BKG Book 3: The Sacrifice
BOOK THREE KICKS OFF HERE!!
Just so I don't leave you guys hating Alaine for too long, I rushed this chapter. Let me know if you think her actions are justified.
It takes Alaine a few moments to reconcile her feelings for Lucas with the words that had just left her mouth; a moment in which she wants to snatch them back. She has to remind herself why they were necessary to keep from falling at his feet to beg for his forgiveness. Other than reading the hurt on in his features, she knows that they must have carved him on the inside. Yet, she steels herself.
This is the only way.
She watches him turn to stalk away from her. Waiting until he disappears around the corner, most likely to his gym, she finally allows the water pooling in her eyes the freedom to flow and covers her mouth with her hand to muffle her mournful cry that she doesn’t want him to hear.
A part of her dies today as well.
There is no doubt in her mind that Lucas loves her. If she asks his forgiveness for her callous statement, even without merit, he will give it freely. Chances are that he will pull her into his warm embrace and tell her...it’s okay, baby, or, my love or, little fairy, or sweet girl or her personal favourite, goddess.
That’s not what he needs right now. Lucas needs her to be strong. He needs someone to look out for him -- to put him first -- like he does everyone else. And he loves her too much to be selfish. Of that, she is certain. He loves her enough to assume the role of sacrificial lamb to ensure her safety. But she loves him too much to allow him to make the sacrifice.
The hurt in his eyes and voice had carved her so deeply, it feels like a gaping abyss now lies in the place where her heart should be. He’ll probably hurt even more when he reemerges from licking his wounds to find her gone. She won’t kid herself into thinking that Lucas will be fine. He loves too fiercely and without reserve for her to entertain that thought.
Her feet, not yet having caught up with her intentions to leave, take an automatic step in direction he retreated.
An echo raises from the cavern in her chest, begging for him and sounds an apology that stumbles from her lips in a helpless whimper, though he is long gone; too far away now to hear it.
Decisively, she hinders herself from obeying both temptations. For Lucas’ sake, sticking to her plan to keep him off Angus’ radar has to be the foremost thing in her mind -- not how much she needs him or will miss him.
She hadn’t mean the hurtful words she’d spoken. Of course, she hadn’t. Once this is over, if she survives it, if he still her her, she will explain that she’d had no other option -- that leaving had been the only way she knew to keep him safe. It feels like the most difficult choice she’s ever had to make but she knows that he would never just settle for her walking out. Not without a fight. And if it comes to that, she will give in to him. In the end, they will both lose.
In the event things don’t go well, in the event she dies on this quest to save him, just in case, she will pen the words to remind him of his position over her heart. She will tell him too that it’s okay to love and be happy again.
To cement their break up, Alaine returns the most valuable items Lucas had gifted her with, which is just about everything she owns now.
Setting the computer and diamond set, her phone and the watch he had given her her just this morning on the side table, she scribbles, “I’m sorry,” in her best hand writing.
Just as she sets the paper down, Jackie steps off the elevator. She assesses the scene, first with concern, then confusion and finally understanding.
Her eyes plead with Alaine. “Don’t,” she begs. “I know it’s not my place to say but he is so happy. This will kill him.”
Jackie’s words give Alaine pause and she considers again, making amends; she considers giving her need for Lucas rule over his need for protection. But the events of the day are still fresh in her mind, taunting her. Lucas could have easily been hurt on his mission to rescue her. At the time, while she’d been begging him to save her, the thought that he could have been Angus’ true target all along hadn’t once crossed her mind. All she’d known in those moments was that she’d needed him. Now that her mind is clear, she realizes that Angus could have staged this entire attack as a ruse to lure him into the open. Had it been his intent, it probably would have worked too.
She’s had enough time to picture how differently today could have happened -- of how Lucas could have been hurt or killed -- and each picture of him lifeless on the sidewalk makes her shiver. With Angus’s sophisticated methods of stalking and tormenting, she just can’t take the chance of it happening again.
“I’m sorry,” she says and shakes her head at Jackie. “I can’t...” but she chokes on the rest of the words.
It feels like a cruel cosmic joke. The universe had cruelly tricked her into believing that life could blossom with love and happiness after spending so long in the dust bowl. It feels like everything that had happened to her over the last couple of months had all been a mirage, an oasis in a dry thirsty land. She submerged herself in it and drank but not to her fill before a cruel hand reached in to wave it all away.
For the sake of the man she loves, she will willingly surrender the chance at love and happiness. All she has left is the life in her lungs and there is an expiration date on that too -- maybe sooner rather than later. Maybe love and longevity had never been in the cards for her. Maybe she was meant to die back when she took that fall at age thirteen. Maybe her survival had been a fluke and death has returned to collect. But Lucas will live. That’s why she stands by her decision to end things with him today.
Still warring against the urge to go to him, to soothe him, Alaine turns her back on the housekeeper and the apartment, on her love and strides with weak but determined steps to the elevator. It is only then, when the doors close that she weeps deep wracking sobs over what had been taken from her today.
As the doors open to the lobby, she attempts a few steadying breaths but each is shallow because of the sobs she’s trying to smother. Wishing that she’d at least had the presence of mind to grab a pair of sunglasses from the apartment to hide her tears. She swipes furiously over the wetness on her cheeks, but they won’t stop streaming.
To her consolation, the area is almost empty. Hoping that the few people coming and going won’t notice, she strides across the floor like she’s done so many times before to face whatever waits for her outside with trepidation in each step..
“Ali, Ali wait. Where are you going?”
Seth’s hand on her arm stops Alaine’s progress at the door. The relief she feels seeing him standing there only lasts for a second before her soul plummets to the bottom of the dumps again. She wants to tell him to leave her alone, to beg him not to follow her lest she leads him to his demise as well, but the words are impossible to get out around the tears clogging her throat.
“Honeymoon phase over so soon?” Seth tries to joke.
The crumpled look of defeat on her face is all the indication that his timing is poor.
“Does Lucas know you’re out here?” he asks.
At the mention of his name, Alaine succumbs to her grief. Quiet sobs shake her shoulders and her chest heaves with the effort it takes to contain the sounds of what it feels like to have her world come crashing down around her.
“Jesus, Ali,” Seth says.
He pulls her to him and hides her face in his chest. Too weak to fight him, she goes without a fight but his arms around her offers no comfort at all.
“What happened?” Seth asks. Then he says, “Not here, okay. Let me take you upstairs. I’m sure whatever it is, you guys can work it out. Unless I really need to kick his ass,” he mumbles.
“No,” Alaine answers.
She looks up at her cousin with panic in her eyes and shakes her head. “I can’t be here. I need to go...I...he...”
She pulls herself away from Seth and steps outside onto the stoop. Fear turns her spine to jelly but she holds herself upright and looks around. Hopefully if Angus does, in fact, have eyes on this building, he will see her leaving. He will realize, with time, that she doesn’t return and is no longer a part of Lucas’ life.
Lucas will be safe.
Lucas emerges from his gym some twenty minutes after the grandest argument he’s ever had with anyone. It was a fight that he could not have foreseen, particularly because of the kind of morning the two of them had. Things had escalated so quickly and he’s yet to figure out why. What had prompted that sort of hostility from the girl who, just this morning, had told him that she’d loved him.
He will readily admit that what he’d said to Alaine had been wrong. As a matter of fact, that’s why he’d left his gym after just twenty minutes working out. His mind, but more his heart, would not let him brood in peace until things are right between them again.
He pads across the floor with the intention to apologize -- grovel if need be -- and let her know that what she’d said to him is the truth. Her words had been harsh but they are a fact. He’d spent the majority of his life hoping that Claudia would see him as her son and treat him as such instead of like an ATM. He wants to let her know that since they’d met, he hasn’t once pined for Claudia’s love or approval. There’s no need to when his heart has already been filled with Alaine.
Whatever Jackie is doing in the kitchen, she doesn’t acknowledge his presence. Lucas scowls at the way she deliberately avoids eye contact. It’s odd considering how chatty and nosy she usually gets but he pushes his concern to the back of his mind.
He walks back to the stairs and climbs it two at a time to get to his bedroom. In his mind, a short speech to share with Alaine. He may never have been in a relationship before, but he is well aware that couples have disagreements all the time. It’s just a matter of working through them.
He pushes his bedroom door open with the intention of telling her just that.
“Babe,” he calls and walks in.
Getting no response, Lucas searches the wide space and when that yields no results, he walks across to the sliding doors leading to the balcony.
He walks back downstairs, feeling the heavy weight of dread sinking like a boulder to the pit of his stomach.
“Ali,” he says to Jackie while grabbing his phone off the sectional to dial her number.
Jackie’s mouth beats but no words come out. The phone vibrating on the side table where Alaine had left it drags Lucas’ frazzled attention away from his tongue-tied housekeeper. As he walks towards it, he feels his heart beat, oddly, slowing down. Then it seems to stop altogether before dropping, along with all the blood in his body, to his feet.
He picks up the white slip of paper lying there with the items he'd given her as gifts and turns it over. That's all it says.
His first thought is for Alaine's safety -- that she’s out there on her own.
Blame and guilt join his fear and heartache, ushering an apocalyptic destruction inside him that in incomparable to anything he's ever felt before.
She wouldn't, his heart wars inside him. Yet, the proof that she had is in his hand.
Lucas continues to look at the note. The swarm of emotions vying for dominance over his feelings leave him confused. He takes a few seconds to try to decipher them and in the end comes up with desolation. That's how he really feels -- cold and desolate.
With Alaine's life possibly in grave danger, he can't afford to waste any more time.
First, he calls Tawny who turns out to be unhelpful. She has no idea that Alaine had left. So he dials Seth next and already plans to call the police and her sister of those avenues prove useless as well.
“She’s with me,” Seth says before Lucas utters a word. “I have her,” he assures Lucas.
“How?" he croaks softly. "Why didn’t you call me?” he scolds. “Can you give her the phone?”
Their subdued voices over the line, while he waits, makes Lucas' heart flutter in his chest.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Seth tells him. In his voice is a note of awkwardness that already lets Lucas know that Alaine doesn't want to speak to him.
It's like being stabbed in every place that can do the most damage.
“She says she doesn’t want to talk to you and this is for the best.”
Lucas’ eyelids sink slowly and he takes a deep breath.
“For the best," he repeats. Not wanting to betray the hurt he feels by letting it seep into his voice, he clears his throat then asks, "where are you taking her?”
“At this point, we’re just driving,” Seth answers.
Will she come back? Lucas wants to ask.
“Take her anywhere she wants to go,” he says instead. “Give her whatever she needs,” he adds. “And Seth tell her I...” but he can’t finish the words. “Never mind,” he says.
His throat tightens even further making it difficult to get the rest of the words out.
"Stay with her," he orders. "Keep her safe."
Before he can end the call, he hears Seth’s lie to Alaine.
“He says he loves you and you should come home.”
The line quiets. Lucas sinks against the wall using as support to keep his legs from giving out. Aware of Jackie's watchful, pitying stare on him, he doesn't look at her. Lucas tosses the phone aside and buries his face in his hands.
She left and it's his fault.