Alaine to be a sitting duck while the detectives wait for Angus to make a mistake.
He doesn't even know what that means? What would constitute a mistake? Attacking her in public this time?
“What is it you’re planning?” Seth asks from the front seat.
He narrows his eyes at Lucas in the rearview mirror.
"I don't know," Lucas answers honestly. "I just know that this can't continue. Take me back to the apartment," he orders. "I'd like to be there for Alaine's interview."
"Are you sure about that?" Seth asks.
It's probably a terrible idea. She'll probably chew him out over it. But he's been feeling like the other shoe is about to drop so like the detective suggested, for now, he will take every precaution. And if that means sticking like glue to Alaine's side, then so be it.
Seth pulls the car out of the tight parking spot with a little lurch that sends a lone bird scuttling off into the bright sunlit sky.