The Calm before the Storm
Lesly woke up later that afternoon feeling exhausted. Alec was not next to her, but she could hear his voice from the living room. He was saying something to someone about taking care of Emma, a statement that earned him a sarcastic remark from his sister who was still not okay with his tendency to act overprotective. She would have left the room to bid Emma farewell, but seeing how there was a third person outside whom she had possibly never met before, she decided not to leave. She had no presentable clothes around to put on except for her silk robe and nightgown, and she did not feel right about meeting someone for the first time wearing nothing but something so flimsy. As such, she grabbed her phone and decided to check it for any important messages until everyone had left, and Alec had come back to his room.
There were a couple of emails and texts from her colleagues regarding the fundraiser that was scheduled to take place soon. There was also a reply message from Michaela telling her that she was okay and that she would contact her the moment she found the time. Michaela had been awfully busy lately, so busy that Lesly began suspecting that she was avoiding talking to her. It did not seem likely, though, because there was nothing to Lesly’s recollection that would force Michaela to avoid her. Still, something was wrong with her friend. Lesly was sure of it.
Without thinking, Lesly scrolled down to Michaela’s phone number and tried calling her. It took Michaela a while to pick up.
“Where have you been?” Asked Lesly.
“I told you. Things have been crazy at the hospital lately.”
There was a hint of frustration in Michaela’s voice that could easily be traced to the buzzing commotion around her. Still, Lesly was growing more certain that something was off.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. What makes you think I’m not okay?”
“I don’t know. Let’s start with the fact that I haven’t seen you or heard from you for a while. Every time I call you, you blow me off.”
Michaela did not answer right away. She was busy issuing instructions to someone before she went back to her friend.
“Hon, I told you. We have a new chief of surgery who’s been driving everyone insane. I’m working my ass off to get on her good side, first because I don’t want a repeat of the hellish experience I had when I first began working at the hospital, and second because let’s face it, it’s all politics.”
“What do you mean that’s all? This is my career we’re talking about.”
“I’m sorry,” Lesly responded softly, “I didn’t mean it like that. I was just worried that you might have been upset over what happened with John.”
“Please,” the redhead sighed in annoyance. “I don’t even have time to think about him right now.”
“Yes, so stop worrying.”
Lesly was not buying the busy act, so she tried to get Michaela to talk again, but she was immediately interrupted.
“Hon, I need to go. We’ll talk later, okay?”
Lesly hung up and stared at the record of phone calls on her smart device. For the last couple of weeks, Michaela had not been calling much. It was mostly Lesly who called, and every time she did, the call would only last for a couple of minutes, and that was if Michaela picked up at all. The same thing happened with the texts. Michaela’s messages were short and straight to the point. Something was definitely wrong with her friend, but she would not be able to figure it out until she managed to get a hold of her first.
Lesly’s train of thoughts was interrupted the moment Alec walked back into the room.
“You’re awake,” he remarked boyishly.
“Yes, did Emma leave?”
“She just did. Who were you talking to?” He asked before he disappeared into the closet.
“Michaela…,” Lesly stated with a hint of worry in her voice. “I haven’t seen her in a while, and I wanted to check to see if she was okay.”
“Did something happen?” Alec asked as he marched back into the room after he had changed into a pair of jeans. He looked so good that she almost forgot what he just asked.
“I really don’t know. She’s been acting weird lately. I won’t know for sure until I see her.”
“Is she coming this Saturday?”
“I’ll possibly see her before then. She told me she’ll be attending the fundraiser on Wednesday.”
“Oh yeah…,” Alec spoke almost absentmindedly. He went quiet and slipped the shirt he was holding over his head. Then he grabbed his watch and began securing it around his wrist. A frown never left his face the entire time he was getting ready to leave.
Lesly noticed the change that had overcome him and decided to ask, “You’re still not ecstatic about the event, aren’t you?”
“I’m as ecstatic as I can be about fundraisers.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Then you should understand how I feel,” he spoke matter-of-factly as he tried to look for something in one of the drawers.
“I told you. I have to attend. Plus, you’re gonna be there.”
He stopped and turned back to look at her. “I am?”
“Yeah, you’ll be my plus one, won’t you?” She asked him sweetly.
“I don’t recall you asking me,” he responded with a straight face, but she knew he was joking.
“I figured that given your control issues…”
“I don’t have control issues,” he quickly interrupted.
“No, I don’t.”
“Debatable,” she shrugged.
“You’re really gonna go there?” He asked, incredulous. “How about we discuss your suicidal behavior for a bit first.”
“What does that have to do with the fact that you tend to fly off the handle when you don’t have your way?”
“Everything in fact. If I’ve been perceived as having some semblance of a control issue, it’s because I have come to see for myself how reckless you can be.”
And there they were again. Lesly began rubbing her temples in annoyance at the turn the conversation was taking. It was not that she did not expect him to bring it up. No, she was prepared, but she might have overestimated her capacity to put up with the way she was sure he would criticize her. It was a miracle that she was able to keep her tone even as she continued talking to him.
“I’ve managed to keep myself alive for this long now, haven’t I? I know what I’m doing.”
“You worry too much,” she interrupted. “Even your sister can’t get a break.”
His expression turned serious instantly. “What did my sister tell you?”
Lesly noticed the sudden change in his disposition. His gaze turned darker. His expression was devoid of emotion. She realized immediately that she had stepped on a landmine and rushed to rectify the situation.
“I’m sorry, Alec. That was uncalled for. Whatever happens between you and your sister is none of my business.”
Alec refused to let the matter go. “I need to know. What did my sister tell you?”
“Nothing that you need to worry about. I assure you.”
“Lesly…,” he warned in a low voice.
She refused to speak a word to him and continued to challenge his warning gaze. Convinced that he was not going to get anything out of her, he decided to go about the matter a different way. He took a couple of steps towards her, crossed his arms over his chest and studied her face closely.
“Let me guess, she used a certain phrase to describe me…Callous bastard? Ruthless hothead? Cold-blooded SOB?”
He knew from the expression on her face that he guessed right. He smiled cynically at her and walked back into the closet to fetch a jacket. Lesly did not know what to make of his reaction.
She could hear him talking to her even though she couldn’t see him, “You know I’ve heard it all before. I’m used to it. This wouldn’t be the first time.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Let her think what she wants. Hopefully, when she grows older, she’ll understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, and she’ll thank me.”
Lesly got up, put her robe on, and followed him into the closet. He seemed to be searching for a specific jacket and was about to ask her about it when he noticed the serious expression on her face.
“Something wrong, sweetheart?”
“I was gonna ask you the same thing.”
Alec was confused, “I thought I told you I was going to pay Greg a visit today.”
“I know. I meant with Emma.”
He stared at her for a moment as he contemplated what to tell her. Then he decided to give her a somewhat altered version of the truth.
“There were a couple of situations in the past that demanded my interference.”
“What sort of situations?”
“I told a guy she had a mad crush on to leave her alone.”
“And?” Lesly asked suspiciously. She knew there was more to the story than that.
“When he didn’t, I took matters into my own hand.”
“How?” Lesly glared at him.
Alec shrugged, “I have more than one way to get people to comply.”
“Lesly, the guy was bad news. You would’ve done the same thing if you were in my shoes.”
“How would you know?”
“You’re telling me if someone tried to get back at your family by using a younger sibling, you wouldn’t do what I did?”
“Is that what happened?”
“Yes. I figured that I’d be making enemies in my line of work, but I never expected that someone would sink so low as to drag my sister into it.”
“Does she know?”
“No, she doesn’t. It’s easier to just let her believe that I rearranged the guy’s face because…how did you say it earlier?... Ah, yes, because I have ‘control issues.’”
The air quotes he used, coupled with his sarcastic tone made Lesly roll her eyes. “And here we are again.”
Alec smiled. He ruffled her hair and whispered a goodbye before he walked out of the room. She followed him hastily.
“What is it?” He asked as he slipped his arms through a black leather jacket. God, he looked so sexy when he was dressed casually.
“You haven’t given me an answer yet.”
“To what?” He knitted his brows in confusion.
“The fundraiser,” she reminded. “Will you be my plus one?”
He smiled warmly at her. “I can’t say no to that now, can I?”
“I do have a couple of ground rules, though.”
“Why do I get the feeling that I’m not gonna like any of them?” Lesly asked suspiciously.
Alec ignored her and began listing his conditions, “One, you’ll never leave me side. Two, the moment I sense that something is off, we leave immediately. Three, you’ll wear a tracking device. Four, you’ll…”
“I’ll wear what?” Lesly interrupted in disbelief.
“A tracking device.”
“And why do you think I need one?”
Simple. Because he knew how prone she was to going against her survival instincts. Putting a tracking device on her would give him the peace of mind he needed. Of course, he could not get into the reasons now. He was already late for his appointment with Greg, and he knew that if he got into that argument, he would never get out of it. As such, he chose to not answer her question directly.
“Would you please consider it?” He reasoned calmly. “It would put my mind at ease if you do it.”
She glared at him for a moment, but then she gave in. “Fine.”
“Thank you,” he said to her in relief. He grabbed his keys, brushed his lips against hers and attempted to leave. Lesly called from behind him.
“The next time you tell me you don’t have control issues, I’m gonna remind you of that.”
“And if you put me in a situation where I have to track you down, I’ll never let you hear the end of it, so please don’t.”
And with that, he left and locked the door behind him.