Talking It Out 2
Her room was cast in darkness when her eyes fluttered open. She had no idea how long she had been asleep or what time it was, but she could see that Alec was no longer in bed next to her. The fact that he was not around should have given her a hint of relief, especially after what happened. The way she reacted to his touch and the things she begged him to do after she had repeatedly told him that she felt nothing for him would certainly make her too embarrassed to see him so soon. Still, a pang of pain gripped her chest at the realization that he could so easily leave after the intense passionate encounter they had.
Her hands reached for the light switch blindly before she struggled to get up. Then she looked for her phone. She told herself that she needed to check it for the time, but deep down she hoped she would find a message from him explaining why he had to leave so soon. The time was eleven thirty-five and no text was received to ease the growing tightness in her chest. The only thing she found was a couple of work-related emails and a few nosy messages from Michaela.
Lesly swung her legs over the bed and was immediately reminded of the soreness down there. Good God! How many times did they go at it as if they were two sex starved individuals who had not seen each other in ages? She distinctly remembered that at one point, one of the neighbors had knocked on her door to complain about how loud they were. She did not see who it was because Alec was the one who spoke to him, but still, that was not the kind of impression she wanted to give the tenants of her building shortly after moving in. It was not enough that she had to deal with the embarrassment of seeing Alec after the encounter they had. She also had to deal with a bunch of tenants who had probably already formed the opinion that she was just another sex crazed nuisance they had to put up with.
Lesly got up and walked slowly towards her bathroom. She ran the hot water of the shower while she brushed her teeth. Then she stepped in and allowed the water to flow all over her. There was nothing that she hated more than dripping wet hair in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, however, there was no other way around it. She needed to take care of the stickiness between her legs and the perspiration on her skin. Getting this simple task done should help in easing the tightness in her chest because it would ensure that his scent no longer clung to her body.
When Lesly was done with her shower, she dried her hair as much as she could with a towel. Then she slipped into thin purple satin shorts and paired them with a matching top. The strappy top was just as thin and revealing, and the black lace detailing on the deep V-neckline barely covered her breasts. The outfit was not something she would normally go for, but it was so hot and stuffy in the apartment that she needed to slip into something light to cover herself with. The thought of staying nude did occur to her, but she was never comfortable with the idea of walking around the apartment with nothing on. If only she could open the windows to allow some air in. However, after the assault that occurred a couple of months ago, the idea of keeping her windows open at night terrified her.
Her train of thoughts led her right back to Alec again. She certainly felt safer when he was around. The time she spent living with him after the assault was probably the only time she had known peace of mind. Now that she was on her own again, as much as she wanted to, she could not shake the fear of going through that very same episode all over again. Alec was right. She needed to invest in a good lock on her door and inspect the locks on her windows. Still, she knew that even if she attended to the task, she would never be able to open her windows or stay alone in her own place without jumping in fear at the slightest sound.
Was it too soon for her to live on her own? Possibly. Michaela certainly did not mind having her around, but how long would she have been able to intrude and be a burden to those around her? It was necessary to take a step out of her comfort zone in order to conquer her fear.
Lesly was so lost in thought when she stepped into her living room that she was totally not prepared for the scene that greeted her. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Alec sitting on the armchair in her living room and ruffling the golden retriever’s head. He smiled when he saw her.
“This is one friendly dog you got there,” Alec commented as he continued to pet the dog.
“He is, but he is not mine,” Lesly casually took a couple of more steps into the living room. “I’m watching him for someone.”
“Maybe you should consider getting a dog in addition to investing in a good lock,” he advised.
She crossed her arms over her chest in a clear sign of discomfort, yet she continued to talk casually as she addressed his question. “I’ve thought about it, but having a dog would only make me more anxious. I’d be too worried about him. Plus, I work long hours. I won’t be able to take care of him. I’ve only agreed to look after Max for today.”
Alec completely ignored everything she said and directed his focus to the one detail she unintentionally revealed. “Have you been feeling anxious?”
“That’s not important.”
“It is to me.”
She sighed in frustration and tried to change the direction of their conversation. “I thought you left.”
He stood up and took a couple of steps towards her, “I couldn’t leave without clearing something first.”
“What is it?”
“We’re gonna need to sit down for this.”
“Lang,” she attempted to discourage him, but he quickly interrupted her with a firm demand.
“Don’t call me that!”
“I thought we did all our talking earlier today.”
“There’s one more issue I need to discuss with you.”
She knew what he wanted to say, and she tried once more to discourage him immediately, “I told you. It would be better if we just…”
He became angry quite quickly. “I swear to God Lesly, if you tell me that we should pretend nothing happened one more time, I’ll bend you over this counter right now and show you why it could never be done.”
The way he growled this threat coupled with the memory of what he had done to her against the very same counter earlier during the day made her bite her lower lip in nervousness. He meant it. She knew he meant it.
Alec immediately reached for her and pulled her lip out of her teeth’s grip with his thumb. “Don’t do that. I need to keep my head straight.”
This simple gesture made her knees grow weak. Damn her body for reacting to him this way. She needed to calm herself down before he found out that even after all the sex they had, she still could not control herself around him.
Alec grabbed the bathrobe that was discarded near the counter earlier that day and handed it to her. “Please put this on. I can’t keep track of my thoughts when you’re standing in front of me dressed like that.” He paused and cast his gaze a little downward and smiled. “Then again, it seems I’m not the only one.”
Lesly immediately realized what he was talking about. She crossed her arms over her breasts and tried to cover her hardened nubs that were barely hidden by the lace on her top. “It’s a bit cold.”
“So you say,” he chuckled in a way that told her that he was just humoring her. “Can you please put the robe on now before I change my mind?”
She obeyed him immediately and bundled herself up in the chunky garment. Alec watched her with a seductive smile on his face as she wrapped the belt in a secure knot around her waist. When she lifted her head to look at him, he pointed at the knot and commented, “It would take more than this knot to keep me away from you. Just thought you should know that.”
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. Alec held her arm and drew her towards the stool on the counter. She took a seat and followed him with her eyes silently as he turned the electric kettle on. There were a handful of mugs that he had dug out from her boxes earlier while she was asleep. Two of those were pushed closer to the kettle. Alec grabbed them as he waited for the water to boil and showed them to her.
“Never thought you were the kind of person who would go for princess and unicorn mugs.”
She smiled. “They were given to me as a joke years ago on my first day at work. I got to my desk, and I found them there with a note wishing me good luck.”
“Let me guess, a certain redhead gave them to you?”
“No, it was actually my brother.”
It immediately became clear to him that he had stepped into a sore topic. He examined the mugs as he leaned against the cabinets with his arms crossed over his chest. They looked almost new. It was as if she had never used them. Seeing how they were a gift from the brother she thought she lost, it made sense that she would hold on to them and never use them. He intended to use them as some sort of ice breaker as they talked. However, given their sentimental value and the seriousness of the matter he wished to discuss with her, it was perhaps safer not to do so. As such, he immediately pushed them aside and grabbed two other mugs. Then he placed two chamomile bags in them and submerged them in boiling water.
With the task done, Alec brought the two mugs to the counter, sat right across from Lesly and pushed one mug towards her. Silence reigned afterwards as they took a few sips of the streaming drink, but Alec was the first to break it.
“I see someone sent you flowers to congratulate you on moving in.”
“Yes,” she answered briefly knowing full well that he wanted more details.
“Who is Robbie?”
“Why is he sending you flowers?”
“You said it yourself, to congratulate me on moving in,” she answered in feigned innocence. “You read the note, didn’t you? Otherwise, you wouldn’t have known who sent them.”
Alec was not amused. She could see it on his face. This was not the sort of answer he wanted to hear, and she knew that, yet she could not resist giving him a taste of his own medicine.
“He doesn’t know that you’re allergic to them?”
It was a question meant to measure Robbie’s level of familiarity with her, yet once more, she chose to mess with him.
“He knows me well enough to steer clear of choices that could trigger my allergies,” she took a sip of her drink. “He even sent a basket of my favorite cookies along with them. They’re over there.”
Alec peered over his shoulder to where she was pointing, and sure enough there was a basket filled with not just cookies, but all sorts of baked goods. The cellophane wrap was cut. It was clear that some of those goods were consumed. When he looked back at her, she continued to explain, “They’re from a bakery in our hometown that we used to frequent as teens. It’s so nice of him to go through the trouble of shipping them to me.”
He frowned, “Is he that nice to everyone?”
“No, I’m one of the lucky few,” she answered evasively.
She could tell that he did not like hearing any of her answers. His frown grew more intense as he stopped beating around the bush and began asking her directly, “Does he have feelings for you or something?”
She shrugged, “Well, he did ask if I was seeing someone.”
“I told him it was complicated,” she answered in feigned innocence once more before taking another sip of her drink.
Alec narrowed his eyes at her, “And he thought this was his chance to step in?”
It was obvious that he was barely keeping his anger in check, so she decided to stop messing with him. “He’s happily married, Lang.”
“Stop calling me that,” he demanded sternly.
“What do you want me to call you then?”
“What you have always been calling me…Alec.”
“That’s just a persona…”
“It’s not,” he quickly clarified. “Alec is the name my mother gave me before her husband had it changed. No one knows that except my old man, Greg and now you.”
Lesly knitted her brows in confusion, “So when your father suggested you assume a new identity to keep you safe following the incident…”
“I insisted on using it,” he confirmed her conclusion. “I thought it would make coping with the new changes easier.”
Lesly stared at him for a moment. Then she asked him the one question that had been bugging her this entire time, “Why did your father put you through all this?”
Alec’s grip around the mug tightened. This was clearly a topic he was not comfortable discussing. His answer proved it, “It’s a long story, one that I don’t have the time or energy to delve into right now. I will tell you everything. I promise. It’s just that…,” he hesitated for a few seconds, “right now it’s important to me that we’re both clear on something.”
“What is it?”
“Are we good?”
She sighed, “I don’t know.”
“I need to think about it a bit more…,” she quickly interrupted.
“It’s been almost a month.”
“I know, but you can’t expect me to just make my peace with everything that has happened. Even now you’re evading answering my questions,” she pointed out.
“We all have something that is difficult for us to talk about,” he tried to explain.
“I told you everything about me.”
“Except your brother,” he interjected. “You still refuse to talk to me about him.”
“What does my brother have to do with all of this?” She asked in exasperation.
“You won’t talk about him because you find it painful to do so. It’s the same for me.”
“You’re just digging for excuses.”
“I’m not…please,” he pleaded. His tone turned gentle, “I’m begging you. Don’t jump to conclusions before hearing me out.”
“Fine…,” Lesly spoke hesitantly. “I’m listening.”
“Earlier today…,” he began. His gaze was focused on her. “You told me that I was here out of guilt.”
“Something tells me that you think that that’s the only reason I refuse to give up on you.”
Lesly kept a straight face as she explained, “It is possible for people to confuse guilt for affection sometimes.”
“And you think this applies to me?”
“I’m not saying it’s intentional. It could take a while before the reality of the situation becomes clear. By then, it would be too late, and you will feel obligated to stay because you think it’s the right thing to do.”
Alec kept his gaze fixed at her for a few seconds. Then he tried to confirm what he gathered from her statement, “So basically, I have no idea what my feelings towards you are?”
“And you know that better than I do because?”
“I’ve been there before,” she responded evasively, but Alec immediately understood whom she was referring to.
“Yes, with Henry. I remember. However, you should know that up until that day when I took you to the hospital following the assault, I had no idea what you had gone through. The story that was given to me was entirely different from what Michaela revealed to me later on. My old man never told me what happened to you.”
This was not the kind of explanation she expected to hear from him. She kept her gaze cast at the mug she was holding in her hand as she thought about what he said. Her thumb stroked the warm ceramic outlines of the rim. Then she lifted her gaze to meet his, “Assuming that what you’re telling me is indeed the truth, why would your father keep that from you?”
“Plenty of reasons,” he simply stated. There was a pained expression on his face that he made no effort to hide as he continued to explain, “For one thing, my old man saw no cause to do so. In his mind, the parties responsible were taken care of and that was all that mattered. On top of that, he did not want me to establish contact with you in any way to keep my identity hidden. As such, he needed to make sure that I would never be given a reason to do so. There’s also the fact that my mental condition was unstable following the incident. He could not predict how I would behave, and he needed to make sure that I was never told anything that would get me to jeopardize what he worked so hard to maintain.”
Lesly tore her gaze away from his, but not before he noticed the hurt look in her eyes. “It seems that even your father thought that us getting together is a bad idea.”
Exasperated by her response, Alec could not help but firmly establish what he believed to be the root cause of her problem. “You’re projecting!”
“Yes, you’ve cast yourself into a distressing spiral that is your job following your brother’s death because of guilt, and you think I’m doing the same thing here,” he explained. The angry tone was not lost on her. “I told you. I’ve had feelings for you long before I found out what happened.”
“Still, you knew who I was,” she argued back calmly. “That doesn’t exactly make things better.”
Alec released a deep sigh of exasperation as he glared at her. There was so much he wanted to say since they began this talk, but he steered clear of it because he did not know how to phrase his words delicately. By now, he had had enough. It was time to say it like it was because appearently, nothing was going to convince her except forcing her to face the reality she refused to admit to herself.
With a firm tone, Alec began, “You think I’m in love with an image. You think I don’t know you well enough. You think I don’t see all your flaws, but I do. You’re stubborn, pigheaded and a major pain in the neck. You jump to conclusions all the time, and you distance yourself from people before you give them a chance to explain themselves. You do that because you’re scared of getting hurt.”
Lesly tried to object, but he carried on. His tone rose in intensity to discourage her from interrupting him, “You’re trying to protect yourself which is ironic because you have a tendency to act reckless. You take risks before you think everything through. You dive into one threatening situation after another because deep down you don’t think you deserve to live.”
“You don’t know a thing…,” she quickly interjected in anger.
“I do know, and I do get it because I am like that,” Alec responded in a loud voice. The angry look in his eyes matched hers.
They glared at each other. Their anger never dissipating. However, the moment he saw tears welling up in her furious eyes, his tone softened. “I’ve lost someone, too, and I blamed myself every single day for his death. Before I met you two years ago, I’ve lived for one purpose only and that was to find the person responsible for his death. Nothing else mattered to me. I’ve dragged myself everyday out of bed to see it through. My life was solely defined by this shadow of a purpose. If I died in the process of seeing it fulfilled, then at least my death would have more meaning.”
She was still staring madly at him, but he could see that he was finally getting through to her. He reached for her hand, covered it with his and kept his eyes locked with hers. “You’ve changed that for me. For the first time since, I really wanted to live. You mean more to me than you think.”
Her tears trickled down her cheeks. He wanted to reach over and wipe them, but she slowly withdrew her hand from his hold and wiped them herself. He gave her a minute to recollect herself and made a silent prayer that she would not leave or ask him to leave. He was finally beginning to get through to her, and he did not want to leave her alone to her thoughts and lose all the progress he made. She still refused to look at him, but she tried to talk to him.
Her voice shook as she spoke, “You do realize this is not the only issue here.”
Alec almost breathed a sigh of relief. “I know, but I wanted to address it first before anything else.”
Another tear trickled down her cheek. This time, he reached over and wiped it gently with his thumb. “Please don’t cry…I can’t stand seeing you like this.”
She sighed and pulled away from him before she wiped her other cheek. Alec stared at her with a pained look on his face. She was still hurt. It was plain to see, but he did not expect her to still reject the slightest display of solace he had to offer.
He gave her another minute to get her emotions under control. Then he asked, “Is there anything I can get you?”
She continued to avoid looking at him, but at least she was finally beginning to see that his feelings towards her were indeed genuine. That in itself was a major step forward. Sure, there were other issues they needed to address, but at least he managed to get one major hurdle out of the way.
Eager to not get her to shut down on him again, he continued to reason with her, “Listen, I don’t expect you to just put everything behind us and act is if nothing ever happened. I screwed up. I’m well aware of that, but you can’t shut me out and work through this alone. You have to talk to me.”
“What exactly is talking going to accomplish if you won’t tell me anything?” she asked in a low voice. Her gaze still avoided his.
“There’s no reason for me to hide anything from you anymore.”
“How can I be sure of that?”
Alec looked at her hand, desperate to hold it. It was still too soon. He knew that. He knew she would only draw it away if he held it, yet he could not help but reach over and caress it.
“Give it another chance…please?” he pleaded gently. “I won’t rush you. I won’t ask you to pick up where we left of. We’ll go at your own pace. If you feel that you can’t do it, if I give you the slightest reason to mistrust me, we’ll break it off. It would kill me, but I’d only have myself to blame.”
She shut her eyes. The hand he was caressing turned into a fist. This was clearly a difficult decision for her to make in her current state, so he tried to reassure her, “You don’t have to give me an answer now. Please think it over.”
No response came from her. A moment passed in silence before she opened her teary eyes and looked at him as if trying to seek an answer in the way he was looking at her. He smiled warmly at her, “Okay?”
She nodded slowly. Alec hesitantly got up, kissed the top of her head, and whispered a good night before he picked his jacket, but she stopped him before he walked out of her apartment.
“I wanna ask you something,” she spoke in a low voice.
“What is it?”
“Cox…Hannah called me and told me you let him go.”
“This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
She turned around to face him. “I was told that judge Andrews would be presiding over the case.”
“That’s what I heard as well,” Alec responded as he fished his car key out of his pocket.
“You know Andrews…he’s not exactly…,” she struggled to explain.
“Oh I know Andrews,” Alec replied, “and I know exactly how to handle him.”
“Will you?” She requested hesitantly.
Alec smiled, “In the two years we’ve worked together, have I ever let you down?”
She smiled back, “Thank you.”
He winked, whispered a goodbye, and walked out the door.