I'm going to be honest and don't be concerned for me when you read this. I'm a little bit tipsy but in my defense, I only had 2 glasses of wine and it's because, I celebrated my 6th wedding anniversary along with the holiday season. That's the only time of the year that I ever drink alcohol and it doesn't take more than those two glasses to do me in. As a result, I'm not really sure how much sense what I've written today makes.
Lucas stares out at Manhattan’s spectacular skyline, though, not really seeing it. The panoramic view is nothing but a blur in his vision as, in his mind, he tries to concentrate on the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Detective Murphy is of the opinion that Angus is working alone but he doubts it.
No, he doesn’t just doubt it.
He absolutely, without a shred of uncertainty, believes that someone must be feeding him information.
Who and why?
Those are the million dollar questions and he is as close to finding the answers as space explorers are to finding an alien life form. If he could understand the accomplice’s motives it would be easier to identify the culprit. All they really have to go on is a hunch corroborated by the missing video footage from his office. Something like this has never happened before. Surveillance videos don't just disappear. Someone had corrupted the files. He's working hard to recover them but whoever had done it is easily his competition when it comes to this type of skill. One thing's certain, however. That individual has access to him that no ordinary person would; which narrows down the pool quite a bit. He would just hate to have his mistrust directed at the wrong set of people.
It would probably be helpful to have Alaine as a sounding board to bounce possible suspects off of her. They could eliminate suspects together. But besides the mechanical responses she’d given him, Tawny and Seth and then the detectives who’d came by shortly after they'd returned home, they’ve scarcely said two things to each other. The few words which they had solemnly exchanged had had nothing to do with this morning’s incident. She’d asked him if he’d wanted something to eat and he’d declined with a shake of his head. He’d asked her if she was alright and she’d nodded her response. Something tells him that she is no mood to play clue and he doesn’t want to put her through any more trauma than she’s already had for the day.
At least, it had made him feel better when he'd taken a seat in the corner of the sectional and she hadn't waited for an invitation from him. She'd simply spread out across the rest of the cushions and laid her head in his lap. They’ve been sitting there in silence since then and the usual quietness that comes with living at this altitude in such a huge space -- just the two of them -- seems amplified.
Although the A/C is running, the heat from the mid-afternoon sun pours unfiltered through the naked windows, makes the living room unbearably warm. Absently, Lucas strokes Alaine’s damp hairline while mentally trying to piece together the limited information that he has. He wipes away the beads of sweat dotting her forehead and temple. He retrieves his phone beside him and uses an app to adjust the temperature in the room then he returns to soothing her with his touch.
The scare that they'd experienced is a permanent fixture in his mind so he can't imagine that Alaine is having an easier time dealing with it. Because of that, in the last two hours or so, he hasn't let her out of his sight. When she'd gone upstairs to change out of the clothes she'd worn to the interview, he'd followed her. He'd watched -- albeit silently -- while she'd undressed and slipped into something comfortable. Maybe she understands his need to be close to her because she hadn't argued with him over his hovering even when he'd checked the bathroom before she'd used it.
The feeling that he'd been trying to suppress -- like things with Angus are going to come to ahead sooner rather than later -- has only magnified since he'd hauled her off the street and into the back of the SUV. Whether the tide will turn in their further, he doesn't know that either. He won't share his uneasiness with Alaine. The kind of experience she'd had this morning has to have taken a toll on her.
To offer whatever comfort he can, his fingers linger over her skin. They trail down her arm and back before working into her scalp once more. If he has to be honest, he needs this too. He needs to feel her to know that she's still here. There hasn't been an attempt from either of them to repeat their near descent into passion by the elevator earlier on. Honestly, he's okay with that. He won't wont press for any more than Alaine is willing to give. Besides, just having her in his arms is more than enough.
She links their fingers together and tugs his arms around her to snuggle closer. That's the first real move she's made to show him any kind of affection.
“Move in with me, Ali,” Lucas says.
The sound of his voice breaking the longstanding silence around them makes her jump.
“Shhh,” he encourages.
“I have an interview at two,” she whispers.
A lone tear drop escapes from her eye, runs across the bridge of her nose to disappear somewhere in her hair.
“You’re not going,” he dictates softly.
Because she lacks the strength to protest and isn't even sure that she wants to venture back outside anyway, because she understands Lucas' point of view, Alaine doesn't put up the fight that she normally would against his assertiveness. Instead, she agrees with a nod.
“This sucks,” she croaks.
“And you’re deliberately ignoring my question, Alaine,” Lucas states with a note of sadness in his voice. “Move in with me, please. It doesn’t have to be permanent, just at least...”
“I can’t move in with you,” she sighs.
Her soft rejection threatens the thin threads barely keeping Lucas' emotions together. After what happened today, he doesn’t understand her refusal. He loves her, she says she loves him but her actions right now are so contradictory.
She continues with her far off gaze directed at the windows, feigning ignorance of the pain knifing him on the inside and waits for the ball to drop.
The hand stroking over her hair and skin stills.
"Why not?" Lucas demands. Before she can respond he says, "This would be so much easier on both of us if you stayed with me. I wouldn't have to be worrying all the time," he offers.
She sits up, hugging her knees to her chest and keeps her eyes downcast and Lucas immediately misses the weight of her against him.
“For a lot of reasons,” is the vague explanation she offers. “It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just...it's not the right time.”
For a few seconds, Lucas stares at her blankly. Then his eyebrows crease in a slow deepening scowl.
“What does that even mean?” he questions with exasperation. “It’s not the right time? You spend more time here with me than you do anywhere else. You have somebody stalking you. I don’t know why you’re being deliberately difficult about this.”
“I’m not being anything,” she continues to argue. “Lucas, we’ve just started dating. If all of this wasn’t happening, do you think you would be asking me to move in with you after two weeks of being your girlfriend?” she questions logically. “Do you think our relationship would have progressed so quickly. You’ve gone from not wanting romance to boyfriend and bodyguard in zero to a hundred in sixty. I think it’s too soon. I just don’t want to ruin this.”
Lucas drags in a lungful of air and expels it slowly to prepare for the battle of wills that is about to come.
"You should know by now that these things bear little consequence with me ,Ali,” he says feeling offended. “Not where your safety is concerned. Your safety is what is important. You have a madman following your every move and I don’t want to take chances.”
Despite the fervency and truth of his argument, she continues to be obstinate.
“Isn’t that why you spent all that money on a new apartment and driver and state of the art security system?” she argues. “And he’s coming after me anyway. What difference does it make where I sleep?”
Her flippant last words come as such a shock, Lucas is temporarily at a lost for words. As a matter of fact, his mind goes completely blank.
When he finally gets his wits back, he repeats, "what difference does it make? That's the most selfish thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth. After everything I've been through with you -- for you -- you're resigned to your fate? What about me? What about your sister? Don't we matter to you?"
"That's not what I meant?" she sighs.
"Then what did you mean, Alaine?" Lucas sneers. "Do you want to know what the difference is to me?" he asks, cutting off her response to his question. "The difference is I don’t have to worry that a seven foot genius is going to bypass your security network in the middle of the night and break into your apartment again. The difference is I would have a little peace of mind. The difference is, you would be with me, where I want you to be. Be honest, Alaine because none of what you say makes sense. What’s the real reason you don’t want to move in with me? Is it my past? Because...”
“No,” she says rising to stand before him. “None of that matters to me,” she adds in earnestness.
Lucas pauses to look at her and gauge the truth in her words.
Standing to tower over her, he asks, "then what? I am doing everything I can for you here, Alaine. Look what happened today. What if I had not been there? This is a much better situation that you being on your own,” he continues, hoping he can entreat her into seeing reason.
“But I am not on my own, am I?,” she offers instead of compliance. “I have a sister and a niece who need me, Lucas. They just moved here. I love you,” she adds. “I love you so much, I think I might drown with it,” she says and a helpless smile turns his lips upward to the slightest degree. “But they have no one else. I can’t abandon them. I won’t.”
“Your sister is in the safest place she can be, right now,” Lucas counters. “She is in Seth’s apartment and a good sister would understand you needing to be here with me.”
Alaine sighs heavily. “I’m giving no quarter in this," she states. "You think my sister is okay under the threat from an abusive ex? What if he comes after her here. Then what? At least he doesn’t have the address for the new apartment.”
“Then give her the damned keys,” Lucas shouts. “I don’t understand you. Your sister should have no hold on you. You said yourself, in your darkest moments, she couldn’t set aside her own conceit to be there for you.”
As soon as the words leave his mouth, he recognizes the blunder in the hurt in her eyes. Though she drops the shutters on it and squares her shoulder, regret burns deeply inside him. Before he can verbalize the apology on his tongue for his thoughtless utterance, she buries her own arrow deep within his core.
“That’s a terrible thing to say and you’re one to talk,” Alaine spits. “I’m not the one pining after a woman who doesn’t love me. I’m not the one naming restaurants after her in the hope that she will.”
A piece of Lucas seems to fizzle out and die. The room grows to a painful silence that magnifies the aching in his chest. This is why he hates arguing. Now, they’ve both slung hurtful words. Neither know what to do, so they wait and stare, hoping the other will make the first move.
“I won’t ask you to stay again,” Lucas says his voice hollow and broken. Tears sting in his eyes, but he’s already promised himself that no one will hurt him enough to see him cry. Not again. That’s why he says what he says next.
“If you want to leave Alaine, there’s the door.”
This is it, guys! Then end of BKG bk 2. Thank you so much to you, my faithful few, who have stuck with me all this time. I'm just going to keep posting book three here. I won't keep you waiting long before posting the first chapter in the final installment.