by Ni Ping
The Greenhouse Foundation was a society based in Metropolis, and its members were of the social elite. It aimed to fund new projects, mainly for young people, and support them until they were successful enough to go it alone. Hence its name. The projects were mainly small, cafes, bars, youth centres, community centres etc all of which were funded by the generous donations of its members. Lana had decided to join two years ago after hearing about at one of the many benefits she had to attend. It had immediately reminded her of the help Lex had given her with the Talon. Without him it would have never happened and Lana had wanted to give someone the same opportunity she had had. Her decorating company was one of the most sought after in Metropolis but they also occasionally did renovations of old buildings. The O'Reilly building had been home to a downtown community centre for years, with a cafe, music room and art studio for young talent to use but was in serious need of repair. The foundation had taken on the project, Lana had taken on the renovation and redecoration at a tiny percentage of her normal fee, and to celebrate its reopening a dinner had been organised and Lana had been asked to cut the bow and formally reopen the place. There was no way she could avoid coming here, and she shouldn't have wanted to in the first place. At first, at least, it had worked when she had told herself that, but standing here after almost 4 hours it was becoming less convincing.
"You look like your enjoying yourself."
Lana turned in surprise at the deep baritone that had spoken over her shoulder.
"Of course you'd probably look like you were enjoying yourself walking across hot coals, if you had an audience like this one."
Without Lanas prompting, the speaker took her hand and raised it to his lips, placing a gallant kiss on the back of it.
"You would know all about that, wouldn't you? We both know what a brilliant performer you are. Add that to accomplished flirt and self confessed womaniser and it's no wonder you're so popular."
He burst out laughing at her quip and Lana allowed herself a small smile, whilst removing her hand from his. He regarded her with a admiring smile his eyes still dancing with laughter. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Lana. As always."
"It's good to see you too, Jackson."
Jackson Frost. Mid thirties, "ruggedly" handsome, rich, successful, charming and engaging he was the successful businessman/playboy personified. He worked hard, he ran Frost industries with his brother, but played harder and was known throughout all the fashionable bars and clubs in the city. A fair amount of the fashionable women knew him too. From their first meeting, Lana had liked him. She wasn't blind though, and realised within minutes that he was vain and over confident, especially with women. But there was something about him that made her like him and keep up their friendship, despite Lex having reservations. Jackson had repeatedly tried his hand with her, but Lana laughed him off every single time, and after 4 years he had learnt that he didn't have a chance. That didn't stop him flirting with her, though.
"You look stunning tonight, cherie. Your husband must have been loathe to let you out looking like that. Where is Lex, by the way?"
He had turned to watch the rest of the crowded room, but Lana could tell he was looking for her reaction.
"He's at home." A satisfied smile flashed across Jackson's face.
"Really? Very kind of him to leave his wife to us. Is he working?"
"No. He was just tired."
"Only to be expected I suppose, what with all that hard work he puts in. He really shouldn`t work so hard though, if it tires him out so much. I can`t imagine he is very good...err...company when he gets home at night. If it were me......."
He let the sentence hang and Lana had to fight to hide her smile and she decided to lead him on like he deserved to be and teach him a lesson, again. She moved slightly closer to him and lowered her voice intimately.
"If it were you, I know you'd never come home tired.-" She laid her hand on his shoulder and put her cheek near his, watching his eyes gleam with success - "but that's only because you spend most of your time being kept company by other women. If you actually did any work, like Lex, you'd realise the benefits of having a beautiful wife to come home to after a hard day at the office, who is only willing to help cure you of your tiredness."
So saying, Lana stepped back with a wicked smile on her face, watching Jackson trying to hide his disappointment. His eyes narrowed on her smiling face but he conceded with a irritated sigh.
Lanas' smile widened and she tilted her head. "You deserved it, you know."
He didn't answer but his face relaxed into a lazy grin. Taking her hand Jackson led Lana to the dance floor.
At the same time as this meeting between friends was taking place, another, less than friendly, one was taking place in the darkened solitude of the immense Luthor Tower. Sitting in a dimly lit office, two men regarded each other over an expanse of glass and metal desk. The hostility in the air was palpable. In a perfect calm and polite tone one of the men spoke, his voice not betraying one ounce of the animosity he felt for the man across from him.
"My employer and I are sorry it has had to come to this but you have given us no other choice. We have been more than generous, giving you several opportunities to do as was bidden, but you have repeatedly ignored us, and our warnings." He leant forward and lowered his tone threateningly. "This is your last one. Drop the investigation or we will make you."
Amazingly, this only earned him a sardonic smile and humourless chuckle from the other man who continued to lounge in his chair. His voice was cold but sounded amused none the less.
" I know you are not naive enough to believe that I haven't heard all this before, so I suggest you save your breath. I also know that you cannot believe that I am naive enough to pay any attention to your threats, unless you are more stupid than you look."
As though he had suspected nothing less the other man continued to watch him, waiting for something else. Refusing to let this get to him, he continued.
"Your employer, has sent you on a fools errand. He continues to try to remain anonymous (although anyone could work out that he is obviously someone who has a strong interest in Neots Ltd, and there aren't many of us) instead of being a man and confronting me himself and he expects me to, what? Be scared? To do what he tells me, simply because of a few half hearted warnings?!? I assure you, if I had paid heed to all the threats made me over the years, I would have nothing and would be as weak and cowardly as your employer obviously is. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."
He watched in satisfaction as the other man got up and wordlessly moved towards the door.
"There are more ways to hurt a man, Lionel, than to simply hurt him."
With that enigmatic remark he turned his back on Lionel Luthor and left the office. Once out of earshot he reached for his cell, whilst Lionel smiled coldly. There was no way any one could hurt him, he was past caring for anything long ago.......
"Sorry, cherie, I need to take this." Pulling away from Lana, Jackson Frost moved out of her hearing and quickly answered his cell.
"Luthor won't budge." Jackson slowly turned, his face hard and his eyes turning cold.
"Fine. If that's how he wants to play it. He's gonna learn that the Luthor's are not as untouchable as he thinks." Hanging up, Jackson continued to stare, a slow smile working across his face.
"Lovely seeing you again too, Mrs Reed."
Lana smiled serenely at the older woman but felt a slight shiver working it's way up her back, as though she was being watched.
4 DAYS LATER
She had willingly allowed him to leisurely trail his lips down her neck and over her collarbones but feeling his fingers at her shirt buttons, Lana raised her head and looked sternly at her husband. Well, as sternly as she could manage. Common sense ,after all, was the only thing making her put a stop to this. They were in their limo only minutes away from her office and this was not the time. The only reply he gave her was to look at her in question, but his hand stilled. Lana fought to repress her smile as the moment stretched out and they continued to look at each other in silence. This tactic might have worked on his colleagues, but after almost 6 years of marriage it certainly wasn't going to work on her. There was no way Lana was about to concede to him but she knew that Lex very rarely gave in either. They would be in for a long wait. This afternoon, however, Lex was in a charitable mood and Lana listened in surprised triumph as he broke the silence.
"I take it you want me to stop?"
Lana' eyes narrowed suspiciously on his face and the look in his eyes. There was something in his tone but she replied none the less.
"Yes, I do." It was a half truth and she knew it.
Lex had to fight to stop his admiring smile. Not by a flicker of an eye had she betrayed herself. She'd managed to keep her voice calm as well, he noted proudly. God, she'd gotten good at this. Almost too good though. If he hadn't known her so well he would have been fooled. Ignoring what she had said, Lex lent forward and put his face next to hers, his lips almost touching her ear and he heard her slowly let out her breath.
Lana snapped her face around to face him in indignation but before she had the chance to say a word Lex smothered her lips in a smouldering kiss. He was fierce and persistent but gentle at the same time, and Lana was hopeless to fight the feelings he was evoking within her. With a silent moan she turned her face and body towards him and abandoned herself to the kiss. Wrapping his arms tightly around her hips and back, Lex pulled her closer and deepened the kiss. He'd just slid his hand under the fabric of her shirt when the intercom rang out.
"We're here, Mr Luthor."
Lex let out a frustrated sigh as he closed his eyes and laid his forehead against hers. Kissing him lightly on the mouth, Lana smiled softly and began untangling herself and rearranging her clothes and hair.
"I did try and stop you."
Lex opened his eyes and smiled wryly.
"And look how successful that was." Shaking his head he added half seriously, "I'm going to have to find a longer route to your office."
Lana simply smiled at him and placed a light kiss on his smooth cheek.
"Thank you for lunch. I'll see you around nine?"
Usually Lex had to work late at his office and often finished around 9 o'clock. On the other hand, Lana finished at six so she was always there waiting for him when he got home. It was something he loved and regretted at the same time.
"No, actually. I'm going to finish early tonight so I can be here to pick you up."
Her smile was wide and full of surprised pleasure.
"That would be lovely. But are you sure you can spare the time?"
"I'd be here even if I couldn't." He said resolutely but continued when she seemed to be waiting for him to elaborate.
"I've been too caught up in work this past fortnight, so tonight I've decided to spend some quality time with my wife in an attempt to make up for it. Do you think she'll forgive me?"
Lana laid her hand on his cheek.
"She`d forgive you anything Lex, because she loves you."
Giving him a small smile she turned to get out of the limo. She was halfway out of the car before she heard his quiet reply.
"I love you too, Lana."
Lana quickly made her way down the front steps of the building that housed her offices, listening to the click clack sounds made by her heels. She knew it was foolish but she couldn't stifle the childish pleasure she felt out of getting to spend the night with Lex, and having him pick her up like this. Taking herself in hand, she slowed to a more composed pace and rearranged her face into her usual look of calm serenity. She blushed slightly at the thought that she'd been practically grinning because she was going to get laid. Shaking her head at herself Lana walked up to the waiting limo, smiling at the man about to open the door for her.
"Hello Sam. How are Katie and Brian? I hope they`re well."
Sam was her favourite "bodyguard" simply because he could easily have been a normal man, unlike the others who all looked and acted like something out of Die Hard. It had led her to strike up a friendship with him and she had even had the chance to meet his family. Normally he was amiable, friendly and easy going but tonight, Lana noticed, he seemed very tense. When she'd mentioned Katie and Brian he'd practically jumped and had looked nervously around him.
"What? Oh.. Katie and Brian. They're OK."
"Oh good. And you? Are you alright Sam? Is there something wrong?"
Lana had lowered her voice slightly and looked at him intently, despite his best efforts to avoid making eye contact. He still hadn't answered and honestly seemed distressed by her question, so Lana laid a hand on his arm and took a half step forward.
"Sam...? What is it?"
He opened his mouth to speak but at the last moment stopped himself. Looking her in the eye, Lana could see the hurt and pleading in his eyes. There was also something else that looked uncomfortably like guilt.
Before Lana could say a word he pulled away and started to walk around the front of the car. She continued to stand there watching him in concern until Lex drew her attention and she climbed into the limo. As they were rolling smoothly away, Lana couldn't shake the image of Sam' guilty face, knowing that there was something wrong.
"Is something wrong, Lex?"
Since she'd entered their limo they had been in deep conversation about some of Lana' prospective customers and also the general faring of her business. She often sought Lex' advise on a number of points and as always he was perfectly happy to give her help and advise. It reminded them both of their work together at the talon, which had led to a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Lana had lost contact with Clark after college, but still had sporadic conversations with Chloe, who was fulfilling her dream of being a reporter for the Daily Planet. She also occasionally heard from Mrs. Kent, who'd always made her feel a part of the family. Halfway through the recount of her last chat with Martha, Lex had swiftly turned his head and looked out of the window, an ominous frown on his face. He didn't answer her, but instead lent forward and pressed the speaker button.
There was no answer, which was unusual, and Lex' frown deepened. He repeated his summons but once again received no answer. He felt Lana tense slightly beside him and her voice was taut.
"What's wrong, Lex?"
"It's nothing. The microphone's probably broken."
Lex turned to give her what he hoped was a reassuring smile but it quickly faded at the look she gave him. She wasn't fooled by his smile anymore than she was by his words, but nonetheless appreciated what he was trying to do. With a small smile she lent forward and laid a reassuring hand on his sleeve. She was about to repeat her question when they both felt the limo come to an abrupt stop. Looking out of the window, Lana struggled to see that they were in a darkened alley, surrounded by tall warehouses, and a million miles away from the glittering front of their apartment building. Trying to keep her voice calm, and control her steadily increasing pulse, Lana turned back to Lex.
"There was something wrong with Sam. He wouldn't talk to me. I think he was scared of something."
Lana had hoped that it was nothing, that Lex would try to reassure her again but that idea died a quick death as she saw shock momentarily crack Lex' ever calm exterior. He didn't question her any further and quickly reached over to a panel in the door. Reaching his hand inside, he felt for the cool touch of metal but there was nothing. He had feared this as soon as Sam had failed to reply, but Lana' words, and now the absence of the gun had confirmed it. Taking a deep breath, Lex turned to his wife. He didn't care what was going to happened to him, but he had to keep Lana safe........
On both sides the doors of the limo were thrown open and two pairs of strong hands roughly grabbed his arms and shoulders and dragged him backwards out of the car. He heard Lana' little cry of shock as she was wrestled from the car as well and began kicking his legs and twisting his arms to break free of their painful grip. White hot pain slashed through his skull as he was struck round the back of his head with what felt like a gun butt. The blow almost knocked him to his knees but his captors held him up. Through his pain he could hear Lana' voice and turned his head in that direction. Unlike him she only had one man to hold her, but she was putting up quite a fight and Lex could tell the man was struggling. Any other time Lex would have smiled with pride that Lana could almost outdo a man twice her size. Any thoughts of smiling were quickly destroyed though, as he watched another man walk up to her and slap her hard across the face. Lex felt the blow as though he had been struck and black fury engulfed him. He struggled harder than before and kicked his legs at the men holding him, satisfied when he heard a grunt as his foot connected with a body part. He carried on his fight until he heard Lana gasp and he snapped his head around to face her. The sight that met him made his blood run cold. The man who had hit her had her chin in a harsh grip, forcing her to expose her neck to him, and in the other hand was a knife. Even from here Lex could see the marks it was leaving on Lana' smooth skin and her eyes were shining with tears of fear and pain. Their eyes met for a moment until the man pressed the sharp blade harder into her neck and Lana closed her eyes and involuntarily let out a whimper of pain.
His voice was urgent and the man turned to him with a look of satisfaction on his face.
"Something wrong, Luthor?"
Using a lifetime of practice, Lex took control of his raging emotions and kept his face and voice perfectly neutral. They would use it against him if they knew how much he cared about Lana and he knew that last outburst would cost him.
"Look. I don't care what you want, or what you want to do, just let her go. I swear I'll do whatever you want if you let her go. This had nothing to do with her."
An ugly and humourless grin appeared on the other mans face. He twisted the knife as he spoke.
"You swear, do you? And what kind of idiot do you think I am? Everyone knows you can't trust a Luthor."
Every head turned to face the origin of the voice, and they watched as a tall, dark haired man appeared from the shadows. He was less domineering than the rest, but had an air of sophistication about him that made him seem even more of a threat. He casually strolled towards Lex, only stopping inches in front of him. He regarded Lex in silence for a while before addressing the other man, never taking his eyes of him.
"Contrary to popular opinion, Mr Luthor does have the capacity to be trustworthy, but it is only ever when his wife is concerned. However, at this moment, that doesn't matter, because I'm afraid this has everything to do with her."
With that he nodded his head in Lana' direction and took a step back. The man with the knife removed it from her neck, and he and the man holding Lana began forcing her back towards the limo. She fought against there hold on her but stopped in shock when her eyes feel upon the man standing near the front of the limo.
He raised his friendly brown eyes to met hers and they were pain shadowed and imploring her for forgiveness.
"They've got Katie and Brian. There was nothing else I could do. They said they'd kill them if I didn't help them. Please. You have to believe me."
Lex' voice cut off her reply. He was looking at his opponent with hatred etched into every line of his face. His eyes were as cold and hard as steel and Lana felt a sliver of fear. It had been a long time since she'd seen him like this.
"If you think that I am just going to stand here and let you get away with this you are sorely mistaken. Excuse the cliche, but over my dead body. And if you do take her, I swear I will make you pay for it. There is no where you can go where I can't find you."
"I'm perfectly aware of that, Mr Luthor, but I suggest you look closer to home for who you are going to make "pay for this"." He stepped further back and reached inside his jacket.
"And as for taking her over your dead body......"
Lana' cry was drowned out by the sharp crack of a gun as Lex landed in a heap on the floor.
"That's fine with me."
Lana kicked and scratched and flayed her arms frantically whilst hot tears streamed down her face. The harder she fought the harder her captor held her but she tried anyway. She had to get to Lex. She had to know he was alive.
"Lex! Lex, please! LEX!"
Clutching the wound on his left chest, Lex rolled onto his back and fought to stay conscious. It hurt to move and breathe and through the pain he could feel the layers of his clothing being soaked with blood. He could feel its warmth on his fingers. Black spots began to appear on his vision and a dull numbness was beginning to spread throughout his body, but the sound of someone calling his name still made its way into his foggy brain. Turning his head he blinked several times to bring the blurry image into focus. He could see only strangers, with the exception of one person who he reached his blood covered hand out to, their eyes meeting and his voice a strangled whisper.
Left there in a pool of his own blood, Lex could only watch as the limo pulled away and he finally lost his fight for consciousness.
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