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Chapter 20:

Considering Alec’s suggestion to stay with him for a couple of weeks until they made some progress regarding the identity of the culprit required some serious thinking. There was more than one reason why she was reluctant to accept the proposition, the main one being her desire not to burden anyone. Her first thought to deal with the situation was to simply find a new place to live in and try to figure things out from there. However, both Michaela and Alec were strongly against the idea because they felt it would be a huge risk for her to live alone. As a result, she had to stay with Michaela for a bit longer than intended, even after most of her injuries had healed. Her redheaded friend had been nothing but supportive and caring the entire time she stayed with her. She did not complain once about having to share her small apartment with her best friend and she made sure to make Lesly feel as comfortable as possible.

Of course, living with Michaela was supposed to be a temporary solution. Her place was a small one bedroom apartment that barely accommodated the two of them. Michaela did not want her injured friend to sleep on anything but a bed. As a result, she gave up her own bed and chose to sleep on the hard couch in the living room instead. This did not sit well with Lesly because she knew how uncomfortable the couch was for Michaela and how arduous it was to work for eight to nine grueling hours in a hospital with little to no sleep. It was the same for Alec whenever he came over. The couch was too small to accommodate someone of his built and height. As a result, he found himself struggling to get the rest he needed after a long day at work. She could tell because she could see the red veins in his eyes in the morning after he had spent the night.

The two never said anything to her, of course, but she could see that they were both uncomfortable with the arrangement. This was one reason why Alec told her that it would be better if she stayed with him until the problem was solved. There was also the matter of Michaela’s scheduled trip and the fact that she had been looking forward to it for months. Michaela had to go no matter what. That was the decision Lesly made. She was determined to see it happen because she did not want her friend to miss something so important to her career after what had occurred. It took a lot of convincing to get Michaela to agree to leave and go. The condition, of course, was for Lesly to stay with Alec, at least until Michaela came back.

Lesly was reluctant to take Alec up on his offer for yet another reason. Although she had grown accustomed to having him around and had even come to see him as a friend, she did not believe that sharing a space with him would be a good idea. She knew he had feelings for her. He did promise her that he would not bring the matter up again the first and last time they went out, but she was worried that something might happen between the two of them. The thought made her anxious because she knew that if something were to happen, he would be the one who got hurt. She knew she was not ready and she knew that she was not supposed to encourage him in any way, but she was not sure she would follow through because she was beginning to develop feelings for him as well. This fear was overpowered by yet another greater and more crippling fear. She was worried that if she continued staying with Michaela, the culprit might seek her friend out as well. The possibility was something that she would never forgive herself for if it happened. As a result, she decided to go for it, and take Alec up on his offer.

Alec’s apartment was not what she expected at all. It was spotless, spacious and definitely well beyond the financial means of a person with a job such as his. Apparently, he came from a well-to-do family. He told her that his father owned the place and that he practically blackmailed him, his son, into moving out of his old apartment into this one. His reason was that he wanted to make sure that Alec’s sister, Emma, had a safe place to run to whenever she fought with him, and since her brother was the one person she normally sought, it was vital that he found a better apartment in a safer neighborhood. There was also the fact that the old man was worried that his son might get into trouble because of the kind of job he did. The old man never said that to his son, but Alec could see that his father still had reservations about his career choice that mostly stemmed from concern over his son’s wellbeing. As a result, Alec decided not to fight his father on the decision and to do whatever it took to insure the old man’s peace of mind.

Lesly’s transition to Alec’s apartment was not as difficult as she expected. For one thing, his place was a lot closer to her office than she thought. He drove her to and from work every single day since she got back to her job, and most importantly, he made sure that she had everything she needed in order to feel at home. The element of convenience proved valuable because the two really managed to get some work done on their cases. Although she had a lot of matters to attend to back at her office, she did not find the time spent working with him in the living room almost every night taxing or exhausting. It had become something of a routine that she found herself looking forward to due to the progress the two were making.

Tonight was not different from any other night they worked together. They brought their own coffee, sat down on the carpeted floor of the living room and had their folders and files scattered around them and on the coffee table. He showed her the intel he collected so far and she shared with him what she knew from all those years she worked for the organization. The statements they collected seemed to be pointing to the right direction, but they still needed more compelling evidence to prove the involvement of certain city officials in the dark trafficking practices the city became famous for. Lesly was eager to share the latest intel she received earlier today after she had conversed with some of the women she helped through the organization. However, before she managed to do so, her phone began ringing. It was Michaela calling to check on her. Lesly told Alec that she would take the call in her room and that she would come back as soon possible. When she was done with the call, she began to feel a dull pounding in her head that brought reminders of the splitting headache she suffered the day before. This prompted her to grab a pair of reading glasses from her nightstand in the hopes that it would help her avoid the same experience today. She put them on and went back to the living room to continue working on the case.

“That was a quick call,” Alec said to her while he kept his gaze fixed on the laptop.

“She just wanted to check and see how I was doing. I told her I got the cast removed,” Lesly said before she sat next to him on the floor.

Alec looked at her to discuss a profile he was checking on his laptop, but was surprised when he saw her glasses. He asked her about them with a chuckle, “Where did those come from?”

“They’re my reading glasses.”

“I didn’t know you needed glasses.”

“I don’t. I usually wear them when I’m worried about straining my eyes,” she answered while scrolling through a document on her laptop. Alec went quite, but she could still sense his gaze on her. She looked up and sure enough he was staring at her with a smile on his face.

She blinked in confusion and asked, “What is it?”

“Nothing,” he answered, still smiling.

“Seriously what is it?”

“Nothing,” his smile turned into a chuckle. This prompted Lesly to hold one of the folders lying next to her and to smack him on the shoulder with it. His chuckle turned into a laugh which caused her to laugh as well.

“Focus,” she demanded with a laugh.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Here, take a look at this,” she instructed before she turned her laptop towards him so he could see the person she wanted him to see.

“Who is she?”

“Nicole Cortez,” Lesly answered. When she saw him look through the pile of files next to him, she rushed to explain, “You won’t find her in our database. Some of the women I know through the organization suggested that I talk to her. She’s an escort according to them.”

“Why is she important?” Alec asked as he took another look at the woman.

“She managed to establish her own escort service. Of course, she doesn’t have a license for her business which leads me to believe there’s some prostitution involved. According to the women I talked to, Cortez managed to attract quite the upper class clientele. We’re bound to find something if we dig there.”

“How do you suggest we handle it?”

“I’d say we need to run more background checks before we make a decision. We can send someone undercover or talk to the women working for her,” Lesly suggested.

“Leave that to me then. I’ll let you know what I find,” Alec replied as he jotted down some notes. Then he looked at Lesly and told her the same thing he had been telling her for the last few days. “In the meantime, try to keep a low profile. Don’t leave your office no matter what and always call me if you wish to go somewhere for whatever reason.”

“Fine,” Lesly answered with a smile.

Her eyes examined his profile as he continued to check something on his laptop. That strong jawline, the straight nose in addition to those piercing blue eyes of his…she was finally beginning to see why the people around her told her he was handsome. It was not something she thought much of before, but now she was beginning to see it. His golden disheveled hair was a sight to behold. It made her smile deepen because it was different from his usual kempt appearance. She had only began to see his messy hair when he started spending the night at Michaela’s to keep her company. It humanized him and made him seem younger than how he usually looked. Her eyes continued to watch him. They followed his toned arms as they reached for something that was on the other end of the table. The sight brought reminders of the times he wrapped her in his embrace, pulled her close to his chest and made her feel safe. The fact that she was sitting so close to him at the moment that she could smell his masculine scent made it easier for her mind to summon the scene and all the feelings associated with it. She wondered how someone like him was still single. The guy was not just physically attractive, but also kind, charismatic and incredibly considerate.

“Is something wrong?” Alec asked without removing his eyes from the document in front of him when he felt her gaze at him.

“No, nothing,” she said softly.

He looked at her then, examined her face and pressed a hand to her forehead to see if she was okay, “You look a little flushed. Are you alright?”

“Allergies,” she lied. She did not realize she was blushing until he pointed it out. His look of concern coupled with the gentle warmth of his hand on her forehead must’ve made her blush even more. She hoped he didn’t notice.

“You seem tired. Maybe you need to go to bed,” he instructed with a look of concern. “I’m actually pretty exhausted myself. What time is it?”

“A quarter to twelve.”

“We definitely need to hit the hay then,” He announced before he stood up and gathered the two empty coffee mugs that were lying around them. He ruffled her hair as he made his way towards the kitchen and instructed her, “You should go to bed, Lesly. We have a long day tomorrow.”

She did not say anything. She just smiled and began gathering her things. She picked her laptop and her folders up, murmured a good night to him and made her way towards her room. She followed her usual routine before she went to bed, and tried to get some sleep afterwards.

Sleep continued to elude her. At first she though it was because of her new surroundings which she did not get used to yet, but as days went by she became certain that there were other reasons. Every night she found herself tossing and turning as her mind processed one complicated thought after another. She was anxious, worried and scared. Nothing was certain. She knew she was safe now, but she did not know how long that sense of security would last. Alec had been incredibly supportive. He tried his best to assure her that he would not let anything happen to her, but she knew she could not rely on him forever. It would be unfair to drag him into her own mess and to burden him with her own problems. She was grateful for everything he did. She wanted to tell him that so many times, but words continued to fail her. Her mind could not figure out why at first. It could not even unveil why the way he looked at her bothered her so much, but now she knew. She was attracted to him. Her feelings for him grew deeper day by day. He did not make it easy for her to pretend that those feelings didn’t exist. She tried to ignore them, but he had been so incredibly supportive, so caring and so protective of her that she could not lie to herself anymore. She knew he had feelings for her too and she wished she could let go and give in, but she knew she wasn’t ready. If she were to tell him that she felt the same way about him, it would only end up hurting him and hurting her along with him.

All of these thoughts made Lesly’s chest tighten. She wanted fresh air, so she got out of bed and opened one of the gigantic windows in her room. The view of the city was amazing from where she stood. The dancing night lights gave Redlyn an air of serenity which she knew it did not possess. It was sad that a sight so beautiful masked so many ugly realities beneath it. She wished she could do something to fix it, but she was only one person. The only thing she could do was to focus on her job and hope that something good would come out of it.

With that thought in mind, Lesly walked out of her room and into the kitchen in hopes of fixing herself a drink that could help her sleep. When she got there, she took the milk out of the fridge and tried to look for a mug to pour it into so she can warm it in the microwave. She did not know where Alec kept the mugs so she started searching the cabinets for one. Her search led her to a wall cabinet that was hung a bit too high for her to reach. She succeeded in getting it open with ease, but she was not sure she could reach its contents. Before she could see for herself, she heard the sound of footsteps following her into the kitchen. She looked back and found Alec with his disheveled hair standing behind her.

“What are you doing this late?” He asked with exhaustion evident in his eyes.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was hoping to get a warm cup of milk. Did I wake you up?”

“Actually, I received an important phone call before I got to bed. It took me a while to sort through the problem. I was awake the entire time.”

“I see,” she answered before she turned around. Truth be told, she could not look at him without recalling every single thought she just had about him. There was no way she could let him know how much the mere sight of him had come to affect her. The best thing she could do for now was to get the task she came to the kitchen for done and get back to her room before she made a fool of herself.

Lesly tried to reach one of the mugs, but the shelf was too high for her. She could’ve gotten it herself if she gave it a try, but he didn’t let her.

“Do you need help?” He asked as he stepped behind her and tried to get it for her.

She tried to deter him, but by the time she got the words out that she did not need any help, he was already behind her. She turned around to face him and found herself trapped between him and the cabinets behind her. He had one arm resting on the counter top and another that was trying to reach the shelf for her. He was standing too close and there was no way for her to step back because her back was already pressed against the counter behind her. Alec seemed oblivious to the fact at first, but then he came to realize what was happening. Their eyes locked for a moment as he slowly brought his hand down from the wall cabinet. He didn’t move. She didn’t either. They continued to silently stare at one another. Neither said a word. Her mind went blank save for one thought only. She did not know what possessed her, but her feelings suddenly overpowered her to a point where she couldn’t oppose them anymore. She placed both palms on his hard chest, stood on her tiptoes and brushed her lips against his.

He did not have time to respond. It began and ended in an instant. His eyes watched her as she pulled back to study the expression on his face. She probably wanted to know what he was thinking. He too wanted to know what was going on in her mind. Unfortunately, he could not think a single coherent thought. The only thing he saw when he looked at her face was that those rosy luscious lips had just brushed against his. They had always been the object of his attention. He could not do anything about them before because he had given her his word that they would keep things strictly professional, but now that she had kissed him, he could not think straight anymore. He did not want this moment to end with a simple kiss. He needed a slow deep passionate one that would rob her of her grip on reality the same way she had nearly robbed him of his many times before. With that thought in mind, Alec lifted her chin and claimed her mouth for a long slow kiss that left the two of them breathless.

She did not resist him or pull away. The moment she felt his tongue demanding access, she gave in and parted her lips for him immediately. All traces of rational thought left her and she found herself responding to every brush of his lips and every stroke of his tongue. His large hands held her tiny waist and pulled her closer to him. Her thin arms slid from his chest and interlocked behind his neck. She tried to give him as much as he was giving her, and she could tell from the way his hand moved across her back and the wondrous things his tongue did to her mouth that he was as affected as she was, if not more. There was a part of her that told her that she was making a huge mistake, but she could not heed its warning when Alec was kissing her like that. She tried to focus on the voice and pull back, but every time she attempted to break away and talk to Alec, he would immediately claim her lips again.

She could have simply brought her hands down to his chest and pushed him a little. Instead, she found herself holding the side of his face with one hand as her other one tried to gently pry their lips away. He complied, released her lips, but kept his hands around her waist. Both were trying to bring their breathing under control as they stared into each other’s eyes. She could feel the frantic beating of his heart and she was sure he could hear how loudly her heart was drumming in her chest. It took her a moment to realize that her fingers were still pressed to his lips. She wanted to pull them away, but he held them in his hand and took one delicate finger into his mouth. She gasped when he began licking and nibbling on her finger without breaking eye contact with her. Her breathing got quicker and quicker as she felt him nibble on her other fingers and place wet kisses on her wrist. He eventually pulled her back to him slowly and began making love to her mouth once more.

Things got more passionate and erotic in an instant. His kisses became more demanding, more wild, more prurient. His hands roamed her back before they slid under her shirt and began stroking her silky skin. Her moan at the unexpected contact almost drove him to madness. How could he maintain a shred of control when someone as beautiful, graceful and soft as her kissed him with so much passion? He pinned her hard against the cabinet behind her and deepened the kiss. Her response was unexpected. She slid her hands under his shirt and began caressing his back before they slid over to his chest. Her mind could not believe what her hands were feeling. She knew he was muscular. It was obvious even when he had a formal shirt on, but she had no idea he was so perfectly sculptured. She wished she could see what he looked like without a shirt on. Her hands were tempted to pull that thin navy cotton shirt over his head, but whatever shred of sanity she had left at that moment told her that there would be no turning back from there. She wanted to end their kiss before things got steamier, but her body refused to comply. His tongue roused her in ways she never thought possible and all she could do was press herself against him and silently beg for more.

She did not know how it happened. It felt like an eternity before he released her. It was obvious that he did not want to do so, but he needed to catch his breath one more time. He stared deep into her large grey eyes and silently bid her to stay so they could kiss over and again. Rational thought finally found her, though. She gently pushed him away a little and struggled to find her voice.

“Lesly…,” He said breathlessly as he shook his head. He cupped the sides of her face and begged her with his eyes to remain where she was.

Lesly knew she made a mistake then. She realized that she had hurt him. She didn’t want to. This was exactly why she chose to keep her distance. This was exactly why she was worried about staying with him. There was only thing she could do to fix the situation before it got worse. She gently placed her hands on his and tried to speak to him.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” she said in a whisper.

With that she gave his hand a gentle squeeze and went back to her room.

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