#RunningWilde Ch. 46 | Absolut - FULL VERSION

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Love and hate

How much more are we supposed to tolerate

Can't you see there's more to me than my mistakes

Sometimes I get this feeling - makes me hesitate

 

-Love & Hate

Michael Kiwanuka

 

Night air screamed through the holes and cracks of the old barn deep in the field off the side of the motorway and made the heavily rusted iron tools hanging from various fixtures creak and clang together like the ghosts of an overworked chain gang. Every fresh gust of wind stirred the stale scent of damp, rotten wood and hay and fermented cow dung around.

Ava frowned as she moved further in, clutching a bottle of vodka, prompted by Aiden and the groaning man slung over his good shoulder. She covered her nose and mouth with her other hand, holding her breath for good measure to lessen the taste of decay from settling on the back of her tongue.

“Do we have to do this here?” she grunted behind tightly squeeze fingers, “It reeks.”

Aiden dropped Junie on the ground in the centre of the barn floor, ignoring his howls. She flinched. “Stop complaining.” He turned in a slow circle and surveyed his surroundings; high beams, stacks of hay undoubtedly scattered around the floor by the rodents that hid within them, meat hooks stained with dried blood, iron chains, pitch forks, buckets with the bottoms missing, and… “Hand me that rope.” He grabbed a thick iron chain with a hook hanging from it from off the wall and looked up at the central beam above Junie’s body. “Perfect,” he smiled with steely eyes.

Ava shifted her footing, “Are you going to hang him?” she frowned.

His steely eyes snapped to her with a tone to match, “Get the rope, Ava-Marie.”

She stepped away from him and hugged the vodka bottle to her chest, “Okay.” She trudged through the rotten hay and skipped over thick clumps of animal faeces, stirring up families of blue bottle flies into erratic buzzing tornadoes that she swatted at and ran away from. Like everything else in the neglected vicinity that was able to collect any moisture, the rope was damp and rotten, covered with more of those disgusting flies, wound around a thick nail that had bowed so much over the years that she was sure it was glad to be rid of the weight. She grimaced when it made contact with her skin and heaved when the concentrated smell of decay flowed directly into her already abused nostrils. She glared at Aiden’s back.

He was busy flinging the chained hook behind him and launching it into the air over and over until it sailed up and over the top of the wooden beam. He furrowed his brow and tugged on it. When the beam didn’t collapse and take the rest of the barn with it he made a satisfied sound.  He held his hand out behind him and tugged some more just to be sure, “Rope.”

She trudged back to him through the cloud of flies and cursed when her trainers sunk into a pile of dung she’d successfully avoided the first time around. “I hate this fucking barn.”

Aiden peered over his shoulder at her, “Complain again and your little boyfriend won’t be the only one tied up in this fucking barn.” His dark, steely eyes held her glare until she looked away. She shrugged the rope off of her shoulder into his palm in silence. “Good girl.”

She stilled, his infrequent coveted praise giving her a soft flutter of that warm feeling in her chest -for a moment -then scowled at him harder than before.

He smirked to himself and dropped the rope next to Junie, then pulled Ash’s mora knife blades out of their sheaths strapped to his ankles and calves and laid them carefully on the ground in order of size. He ran his finger tips across them, the way one would across piano keys, exhaled and smiled.

“What if he doesn’t talk?”

“Everyone talks to me. Open the vodka.” He sat Junie upright, holding onto his shoulder so he wouldn’t topple over and stretched out his leg. Junie groaned. “Pour it onto his knee. Not too much, we’ll need quite a bit of that for later.”

Ava edged closer and dribbled a small amount over Junie’s gunshot wound.

“AAAAAAHHHHH!” he howled, fully conscious, his eyes wide and staring at Ava, “FUCKING BITCH!”

Aiden grabbed his face and turned it to face him, making Junie suddenly remember that he was there and that Vince’s daughter pouring alcohol into his open wound was the least of his worries. He whimpered.

“Apologise.”

“Fuck you!”

“Do it again,” he nodded at the bottle.

Ava was quicker to pour this time. Junie screamed. “Fucking bitch!” she spat.

“Apologise,” Aiden repeated, fighting the smile that played around the corners of his mouth. She was developing a mean streak. He could work with a mean streak.

“Sorry!”

“Good.” He crouched down to his level, “Now that we have your full attention, I have a few questions for you.”

“You think I’m telling you shit?”

“Oh, I know you will.” He picked up the smallest of the four blades and pressed the tip of it against Junie’s cheek. Junie tried to pull back, but Aiden kept his head firmly in place. He dragged the blade lightly from the corner of his mouth to the base of his earlobe, “Because all of those stories that you’ve heard about me,” he circled the blade to the back of his ear, “They’re all true.”

SLICE.

“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! FUCK! MY FUCKING EAR! YOU CUT OFF MY FUCKING EAR!”

“Yes, I did.” He laid the ear on the ground in front of the knives. Ava’s mouth fell open. The cut was so clean that it looked like it came off of a morbid Mr Potatohead toy. Aiden wiped the blood on the blade off on Junie’s shirt, “So that means that you have to listen extra carefully.”

“You’re fucking crazy!”

Aiden ignored him; “Grab his arms.”

Ava was still staring at the lone ear on the ground. She looked at Junie and her heart sank for him. This was just the beginning and it was already worse than either of them could have imagined.

“Why are you doing what he says? He kidnapped you and killed your dad. He’s a fucking psychopath.”

“He is,” she frowned at him, “But he’s never planned to rape me then take me back to someone who wants me dead.” She moved behind him and grabbed his arms, “Better the devil you know.”

“I was never gonna rape you_”

“I heard you!” She yanked them backwards, “You even had the audacity to laugh about it. So yes, I will help the psychopath. Whatever he does to you, you deserve it.”

Junie cackled and shook his head, “He’s got your head all messed up, girly. Yeah, I heard you moaning on top of the boot. He’s got you playing his little whore and you’re loving it, aren’t you?” he grinned, old blood and saliva sitting in the spaces between his teeth. Ava tightened her grip on his wrists. “You’ll do whatever he says, as long as he keeps sticking his cock in you. Stupid girl! You’re gonna end up just like that red headed bitch_”

BOOM!

Fresh blood exploded through the gaps of Ava’s open palm and down the side of Junie’s face, as a deep throbbing ringing sound sang between his temples. Slapping the earless side of his head seemed like a good idea up until she’d done it. It was all warm, wet, red stickiness and pieces of carved gristle and tender flesh that had come into contact with her bare skin. It was gross. It was worth it.

“AAAAAAHHHHH! FUCKING BITCH!”

“I will never be her,” she hissed. She pulled his arms back behind him and narrowed her eyes at Aiden, silently relaying the same message.

Aiden nodded. He was never trying to make her into Ashleigh anyway.

Ava was never going to let him.

He grabbed the rope, wrapped it around Junie’s waist and made a thick loop in the back then hoisted him to his feet. Junie screamed. “Calm down. It’ll all be over soon.” He lifted the loop behind Junie’s back onto the hook then took the end of the iron chain and gave it a huge yank and secured it around a vertical beam. Junie’s writhing figure levitated a foot off the ground. The barn creaked. “Let’s get started shall we,” Aiden smiled his most psychotic smile, playing into Junie’s description of him with glee. He stalked back over to the blades laid out on the ground, but this time he picked up the largest one. “Pay attention, Ava-Marie. You might learn something.” His eyes darkened.

 

*

 

The barn door swung open and slapped against the frame as Ava burst through it, running at full speed with both hands clamped over her mouth and water prickling her eyes. A loud scream followed behind her, then instantly muffled when the door swung back shut. She kept going until it was as faint enough not to make out where one scream ended and another one begun. She keeled over, beads of sweat rolled down her face and her hands braced on top of her shaky knees as she wretched greying clumps of chips and bile onto the grass. There was no way she was going back in there. She didn’t want to learn how to do any of that.

Another tortured cacophony of Junie’s screams floated out between the cracks in the building, long, loud and raw. She clamped her hands over her ears and squeezed her eyes shut, but when she did all she could see was Aiden’s glossy monochromatic red hands, armed with his beloved blades of his beloved, skilfully slicing away another small piece of Junie’s flesh. Junie had gone from not being as handsome, to being completely indistinguishable. Along with only having one ear, he had several finger nails missing, the tip of his nose was a flat, jagged surface with a beacon of white bone peeking through the highest point of the cut, no nipples and one eyelid torn away so that one eyeball was constantly staring right at her, trying to see past the thick stream of blood as he begged them to stop.

It was her job to splash vodka in his wounds whenever he seemed like he would pass out from he pain. She wished death on him as a kindness. She shouldn’t feel bad for him, not after what he’d revealed, but no one should be put through what Aiden was putting him through. There was no way Junie would last the hour, let alone the night.

Ten minutes later it was finally silent. The barn door squeaked, and Aiden soon appeared behind her, wiping his sticky hands on a grubby flannel.

She kept her eyes forward, “Is he dead?”

“Not yet.” He scraped darkened drying blood from underneath his nails with the smallest blade.

“You got all the information you need?”

“Yes. You should have stayed to hear it for yourself.”

“I couldn’t.”

“I know. You still should have.”

She imagined the bleeding eye looking at her again and shook her head to get rid of it. “What else did he say?”

Aiden was silent for a moment. He wiped the blade on the bottom of his shirt and tucked it back into the sheath by his ankle. “In the glove compartment there are a pack of matches. Bring them.”

She looked at him. His face was unreadable, his eyes empty, but his jaw was tight. “Aiden, what did he say?”

“Do as you’re told, Ava-Marie.”

She opened her mouth, tempted to press, but after what she’d witnessed him do without flinching or breaking a sweat, the urge shrunk back. She returned with the matches and held them out to him. He didn’t take them from her, and instead, turned to face the barn.

“As you’re aware, these were your Godfather’s men sent to capture you and take you back to him. In the event of your death, everything your father left to you goes to Chris. He was hoping you’d sign it over to him, but if you didn’t…” his jaw tightened.

“He was going to have me killed,” she finished for him.

“And pin it on me. The only person trying to keep you alive.”

She frowned and wondered if it would ever not hurt to hear it. That if after maybe ten more times it would sink in and the sting of the only family she thought she had left wanting her dead would reduce itself to a dull ache, or if she could just numb herself to it completely.

“Now for the stuff you missed,” his voice became heavier and he gripped the sticky rag, his mask of indifference falling away.

She stood with her feet together, her back ramrod straight and her chin jutting out, as if steeling her body could protect her mind. “How bad is it?”

Aiden shook his head and chuckled. A lick of ice slipped down her spine. It wasn’t an amusing sound. “It was all him. Everything.” His knuckles cracked as his grip tightened around the rag, “Junie says this whole fucking mess we’re in is because of Chris.”

She shifted footing, “What do you mean?”

“My brudda never stole from your Dad!” his voice grew louder, all elocution disappearing from his dialect like it never existed, “It was that dick’ead Chris from the jump. He pinned it Keegz knowing that your dad would react that way. The Mafia ain’t on his level, init. We’re ghetto trash to him. Couple of thugs from the block. That’s why he never sat down with me. He didn’t respect me,” He threw the rag to the ground, “He wanted to make an example of us instead. Keep the blacks in line.”

Ava put her hand on her hip, “I highly doubt that was it, Aiden.”

He kissed his teeth, “Of course it was.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m half black. My mum, his wife, was a black woman. My dad wasn’t racist.”

Aiden rolled his eyes like he wanted to say more but didn’t have the time. “I’m not gonna debate it with you, I’m just telling you what I know, init, and what I know is how some of them man move with man that look like me. I’m a fuckin’ serious guy, Chris knew that, and he knew your dad wouldn’t sit down with me because I don’t look like him. That’s where he fucked up, ‘cause I ain’t one of these hype yout’s doing road. I’m a proper fuckin’ business man,” he slapped his chest. “Part of being successful in this business, you’ve got to know how to find your competition’s weakness and exploit it. It’s no secret that I’m good at that. Chris knew I’d find Vince’s weakness,” he looked at Ava, “His weakness was you.” A lump formed in Ava’s throat. “He knew if anyone fucked with you, Vince would lose his shit. That’s why my brother is dead. My brother, your father, Sophia, Ashleigh, Yang, my…” Aiden took a breath. “Chris orchestrated all of this to take control of The Syndicate. He’s the reason we lost everyone we…everyone we…” his voice grew too thick to finish the sentence. He cleared his throat and pressed his hands into the prayer position, “None of this had to happen.”

She felt the way he said this. It was all too much, all so underserving and unfair for one greedy man to burn down a house just so he could stake his claim on the land. There were rooms in that house, filled with a lot of love and memories, and he’d selfishly taken it away from both of them. “He really planned all of this?”

“That’s what Junie told me. You’re the last person in his way, Ava-Marie,” he stepped closer to her, “He’s not gonna stop till you’re gone.”

That only left her with one option.

She looked at the barn, “Tell me what to do.”

Aiden looked down at Ava; her jaw was set, her small fists curled around the packet of matches so tightly that it folded in on itself and her nails etched pale half-moons into her palms, and a line of hot unmoving liquid coated her lash line. There was a fire in her that he hadn’t seen before; it made her eyes glow like embers and heat pulse out of her skin bringing colour to her cheeks. Like a moth he was drawn to her flame, ready and willing to be burnt. He took her hands into his and smoothed them out. “Stay with me,” he whispered, “I’ll take care of you.”

She looked down at their hands, hers soft and small, his large and rough, dried blood marking out the map of his skin. “I don’t want you to take care of me,” she pulled away and frowned at him, then to his surprise, she took his hands and showed them to him, “But I’ll stay if you show me how to do this.”

He cocked his brow, “To torture people?”

“Everything.” She pressed his palms together and lowered them, so nothing obscured her determined eyes from showing him how much she meant what she said. “Teach me how to do what you do so that I can take care of myself. All of it.”

“Ava-Marie,” his voice slipped back into his controlled version, “This is not the life for you.”

“Well I’m in it, Aiden, whether I like it or not.”

“I know but being it in and living it are two different things. What I do…what you want to learn…Ava-Marie, you’re too_”

“Good?”

He touched her cheek, “Yes.”

“I don’t want to be good,” she stepped away breaking their contact, “I want control of my life. Uncle Chris…Chris is trying to take the only thing I have left.”

“Ava-Marie, it’s just money.”

“It’s not just money! It’s what my father built. It’s what he left to me. It’s respect. It’s mine,” she yelled. “After everything that has happened I have no choice but to accept that this piece of shit world is my life now, so if I’ve got no way out I need to know how to do more than survive, Aiden. You should understand that more than anyone.”

He blinked at her, “You’re serious?”

“Yes.” She took his hand, and softened her tone, “If you promise you’ll help me, I’ll stay with you. That’s the deal. Okay?”

“Okay,” he nodded. “Your first lesson,” he turned her to face the barn then lifted her hand with the crushed packet of matches, “No loose ends.” She looked back at him and the once assured tension in her back flowed down and out of her as she melted into a puddle of nerves. Aiden didn’t make eye contact, “It’s okay if you can’t.”

She wanted to tell him she couldn’t. That all the rage she’d felt had dissipated the moment the weight of the task ahead hit her. Carjacking was bad, but it wasn’t this bad. It wasn’t burning an already brutally tortured man alive. It wasn’t murder.

“He’ll scream.”

“No, he won’t,” he pulled her towards the barn, “I cut his tongue out.”

He held the door open for her and she was met by the aftermath of Aiden’s torture session. “Oh my god.” She covered her mouth and looked away as bile swirled in her stomach.

“Look at him,” he ordered, “This is what you wanna learn, right?”

She peeked and instantly closed her eyes again. The scene before her was grotesque; a human being hacked apart and hanging from a rope, bleeding out with his missing body parts lined up in a neat row before him.

“I really don’t think you’re cut out for this.”

“Give me a minute,” she snapped. She inhaled deeply followed by deep regret; the salty metal scent of blood mixed with the damp and decay of the barn, rotting animal faeces, plus what she was sure was fresh faeces emanating from Junie, made what she hadn’t already thrown up of her half plate of chips, rise up into her throat. “I think I’m gonna throw up.”

“You should go.”

“No!” she bent over and put her head between her legs to halt the sensation, “Tell me how to block it out.”

“The smell? Afraid I can’t help you with that,” he laughed.

“Are you really trying to be funny right now?”

“Guess not.” He moved next to her, “Stand up and keep your eyes closed.” She followed his instructions, trying her best to ignore the resumption of the sensation. “The trick to getting through shit like this is not to think so much about what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it. Remember your why, and you can do anything.” He put his hands on her shoulders, “Tell me your why.”

“He was helping Chris. They’ve ruined my life and now they’re trying to kill me.”

“Good. How did they ruin your life?”

“They made me lose everything.”

“What have you lost?”

“My Dad. Max. My friends. My home. Everything.” Her chest tightened with ever factor mentioned.

“Okay. What will happen if you don’t kill him?”

“He’ll bleed out?” she shrugged.

“Or someone could help him, and he could survive.”

“Seriously? It’s highly unlikely_”

“But it’s not impossible. What will happen if you don’t kill him?”

She chewed on the inside of her cheek as the possibilities raced around her head. “He could go back to Chris, say he found me. Tell him what we know.”

“And what will that mean for you?”

Her eyes snapped open, “They’ll have a better chance of killing me.”

“So how are you gonna make sure that doesn’t happen?”

She opened her eyes with her why at the forefront of her mind, picked up the vodka from the floor and walked towards Junie. She opened the bottle and poured the remaining contents on his clothes and the hay beneath him, “Get rid of all the evidence.”

Ava-Marie Lockewood lit a match.  


Thanks for reading, fancy faces! I've been focusing on developing Ava's character and I wanna know how you guys are finding her so far. Please let me know in the comments below ^-^

Love Scotty x

Running Wilde Ch. 45 | You Can Run (Full Version)

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I see something in you, I know that it's crazy 'cause girl I just met you

But we joining forces 'cause that would be gorgeous

No girl, I won't let up

I just rolled the dice so no more thinkin' twice

Destiny she won't fail us

If you feel what I feel can you just keep it real

Baby, it ain't no pressure

 

Glock Six

-6lack

 

Aiden swerved into the car park of the diner and sprung out of the car before it had even come to a complete halt. He bolted down the narrow alleyway on the side of the restaurant, where he’d last left her, hoping to see a coil of candy pink hair, praying that Mighty’s technologically enhanced iWatch on his wrist was wrong.

“Ava-Marie?” he called into the still of the night when he saw no signs of her. He gritted his teeth and looked back at his wrist. The green pulses of his sonar tracker showed Ava miles away, so far that he couldn’t estimate how long it would take to track her down.

His heart tremored uncomfortably.

She really was gone.

“Fuck!”

He sprinted back to the car and took off in the opposite direction he was meant to go, back onto the M1, pushing the engine well over the speed limit as he dialled a number into his latest burner phone.

“Mighty?” his breath rushed out of him the moment the ringing stopped.

“Boss, you okay?” Mighty frowned into the receiver. The unfiltered concern in his tone made Aiden clear his throat and take a slow, hushed breath.

“Ava-Marie is missing.” He said steadily, “The tracker shows her miles away on the M1. She’s moving fast. She has to be in a car. Before I do anything, I need to know what kind of car.”

“You think feds got to her?”

“I hope not. Find her coordinates and access the cameras so I know what I’m dealing with.”

“I’m on it.”

Deft fingers clicked frantic rhythms across the keyboard.

The silence on the line that followed felt like saying goodbye to an old acquaintance, then walking in the same direction and realising that you might have to hold another awkward conversation. “It’s just loading now.” Mighty filled it.

“Yeah.”

More silence.

“The M1 has a lot of cameras, so you know…”

“Yup.”

Even more silence.

“Almost done.”

Aiden didn’t bother to reply. He was tightly wound as it was and this unnecessary small talk with Mighty was only winding him up further. He wanted answers, not idle chit chat.

“I’ve got eyes on her,” Mighty said finally, his voice lighter, “Good news, she’s not in a police car, so we can rule that out.”

Aiden almost relaxed into his seat. “Bad news?”

“It’s not necessarily bad…it’s…interesting. The Lockewood girl is alone.”

“Alone?” he frowned. He was sure that if she wasn’t in a police car then she must have hitched a ride, after all she was a sheltered rich girl and it was the most naïve option, so he didn’t imagine she’d do anything else -except, it appeared she had. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Why was this girl set on making a complicated situation even more complicated that it had to be? Once again, he was trying to avoid the police, but now instead of picking her up and getting the hell out of dodge as he’d planned, he had to chase after her to stop her from fucking up what little progress they’d made.

“Yes. Alone. And she’s singing.”

 

*

 

Ava sped down the motorway and screeched The 1975 at the top of her lungs. Her voice sounded like a drunken parrot, and did the song more harm than good, but she didn’t care. It felt good to lose herself in her musical interlude and pretend she was just a university student obsessed with Matty Healy again. It felt good to head bang and do poor air guitar impersonations like she used to do with her friends back in their dorms as they were getting ready for a night out.

“He’s got his gun. He’s got his suit on. She says, ‘Babe, you look sooooo cooooool_”

A horn blowing at her from the car in the next lane snapped her out of her concert.

She immediately stopped dancing and screeching and sat up straight, pretending that she had never been doing that, because despite what she was singing, she looked far from cool.

“AVA-MARIE!”

Her head snapped to her left. “No fucking way!”

There he was, Aiden, keeping pace alongside her. Livid. She felt all of the lightness rush out of her stomach and her body grow heavy with the weight of the shackles she thought she’d broken free of.

“Pull over. Now!”

“No,” she whispered to herself. She slapped her palms against the steering wheel, “No, no, NO!” She hit the wheel even harder, then glared accusingly at the skies, “I was free!”

“PULL OVER!”

She smashed her foot down on the accelerator and the Volkswagen lurched forward.

Aiden’s jaw tightened, “This gyal must think I’m ramping with her.” He shifted gears pushed his car faster.

“One last chance. Pull over.”

She gripped the steering wheel, gritted her teeth and muttered a string of profanities that Aiden couldn’t make out, and leant forward as if sheer determination would enable her to outrun him, even though fate clearly had other plans for her.  

He sighed and pushed his car faster than he knew the VW would go, thankful for the late night and empty roads. He swerved in front of her and swung his car around so that it sat horizontally, blocking both of their lanes.

Her foot slammed on the break and the tires screeched against the tarmac. Before she could think to swerve into the next lane, Aiden whipped out his gun and shot the front tires. He heard her curse words this time. It was a strange comfort. He’d grown used to her swearing at him as of late. He tucked his gun into his harness and marched over to her door, only to be met by the barrel of the gun he’d given her.

His eyes flashed. “Put it down before I put you across my knee,” he growled.

She opened her mouth then closed it. It had been a while since he’d said anything remotely sadistic or had been this openly angry with her. It coaxed beloved unwanted memories to the surface.

She rolled her shoulders back, put her other hand on the gun and pointed it at his face, “How did you find me.”

Bent at the waist, Aiden brought his face level to Ava’s and looked past the gun. “You knew I would find you. You wanted me to.”

She broke eye contact.

“I didn’t want you to find me. I was hoping they’d kill you.”

“No, you didn’t.” He moved closer. “You’re mine, Ava-Marie,” his eyes slid slowly down her neck to her rose gold collar, “So I will always find you.” When they flicked back up to her, steeled with his solemnity, she swallowed. “Always.”

His promise intertwined seamlessly with his threat and made her heart constrict…and flutter.

Ava flexed her fingers around the handle and pressed the tip of the barrel to the small gap between his brows. He didn’t flinch.  “I did. I made it this far without you, Aiden. I’ve proven that I don’t need you. I can take care of myself.”

“I can see that.” Despite his anger, the corner of his mouth turned up into an almost smile. He carefully pushed the gun down. “How’d you get the car?”

She looked away, “I stole it.” Her cheeks turned red at the thought of poor Roy deserted in the middle of the field.

His smile broke through in a full-on eruption of white teeth. “That’s my girl,” he said proudly.

“I’m not yours, Aiden,” she sneered, lifting the gun back up, “I haven’t been yours for a while.”

He pushed it away with more force, and scoffed, “What? Because of your tantrums?”

Her eyes widened, “Tantrums? You think these are tantrums?”

“You think they aren’t?” Aiden reached to open her car door and she hit the lock. He frowned, “Open the door.”

“Fuck off,” she glared at him.

He reached inside the car and flipped the lock off but the moment he let go she flipped it back. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re behaving like a brat.”

“You’re not taking me seriously.”

“You’re not doing serious shit.” He kissed his teeth and reached in again, then yanked the door open before she could repeat her counter action. “Let’s go.”

“I stole a car_”

“So, you stole a car, big whoop! Now you’re a criminal. Maybe now this means you’ll finally get off of your holier than thou bullshit. Now can you come the fuck on, the police are coming.”

She slumped forward and banged her head on the steering wheel, “This is exactly what I didn’t want.”

“So you stole a car?”

“Don’t say it like I’m stupid!”

“Maybe if you didn’t act like you were_”

She jumped out of the car and barrelled into him, driving hm back, her face contorted in fury, “How did you find me?”

“I knew you’d head back to London. That’s what a stupid person would do.”

“If you call me stupid one more time_”

He stood taller, “You’ll what?”

As her gun went back up Aiden matched her action. She stilled. “We’ve both got guns, Ava-Marie,” he tilted his head to the side, “Now what?”

She looked from him to his pistol, then scoffed. “You won’t shoot me.”

“You’re getting on my nerves, and we both know how impulsive I am.” He stepped into her gun. “But to be honest, I really would rather put you across my knee.”

Ava edged back, her pulse spiking and her skin warming at second mention of it. “You wouldn’t dare.”

He matched her step, “We both know I would.” He slipped his gun back into its holster, “You’re well overdue some discipline, Ava-Marie. I‘ve been patient with you, hoping that if I gave you time to process the shit we’re in, that you would stop being such a brat and behave.” He loped closer to her slowly, carefully, fixing his eyes on her, holding her in place, and Ava watched him move closer, and closer, and closer, until his towering bulk blocked out the moon and all she could see was him, all broad shoulders, thick limbs, heaving muscles encased in skin so dark he almost melted into the night. He was so close that his heat eased the sting of the breeze through her thin shirt and yet when his body skimmed against hers ever so slightly, her nipples grew harder. Aiden pretended not to notice, but his nature betrayed him, twitching and swelling, pressing against the confines of his trousers, filling the space and fighting to point in her direction. He tilted his head, regarding her, his face stern and unyielding, noting how she almost shrunk beneath him. His voice came huskier than he intended, “I want to make you behave, Ava-Marie.”

The change in his tone sparked her intuition, and just like in the restaurant, that all too familiar feeling came alive, but this time she didn’t know how to stop it. Her butterflies were erratic at the thought of what he’d been holding back all these weeks…and how good it would feel to feel that release his power permitted.

She tried to back away but his large hands wrapped around her slender wrists and his eyes darkened, “Thirty-Eight.” He quoted her number, pulling her back to the playroom.

Thirty-eight stings from the flogger…thirty-eight caresses of his full lips scattered across her flushed naked flesh.

She dropped her gaze and blew air out of her mouth.

 “I want to double it. Triple it.” He pulled her hard against him, “I want you hot, and red, so much so that you won’t be able to sit for a fortnight.” His other hand pressed into her back and travelled up her spine into the damp pink curls tumbling down the nape of her neck. He made a fist and yanked her head up. “I want to alternate each strike, from front to back. I want to make you ache, inside and out, and once I’m certain you’ve learned your lesson, I want to fuck you. Hard.” He lowered his face till it was less than an inch from hers, “Then I want to watch you come for me.”

She swallowed.

“But I’ve been patient with you, Ava-Marie -so, so patient -and yet you continue to try me.” He moved her hand between them and unabashedly pressed it to the base of his rigidness. It twitched in her palm and he pulled air between his teeth. He waited to see if she would snatch it away, but when she made no move and her breathing became more pronounced, he started to move it up and down, stroking his length with her touch. “But I’m starting to think, that with this little running away stunt, that maybe you’re not as angry with me as you think. You’re acting out because, with all that’s been going on, I’ve neglected you.”

“I am angry with you,” she whispered. Her hand squeezed his hardness with more force than he was comfortable with.

He bit his lip and grunted, “I’m sorry for making you angry.”

“You will be.”

He lent in closer and bumped he tips of their noses together, “Are you threatening me, Ava-Marie?” he purred.

Though her body quivered, when she spoke her voice was still, “Yes, Aiden Michaels.”

He groaned and pressed his mouth to hers, hissing when she bit his bottom lip and moaning when she ran her tongue across it. He picked her up and placed her on top of his car boot then stepped between her legs and gripped her hips to pull their centres together.

“It feels like forever…since I’ve touched you,” he said huskily between ravenous kisses.

“You don’t deserve to touch me,” she breathed, tugging on his shirt and clawing at his back.

“That only makes me want to do it more.” He thrust his erection harder against her.

Ava gasped.

He pulled back. “Earlier at the diner, when I had to distract you from giving us away,” he trailed the tip of his nose across he cheekbones and breathed her in, “I wanted to fuck you right there, in front of everybody. It was that bad.” He curled his waist and grinded against her, “It is that bad.”

Ava moaned and opened her legs wider.

Another moan followed and they both froze.

“Who was that?” her yes darted around into the darkness of the surrounding fields.

“Oh,” he released her and put her back o the ground, “How could I forget. I got you a gift.”

The moaning sound came again. Her eyes landed on the boot. She stepped back and glared at him. “Aiden…is there someone in there?”

He popped the trunk and smiled at her, “I brought your boyfriend back to you.”

“Oh my…fuck!” Junie looked much less attractive with his face and neck holding prints of the sole of Aiden’s boots and his clothes soaked in blood. “You got him good.”

Aiden tilted his head and blinked at her, “You’re not mad?”

“No,” she glared at Junie, “I heard them talking back at the diner. They were coming after me, to take me back to Uncle Chris. He said he was going to fuck me first.”

“Is that right?” he said as he regarded Junie with renewed interest and something else that made Ava shift her footing. He slammed the boot closed, all traces of lust gone away, “Get in.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to get some answers.”

“You’re going to torture him.”

He locked eyes with her, “I’m going to torture the fuck out of him.”

“Aiden…”

“What?” he snapped.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.”

“Do you have a better idea?”

“No, but_”

“Then come on.”

Running Wilde Ch. 44 | Cherry Bomb (Full Version)

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Can you roll down a window?

I just wanna feel the wind blow in my face

Cause these moments come one blink at a time

That's why I never wanna close my eyes

I can feel the riot in the air tonight

Kinda trouble you can taste

-The Thrill

Miguel

 

Ava had been walking for thirty minutes, sticking to the shadows with her cap pulled low, her shoulders hunched and her arms hugging her unusually thin frame, in an effort to keep the cool night air from slipping into her jacket. This was but a small sample of what the harshness of the world, broke and on her own, had to offer. She gritted her teeth against the bite of the wind. To be a survivor she had to steel herself against discomfort, after all, in the grand scheme of escaping her conflicted captor, and now her god father’s men, this was nothing.

The gun resting against her hip reminded her of that.

For the umpteenth time on her great escape, she wondered if he was okay. If the Syndicate men had caught up to him. If they’d been successful…

She shook the thought away. Entertaining the possibility that Aiden had lost (annoyingly) made her feel a little lost. He was awful and she hated him (she reminded herself), but Aiden was the last person she knew had her back no matter what. He couldn’t die. In this new world of guns and grey areas, lost was the last thing she wanted to feel.

She had to be brave.

She was heading back in the direction of the hotel. With all the guest travelling through there, she figured it would make it much easier to hitch a ride…though maybe the amount of opportunity had probably dwindled since she and Aiden (mostly Aiden) had left a pile of bodies and traumatised people behind. She’d make sure not to get too close. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for another run in with the police just yet.

She’d thought about turning herself in. It was the simplest option, but with no idea what would happen if she went into custody, the thought unsettled her. It didn’t matter that she was just as much a victim in this as anyone else. She knew she hadn’t done anything wrong…aside from taser a man…but that was in a (futile) attempt to save him. She’d also unwillingly been an accessory to several murders. On top of that, she was the daughter of a crime lord -there was no way in hell they’d listen to her.

Aiden and her father had fucked her life up royally.

She eventually came across a rest stop a few miles from the hotel and politely asked to use the bathroom, throwing in that she was on her period for good measure. The male cashier handed her the keys and shooed her away.

Under the starkness of florescent lights, in fingerprint smeared mirror, Ava took a good look at herself. She frowned as she touched her face. It was thinner, her features sharper, her skin blemished and dark circles made her eyes look haunted. Her hands moved to her cap. She tugged it off and cringed when she saw the dull, almost matted state of her hair. If her mother could see her now she’d smack her in her head with a comb like she used to do when Ava was a child, refusing to sit still and kicking up a fuss as her mother tried to style her hair. She undid her two cornrows, tearing her finger tips through the knots that had developed on top of them, then splashed her hair with water till the curls were more a little more manageable and defined. She attempted to finger comb them, but after two weeks of neglect, it was quite reluctant to cooperate.

She splashed her face with cold water, pinched her cheeks to make them rosier, unzipped her coat and tied a knot in the back of her top to make it more form fitting.

It wasn’t the greatest transformation, but until she had better resources, this would have to do.

*

Back on the M1, forcing herself to mentally block out the breeze, with only the thin material of her tightened top to combat it, Ava walked tall with her chest high, nipples as hard as cherry seeds, and her thumb stuck out. She knew the risks that came with hitchhiking, especially as a young woman alone, but she had a gun (that she hoped that she wouldn’t have to use).

Cars zoomed by her for miles but eventually a Volkswagen pulled over.

“You okay there, love?” a middle-aged man frowned at her.

“Um, hi! Hello, sir,” She crouched a little to get a better look at him and gave an awkward wave. What was hitchhiker etiquette anyway? “Thank you so much for stopping. I really need a lift.”

“What on earth are ya doing all the way out ‘ere?”

She inched closer tentatively and gave her best woe is me expression, “My boyfriend and I got into a huge fight and he ditched me. I’ve been walking for miles.”

 “Well now,” his northern accent became more pronounced making him sound warm and sympathetic, like one of those telemarketers that you didn’t immediately hang up on, “That’s not right at all. It’s not safe out ‘ere, especially for a woman…” he put his hands up immediately, “I don’t mean any offence by that.” He pushed up his rectangular wire frame glasses, avoiding her eyes, “I know you are all capable of taking care of ya’selves without men, as me daughters like ta remind me,” he chuckled.

He was a father.

“Anyway,” he scratched the wispy salt and pepper hair around the inner edge of his bald patch, “Where ya headed, love?”

“London.”

“Oh,” he frowned, “Well, I’m going as far as Nottingham, if that helps.”

What other choice did she have? It wasn’t like it mattered anyway. “It helps.”

“Okay, well get in,” he smiled. He shifted a pile of papers, wrappers and cold takeaway from the passenger seat and Ava got in. The heat inside the car was welcomed.

“I s’pose I should introduce me’self. I’m Roy,” his eyes cloudy blue eyes crinkled around the edges and he stuck out his hand. His wedding band glinted in the dashboard lights.

He was a father and a husband.

“A..ven,” she quickly cleared her throat and shook his hand, “Heaven.”

“Nice ta meet ya, Heaven.”

They pulled off down the M1. Her plan was in action.

Ava locked her fingers and twiddled her thumbs but the contact made her palms grow clammier faster. She pressed them against her thighs. “Roy,” she said meekly, “I was wondering if it would be all right if I used your phone to call my parents? All my stuff is in my boyfriend’s car. I wanna let them know I’m okay.”

“Oh sure, sure.” He reached into his coat pocket and produced an outdated smartphone, unlocked the screen and handed it to her. Two small, bright faces beamed up at her from his home screen.

Her face softened, “Aww,” she cooed like you were supposed to when you saw pictures of people’s children, “Are these your daughters?”

“Oh no, I’m too old for that. Those are me grandkids,” he smiled fondly at the little faces. “That’s Joanna and Kaitlyn.”

A father, a husband and a grandfather. She felt three times as terrible as she had when he’d pulled over and turned out not to be a creep. He hadn’t even stared at her pert breasts once.

“They’re adorable.” It was the first honest thing she’d said since getting in his car.

“Don’t let their angelic face fool you,” he chuckled, “They’re little devils, especially Kait.” His smile was far too wide for her to believe that that was what he really thought. He clearly adored them.

Why couldn’t he have been some lecherous sleaze ball? It would have made things a whole lot easier.

Her palms were full on sweaty, to the point that even when she tried to wipe the moisture away on her jeans, a fresh layer replaced it immediately, and an uncomfortable knot was growing and twisting in her stomach. Roy was a good man who had people who loved him waiting on him back home, and unfortunately, he’d been the only one nice enough to come to her rescue.

Damn.

She fake-dialled a number and pressed his phone to her ear. After waiting the appropriate amount of time, she spoke. “Hi Dad…” Her throat grew tight and heat flared up behind her eyes. This conversation wasn’t real and it would never be real again, even if she wanted it to. “I’m…I’m okay,” her voice cracked. Roy frowned at her. She took a deep breath. She had to keep it together, just until this was over. “I’m on my way to Nottingham and I don’t have my phone. …Yeah, but we got in a fight and he ditched me. I know, I know,” she rolled her eyes, imagining how her father would launch into a lecture. She used to hate when he did that. He’d go on and on, getting progressively louder as he made his point, and go off on all sorts of tangents that only vaguely related to the situation. She never thought she’d miss that. She nodded, pretending that that was exactly what he was doing, and in the back of her head it was almost as if she could really hear him telling her how bad Aiden was for her. “I should have listened to you. I’m sorry…” she blinked back the tears that had begun to gather along her waterline. She cleared her throat firmly; keep it together Ava. You just have to get through this. Don’t mess it up now. “Can you come get me, please? …The train station?” She looked at Roy for confirmation and he pursed his lips with a gentle, relieved smile, and nodded. “That’s perfect…Okay. …I love you too.”

She fake hung up and turned Roy’s phone face down in her lap, avoiding Joanna and Kaitlyn’s beaming faces. They were driving past vast fields of darkness now with no other cars surrounding them. She couldn’t waste this opportunity.

“He’s going ta meet ya at the station?”

She sighed. “No.”

“What? Well why the ‘ell not? You’re his kid!” he gripped the steering wheel and his pale face reddened, “That ain’t right!”

Ava pocketed his phone, pulled out the gun and put it to his temple. Her face hardened, “Because my dad is dead.”

“What?” Roy’s grip on the wheel tightened, and his face, once so flushed with emotion, drained, leaving him as white as the taut skin over his knuckles. He leant away from her gun as much as he could, pressing his body against the car door, “What’s happening? What are ya doing?”

Watching this sweet man shrink into himself made the knot in her stomach increase tenfold, but she had to do this to someone, and it truly was a shame that it had to be him.

She gritted her teeth, “Pull over.”

“Please,” he tried to lean even further away from the barrel, “For god’s sake, I ‘ave a family.”

“Pull over, Roy.”

He pulled the car over to the side of the road, his cloudy blue eyes glazed over, checking his mirrors, praying to God that he wouldn’t die tonight, wishing that somebody would pass and see what was happening and help him. Please, somebody. Help.

“Now…” she readjusted her slippery grip on the handle and forced her voice to cut through the quivering in her throat, “Give me your wallet.”

 “Ya don’t need ta do this,” his hands trembled as he produced a worn leather wallet from his jeans.

“Put it on the dashboard,” she gestured with the gun, “Then get out of the car with your hands up.”

He slid his wallet onto the dashboard. “I was trying to help you_”

She squeezed her eyes shut, “Stop. Talking.” She flipped the safety off. The sharp click reverberating through the barrel of the gun silenced him. She welcomed it. His grovelling only made this harder than it had to be. “Hands up and get out slowly.”

She watched him get out and kept the gun trained on him. With his back turned it was okay for her hands to shake, for her shaky breath to blow heavily out of her quivering lips and for her to acknowledge how rapidly and how violently her heart was beating against her ribcage.

She got out of the car and pressed the barrel to his back, “Walk.”

“Are ya going ta kill me?” he whimpered as she marched him towards the field.

Ava didn’t reply.

Once they were far enough away from the motorway, hidden in the dark expanse of the field, she stopped. “Drop your trousers.”

His eyes widened and he gawked at her over his shoulder, “Ya can’t be serious!”

She mimicked Aiden’s slow, calculated head tilt that always had a way of instilling the fear of God in her. “Do I look serious, Roy?”

He swallowed.

She nudged him with the gun, “Drop them and leave them around your ankles.”

She looked the other way as he lowered his jeans, exposing a set of briefs hat had seen better days.

This was humiliating for both of them.

“I don’t believe this,” he muttered and shook his head with a pained laugh, “Ya gonna steal me car, me money and rape me too?”

Ava jumped back, “Rape you? What? Ew! No!” she said shrilly, offended and disgusted that he would think such a thing.  She diverted her eyes again and waved the gun at the grass, “Get on the ground and lie on your front with your hands behind your head.”

Once he was in position she went through his pockets finding only a stick of gum, house keys and a crusty used tissue. She’d made him drop his pants to make things more difficult for him if he decided to get up and chase after her, but she figured hurling his house keys across the dark field may also assist in her escape.

“Seriously!” He sounded more pissed off than frightened now. “I was trying to make sure you got home safe and this…honestly, I…I… What is the matter with ya?”

Her mouth twisted as her guilt bubbled over. “I’m so sorry about this,” she broke.

“Yeah right!”

“No, honestly, I am. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have to.” He moved to turn over but she pushed the gun to his head, “Please stay where you are. I don’t want to hurt you Roy, you’re a good person and I feel truly awful. This isn’t me…” her shoulders slumped, “If I ever make it out of this mess I promise I’ll make it up to you…now, count to 1000.”

“You want me to count?”

She pressed the gun further into his scalp, “Yes.”

As soon as he got to ten, Ava sprinted back to the car, the squishiness of her soft heart pressing through the gaps in her ribs each time it thumped. She could hear it over the sound of her ragged breath that filled her lungs too much, too fast for her to believe she wasn’t about to explode.

She jumped in and pulled off, racing away from what she’d done as if putting distance between herself and the father, the husband, the grandfather laying bottomless in a dark field off the side of the M1, would lessen her guilt.

She felt awful for doing that to him, but…a part of her was also a little proud. She’d done it. Her first successful carjacking, by herself. She didn’t think she’d have the guts to pull it off at first, but desperation had fuelled her determination. She’d run away from that restaurant with nothing but a gun and foolish bravery, and now she had transport, money…and Roy’s cold hamburger in a greasy fast food bag that she flung out of the window with bittersweet glee.

She wound the windows down to help with her mild hyperventilating and turned the radio on to Classic FM. Violins sang sweetly, the wind rushed through her wet hair and her heart slowed.

She smiled.

There would be consequences for this...

But right there...

Right then...

Ava was free.

#RunningWilde Ch 43. | The Hunter & The Hunted (Full Version)

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Night had fallen and the stars were out in full force, millions upon millions of tiny twinkling white lights winking down at Aiden as he stared up at them, wondering if maybe they were tiny pieces of God watching over him, because only something that great could have him sitting in the small fast food restaurant off the side of the motorway opposite Ava, unscathed. Once again, he’d come so close to having his dreams scattered and this time he really didn’t think they were going to make it out, not because that situation had been any worse that the others that had tried to come for his neck, but because the longer they ran the more tiresome escape came. He didn’t have his family or the Mafia, or the comforts of his hideouts to fall back on, all he had was his will to survive…and her.

He had Ava.

He sipped black coffee and watched with bittersweet amusement at the way she’d abandoned all of her debutant propriety and was demolishing a large plate of chips drowned in ketchup, that made her fingers and mouth red and sticky. Her appetite had returned with a vengeance, and though she resembled an unkempt, overgrown toddler, the sight still made him smile.

She felt him looking and paused chewing, her cheeks so full that her mouth couldn’t close all the way. Her eyes fixated on the white teeth that peaked between full his lips for a moment. In that moment, with that smile, she almost forgot that he was a murderous psychopath.

Almost.

She swallowed, snatched the paper napkin from around her untouched cutlery, wiped her fingers and cleaned sauce from her lips with her tongue, not missing that it was now him fixating on her lips. She sat straighter and rolled her eyes, then picked up her fork to continue her meal.

He made a quiet snickering sound and leant back in his chair, “No need to stand on ceremony for me, Ava-Marie.”

She stabbed her fork into her chips and gave him her best glare to make up for her moment of weakness.

She hadn’t uttered a word to him since she told him she was going to the bathroom back at the petrol station. He’d tried to get her to speak to him but she was so adamant that even when they got to the restaurant and he asked her what she wanted to order, she hailed and spoke to the server herself.

There were seven other customers in the linoleum tiled eatery; behind them, an elderly couple and their two grandchildren, who they seemed glad to have finally silence with food, and three men a few tables away from them, one of whom who was looking in Ava’s direction for the third time.

Three times too many for Aiden’s liking. He glowered at him, waiting for him to realise that he had no business looking at her that way, or at all for that matter, but the man seemed transfixed.

That or he didn’t care.

Ava followed Aiden eyes and noticed her dark-haired admirer for the first time, and when he smiled at her, she blushed and giggled at his brazen attitude, mildly impressed that he would dare to ignore Aiden’s steadily intensifying irritation.

“Stop it,” he said evenly, loud enough that only she could hear.

She rolled her eyes and toyed with a loose pink curl, keeping eye contact. She wasn’t particularly enraptured by her admirer, but it pissed Aiden off.

“Did you hear what I said?”

She smiled at her dark-haired admirer and his smile grew wider.

Under the table, Aiden’s hand slid onto her thigh.

Her smile faltered and her laughing eyes met his very serious ones. Her breath faltered.

“Ava-Marie,” he purred menacingly in a way that (regrettably) made sleeping butterflies stir, “Whatever game you think you’re playing, end it,” his grip tightened, “Now.”

She blinked at him, recalibrating her senses, then swiped his hand away. She focused on her plate and distracted herself with eating, hating that she could still feel the heat of his touch through her clothes. Hating that her blush was deepening.

Hating that he noticed.

Her dark-haired admirer leant across his table and mumbled something to his friends. Aiden pretended not to notice when they all peered over, but this time no one was looking at Ava.

They were looking at him.

Ava rose suddenly and Aiden caught her by the hem of her top, “Where are you going?”

She wasn’t going to answer, but the tension in his voice made her pause. “Bathroom…what’s wrong?” 

“Nothing’s wrong,” he smiled, and rose to stand beside her. He lifted her coat from the back of her chair and held it open behind her. She felt his warmth and the solidity of his body press against her back. With her hunger and headaches no longer a factor, her senses were once again aligned to him, and as he grazed his soft lips against her earlobe, a lone butterfly arose in her stomach.  “I think your boyfriend and his friends are following us,” he whispered.

Ava began to turn her head.

“Don’t look,” he snapped quietly. “If I’m right, the worst thing we can do is let them know that we’re onto them.”

“You’re sure?” she stepped into her coat, her heart rate spiking with a mixture of nerves of the potential danger of these men and the way Aiden’s arms closed around her. She wasn’t sure which one was worse.

His mouth dipped lower and brushed against the racing pulse point on her neck. He spoke softly against her skin, “When we get outside, follow me to the car, but don’t get in.”

“What?”

He couldn’t see the expression on her face, but he was sure she wasn’t masking her emotions the way he’d hoped his distractions should have made her. He spun her to face him and pulled her into his embrace. Her resistance to him made the movement rigid. He smiled down at her tense expression and tucked the pink tuft of hair she’d twirled around her finger for the dark-haired man, under her cap, “Relax, Heaven,” it wasn’t safe to call her by her name anymore, “We’re a normal couple, having a normal conversation, okay?”

She nodded stiffly, “Sure. Normal. Got it.” Her returning smile tugged on taut lips, spreading them too thin, “How’s that?”

His hand slipped inside of her coat, then up the back of her top and rough fingers traced soft figures of eight around her dimples at the base of her spine. He brushed his pelvis against hers, reminding her of what she’d sworn off of and Ava’s excuse for a smile shifted to parted lips. She squirmed against him feeling that familiar heat climb up her skin and flush her face. His gaze intensified, “That’s better,” he purred, bumping the tips of their noses together. “When you get to your side of the car, make a run for it… Nod so that I know you’re paying attention to what I’m saying,” he suppressed a smirk.

She cleared her throat and bobbed her head up and down.

They exited the restaurant, his arm snaked around her waist, his fingers still drawing patterns on her bare skin underneath her clothes. “There’s a small alleyway on the side of the building. Get low and crawl to it as fast as you can, get behind the dumpster and stay there until I come for you.”

She felt something heavy land in her coat pocket.

“Just in case you need it.”

“What am I supposed to do with a gun?”

“You say that like you don’t know how to handle one,” he cocked his brow, “Which is funny because you pointed one at me just fine in the middle of my brother’s funeral.” He glanced down at her out of the corner of his eye, and for the first time, Ava considered the fact that Aiden may be mad at her.

Her mouth tightened. “I did what Max told me to do…before you murdered him,” she bit back.

“Well, if something goes wrong and they find you, do what your dead bodyguard told you to do.”

She jerked away from him. All the feelings he’d sparked with his erogenous distractions in the restaurant extinguished as an all too familiar pang of loss stung her chest. “He was my friend.”

They stopped at the car and Aiden fixed her with empty black eyes, “Just make sure you pull the trigger this time,” he sneered. He pulled open the car door, “Go!”

She swallowed her nerves and the remnants of her stupid feelings. They didn’t belong here. She needed to stop falling prey to his seduction. He only used it to manipulate her, that’s all he’d ever done, and because no man had ever come to her with such sexual prowess, she’d thought him electric, and worthy of her. She clenched her fist -she was wrong! What they had wasn’t special; it was…

She shook her head and dropped to the tarmac then took off, crouched, with her palms to the ground, zipping between the cars as fast as she could, the heaviness of the gun slapping against her thigh reminding her of how dire the situation was. She slipped between the small space between the building and tucked herself behind the large steel dumpster, holding her breath against the smell of built up rancid oils and rotting produce. She edged her back closer to the grimy brick wall, making sure not to touch anything, and waited.

Aiden revved the engine.

Ava peered between the slither of space between the back of the dumpster and the wall and watched as he took off without her.

The he was gone and she was alone.

She was alone and armed, and the weight of the gun didn’t feel as heavy as it had a moment ago. It felt as light as an opportunity. She’d been stuck to his side for weeks and now he’d sped away from her hoping that his manipulation was enough to make her stay put.

Ha!

She rolled her shoulder back and straightened her spine with a new resolve; she was going to get away this time. She’d be stupid not to. She didn’t have any food, clothes or money, but she told herself she’d figure something out. What other choice did she have? It was either run now or stay trapped with Aiden. No, she was a Lockewood, dammit! Whatever her father was, he’d never been a coward and he hadn’t raised her to be one, so it was time she started acting like it.

She zipped up her coat and stood up.

No sooner did her head peek over the top of the dumpster did the dark-haired man and his friends rush out of the restaurant. She dropped back down, slipped her hand clammy into her pocket and clutched the handle of the gun.

Their eyes scoured the car park and the shortest one cursed, “Look what you did, Junie!”

The dark-haired one, Junie, pulled a small comb out of his pocket and scraped his glossy locks back into place, “It’s fine, I saw which way they went.”

“If you hadn’t been making goo-goo eyes at her they’d be here and we could have kept to the plan.”

“I couldn’t help myself. I mean, did you see her? No wonder Vince kept her a secret.”

Ava’s brow furrowed. Were these her father’s men?

A lurid smile crept onto the shorter one’s face, “D’you reckon Max got his leg over?”

Ava narrowed her eyes.

“He’d be stupid not to. I might give it a go though.” He stuck his tongue out and winked.

She tightened her grip on the gun.

“You wish!”

“Hey, I wasn’t the only one making eyes, mate.” Junie bent down and checked his reflection in the side mirror of the silver Honda.

“Oi,” the oldest of the group snarled as he pushed Junie out of the way and yanked open the car door, “Will you two stop fuckin’ jabbering and get in. If we lose her Chris will do one.”

 They climb inside, and Junie spoke gruffly into his phone with his eyes trained on the direction Aiden drove off in. They followed his trail.

“Oh god,” she exhaled and collapsed against the grimy brick wall. Aiden was right, they were being followed…by Chris’s men. She wondered what changed. Why was her godfather interested in finding her now when he was more than happy to watch her get dragged off kicking and screaming by the Diamond Mafia back at the cemetery?

 Thank god Aiden left her behind. From where she was standing, being captured for Chris by Junie and his friends seemed a like a worse fate.

A burst of panic tremored through her -what if they caught him and realised she wasn’t with him? Would they come back here looking for her? Or…what if they killed him? She jutted out her jaw. “So what?” she shrugged, forcing her voice to sound hasher so she could believe in her own indifference. If they killed Aiden then he couldn’t come looking for her. At least she’d definitely be free of him.

She edged out of the alleyway and took off running in the opposite direction.

 

*

 

Aiden peered into his rear-view mirror and monitored the cars behind him. He shifted into different lanes and turned down random roads into obscure neighbourhoods, filtering out the rubble until he was on a quiet street away from general traffic and there was only one car cruising quietly a safe distance away from him.

The silver Honda.

It was too dark to see if it was the men from the restaurant but he was sure he could see three figures arguing with each other in his rear view. Thank god it was dark; it wasn’t obvious that Ava wasn’t with him yet. He was sure exactly who these men were after, but just in case it was her, he needed to get to take them down before they realised.

He increased his speed and zipped around another corner into a cul-de-sac, and before they had time to turn the corner and catch him, he pulled in to a parking space hidden deep between the high hedges of a semi-detached and waited for them to pass. He quickly turned the car off.

The silver Honda cruised past him, three sets of eyes searching the dark for any sign of him. After no luck but figuring he couldn’t have gone far, they pulled into a space on the opposite side of the road and turned the headlights off.

Aiden screwed his silencer onto the barrel of his pistol.

“I told you he was onto us,” the shorter one said, slamming the car door behind him.

“Yeah, yeah,” Junie rolled his eyes, exiting the other side. “Wherever they are, they can’t have gone far. It’s a dead end.”

The older man stayed behind the wheel, “Both of you shut the fuck up and find them.”

Aiden slipped out of his car and kept to the shadows as he crept to the entrance of his hiding place, his heartbeat thumping in his ears and his beast bristling in his bones. He waited until the two men were spread far enough apart on opposite ends of the street to sneak behind perfectly pruned trees and expensive cars to the driver’s side of theirs. He opened the door and reached in, clamping his large hands over the older man’s mouth before tugging him out by his head onto the pavement. The man’s cries for help were muffled and his legs flailed about until Aiden wrapped his own around them, locking his frame in place within the bulk of his muscles. He gritted his teeth against the strain the man’s fussing was putting on the partially healed gunshot wound in his shoulder, his fingers desperately trying to pry Aiden’s away in the hope that his partners would come to his rescue.

Aiden cupped his jaw then moved the other to his forehead and twisted.

CRACK.

The body went limp.

He laid the older man on the ground and took his place behind the wheel of the silver Honda. He revved the engine with a bright white smile and a glint in his eye, waiting for the moment the others would see him sitting triumphantly in their partners place.

“HEY!” The shorter man on the right end of the street came running with his gun cocked.

Aiden laughed maniacally and stomped down on the gas pedal, ducking and swerving through the onslaught of bullets meant for his head, racing towards his perpetrator, roaring with glee as the front bumper collided with flesh and bone and sent the man flying. He chased the body down the street, rolled the car over him, then reversed slowly, listening out of the dull satisfying crunch of breaking bones encased in flesh.

Junie’s bullets shattered the back window.

Aiden stopped laughing and ducked. He swung the car around to face Junie, the man who’d so brazenly smiled at Ava. Aiden cocked his head to the side and waved, teeth bared, unsmiling.

“Shit!”

Lights from previously sleeping homes snapped on and curtains fluttered with morbid curiosity and prying eyes, lighting Junie’s way as he turned on his heel and ran from Aiden Michaels.

Stuff like this didn’t happen in the suburbs so Aiden knew it was only a matter of time until the police arrived. With no time to waste, he revved the engine and chased Junie down, swerving so the Honda swung out in front of him and blocked his path.

With nowhere to go, Junie raised his gun to fight for his life, but Aiden’s quick-fire fingers shot out of the window and pierced his knee with a bullet. Junie’s arm went askew as the shock of pain took caused him to lose balance and he squeezed the trigger, putting out the overhead street lamp in the process. He howled and toppled to the floor.

Aiden jumped out of the Honda with his gun cocked. “Who are you?”

Junie growled and refocused his aim. He fired at Aiden’s chest but his target only stumbled back and grunted.

Thank god for bullet proof vests.

Black eyes on fire, Aiden growled through gritted teeth and shot Junie in his hand, blasting his weapon out of reach in the process.

“AAAHHHHHHGGHHH!”

He stamped down on his neck, suffocating his cries of anguish, “WHO ARE YOU?”

“Fuck you,” Junie spat, cradling his hand and his knee.

Aiden towered over the last man standing, the darkness of the blown lamp making his hulking frame all the more menacing, his dark skin blending with the shadows till he looked more myth than man. He stooped lower and brought his face within inches of Junie’s, “Either you tell me now or I make you tell me later.”

Junie stuck out his jaw in defiance as if he were unbreakable and had no idea how much pleasure Aiden would take in breaking him.

He clamped his hand over the Junie’s stubborn mouth and stomped on his knee so hard that the crunching sound resembled that of his shorter partner being run over twice by their Honda.

Junie howled into Aiden’s hand and tears spilled down his reddening face.

Aiden smiled, “Later it is then.”

Running Wilde Ch. 42 | Dead or Alive (Full Version)

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It's all the same, only the names will change

Every day, it seems we're wastin' away

Another place where the faces are so cold

I drive all night just to get back home

Wanted Dead or Alive

-Bon Jovi

***

Aiden entered the small hotel room, murmuring into his new phone and Ava groaned; the light from the hallway shone too bright on her weary eyes. She was glad when he closed the door behind him, dropping them back into comfortable dimness of only one table lamp and all the curtains drawn. The headaches were getting unbearable.

She nuzzled into the white cotton sheets and tried to will herself back to sleep. Staying awake was no longer her forte. She was constantly in a state of fatigue, but she found that she didn’t mind. Sleeping made the time pass and made it easier to deal with starving herself. Sometimes it got so bad- the hunger, the dehydration, the aching…the loss of everything she once knew to be true -that she found herself hoping that one day she wouldn’t wake up. If she didn’t wake up then she wouldn’t have to deal with anything at all.

Sometimes when she woke, Aiden was there and sometimes he wasn’t, though he was always nearby, muttering into his phone.

They’d been in this new place for two days now and all she’d done is slept. She slept so much that she didn’t realise that they’d changed location until one of her recurring nightmares of fire, gunshots, stone angels and electric currents, woke her up in the new bed. This hotel seemed nicer than the last two, though she had no idea where they were or what the room they were in looked like. She didn’t recall moving at all, or the drive. She figured Aiden must’ve carried her from pillar to post with his injured arm -she hoped it hurt.

The knowledge that his hands had been on her made her angry. He wasn’t allowed to touch her anymore. She’d mentally forbidden it. She hated the thought of herself exhausted and weak in his arms, cradle against his chest with his bottomless eyes gazing down at her as if she were still a masterpiece. That’s how he looked at her when she was conscious enough to mistakenly catch his eye. In reality she felt like lurid graffiti on a bathroom stall. Ava was so dehydrated that her lips cracked and bled routinely, so malnourished that her skin looked like she had a vintage Instagram filter built-in, making her looked washed out, and the jut of her cheekbones were getting sharp enough to cut diamonds. The biggest surprise was when her gums began to ache and tufts of her hair fell out to the point that she was too afraid to comb it. She now wore it in two braids that had grown so fuzzy from neglect that the woven pattern was indiscernible.

“I can’t move her,” Aiden said tensely into the handset, “She’s still not eating… No… If we have to make a run for it with her like this, we’ll be caught. She can’t even sit up anymore… You don’t think I’ve tried that? …What else do you expect me to do?” he squeezed his fist. “…Don’t be stupid. That’s not an option…” His tone grew darker, “That’s not for you to decide.” He glanced over his shoulder and saw that Ava was awake. “I’ve gotta go. Holla at me when you know more. Cool.” He hung up and approached the bed with his fist uncurled and his tone softer, “How are you feeling?” He asked her this every time he caught her awake. It was irritating for the both of them because he knew she wasn’t going to answer but he still tried anyway.

Ava closed her eyes. Turning her back to him required more energy than she had to spare.

He crouched down at the side of the bed and stroked her gaunt cheek tentatively, “We have to move again, Ava-Marie.” She flinched away from him. He sighed and withdrew his hand, “If we’re going to survive, you can’t carry on like this. You have to eat something or you’ll get us both killed.”

“Who was that on the phone?”

“Dougie. Why?” Under normal circumstances He would have been hesitant to answer that question, but she was talking. It was such a rare occurrence these days that he didn’t want to do anything that would make her stop. He missed the sound of her voice. Even her scolding him was better than her silence. The silence made him miss her. That was the worst way to miss someone; when they were physically there but emotionally distant. He deserved it, of course he did, he knew that, but knowing it didn’t make it hurt any less that the woman he had fallen for couldn’t stand him. He reasoned that this was his karma, all of this hurt he caused her, it had to catch up with him at some point.

She narrowed her eyes, “What did he say to you?”

Aiden dropped her glare, “To leave you behind.”

“Of course he did.”

“I don’t think he’s over you refusing to save his life.”

“Fuck his life.” This time she turned her back to him.

Aiden sighed and sat on the sofa across the room next to a neat pile of folded sheets and goose down pillows piled on top. Ava refused to have him in the bed with her so he opted for hotels that came with comfortable sofas that wouldn’t make his back feel like he’d been laying on the ground or aggravate his bullet wound any further. He watched the way her chest rose and fell with uncomfortable shallow breaths. She was making herself ill. Starving herself was wreaking havoc on her immune system and she was already weak enough. He didn’t know how much longer he could respect her wishes. She was forcing him to care for a dying thing and after he’d gone to such great lengths to keep her alive, this felt like a slap in the face. She was so ungrateful! No, he wasn’t perfect or ‘good’, he was far from it, but his heart was in the right place, even if his head couldn’t always join it. He was trying to do right by her. He hadn’t meant to. That wasn’t the plan. She was meant to be collateral damage, but instead she’d taken one look at him and embedded herself in his psyche, because Ava wasn’t collateral. She was good, and innocent. She deserved to be saved. She deserved for him to do right by her as much as a man like him could. He was not in the habit of extending any real consideration for the people he hadn’t grown up with, but he did, for her.

His phone vibrated against his thigh. It was a non-descript little black thing as off the market to the point that it had a green screen and not even the courtesy of a polyphonic ringtone. He closed his eyes and picked up, “This can’t be good.”

“What makes you say that, boss?” Mighty’s chipper tone smiled down the phone.

“I just came off the phone with Dougie.”

“Oh. Well…it’s not all bad.”

“What’s the good news?”

“I’ve scored you an extra thirty minutes to get out of there.”

Aiden ran his hand over the creases in his forehead. He didn’t remember them being so deep set. “Who?”

“Police.”

“Fuck!”

“Seems the hotel clerk put the drop on you. There were rumours you two were up North so your photos have been circulating the news channels again.”

“Fucking…okay.”

“I’ve scrambled the radio signal of the car that’s on its way to you and those nearby and fiddled with the traffic lights surrounding the area to hold them off a bit longer, so they’re sending a car from further away, but you’re not in a city anymore so backed up traffic isn’t as effective.”

Aiden already had his hand luggage open and was throwing clothes and complimentary toiletries inside of it, “How long in total?”

“About an hour and fifteen…if you’re lucky.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Boss, a word of advice…”

“What?”

“Maybe do something less attention grabbing with her hair. Pink tips them off easier and you’re not exactly in the most diverse sectors of Britain. Biracial girl with pink hair isn’t discreet, especially one that’s a national fugitive and daughter of a crime lord.”

“I’ve tried. She gets irate if I touch her without it being absolutely necessary,” he rolled his eyes, thinking back to a week ago when he’d tried to get her to shower, something he thought was necessary.

“Another word of advice…”

“Yes?”

“Don’t let her get you killed.”

On top of her candyfloss hair, the physical state Ava was in made it hard for them to move around as inconspicuously as he’d like. He often had to check into a place without her first so as not to arouse suspicions, her gaunt features and laboured mobility drawing even more attention, then quickly grab her from the car after he’d secured a room and rush her inside so that the clerk couldn’t get a good look at her. Leaving her outside alone made him nervous. It affected his interactions with the staff because he’d have to mask his impatience. Terrible things ran through his head; she’d make a run for it, a member of the public would spot her and report it, the police would descend, or worse still, the Syndicate. Of course, all of those things were possible when she was by his side, but at least with him she’d have a chance. He needed to fix that.

He roused Ava with a shake. She groaned and wished she had enough energy to swat him off but the rolling over had done it.

“Police. We’ve got to make moves.”

She gritted her teeth. She’d just started to fall asleep again, and now with barely energy to keep her eyes open, she had to get up. She huffed and pushed the warm covers off of her weakened body whilst Aiden zipped around the room, grabbing their shoes and coats from the closet. He threw her stuff to her but by the time he was ready she’d only slipped her foot into one of her shoes. He knelt at her feet and picked up the other one.

She moved her foot out of reach, “I can do it myself.”

“You’re doing it too slow,” he grabbed it back, “We have just over an hour to get as far away from here as we can.” He rose up, tugged her to her feet and put her coat on while she leant against him for support, “And when we do, you are going to fucking eat something. You’re slowing us down.” He set her back down on the bed and pulled disinfectant wipes from his bag, frantically wiping their prints from everything they touched and glancing at his watch. These days it felt like time was racing against them, and when every passing second was the difference between freedom and incarceration (or worse) it wasn’t a great feeling to have on top of everything else.

Once he was done, he pulled on their baseball caps and sunglasses he’d picked up at a petrol station, checked his guns were loaded and slotted them into his holster. He held his hand out to her, “Let’s go.”

Ava’s eyelids lolled and her head rolled. She was so tired and once again they had to run, but this time she really didn’t know if she could. She tried to stand without his assistance but her knees quaked and she flopped back onto the bed.

“Just take my hand.”

“No!” she thumped her fist weakly against the mattress, “I’m done, Aiden. I don’t want to run anymore.”

“I know, baby,” he crouched before her, “But the police will be here soon. You remember what they did to us, don’t you?”

She looked away, blinking back tears as visions of her and Aiden laying on the cold, hard ground outside of St George’s hospital, while corrupt police tasered them within inches of their lives, “Yes.”

“If they catch us again things will be much worse, so we have to keep moving.”

“We’re always moving. Always running, always hiding, pretending to be someone else. I need it to stop.” She met his eyes and a lone tear fell.

He wiped it away, “Soon. I have a plan to get us far, far away from here. I’m just waiting for the right time.” He held out his hand, “I made you a promise and I’ll do whatever I have to, to keep it, you know that, but you have to work with me.”

She grimaced as she put her hand in his and wobbled to her feet. Aiden slipped one arm around her waist and grabbed their hand luggage with the other. She leant into the strong, warm solidity of his frame and forced down the feeling of her skin crawling at having him so close. Whether she liked it or not, this was her only option...for now. “Okay.”

They move towards the door and Aiden’s phone rang again.

“The traffic lights aren’t holding them off as well as I thought, boss,” Mighty’s voice shook. Mighty’s voice never shook, but then again, they’d never been in shit this deep before.

Aiden swallowed, “How long?”

“The cars, thirty minutes…at best. The helicopter…”

His eyes bulged, “Helicopter?”

“I know! Dramatic much? I’m toying with their co-ordinates but I can only do that for the next three to five minutes before they realise and switch to an encrypted channel. Get out of there now!”

Aiden hung up and yanked the door open so hard that the hinges split the wood where they were screwed in. With Ava in one hand and their duffle bag in the other he walked briskly down the hallway, trying to move them as fast as he could without looking too suspicious.

“Aiden…slow down…” she panted, stumbling over her feet.

“Keep moving.”

“I…can’t…”

They turned the corner when Aiden forced them back, “Shit!” he hissed. Hotel security were on their way to their room with tasers in their sweaty grips. They wouldn’t be a problem to deal with but Aiden wanted to get out with as little disturbance as possible. He pulled his pistol from his holster and screwed on the silencer.

Ava’s eyes widened, “What are you_”

He clamped his hand over her mouth, “Shut up and stay here.”

Then he was off, sweeping around the corner with his gun drawn. Bullets whistled through the air and three bodies collapsed on top of each other. He returned to her, “C’mon.”

“You…killed them,” she gasped at the pile of bodies bleeding out onto the hallway carpet.

“Would you rather I let them use those tasers on us?” he gestured with his gun at their discarded weapons as he stepped over them.

Ava clutched at her skin remembering the way it burned from within the last time, “No…but you…can’t keep…killing people.”

He rolled his eyes, “So what do you suggest I do?”

She tugged her arm out of his grabbed a taser from the ground and handed it to him.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“Fine. You hold onto it.”

She sighed and pocketed it.

He pounded his thumb against the single lift the hotel had but it was stuck on the fifth floor and every second they stood there waiting was another second lost. He growled and dragged her to the stairwell.

“Are you…kidding me?” she eyed the winding flights. The swirling pattern from four floors up looked like an optical illusion and her headache grew stronger. She pressed her fingers to her temples.

“Come on!”

They started down one flight but by the third turn she collapsed into the wall, “I can’t.”

“Ava-Marie_”

“Aiden…I can’t. I’m…tired and everythinghurts. I need to…stop. Please.”

“Listen to me,” he grabbed her face between both hands, forcing her to look at him, “I know you’re tired, and I know you’re scared. So am I, but you know we can’t stop yet.”

“Then just…leave me…here.”

“No.”

“Aiden…we’re not going to…make it…out of this…alive, so what’s…the point?”

“Because we will.” With renewed determination he flung their bag down the centre of the spiralling staircase then bent down and hoisted Ava onto his good shoulder. His pace slowed and his footsteps thundered down the steps, but he didn’t stop until they hit the ground floor. He set her back down and wiped her face of tears then dabbed at the bead of sweat dripping down his forehead

“Stop crying. We’re almost out. All we have to do is get out of that lobby and into the car, okay? That’s it. Can you do that?”

She nodded and swiped her arm under her running nose.

“Good girl.”

They approached the reception desk to hand in their room key, Ava trying her best to stand up straight. All they had to do was get out of the glass double doors without a hitch and they could get away.  The clerk, a young pimply boy, sat scrolling through his phone while a middle-aged couple argued about where they’d parked the car, and a group of elderly women in velour sweat suits and huge visors chatted excitedly about their outing.

They all turned to look at Ava and Aiden. The chatter subsided. Aiden hoped it was the usual reason people this far away from the big cities looked at them and not because they knew who they were. 

The clerk perked up and quickly pushed his phone under the counter, “Good afternoon, sir.”

“Afternoon,” Aiden said coolly as he slid the room key on the counter, watching the people watching them out of the corner of his eye. “We’re checking out.”

“Okay sir, let me just bring up your details.” He took the key and typed the room number into the system, “Okay, Mr…Stone…” The clerk’s face changed and his eyes flicked up to the couple. A strained smile stretched the corners of his mouth. “Just a moment please, sir.” He rose out of his seat walked briskly through the door leading to the back office.

“Let’s go.” They hustled to the exit. Aiden tugged the door handle but it didn’t budge. He tried again and the same thing happened. He groaned, “I was trying to be peaceful.” He let go of Ava, “Wait here. Be ready to go when I say so.”

He took off with faux calm towards the reception desk, then with the grace of an elk he launched himself over the counter with his good arm.

“Aiden,” she hissed. Now the other guests were watching hem even harder.

He didn’t reply. He pushed through the door that led to the back.

The young hotel clerk’s scream was swiftly heard afterwards, pleading, “Please don’t kill me!”

Aiden marched him back out to the front with the barrel of his gun settled in the small of the boy’s back. “Open the fucking door.”

“Okay, okay.” His sweaty fingers fumbled under the desk.

An alarm screeched at a deafening volume.

Aiden rolled his eyes and shifted the gun to his temple, “For someone who doesn’t want to die, you’re not going the right way about it.” 

“Don’t!” Ava shrieked. “He’s a kid.”

“He’s an idiot.” Aiden pivoted the gun in his grip and bucked the boy in the back of his head. He dropped to the floor. The old women screamed and the husband stood in front of his wife. Aiden turned his gun on them, “Everybody lie on the ground with your hands above your heads and count to a thousand. NOW!” he boomed.

They all trembled to the ground.

He walked back around to the other side of the desk, “I don’t hear you counting.”

Quaking murmurs stuttered through numbers.

“If I see anybody move, I will not hesitate to shoot you.” Ava looked at them empathetically wishing that none of them, herself included, had to go through this. If only the clerk had done as he was told. Aiden was right, he was an idiot.

“Stand back,” he nudged her away from the door and picked up a small table with brochures on it. Ava shuffled farther away and Aiden raised it into the air. Just as he was about to swing she detected movement to her right. She looked over to see the husband reaching into his pocket for his phone. She glanced at Aiden -he hadn’t noticed. She could still save this man from himself.

“Don’t,” she mouthed at him, shaking her head frantically. The man froze, his clammy fingers wrapped around his handset.

Aiden swung around. He’d caught Ava’s translucent reflection in the window warning the man not to tempt fate. “I meant what I said.” He extended his gun, but just as he was about to shoot, Ava’s arm shot out, taser in hand.

The man cried blue murder, his wife even louder watching her husbands body twitch and jolt violently next to her as Ava filled his bones with volts of electricity, watching in horror as she did what was necessary to keep him alive.

“GET US OUT OF HERE!” she yelled over the screams and tears.

Aiden was taken aback. This was the last thing he expected sweet, young Ava-Marie to do. He shook it off and smashed through the glass doors with all of his strength.

She released the trigger and gasped, the offensive weapon falling from her grasp, “Oh god! Is he okay?”

“Brian? Brian, talk to me,” his wife sobbed throwing her body over his to contain the tremors.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t want him to die. I_”

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?”

“I didn’t want to…He would have killed him.” Couldn’t this lady see that she’d done her a favour? She’d stopped Aiden from taking her husband’s life away. She’d done a good thing…hadn’t she? He was in shock, but he was ali_

BANG!

A bullet to the skull. A husband’s blood splattered across his wife’s face.

“On the ground. Face down. Hands above your head. Count to a thousand. And don’t. Fucking. Move.” Aiden’s charcoal eyes burned as he watched his hostages down the barrel of his smoking gun.

“BRIANNNNN!” she screamed.

“Now lady, or you join him.”

Crying and shaking as if the taser was now on her, the wife lay next to her dead husband.

Aiden dragged Ava through the jagged exit he’d smashed through the doors.

“You didn’t have to kill him!”

“Shut up and get in the car, Ava-Marie,” he said as he pushed her towards the passenger side.

She slapped him across his cheek, right where his mother had left that ugly scar.

Aiden gave her a warning look, “Behave yourself, Ava-Marie. I’m really not in the mood,” he said darkly.

She glared up at him, her adrenaline rush overlooking her fear and fuelling her hatred, “He was trying to protect his wife.”

“And I was trying to protect mine,” he stepped closer to her, “Now get in the fucking car.”

They took off down the road in a flash of smoking tires and the smell of burning rubber.

“I had it under control.”

Aiden rolled his eyes, “You didn’t have shit under control. You showed weakness.”

“I showed mercy.”

“You made us vulnerable, and I can’t have that. If we’re going to survive you have to be on my side, just like I’m on yours. You want this to stop, don’t you?”

“…Yes, but_”

“Then let me do what I have to do. This isn’t your version of the world anymore, Ava-Marie, this is mine, and here, the rules are different. Like, if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. In my world, empty threats make you a look like a bitch, and looking like a bitch will get you killed in these streets.”

“We’re not in ‘these streets’, Aiden, we were in a hotel. They were innocent people. You can’t keep killing people like their lives mean nothing.”

“I let the kid live, didn’t I?”

Ava threw up her hands, “You killed that poor woman’s husband. Right in front of her. His blood was in her mouth. That woman is going to relive that moment for the rest of her life. You didn’t even stop to think about if they had kids…grandkids…nothing.”

“That woman is not my problem.”

“Wow.” She folded her arms and looked out of the window.

He waited for her to continue to berate him but it seemed she was falling back into silence. He didn’t want silence. He sighed, “So what do you suggest I do, Ava-Marie?”

“Talk.”

“Talk?” he scoffed, “People are hunting us.”

“You, Aiden. People are hunting you.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose. She still hadn’t grasped the fact that the world no longer saw her as some innocent victim. She was the daughter of the UK’s most powerful mob boss, wrapped up in the centre of the biggest drug war London had ever seen, keeping the company of another drug lord with a notoriety for unspeakable crimes. She was also in line for an wonderous inheritance that others wanted to protect, more than they wanted to protect her.

“People are hunting us! We’re way past the point of talking. Talking is an expense that we can no longer afford. Action is a lot less expensive, and I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but that’s the way things have to be.” He slipped onto the motorway, his car blending in to the other hundreds that lined the road, racing away from the sirens and the flashing lights and the clacking of helicopter blades. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

“For what?” Ava’s head lolled against the window and she sunk down into the seat, her outrage with him taking what remained of her energy out of her.

“For me saving your life, again.” He reached across her lap to the glove compartment and grabbed the box of Nakd bars he kept nearby. He dropped them into her lap, “Eat.”

She turned her head.

“FOR FUCKS SAKE, AVA!” There it was again for the second time in her knowing him. Ava. He was definitely pissed now. He grabbed the box from her lap and tore it open making the bars scatter. He grabbed one that had fallen in the gear box and ripped it open with his teeth. He thrust the bar in her face

“Eat it.”

“Go away!”

He pushed it closer to her mouth, “Fucking eat it!”

“Leave me alone!” She lifted her hand to push it away. She could smell the perfect blend of pressed fruit and nuts. It travelled up her sinuses and down into her empty stomach, exciting the gurgling acid in her belly that gnawed at her insides. Her mouth filled with saliva and her teeth sunk into her sore lips, the scent making her hungry enough to devour herself. She turned her head further away.

They came to a stoplight. Aiden grabbed her face and squeeze her cheeks together with his rough hands, prying her mouth open. As soon as he got the opportunity, he stuffed the bar into her mouth.

Ava squirmed and made childish noises but she couldn’t ignore how good it tasted.

“I don’t give a fuck if you don’t talk to me anymore. You better eat or I will pull this car over and you won’t like it.”

The flavours were on her tongue now and the acidic splashing in her stomach grew fiercer. She bit into it and the detrimental stubbornness disappeared. She aborted her mission and scoffed it down.

Aiden smiled, relieved.

They continued their journey; Aiden checking his rear-view mirror every mile or so while Ava scoffed down water and every edible thing they had on hand.

It felt so good to eat again that she decided she’d continue giving him the silent treatment, but would make sure she kept herself healthy, because if she was going to get her revenge on those who had wronged her, she’d need all the strength she could get.

*

The sun had set when Aiden decided the tank was dangerously low enough to stop for petrol. From what Ava could deduce, they had outrun the police again and Aiden was back to his usual level of paranoia and watchfulness. He refilled the tank all the way to the top, his black eyes flitting everywhere, even when he went to the window to pay. It was too soon to feel safe. When he returned Ava had a strange expression on her face like shed seen something worse than a ghost. He immediately stood on guard, his hand reaching beneath his jacket for his gun.

“What is it?”

Her face passed rose gold and went straight to scarlet.

“Ava-Marie, what’s wrong?”

“My period.” She’d never considered experiencing this sort of embarrassment.

He rolled his eyes and relaxed his stance. “What do you need, pads or tampons?”

She furrowed her brow at his casualness, “Umm, both.”

“Any particular brand?”

Her stomach felt like it was prying apart and falling away. She sat on her hip and pressed her thighs together, grateful that the Diamond Mafia colours were black, “I don’t care, just get them,” she shrieked as one of those god awful globs slipped out of her.

Aiden returned to the mini mart and strolled up and down the personal hygiene section examining different types of sanitation products, picking them up and putting them back down. There were so many types. He clutched his head -why did women need so many types?! This would have been so much simpler if she’d said exactly what she wanted. God, she was so annoying sometimes. Women.

Ava furrowed her brow at him. Gang warfare, he was totally comfortable with but picking out sanitary products freaked him out.

Men.

He returned with two carrier bags worth of products that looked like they were enough to last Ava the rest of the year. He thrusted them at her, “I didn’t know if you were regular or super…or super plus, or if you wanted wings or the ones with the applicators…or scented ones, or the ones that form to your body, or the night time ones…There are a lot of…stuff so I just got you one of everything.”

I can see that, she thought as she rooted through the bag for what she needed. She opened her mouth to thank him then decided not to waste manners on him because if he’d never kidnapped her in the first place she could get her own array of products like a normal person. “I’m going to the bathroom.”

“You’re welcome.”

She slammed the door shut.

His focus stayed on the bathroom door just in case she wanted to use this opportunity o get away from him, because her hatred of him mixed with PMS didn’t seem like it would make her the most rational. His focus was so hard that for the first time since leaving London, Aiden wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings…

Or the silver Honda that pulled up at the pump behind him.