#RunningWilde Ch. 47 | I've Been Waiting

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Hey Fancies!

Things are going to start heating up again between our luvahs, so I've put together a special Running Wilde playlist on Spotify for you (since you enjoyed the Wattpad chapter that I paired with music so much). Running Wilde is more than a story, issa EXPERIENCE, heaux!

Simply press play and start reading...wine is also recommended as usual ;)

What can be scraped together

From our long-worn emotions

Handfuls of hate

And a bittersweet devotion

 

-Mean Sleep

Van Hunt

 

 

Thick grey smoke billowed towards the night sky as Ava-Marie Lockewood and Aiden Michaels stood side by side and watched the raging flames devour the old barn along with the finally silent remains of Junie.

Aiden looked at her and noticed the glow of fire reflected in her eyes. The barn wasn’t the only thing being swallowed by the flames, after all, you couldn’t’ burn a man alive and not set fire to a piece of yourself too. She looked like hell had made a home within her…and it was his fault. Ava was meant to be the good one, yet the more time she spent with him it chipped away at her goodness and the person before him grew more and more unrecognisable every day. He felt a twinge of guilt and bumped his arm against hers. “You okay?”

She blinked, pulling herself out of the fire, lubricating her dry, staring eyes and cleared her throat, “I’m remembering my why,” she said stiffly.

“That’s not an answer.”

“Well then no, I’m not okay, Aiden,” she looked at him, “But I will be.”

He brushed his fingertips carefully against hers.

She let them linger in an almost touch.

“I’m tired. I’m going back to the car.”

“Okay,” he called after her, “I’ll be there in a minute. Just gonna do one last sweep of the area to make sure there’s no trace of us.”

She said nothing.

He wandered closer to the barn, pretending to look around a he disappeared around the sde of it. Once he was out of earshot, he took out his burner phone.

“Yo?” Dougie answered.

“She’s ready.”

“You’re sure?”

He looked at the burning barn, “Trust me. We’re good to go.”

“Cool. 5am next Friday?”

“Perfect.”

 

*

 

It was a week full of processed foods filled with more preservatives than nutrients, truck stop bathrooms, night long drives fuelled by cans of sugary room temperature energy drinks, and back and neck aches from taking turns sleeping in awkward positions in the back seat.

Though they were back on somewhat stable ground, on top of the constant discomfort, summer heat, crappy food and growing body odour, the atmosphere between them was just as tense and quiet as it was before. Murder does that to some people.

Ava was just grateful that her period was over, at least that was one less irritant to deal with.

“There hasn’t been any mention of us for a few days,” she said as she did their routine radio sweep for that hour.

“Good, that means the Mafia are doing their job.”

“And what job is that?” She asked as she skipped past the static of empty stations. Aiden had taken them further and further away from civilisation, meaning that they only picked up five stations at most, all of which Ava couldn’t stand because they bored her to death, but the sound of some stuffy, monotonous discussion about politics or the same top 40 songs played on a loop all day long, day after day, was better than listening to Aiden’s breathing, which she had decided was enough to make her want to set him on fire too.   

“The one I gave them.”

So did his attitude.

She furrowed her brow, “Is it a secret?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“You said you’d teach me.”

“I’m teaching you to mind your business.”

She scowled at him, “Well whatever it is, you should have had them do it from the start, so we wouldn’t have had to go through all this extra shit.”

The ascending volume of her voice made him grip the wheel tighter. “Doesn’t work that way. Here’s another lesson; timing is everything. If I had calmed things down too soon it would look suspicious. We blew up a historic landmark and murdered a lot of people. There has to be a little noise to satisfy the public so they feel like something is being done. I also had to make sure everything was in place for us to leave. Now it is.”

She sat straighter, “It is?”

“Yes.” Her volume returned to what he deemed an acceptable level and his grip loosened.

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere safe.”

“Where?”

“I just told you.”

She slumped down and rolled her eyes, “More secrets.”

“It’s a surprise.”

“Whatever. Can I at least know when?”

“Few hours.”

“We’re leaving today?” She clutched the dashboard, “What about Chris?”

“Chris isn’t getting away with anything.” His grip on the steering wheel re-tightened enough to turn his knuckles pale.

“So we’re getting him before we go?”

“You’ve forgotten your lesson already? Timing, Ava-Marie. We need to rebuild. Come back bigger and badder than before if we want him gone for good. That shit takes time.”

“How much time are we talking?”

“I’m sorry, do you have something better to do?”

“Stop being a dick, I’m just asking.”

Aiden rolled his head across his shoulder blades and breathed, “The right amount of time.”

She rolled her eyes harder and kissed her teeth, a new delightful habit that she’d picked up from him, “Just say you don’t know.”

His hand shot out and grabbed her thigh, “You really need to watch your mouth,” he drummed his twitchy fingers against the inside of her thigh, “I haven’t forgotten anything, Ava-Marie.”

“I don’t care.”

He took his hand back. “You will.”

#RunningWilde Ch. 46 | Absolut

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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!

#RunningWilde Ch. 45 | You Can Run

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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.”

#RunningWilde Ch. 44 | Cherry Bomb

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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.”

#RunningWilde Ch. 43 | The Hunter & The Hunted

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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.

#RunningWilde Ch. 42 | Dead Or Alive

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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’ 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?”

#RunningWilde Ch. 41 | On the Run

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No matter how sweet the salt

We push so hard we finally broke

Oh, no more apologies need be exchange

Oh, no words could ever help relieve this pain

-All the Things Lost

MS MR

***

With most victories there is loss, and most losses, no matter how small, no matter the magnitude of the victory, made it feel like you shot for the moon but landed on the stars. Sometimes you get the moon, and if you're really lucky, you may even get the sun.

The Diamond Mafia would have to settle for stars this time around, but given what they were up against and the things that they risked losing, the stars were enough.

Dougie was retrieved in one piece and they'd gotten away. That was the victory. The loss that day had been much heavier than expected, from war-torn funerals to too many lives that found their ending that day whether deserved or not. But Dougie was alive and those who were left were still free.

But not all freedom tastes the same. Not all freedom carries the same privilege amongst its bearers. Freedom to the Diamond Mafia was not being incarcerated after all of the havoc wreaked upon South London at their mercurial hands.

Ava wasn't incarcerated, but the freedom of not being behind bars didn't mean anything when it wasn't bars that were keeping her in the first place.

They'd gathered their troops and made a swift getaway back to the compound with Ava's head tucked into Aiden's lap to keep her from seeing the route taken. She'd cried silently the whole way, through gritted teeth and clenched fists. Resentment and anger ebbed away at her sadness and built a path for something that she was unsure of. It was the equivalent of tasting something sour followed by a pungent, stomach turning aftertaste that hung around in your mouth well after and marred the flavour of everything else that followed.

Once inside the compound she was forced to do the thing she didn't want to. They made her repair Aiden and save Dougie, and this time no amount of defiance was going to get her off the hook. Denying Aiden had been easy enough. He'd growled and protested Ava's insolence but she'd been able to stand her ground, because a much as she knew he was a danger, he wasn't a danger to her. She quickly learned that those same tactics didn't work with the rest of his crew. They carried neither Aiden's guilt nor his affliction for her. After two shootouts and the disrespect displayed at the funeral, they were not in the mood for her defiance. They'd lost enough people that day and they weren't about to lose their leaders too.

The Diamond Mafia had stolen medical supplies on their way out of the chaos they'd aided in the hospital. They'd grabbed life support machines from patients who'd unfortunately been caught in the crossfire and were no longer in need of them and equipment from the operating theatre where Dougie was held. They gifted Ava the scrubs from one of the surgeons who'd laid dead at the foot of Dougie's operating table with a bullet in his aorta, courtesy of the Syndicate soldiers who'd wanted an immediate cease of saving his life.

Under the watchful eyes of Mighty and the cold barrel of Stone's gun, she did her best to clean and repair both Dougie and Aiden's bullet wounds. It wasn't the threat of death that made her comply; after all, what kind of life was this to live? No, it was the fear of enduring the pain that would wrack her body when the countdown to an eternity of peace began.

It had been trying and nerve-wracking, attempting to successfully operate on two undeserving humans in the basement of the compound where she'd endured her first torture at Aiden's hands. Covered in the dead surgeon's blood, her disdain multiplied with every swab and stitch. She found herself wishing them both dead and wishing that she could be cutthroat enough to take them out herself, but the chances of making it out alive after that was non-existent.

The spell was completely broken.

*

"Mullins has got us," Stone growled uncharacteristically. He took a hard pull of his blunt which was doing little to return him to his usual state of equanimity. Usually it would be Dougie that was the brash one, telling Aiden what was what, but he was laid up on the gurney in the basement, knocked out on pain killers, with thick folds of bandages wrapped around his elevated leg.

Three days had passed and all every media outlet, Member of Parliament, emergency service worker and law enforcer could talk about was the startling rise of criminal activity that had swept the city. Kidnappings, mass murders, bombings, grand theft auto –it was all over the place.

People were scared to leave their homes; they cried terrorism (which ultimately led fingers to be pointed in the wrong places). Social media was in a frenzy, floating the hashtag #SaveOurCity, urging communities to come forward and speak up about those who endangered them and their families. And people came forward, people who thought they knew but in reality had no idea. All their snitching got them were the arrest of petty thieves and low end drug dealers who lived damn near hand to mouth on pushing £20 bags of weed to the locals and a few pills for the ravers because for some reason or another they struggled to secure employment or the kind of employment that didn't leave them living like they were still as broke as they were when they were not working.

Those who really knew, knew better than to open their mouths and call out the Diamond Mafia or the Syndicate. It wasn't like they needed to anyway; the police knew full well that the disruption to the city was due to it being the main arena of a mob war that was just getting started. They needed people with real evidence so that they could grab these men.

The city always had its good share of unfortunate incidents, but not packed so closely together and in such a grand fashion. The once historical site of the Stand station was a jagged black hole in the ground that made the surrounding area reek of sulphur, smoke and death. Services on London underground had been disrupted ever since, which the city's inhabitants hated even more than the loss of a landmark. The graveyard had been cleared of dead bodies, but the grass and gravestones were still painted with blood and in the middle of it all, two unmarked graves with fragments of dead flowers surrounding them. The hospital had done it's best to accommodate its patients, but with a saddening shortage of staff and a crime scene in the A&E bay and across four wings, it was difficult to function as normal.

London hadn't seen crime on this scale before and if a stop wasn't put to it soon, this standoff would exceed expectations.

Aiden pressed his finger to his temple, his dark eyes fixed on a spot on the meeting room table, refusing to look elsewhere in case he caught sight of his arm, bandaged and resting in a sling.

"No, he doesn't," Mighty said as he studied the further tensing of Aiden's form. Things were in such disarray and as much as a part of him shared Stone's frustrations, it wasn't his place to berate their boss.

"Fuck you mean he don't, bruv? He's taken out a third of the man dem, trashed all of our fronts so we can't flip our shit clean like we need to, the feds on his side more than triple ours so they're all out looking for us, and now cause of this fuckery we can't even roll up on all dem man like we was plannin' to and reclaim our corners cause we ain't in control of our shit no more. So you tell me how the fuck he ain't got us!"

Mighty opened his mouth with a finger lifted in the air ready to punctuate a counter argument...then closed it.

"He hasn't got us because we aren't dead," Aiden said evenly, "And as long as we're not dead, we're cool."

"Nah bruv, we ain't been cool for a hot minute. Shit's just getting more fucked up and real talk, I don't see how were gonna get out of it. We've never had beef on this level before. Fam, we're fucking hiding in this place like a bunch of wasteman pussy'oles cause we know we can't do shit! Your arm is in a sling, Dougie's on bed rest, Trish and Jamie had to ghost again, nuff of the man dem are gone...brudda, we can't even finish burying Keegan and Ash_"

Aiden slammed his palm down on the desk, "I KNOW THAT!" He'd gone over the catastrophe enough to know how dire the situation was. He didn't need Stone to relay their failings. His failings.

"Okay..." Mighty breathed, splaying his arms between them, "Let's just all calm down and figure out what we're gonna do about it."

"We're going to lay low_"

"We've been layin' low," Stone mumbled.

Aiden drew up his eyes to glare at him, "Listen, when I'm talking, shut your fuckin' mouth."

Stone clenched his jaw but stayed silent. He dragged his blunt twice.

"We started with nothing and we built this," Aiden gestured around him at the deluxe compound they inhabited, "Because we're made of stronger shit than the rest of them. Things setback doesn't stop us from being a threat. That's why they're trying to kill us. That's why so many want to see us fall, because they know if they don't get each and every one of us that we'll do what we always do," he got to his feet, hiding the urge to wince as his shoulder wound stretched and moved with him. He looked at Stone, "We'll win."

*

At eight o'clock that night, Aiden knocked on Ava's door, waited for reply that he knew wouldn't come, and then walked in. She was exactly where she had been for the past three days when he'd come to check on her around this time; sat in the desk chair, staring at the grey wall where a window should be.

"Good evening, Ava-Marie." He closed the door behind him and stepped further into the room and eyed yet another plate of vegan cuisine gone cold, "You haven't touched your food." He perched on the edge of her desk and prodded the congealed gravy, rubbery tofu and greying potatoes with her spotless fork. "Shall I warm it up for you?"

She continued to stare at the wall.

"How long are you gonna keep this up for? Ava-Marie, I'm talking to you," he reached for her and she recoiled.

Images of his writhing body stretched out on the gurney as he screamed and bled all over her stolen scrubs while she grudgingly helped him flashed in her mind.

He bit his lip and grunted, "Do you want to die? Is that what this is about?" It was something he'd avoided saying out loud. The possibility of him being right made his throat swell and his heart quiver erratically, but it had been three days of this behaviour from her and whether he said it or not wouldn't stop it from being true.

The corner of her mouth twitched.

This was the most response he'd gotten from her in days and it further ignited a panic within him.

"Ava-Marie..." he put his fist to his mouth and spoke slowly, "After the lengths I've gone to, to keep you alive, you are ungrateful enough to throw it in my face? Everything I've done since that night I pulled you from that car, everything, has been for you. All of it. If I could go back in time to that moment, I'd save you all over again." He picked up the tray, "So I'm going to heat this up for you and you will eat. You are not going to die, not while I have breath in my lungs."

She looked at the spotless stainless steel fork still sitting on the table and focused on the glinting points of the prongs, and she wondered...wondered just exactly how much force it would take to stop the breath in his lungs.

She flexed her fingers.

He picked the fork up.

She frowned and clenched her fist in her lap. Theoretically thwarted, she abruptly relocated to the bed and pulled the sheets up to her chin.

Aiden sighed and shook his head. You'd think he'd be used to the women he loved wanting him dead by now. He moved to the door then paused, "I came in here to thank you. My arm is healing nicely and Dougie is coming around. You did good, Ava-Marie. You saved us, so thank you."

She yanked the sheets over her head and faced the wall.

*

 

Miles of open road stretched before the bulletproof truck, made visible only by its headlights, the waning half moonlight, and the sequential ice blue glow of cat eye reflectors embedded in the centre of the tarmac between short, white guidelines. Either side of the car were empty lanes, interrupted by the occasional sixteen-wheeler driven by doped up drivers, and seemingly endless expanse of a void that in the daytime revealed flush green meadows that stretched on for miles, peppered with horses, sheep and cows.

Ava's head was leant against the window of the passenger side, smushing her limp and brittle candy coloured curls. Her warm breath flowed through cracked lips and made pulsing clouds against the cool glass. A week had passed and still not a morsel of food or so much as a drop of water had made it into her mouth. Her skin was patchy, dry and discoloured, with burst of tiny pus filled spots across her cheeks, chin and forehead.

Aiden was on the brink of force feeding her, but he feared that the action probably wouldn't help his already failing case. He figured that she'd have come round by now, with every tantalising morsel he paraded in front of her starved body, but al it seemed to do was make her angrier with him. Anytime he brought a plate to her, her eyes focused feverishly on the cutlery and the soft spaces between his ribs.

It was just the two of them in the car, the silence filled with Raheem Devaughn, on their way into deeper hiding.

For all intents and purposes, the flame of the Diamond Mafia had been ousted by the violent blow of the Syndicate.

The compound, now completely abandoned, was cleared out and cleaned of all traces of humanity. The hair salon was boarded up with big white panels that left the question of its return hanging in the balance. Mafia soldiers were few and far between in the area, and even when spotted, weren't seen to be doing anything untoward that would make them stand out from the rest of the general public.

The difference in Brixton was felt by the local community. As much as the disappearance of a lethal gang should have positive connotations, the after effects were oddly adverse. For some reason it didn't feel safe anymore, even with the knowledge that the Mafia played a pivotal role in the surge of violence in the city.

To the naked eye it was indeed safer, less gang activity would be ridiculous to be viewed as anything but, but Brixton was Mafia territory. It was their home so they protected it. Now that they appeared to be gone, there was no one looking out for the vibrant, bustling town. It felt open to invasion or even worse, being claimed by new management, probably by some two-bit crew of overhyped youths who cared more about petty power and engaging in experiences to transform into yet another lacklustre UK rap song about 'endz' and how 'bad' they were than keeping things in order. The Mafia were run like an old school collective of organised crime should be –humbly and respectfully, with hands in its community to make sure people outside of their organisation were taken care of. There was no guarantee that the new owners, if any, would do that. Luckily none were brave enough and sure enough that Aiden and his men and women in black would stay gone for good, to step up to the plate.

Alone in a void of black that would make way for more endless fields come dawn, circled by tarmac, stood a bungalow type building. Mounted on the edge of the roof, under lit by pumpkin hued spotlights that made it feel like casual Halloween, a sign displayed the name 'Buxton's Inn'. The car park was practically empty, save for the owner's car, one other guest. Aiden tucked his vehicle in the shadows around the back of the quiet motel.

He switched off the engine and looked at Ava, weak, with her head still slumped against the window. The moonlight exaggerated the developing sharper, angular planes of her heart shaped face. He missed the soft roundness it used to hold. It represented a different time; a time when she could still find a way to be happy with him, despite it all. Now all he saw was manifestation of his ruination. For a while, it was nice to pretend that he'd never have to see the toll that his presence in her world would take on her.

He should have let her go sooner. It was wrong to keep something so beautiful because there was only one way things could go.

Aiden Michaels shouldn't keep beautiful things.

He popped open the glove compartment and pulled out a clear Ziploc bag with a fake marriage certificate, passports, credit and debit cards, driving licences, and at the very bottom nestled in the corner, two plain gold wedding bands. He put the ring on.

"I'm going to check us in," he said.

She didn't respond.

At the desk an aging man sat alone watching the news on a small black and white television mounted on the wall. Or rather, the artefact watched him. His bushy eyebrows and thinning chestnut and silver streaked hair could be seen over the top of a specialist magazine about fishing.

Aiden removed his hat and smiled warmly. It didn't stop the man's wary expression from surfacing or deter him from laying down his magazine and sliding his hand closer to the edge of the table where there was undoubtedly an emerge alarm. Aiden told himself that this reaction had to better than the one that would have come had he not bothered smiling at all. He didn't imagine that the owner saw many people like him around these parts and that like most people way out here, all the owner really had to go off of was what he saw on television.

"Good night," he said softly in his most well-spoken British accent.

The owner relaxed a touch and took the time to curiously take in Aiden's all black attire. He scanned the thick wool double-breasted coat open over a shirt, slim fit jeans and Cuban heeled boots -something much too nice for a 'thug' to wear. Or so he thought. "Night," he replied in his clipped northern twang.

"I'd like to book a double room for the night. My wife is too tired to take over for the rest of the drive and I'm shattered so she suggested that we stop, so of course, we're stopping," he laughed heartily with an expression that communicated something that they man with his gold wedding band digging into his pudgy fingers would understand –'You know how wives are.'

The man tossed his eyes, "What they say goes," he agreed with a small smile, deciding that the well-dressed, well-spoken married man with the bossy wife couldn't be as bad as the 'rest of them'. That he had to be one of the 'good ones'. He opened a heavy hardback book with grids lining the pages and went to the newest page, "Yes, we have a room available, Mr...?"

"Stone," Aiden smiled.

"Okay, Mr Stone. It's £108 a night. Will you be paying by cash or card?"

"Cash." He produced a wad of notes from his inside pocket and counted £110 onto the counter.

The owner eyed the amount of money still in Aiden's hand after paying him out and narrowed his eyes. "Seems like you can afford to stay somewhere much nicer than this dump," he chuckled stiffly.

Aiden shrugged and laughed back.

"So what brings you and the misses up this way?" the owner said recounting the money Aiden gave him.

"Visiting family."

"I see," he held the £50 note Aiden had given him up into the light and seemed almost disappointed to see the queen's head appear. "You have family up this way?"

"She does. Her father's side of the family is Scottish."

"Ahh," the owner nodded. That made much more sense. He handed Aiden a key attached to a rectangle of cardboard with the number five scrawled on it in black felt marker.

Aiden winced as he lifted his arm to slip the key in his pocket, "What time is checkout?"

"Midday. Say, what happened to your arm?"

"Bit off more than I could chew at the gym," he mirrored the way the owner had tossed his eyes earlier, with a smile. "Well, thank you for your help. Goodnight." He excited the reception and reflected on why he hated leaving London.

He grabbed the luggage from the boot then opened the door for Ava, making sure to stand close enough to catch her in case she toppled out. "Can you walk?" He offered her his hand.

She made a low, irritable groaning sound and manoeuvred around him.

She followed a few steps behind Aiden to the room, noting how he kept his pace slow and the elbow of his injured arm jutted out enough for her to grab onto should she need it.

She didn't want to need it. She wanted whatever it was that she was trying to do to herself to hurry up and be over with. Trying to power through it and maintain her steely disconnect from him was a full time job.

She was so sad and so lonely, and though it was an infinite stream of these feelings, minus the internal conflict that should have never existed, it still took her under sometimes, like a choppy sea suddenly turned violent storm whenever the wind changed. This kind of life made the wind change a lot. It was an astoundingly surreal situation to be in, one that never failed to amaze her at the dramatism of it. This wasn't a normal storyline that had forced itself into her life; it was shocking, so much so that she'd forgiven herself (well...that part she was still working on) for the previous downright disillusionment of the situation...of him –to set in.

There's no set way to deal with being kidnapped and seduced by a captivatingly insane man, and having everything taken from her at his vengeful and mercurial hands. No, it was fine that it was really and truly hitting her now. She had been in shock. She reasoned that at least it had hit her -all of the horror and the hurt -at least she finally acknowledged it and discontinued trying to make rosy her reality. The feelings that came with this realisation were awful, like having a nipple clamp removed and realising that the pinch that it gave when secured to the body was nothing like the bruising burning that came afterwards -but at least they made sense.

Aiden glanced over his shoulder and checked that she was still mobile enough to keep up her stubbornness.

She grimaced at the sight of his once enchanting face and her stomach turned. Yes, this sickening feeling definitely made sense. It was odd how dislike for even the most beautiful people could do that. How it could make them look so ugly. Well, maybe not ugly, but their beauty most definitely fell flat, the effects of it dulled dramatically, and all you could see was that they were not good.

The room was fitting for the owner if the inn. Its décor hadn't been updated since the seventies. The dark floral wallpaper, pink crochet doyleys on the bedside table that housed tarnished and chipped porcelain ballerinas, and frilly bed topper made Ava nauseous. Aiden found it comforting. Elements of the outdated design reminded him of his grandmother's home.

She sat gingerly on the edge of the queen-sized bed and rolled her eyes at the crackle of the plastic still wrapped around the mattress beneath the sheets.

"We're only going to be here for the night. I thought you might like a bed instead of a car seat."

She looked around the room then at him. Her stomach turned again; he was not good. She hated the way he froze under her glare, how his breath caught in his chest the way hers used to for him, and how unguarded his usually empty eyes were, begging her to see beyond the surface, begging her to remember how she'd felt for him before... "Where will you be sleeping?" It was the first thing she'd said in over a week. Her throat was dry and it made her voice harsh. She found she liked it that way.

"I'll take the sofa."

She gave a sharp nod then disappeared back behind her wall, blocking him and his hopeful eyes and tightened chest out. She kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers. The pillows smelt like flowery fabric softer and mildew, but she was too tired to care.

"There's some water and Nakd bars in the bag table if you want them."

She rolled over so her back was to him and fell asleep to the groaning bubble of her stomach.


What do you think about Ava's current state of mind? 

And (out of sheer curiosity) if you were in her situation, what would you do?

 Let me know in the comments below (and if you liked this chapter, please make sure to click the heart)

Love Scotty x

#RunningWilde Ch. 40 | July 4th

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This is beginning to feel like the long winded blues of the never

This is beginning to feel like it's curling up slowly and finding a throat to choke

This is beginning to feel like the long winded blues of the never

Barely controlled locomotive consuming the picture and blowing the crows to smoke

This is beginning to feel like the long winded blues of the never

Static explosion devoted to crushing the broken and shoving their souls to ghost

-DLZ

TV On the Radio

***

The hearse skidded and Dougie groaned through gritted teeth, wincing every time the hearse jerked over imperfections in the road or Aiden took a corner too fast. His blood, warm and sticky like maple syrup, created a puddle beneath his leg. It caused his body to slip and slide along the polished wood where Keegan's coffin had rested peacefully not too long ago, painting him a morbid mural.

Peace was destroyed. What the Syndicate had done, there was no coming back from. They kept taking and taking from the Diamond Mafia, and now the turf war had grown much uglier than it already was.

Aiden took a corner again and Dougie's wiry frame skidded across the wood and slammed into the chrome bars that lined the sides.

He howled.

Ava squeezed her eyes shut as if closing them would close her ears too. She spoke to Aiden through gritted teeth, "You need to get him to a hospital." It wasn't that she cared (in all honesty she couldn't care less if Dougie Monroe lived or died if she tried) she just couldn't take the sounds that erupted from his throat when he couldn't bite back the pain anymore. It irritated her. How dare he cry out! How fucking dare he feel anguish when he was so unfeeling! On top of that, the sound gave the impression that his physical pain was somehow worse than the festering wound in her chest that had once again been ripped back open and plied with acid, denying her peace, reminding her that any solace she found from here on in would never be real. She was haunted -haunted by the image of Max as he lay bleeding into someone else's grave while the angel stood by and did nothing. Her father...hanging limply, less than a foot away from her, surrounded by smoke and fire with a bullet in his head. Chris, the man who played a huge role in raising her as if she were his own flesh and blood, sat there, in the safety of one of her father's town cars, watching unbothered as she was dragged away barefoot and howling by the very men he'd come to seek revenge on.

There was no God and there was no justice. She knew that now.

Escape was pointless. Even if she got away, where the hell would she go? Who was she meant to run to?

"I'm all you've got now."

"I have no one."

She sobbed then swiped angrily at her face. The constant crying made her throat hoarse. The crying and wiping made her face and eyes red, but not in the pretty rose gold way; it was more of a furious scarlet.

Aiden had endured her screaming without out complaint. The poor thing; she'd been through so much and even hardened through his annoyance with her, he couldn't help but feel a little guilty for being a majority of the reason for it.

"It's too hot right now."

"Fine, let him die," she replied coldly.

"He's not going to die. You're going to fix him, Heaven."

"My name is Ava," she spat, "And it will be a cold day in hell when I help that man, or you for that matter."

Aiden gripped the steering wheel, the lightening of the dark flesh stretched over his knuckles obscured by a cocktail of dried blood, "Oh, you will."

"You can't make me. Anyway, I'm not a doctor."

"You're a vet, are you not?"

"A veterinary student...or at least I used to be."

He ignored her jab. "Either way, you have some medical experience."

"On animals!"

"Close enough. I'm sure you can remove a bullet, clean a wound and do some stitches."

"Maybe I can, but you'll never know. Like I said, you can't make me."

He looked at her sideways and his fist twitched around the wheel, "I could do exactly that, Ava-Marie," he dropped his tone to a crushed velvet growl, "But we're pressed for time." He looked in the rear-view mirror and locked her defiant eyes with his, unleashing his magnetic burn.

Without so much as a sharp intake of breath, Ava looked away from him. She'd told him her new truth; he couldn't make her do anything, not anymore, not even with his persuasive tactics that used to make her heart flutter and the softness at her apex, pulsate. It was too much. Aiden had finally gone too far. He'd taken everything from her, what else could he threaten her with? Death? She had been more than willing to shoot herself.

Her eyes went back to meet his stare. She smothered his waning heat with a numbing coldness, "Take him to the hospital or watch him die."

*

The hearse screeched into the ER parking bay of St. George's hospital.

"I need a doctor," Aiden called to the paramedics who'd run out when they saw the unauthorised vehicle. He yanked open the back door to show his best friend approaching death in a place reserved for the dead. It was too hot for them to be here after the shooting, so much was at stake, but unfortunately for him this was one of those situations where he had no choice but to risk it. It was a morose choice between incarceration and another death to add to the mounting pile of bodies? Prison he could find a way out of. Death...

Death was set in stone.

The paramedics loaded Dougie onto a gurney, checking his vitals and trying to keep him from closing his eyes lest he not reopen them. A small team of nurses and doctors appeared with a swing of the white and steel double doors and started to wheel him inside.

Aiden moved to follow them...then he remembered Ava-Marie Lockewood -the missing girl whom the entire country had been looking for, for weeks -crying, scarred, filthy and hating him in the front seat.

One of the doctors hung back. She gestured with her head after Dougie, "What happened to him?"

"He was shot."

She pursed her lips and looked at Dougie's blood stained white attire, "Another one from the cemetery?"

Aiden paused. This wouldn't bode well if the cemetery shooting was a thing. If it was thing it meant that the police were already here questioning victims, try to get to the bottom of it, and he couldn't know if they were the ones in his pocket. He had to think fast. "Is he going to be okay?"

"We'll know once we take a closer look. Who are you to the patient?"

Aiden's Adam's apple bobbed thickly, "He's my best friend."

"Well your friend has lost a lot of blood. Are there any family members that you can contact?"

He shook his head. He couldn't call Trish back; it was too dangerous for her and Jamie to return. "No one else is available."

"Then I'm sorry, there's not much we'll be able to tell you. If there are any next of kin you can get in contact with at all, please do. He's lost a lot of blood," she fixed him with a serious gaze to make sure he understood. He did. His understanding made his throat close up and the space behind his eyeballs ache and overheat in need of release. "You're free to wait inside, just so he has someone."

"Okay."

"What's the patient's name?"

"Saadiq Khan," he offered up Titan's name. His death hadn't been recorded yet. It was less risky than telling them than the man on the gurney being wheeled into a hospital full of police, was Douglas Monroe.

The doctor furrowed her brow at Dougie.

"His dad is from Pakistan."

"Right... We'll take good care of Saadiq. You may stay in the waiting room for now, until someone comes for him."

He bit down on his back teeth. He couldn't call Trish. She'd hate him for it but there was no use in both of them dying, or Jamie being taken away. "No one is coming for him. Look," he wrung his hands together and stared pleadingly into her eyes, "He's my best friend. The closest thing I have to family," he reached into the inside pocket of his blood streaked blazer and pulled out a thick wad of twenties. He pushed it into her surprised hands, "I'd really like to be kept up to speed on how he's doing."

The doctor gawked at the excessive amount of money balancing between the desperate force of his fingers and the hesitant force of hers. She pushed it back. "Sir, I appreciated that you are worried about your friend, but I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do for you. It's against hospital policy_"

"Please!" he pushed it back harder. Purple papers slipped free and fluttered to the ground. Aiden didn't bend to reach for them, he just stared at her desperately while the tears he fought so hard to hold back begun to create a gradually growing line of water against his waterline.

She frowned and placed her hand on top of his gently, "Sir, I really am sorry. Like I said, you are free to sit in the waiting room." She tuned and followed the gurney inside. Aiden watched Dougie get wheeled away. The doors swung shut behind them.

"Sir, you'll have to move your...hearse," a young paramedic said as he furrowed his brow. He looked at Aiden's clothes, "Do you need to see someone? That's a lot of blood."

Aiden's dark eyes flicked to him, "It's not mine," he replied evenly.

The paramedic swallowed and took a step back, "Okay. Your c-car please, Sir."

Aiden rolled his eyes, "I'm going." He stormed back to the hearse and slammed the door shut "FUCK!" His fist beat against the steering wheel once, twice, three times. He broke out into a violent combination of hands and his head, growling and roaring, slamming his back against the back of his seat and stomping. The hearse rocked and vibrated.

Ava stared out of the window and pretended she wasn't there.

Aiden wanted to wring her neck. He knew it wasn't her fault; she had every right to feel the way she did, but she'd forced his hand and made him bring Dougie here. It was a big mistake to bring him here.

"He did it for you, you know," he sneered. "Dougie shooting at Chris –that was for you."

"And that means what?"

"I don't know...but it's Dougie. It means something."

"It means he enjoys killing," she said bluntly. "He shot at Chris and I'm meant to be grateful? I'm supposed give a shit about what happens to him because there's someone else that he wants dead more than me?" she scoffed. "He wants to shoot me too. It means nothing to me. You've ruined my life, all of you, so fuck Dougie and fuck you, Aiden!" she screamed.

Aiden clocked a movement of out the corner of his eye. "Shut up!" He grabbed the back of Ava's head and yanked her down then covered her torso with his. "Get as low down in your seat as you can, and stay down."

She felt his heartbeat quicken in his against her back and it made hers fall into step. Something was very, very wrong.

They slipped lower and Aiden pulled out his phone, "Mighty, get to St George's now! Bring everything and everyone with you."

He hung up before his lieutenant could reply.

"Aiden," Ava squeaked.

He covered her mouth, "Sshhh!"

Heavy boot falls attempted to tread stealthily pass the hearse. Hushed male voices grunted and laughed sinisterly. "It's about time someone took out Monroe."

"I'm gonna make sure that prick's out for good."

Steel shot up Aiden's spine. He clenched his fist and spoke through gritted teeth. "I'm going in there. If you want to live you will stay low and stay quiet. These men will kill you, Ava-Marie. Remember, I'm all you have now. No matter how much you hate me, you know that I'm the only one keeping you safe, so do as I say." He pulled his pistol from the harness and swapped the cartridge to a full clip. For what he had planned it was best that he not have to swap cartridges mid-shoot out, especially with no idea how long it would take for his reinforcements to arrive. It was him against what felt like the world, and there was no way in hell he was going to let those Syndicate fucks get to Dougie.

Heart racing, high on adrenaline, with his determined grip on his weapon, Aiden took a deep breath and rose slowly. His beast rolled its shoulders and licked its fangs, ready for blood. His black eyes peeked above the rim and he came face to face with the barrel of a Syndicate soldier's gun. He'd spotted Aiden and Ava hiding in the car and had chosen to wait silently for Aiden to see his gloating face. He wanted the hood's hottest king pin to see the man who would send him to meet his maker.

He grinned, flashing Aiden with one gold tooth. "Gotch_" Before he could get all of the syllables out, Aiden cocked his wrist and fired a kill shot that would make Dougie swell with pride. Right between the eyes.

Glass shattered.

Blood smattered.

Ava screamed.

The body hit the ground with a dull thud and the soft slosh of limbs.

"TONY!" a Syndicate soldier who was just about to enter through the emergency doors of the hospital cried out.

Aiden turned to Ava, "If anyone asks you, you are Heaven, okay?"

"I am Heaven..." she repeated, wide eyed and shaking. She didn't think that watching someone get murdered in front of her was something she could ever get used to. Whether they were good or bad, it was awful to witness someone go from being very much alive to an empty vessel. Gang deaths were worse. They were gruesome. The violence taken to end lives made her wish for one of those silver flashing sticks from the Men in Black films so that those memories could be erased, because they didn't die with the person. They, along with her other woes, played over and over like a non-stop horror movie that she couldn't escape. If it wasn't in her head then it was in front of her, around her, and its instigator above or beneath her trying to protect her from it whilst he burned the rest of the world down.

"There are four more men on their way over. I'm going to take care of them, then I will come back for you and we will get Dougie. Okay?"

"Aiden..." she quivered.

He kissed his teeth. He didn't have time for her to shut down right now. His South London accent pushed through, "Do you understand?"

"I..."

He launched himself out of the hearse, "Just stay down 'til I come for you, yeah."

He spun and ducked behind the open door with the shattered, blood smattered glass.

Ava clamped her hand over her ears and squeezed her eyes shut as shots rained down in the hospital ER lot, loud and unforgiving. There were screams, and yelling, running and cursing, howling...and then the shots stopped and the screams weren't as terrible, muffled behinds hospital windows and doors.

Aiden appeared at her side and pulled her out of the car, "Stand up." He tucked her under his arm as his eyes darted around and his pistol was at the ready for the next threat.

Something wet and warm ran down her back. She twisted her neck to see the new red stain on his white suit generating from a small burning hole in his bicep. "You're bleeding!"

He glanced at it, "Oh."

"Oh? Aiden, you've been shot!"

He kept moving them forward.

"We can't go in there. They'll kill us."

"They'll kill Dougie."

"Fuck Dougie! We need to get out of here," she tried to pull away but he held fast.

The white and steel doors swung open and three figures came into view. "STOP RIGHT THERE, MICHAELS! DROP THE WEAPON, LET GO OF THE GIRL AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP."

Aiden muttered expletives under his breath. "Officer, listen to me_"

"PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN, LET GO OF THE GIRL AND PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!"

His stomach coiled with a sickening feeling as he slowly let go of Ava. The coiling was a warning, his gut feeling that this was not the right thing for him to do. He had to keep her safe. He had to keep her safe, but if they took her away from him he couldn't do that. He'd break his promise, and out of everything he'd done to her, that would be the worst because then there would have been no saving grace to any of this mess that he had them all stuck in. He wanted to grab her back and get rid of the police officers...permanently, but even the most powerful criminal knew that killing law enforcement was a dumb move that had a frightening amount of backlash, even if you had some of the force on your side. Police could be as crooked as a tube map, but they didn't tolerate their own being slaughtered.

The three officers surrounded them, two male and one female. The male officers edged towards him as the female moved cautiously towards Ava like she hadn't deciphered whether the dishevelled, barefoot, cotton candy-haired girl was a threat or not.

Aiden held additional curses behind clenched teeth. "Officer, armed men have just entered that hospital with the intent to murder a patient. I'm trying to stop that from happening."

"Stop them from offing Monroe?" the shorter male officer scoffed, "No chance."

Aiden cringed as realisation dawned on him. Not only were these officers not on his side, but they sided with his enemy. Things were going in the exact direction he didn't want them to. He spared a quick glance at Ava and the coiling in his stomach got tighter.

The short officer stepped closer and jabbed his pudgy finger at the hospital, "With the amount of bodies Monroe has left behind him for us to clean up, it would be a blessing to this world to be rid of him," drops of saliva sprayed from his mouth onto the white painted lines of the parking bay as he narrowed his eyes at Aiden with a kind of hate most reserved for lifelong enemies "...and you, Michaels."

Aiden's hand tightened around the handle of his pistol.

The other male officer stuck his hand out, halting his partner in his steps. "Michaels, drop the weapon," he said in a calmer tone than the short officer.

"Let me pass."

"That's not gonna happen, boy. If you don't shut it and do as you're told, Monroe ain't the only one who's gonna need saving," the short officer threatened. His beady eyes flicked to Ava.

Ava's eyes darted between both sides; the bad guy and the good guys...well at least that's what it said on paper. The criminals were bad and the police were good, but from where she was standing it didn't seem that way at all. She couldn't deny that the officer was right -the world would be better without Dougie in it, maybe even without Aiden (definitely without Aiden), but the police were meant to be the ones who swore to protect and serve, and brought the bad guys to justice in a just way. Aiden had just told them that armed men had stormed the hospital to kill an injured man and they were prepared to stand here and let them. There was no good and no bad, only humans doing what they could to ensure their own power and survival. She twisted her arm a little and the female officer tightened her grip more than necessary. She no longer felt anywhere close to safe.

"Stay calm," the female officer warned in her ear, "It's not you they want."

This definitely was not right.

Aiden didn't miss the way the more subdued male officer glanced at his watch then spared one over his shoulder at the hospital. They were waiting for something, and whatever this something was, he wasn't about to stand around waiting along with them for it to happen. They hadn't called for backup or even attempted to fetch more officers from inside the hospital. It unsettled him further because the only logical conclusion that he could draw was that the ones inside of the hospital were in on it too. He eyed up the police. The shorter one was heavier whilst his taller partner was and had something closer to an athletic frame, which meant that he was quicker...

So Aiden shot him first.

The bullet cut right through his throat like a hot knife to butter. He grabbed at his neck in disbelief with eyes the size of traffic lights, praying for the sudden chaos to stop.

Aiden smiled, satisfied. His beast purred.

The officer spluttered, choked, and involuntarily gargled on the rapid influx of blood as it drowned him from the inside, stumbling around and clutching at his neck as if he could push the blood back in, as if as long as he kept moving, the storm clouds around the edges of his vision would stop closing in. He was fighting a battle against death and even though he knew that there was no way that he would win, he needed to believe that if he tried hard enough he could win and wipe that jeer off of Aiden's face. He fell to his knees and put his slippery scarlet hands out in front of him to stall the feeling of sinking down into the nothingness that awaited him with open arms.

Aiden killed a police officer. The potential of the shit storm he had to deal with, increased tenfold, but it was a necessity, albeit a reckless one.

The remaining male officer's arrogance dissipated as fast as the blood that flowed from his partners wound. This was his first time dealing with the notorious Aiden Michaels, and to his disappointment, Aiden didn't disappoint. Rumours of his ruthlessness were treated as revered legends among the force. Tales of disturbingly gruesome murders, high stake robberies, and the many gut-wrenching methods he'd used to make the streets of South London bow down and kiss his ring in a shorter time than any other big time hustler on the come up. The world would be a better place without him; there was no doubt about that. The terrible crimes he'd committed and gotten away with led the officer to believe that Aiden could only be Satan with a pretty face.

He recalled a corrupt tale about a small time dealer from a rival gang who'd tried to get the jump on Aiden when he was starting out. Apparently, after stealing his merchandise from him (three ounces of weed to be exact) and knocking him to the ground, the young man told Aiden to 'eat a dick'.

...A plumber found the young man months later tucked behind the boiler in the basement of his tower block, tied to a chair with his genitals severed off and duct-tape over his mouth. When the police turned up and removed the tape, they discovered where his genitals had gone.

Eat a dick.

The officer didn't feel so brave any more. He leapt behind a parked ambulance truck.

Had Aiden been alone he would have used that opportunity of the officer's cowardice to run into the hospital and rescue Dougie...but Ava-Marie. Ava-Marie, with her fear-glazed hazel eyes, quivering rosebud mouth and conflicting tension in her muscles as the tiresome battle between head and heart waged on. He wouldn't leave her.

He would never leave her.

Aiden charged after the officer as he cowered behind the van and called for backup. He fired at him until his radio was blasted to pieces and his injuries incapacitated him. He wasn't going to finish him off; he didn't deserve a death that easy. After the way he'd championed the slaughter of his best friend, Aiden found that he quite liked the idea of the officer slowly bleeding to death only a few feet from help that wouldn't come until it was much too late.

An ear-splitting scream echoed across the ER bay that made his veins turn to ice, preventing him for firing one last shot in-between the officer's leg for the fun of it. The sound had begun loud and prominent, then became textured with vocal strangulation, fluctuating in and out of audible recognition. He bound from behind the truck to see the female officer with her Taser locked onto Ava, as she howled his name like a desperate Hail Mary, crying out for mercy. As Aiden raised his pistol to stop her torture, his own commenced as the female officer transferred the aggressive voltage from Ava to him. His weapon clattered against the tarmac and his muscles locked together, vibrating, making bones clattering and flesh burn like hell had taken up residence within the confines of his skin. Ava twitched on the ground; tears blurred her vision and her temperature spiked and dropped with the aftershock of the current that still lingered. An indomitable ring in her ears was enough to mask the sound of his rough and jagged voice crying her name, begging her to get up and run, run, run...

Even with fifty thousand volt frying him alive, Aiden was still more concerned with Ava's well-being. It was things like this -small but significant things -that made it hard to despise him the way that she was supposed to. Tears rolled down the sides of her face as she watched his convulsing hand reaching for her, still trying to save her when he was the one who needed saving.

"Officer Jones, requesting immediate backup," the female officer said into her radio clasped in her free hand, "Two officers down. The offender is a Mr Aiden Michaels, disarmed but dangerous. I also have an IC3 female, subdued. She has bright pink hair... I'm not sure, but I think she's the Loc_"

BANG! BANG! BANG!

"Officer Jones?" The voice on the other end of the radio crackled, "Officer Jones? Come in Officer Jones."

Stone's boot came down hard on the radio until the voice on the other end was nothing but distorted white noise and high pitched whistling to accompany the sound of Officer Jones's body hitting the ground.

"This way," Mighty stood at the entrance of the ER bay and directed the cavalry of Diamond Mafia soldiers; some of them through the double doors of the hospital and a few to stay behind whilst Stone tended to Aiden. He marched over to Ava, "What happened?"

"These men...they came out of nowhere...and they...they started shooting. Aiden...he killed them...all of them...and then the police...the police," she stressed the noun still in disbelief of how the enforcers of the law had responded. She'd never seen anything like that where she was from.

"The police were their usual pleasant selves," he finished for her with a flippant roll of his eyes.

"She tased me! I didn't do anything."

"Like I said..." He placed his arm under her shaking shoulders and put her into the upright position. She saw Aiden lying on the ground, barely moving with the exception of aftershocks as Stone spoke quietly and calmly to him as he checked his vitals. She found herself about to ask if he was okay. It was that stupid tugging made her open her mouth to do so, but this time her resentment won her over. Her mouth snapped shut and she found herself hoping that he wasn't. 

The world would be a better place if you weren't in it.

"Are you okay to walk?" Mighty asked impatiently as he scanned their surroundings. Three police officers were dead. Reinforcements would be there soon and they couldn't be when that happened.

"I'm not sure." Her eyes were still on Aiden, the stupid question still on the tip of her stupid, tugging tongue.

"We need to get you guys out of here...stat," he chuckled awkwardly, knowing that his humour was in bad taste but not wanting to pass up the chance at hospital related joke.

Ava frowned at him.

Mighty pushed his overgrown blonde curls out of his eyes and cleared his throat. "This place is about to light up like the fourth of July," he said in a forced American action movie voice that made his awkward moment even more awkward. Seriousness had never been his strong suit. Being a bubbly person in his line of work, you had to catch the light wherever you could or the darkness would swallow you up like it did everyone else –a least that was his view of it. It made him frequently annoying, but also it made his peers grateful that at least one of them wasn't completely pulled under. Aiden had said that Mighty was as crazy as everyone else, just a different kind of crazy; a more tolerable sort, fuelled by curiosity rather than rage and destruction. He smiled sheepishly at Ava. She couldn't fathom what reason there was to smile about. Everything was shit.

He got her to her to her feet and hobbled along with her to one of the white armoured trucks parked round the corner, then just like he'd foretold, the Fourth of July commenced in the wings of St George's Hospital.


So...how was this chapter for you? 

Do you think Dougie should survive or not, and why? 

What are your views on Ava's change in attitude towards Aiden? 

How would you like her character to develop from here?

Let me know in the comments below, and don't forget to click the heart and share too.  

Love Scotty x

#RunningWilde Ch. 39 | Fire & Ice

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And it hurts so bad when you know it

What can you do, love?

When I run again chasing

You know it, know it

If it's a game I call, I'll cheat it

Just what can I do, love?

It's a dance we both do and we know it

We know it, we know it

-The Chase

Sohn

*

"We're wasting ammo shooting at this fucking tree," Dougie grunted as he reloaded his clip. "Screw this, I'm gonna go take him out."

Aiden furrowed his brow and stuck his arm out blocking Dougie's determined advance, "I don't think that will be necessary." Long tendrils of ebony tresses danced erratically in the air in the manner of a white flag used for surrender. It was the wig gripped between Ava's fingers.

"I'm coming out. Please don't shoot."

Dougie snapped his fully loaded clip back into place and resumed his battle stance, ignoring the 'stand down soldier' look Aiden flashed him. Where Aiden was blind it was Dougie's job to see what his best friend and leader couldn't or refused to.

"I've got this," he assured him, pushing back with a touch more force.

"I know bruv, but just in case you don't, I've got you, aight?"

Aiden put his hand down and nodded. Ava was harmless but she wasn't by alone anymore and lord knows what Yang had put into her head. All those weeks of progress that they'd made felt like they were dissipating and trickling away like sand between his fingers. He lowered his gun a little "Drop the wig and keep your hands where I can see them."

"Are you going to shoot me?"

"Haven't decided yet," Dougie interjected.

"Dougie..." Aiden warned under his breath.

Dougie smiled his slippery smile and shrugged. He was nothing but honest and extremely unapologetic about it, and when you had the kind of disturbingly accurate, quick fingered temperament as he did, you could afford the luxury.

Ava looked at Max; how on earth was this going to work? He brushed the back of his hand against hers, his skin casting a promise that no matter what, she was going to be okay. It was hard to believe it when the heads of the Diamond Mafia had landed enough bullets in their shield to take down an entire herd of wild animals, which were meant for them, but the certainty that Max exuded made her want to. So she did. She swallowed. "...Aiden?"

"I want to see Yang first."

The faith that Max instilled in her only moments ago shrivelled up in an instant. There was a chance that she could survive Aiden, but not Max. Beyond being his enemy, she knew he wasn't fond of her fondness for her friend. He'd never said it, but he didn't have to. He was an alpha male, possessive and egotistical. That fused with his fixation with her, made Max a threat. "No," she said quickly, her voice coming out panicked. Max's plan was a good one in theory but Aiden was proving to be as unpredictable as she'd anticipated. She was going to have to work off of instinct if she wanted them to have half a chance. "You'll hurt him. It's me you want." She stepped out from behind the bullet-worn tree with her hands in the air feeling the breeze fly past her as Max's startled hands tried to grab her back. Boldly out in the open, her shock of pink hair drew eyes from far and wide. She could feel them on her, taking notice, squinting and studying her features, putting two and two together, their curious voices carried on the wind wondering if it was her, Vince Lockewood's not-so-secret-anymore daughter. This is part of why she'd chosen such a striking shade, so that she would draw attention, so that somebody, anybody would get her the hell outta Dodge. They looked from her to Michaels with his gun pointed in her direction...

...And nobody did a damn thing.

These were her father's men, and nobody came for her. This had to be Chris's doing. There was no other explanation as to why she could be in plain sight in obvious danger and not so much as a step was taken in her direction. Witnessing it only made the pang of unwarranted betrayal that much sharper. Fuck 'em, she didn't need them. All that mattered was her and Max. "I'll go with you, just leave Max alone."

Aiden narrowed his eyes and her and cocked his head to the side in his calculating way, "Didn't I tell you to drop the wig, Ava-Marie?" Now his gun was trained on her. He pulled the clip back.

Ava's eyes widened and her heart shuddered at the sound of war being raged on her. She was certain that having a gun pulled on her would never feel normal or less panic-strickening. She couldn't get how these men and woman of the underworld encountered it so calmly. Either they'd had it happen to them so many times that they were used to it, they had some bizarre unflappable confidence that they would be the survivor of these standoffs...or that the calm was a bold-faced lie. That underneath the mask of their gangster personas, that they were all as terrified as she was. She had to think fast. "I'm sorry!" She threw the wig to the right as if it had caught on fire.

In the few seconds it took for the wig to distract the Mafia leader's attentions, Max sprung from behind the tree.

BANG!

The bullet pierced right through Dougie's kneecap and the silent killer let out a ghastly noise of a delusional immortal, his disillusion blasted to pieces and the acceptance that he too was just a man forced upon him.

Dougie never got shot.

Ava's slippery hands gripped the spare pistol Max had handed her that she'd concealed beneath the wig, and pointed it shakily at her sweet tormenter.

So this is what I was like to hold a gun. Cold. Hard. Heavy -in more ways than one. It felt dangerous, and powerful...and wrong. She wasn't the type of a girl who held guns, let alone pointed them at people with the intent to shoot. She had the power to take another human's life at the twitch of her fingers and it was even scarier than having a gun pointed at her. This kind of power was bathed in black with a 'NO WAY OUT' sign glaring back at her in the midst of the darkness. There was no way to come back from something like that. She imagined that after killing someone that your soul would be permanently disfigured and that it would haunt you and torment you until you met the same permanent fate as your victim.

It would be easier to point it at Dougie. He hated her, he wanted her dead. Against Dougie, the gun was protection, but Aiden...

Against Aiden her feelings about it was like everything else. Conflicted.

The whites of his eyes blazed bright enough to set fire to his enemies, making the black coffee of his irises more deathly. She'd tricked him and now his best friend had a bullet in his leg, growling through bared teeth as he dropped to the ground and the morning dew on the green grass began to drown in red.

Dougie never got shot. Ever.

The scratching, clawing and incessant rattling against Aiden's ribcage halted. His beast drew back then broke into a gluttonous run, hungry for disaster, and hurtled itself toward the surface at the speed of light and sound combined, crashing through his bones and spreading rapidly like a line of cocaine into the bloodstream.

He pointed his gun at Max.

"Don't!" she yelped, the gun slipping a little between her nervous fingers.

Her sweet, desperate voice halted him. It halted him and he hated her for it. She made him weak and her hated her for it because he kept halting and going against is nature for this fucking exquisitely maddening woman. "Or what, Ava-Marie?" he snarled.

He sounded demented. She was aware of the monster and the situation grew all the more terrifying because he was. That was when the adrenaline kicked in. She copied the stance Max had shown her briefly behind the tree and something like fire tingled in her bones. An understanding. A desire. The lust for power that had driven so many before her was giving birth in her veins. "I'll...I'll shoot you."

She was maddening.

Aiden fixed his gaze on her, bared his white teeth and stormed forward.

"AVA!" Max roared, "AVA, SHOOT HIM!" He would have done it himself but although Dougie was badly injured, he wasn't out of the game just yet. His face flickered between his sinister grin and a grimace as he stealthily dragged his wounded body across the grass to reach his weapon. Max wanted to kill him, but getting rid of Michaels's best friend before Ava was safe couldn't possibly bode well for them. The plan was crashing and burning right in front of his eyes and the feeling of faith fading that Ava had felt was now plaguing him. If Max didn't kill Dougie or Aiden now then he would be dead, but if he did, with the way Michaels was coming for her, Ava would be. He wanted to shoot Aiden but he couldn't afford to take his eyes off of his injured opponent. Wounded or not, this was still Dougie Monroe. "SHOOT HIM!"

Aiden was coming hard and fast. Her hand shakily followed the knotted spot between his eyebrows –the kill shot Max instructed her to take when he'd given her the plan. In her panic at losing this chance to get away, she'd said yes, and despite the fire of desire in her bloodstream, agreeing to kill a man, a terrible man, seemed as simple as it was to let him live. As simple as it was to breathe. His death would be the release of the breath she'd been holding; the one that pressed hard against her ribs and turned her face blue since he'd disrupted her reality and painted it black. But it wasn't simple. It was as complex as their relationship had become, with so much good and evil merged together that to make a final decision made her head hurt and her heart ache. She'd be free...but she'd be a murderer, and then she'd be no better than he was. 

She curled her finger tighter around the trigger...

"AVA, DO IT. NOW, AVA!" Dougie was within reach of his weapon. "KILL HIM!"

Kill him? Kill Aiden? Take his life and remember that she did it for the rest of hers.

She turned the gun on herself.

Her had stopped trembling then. The flames of power burned brighter and made her eyes glow. She closed her eyes. She exhaled.

"NO!"

Aiden whacked the pistol out of her hand with such a force that it flew across the graveyard and disappeared into the bushes. The whites of his eyes stood out stark against his black skin, wide with alarm as he yanked her to him. He held her unbearably tightly against his chest, his wild heart thudding against her, gripping her white dress between his bloodstained fingers and burying his nose in her valentine curls. It lasted all but one fleeting moment; the fear of losing her pushing away the escalating violence of his beast...and then he spun with her still clutched to him, to face Max.

He fired.

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

The blasts of gunfire were accented by Ava's muffled screams and Max's war cries as Aiden emptied his clip into each one of his limbs, starting with his knees.

She struggled against the solid bulk of his arm, biting and clawing at him with all of the fight she had in her, but he was too strong. She couldn't get to Max. He'd come to save her and even her best efforts wouldn't allow her to save him. Howling and crying, she whipped around violently, her swan song the harmony to the fading sounds of Max's screams. The fire that once graced her veins burned out and turned her whole body cold with ice that spread like a virus until it hit her heart. The last candle that had flickered so precariously in the wind finally went out. It felt like dying.

Max became silent. His blood seeped into the grass and roots of the forsaken willow tree as the stone angel looked on.

Aiden grabbed Ava by the shoulders and forced her to look up at him. He looked different; soul stifled and empty again. The tyrant she knew him to be when they'd first met. And she feared him the way she was supposed to. Whatever small changes her presence had inspired within him were erased. He'd gone back to black.

He didn't utter a word. He didn't have to. Everything that needed to be said was emblazoned across his heart-breaking features.

I am Aiden Michaels.

The weight of his true self had never really hit her until then, and it was crushing and exasperating. He was still a god but not one to be revered. He was Hades incarnate and she, ashamedly, was his Persephone. He'd taken everything from her so that she had nothing but him.

She didn't want him.

"I hate you."

He merely blinked at her venom, unaffected. She had every right to hate him but it wouldn't change anything. He'd made a promise and even if it damned them both he was going to keep it. When all he did was motivated by money, respect, power and heartlessness, there was something noble about at least keeping his word, no matter the promise. He gripped her wrist and marched her over to Dougie's side, blocking out her god awful screaming when her eyes finally rested on Max.

"Can you walk?" he asked Dougie over the harrowing sound.

"I don't know yet?" he said, his fingers nipping at his gun until he dragged it back to him.

Aiden stuck out his hand. "Hold onto me. We're leaving." He hoisted Dougie up and slipped his arm under him for support. Dougie gritted his teeth as the pain shot through his nervous sytem, and growled. "Your sister is going to kill me."

Dougie glared over Aiden's shoulder at Ava; "Good."

Her eyes hadn't left Max. He was barely breathing now. Short, sharp, shallow breaths and the lulling flutter of his eyelids were the only indication that he hadn't gone just yet but that he was close. He looked like he was drifting off to sleep, as if peace was coming to gently whisk him away into an eternal night filled with so many trillions of stars that it would be like re-joining the universe rather than leaving hers. She couldn't bear it.

Aiden yanked her forward and she dug her bare heels into the ground. "NO! NO, I'M NOT LEAVING HIM. I'M NOT GOING WITH YOU. MAX!" she cried so hard that the sound made her voice raw and tears ran like rivers down her face, "MAAAXXX, GET UP PLEASE. PLEASEEEE!"

"Stop it," he snarled tightening his grip on her wrist.

"MAX!"

She struggled again but with Dougie relying on him to keep him upright, holding onto her was even harder than before.

"LET ME GO!" She swung at him and her fist connected with the stab wound his mother had given him. Aiden roared and let her go so as not to drop Dougie. She ran to Max, wanting to throw herself across him and shield him from every evil, but as she collapsed onto her knees at his side and surveyed the horrors of Aiden's bullet wounds in very joint his arms and legs, she knew it was too late. "Max, I'm so sorry. I don't know what to do... there's so much blood." Her hands waved over him wanting to cradle him but fearing that she would only make it worse. "Please don't die." He turned his head slowly to look at her and twitched his fingers. She clutched them tenderly, "Your body temperature is dropping. We need to get you to a hospital. Do you have your phone?" She began to pat him down frantically

"Ava..." he groaned.

She stopped and grabbed his hand again. "Yes?"

"...Run."

Before she could process his warning, Aiden came up behind her and jerked her from him. He slapped his hand over her mouth, "Quiet!" his voice was less harsh, "We have to go, now. Say goodbye," he nodded at Max, who despite his dwindling life force, managed to glare at him with as much contempt as any man hold.

"I'm not fucking com_"

"Ava-Marie," he hissed impatiently, "More cars are pulling up and they are not your father's men. Someone let them know you're here." He narrowed his eyes at the Syndicate men wondering who had snitched and vowing to kill them as soon as he had the chance. "They have seen you now_"

"I don't care."

"They will kill you."

"I DON'T_"

He covered her mouth again and flared his nostrils, "Well I do. Come quietly or I'll shoot him in the head right in front of you, and you will never get to say goodbye or get that image out of your head."

More tears blurred her vision as she looked back down at Max. "I love you, Max. You're my best friend and the greatest man I've ever known and I'm so sorry that I wasn't strong enough to do what had to be done." She laid her hand on his chest and her voice broke, "I'll never forget you."

"C'mon." Aiden pulled her away over to the tree that he'd left Dougie leaning up against. They dropped behind them as he half dragged her and half carried Dougie towards Keegan's empty hearse. He hadn't even been able to lay his little brother or Ashleigh to rest. Their coffins lay by the graveside with bullet holes in them and white flower petals scattered around them smattered in blood. He would never forgive the Syndicate for this. No amount of revenge could absolve their continued disrespect, but he would make them pay dearly.

As they passed the bushes near the groundskeeper's house, Ava spotted one of her father's town cars. In the front passenger seat, watching her get carried away was Chris. He looked at his goddaughter without an ounce of concern or discomfort, and when she cried his name in vain, he looked away as if she wasn't even there.

Max was right.

Her heart turned to dust and suddenly the tension in her walk evaporated. She followed Aiden obediently.

"I'm all you've got now." He said it like it was a victory, as if her loneliness was a prize to be won because now it meant that whether she liked it or not the only person who was looking out for her was him.

"I have no one." She said dejectedly.

Poor, sweet, Ava-Marie. A victim of unfair circumstance, forced to suffer over the pride and arrogance of men who didn't deserve to know her.

BANG!

Dougie fired a shot that did little more than dent the bulletproof glass of the windshield, but was so obviously a kill shot. Chris was forced to acknowledge them then. He locked eyes with Dougie, and Dougie...well, Dougie just smiled.

Ava glanced back one last time at Max lying still underneath the willow tree, his chest still rising and falling, the stone angel watching him from afar.

She squeezed her eyes shut and wished, "Please."


There have been a lot of interesting conflicting conversations about Aiden. Most of you LOVE HIM OFF and the rest of you HATE him. How has this chapter made you feel about him now? Let me know in the comments below.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO CLICK THE HEART AND SHARE TOO, M'LUVS

Till next time, stay slaying for tha gawds, you majestic swan!

Love Scotty x

#RunningWilde Ch. 38 | Angels

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For you I will, lay my life on the line

For you I will fight

For you I will die

With every breath, with all my soul

I'll give my world

I'll give it all

-For You I Will

Monica

*

Trish gave it some gas, put the pedal to the metal and shot off in a blaze of pebbles and burning rubber. Aiden wished he could go with them, but just as before, Jamie couldn't be safe with him. He was a walking target, the whole reason these men and their weapons were here. As long as they were out for blood he would be unfit to keep his nephew. He prayed that one day all of that would change and he would really have his out.

He jogged back to the action, ducking and dodging bullets, dipping behind and diving over gravestones. He slipped behind a willow tree for cover, appearing every few seconds to fire off a round of shots guaranteed to make enemy bodies fall.

Stone lurked around the edges with a large serrated knife that he wielded like it was the hood equivalent of Excalibur, preferring the manual method of delivering death up close and personal.

Dani and Baby were teamed up, taking on throngs of Syndicate men with their disarming appearances and stealthy movements. They were almost as good as Ash.

Almost.

Merkz was using his bare hands. He had his gun tucked into his holster but the feel of knuckles pounding flesh was more satisfactory.

Mighty was further afield, his tousled mop of blonde hair whipping around his eyes as he threw out micro-explosives and peculiar tiny, spiked black balls the size of marbles that acted as tazers, electrocuting their mark on impact until they frothed at the mouth and tears of red ran from their rolled back eyes.

Dougie was amidst the chaos, in plain sight with a wide grin fixed on his face, relishing in the madness as only Dougie could, like a kid in Hamley's toy store, spoilt for choice of marks and high on the rush of death by his hand. He looked invincible, almost to the point that Aiden could imagine him as some sort of super anti-hero, as quick as The Flash, with the ability to dodge bullets without his movements appearing to the naked eye. He had a machine gun clutched lovingly in his hands like a mechanic extension of himself. How he'd managed to slip it onto his person unnoticed was something of a magic trick. His slender frame could hide pistols and knives well enough -there was room for that -but the long black steel weapon that unforgivingly echoed BRAK-KA-KAT as he swung it like a lasso...how?

It seemed everyone had come prepared.

Aiden leapt out from behind the willow to join his friend. "Get every last one of these dickheads." He fired a kill shot into the head of a man running foolishly towards them with a switch blade.

"None of them will make it out alive...on your left!"

Aiden's snapped his aim to the left and three shots took down a burly beast who refused to go quietly. "Thanks, bruv."

"Course. By the way, if you see Mullins, he's mine."

"Sounds personal."

"Not really," Dougie sprayed a horizontal stream of hot metal, "I just don't like the guy. He's bitch-made."

"That explains why we can't see him. He's probably watching the whole thing behind tinted windows in his town car like Lockewood used to," Aiden snorted, unimpressed.

Dougie snickered, "You know he is. He ain't a real one like you, fam. He ain't even fit to run The Syndicate."

Aiden cocked his head contemplatively, "No...he isn't, is he?"

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

Dougie caught the change in his friend's tone and his grin widened, "The Lockewod girl might come in handy after all."

BRAK-KA-KA-KAT!

"I'm way ahead of you...behind the crypt!"

Dougie veered right and unleashed a tirade of gunfire, catching the five Syndicate soldiers that had sprung from behind the gothic building of stone and iron. "Oh?"

"We need to get a hold of Vince's will."

"How?"

"My lovely wife, of course," he winked roguishly.

"But you're hiding her...plus, she's not really your wife."

"For now." KA-BOOM! "Give it time."

They rotated and glided through the madness, slaying their enemies at an alarming rate and yelling instructions over their shoulders to keep each other safe. With Dougie at his side Aiden felt the invincibility he'd sought after.

"I've gotta say, A, I don't understand where your head is at when it comes to this chick. Sometimes I think you're getting lost I the sauce and then you turn around and say some boss shit that makes me reconsider."

"You don't need to understand it." BOOM! "I'm Aiden Michaels. Trust that I know what I'm doing."

"I hope so." Dougie muttered.

*

Max stalked across the grounds, keeping out of sight of both sides of the battle. He wasn't here to end lives, he was here to save one and he wanted to avoid spilling as much blood as possible...unless it was his -the mad man who'd taken Ava from him in the first place and murdered the man that Max owed his life to.

Aiden Michaels was his exception to the rule.

He ducked behind the next tree over, one away from Ava, then bent low and scooped up a handful of small rocks on the ground. He threw them against the wings of the angelic statue that his angel hid behind.

Ava jumped and yelped at the sound assuming it could only be a bullet. She took a wary peek and glimpsed movement from between the billowing vines of the willow tree a few yards away. There was someone there. She'd been spotted. She thought she'd been so careful, that her absence had gone unnoticed because everyone was so wrapped up in killing each other that she'd be the last thing on their mind. She could almost taste the freedom she craved and now it was threatened. She pressed her back to the statue, its magnificent wings of soot-stained stone looking like they sprouted from her back, when she heard her name.

"Ava...Ava, it's me."

Her brow furrowed, "Max?" She dipped lower and dipped her head under the wing of her stone guardian to see the sharp angular features and spiky raven hair that she had feared she would never see again. Her heart leapt and her eyes stung with happy tears. This was normality staring her in the face through the unforgettable almond gaze of her protector.

She stepped out to run to him but he held up his hand halting her haste. "Wait," he mouthed. He pulled his gun from his holster, pointed it at the grave war before him and quickly crossed his feet one over the other in practiced sidesteps.

Ava reached for him before he got to her. She pulled him in close by the edges of his wrinkled suit and buried her face in his chest. "Max..." she breathed. He smelt musty and the unkempt fuzz of his beard irritated her forehead, but it didn't matter. He was here. Max was here, in the flesh, holding her back. Saving her life.

Freedom was a real possibility.

He took her face in his hands. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fantastic. Max, you have no idea how happy I am to see you_"

"I'm so sorry, Ava." He kissed the top of her head and held her closer, just to make sure that this moment was real, that he'd really found her. "I'm getting you out of here and I swear on everything that I'm never losing you again."

"Okay." She gave him a squeeze and they released each other. She stared up at him, "I thought I'd never see you again. I thought you'd all given up on me."

"I would never do that. Ever. Though I can't say the same for your uncle," he sneered the word and cast his gaze over to the thick of the bushes a few yards from the fight. He took her hand, the slight separation from her making him uneasy as if she would be snatched away again if he wasn't holding onto her tight. "Ava, you can't trust Chris anymore."

"Why?"

"He isn't here for you. He didn't look for you, Ava, and I know it sounds crazy, but I don't think he ever wanted you found."

She furrowed her brow and attempted to pull her hand from Max's because what he was saying had to be a lie. It had to. It didn't make any sense. "What do you mean?"

Max held strong. "Things are different now. Chris has taken over your father's empire and he has no intention of giving any of it up. Not even for you."

"But I don't want it." She thrusted her hand out to the graveyard peppered with bullet shells, sticky with fresh blood, stormed in violence and saturated with death, death, death. "I don't want any part of this."

"I know that, but if you come back he loses too much of it."

"Why? There's no way my father left this to me."

Max shrugged, "Nobody knows for sure. Chris probably got The Syndicate, lord knows Vince didn't want you anywhere near this shit, but it's suspected that the clubs and everything else asset wise is yours."

She pursed her lips. "What does his will say?"

"That's the thing; Chris is delaying the reading of it under the guise that he's waiting to get you back, but he doesn't want you back. You're a threat now."

"But..." she wrung her hand together and for the countless time she wished that history would be undone and that life could go back to how it was before. Before her world had been torn in two. "...He's my godfather. The man helped raise me. He's practically family; why would he turn against me?"

"Money and power makes people do crazy things," he frowned and cupped her diluted fingers, turned pale from the pressure she applied. "Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you. C'mon, we gotta go before this ends." He pulled her against his side and tucked her under his arm, "Stay close and stay low. On the count of three we're going to make our way to the groundskeeper's cottage," he pointed across the decorated green. "We'll stop at each of the trees for cover, but when I say go, no matter what happens, you've got to run."

Ava nodded, wide eyed and heart racing. Her great escape was about to commence and this time there was no tugging feeling in her chest, no sense of loss, no reason to stay.

Fuck Aiden Michaels.

Max held her tighter still. His voice was low and tense, "One...two...three...RUN!"

They darted from behind Gabriel and into the gunfire, Max quick and deft, and Ava-Marie trying to keep from passing out as her lungs swelled from the harshness of her breaths and her heart pounded like canon fire against her ribs. The ground was soft with mud, the grass slick with morning dew, and she found herself losing her footing or having to jerk her heel out of the ground. Max held her strong and carried her through. They stopped victoriously behind the first willow.

"You good?" he asked.

She nodded, despite good being the last thing she felt. Her body quaked with fear-based adrenaline and pending panic.

"Okay. We're about to go again. Take your shoes off. They're slowing you down."

Ava kicked off her muddy white pumps with a quickness.

Max started counting down again.

Three...

Two...

One...

"RUN!"

Gunfire, swollen lungs, canon fire heart, dry mouth and the soft, slippery ground moist beneath her bare feet.

"STOP!"

Ava plastered her back against the next tree and clutched at her chest to still her beating heart. There were three more trees to go before they reached the groundskeeper's cottage. Three more death defying sprints in plain sight of her captor and his minions, and bullets. Bullets, that should they head in her direction, wouldn't touch her, but pierce the flesh of her bodyguard and dearest friend; the only person who it truly had her back. It was him she worried so hard for.

She squeezed his hand.

"Ready?"

"Ready."

Running, running, running wild and almost free. Swollen lungs, thundering heart, cotton mouth, soft, damp ground, heat...

...And a scream.

A bullet shot past them and a voice bellowed, "HEAVEN!"

"Oh no!"

Max spread himself wider, "Keep running."

Off they went again, Max facing Aiden with his gun trained on him and Ava trying her hardest to scream.

BOOM! "HEAVEN!" BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

Another bullet jumped ahead of them, splicing through the bark of the next tree. They sprung behind it, Max poised like an assassin and Ava wringing her hands.

"Don't move," he said as he reloaded his clip.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting you out of here." Before she could protest, Max peeked out from behind the tree and fired back. Ava covered her ears and shut hr eyes. Shots returned to him, growing more powerful the closer Ava's captor turned twisted lover came. "We have to move."

"If we move he'll kill us both."

"Not if I get him first."

"HEAVEN!" BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!

"No, Max, you don't understand. I know this man, he is a psychopath. He killed his own mother this morning."

Max paused in disbelief, "He did what?" Bullets beat against the tree in an unusual rhythm. "Shit! He's got company."

"And I bet anything it's Dougie," she sighed, defeated. "We're dead, Max."

"Don't say that."

"We are! We're outnumbered by the worst people to be outnumbered by."

He tightened his gaze thoughtfully. "They won't kill us..." he reloaded his clip then reached inside his jacket. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes," she replied without hesitation.

"Good. I've got a plan to get us out of here. Just do exactly what I say."


Do you think Max will be able to save her? Lemme know below. 

If you liked this chapter, please  click the heart, COMMENT AND SHARE it.

Love you, my sunshine princesses (and princes)

Love Scotty x

#RunningWilde Ch. 37 | Peace Be Damned

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I'm starting to hate me

A little more and more each day

I don't know me

It's like I can't get out of my own way

And you don't love me, you don't love me

If I knew better, I would do better

-Do Better

Chris Brown feat. Brandy

*

"I remember the day Keegan was born. We were in his father's flat in Stockwell and my mother was on the bathroom floor being cheered on to push by this poor midwife while my mother screamed back at her and the doctor because she was convinced that Keegan wasn't ready to come out. His father wasn't up for witnessing childbirth so I had to step in. I was thirteen. The midwife told me to hold my mother's hand and breathe with her...she squeezed my hand so hard that I thought she was going to break it, which considering the size of my mother sounds ridiculous to say..." Aiden didn't add that a part of him believed that Grace was squeezing his hand more out of maliciousness than to deal with her contractions.

A soft murmur of sympathetic laughter floated in wafts through the pews more out of politeness than because it was actually funny. It was awkward. Speaking about Grace, who everybody knew was as skinny as she was because of her drug problem, was awkward.

The only people who didn't laugh were Dougie and Heaven.

Aiden sighed, "But she was right; Keegan was hard-headed even in the womb and was determined not to come out until he felt like it. Hours of hand squeezing and my mother's screaming was making me irritable so I put my other hand on her belly and I said in my firmest voice, "Ahhh bruv, you're on some long ting ya know. I beg you come out before me and you fall out." Would you believe it worked? At eleven pm Keegan finally decided to stop being a wasteman and come out. I was so happy...not to mention relieved to have my hand back." Genuine laughter wafted from the pews this time. Aiden smiled to himself and cast his gaze over the coffin to his right, "I knew then and there that he was my person. Me and Keegz, we were a team and I was going to have his back no matter what. He was my person..." His smile dissolved into a frown. He swallowed and stepped back from the podium to rid the hard lump burning and building behind his tonsils. "Keegan was one of the few family members that I could actually call my family...and I miss him. Every day I miss him...and I know you all do too. I've been to more funerals than I can count and this is by far the largest turnout I've ever seen. Keegz is loved so much and I'm glad for that because despite his flaws, he was a great kid, so thank you acknowledging that. He loved you all too. And even though things didn't end the way they should have...so did Ash." Murmurs floated through the pews again but this time they'd lost their softness and their sympathy.

Aiden cut it short with an abrupt clearing of his throat.

"Though it hurts to let them go, at least they are both in a better place now. They have peace now, and with the lives they've had, honourable or not, they deserve it. We all do." He looked pointedly out at the congregation. "I don't think you ever get used to losing people. Even long after they're gone that pain doesn't go away, you just get better it tuning it out. I've lost so many, and I'm tired...I'm tired of losing people. We've got to take better care of each other -we're all we've got. I did my best by Keegan and I wish I could say the same for Ash. I know things ended badly but that's on me. I take full responsibility for her lashing out, so if you're going to be mad at anyone, be mad at me. Ash was family, with us since the beginning when we were just a bunch of struggling kids who didn't have two pennies to rub together, and we shouldn't forget that. If I had done better by her maybe we wouldn't be burying two of our own..." His eyes found the coffins again his face started to crumble from the inside out like splintered glass with a building pressure behind it ready to fall to pieces. He gripped the side of the podium and bit down on his lip, "Though I'd prefer not to have to bury either of you, but what's done is done and all we can do now is move forward and make sure that you did not die in vain." He unlatched one hand from the podium and curled it into a tight fist. His eyes rested briefly on Heaven. "I love you both." He stepped down from the podium.

Heaven watched Aiden curiously as he returned to his seat, studying the change in his usual proud stance. His shoulders were slumped slightly, his predatory glide was heavier -he looked tired, soul weary and so ready to be done with it all. She wasn't surprised; he'd done a terrible, unforgivable thing. His mother lay dead on the grimy floor of her flat with no evidence pointing to her son to take the rightful fall for it, he'd mistreated his 'Siren' to the point that she'd broken under the pressure of a broken heart and turned against him then ended up dead, and his baby brother was gone because he'd provoked a man as malicious and cruel as himself. His monster was eating away at him...and Heaven was glad for it, glad to see that all of the blood on his hands was making his grip too slippery to hold onto the steely mind he'd reinforced many a time that allowed him to do the things he did and still sleep soundly at night. Ironically it was his monster that was forcing him to be more human, to face exactly who and what he'd become...and possibly give him a chance to rectify it before it was beyond too late.

The pew creaked as Aiden sunk down onto the worn wood. He sat half slumped beside her with red eyes and a quivering line of liquid threatening to spill over his waterline.

Heaven pitied him.

He was awful -awful, awful, awful, but still she pitied the broken and gnarled soul next to her, trying to hold his brokenness together in front of everyone. His mother –God rest her gnarled soul –mistreated him over and over, no matter how hard he tried. She even caused the wound in his face and he still tried. He had been so desperate to be accepted, to have his efforts acknowledged, to be made to feel like he mattered to her and she refused him each and every time.

Monsters are born from shadows and with that much darkness, it was inevitable that he would grow to devour those who denied him the luxury of even the smallest taste of light.

These things start in the home; what kind of people your parents are, how they live and how they respond to your existence is undoubtedly a huge part in shaping who you are. They are your first point of contact. It matters the most how you are loved in your own home because if the people that made you can't bring themselves to love and treat you right, when you venture outside you carry that chip on your shoulder with you. It's a heavy chip to carry.

A burden like that can break even the strongest backs.

In the end it had been her compromising Heaven's safety, Heaven, the only light he'd ever seen burn so brightly, who for some strange reason had burned for him, that made him finally break.

Hymns filled the church. Out of tune voices and mumbled words trying to keep up with the unfamiliar lyrics printed in the funeral programme melded with those who were familiar and could carry a tune, to make a decent sounding choir. Aiden knew all of the words to every song. His baritone carried the alto and bounced off of the baroque carved stone and multi-coloured stained glass windows where the virgin Mary smiled upon them and Jesus wept on the cross reminding them how he died for their sins.

Before their mother' behaviour cut them off from their family, Aiden would regularly attend Sunday school with his grandmother up until the age of five. He never forgot those songs of praise and worship. They represented a different time to him. A better time. He'd invited his grandmother and the rest of his extended family to attend the funeral but not a single one of them showed up. He wasn't surprised. Grace was poisonous to be around and the whisperings of her children being very bad men didn't help.

He wished they had.

Trish cried when the priest recited his sermon. It was a heart-breaking sound that made baby Jamie twist around in her arms and stare up into her face. Looking at Keegan's baby boy and knowing that he was too young to understand that he was an orphan in the midst of his father's funeral only made her sadness more unbearable. Jamie's lip trembled and soon he was crying too.

"Pass him here," Aiden croaked, his unshed tears making his throat swell so that his voice came out thick and coarse, "You go outside and take a minute."

Trish sniffed and passed his wailing nephew along. She slipped her wide lens Versace shades on and shuffled out of the aisle.

Aiden cradled Jamie against his broad chest bad tried to hush him. The child didn't stop until the next hymn began and his uncle's voice vibrated against him.

Heaven watched the exchange from the corner of her eye; how closely and desperately Aiden held his nephew like this tiny human was all he had. It was saddening how true it was. Jamie was all he had.

When Trish returned, Aiden held onto him until it was time to head to the cemetery.

*

Max had been waiting in in the thick of the oak tree since dusk broke. He'd watched the graves being dug whilst the sun rose. He'd seen Chris and his fellow Syndicate soldiers pay a hefty fee for more plots to be dug out nearby. He saw the men lower themselves into the shallow graves, three to one, and the men who tucked themselves into nearby bushes, and the ones in the nondescript clay coloured grounds keepers vehicles out of sight behind grandiose gothic crypts, and the remaining few ducked behind moss covered tombs that stood proudly above ground. He'd seen the funeral procession arrive in its blinding white glory with its hearses gliding along with the romanticised deceased inside. He'd seen the coffins removed, placed at their gravesides and readied to be lowered into the ground. He listened to the final hymn sung by the sad, pretty girl with the bleached blonde curls in the Versace shades just before...

Chaos broke through the fluttering wings of doves escaped from their basket too soon as Trish's rendition of Amazing Grace was interrupted by a gunshot.

Men in black crawled out of graves like the night of the living dead.

The sea of glorious white became checkered as the opposition in black spread like a virus of darkness consuming light, with gleaming steel gripped between practiced hands.

Cacophonies of bullets were unleashed into the atmosphere slicing through the air with loud bangs and whistles.

It became a film noir as the first bullet hits and the white is marred with red, red, red. Blood.

Screams ensued.

People fled.

Bodies hit the floor as panicked footsteps beat against the ground in a percussion of mayhem against soft grass and hard concrete like a drummer in a heavy metal band.

There were women and children amidst it all. Innocents crying out and falling, falling, falling.

Dead.

It was wrong, oh so very wrong. Max knew that this was not the code but what could he do? His fellow soldiers were doing what good soldiers did -followed orders from their damn superior.

There was meant to be peace on this day, but Chris, drunk on power without Vince around to reign him in, became the Shakespearean Prince of Cats. Peace? He hates the word. As he hates hell, all Diamond Mafia, and him -Aiden Michaels. If only his mission were about more than revenge upon a provoked sin and gaining more power. If only his cause fostered something honest and true at its roots. If only war had been struck that dark day to salvage something pure, to save love, then maybe, maybe the twisting feeling in Max's gut wouldn't be there. It would still be wrong but it would be a worthy cause.

Worthiness stood alone on the other side of the cemetery with her eyes scrunched shut, her trembling hands clamped over her ears, her body tensed and hidden behind the spectacular wingspan of a stone angel that watched over the grave of a poor unfortunate soul long forgotten. The wig had thrown Max off initially, but when she'd braved her fear enough to open her eyes and check if she could make a run for it and the springtime sun sprinkled sunbeams out from behind a veil of wispy clouds to dance in her autumn eyes, there was no mistaking it was her. There was no mistaking it was_

"HEAVEN!"

*

He couldn't find her anywhere. It all happened so fast. A part of him had expected it. He would have been stupid not to. The Syndicate had stopped playing by the rules long before he had, but Aiden had hoped, dear God he'd hoped that they would give them this day, just this one.

Since he'd woken up things had gone from bad to worse and now on top of everything he couldn't find her.

His hardened coal eyes scanned the mayhem, his right arm cast in front of him solid and firm as his veins danced beneath his black skin every time his trigger finger took another man down.

Trish mirrored his footsteps, her back adjacent to his with Jamie crying out blue murder in one arm and her pearl handled pistol firing shots in the other as the three of them navigated towards one of the white bulletproof trucks lining the cemetery pathway. Dougie was a few yards away keeping a close eye on their opponents and peppering seamless rounds of kill shots to make sure they got away safely. They were an impenetrable unit, highly trained and deathly efficient. Anyone who was stupid enough to aim for them or got too close was down on the ground bleeding into graves before the thought could form into action.

"HEAVEN!" Aiden called again.

KAPOW! Another Syndicate body hit the ground.

"She's gone, Aiden. For fucks sake, forget about her! How many more people have to die for that bitch before you see what she's doing to our family? To you? Look around you; everybody's dying. This is it. You're done with the Lockewood girl. I will fuck you up if you let anything else happen to any more of us for her. Do you hear me?"

Aiden bit his tongue then with a sharp grunt he nodded. Little mama Trish. When she was this bold she was usually right so she could get away with mouthing off to him.

They hurried along to the truck they arrived in. Trish got in and strapped Jamie into his car seat with a quickness while Aiden guarded them from the outside. The moment she was done he tossed her the keys he'd fished out of Driver's pocket as his dear friend's body twitched on the ground while he went into shock. Multiple bullet wounds but no kill shots –a terrible way to die. He was probably somewhere amongst the scattered bodies, still and silent like a prop in the background, almost like he had ben when he was alive.

"Get out of here. I'll be right behind you."

Trish furrowed her brow, "What? You're not coming with us?"

"I can't leave my people to fight my battle."

"That's kind of the point of them, Aiden. They fight so you don't have to."

"Not on this one. This is personal and you know it. Trish, this is Keegan and Ash's funeral. How am I meant to walk away from this disrespect?"

"Listen to me," she grabbed his arm through the window, her lullaby features contorted in fear, "Your nephew is strapped in the backseat screaming his head off_"

"Exactly, so get him out of here." A bullet ricocheted off of the truck door near Aiden's shoulder. "Wind this window up." He crouched down and fired two shots behind him taking his assailant down.

"Aiden_"

"GO!"


Max is back so you know shit is about to get realer than real. How do you picture his rescue mission going down? Lemme know in the comment section.

#RunningWilde Ch. 36 | Lucifer

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How can you leave me standing

Alone in a world that is so cold?

Maybe I'm just too demanding

Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold

Maybe you're just like my mother

She's never satisfied

Why do we scream at each other?

This is what it sounds like when doves cry

-When Doves Cry

Prince

*

Aiden peeled off his hoody ignoring the sweet, rusty smell of the cocktail of blood smattered across his chest –Titan's –and his own that finally ceased to drip from the gash on his face. He lifted his solemn eyes to the bathroom mirror that hung over the porcelain sink, a sink inhabited by candied spirals of pink hair snaked around the plug hole. He remembered when those hairs were straighter strands procured of startling shades of rubies and fire.

He couldn't wait to forget.

Remembering her was remorseless, and sadistic.

He continued but the closer his gaze came to his reflection, the harder it became, so the slower he went.

The funeral would begin in less than an hour. It was really happening; he was really burying pieces of his heart. He hoped that wherever they were now that they would find the peace that he would never know.

He'd gone too far this time. He could feel it -the compunction –coiling itself around the fractured living thing in his chest and his lungs, making every laboured breath feel like hell had made itself comfortably at home within him. Aiden was far from an angel. He'd done some terrible things, acts physically much worse than...this...but never had they taken a toll on him like this one.

Dear God...

...But he had to do it, the compulsion had been relentless, logical but heartless. If he didn't he'd have lost Heaven forever, in more ways than one. He'd lose EVERYTHING; Jamie, his empire, his DM family, his mind...

He'd already lost so much...too much.

He had to do it.

If anything, he'd granted his mother a kindness. How she'd chosen to exist was no way to live. And plus, wasn't this where she was headed anyway? She'd been on the cusp of an overdose many times...she'd wanted to die, to escape the tragedy that she'd made of her life, and when he'd found that blow in his pocket...well, it was a sign... Wasn't it? It was hardly a murder, more an assisted suicide. She knew what would happen if she took it. She knew she was already on the edge with the heroin polluting her system. The coke was the push she'd wanted. She knew.

Aiden's eyes finally met himself in the mirror and he couldn't help but notice how much emptier they looked than usual, like he'd annihilated the last remnants of goodness inside of him.

He broke the connection and focused on cleaning the wound, his parting gift from Grace Josephine Michaels. It was definitely going to leave a scar. Now every time her son looked at his face he'd be forced to remember her. Maybe God knew that Aiden was going to commit this heinous misdemeanour and made his mother return the favour in advance. He grabbed the first aid kit from the cabinet under the sink and smoothed a medical pad and surgical tape from his dimple to the highest point of his cheekbone. He wouldn't be taking any pictures today.

*

Six white bulletproof Hummers rolled down Brixton High Street with two hearses wedged between them. White gardenias and roses spelt out the words 'Brother', 'Father' in one, and 'Friend' in the other.

Aiden hadn't known what else to put for Ash's arrangement. Lover was inappropriate and ex-girlfriend would hardly do. Anything else didn't fit. He'd settled for friend even though the rest of the DM family didn't feel the same. They'd rather traitor (a title well deserved), whore or better yet, that she not be honoured at all. He'd told them that if they were incapable of showing respect and love to her then they should give it all to Keegan. Today was sad enough without adding more animosity to the mix.

The procession looked backwards. Yards and yards of pure white flooded the street. White cars, clothes, flowers, ribbons...it was like a morbid wedding. The usually bustling high road was damn near quiet. The community, used to the frequent funerals of the local gang, stood by solemn and respectful, even a little sympathetic. Usually they'd ignore it, but it was different this time. It was Keegan. He was as much a part of the town as the Brixton Market or the Ritzy cinema. His absence was felt like the destruction of a historical landmark. Like the detonation of the famed Strand station.

Aiden hadn't said a word he'd returned to the compound to shower and change back into his white suit, and wisely no one had spoken a word to him. They figured it was the sadness of the burial of his brother and the love of his life, but Dougie knew better.

They travelled in the fourth hummer, driven by Driver, with Heaven, Trish and baby Jamie. The only audible sounds were the low growl of the hummer's engine, a quiet sniffling that Trish was doing her best to control with tears hidden behind large designer shades, and Jamie's occasional cooing. Trish frowned when she'd seen the extra space in the truck where Grace should have been, but the tightness behind Dougie's usually smiling eyes and the dark cloud that engulfed Aiden's aura told her not to ask.

Heaven wanted to ask though.

She had no idea what Aiden had done, but knowing his temper first-hand, she knew it was bad and she couldn't help but fear the worst.

The procession pulled up in the church yard that overflowed with the usually black clad DM members in a blanket of static white. The personification of a flock of doves released to mark the mourning of the dead. They floated out of the trucks in cautious bursts; the soldiers as assigned security. Pawns protecting the royalty.

Aiden hung back, his eyes avoiding watching Mighty, Stone, Dougie and Merkz carefully unload the two pieces of his fragmented heart from their decorated carriages.

It was really fucking happening.

After twenty-five minutes, once everyone and everything was inside, Heaven carefully nudged his hand with the back of hers. "They're waiting for you."

"I know that," he bit back, making her flinch.

She swallowed, "So...don't you think we should go inside?"

Aiden looked up at the Celtic iron cross perched righteously over the church entrance and wondered how quickly he would burst into flames once he set foot on holy ground. Not even God could absolve this sin or make this desolation cease. "I can't."

"You have to."

"I can't," his deep voice quivered, pleading with her, 'Please, don't make me do this.'

Her fingertips whispered comforts across his warm skin, "You can_"

"DAMN IT, AVA-MARIE!"

At the sound of her name she blinked at him and snatched her hand back.

The time for pretending was over. All of his carefully cultivated fantasies died in one fell swoop of his own hand, unwinding, unravelling, undoing, spinning, spinning, spinning and uncloaking reality, forcing him to face that growling creature with its teeth sharpened and ready to swallow him whole into the void that was the pit of its stomach where dreams of peace were damned.

"Once I go in there...they're dead, and it's on me -all of it. I poisoned them. I ruined them. I ruined them. Keegan is gone. Ashleigh -gone. My mother_"

His runaway mouth snapped shut.

Leaves fell from trees in Heaven's autumn eyes and she edged away from him. "Aiden...Aiden, what did you do?"

He hid his face from her and opened the car door, composed his features and closed himself off. He couldn't keep making himself so vulnerable to this girl. He wasn't that person...he couldn't afford to be that person. "I promised you I'd keep you safe." He stuck out his hand to escort her from the car. "I did what I had to do."

She looked at it as if it were covered in red rum then slowly up at his flawed face. Her voice rushed out in a hoarse whisper, "What is wrong with you?"

What was wrong with her? How was she shocked? How was she appalled? How could she fall? She knew what the devil looked like, so why did it disappoint her so every time he revealed his horns?

He continued to hold his hand out without a word. What was he meant to say –'My mother was right, I'm a twisted fuck'? She declined his touch and got out without his assistance, pressing her back as close to the hummer as she could to avoid brushing against him, eluding the weakening of her fickle resolve.

He did this for her; to save her. Such a grave thing was meant to be viewed as endearing but she couldn't stomach the sentiment. He could see it as plain as day all over her exquisitely horrified face. All that he had worked for, to get this far with her, to get this close to her, was unwinding...

"Tell me...tell me what you did."

Unravelling...

"I kept my word," he answered stoically.

Undoing...

"She was your mother."

Spinning, spinning, spinning and uncloaking reality...

"Some mother."

Forcing her to face that growling creature with its teeth sharpened and ready to swallow her whole into the void that was the pit of its stomach...

"Some son."

Dreams of peace be damned.


Could Heaven finally be coming back down to earth? please let me know your thoughts. Click the heart and comment below.

#RunningWilde Ch. 35 | Fallen from Grace

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Remove her, send the cheetahs to the tomb

Our war is over, our queen has met her doom

No more she lives no more serpent in her room

No more he has killed Cleopatra

-Pyramids

Frank Ocean

*

What should she have done; said yes and risked Aiden's wrath or denied it and seized her first real opportunity of freedom? Because this thing -this all-consuming, dark, glittering vice that enveloped their indomitable attraction wasn't right, no matter how right it felt... Yes, Aiden was unfairly handsome, attentive, thoughtful, loyal, protective, downright irresistible...but he was also a murderer; cruel and dangerously impulsive with an army of murderers and narcotic dealers who would fulfil his every whim. With she who would fulfil his every whim (hard limits not included). He was the anomaly that perplexed and predicated her. A monster crafted by the harsh hands of the city's ghetto and a poor excuse of a woman who was no more his mother than an addict who had an accident. What was she meant to do?

Aiden stepped in front of her once more, shielding her from his mother's beady eyed gaze. "Her name is Heaven Michaels. She is my wife and I forbid you from speaking to her."

"Your wife," Grace guffawed, "As if any woman in her right mind would marry a twisted little fuck like you!"

Aiden's nostrils flared and his colour deepened.

"The only bitch dumb enough to want that title is dead –good riddance." She spat on the ground. "This is the Lockewood girl. I know it." She swiped the back of her arm across her chapped lips where remains of her spit lingered.

Heaven tried her best not to scrunch her nose up at her only way out.

"Poor thing; I don't even want to think about what my son has been putting you through, but don't you worry, we're gonna help each other out, you and me." She peered around Aiden and flashed Heaven a nefarious smile the same colour as her stained walls, "Looks like I don't need your money, A. Once the police get wind of this they'll be offering me a fuck-load of it on a silver platter. No doubt you will too, ain't that right sweetheart? Gratitude and all that shit. I bet you can't wait to get home and be back with your friends and family again. Won't that be nice; to be free of this cunt?"

Aiden gripped Heaven's hand tightly, "You're high," he tried unconvincingly, wanting to convince his mother that it was the drugs skewering her perception. He knew he'd have to deal with Heaven being recognised eventually, but he'd anticipated it being by someone easily disposable, not his mother. He couldn't dispose of her...could he?

No!

It was out of the question, and even entertaining such a thought only made Grace's words ring truer -twisted little fuck.

"High doesn't mean stupid, Aiden. I know it's her. It's hard to forget such a pretty face –I expect that's why the media are still so obsessed with you, girl, because you look the way you do. So pretty..." she reached out to graze her haggard fingers against her new meal ticket.

Aiden knocked her hand away, glaring at her like she was mad to even think she could touch Heaven. His jaw clenched and his chest rose and fell making the still wet droplets of Titan's blood gleam under the naked lightbulb that hung from a wire in the middle of the kitchen ceiling. He'd bought her a shade because she complained the light had been too bright for her bloodshot eyes, but it wasn't there anymore. No doubt she'd sold it.

It's unquestionable. I could never. She's my mother...

"What do you want, Grace?"

Grace rose up and wobbled on her tip toes, futilely trying to be at eye level with her son's towering frame. "I want to see you rot in a jail cell for the rest of your life, you little shit. The money is just a bonus. I've got a new piggy bank. You can't control me anymore," she cackled.

"I'll double your allowance."

"Pfftt!"

"Triple it. Just keep your mouth shut."

"Hmm," Grace straightened up, "And the funeral?"

"No."

"Well then I can't help you."

Aiden's hand slammed against the flaky door jamb close to his mother's head, making her jump back as tinted paint flakes crumble to the sticky linoleum floor. "You can't do that. There are people after her. Bad people. If they find her, she'll die."

"Is that what he told you?" She looked past him and at Heaven, "Is that how he's kept you foolishly at his side, because he's trying to save you? Listen girl, if anyone will be the death of you, it's him. Ask the white girl...oops, sorry, you can't," she smiled sardonically at Aiden with more pleasure than a soul should possess for such a ugly subject, "She dead." She barged past him and staggered in the dank dimness of her living room.

"Grace," Aiden growled, his tone inflected with warning. She was really toeing the line right now.

"I have nothing else to say to you." She picked up her handset, yet another tar stained object -a retro fashioned (formerly) baby pink rotary dialer. She stuck her gnawed finger in the hole with a 9 inside of it and dragged it around thrice.

"Didn't you hear what I said? They will kill her."

His mother turned her back on him and waited for the calm enunciated voice of the lady working at the emergency services switchboard to monotonously drone, "999, what's your emergency?"

"Yes, hi. I'd like to speak to the police please."

His heart turned to stone...

"Okay ma'am. May I ask what it's regarding?"

"I've found the Lockewood girl."

...And sunk with the quickness of an anchor with a broken chain, falling aimlessly into the boundless darkness below.

"Okay ma'am. I'm putting you thr..."

A hulking roar masked the end of the operator's sentence and a terrible tearing and popping sound played percussion beneath it. The line went dead.

"Hello?" When Grace looked back at her son she saw his eyes void and the severed phone cord sparking and hanging from his prominently vein encased fist, looking like wrought iron placed underneath his skin to hold that terrible, terrible thing inside of him in.

"What the fuck are you doing, you little shit?"

Wordlessly, Aiden allowed for her chosen terms of endearment to roll off his back and glided into the hallway with savage elegance. He was too calm on the surface –it contrasted with the hell that had risen inside of him, all thick black smoke, and fire, and brimstone and claws rattling his rib cage.

She'd attempted to take his life and now she was risking Heaven's.

The unquestionable became questionable.

He hooked his arm through Heaven's and dragged her half walking, half stumbling behind him to the front door. "Dougie?" he rumbled.

Dougie raised his eyebrow.

"Take Heaven down to the car and wait for me. Tell Driver to turn the engine on. The rest of you," he looked at his men, each of them as still as the gargoyles on the Notre Dame with worry etched into their features. Calm Aiden wasn't a good thing, not when he was this calm; his voice levelled and lulling like the ocean gently lapping against a rocky cliff, his eyes beholding the macabre soul of the underworld... "You can go."

"Until when, boss?" one of them spoke up.

Aiden narrowed his eyes at the one who dared to speak. "Go. Now."

They scattered like cockroaches.

Dougie didn't move.

"What's going on, A?"

"We're done here. Do as I say. Go."

"Aiden," he came closer and lowered his voice, "I know that look. I invented that look... Think about what you're about to do."

Aiden blinked at his best friend like he hadn't heard a word he'd said, "Why are you still here? The feds will be here soon. Stop wasting my time." He pushed Heaven out and closed the door in their faces.

"Shit," Dougie muttered. He rounded on her, "What happened in there?" he snarled.

Heaven flinched, "T-they w-were fighting."

"They always fight. What else?"

"S-s-she called the p-police," she squeaked, trembling under his unnerving stare. "She was going to t-tell them that she f-found me."

Dougie's blood ran cold and he glared at her, "Of course. You." He grabbed her arm and tugged her down the empty cement block stairwell, "It's always you. If he'd just killed you like he was supposed to, we could have avoided all this extra shit, but no_"

Finding her voice, she tugged her arm away, "Stop acting like I asked for this. I was happy. I didn't want any of it."

"Didn't you?" You could have stopped this a long time ago if you'd had the common sense not to get involved with him."

"Then I'd be dead!"

He gritted his teeth and growled, "You were dead the day he met you. It's only a matter of time now."

*

They sat in the truck in silence; Heaven milling over her Dougie's words whilst Dougie peered up at the third floor every so often, both anticipating, and dreading, the moment Aiden appeared over the tarnished red barrier of the public balcony of the flat. Aiden was going to hate himself after this. Maybe not right away, but when the magnitude of what would be his deadliest sin finally caught up to him, not even his rationality would let his soul rest. He took a break from staring at the blocks and peered at Heaven in the rear-view mirror. This infuriating young innocent would be Aiden's end...and possibly the only thing capable of pulling him back once he got too close to the edge. He was pretty damn close already. If it hadn't been for that fact Dougie would have did what he does best a long time ago.

Aiden appeared at the foot of the stairs, his body glimpsed and concealed between the grease and dirt clouded glass of the security door, with the same unreadable expression on his face. Too composed, too calm. For a moment Dougie wondered if he'd actually gone through with it, but when he got in the car and closed his eyes, speaking only on syllable to order Driver to "Drive", Dougie feared the worst had come to pass.

Driver pulled out of Myatts Field Estate car park.

He had to know; "Do the maids need to do a double clean up?"

"No. I took care of it."

God dammit Aiden!

"Better safe than sorry," he replied gravely, the burden that would surely rest on Aiden's shoulders starting to weigh down on his own. He should have stopped him. Why the fuck didn't he stop him? Fuck!

"The police will be here soon. There's not enough time. I took care of it."

"A, you can't just leave her there..." he lowered his voice, "She's your mum."

Aiden curled his fist u tightly in his lap and opened his eyes to glare back at his friend in the rear-view, "Stop. Talking."

Heaven shifted closer to her side of the car.


Yeah, so...that happened. On a scale of '0-what the actual fuck bruh?!?' how out of control do you think Aiden is right now? Should Dougie have stopped him or do you think Grace had it coming?

Please click the heart and leave your comments below.

Love Scotty x

#RunningWilde Ch. 34 | Begging For Thread

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I'm not a stranger, no, I am yours

With crippled anger and tears that still drip sore

A fragile frame aged with misery

And when our eyes meet I know you see

-Cut

Plumb

*

"Heaven. Heaven. Heaven, wake up."

Heaven groaned and opened her eyes. She was back in her room, alone in her bed with Trish standing over her holding a white outfit and a long black wig. She stretched her arms over her head and groaned when she felt the soreness of her muscles...

Last night had been eye opening.

And wonderful.

And terrible.

Not like what she expected at all...

And she couldn't wait to do it all over again.

When it was over, Aiden carried her to the bathroom and bathed with her before he made love thrice more. When they got out he massaged her body from head to toe with lavender oil to soothe her injuries, then got into bed and held her close until she fell asleep with her head on his heart and a serene smile on her face.

She smiled to herself before remembering that Trish was there raising her eyebrow at her questionably.

"Put this on," Trish said laying the outfit onto the bed, "We're leaving in two hours. Let me know if you need anything else." She turned abruptly on her heels.

"Wait," Heaven called after her, "Where are we going?"

"It's Keegan and Ash's funeral." She walked out and closed the door behind her.

Heaven sat up and looked at the simple white midi dress and the blazer that came with it then poked the wig as if to check that it wasn't a rodent playing dead. She chewed on her lip. Why didn't Aiden bring it to her himself, and if they were going to a funeral, why weren't they wearing black?

She was escorted to the bathroom by one of the maids then dressed in under an hour. She struggled to brush through her candied tufts, trying to tame her tresses that she'd neglected to tie down before she fell asleep so that the wig could lay flat. She soon gave up and pulled it into a low ponytail and yanked her new hairstyle over it. She thought it strange that she was preparing to go to a funeral of Aiden's younger brother, the one who started all of this mess that landed her here, and Ash, Aiden's scorned ex-lover who tried to kill her, but she knew she didn't have a choice. What was stranger still was that she wouldn't be burying her father, if there was even anything left of him to bury. Heaven wondered if the fire department had gotten to the remains of the burning car in time to recover some of his body or if he'd burned away to dust. Had Uncle Chris thrown a memorial? Was he even still mourning him? There was nothing tainting The Syndicates' admiration of her father; they knew who the real Vince Lockewood was. Heaven didn't know if she had it in her to morn her father the way a once doting daughter was supposed to, the way that she would have had he not turned out to be a monster, but she would mourn him. He was still her dad at the end other day. While everyone around her cried for Keegan and Ash, she alone would shed tears for her Dad.

She slipped on the white pumps at the foot of the bed then let the maid outside her door escort her to the kitchen where Aiden sat alone at the head of the modest dining table in silence, waiting.

You'd think that dressed in from head to toe in white that maybe he'd look like less of a threat but it only made him seem more powerful. His attire contrasted with his dark skin and glowed around him like a halo. He looked as brilliant as he did naked, like a god. His face was tighter, especially around his red rimmed eyes and downturned mouth, and his energy was palatable. Irritated and highly strung. Every inch of him was rigid; it was clear to see he was doing his very best to try not to fall apart in front of her as she guessed he'd done in the privacy of his bedroom, if the puffiness of his eyes was anything to go by.

She sat at the place set next to him and touched his arm, "I wish I knew what to say to you right now."

Aiden looked down at her hand, tempted to brush her off. Today of all days made him question why he'd taken to the Lockewood girl so strongly. He didn't want to have any hostility towards her, she was the last person that should carry any blame and he knew that, but it was so hard to look at her and not project what he felt towards her father for her. He couldn't turn it off. It was her father's fault that he was burying his family. This...relationship was an insult to Keegan's memory. "There's nothing you can say." He patted her hand and pulled away.

Heaven frowned at him and tucked her hand into her lap. She didn't like withdrawn Aiden. He had the power to make her feel so insignificant and unworthy whenever he pushed her away. She picked at her granola.

They sat in silence, the tension and mixed feelings bearing down on them when a vibration from inside Aiden's jacket sounded. "What is it?" he snapped into the receiver. His brow furrowed, "What? Are you fucking..." he gritted his teeth and lowered his voice into a venomous hiss, "Are you fucking kidding me? How could you let this happen?"

His hands balled up into fists and Heaven leant away from him. If he was tense before it was nothing compared to the roiling heated rage that he was giving off now. It was similar to the storminess that he had when he returned to the compound the day before, but worse. The veins in his neck stood out prominently, his jaw was locked tight and his black skin was visibly warming. Aiden's fist came down hard on the table. Heaven jumped. "YOU'RE MEANT TO BE WATCHING HER!"

He growled and hurled his phone at the wall so hard that it smashed apart, "FUCKKKK!"

His eyes blazed as he jumped to his feet and flipped the dining table over, roaring like a man possessed.

Heaven shrieked and backed herself into the corner by the cabinet, out of his way.

He slammed his fists into cupboards, swept things off of the shelves and broke apart whatever he could get his hands on.

Jamie wailed in the background as Dougie and Trish ran into the kitchen, eyes wide at the destruction he had caused so far.

Dougie wrapped his skinny frame around the bulk of his friend, "Yo A, chill man!"

"GET OFF OF ME!" He shook him off and picked up a dining chair, raising it above his head and smashing it against the tiled floor until it came apart in his bare hands.

"Aiden!" Heaven screamed, bewildered and frightened by the ascending ferocity of his violence.

Dougie glared at her cowering wide eyed in the corner, "Did you do this?"

She shook her head and pointed to the fragments of Aiden's phone scattered across the floor.

"SHE'S HIGH!" Aiden smashed another chair to pieces, "IT'S HIS FUNERAL AND SHE'S FUCKING HIGH!"

"Oh no," Trish groaned. Growing up so close to Aiden and Keegan made her and Dougie very aware of their mother's shortfalls, namely her substance abuse problems. Being the youngest Trish hadn't been subject to how young Aiden had dealt with Grace, but she'd seen the way teen Aiden did. How he'd gone from panicked to oblivious, to over-involved, and finally, angry. Each time she fell off he'd get angrier, flipping out and losing his cool to the point where he would regularly tear their family home apart.

He tried to help her, God knows he did, and for miraculous bursts of time it worked...until it didn't. Until times like now that made his sanity burst at the seams.

This rage was why Aiden Michaels was such a force to be reckoned with.

Trish studied Heaven with her back pressed against the wall, witnessing this hurricane of a man with the kind of fear his behaviour deserved. Then she looked at her brother, stoic and calm but the corners of his mouth turned down. He understood what he saw just as Trish did; a man who'd lost too much and was scared to death that, as destructive and unpleasant as she was, he'd lose his mother too. That was what made him so mad, that she was carelessly killing herself while he was trying so desperately to keep her alive.

"AS IF I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH SHIT TO DEAL WITH! WHY WOULD SHE DO THIS? WHY TODAY OF ALL DAYS?" Another chair, this one cracked and splintered against the wall in one fell swoop, his strength nearing its full potential the more worked up he got. "DOES SHE THINK SHE'S THE ONLY ONE IN THIS?"

Dougie's face turned stony, "Get her out of here," he ordered his sister.

"NO!" Aiden dropped the broken chair leg and rushed over to Heaven like a child protecting his favourite toy from being taken away as a result of his misbehaviour. He grabbed her wrist and yanked her behind him, out of Dougie's reach, "She stays with me."

Heaven felt his racing pulse thumping against her skin as he held her too tightly. She twisted her hand and circled her fingers around his wrist softly, creating a mutual link between them. Though she'd never seen him throw a tantrum like that before, she was becoming familiar with his mercurial behaviour and was beginning to learn that sometimes they way to tame him was to go with him into whatever hell he was going through.

Aiden's shoulders rose high then fell with a hushed sigh that only Heaven could hear. He loosened his grip on her and rubbed his thumb over her skin.

"What about your mum?"

"I'm going to deal with that." His voice was smoother now.

"With her?" Dougie jabbed his finger at the glimpse of Heaven that he could spot tensed behind Aiden's frame, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Trish shook her head, "That's a bad idea, A. She doesn't need to see that."

Aiden deepened his tone with finality, "Where I go, she goes."

"Well then I'm coming with you," Dougie said, matching his tone. Heaven peeked out from behind Aiden's shoulder to see him glaring at her.

The moment she caught his eye he smiled.

She disappeared back behind Aiden, knowing as well as anybody did that it was no pleasure at all to have Dougie Monroe smile at you, especially when you knew he didn't want you around.

Aiden narrowed his eyes at his best friend, knowing that he was getting a kick out of intimidating her. "I don't need a chaperone," he snarled.

"Yeah right, 'cause you're gonna handle this well," he sniped as he headed out. "I'll tell Driver to bring the car around in five."

"I'm leaving now," Aiden said uncovering Heaven now that Dougie wasn't within touching distance.

"You might wanna change out of all that white first."

"Why would I need to change?"

***

Two shots quietly whistled through the air reserving the loud frightening noises for the moment Titan's body hit the ground. Heaven choked on her scream and the Mafia soldiers present turned their eyes away from the harrowing sight of the huge man that laid at Aiden's feet with blood spewing from both of his eye sockets.

Dougie clapped his hand on Aiden's shoulder, "Nice aim," he said proudly as he smiled at the precise entry points of the pair of bullet wounds.

Aiden unscrewed the silencer from his pistol and slipped the weapon back into his harness, "Seeing as he's no good at watching people, he doesn't need his eyes."

"Or his life apparently. It's a shame; I liked Titan."

"So did I." Aiden stepped over the body and sighed, "Get someone over here to clean up this mess."

"I'm on it. Aren't you glad I told you to change?"

Aiden looked down at the dark smatterings of Titan's blood that glistened against his black blazer like a morbid constellation, "You know me too well." He rolled his neck and flexed his shoulders as he placed his hand on the entrance to his mother's home. Killing Titan made him feel a little less angry but he knew that that feeling was temporary because the moment that he set eyes on Grace in the pathetic state he was all too familiar with seeing her in, that he'd wish he could kill his solider again. "The rest of you, watch the area and deny access to this floor until that," he pointed at the body, "is dealt with. Heaven, come with me." He held out his hand but looked back when she didn't move. Her eyes were trained on the dead man with the gaping wounds for eyes. She tried her best not to let the nauseating sight and smell of gunpowder, blood and death make her throw up her barely eaten granola. "Heaven."

She edged backwards, "You shot him. Just like that. You...you..." She looked up at Aiden, "He's dead."

"I told you not to bring her," Dougie grumbled.

Aiden flared his nostrils and his friend shrugged and proceeded to calling the maids. He refocused on Heaven, quivering and sweating, making the long dark strands of hair from her wig stick to her face. "Don't get yourself worked up. I don't have time for it right now. Give me your hand," he commanded. When she still didn't move he added "Or you can stay out here with Dougie."

She soon snapped out of it and carefully manoeuvred around the body to take Aiden's hand.

They entered his mother's flat which looked even worse than usual. Half of its contents were thrown across the floor, hanging out of cupboards and drawers, knocked off the shelves, floorboards were pulled up, ornaments shattered, electronic devices pried apart. Aiden knew what this meant; she'd been looking. That as hard as he tried to keep her clean, she had a stash hidden away in some crevice. If Titan had done his job properly he would have heard her rooting around because from the look of it she'd been quite frantic in her search. There would definitely have been enough noise to alert him that something untoward was happening.

"Mum?" Aiden called out peeking around the doors to locate her. He hadn't given Titan a chance to tell him where she was. A slurred groan came from down the hall to their left. Aiden clenched his jaw and opened the bathroom door.

Sprawled out in numb tranquillity was his mother with a belt strap loose above her elbow and an empty syringe on the ground next to her. Behind her an area stuffed with newspaper around the pipe that went from the toilet into the wall to keep mice from getting in, had been pulled away. Amongst the crumpled monochromatic balls, in a little baggie was brown crumbs and torn, blackened pieces of foil. What Grace Michaels lacked in being a mother she made up for in being a really good junkie. He hadn't thought to search there.

"Look at you," he sneered in disgust. Her hair was unkempt, her lips chapped and her skin ashy and withdrawn. All she had on was a flimsy old nightgown that exposed the many needle marks and scars from year of gratuitous drug use.

Grace's glassy eyes rolled up to her son and she frowned, "What the fuck do you want?" she slurred. "Get out of here. I don't want you. I want my baby. I want Keegan."

"Keegan is dead."

"I know he's dead. It's his funeral."

"Exactly, so why the fuck are you high?"

She fanned him off, "It's not every day you bury your child, you know."

"You're not burying anyone. Not like this."

"What? I only took a little...just to take the edge off."

"No, Grace." He turned away from her and she grabbed him by the scruff of his trouser leg, "You can't stop me from attending my child's funeral, Aiden. I won't let you."

"Like it matters -you can't even stand up. You wanted to shoot up and take the edge off, well congratulations. I hope it was worth it." He shook her off.

"Wait. Wait, Aiden! Aiden come back here... Wait. You, girl...you look familiar," Grace craned her neck and squinted at Heaven who hovered uncomfortably by the wall, peering past the long dark fringe of the wig to her unforgettable autumn yes that had been plastered across the front page of every British newspaper and gossip magazine. "Very familiar."

HEIRESS OF LOCKEWOOD EMPIRE, KIDNAPPED!

THE STRAND STATION SNATCHING!

MISSING! LOCKEWOOD'S SECRET CHILD.

And then there were the broadsheets that were more focused on Vince Lockewood's dodgy dealings that the police were carefully uncovering, and what his daughter's involvement in the ordeal meant. A third of the country wanted to rescue her while the others wanted to interrogate or kill her, needless to say, she was one of London's most wanted. The more they speculated, the more her reputation as the sweet little Lockewood girl came into question, and now the police were more eager to locate her for questioning than to save her from her brooding tyrant (and occasional lover).

Her chest tightened. This was the moment she'd longed for, the moment that someone would recognise her -her first chance at a real escape. Sure, her saviour swayed before her in the form of her captor's drug riddled mother, but from what she witnessed, Grace wasn't her firstborn's biggest fan so maybe she'd be willing to help her.

Heaven held her breath and waited.

Aiden's muscles locked up and his jaw clenched.

Grace took a wobbly step towards her, scrunching her eyes up at Heaven the way you would if you were trying to get a better look at the sun. "Yes, I do know you."

"Stay away from her," Aiden growled as he shielded her from his mother's view.

Grace's prying eyes flicked between Aiden and the young girl half concealed behind the bulk of the volatile gang leader who only moments ago had shot a man on his mother's doorstep for not making better use of his own.

Highly strung and bad tempered wasn't the best state to provoke Aiden in, but Grace persisted, struggling to piece together the extraordinary features of the costumed girl. "What's your name?"

"Don't speak to her," Aiden snapped, and although the warning was directed at Grace, Heaven knew it was meant for her too.

"What do you mean 'don't speak to her'? This is my house and I will speak to whoever I choose, however I choose." She kissed her teeth at him.

He lifted his chin to glare down his nose at the wavering woman trying to assert what little authority she hadn't squandered away. "She's not your concern. Your only concern is staying here and riding this out."

"I'm not staying here," she hissed, the glassy look in her eyes starting to splinter, "I'm burying my son!"

"It's here or rehab."

"You wouldn't dare."

Aiden's glare darkened, "Try me."

"I don't need rehab, what I need is to never have had you!" she barged past him and stumbled into the hall.

Heaven's brows knotted together. She was tempted to touch her hand to Aiden's tensed shoulder blade. He clenched and unclenched his fist like he was ready to become a tornado all over again but he was trying to grasp onto the slither of patience he had left.

"I used to be happy," Grace spat feeling her way along nicotine tinged walls to guide herself as steadily as she could to the kitchen. "I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and then you came along and fucked everything up for me." She dug clumsily through her cupboards, trying to locate a bottle of something to compliment her high that wasn't already empty with sticky residue and desperate fingerprints smeared around the outside.

At the sound of the bottle clinking against what was most likely to be a dirty glass, Aiden swallowed his pride and marched into the kitchen.

"What are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" she sneered tippling a bit more of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum into a tumbler that was as grotty as Aiden suspected, with more desperate sticky fingerprints on the outside and flecks of black ash floating in the liquid from where she'd lazily tapped her cigarette out in it at some point. Grace, forfeiting her namesake, raised the dirty rum into the air and sloshed the contents over the rim as she swayed. "To Keegan, God have mercy on his soul. ...I'm so sorry..." The splintering glassy look fractured and beads of warm salty water leaked out onto her lined face.

Aiden looked away.

"I'm so sorry that I let you -" she jabbed the glass in Aiden's direction making more of it spill out onto the checkered linoleum floor as her sadness returned to malice, "-ruin the only good thing I had left in my life." She gripped the glass tighter. The small ache Aiden developed in his chest from the brief glimpse of his mother's humanity shrivelled up and died as quickly as it had bloomed. "And I hope you burn in hell for it!"

SMASH!

Thunder, wind chimes and rain sounded and shards of murky glass glittered along the kitchen floor in pools of rum that trickled and dripped down the wall. Aiden's eyes burned with a fury so intense that his solid black irises melted to tar. Laboured breaths hissed through his teeth and vibrated with the murmur of a growl.

"YOU IDIOT!" Grace howled. She tugged at her tangled tufts of hair, watching her liquid peace in ruins at her feet. Suddenly she bent down and grabbed the largest shard of glass and lunged at Aiden. She swiped her unsteady hand hither and tither manically, screaming at the top of her lungs, "IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU!"

The glass made contact with his perfect face; it dipped below the surface of his melanin, shallow enough not to pierce through the inside of his cheek, but deep enough to draw blood to carve out the extension of his snarl.

He grabbed his mother by her wrist and squeezed until the muscles in her hand surrendered to his strength and forced her to release her weapon so that it, like his adolescent heart, could fall and break into a million pieces.

His own mother tried to kill him.

As rotten as she was, Grace had never physically harmed Aiden before, but now her venomous words were no longer just words.

He yanked her to him and bent his head so he could stare straight into her loveless eyes as his blood spilled down his neck and onto his collar. "You can do whatever the fuck you want from now on. You are nothing to me. So get high, drink yourself stupid -I don't care! I am done with you, Mum..." his voice turned hoarse. He swallowed, "You won't see any more of my soldiers guarding your door or another penny of my money. You want me dead so bad? Consider it done. I'm dead to you."

He flung her wrist out of his hold and turned his back on her, grimacing as the fresh wound on his formerly unmarred face, opened and closed as his scowl set in. He had no good reason to shoot anyone else at that point, but he found himself trying to create one.

Aiden returned to the bathroom and grabbed a bewildered Heaven without a word.

She gasped, "Did she do that?"

He didn't reply.

As they passed the kitchen, Heaven's once hopeful gaze turned sour as she frowned at Grace Michaels. His own mother... What an awful woman. No wonder he's so screwed up. Sure, her father was no angel, but at least he'd loved her. Grace had wished Aiden dead a thousand times over, despite how hard he tried to earn her love. Despite the vile creature that she demonstrated that she was, up until that point, Aiden was stuck in the wearing cycle of vain attempts to hold on to the love that the small child inside of him had for his mother. When she cut his face she cut the last fraying thread of hope that they could have a real shot at being a family.

Grace caught Heaven's eyes and the light that the captive prayed would switch on when her potential saviour first had an inkling as to who she really was, exploded inside of her dilated pupils like a meteor bursting through earth's atmosphere and hurtling towards the plant, intent on mass destruction.

"Lockewood," she smiled triumphantly.

Heaven's heart skipped a beat.

Aiden froze.

"I knew I recognised you, girl. Ava-Marie Lockewood, the heir of the late billionaire, Vincent Lockewood." She sneered at Aiden, "I should have known that you had something to do with this. Only you would be this fucking psychotic."

Aiden bit down on his jaw, "Ignore her."

"Oh, I don't think so." Grace slinked sloppily over to the doorway and leant against the flaking doorjamb in a fashion that would have appeared cool and calculating had she not relied on it so heavily to keep her upright. "You are Ava-Marie Lockewood, aren't you, girl?" 

***

#RunningWilde Ch. 33 | Babylon

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But you're so brave

Stone cold crazy for loving me

Yeah I'm amazed

I hope you make it out alive

-Brave

Jhene Aiko

*

 

Head down, eyes to the ground, ankles together, knees apart, hands on thighs.

Heaven had been anxious about giving herself to Aiden, but now that it was done her anxiety subsided and a stillness had come over her. She didn't feel any different -not in any way that she could identify anyway. She thought she would, that somehow being his Submissive would have a weight to it, make her feel trapped or nervous because her wellbeing was in his hands, but it didn't. The contract was just a piece of paper. Heaven realised that maybe she had always been his but unwilling to admit it.

Aiden got to his feet and stroked her curls in the manner that you would a cat. She leant into his touch. "Now that it's official, I think it's only right that we mark the occasion. Don't you?" He tilted her face up to his.

"Yes sir," she replied softly, all of the bite gone from her tone, eager to be on her best behaviour.

The corner of his lips curved upwards at the sound of her willing obedience. He dug into his back pocket and produced a black leather box with gold piping on the top. He flipped it open to reveal a rose quartz cameo pendant surrounded by delicate gold filigree with opaque rose gold straps of organza spouting from either side. The clasp at the back was made up of two small gold blocks that overlapped each other when closed, with a tiny keyhole in the back. "This is for you." Aiden lifted the choker out of the box and Heaven saw the tiny gold key resting underneath. Aiden stood behind her and swept her pink curls over her shoulder. He placed the cameo at the hollow of her throat and pulled the organza straps around her neck. "This is your collar. You're mine now so you are to wear it at all times," he said placing the tiny key in the tiny hole and turning it until there was a tiny clicking sound. He pocketed the key, "You're mine."

"This is my collar?"

"That's what I said. Do you like it?"

"Yes sir," she smiled then added quickly, "Thank you." Aiden acknowledged her manners with a sharp nod. "I've got to admit, I didn't expect it to look like this."

"What did you expect, Heaven?" he said smoothing his rough hands along her shoulders and up her throat

She dropped her head and her skin flushed, camouflaging the organza straps just the way Aiden had imagined; "Leather, studs, spikes...a link for a leash to be attached. You know...a collar."

"I can get you one of those of you'd like."

"No," she said quickly, touching her hand to the cameo, "This is beautiful."

Aiden's eyes tightened, "Did I give you permission to move?" he said sharply.

Heavens hand snapped back to her thigh, "No sir."

He circled her slowly, "You've read the contract. You know what's expected of you, so why would you break the rules, Heaven?"

"I didn't mean to."

"Whether you meant to or not is inconsequential." He stooped down in front of her and took her face in his hands, "You are new to this, but you will learn. I will make sure of it," he said darkly, his eyes glinting with excitement at the thought of how he planned to teach her.

Heaven pressed her fingers into her thighs to keep her arms from shaking, "What are you going to do?"

He rested his hands on top of hers, rubbing his thumb over the back of them to calm her quivering, "What every good Dom does to their bad Sub," he kissed her lips gently until her shaking stopped altogether then whispered, "I'm going to punish you." He stood up and walked over to the wall, eying the various instruments that hung from hooks and bars.

"You don't have to. I won't do it again, I promise."

"I know you won't," he stood by the St Andrews Cross, "Get up and come here."

Heaven looked at the large slabs of dark mahogany crossed in an X shape, with the long satin ties hanging, waiting -taunting her. She swallowed. Ever since he'd mentioned the infamous cross she'd been curious to try it, but now it that was happening she couldn't recall what she'd been so excited about. This was authentic BDSM territory. She'd imagined something hot, taboo and maybe even a little fun, but he was annoyed with her for slipping up. He was making her first experience on it part of her punishment. Would fun even factor into it? She stood up and shuffled over to him, her eyes wide and wary and her knees ready to give way at any given moment.

Aiden watched her approach him with a cold, hard expression etched on his face that he knew would only elicit more anxiety in her. When she stopped he tugged on the sash of her robe to reveal her naked body then pushed it off of her shoulders. Black satin fluttered to the ground and pooled around her feet, making it seem as if his golden fantasy girl had risen out of the darkness. He took a moment to admire her dressed in nothing but her new collar, with her candy coloured curls turning different shades of a late sunset under the flashing lights.

"Face the wall and put your hands above your head."

Heaven pivoted and slowly raised her arms into the air.

Aiden came behind her and held her by the waist. Open palms swept up the side of her ribs, swooped the soft swell of her breasts, and climbed up over her elbows all the way to the tips of her fingers. He spread his hands over the back of hers and pushed them against the opposing ends of the cross. He tied her hands to either side, using the double overhand knotting method to make sure that the ribbons were good and tight so that she didn't have the option of pulling her hand free, with little to no give so that she wouldn't be able to move them at all. He tugged on her writs to make sure.

Heaven's heart sped up.

His hands slid back down her elongated frame and around to her front where they circled her naval, making her squirm and sigh. "I'm going to enjoy this," he smiled. His lips met the nape of her neck, leaving his lip print across the clasp before he trickled more of them down her spine as he crouched down. "Spread your legs for me." He watched as the gap between her thighs widened, her skin flushed warmer, and her lower lips parted, glistening with her arousal and absorbing the pulsating red and blue lights. Aiden placed his finger on the crease at the apex of her inner thigh and pulled her lips open wider. He bit down on his bottom lip, "Poke it out for me, baby. Let me see that pretty pussy," he growled.

Heaven's walls slickened and tightened.

It was always shocking to hear him speak so explicitly, but as mortified as she thought she should be, she wasn't. When Aiden was in his element, the thug in him would crash through his cultivated sophistication and eloquence. He was so brash, so demanding. It was hot. She swooned for the Brixton bad boy that he was at heart.

Heaven arched her back as much as she could but the restrictions of her hands bound to the cross didn't give her much leeway.

Aiden ran his finger back and forth along her crease, skirting the outside of her sex, knowing how maddening it was for her. "You've gotta try a little harder than that," he purred, "I can't kiss it properly if I can't see it. You want me to kiss it don't you?"

She jerked in his hand as the contractions in her stomach grew stronger. "Yes sir," she breathed.

He removed his hand. "Then try harder." He shifted forward; his mouth mere millimetres from her wetness, blowing warm air into her slit, making her clit harden. Heaven rested her face against the V of the cross and pushed back.

His cupid's bow grazed her labia.

Shudder.

Aiden ran his tongue slowly across his top lip, tasting the warm, sticky moisture she'd left behind, simultaneously teasing her with the smooth underside of it.

Heaven gasped.

Shudder. Shudder.

Her knees buckled and her wrists strained sharply at the binds, and for one small fraction of a moment her softness was engulfed by the wet heat of his mouth. She whined in blissed out frustration. That fraction of a moment was worth signing her name on the dotted line

"Mmm. You almost had it, baby," he teased, "And you taste so fucking good. If only you'd try a little harder."

Heaven tried to bend without making the ribbons cut into her wrists, but all she could get was the infuriating graze of his cupid's bow again. "I can't, sir" she panted irritably. "Please come closer."

"No. Try harder, Heaven."

She tried, twisting and turning her hips with fervour only to almost meet his kiss. She growled, "I can't!"

The air cracked as Aiden swiped the underside off her ass, "Who are you raising your voice at?"

She groaned and clutched at the binds, briefly relaxing against the contraption as a small wave of calm flowed over her. It wasn't what she ached for, but it was something. It was contact with him. It was release, sweet, satisfactory release that stung and warmed her skin, sending fine volts of white hot electricity through her nervous system. She bit the corner of her lip and tugged at the small salacious smile that slowly crept across it. God, she was tempted to yell at him again. "Please, sir," she squeaked, feigning the innocence that she had long been stripped of and subtly swaying her hips from side to side.

Aiden's member twitched. His erection was taut and tender to the point that the weight of his trousers and boxers restraining him made him more irritable. All he wanted was to get to his feet and slam every last throbbing inch of his length inside of her as hard as he could, over and over, each stroke hitting her back wall, warning her not to tease him like that ever again but making her want to just to experience just how ferocious and unforgiving he could be. Heaven didn't understand how dangerous it was for him to want her as much as he did, and now that she was his and he could have as much of her as he wanted it didn't ease his cravings, it only made them stronger and more frequent. Aiden knew from experience that that feeling wouldn't subside as the relationship progressed, that the closer they became, the more his desires would take him over.

Her swaying really wasn't helping. Her flower opening and closing, her slender, tight curves flexing and grooving –plus she was bound. Holy fuck, she was bound to his cross, unable to escape him, naked, wanting and misbehaving.

Good girls didn't misbehave.

Hard palms to soft skin, and a louder crack in the sound barrier that ricocheted off of the walls. Head flung back, knees buckled and a blush coloured mouth caught between white teeth as Aiden snapped at her, "Keep still."

"God!" she screamed, her body quivering as the electricity amplified and his hand print surfaced on her skin in his favourite colour.

Aiden traced his finger around the outline as it began to fade and blur together, "You're a bad, bad girl, Heaven, trying to seduce me like that. What's gotten into you tonight?"

She echoed his words back at him softly, "I need you."

"You need me?"

"Yes sir."

"Where do you need me, Heaven? Do you need me here?" He dragged his finger across her skin to her opening and circled the tight circumference, languidly. "Is this where you need me, baby?"

Shudder-shudder-shudder.

"Yes sir."

"Do you need my mouth there?"

Shudder.

"Yes sir."

He pushed his finger a fraction deeper and continued to circle her, "Do you need me to kiss it, Heaven? Do you need to feel Sir's tongue in your pretty pussy?"

Her sex swelled and turned a deeper shade of pink, accumulating enough moisture that it began to gather and drip from her centre and down his finger. "Mmmmmyes...yes sir."

"Well first you have to apologise for being a bad girl."

"I'm sorry, sir."

"What are you sorry for, Heaven?" he pulled his finger back out and circled the edges of her love again.

Heaven fought the urge to scream. "For being a bad girl, sir," she said through gritted teeth. Calling herself a 'bad girl' made her feel juvenile, but at the same time, something about it was empowering. In admitting her attempt to manipulate him a little spark of her control was regained. It made her realise that she had more power as his sub than she initially thought. She could get him to touch her, she just couldn't control how he did it.

CRACK!

Scream.

Knee-buckling shudder.

"Are you giving me attitude again, Heaven?"

"No sir," she panted, burying her face further into the V of the cross to hide her smile.

CRACK!

"Don't lie to me."

"YES SIR!" she cried.

"Apologise."

The words rushed out of her, "I'm sorry for being a bad girl, sir." There was that feeling again, that powerful defiance.

"Now," Aiden went back to stroking her thigh, "Remind me what it is you need," he smirked, satisfied with her response.

"I need you, sir."

"And what do you need from me?"

Heaven paused. He was testing her, wanting her to reply with the answer that would please him most. She blushed furiously as the correct one came to mind; "I need to feel Sir's tongue in my pretty pussy," she whispered.

Aiden's breath caught in his chest. He'd wondered what it would be like to hear her speak so blue but never did he imagine that it would capture him as fiercely as this. Only angels could make sin sound so sinful. It was wonderfully maddening. "What was that?"

"I need to feel-oh-god!"

Aiden painted glossy patterns across her lips with her nectar that continued to pool and drip from her. He groaned at the sight, "Look at how bad you want it." He spread it along the crease of her inner thigh, causing her to squirm more. "I don't think I've ever seen you this wet before, Heaven. I really want you to put your pussy in my mouth so I can tongue-fuck you, deep..."

Shudder.

"...but you just won't try harder. I'm starting to think you don't deserve it."

They were back to the original game. After all of that he was still punishing her. "Please sir," she twisted herself more.

Aiden tutted and shook his head, brushing his torturous lips back and forth over hers, "There's no use in begging me, Heaven. I'm not the one stopping you, you are. All you have to do is come a little closer and I'll be more than happy to give you what you need."

She strained again. "The ribbons are hurting my wrists, sir."

"I know," he smirked, "Surely you don't expect me to reward you for nothing, Heaven, especially after you've been so badly behaved?"

She gritted her teeth, "No, sir." Heaven realised that the only way she was going to get him to give her the pleasure of his kiss was to put herself through pain.

She fixed herself to stand up, unwilling to hurt herself to earn her 'reward' when Aiden stuck out his tongue and ever so gently flicked it underneath the dripping at her opening and moaned.

He closed his eyes and swallowed.

He shouldn't have done that.

He should have waited, but Heaven was liquefying before his eyes and the temptation of tasting her had become too much too resist. He knew he had to regain control and fast.

"You have ten seconds before my offer expires," he grunted. "Ten... Nine... Eight..."

Heaven gritted her teeth and strained against the binds to arch her back deep enough to reach him. Her palms swelled scarlet and below the taut gathers of fabric her wrists paled to the colour of the winter sun.

"Seven...Six...Five..."

She bent her knees and a blend of throaty growling sounds and erratic whimpers escaped her.

"Four..."

The bones in her palms curved inwards, pushing her thumb closer to her little finger.

"Three..."

The cross creaked.

Aiden's heart hammered at her desperation. He was making her do this for him. She wanted him so badly that she was willing to push her own boundaries, grunting and trying her damnest to block out the pain.

"Two..."

Heaven cried out just as she made contact.

He gripped onto her hips and moaned into her, glad that she had passed his test, glad to finally ravish her the way he wanted. He wasn't sure if her cries were from the deep workings of his tongue or the strain of the ribbons around her wrists, but it didn't matter; the sound was erotic and untamed and made fluid leak from his member. She was screaming and panting, and writhing while his grumbles of, "You're such a good girl, such good fucking girl," vibrated into her core.

Heaven squeezed her eyes tighter, unable to gather her thoughts or decipher exactly how the sensation of Aiden's mouth managed to make the pain in her wrists translate to something so intoxicating. Pleasure had taken over and was shooting around her body like an everlasting electric shock. He buried his face deep and leant closer allowing her to ease the tension on her hands until she was back in her original position with her head leant in the slant of the V and his lips were gently pecking her clit.

"Thank you sir," she exhaled as he pulled away.

"How do you feel?" he asked readying the ribbons at the bottom of the cross.

Heaven flexed her fingers lazily and blinked, "A little better," she said surprised. She glanced over her shoulder at him, "You?"

Aiden looked up at her from under his lashes as he made several intricate knots and looped the ribbon around her left ankle, "I'm very much looking forward to fucking you hard up against this cross." He gave the ends one hard tug and secured her foot then moved to the next one. When he was done she was stretched out like a starfish, pulled so tightly that she was sure that if he plucked one of her arms it would resemble the sound of a harp string.

Seeing her bound completely made his dick throb and stirred the beast inside of him. He could feel it unfurling its claws and flexing its thick muscles as it settled inside of his bones, ready and waiting to become one with him. He stood up and slipped his arms around her waist and nuzzled his face into her neck, "You sure you're okay?" It was imperative that she was because what was coming next would leave what they'd just done in the shadows.

"Yes sir," she whispered back feeling just how hard he was. She was flummoxed that he was able to keep himself from taking her at that very moment because his intimidating length and thickness felt powerful enough to tear through his clothes.

"Okay," he kissed the hollow behind her ear. "Remind me what your safe words are."

"Twilight and Midnight, sir."

"Good girl. Twilight is for?"

"For when I need you to go easy me."

"And Midnight?"

"For when I need you to stop, sir."

Aiden rubbed his face in her curls and breathed her in, "If you feel like you need to use them, do not hesitate. Do not say stop or no, as I may take that as part of our play."

She frowned, "Why would that be part of our play?"

Aiden turned his face away as a memory of Ash pretending to resist him as he pinned her against a wall, raised her skirt and tore off her thong before she let him take her in a most animalistic fashion, crossed his mind. "Because you may not mean it." He forced the memory back down before it could ruin his first real scene with Heaven. "BDSM play can get dark. As you get more comfortable with your sexuality and become more trusting of me you may find that there are certain fantasies you want to explore. Fantasies that others are afraid to admit turns them on, let alone act out. This is a safe space for you to do that without judgement, but you have to be responsible about it and I have to trust that you will be, otherwise you will compromise my role as your Dominant. We have safewords for a reason and it is important that you use them to communicate when you've had enough. Okay?"

"Yes sir," she nodded.

"Just because my sexual tastes are more eccentric, that doesn't mean that I am willing to compromise your safety." He breathed her in again, "You are mine, Heaven. It's a priority." He moved to her side and cupped her face, softly kissing her bitten lips and brushing his tongue against hers.

She wished she could hold him. He made every kiss feel like falling in love.

He pulled away and his charcoal eyes burned into hers, "I'm going to blindfold you now." He went to the other side of the room and returned with a black ribbon to match the ones wrapped around her wrists. He covered her eyes, plunging her into darkness. Now the only senses she had to rely on was what she could hear, smell, feel and taste.

The racing thump-thump of her heart and heavy breathing.

Leather, metal, sweat, sex and Molten Brown shower gel.

Smooth satin, cold wood, the slight chill in the air, concrete beneath her feet and the embossed planes of Aiden's solid anatomy and his sweltering body heat against her back.

The faint sweet and salty stickiness of her sex mixed with saliva.

Losing her sight made her more aware of everything else and the more she noticed things the more heightened the experience became.

"What should I use on you first" Aiden asked himself, studying the racks of floggers, canes, riding crops, whips and paddles. It was her first time and he had no doubt that her mind was reeling. He could sense how nervous she was and he didn't want to push her too far too soon.

He had planned to use the riding crop but instead he opted for the flogger, an instrument with a handle as long as his forearm with strips of black leather woven in a basket weave all the way down before each strip flowed freely from the end, giving it the resemblance of a menacing tassel. He bounced the handle around in his palm, reacquainting himself with one of his old favourites. He grabbed the Ben Wa balls from a shelf nearby and placed them in his mouth

Aiden stood at her back without touching her, "Remember these?" he shook the chiming silver balls.

Heaven's stomach clenched.

She remembered how heavy they were and how the heaviness only made her ache for Aiden grow stronger to the point that if left long enough it would turn from something pleasurable to something quite the opposite.

He got down on his knees and flung the flogger over his shoulder. He rolled the first ball around her opening and watched as she squirmed against the binds, then pushed it inside.

Heaven bit her already swollen lips, unsure of when her silence was meant to start.

Aiden kissed the small of her back and held onto her hips as he pushed the ball higher so the second one could enter. He patted her sex, drumming his fingers against her clit so she clenched and unclenched, her vaginal muscles lifting the silver domed weights higher. Standing, he grabbed the flogger from his should and laid the straps against her thigh. Heaven flinched at the dozens of sleek feelers tickling and falling over her skin.

"This is a flogger," he told her, gliding the strips up her leg around her front and over her breasts, acquainting her with its feel. He lifted it from her and grabbed the ends of the strips in his other hand, pushing them towards the handle then tugging on them with lighting speed so that they made an intimidating snapping sound. Heaven gasped and jerked against the cross. Aiden smirked darkly. "Thirty-eight," he reminded her of the number she'd chosen many nights ago when she had started to become more than his captive. "I want you to count each one. If you miss a number we will start from the top. The more times you make me start over, the more you risk seeing evidence of this in the morning, so be a good girl and do as you're told."

Okay sir," she nodded. She sucked in her breath and exhaled heavily, flexing her fingers and readying herself for the first strike.

"Personally I would love to see your body decorated by my hand." He raised the flogger in the air. 

***

#RunningWilde Ch. 32 | Signed

tumblr_mxsk8k1utC1rm5vhfo1_500.gif

In a state of madness

Wrapped up in your magic

Ecstatic, an addict

Oh, we landed on another planet

And it feels like home here

Will never go back there

Cause we're crazy

I'll go crazy with you

-Asylum

John Legend

*

Aiden leant back in his seat at the head of the table, with his hands in the prayer position pressed against his lips. Ten minutes had gone by since he left Heaven in his underground play palace and the provocative distraction of the image of her knelt on the cold, hard ground, ankles together, knees apart, head down and hands on her thighs was just starting to wear off. He had business to attend to and he couldn't allow the thought of her to invade his imagination, especially as Dougie knew that he'd come from downstairs and was watching him closely to see if any signs of the Aiden that fell off the wagon years ago was going to resurface.

Stone switched off the lights and Mighty transferred the image on his computer screen to the overhead projector. Electric blue, gold, scarlet, green, magenta and black lines appeared on the wall behind Aiden, zigging, zagging and swerving in clusters of sections, outlining the multiple gang territories of London. A majority of the map was in magenta; Syndicate territory, but if the Diamond Mafia played their cards right, soon those areas would all be in black.

Aiden spun around and dropped his hands into his lap, narrowing his eyes at the overkill of magenta patches of land glowing back at him. "We're gonna start from the inside and work our way out. Brixton is our town. Surrounding us we've got Clapham, Streatham and Stockwell."

"I say we go for Stockwell first," said Dougie.

Stone settled back into his seat, "No, Clapham. It's easier."

"We don't want easy, we want effective."

Aiden looked over his left shoulder, "Mighty, what do you think?" When it can to planning any sort of hostile takeover, Mighty was his go to guy. With all the bank heists he pulled off, he had the head for planning things like this with the least amount of fallout or backlash.

Mighty squinted at the map on his screen and pursed his lips. "Stockwell, then Streatham. If we check the Hispanics and the Somalians first it'll make Clapham more willing to fall in line."

"You sure about that?" Stone said, pulling a blunt from behind his ear.

"Trust me, if we tame the others, owning the yuppies will be like stealing candy from a baby."

"He's right," Aiden said getting to his feet. He walked up to the wall and waved his hand over their first set of targets, "Once we've got these factions under control, where do we go next?"

"South East and we start with Peckham," Dougie grinned excitedly. The longstanding turf war between Peckham and Brixton wasn't as prominent as it had been in the early 2000s, but that didn't mean that it was over. With all of the killings that had gone on between people from the opposing sides getting caught trespassing in the others areas, a sort of truce had been called. That truce was: keep out. Brixton didn't venture into Peckham and Peckham didn't venture into Brixton. That was the only way to keep some semblance of peace between the two.

Mighty looked up from his screen, "I thought Peckham were on side now?"

"You think with the Syndicate going down that T-Money and them man are going to keep playing house with us?" Stone laughed in a puff of smoke. "They've been waiting for shit to be thrown off balance. They don't want no Bricky man runnin' dem." He wasn't wrong. The gangs that ran in Peckham had taken the Diamond Mafia's takeover with a pinch of salt, the only thing holding them back from reclaiming their faction was the amount of allies Aiden had and how skilled his central team were, but with the Syndicate against them and the chance of others in Aiden's territory siding with them, Peckham would most likely be the first to turn on the Mafia and they all knew it.

"I want them to try something," Dougie's hand fell to his hip where his pistol was tucked into his holster underneath his sweater. He patted it, "I've been waiting for one of them to get brave."

"That's what we'll do when we approach each area; hit the toughest first then deal with the rest," Aiden decided. "After we've made sure the South is still in line we'll hit East, West then North, and North West."

"Saving the best till last," Dougie said, his excitement growing with the scale of their plans.

Aiden nodded, "Harlesden will give us hell if we go in before we're ready. Once we've covered all of the others we can close in on them, then London will be ours." His smile matched Dougie's. The aim had always been to be the most drug cartel, and even though the mess with the Syndicate had produced heavy, heavy losses, it opened up a shortcut so Aiden could race towards his final destination a little faster.

"What are going to do about the Syndicate?" Mighty asked.

Chris Mullins was a greedy man, and even less wise than his deceased predecessor. "They'll come to us," Aiden assured him, "And when they do, we'll be ready. This is why we're putting this plan together. We need to be certain of the associates and allies that we have and make some new ones. Stone, I need my soldiers to have their ear to the ground. Find out what the Syndicate are offering the other cartels to side with them so we can do better."

"If we do that we'll lose more money, and the way things have been going since we hit the Syndicate up our incoming has been dropping like mad. We don't have the business to share."

"When we get them on side we can get a bigger distributor and cut better deals. As for money, we got thirty million from Lockewood on top of everything else. Money's not an issue."

Dougie kissed his teeth, "Fuck that, A. Loyalty that can be bought ain't no loyalty. I say we go old skool on them," he whipped out his pistol and slammed it on the table, "Join us and we won't kill you."

"Fear isn't my style when it comes to moves like these," he reminded his underboss.

"It's mine and it's effective."

"For a while, yes," Aiden leant in, pressed his palms to the table and lowered his voice to a velvet growl, "But you back a wild animal into a corner, the moment it gets a chance it'll tear your fucking head off." He held Dougie with his dark stare until his friend looked away and removed his gun from the table. Satisfied that his message was received, Aiden nodded and straightened up. "I didn't build this family by making any of you fear me. This," he pointed from himself to his men, "Is respect. We're going in respectfully. There's enough heat on us as it is. We're not short of enemies and we don't need more right now," he said with finality. The men nodded in agreement. "We'll go in easy; make our case and give them our offer -this is business after all. But," his voice went up an octave and Dougie's ears pricked at the compromising sound, "If they refuse us, then we will do what is necessary to persuade them to see things our way."

Dougie grinned.

"Cool. Well according to the books we can afford to drop our prices 12%, but I ain't really feelin' going that low. Heads might think we're slippin'," Stone said pushing the Mafia log book over to Aiden.

Aiden ran his index finger down the page as he looked at the most recent figures, "What do you suggest?"

"5%. Any lower and we're fuckin' with our rep." He took a drag of his blunt, squinting as the weed went to his head. "We need a lil suttin' to sweeten the deal, just in case."

"We'll use Baby and Dani," Aiden replied without missing a beat. Not even the baddest men couldn't have their ear bent by some pretty girls if they knew what how to bend ears. Aiden found himself wishing they still had Ash. Not the Ash that crossed her family in the end, the one that was his good girl and could charm the sword from the stone if she wanted to. He jerked his head to clear the thought before his focus was disrupted.

"Are we going in together or doing the rounds separately?" Dougie asked. "If we do it separately we'll cover more ground quicker. You take Baby, I'll take Dani."

"No, we do it together. We need to show a united front, show them that the DM is as strong as they think we are. We took out Lockewood; they're scared of us right now, and as much as that's not my style, we can use that to our advantage so I don't wanna chance losing it."

"Or Dougie taking it old skool without your consent, right boss?" Mighty laughed, saying what Aiden had avoided.

"I'm not worried about that. He knows better," Aiden replied coolly. Whether Dougie knew better was up for question but Aiden was making it clear that friend or not, Dougie was not to go rogue on this mission at all, no matter how badly he wanted to.

Dougie narrowed his eyes at Mighty.

Mighty focused intensely on the computer screen, raked his fingers through the ends of his shaggy blonde hair and popped his lips, "Sooo, which one's the new Siren?" He spared an apologetic peek at Dougie, who as he had no intention of killing Mighty, had quickly lost interest in him.

"Baby will do. She's got that wide-eyed innocent look going for her. She seems more vulnerable. They won't see her coming," Aiden replied.

"What about Dani?" Stone suggested, "She's more of a bad gyal like Ash was."

"Which is exactly why I'm not picking her. Ash mastered that area and anyone that comes after her won't have the same effect. Baby's got her own thing; young, fresh and new."

"Well I was gonna say Trish." The atmosphere in the room turned tense and Dougie's attention was back on Mighty. He seemed to be considering killing him now. Mighty looked around at the three grim faces, "What?"

"You know we keep Trish out of this stuff," Aiden said in a measured tone, watching Dougie as he spoke.

"Yeah I know, but you gotta admit the girl's hard, plus she's got a great face –no disrespect," he added quickly, shying away from Dougie who was slowly reaching back under the table near his hip.

"What are you doing looking at my sister's face, fam?"

"Hey!" Aiden raised his hand, "We're gonna stop this conversation right here."

"Baby it is," Mighty swallowed.

Aiden pinched the bridge of his nose, "Dougie, go to the armoury and sort out the weapons we're bringing. They're gonna frisk us so try to get as many concealable items as you can. Mighty, map the routes we've discussed. Stone, you know what you're doing?

"Ear to the ground."

"Good. I want a report back from all of you by ten o'clock tonight."

Dougie and Stone left but Mighty hung back, rooting around in his pockets until he brandished a small microchip and one of the iWatches. "Here you go, boss. Just like you asked," he handed them to Aiden.

"Is the watch on its own network?"

"Yup. The only thing it'll pick up is that chip and vice versa."

"Good. Thank you. You can go now."

"No problem," Mighty closed his laptop and headed for the door.

"I'd keep out of Dougie's way if I was you," Aiden warned.

"You don't have to tell me twice. He looked like he was considering putting a hit out on me. He'd definitely shoot me if he found out we kissed the other day."

Aiden paused and blinked at his gawky, blonde haired, tech geek. "You kissed Trish?"

"Well, to be fair, she kissed me and I didn't stop her," Mighty shrugged with a boyish smile.

"Have you told anyone else?"

"Just you, boss."

"If you want to live I suggest you keep it that way." He fanned him away, "Go."

Aiden forced himself to sit and work for another hour, just to see if he could willingly stay away from Heaven for that long. As soon as the hour was up he took his time and headed back down into the basement, passing the main level and taking the lift deep underground to his playroom.

***

The lift door slid open and Heaven straightened up. Her back was tired, her knees were sore, and her calves and feet spiked with pins and needles from kneeling for so long in the position Aiden had instructed her to. She dropped her head and placed her palms back on her thighs as he entered.

He strolled towards her and pushed up the sleeves of his shirt unveiling his patterned arms, then stopped in front of her and pulled a Parker pen from behind his ear with his initials inscribed on the silver clip on the lid. "Have you read through it?"

She flinched at the sound of his voice. It had been just her down there for the past two hours in that dark room of pulsating lights, newly polished leather, concrete and steel with a three page contract that she was to read and mull over until he returned. Of course it hadn't taken her two hours to read it, but Aiden thought it would be good practice for not only him to stay in control of his urges, but for her to practice waiting for him in the assumed position.

There were no clocks on the walls so Heaven had no idea how long she was down there, but it'd felt like forever. At first it felt ridiculous (as it always did) to get into position for him, and she'd grown impatient, then agitated. She'd fallen into that space that she was foolishly becoming familiar with and moved. If he caught her standing he wouldn't be happy, but she told herself she didn't care. She'd picked up the contract and lounged rebelliously in his throne with her legs thrown over the side and flicked through it.

It read:

CONTRACT OF SUBMISSION

I, ____________ (Submissive), with a free mind and open heart; do request of ____________ (Dominant), that he accept the submission of my will unto him and take me into his care and guidance, that we may grow together in love, trust, and mutual respect. The satisfaction of his wants, desires, and whims are consistent with my desire as a submissive to be found pleasing to him. To that end, I offer him the use of my time, talents, and abilities.

Further, I ask, in sincere humility, that as my Master, he accept the keeping of my body, for the fulfilment and enhancement of our sexual, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs. To achieve this, he may have unfettered use of my body any time, any place.

I ask that he guide in any sexual, sensual, or scene-related behaviour in such a way as to further my growth as a person.

I request of (Dominant), as my master, that he use the power in his role; to mould and shape me; assisting me to grow in strength, character, confidence, and being, and that he continue to help me develop my artistic and intellectual abilities.

In return, I agree:

· To obey his commands to the best of my ability.

· To strive to overcome feelings of guilt or shame, and all inhibitions that interfere with my capability to serve him and limit my growth as his submissive.

· To maintain honest and open communications with him.

· To reveal my thoughts, feelings, and desires without hesitation or embarrassment.

· To inform him of my wants and perceived needs, recognising that he is the sole judge of whether or how these shall be satisfied.

· To strive toward maintenance of a positive self-image and development of realistic expectations and goals.

· To work with him to become a happy and self-fulfilled individual.

· To work against negative aspects of my ego and my insecurities that would interfere with advancement of these aims.

My surrender as a submissive is done with the knowledge that nothing asked of me will demean me as a person, and in no way diminish my own responsibilities toward making use of my potential.

This I, (Submissive) do entreat, with lucidity and the realisation of what this means, both stated and implied, in the conviction that this offer will be understood in the spirit of faith, caring, esteem, and devotion in which it is given.

SAFEWORDS

· I, (Submissive) recognise that (Dominant) may make demands of me that cannot be met without incurring physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or other harm at the time the demands are made to me. In such circumstances related to this, I may make use of the safewords. Two safewords will be invoked depending on the severity of the demands.

· The safeword 'Twilight' will be used to bring to the attention of (Dominant) that I am close to my limit of endurance.

· The safeword 'Midnight' will be used to bring to the attention of (Dominant) that I cannot tolerate any further demands. When this word is said, (Dominant)'s action will cease completely with immediate effect.

WILLINGNESS:

· 0 is a hard limit, meaning I (Submissive) will not submit to this at all.

· 1 is a soft limit, which means that I (Submissive) may be able to be convinced to submit to the activity.

· 2 means I (Submissive) will submit, probably reluctantly. I may need restraint, and require further convincing to cooperate.

· 3 means I (Submissive) will submit without question.

I understand that it is my duty as a submissive to communicate after a scene to let (Dominant) know where my emotional state is during the "drop" that occurs as my body returns to normal after a scene.

Should either of us find that our aspirations are not being well served by this agreement, find this commitment too burdensome, or for any other reason wish to cancel, either may do so by verbal notification to the other, in keeping with the consensual nature of the agreement.

We both understand that cancellation means a cessation of the control stated and implied within this agreement, not a termination of our relationship as friends and lovers. Upon cancellation, each of us agrees to offer the other their reasons and assess our new needs and situation openly and lovingly.

This agreement shall serve as the basis for an extension of our relationship, committed to in the spirit of loving and consensual dominance and submission with the intention of furthering self-awareness and exploration, promoting health and happiness, and improving both our lives.

I offer my consent of submission to (Dominant), under the terms stated above on this the ____ day of ____ in the year ____.

____________________

(Signature of submissive)

I offer my acceptance of submission by (submissive), under the terms stated above on the ____ day of ____ in the year ____.

____________________

(Signature of Dominant)

On the back page was a list of acts of which she was to communicate her willingness as 0, 1, 2 or 3. She skimmed over it first, frowning, gasping, gawking and shaking her head, gasping some more, telling herself, 'Nope. No way. Never!' Half of the things listed she'd never heard of, things like Violet Wand and Shibari. They sounded pretty but with the nature of BDSM she assumed that they weren't too appealing. The things she did understand, things like mummification were an outright no for her. She'd flung the contract to the ground, intending to disregard it completely, but with nothing else to do but wait for him, her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she read through it line by titillating line. She couldn't believe the things expected of her. As well as not being allowed to look him in the eye without permission and her head being kept low, she had to wear what he told her without dispute. A lot of the terms were only valid when they were 'playing' but there was one that wasn't, which Aiden listed as non-negotiable.

Heaven was to be collared at all times.

She'd immediately thought to herself, 'Am I a dog?' She wasn't prepared to be collared like some common house pet. Non-negotiable, my ass! Everything was up for discussion, and discuss it, she would.

Oddly enough, as she read the contract she found herself anticipating his return. The tension that thumped between her thighs before he left her, begun to take root and flourish from limb to limb, her skin felt prickly, hot and covered in goosebumps, and the fine hairs on her arms standing on end expectantly waiting for the moment his rough hands would grip and smooth them into submission.

It was exciting; the waiting, the wondering, the heightened sense of needing to interact with another human -with him. With him, with him, with him. She'd missed him on another level; a longing that convinced her that in this dark room, deep underground in his drug cartel's compound, that he'd be the light.

"Have you read through it?"

"Yes, sir," she nodded, eyes to the ground, hands on her thighs, goosebumps and thumping tension between her thighs.

"Good girl." He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand and she leant into it, that small touch easing some of her ache for him.

Aiden walked around her and settled into his throne. "Bring me the contract," he crossed one leg over the other and rested his arms on the arm rests, "Pick it up with your mouth." Heaven's back straightened haughtily. Breaking one of his rules she looked over her shoulder to scowl at him.

"Is there something you'd like to say, Heaven?" he raised his brow.

"No sir," she said through gritted teeth and turned back. This would be something that had to be negotiated. She leant down and caught the contract between her teeth.

At the sight of her tight, round ass spreading before him draped in black satin, Aiden gripped the arm rests and cleared his throat. "Good girl. Now bring it to me. Crawl." Cursing silently, she clenched her jaw and printing teeth marks along the edge of the A4 sheets. With great effort she crawled along the velvet carpet on her hand and knees with her eyes lowered and brought the contract to him. "Thank you." Aiden took it from her aggressive mouth and stroked the tip of her head down to side of her face and cupped her chin. He kissed her on her forehead then leant back in the chair, uncrossed his legs and patted his lap. "Come here."

Glad to be off of the floor, Heaven stood up and slid into his lap. He nuzzled his face into her neck and planted kisses along her collarbone and up her throat, his hand caressing her face as his other arm wrapped around her waist. He pressed her frowning mouth to his and she soon forgot her ignominy and melted into him. At her first hum of pleasure he pulled away.

She blinked at him, bewildered, her breath already ragged in her chest from just the taste of his lips. This was what she'd pined for as she waited, and it had been worth every agonising moment. He was better than she imagined. He was always better.

"What do you say?"

"Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome." Aiden pulled her against him, cradling her like something precious and she breathed him in. He seemed so much more at ease down here in his dark room of dreams and desires. Though he had a new hardness to him that was purely Dom through and through, there was also something softer paired with it. His destructive peace. Heaven thought that even if he wouldn't sleep next to her at night, at least, for however long it may be, she had him like this.

He held the contract out in front of both of them in one hand and with the other he traced wispy patterns up and down her arm, leaving flourishes of fresh goosebumps as he went. It was both soothing and electrifying. "So what did you think? And be honest."

"Honestly," she covered her smile with her hand as her face changed colour, "I feel stupid for even entertaining this."

He kissed the hazy streak of rose gold along her cheekbone, "Why?"

"It's a bit peculiar. What's wrong with what we've been doing? It was kind of like this."

"It's not what I want," he said plainly.

"You want this?" she held up the back page and jabbed her finger at the list of acts.

Chastity belt.

Spreader bar.

Anal plug.

Nope. No Way. Never.

Aiden pushed the contract down, "I want you, Heaven. All of you."

It sounded more romantic when he said it that way, though she was sure that it would be far from romantic in the thick of it. All of these rules for something that should come naturally to two lovers –it wasn't normal. She told him as much.

"I'll admit it's not something for everybody, but being with you, seeing how you are, the way that you respond, I think you'll like it a lot more than you know.

"I doubt it."

"I've had experience with a submissive. I can tell who has the capacity to be one." He had Ash, she thought. "So tell me, was there anything you weren't sure about?"

She wanted to say everything. This life, this man, the feelings she had for him, and now this contract. "I don't understand what half of these things are."

"So ask me."

She paused, embarrassed to ask him anything of this nature. Sure they'd done some things, but she'd never really spoken about any of it with him. She'd be lying if she said that this being a topic of conversation wasn't more uncomfortable than the act of actually doing it.

Aiden held the list up, "Ask me."

Heaven trailed her finger down until she came to something that stumped her, "Crucifixion?" It sounded so twisted, especially with the religious connotations attached. The name alone made the act more sordid and it made her question Aiden's level of depravity. What really went on inside that head of his that made him want to do something with a name like that?

He pointed to the wooden planks crossed in an X shape that stood against the wall with holes drilled into each end with black silk ties hanging out of them. "Crucifixion."

Heaven's eyes lingered on the cross and tried to picture herself strung up to the offensive contraption. The thought morphed from disgust to something more potent –arousal. That was St Andrew's cross -the one Aiden had spoken about when he'd watched her climax the other night. Suddenly it wasn't' so offensive. Suddenly it was solid temptation that begged for her curiosity of his worldly musings to be undertaken. "Three."

"Three?"

"My willingness to try it -three."

"You're very willing," he smirked. He placed the lid of his pen between his white teeth and tugged it off. He wrote the number three in the small box next to Crucifixion. "Anything else?"

Heaven cleared her throat and looked back at the page, making sure to keep her eyes from his lest he see the change in her demeanour. She hated to seem eager to try these things. "Figging?" she whispered.

"Ginger root is inserted into your a_"

"No! Zero."

He smiled, "I didn't think you'd like that. It's really quite enjoyable...once the burning stops."

She looked at him dead in the face, her curious fluster now replaced with the initial disgust she'd felt at the crucifixion, "No." Her finger went to the next act, "Suspension?"

Aiden pointed to another piece of apparatus, this one a steel contraption that hung from the ceiling with thick rings positioned over it. Heaven frowned at it, it looked very intimidating and the fact that it was attached to the ceiling didn't ease her discomfort. "You'll be bound by ropes and strung up to it in whichever position I choose, unable to move, floating while I fuck you." His member twitched against her thigh.

"Oh." The intimidating feeling subsided into curiosity again. It was the idea of floating whilst Aiden made love to her that made it appealing. What would a thing like that even be like? "Does it hurt?"

"It can." His eyes flashed saying everything he didn't.

It can if I want it to.

Heaven swallowed. That would essentially be what she was agreeing to if she signed this. She would be giving him the right to hurt her.

He took her face in his hand, "You look scared."

"Well it's scary stuff." She went back to the list, "Acrophilia."

He stroked her thigh, "I like fucking from heights."

"Rimming?"

"That's more for you than for me."

"What is it?"

"Ass eating." He didn't even blink as he said it.

Heaven burst out laughing, "What? People actually do that? They like it?"

"You'd be surprised. I don't, but I haven't met a woman yet who doesn't. Any more questions?"

"The rest seems pretty self-explanatory, though I'm not sure how to feel about serving as art."

He pushed a spiral of sugar pink hair behind her ear, "You are beautiful, Heaven, breathtakingly so, especially with this unusual hair. As my sub I'll adorn you in luxury too pretty to be ripped from your body...though looking the way you do, I don't know if that would stop me." He pushed the gown open and slipped it off of one of her shoulders pressed his mouth against her skin it. "I want to enjoy simply watching you, to refrain from touching you. To make you wait."

"Torture me, you mean."

"And myself. There's an Agent Provocateur corset that you'd look amazing in." His kiss brushed the hollow of her collarbone and she sighed. "I've been thinking about putting my mouth on you all afternoon." He kissed behind her earlobe and groaned, "Hurry up and sign it."

She stared at the contract. What would it be like to belong to someone; not in the romantic sense but as in you were their property? Heaven supposed that women had played that role for hundreds of years. Being a wife used to mean you belonged to your husband before it developed sentiment and people belonged to each other out of love.

This was not that sentimental archetype.

She was going to be his once she signed her name. Her freedom would be well and truly gone, not that she really had any anyway, but this was different. She was choosing this. Whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, however he wanted, she would do without question or hesitation. She truly wouldn't belong to herself anymore.

"What is it like -the relationship between a Dominant and a Submissive?"

"Peace. It's like peace."

"But it's so violent."

"Not all the time. But violence can be peaceful."

Heaven frowned, "Violence is the disruption of peace."

"Sometimes that disruption is what brings peace." Aiden stroked her thigh, "Whatever you have stored up inside, all the things you don't say, all of those regrets and frustrations, violence allows you to let it go of. It makes the hurt go away." He had stopped looking at her and stared blankly at the alternating lights.

Heaven cupped his face, "There are other ways."

"Those ways don't work for me," he brushed her hand off. She was back-tracking again and between his mother and the funeral less than twenty four hours away, the last thing he needed was to have her turn him down.

"Maybe they can...with the right person," she said, hopefully.

"The right person for me requires the same things I do."

"I don't."

He looked at her now, "Then don't sign." He stopped stroking her thigh and rested his hands back on the chair arms.

Heaven felt his instant withdrawal extend beyond his touch and the sea of separation starting to float up between them. She spoke the words he didn't have to say, "You won't want me if I don't."

"I will."

"But it won't be enough."

"No, it won't," he shook his head, "Not for either of us."

She scoffed, "I'll survive."

"You'll ache. I know a sub when I see one. You need the release as much as I do." He ran his thumb across her bottom lip, and just as before, she parted them for him.

"It's not the sex that's bothering me. It's the being yours. I'm not an object."

"You would like being my object," He said in a dark voice. He took her hand and placed it on the hard pleasurable bulge in his trousers. Heaven bit her lip as flashes of feelings remembered caused contractions inside of her and warmed her skin. "You would like it very much, but know that if you sign this you will be so much more to me than that. You'd be everything. I would belong to you too."

Her hand shook as she went down the extensive list, rating each act 0, 1, 2 or 3 while Aiden nibbled on her earlobe and stroked her thigh, his touch dancing dangerously close to her persuasion but barely grazing it. He was patient, quiet, letting her take her time to mull over each one, change her mind, and then change it again. He didn't mind, it had been a trying day and just to have this peace with Heaven to himself in the place where he could be himself eased his mind.

She flipped the contract back to the first page and placed the pen on the signature line. She halted. Her instinct had been to scribble Ava-Marie Lockewood in her Edwardian cursive and just the thought of it threw her off. Ava-Marie would never sign this.

"Heaven," he breathed, her name tickling her skin, "Stop teasing me, baby. I want you," he kissed her cheek, the corner of his lips grazing hers. Her lips parted. "So much." His fingers at the top of her thigh curled onto the points and he dragged his nails lightly over her flesh, sharp, burning and borderline impatient. He soothed the trail stroking back up her leg and not stopping. His hand met the heated hardness of her clitoris and she gasped, her pretty blush coloured mouth opening wider. "Let me have you, baby." He kissed her throat, his full lips warming against it as his middle fingers massaged her love with figures of eight. "Please."

Her inhibitions were melting, pooling out of her for the man with the coaxing caress. She knew what he was doing, it was so obvious, but he made her disregard his tactics and fall prey to his manipulations with every lulling swoop of his hand. She never wanted him to stop.

Aiden made her understand the hype her friends back at Excelsior had made over sex. Many times they'd sat in their dorm rooms, or huddled around a table over lunch, or went out for drinks, and each time the subject of sex arose she'd rolled her eyes at how giddy it made them. She wasn't bothering enough about their stories to be jealous of her inexperience because she had been saving herself for the one she couldn't say no to.

She'd been saving herself for Aiden.

Not on purpose, it had just happened that way. Being raised in the social class she was in, all of the potential suitors had seemed too stuffy, arrogant, or entitled. Of course they weren't all like that, but the ones she thought her father might approve of had been.

Aiden was definitely not who he would have approved of for more reason than one...

He was nothing like her or anyone else she'd ever met. Aiden was the night to her day, the tarnished to her new, the hell to her heaven.

"Heaven?"

She tilted her face towards his whispering mouth and touched her lips to his, praying that he wouldn't pull away. He didn't, but he didn't come closer either, he just groaned how much he needed her in a voice so deep that it vibrated through her and kindled the fire in the pit of her stomach. She believed him when he said it, that he needed her. No man had ever needed her. So she kissed him; long, hard and deep, and she felt his need and she reciprocated it. He held onto her tighter and strung his fingers through her bubble gum curls at the nape of her neck, roughly, tugging her head up so that his tongue could explore her mouth further. And then it was just tongue, snaking around each other's, flicking and twirling and tasting, nothing she would have done intentionally, but oh how erotic it was. She squirmed in his lap and leant in closer to his hold. If she'd known that being with a man could be as disarming and wonderful as this then maybe her friends stories wold have made her feel something bitter. All she knew was that she could not bear to go without it.

This time she was the first to pull away, and before the dots could fade and her heart could slow she scrawled Heaven Michaels on the dotted line.

Aiden tugged her head back in with a salacious grin and moaned into her mouth, his kiss more violent and saturated with his hunger for her. He bit down on her lip and pushed his finger inside of her only once, closing his eyes tighter as she gasped and clenched around him before he released her. "Good girl." He hurriedly signed his name below, scanned her willingness chart then with a pleased grunt, and then flung the contract to the ground.

"Get on your knees."


So Heaven has officially succumbed to Aiden. Do you think it was a good idea or nah? And if so, why? 

Let me know in the comments below and please give it a heart and share ^-^

I love your prettiful faces. 

Until next time m'dears.

Mwah x

#RunningWilde Ch. 31 | Choose Me Back

IMG_0897.GIF

Love is not what has failed

Why can't we both be saved?

For the older games we've played

We have already paid.

-Stranger, Lover

Ibeyi

*

 

Dougie's threat forced Heaven to take an unforgiving look at her relationship with Aiden. Nobody had questioned if her feelings for him were true before. It was different when the question came from somebody else, especially his best friend. Instead of her reeling mind that sometimes made her feel like she didn't know her up from her down, her love from her lust and her guilt from her hate. Though she was sure that the intention of Dougie's question hadn't been to stir up any sort of resolution within her, it had, and resolute she was.

The moment Aiden stepped through the door an electrical charge filled the compound and she was the only one who felt the bite of the static before he even came into contact with her. That thing that connected them alerted her to his presence. It shot up her spine and flourished through her limbs leaving her teetering along the edges of a pending disaster or glory as she eagerly awaited him. She sat on the edge her bed, her hands clutching the perimeter, her fingers digging into the mattress anticipating the moment he would enter her room and look at her with his midnight eyes, touch her skin with his tempestuous hands and kiss her with his sinful mouth. It was then that she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, because not just anyone could do that to another person.

Aiden swept in like the tail end of a tornado, his unsettled presence putting everyone on edge so much so that they vanished into their own corners out of his way. The Mafia were used to him being in a foul mood when he returned from his mother's house, it was rare that any of Aiden's encounters with Grace ever ran smoothly, the only props they could give him was that he carried himself a little more bearably than Keegan used to after speaking to their mother. Keegan was like a bull in a china shop whereas Aiden was a quiet storm, channelling all of his frustrations into whatever task he had to deal with next.

Oh Heaven. Poor, sweet Heaven.

She heard his harsh resounding voice call for Trish, followed by the quick clip-clopping of Trish's slippers as she bravely went to him. Trish cooed and Jamie giggled as she retrieved him from his uncle, then her soft muffled voice asked Aiden, "Are you okay?"

No reply came.

Instead his heavy boot steps became louder as he approached Heaven's door and suddenly there he was, pending disaster or glory, stood before her. He didn't look right. Heaven couldn't fathom what could possibly have happened between his leaving and his return to make him look so severe, but being in his line of work she figured it could be anything from a bad deal to something she knew he was frighteningly capable of. She hoped it wasn't.

She stood and reached for his face, watching him cautiously as she came close to touching him, hoping that it was okay if she did, and he watched her, his chest heaving and his breath straining through tight lips. He fought to subdue the fire in his chest, because Heaven didn't deserve to behold the fury his mother had kindled, he knew she didn't, but he caught her wrist and pulled her to him anyway, knotting his fingers in her hair, tilting her head up and devouring her mouth with rough kisses that would leave her lips sore. He crushed her body to his to the point that if he held her any tighter she'd bruise, and yet she clutched at him, holding him back as tightly as she could, whimpering as if it still wasn't enough. Aiden groaned and deepened the kiss. They were crashing, and crashing, and crashing, and then Heaven felt it once more; the falling.

The sadist and the masochist could make a heaven out of any hell.

When they parted she was breathless and he was still. His storm had passed with one kiss. She'd done that. He let her touch him now.

Heaven traced the back of her knuckles across the sharp cut of his cheekbone, "Where did you go?" It sounded like 'I missed you'.

"I went to see my mother."

"What happened?"

Aiden rested his forehead against hers, the tip of their noses touching. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay."

His large hands fell to her sides and squeezed the curve of her waist as if he wanted to tear right through her. Pressing his turgid shaft against her, he kissed her again with more urgency. "I need you."

"I know," she breathed against his lips, too strung out on the way his mouth felt to break the kiss for even a moment.

"No," his hand slipped around to her navel then travelled upwards, between her breasts and up over her collarbone until it settled around her neck. He squeezed, waiting for the sound of her breathing to grow harsher before he kissed her again with more ferocity, biting on her lips until her whimpers joined. "You have no fucking idea." He was throbbing against her, desperate to exorcise his frustrations through her evangelical sounds of pleasure to find peace the best way he knew how. "When I return, I want you in your robe and nothing else." He released her.

Heaven was tying the sash around her waist when Aiden returned with another contract. She froze. This time there was no mistaking what it was for.

When he'd said he needed her, he meant every word of it. It was no longer enough for him to take her with accents of his true nature; he craved the entirety of his desire now more than ever. All of his pent up rage needed release. Over the years he'd trained himself to divulge it in other ways, usually through the settling of a score, no matter how petty, or when he had no other choice, channelling it into growing his empire. But he'd succumbed to temptation with Heaven grudgingly yet willingly at his mercy. His only urge was to feed his addiction.

She eyed the sheets of A4 paper with rows upon rows of neat black squiggly shapes that plainly proposed an agreement between the two of them. Aiden took her hand and brushed his lips across the back of her knuckles, hoping to pull her attention away from the document and soften that look of terror on her face, "You don't need to be afraid?"

That was easy for him to say, he wasn't the one being proposition to legally sign over his freedom. "I thought it was supposed to be my choice?" she tried to pull her hand free.

Aiden held tighter, "It is." He turned her hand over and placed the contract in her palm. The heading printed in thick black sans-serif font made her palms moisten against the paper 'Contract of Submission'. "I told you that I need you and I mean it. This," he slipped his hand around her wrist to calm her shaking hand, "Is me needing you. This is me choosing you, Heaven, and all I'm asking is that you choose me back." His thumb caressed back and forth over her wrist, and by and by her muscles loosened. She chewed on her lip and looked up at him; it was much less daunting than staring at the paper, in fact it made his request not seem absolutely preposterous and more...intimate, like he was asking her for more. Well yes, he was asking for more, he wanted her to be his sub, but it was the way he asked, with his velveteen voice and his gentle touches that made Heaven think that her being his sub was something else entirely to Aiden than it was to her.

Aiden saw the way Heaven's worry faded and something warmer took up residence in her eyes when she looked at him. He stepped closer, "This is not something I do lightly. As you know, I've only ever had one other sub and when that ended I wasn't sure I would ever be able to connect with anyone like that again," Aiden cupped her face, "And then I met you, Heaven." His index finger pressed against her lips and she parted them for him. He sucked air between his teeth and his trousers felt tighter. "You're meant for me." He crushed his mouth against her open one, his tongue slipping against hers, his hands fisting her hair, biting her lips and waiting, waiting until the moment she pressed against him and whimpered. The moment she succumbed to him he edged back abruptly, just enough so that there was a thin veil of space between them. She blinked up at him; eyes bright, breath ragged, and skin flushed, confused as to why he'd stopped when it was getting so good. Aiden unzipped his trousers and pulled his dick out. He gripped his shaft tightly until a bead of clear, sticky liquid formed at the top, then parted the gap in Heaven's robe and grazed the head of his hardness against her clit in small circular motions. "I want to gag you, bend you over your desk, and fuck you. Hard."

Heaven stomach fluttered and warm honey pooled out of her, mixing with his. "Jesus, Aiden," she breathed.

He placed her hand on him and moved it along his length until she had the rhythm he liked and their sexes were making wet noises. Heaven's eyes lulled and she rested her head against the solidness of his chest, working him and stimulating herself at the same time. She moved him lower, ready to insert him inside of her in the hope that he would make good on his word, when Aiden jumped back.

"Wh-what are you doing?" she half snapped. The ache of needing to feel him was speeding at her like a runaway train and he'd just diverted it onto another track.

He held up her hand with the contract now crumpled between her damp fist. "Will you choose me back?"

Barefoot and draped in black satin, Heaven followed Aiden down to the playroom.

"On your knees, eyes down, ankles together, thighs apart and your hands on top of them like you did before."

She did so reluctantly, the budding, slippery ache between her legs driving her to follow his orders more than anything else. She knew she'd been played, but wanting him the way she did, the way that made her want to claw at her skin to set her burning free, stopped her from caring. As long as he fixed her she could forgive him for it.

Aiden bent at the waist and tilted her chin up. "I have some business to handle upstairs. That should give you enough time to read this," he spread the contract out on the floor before her. "When I return I will answer any questions you have and we'll adjust the terms so that you are comfortable. Okay?"

Heaven nodded.

"What was that?" he arched his brow.

"Yes sir."

"Good girl." Aiden kissed her on her forehead and straightened up. Looking at her knelt at his feet so obediently, sensing how much she wanted to be relieved as much as he did made it hard for him to walk away, but he had to. If he was to do this with her, he had to exercise control not only over her but over himself too. He couldn't allow this part of him to take over again, especially not with the storm brewing on the horizon. "You will not move from this position until I am in the lift. Understand."

"Yes sir." There it was, Heaven's usual splash of sass changing the tone of he words, and it made him smile -only because he looked forward to punishing her for it later.

He summoned the strength to leave his kneeling beauty untouched among the flashing blue and red lights and an arsenal of weapons procured for her pleasure and pain. 

***

#RunningWilde Ch. 30 | Commitment Issues

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I won't be lonely

And you won't be silent

And we will be dancing

The way that we're wanting each other to be

If you could commit to

Making me happy

And stay with me in this

Stay with me in this

-In Time

FKA Twigs

*

What do you do when you're in enemy territory, surrounded by said enemies, without the closest thing you have to a hero there to defend you?

Heaven laid in that stark room for hours, unmoving, watching the dust motes glitter and fall to the ground in the thin strip of light that sliced across the floor from beneath the door, breathing in the stale air of her breath, sweat and bed linen, afraid to make a noise that might alert Aiden's Diamond Mafia family of her consciousness lest they enter. She was afraid of being more trapped with them than she already was, and the thought of one of them shut in this stark room with her, with its high ceilings, windowless walls and no Aiden on hand to come to her rescue should she decide to scream for help made her bones rigid. She'd heard Aiden leave this morning; he hadn't bothered to check in on her or left her any instructions as to what she was meant to do or how she was to conduct herself in his absence. He'd left her all alone to fend for herself with people who trusted her even less than they trusted their boss's irrational keeping of her. He clearly trusted that they weren't stupid enough to disobey him, no matter how badly they wanted to.

It had been close to terrifying last night, sat in the meeting room with Aiden, surrounded by Mighty, Stone and...Dougie. Just the thought of his maniacal Cheshire cat smile made the marrow in her stiff bones freeze up and a metaphorical chill up her spine made her teeth chatter. Aiden had become her safe place in that room of drug dealers, killers and thieves, and knowing what she knew of him so far, Aiden being the one who calmed her nerves said a lot about the kind of danger she was in. He was the worst of them all.

Heaven planned to stay in that stark room with the stale air, high ceilings and windowless walls until Aiden returned, but as the minutes and hours ticked by she became restless, hungry and desperately in need of the bathroom. When she could take it no more she stood and dressed herself in a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt, then dragged a brush through her tufts of knotted candyfloss hair and slicked it up into a soft afro puff.

Upon opening the door Heaven came face to face with one of the Mafia maids, uniformed in the body hugging black catsuit, slicked back no-nonsense ponytail, eyes hidden behind dark glasses and the ever stoic expression which concealed any semblance of true emotion. It bothered her that Aiden employed these women; they were like sexy robot assassins in human flesh. She'd only ever seen two to three of them at any given time, and though they all looked the same, they never were. They varied slightly in skin tone, height and build, and unless you paid attention, the way Heaven paid attention, you would never know that there were more of them than the ones that were around you at the time. This one was just as intimidating as the rest. She wondered how many of them Aiden had, why he ordered them to dress this way, why they never spoke...and why they were all female. Heaven knew as much about gang life as what she'd seen in the movies and from BBC and Channel 4 documentaries and it was abundantly clear to her that the Diamond Mafia didn't operate the same way. For a crew that came up from Brixton they were quite eccentric in their way, more like super villains than street thugs, but then she supposed that it was probably their eccentricity that had catapulted them up the underworld's food chain. The maids though...they looked like walking fetishes, but not ones to be taken lightly.

She began to wonder...did Aiden like these women? She studied the maid a little harder. Yes, they looked deadly, she had no doubt that they were, but that was a dominant trait, which wouldn't work for someone as overbearing as Aiden...but they followed his orders like a submissive would, and they were annoyingly easy on the eyes. Something about their deadliness reminded her of Ash and it made her dislike them even more, because if they reminded her of his dead lover, did they remind him too? Once again she found herself feeling threatened by another female; another sensation that hadn't struck Heaven until Aiden came along.

She wished he didn't matter to her so much.

She cleared her throat and squared her shoulders so as not to look as afraid or threatened as she felt. "Hi." The maid said nothing. The only indication that Heaven had her attention was the slight inclination of her head as if she was awaiting an order. "I need to use the bathroom."

The maid led her down the corridor. As she walked past one of the other maids stationed along the compound hallway, this one about two inches shorter with broader shoulders, she whispered something to her so quiet that Heaven couldn't make out what she sounded like. Now it bothered her how mysterious they were; it only added to their assassin allure. The second maid turned towards Aiden's room.

When Heaven remerged from the bathroom Trish was waiting for her with maid number one with a false accommodating smile, which she guessed was meant to set her at ease. It had the opposite effect. She kept her hand on the door knob and rocked back on her heel, leaving enough room to slam it shut should she need to.

"Are you hungry?" The pleasantness of Trish's tone was more convincing than her face.

Heaven opened her mouth to say no so she could go back to her room, but the amplified grumble of her stomach gave her away. "A little," she admitted.

"What would you like?"

"Granola and soy milk..." It sounded like a question, as if she was checking with them that it was okay to make any demands. It wasn't really what she fancied but she didn't want to make herself more of a nuisance than necessary. She'd gotten used to indulging in Aiden's specially prepared vegan breakfasts that he made for her back at his out-house, and now standing in the compound corridor, barricaded in the bathroom by Trish and the assassin made her appreciate his effort. She doubted that they were willing to go through the trouble he did, so a basic breakfast would have to suffice.

Trish nodded at the maid, approving Heaven's request. The maid nodded back and disappeared from sight. Trish turned back to Heaven, "Get dressed and I'll meet you in the kitchen," she said ushering her back into the bathroom. "There are towels in the airing cupboard and spare toothbrushes under the sink."

At last Heaven was alone again. She contemplated drawing herself a bath, but the deep oval tub didn't seem as enticing as it had the night she'd spent drunk and high, nestled between the thick firmness of Aiden's thighs. She doubted any bath she took after that would be as thrilling without him in it. It had been the first time she'd seen a naked man in real life and what a magnificent sight he was to behold. Her virginity had still been intact that night, but she recalled the way she'd wanted it not to be, how she'd whined, and purred, and begged him to take her then and there, but he'd waited until she was of sound mind and unmistakably willing to do so.

Ever the complicated gentleman.

Heaven opted for a shower and tried to draw it out as much as she could to delay being out in the open with Trish and god who knows else was wandering around. Forty-five minutes later she was escorted into the kitchen area by the maid apparently assigned to her for the day. With as many people that occupied the compound she expected it to feel more homely, but it was sleek and shiny, like a Stoneham showroom kitchen; it was as if no one lived there at all. This undisturbed theme resonated with the bathroom, with her room, the meeting room...the playroom. She had yet to see the rest of the compound but she imagined it was the same throughout. Should the Diamond Mafia choose to disappear from their beloved compound one day, they would always be prepared to leave without a trace. Heaven figured that doing what they did they'd had to be ready to leave at a moments notice.

There was a rectangular table at the far end with six chairs around it and two place settings. Trish occupied one, sipping coffee and nibbling on toast. A bowl of granola and a small jug of soy milk sat untouched next to her. Heaven walked barefoot across the cool slate grey tiled floor, her arms tucked tight against her sides careful not to touch the polished black surfaces and chrome fixtures.

Trish's false smile was back in place as Heaven took her seat next to her. "Would you like tea or coffee?" she asked like a rehearsed hostess. Heaven noticed the maid suddenly at her side awaiting her order.

"Tea, please -green if you have it," she replied quietly. She really did not want to ask for anything else. The more things she had, the longer she had to stay out in the open. The maid went to fix her a cup. Heaven fiddled with her fingers unsure of what to do next. Sensing her hesitancy Trish leant in with near enough a genuine smile and stage whispered, "You can start eating now."

With a nervous giggle Heaven tucked into the granola. It was easier to eat and keep her eyes on the bowl as its contents decreased than to force herself to make eye contact and small talk with the other red mouthed girl, but it couldn't last long; eventually her food would run out and try as she did to fill the other half of the silence with her tea drinking, it still came to a rapid end anyway. She hoped that Trish would be the one to break the silence; she'd been a tad chattier when she revamped her hair but within the confines of the compound her pleasantries were even more strained than they were before.

Heaven set her cup down, "Is Jamie asleep?" she forced herself to ask.

"He's with Aiden."

"Oh."

...What now?

They fell back into silence.

The sound of the front door opening made Heaven's mood brighten like a summer morning in July. Though he wasn't her favourite person in the world, she found comfort in the thought of Aiden's return. She wasn't sure how much more of this forced girls brunch date she could take. The door shut and then there was no sound until Trish looked lazily up into the doorway of the kitchen and her posture became erect. Her eyes flickered to Heaven then back to the door.

"Dougie."

Heaven stiffened, the marrow in her bones froze, a chill ran up her spine and she clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering. It wasn't until the chair next to her scraped against the tiled floor that she even knew he was near.

Dougie sat in the chair the wrong way, his body positioned over the side so that he was facing her, glaring at her and smiling in his way.

"Dougie," Trish repeated his name with a warning lilt, praying that he wouldn't do anything reckless –like kill Heaven.

"Why's she with you? Where's A?"

"He'll be back in a minute," she hoped.

"So he's not here?"

Heaven's hands started to tremble. She gripped the teacup with both of them in an attempt to disguise her terror, but the little liquid that sat in the bottom rippled, giving her away and answering Dougie's question.

His smile widened. "Would you like a top up?"

Heaven wanted to believe that he was talking to Trish but he was still staring directly at her, looking more menacing than usual with his baseball cap on and his hood up, his white teeth gleaming from within the shadows. She shook her head, staring into the rippling tea water at the bottom of the cup, wishing she could dive in and swim far, far away from him.

"You're scaring her," Trish said tightly, annoyed but, Heaven detected, slightly amused.

"Am I?" he asked Heaven. Trish's amusement irritated her, but Dougie's scared her half to death. The things that made him happy generally didn't bode well for the source of his entertainment.

"Yes, now stop it. If you're bored go and do something."

He continued to smile and stare, unmoved by his little sister's mild hostility. Trish had a temper and this wasn't it. If she was really that concerned about what would happen to 'the Lockewood girl', she could make Dougie leave her alone, but she didn't.

Heaven knew that it was up to her to remove herself from the looming threat that was Dougie Monroe. "Well, I'm done so I'm gonna go." She hurriedly pushed her heels against the floor to slide her chair away from the table.

Her feeble escape was abruptly interrupted by Dougie's hand slamming against the back of it. "Stay," he purred. Maybe it was supposed to sound like and invitation, like, 'No, don't be silly. Stay here, talk with me,' but it sounded more like a 'Don't you dare move.'

Heaven placed her trembling hands on top of her thigh and waited with baited breath.

"You," he looked at Trish, "Leave."

"Aiden said_"

"I don't care what Aiden said."

Trish attempted to stare down her big brother. He shouldn't defy Aiden's orders and he knew it, especially when it came to the Lockewood girl. Trish hated it as much as he did; Heaven was the daughter of the man who'd killed Keegan. She didn't understand how Aiden could stand to look at her, let alone let her live when the only purpose she served was to remind him of what he'd lost. That's what the rest of them felt when they saw her –loss. But he'd saved her, and Aiden was particular about who he saved. Trish knew better than to defy Aiden when things were personal, but her big brother, with his calculating smile and his unnerving stare that peeked out from under the peak of his black baseball cap, felt like more of a threat than Aiden at that moment, though had Aiden been standing there she'd have felt a lot differently.

They all would.

"Fine, but don't hurt her. Aiden left her with me and if anything happens to her you know who he's gonna blame, so don't fuck about," she snapped. Dougie's smile changed and his eyes became less formidable. Where Keegan had needed monitoring, Trish had been the opposite and was the one who looked out for everyone –she had a reputation as the 'little mum' of the crew. She touched Heaven's shoulder, "If he so much as breathes on you, you call me. I mean it."

Heaven's eyes widened and she wanted to scream, 'Then why leave me with him?' but her fear of Dougie had a chokehold on her throat and all she could do was release a raspy panicked sound.

Trish looked back at her brother, "You have five minutes." She marched out of the kitchen, her fluffy heeled slippers click-clacked against the floor, the sharp sound growing quieter as she until there was silence.

Heaven's eyes were stuck in the empty doorway, too afraid to turn back and acknowledge that she had been left alone with the quite smiling man.

He stopped smiling and folded his hands in his lap, "What's going on between you and Aiden?"

Heat flushed her neck, "Why are you asking me that?" she replied too embarrassed to confirm what everyone already knew.

Dougie grabbed the front legs of her chair and swung her around to face him. Her first instinct was to make a run for it but his quick hand shot out again, blocking her escape path. "Sit. Down."

She settled back into her seat.

"What are you doing with Aiden?"

"I'm doing as I'm told," she trembled, pressing her body against the back of the chair as if the millimetres of space she regained would make any substantial difference. She was still alone, sat face to face with Dougie Monroe. The negatives outweighed the positives.

"Because you want to or because you think you have to?"

She wasn't sure how to answer that. It wasn't like things were black and white when it came to her and Aiden. It was more a kaleidoscopic grey area; some brighter spots tinged with everything that was wrong with them, and some darker spots blessed by everything that was right. They were fifty shades of grey, a roiling storm cloud ever on the brink of bursting, a film noir made reality. What was she supposed to say? What was the right answer? Was there even a right answer? If it was because she wanted to, she was bad. If it was because she had to, he was bad, but when they were together, really together, just the two of them, they were good. They were spectacular. She blinked. "I...I don't know."

"Let me make this simpler for you; you don't have to, so if you don't mean it, stop it or I will," he leant in closer, "Permanently."

 

#RunningWilde Ch. 29 | Holding On

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I'm tearing up across your face

 

Move dust through the light

 

To find your name

 

It's something faint

 

This is not a place, not yet awake

 

I'm raised of make

 

-Perth

 

Bon Iver

 

*

 

There was a knock on the door.

 

Chris Mullins sat behind the large glass desk in Vince's lavish office over the Rococo Lounge and flicked his wrist, giving his guard the okay to open it. Max was escorted in by the guard on the other side of the door -Chris felt it was necessary to double up on security in these dark times -his glossy raven hair tousled and falling into his eyes giving him the broody romantic look of the lead singer of an indie rock band. His attire was as immaculate as ever, only because it was what was required of Syndicate soldiers. They couldn't look like criminals, Vince would never allow it. He'd had his rouse of the well-respected business man to uphold so anything that fell short of that image was a threat to his empire. In respect to the man that had taken him off the street and raised him (in his own way) as one of his own, Max upheld that rule of dressing as if he'd been employed by the man the public knew...but that was as far as it went. That was as much pretence as he could muster right now. If it hadn't been for that dark mop of hair, the starkness of his increasingly visible bone structure and those bruise coloured rings under his almond eyes, no one would be any the wiser to guess that Max had been going through hell and was determined to keep going.

 

His life since her disappearance weighed heavily on his heart and mind, each day passing without her becoming more unbearable than the last. He was a part of the Syndicate and he knew that their problems were bigger than Ava's kidnapping alone, but he couldn't...he wouldn't prioritise anything else over her; to do so would be blasphemous. She was the reason he was here. She was the reason he wasn't stuck living hand to mouth, trying to get by with his family. If he'd never seen that young golden eyed girl that day in the back of her father's town car smiling at him with a smile that he had made his home in, he'd have nothing. He owed her everything.

 

Losing Vince was difficult for him too. Despite the old man's severity at times, he had been the closest thing Max had to a father in years. With both Vince and Ava out of reach, Max truly felt the emptiness of his aloneness. It was awful; like standing in a room full of people with a glass wall between him and them, and not bothering to break it down because even if he made it to the other side he knew that the 'glass' would still be there. Ava and Vince were the only ones who meant anything to him, they were his family. He'd failed his family. The people that had given him the most in this life, in his selfishness to have his lust abated, he'd stripped them of their lives, both figuratively and literally.

 

He never thought that watching them leave on the road to making things right again, would be the last time he'd see them together; Ava jaded, damaged and lost even though she'd been found, and Vince, tense yet filled with so much relief that it was palatable. It was the first time Max truly understood how much he'd loved his daughter. When she'd crossed the platform to him that fateful night, he became more man than the monster he'd displayed for so many years. That was what Ava did, she made you feel human, like no matter what you did she understood that you weren't perfect and she loved you anyway and it made you want to yield to that side of you, if only so she could love you more.

 

How could he have let this happen to her?

 

He didn't deserve to sleep through the night without her face plaguing his dreams. He didn't deserve to nourish himself without the food going down his throat feeling like a nuisance to swallow, like something to do only so he wouldn't perish. And he didn't deserve not to sink into the void in his chest or to be relieved of the hollow feeling that echoed with a deafening silence –he didn't deserve not to be swallowed by his loss, not until he made this right.

 

This hell he'd taken up residence in was exactly what he deserved.

 

He missed her terribly and he loved her so unequivocally, and if he ever saw her again –please god let him see her again -he would tell her so. If this experience had taught Max anything it was that being afraid to let someone know you loved them was a waste. He'd had ample opportunity to tell her all those days living in the background of her world at Excelsior University, and now there was a possibility that he would never get the chance again and he'd have to go the rest of his life wondering, 'what if?'

 

What if he hadn't let his fear rule him?

 

What if he'd let her know that she was his heart?

 

...What if she'd loved him back?

 

He looked at Chris's scuffed shoe bottom on top of Vince's desk, and the corners of his mouth tightened but he said nothing. Chris saw the subtle change in the young man's face and he almost wished that Max would tell him to get his feet off of HIS desk, but he knew that Max was too well trained to do such a thing. He knew his place.

 

"Can I 'elp you?" he asked in his husky cockney tone.

 

Max stepped forward, "It's about Ava-Marie."

 

"Of course it is," he tried not to make it sound like a sigh and failed. "You found anything yet, or you just tryna waste more of my time?"

 

Max put his hand behind his back and clenched his fist so as not to make any more of his irritation show on his face. How could Chris call anything to do with Ava a waste of his time? He'd played a big role in raising her and now he treated her absence like a nuisance, something that interrupted the sour victory of his new reign over the Syndicate. "Michael's is back in London."

 

Now Chris paid attention. He swept his feet off of the table and lent forward, "And?"

 

"The DM are burying their fallen tomorrow. His soldiers are on the streets right now requesting a ceasefire."

 

"Oh are they now?" Chris scoffed. After what Michaels did to Vince, plus the Diamond Mafia's little suicide squad killing over thirty of the Syndicate soldiers, he'd be lucky if they granted him such a request. Yes, there were rules to how these things went –when another crew was burying their dead you put your bad blood on hold left them in peace for the day -but on this particular occasion Chris decided that rules were made to be broken. Michaels didn't deserve the respect that he hadn't earned. He still remembered how that overgrown street rat had come in to the club, arrogant, like he could turn water into wine, so irritatingly sure of himself and his power for someone so relatively new to the game. He had proven his might, and that didn't sit well with Chris, just as it hadn't with Vince. This young buck was too powerful, too fast, being as much of a threat as he'd claimed to be. The Syndicate had never taken kindly to threats. "And where exactly are they doing this burial?"

 

"Streatham cemetery, at noon."

 

Chris rubbed his hands together, "Look likes I'll have to assemble the men to pay our respects," he grinned devilishly, his eyes bright with sparks as the cogs in his head turned, whizzed and whirred with ways that he could use this information to his advantage.

 

"We can get Ava back."

 

Chris looked up at him, "What? Oh Ava...yeah, yeah, of course."

 

Max furrowed his brow. If Chris hadn't seen this news as a way to get his goddaughter back then what was he using it for?

 

He realised then that any plan that Chris was going to make, his focus was not going to be saving Ava from Aiden, so Max knew that his had to be, as it had always been, because she was all that mattered. She alone would be his objective and nothing else. "So what's the plan?" he asked, curious to unveil Chris's true motive.

 

Chris lent back in the chair and laced his fingers together, "When I know, you'll know."

 

"But it's tomorrow. Shouldn't we_"

 

"I said," his voice came out sharper than before, like the equivalent of a blade suddenly pressed against a throat, "When I know, you'll know."

 

"Well, when you figure it out..."

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Chris fanned him off as if he was an overexcited child that he was bored of entertaining. Max held his frown then with a jerk of his head, he left the room.

 

He hung out on the staircase out of sight to see what steps Chris would take. Within minutes his suspicions were confirmed when the lieutenants and a few freshly promoted capos gathered in the office to discuss what the plan was –without him.

 

That son of a bitch!

 

Had it not been for Max, Chris wouldn't even know that Michaels was around or that they had an opportunity to repay him for his massacre and mounting disrespect, so how could he cut him out of the equation like that?

 

The doors were too heavily guarded for him to get close enough to hear the plan, but the fact there was one, and with the reaction that Chris had given, Max knew that his new leader had known what he was going to do the moment the words fell from Max's mouth. His only interest had been that Michaels was back. It was no secret that the Syndicate was in a vulnerable position now that Vince was gone. Everybody wanted a piece and every crew with the balls enough to try, wanted the top spot. With the Diamond Mafia taking over thirty Syndicate soldiers out in such a ferocious fashion, only six men up, it was most likely that they would be gunning for it the most. Chris had waited too long to be the Syndicate Godfather to let the ghetto storm his kingdom.

 

Max waited until the meeting was over, and a few moments later he was back at Chris's door.

 

He re-entered without knocking.

 

Chris was pouring himself a glass of bourbon with a smug, slimy smile dripping from his face. His expression hardened when he saw Max. "Yes?" he hissed, the pads of his fingertips turning a shade whiter as he squeezed his annoyance against the crystal tumbler.

 

"I saw the men leave. What's the plan?" He tilted his head, "When you know, I know, right?"

 

"Don't you worry about the plan, mate. It's handled."

 

Chris fanned him off again but Max made no attempt to adhere to his dismissal. "I want to help."

 

"Did I ask for your help?"

 

"No, but I_"

 

"I said it's handled." He raised his drink to his lips to take a sip thinking that that was all he had to say to get the boy to leave, but this was Ava they were talking about and possibly his last chance to be the hero he was supposed to be for her, Max wasn't about to back down so easily.

 

"I'm one of the best," he said matter-of-factly, "And whatever you're doing, whatever it is that you have planned, you need me."

 

"Do I now?" Chris set his glass down and slipped his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. He swaggered over to Max with a grimace contorting his features into something more sinister, "I'm the boss round 'ere and I'll say who I need. It's a new era, Maxi boy," he slapped Max on his back too heavily for it to be received in good spirit, "You're not my little lap dog. I'm not Vinny."

 

Max shrugged him off, "What's your problem?"

 

"I'm not the one with the problem lad, I think you are." His eyes tightened making his crow's feet more defined, "So tell me, do you have a problem with the way I conduct my business?" Chris was about a head shorter than Max but his build was stocky, solid, and he had a mean face, a face you had to see in the throes of happiness before you decided to approach, sharp denim eyes that caught everything, and thin lips permanently set in a frown. His cockney twang was gravelly and brusque at all times, even when he wasn't being a self-entitled dick.

 

Max was everything Chris would never be. He was nothing like the old hat East end gangster that Chris was; Max was honest and honourable. Vince had taught him well; so much so that a part of him suspected that his stand in father figure had been grooming him to take over. He'd never know if he was right. If Vince had mentioned anything of the sort it would have been to Chris, and it didn't take a genius to figure out that Chris would never reveal any information that would jeopardise his position, so Max kept his fantasy to himself. He was wise enough to know not to pick battles that didn't need to be fought, even if his opponent deserved a kicking. After all there was a hierarchy, a set chain of command, and he wasn't about to shake the tree because he was getting frustrated. He was a solider; it was his duty to follow orders.

 

"If there is a chance that we can get Ava back then I want to do that, and you should too."

 

"What makes you think she's still alive?" Chris looked into his face, his dagger-like eyes piercing through the soul of Max to see the thing that was really propelling him to keep holding on to his faith, to keep searching, to keep hoping that he could get her back.

 

Love. Blessed, hopeless, lonely love.

 

Chris wanted to laugh in his face –as if this kid had a shot with a Lockewood. He sidled up to him, "Michaels made his intentions very clear; we kill 'is bruva, 'ee kills the girl."

 

I didn't sit well with Max how Chris was already disassociating himself with Ava, reducing her to a noun -the girl -making her lose meaning to him, making her less of a person.

 

"Ava lives." There was power in his statement, it sounded prophetic like he was speaking about a legend, a grand dream of a woman that only he'd had. "You saw the footage on the news, Michaels took her. If he wanted her dead he would've left her in the car with Vince. He didn't."

 

"You're forgetting, Maxi, that Michaels ain't right in the 'ead. He's a sick little fucker, 'ee is. You saw 'ow she looked when 'ee handed her back over; all them cuts and scars. He said 'ee was torturing 'er; what makes you think ee's stopped?"

 

"That's exactly why we need to get her back."

 

He shook his head, "You not getting it, Maxi? Blokes like Michaels, they don't think like we do. They don't do the 'ole in and out thing, especially if it's left down to Michaels himself. You remember what he did to that cholo fella..." Chris's face scrunched up in disgust at the memory.

 

Bloated, blackened, rotting flesh. The face disfigured beyond recognition.

 

It had been all over the news when the Hispanic gang member turned up dead on the stony bank of the river Thames. It wasn't just another body in the Thames, nor was it another dead gang member that caught the media's attention...it was the way the man had been killed. Bled out and each of his orifices split open and stuffed with busted scotch bonnet peppers that burned and ate away at the flesh which was then hacked limb from limb and deposited inside a fibre bag. It was sickening, perverse and cruel beyond measure. It had been one of the many acts that brought Aiden Michaels to the heads of the underworld's attention, one of many that had earned him such a formidable reputation. Only a truly twisted man could think of such a thing. Had they all agreed the cholo deserved it? Yes, but still, it was a thing of nightmares to see and it didn't make Max feel any better about Ava being with him.

 

The fact that it made Chris blanch was an even bigger testament. Regardless of the argument he put fourth, he was no 'in and out' sort of guy either. He liked to play with his victims too. It had been him who had initially beat K. Dot to the sorry state he'd been in before Vince finished him off. It had been him who'd gladly put on a disposable boiler suit and taken a chainsaw to the boy's dead body and hacked him up into pieces to deliver to their mother.

 

Max didn't mention this.

 

"He went and pissed off after what he did to Vinny and he took 'er with 'im, and now he's back, but there's been no word of Ava. He probably took her out there, did god knows what, and that's 'ow she died. No bullet to the 'ead like that smiley bloke he runs with, nope. She's probably lying in a ditch somewhere."

 

"Stop it."

 

"I don't like it any more than you, but it's about time you forget her Maxi. She's gone and what we need to do right now, what's important is to make sure that the Diamond Mafia don't get on top of us, 'cause if they do, believe you me, Ava's not the only one that's gonna go missing. Now, c'mon, off with ya."

 

It took him a moment. He wasn't ready to stop fighting and the things that Chris had said only made his chagrin burn hotter. He needed to find Ava and he knew -he just knew that she wasn't dead. He couldn't put it into words that would make any sense to anyone, but he'd seen the way that she had looked at Michaels that night on the platform. There were scars around her wrists and a fresh wound on her face, but still there had been something in her eyes. She looked like she didn't want to say goodbye to him, like as she walked away from him she was leaving something of herself behind. As stoic as Aiden's face remained and as cruel as he was known to be, Max didn't want to believe that there was something else there –and then Aiden had rescued her from the car and reclaimed her for himself, and Max could deny it, and he couldn't ignore the roiling storm cloud that filled his gut with hate for this man. Aiden was the devil; he made Max look saint-like, and yet Ava had still looked at him like that, scars and all...

 

If there was even a slither of a chance that she was alive, which he bet that there was, he had to take it.

 

"No."

 

Chris's bushy brows knotted together, casting a malevolent shadow over his deep set eyes. His guards stepped forward to forcibly escort Max out but Chris raised his hand halting them in their footsteps and fetched his drink from his desk. He wanted to punish Max, but as much of a nuisance as the kid was being, he knew his heart was in the right place and he'd much rather have Max Yang under his thumb than against him.

 

He wasn't lying when he said he was one of the best.

 

"Say we do find her and we get her back...you still can't have her. She don't belong with the likes of you. That's not what Vinny would've wanted." Chris took a swig of his liquor to mask him amusement, enjoying the way Max's slanted eyes fell to the floor in humiliation because he knew he was right. It wasn't what Vince would have wanted. "Ee wanted Ava with one them fancy blokes from her fancy school."

 

Max clenched his jaw, "Well Vince isn't here anymore is he," he said boldly. He wasn't going to let his fear rule him. He wasn't going to wonder 'what if?'

 

Chris glared at him over the rim of his glass, "Ee ain't but I am, and 'ee was my mate so don't think that if we get her back you get your chance, 'cause you don't. You're still a little street urchin with nuffin' and no one. Now fuck off!" He nodded at the guards to proceed with throwing the insolent 'street urchin' out but Max shrugged off their touch and stormed out, muttering curses in Mandarin.

 

He sought out Rocky, one of Vince's trusted lieutenants who was now entrusted to Chris. They'd always had an all right relationship; Rocky was good peoples.

 

"Hey," he said when he found him outside the club smoking a cigarette.

 

"Maximillian, good to see you." Rocky spoke like and MI5 agent, all cool charm and the queen's English. He sounded like good upbringing even though he too had grown up in the east end, a stone throw from where Chris hailed from. "What can I do for you?"

 

"I wanted to double check what time we're supposed to be hitting up the cemetery tomorrow," Max broached. "I know the DM will be there at noon. We're going at eleven, right?"

 

Rocky cocked his eyebrow and took a drag of the cigarette with a bemused expression on his face, "I don't think that's entirely true now, do you? You want the mystery daughter Vince has been hiding all of these years, don't you?"

 

Was he that obvious?

 

Max pushed his curtain of hair away from his face, "I've looked everywhere," he said, figuring that there was no point on pretending that Chris had entrusted him with any sort of information. It was clear from the look on Rocky's face that their boss had told them not to tell him anything.

 

"Do you really think he'll bring here with him?"

 

The look in Ava's eyes when she'd glanced back at Michaels at the station sliced through Max's memory again. She'd never look at him like that. He nodded, "Yeah, I do. Even if she's not I still have to try."

 

"Mmm." Rocky took another drag.

 

"Look, whatever Chris has you lot doing you don't have to tell me, I don't care about that, I just really need to get Ava back. I was the one who lost her and if there's a chance that she'll be there tomorrow and I miss out on it... I can't let her slip through my fingers again."

 

Rocky looked off into the distance like he had shut Max off and was pretending they weren't having this conversation. Just as Max was close to getting down on his knees and begging, because that's how desperate he was, Rocky's plum-mouthed accent came wrapped in an exhalation of smoke, "Ten thirty. You should probably get there a little earlier."

 

"Thank you."

 

"Don't mention it."

 

"You have my word."

 

#RunningWilde Ch. 28 | Brixton

IMG_0529.JPG

 Sharpshooter in my backyard

Killed a small boy once and never told no one

 If it wasn't for my shotgun

 He'd be alive and I'd be halfway to heaven

 Instead of sitting in the dark going through hell

 You should've been here

 You should've been here

 

-Green Mile

 SZA

 *

It was like standing in a recently abandoned museum, a time capsule, a shrine that was never meant to be, filled with objects that had belonged to another –his long lost lover -that accounted for a glance into her bleak history. A few days ago this was her bedroom and now it represented another time. Another life.

 

Gone.

 

Never again would Ash's porcelain hands curl determinedly around her Mora knife blades or the pretty pearl handle of her pistol, tucked away down the side of her bed. Nor would her hair of amber and rubies be pulled through her hairbrush that lay with wispy strands entwined between the bristles on her dressing table. Her signature -her red, red lipstick -would never grace her mouth again, and her exquisite body, the colour of moonlight and star shine, would never be wrapped up in her provocative way, in her black bedsheets.

 

They'd existed for many heated nights in that bed. It was so cold now, like they'd never really been there, like it was all his imagination and he'd dreamed up the beautiful nightmare that they once were.

 

Aiden sat in her room through the night, perched stiffly on the edge of her bed, staring at her things, enveloped in her fading scent –one day he'd forget what she smelt like altogether. He hoped that day never came. As every moment passed it was like he was losing her all over again, piece by broken piece, such tiny losses that he didn't notice it until he'd try to recall something accurately, like a memory of the way she laughed. He was unsure if the joyous, musical sound that rang in his head was what she actually sounded like or if he was making it up because he was too afraid to admit to himself that he was already beginning to forget.

 

He wished he could hear her laugh one last time. He wished they could do everything one last time, the good and the bad.

 

Every now and then his hollow eyes would lock onto the door. He half hoped in vain that this was all a sick joke and that at any moment she'd slink through the door, set her oceanic eyes on him and purr his name like she was the goddess of the seven seas. His Siren. It made it seem even more unreal that she was gone. All her things were here. All her things were here...

 

Aiden didn't say a word, he didn't move, he just sat there on the edge of her cold bed and waited for the sunrise, and hoped that it would chase the shadows away.

 

He took one of her sheathed Mora knife blades up and tucked it in his pocket. That would be his token of remembrance of Ashleigh York; a woman as furious and unforgivingly beautiful as a tidal wave. His freckled alabaster girl who looked art and made love like poetry.

 

The sun rose and he walked out of the door and ordered the maids to get rid of every single thing that was in there, every item of clothing, every trinket, every weapon, all of the furniture -everything had to go.

 

He wanted to do the same for Keegan, but since Sophia's death and the convenient disappearance of Jamie, the police were watching his brother's home closely. They weren't stupid, they knew that the Mafia was behind it but they couldn't convict anyone. There had been no trace of them at the crime scene. As if that wasn't reason enough, Keegan went missing and then the downfall of the UK's biggest drug lord happened soon after, and then there was the added disappearance of the Lockewoode girl. As much as everyone was keeping quiet, the streets whispered with Aiden's name. He knew that as soon as the cops had enough evidence, not even the ones in his pocket could protect him and his people, so it was up to him to make sure that that day never came.

 

"Get Mighty for me," he grunted in his husky sleepless tone to one of the maids over his cup of coffee. It was 6am and it had been a very long night, but there were still a few loose ends to tie up before the war began. The maid nodded and headed down the hall wordlessly. She returned a few minutes' later two steps behind a disoriented Mighty, barefoot with his dirty blonde hair sticking out at awkward angles from running his hand through it too many times and sleeping on it. Planning a battle strategy was stressful work. Aiden almost felt bad for waking him up when it was likely that his capo had only nodded off little over an hour ago.

 

"Long night?"

 

Mighty rubbed the sleep from his eye, "I could ask you the same thing, boss. So wassup?"

 

"I need you to find a girl. Jasmine."

 

"Last name?"

 

"Don't have one. All I know is that she was sleeping with my brother and now she's carrying his kid."

 

Mighty perked up and scraped his hair back, "Any idea where she's located?"

 

"No. All I have is a name."

 

"Okay...is Trish still about? She might know. She and Keegz were close."

 

"She's in my room. I'll go get her for you."

 

Aiden walked into his bedroom to find Trish already awake with lavender rings under her eyes, entertaining a well-rested Jamie. "I'll take over here," he said reaching for the squealing child as Trish opened her hands for the fiftieth time for her game of peekaboo, which she was regretting playing now. "Mighty's waiting for you in the kitchen."

 

"Mighty?"

 

"Yeah. Keegan's got another one on the way and I need to track down the mother. Do you know her? Jasmine?"

 

"Jasmine," Trish scrunched up her face in distaste, "Yeah I know her." She shifted off of the bed and readjusted the sash on her dressing gown, "Keegz sure did know how to pick 'em. Ugh!" As she shuffled towards the door she studied Aiden, noticing that the bags under his eyes were darker than hers. "Is it done?" She nodded her head in the direction of Ash's room.

 

"Yeah, it's done."

 

She folded her arms, resisting the urge to wrap them around him, "How do you feel?"

 

"I'm not sure yet." Aiden picked Jamie up, "Take the rest of the day off. You look like you need to catch up on some sleep."

 

"I'm not the only one," she said softly. She was looking at him in that way again, like she pitied him. He was glad she didn't move to comfort him.

 

"I'm fine. I've gotta go see my mum, finalise the details for tomorrow. I'm taking Jamie with me."

 

"Okay."

 

"Keep an eye on Heaven for me."

 

She frowned, clearly not pleased to have to associate herself with his premature midlife crisis again, "I thought you said I had the day off?"

 

"You do...from the baby," he smirked lazily like he couldn't be bothered but he couldn't help it. "I'd leave her with Dougie but...you know."

 

"Yeah I know," she rolled her eyes.

 

***

 

Aiden pulled up outside his mother's place at around 10 o'clock with Jamie in tow. He looked up at the pollution stained, graffiti bound walls of his childhood home, Myatts Field Estate, and sighed. Driver turned off the ignition and looked at the building with him. They'd come a long way. They had a lot of fond memories of growing up on the block but coming back here was depressing, only serving as a reminder as to why they'd been so eager to get out in the first place.

 

Aiden had thought about moving her out of here once, his mother, because that's what you did with your parents when they got old. It was your turn to look after them -but Aiden didn't think she'd ever really taken her turn in raising her boys. She hadn't earned the right to be spoiled properly. He'd been the one to raise himself and Keegan, and he had taken on the added pressure of trying his best to look after his mother on top of it.

 

His father, like Keegan's, was no staple in his life. Just another one of his mother's wastrel lovers, who was out before Aiden even made it into the world...and never bothered to come back.

 

She'd called Aiden her little man. For as long as he could remember, Aidan was told that he was the man of the house. That was so much pressure for a kid to bear, but bear it he had. He didn't want to be like the men his mother associated with. He didn't want to be like his dad, but in fighting the urge to turn into one sort of monster, he'd turned into another.

 

Instead of the junkie, he was the pusher.

 

So she didn't deserve anything more from him than the bare minimum because she'd barely given them that. He kept he fed, clothed, her bills paid, and made sure she was clean. It was the least he could do. It was the most he was prepared to do.

 

"I'll be back in half an hour," he said peering up at the second floor of the run down council block where he mother stood watching him from over the chipped railing in her night gown, smoking a cigarette, with her hair in rollers under a silk bonnet. "That's if I can't get out any quicker." He stepped out of the truck and fetched Jamie from the back. She shook her head at him disapprovingly, her yellow tinged eyes combing over his all black attire, his gang colours, and the huge truck he'd pulled up in. "Here we go," he muttered to himself. "Open the door," he called up to her. She kissed her teeth and turned to walk inside to press the enter button on her intercom. "HEY!"

 

She turned around, "What?" she snapped back in the same unfriendly tone Aiden had used.

 

"Put that out. I don't want you smoking around him." He held Jamie a little tighter, fearing that even from two floors up she could potentially ruin her grandson's life too.

 

She kissed her teeth again and stubbed out her cigarette on the side of the railing, making ash rain down, carrying its dying embers away in the breeze, and went to let them in.

 

Aiden nodded at his soldiers posted outside of her block as he passed. It wasn't safe enough to leave her unguarded yet and just because nobody had tried to harm her yet, didn't mean they never would. His soldiers shared their condolences with him and smiled at little Jamie as they went, some more heartfelt than others. Keegan had been well-liked amongst their makeshift family of ghetto misfits. His absence was felt across the board.

 

Titan stood to the right, outside of his mother's front door. "What's good, A?" They bumped fists, "Heard you went missing."

 

"Did you?" he replied, disinterested in talking about his short break from home -his small slice of Heaven.

 

Titan took the hint, "I'm glad you're back."

 

"Thanks," Aiden smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "How's she been?" he nodded toward the cracked door to his mother's flat with the same dull brass numbers and too bright red paint that chipped and flaked in areas, the surface uneven from being repainted so many times without care.

 

His mother reappeared, poking her head around the door and scowling, "She has been fine, now hurry up and come in. You're letting all the heat out."

 

Titan looked away, pretending that he didn't hear his boss being addressed in such a manner. Aiden entered without a word.

 

"There's my beautiful grandbaby," she cooed reaching for Jamie, "You look just like your father, so handsome..." her smile faltered but she recovered as quickly as she'd begun and nuzzled her lined face into her grandson's youthful skin. Years of recreational drug use had taken a toll on her appearance, aging her beyond her years. The term 'black don't crack' didn't apply to Grace Michaels, and it was a shame; she had been so beautiful. Jamie whinged and pulled himself closer to Aiden, gripping his shirt and burying his face in his broad chest. She pouted, "You're facety like your father too."

 

"You smell like cigarettes," Aiden scolded, leaning the baby away from her nicotine breath.

 

"Aiden, please," she said putting her hands up in defence, "I don't need any of your noise right now. I've just lost my son. If I want to smoke a cigarette to deal with it, I will. It's not like you let me do anything else. You've always got these bloody thugs of yours outside of my house, watching me like I'm a damn child."

 

"It's for your own safety, Grace."

 

Grace narrowed her eyes at him. She hated it when he called her by her name. She kissed her teeth, "Yeah, yeah, whatever. D'you want a drink?"

 

He furrowed his brow, "It's ten in the morning."

 

"Did I ask you for the time? Are you a clock? Do you want a drink or not?"

 

"No," he said tightly.

 

"Suit yourself. I'm having one." She sauntered into the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of cheap vodka. Aiden sighed internally -if it wasn't one thing with this woman, it was another. Take away her drugs and she turned to cigarettes, take away her cigarettes and she turned to drink. Take away her drink...and you were in for a headache, so Aiden said nothing when she grabbed a chipped mug from her cupboard and poured herself a double on the rocks at ten o'clock on that cold Thursday morning.

 

She was burying her son tomorrow.

 

Grace took a satisfied sip of her substitute medicine and led them into the living room filled with overflowing ashtrays of too many crumpled cigarette butts, dust on all of the surfaces, plates with dried food on them, and her net curtains stained yellow by tobacco smoke and dust.

 

Aiden kept Jamie in his arms. "The place looks like shit."

 

"Well give me one of your fancy-schmancy maids then and it won't."

 

He couldn't be bothered to explain to her that that's not what the Diamond Mafia maids were for. "You don't do anything all day and it's just you here, so why can't you keep the place clean?"

 

"Because it's just me that's here," she reiterated, talking out of her neck, "What do I care what it looks like? It's a shithole." Aiden didn't argue. The place was a shit hole, and no matter how many coats of paint or how much redecorating took place, she always made it revert back to this state. It had looked like this all his life; filthy. It looked worse than usual today.

 

Despite his hostility towards her he still asked, "How are you doing?"

 

She took a sip of her drink and smacked her lips together, "How do you think I'm doing? My baby's dead. I've gotta bury him tomorrow, and my other child treats me like I'm some mental patient to be locked away and dealt with at arm's length." She sunk down in the tattered threadbare loveseat and cradled her mug to her chest, "I feel like I'm a prisoner in my own fucking house. I can't go nowhere, I can barely wipe my own ass without seeing one of your men lurking."

 

"They're keeping you safe, Grace."

 

"I don't need to be kept safe, I'm fine. Ain't no one looking for me. It's you that's the criminal," she jabbed her finger in his direction, "You and your brother. That's why he's dead."

 

Aiden's jaw tightened.

 

"You can sulk all you want. I wasn't perfect but I didn't raise you lot to do the shit you do. There is nothing good down the road you're walking. It's either death or prison. Keegan was nineteen-years-old and now he's dead, Aiden, because of you."

 

Aiden breathed heavily but said nothing. He was used to these kinds of conversations with his mother, the classic blame game. It was another reason why he avoided seeing her. She never wanted to own up to what she'd done to them, never wanted to face the fact that had she done better by them, they would have never had to turn to the streets to find a family of their own. To survive. She loved talking about how bad they were, but when time came to take Aiden's money that he earned from being the criminal she loathed so much, she accepted it without comment. Her silence never lasted long; she still managed to turn around and run her mouth some more after she'd spent it all. He was used to it by now.

 

"I spoke to James; told him about the funeral."

 

Aiden's eyes flashed and his scowled tightened further at the mention of Keegan's sorry excuse for a dad. "Why the FUCK did you do that?" he barked.

 

"He's his dad."

 

"He ain't shit and he didn't do shit for Keegan. That man is not his dad. All he did was knock you up and leave."

 

She shrugged, "Yeah, well he didn't seem too bothered anyway. He won't be attending."

 

"Good. I don't want him there."

 

"It's not about you."

 

"Keegan wouldn't have wanted him there either."

 

"How do you know what Keegan would've wanted?"

 

"I know more than you!"

 

Sensing the tension in the atmosphere, Jamie's bottom lip quivered and his big doe eyes bounced between his uncle and his grandmother's turbulent expressions. If Grace gave Aiden anything, it was most definitely her temper.

 

Aiden took a pause and stroked the baby's chestnut curls reassuringly. His voice though, still tense, came out softer, "Look Grace, I came here to finalise the plans, not fight with you. We're going to St Bernard's church at nine tomorrow. Did you find something appropriate to wear?"

 

"Yeah, I bought something." She readjusted her slight frame in the chair, "I could do with some more money for shoes though."

 

"I gave you five hundred pounds."

 

"I had to buy a few other bits and bobs too. Look, stop being tight all right. It's not like you're strapped for cash, Mr big shot drug dealer!"

 

Aiden sighed and reached into his pocket, "How much do you need?"

 

"Two hundred should do it."

 

"For a pair of shoes?" he said incredulously. His mother wasn't exactly a luxury shopper; there was nothing luxurious about her. Two hundred pounds for some shoes was an unusually high amount for her.

 

"I'm going to my son's funeral. I'm not turning up in some cheap shit from Brixton market."

 

Aiden sighed, "Fine." He pulled out a wad of twenties and held it out to her, looking the other way as she snatched it avariciously from his hand without so much as a thank you. "What about grandma?" he asked with false hope.

 

His mum kissed her teeth, "Why are you even asking me about that old bitch? Don't look at me like that, Aiden. You know how she feels about us_"

 

"I know how she feels about you." Grace leant back in her chair and arched her brow. "Forget about it. I don't think they'd come anyway. It's not like they knew Keegan."

 

"Oh Aiden, piss off! Every time you come round you're always on this 'woe is me' rubbish. Why do you even give a toss about them? What have they ever done for us?" He wanted to point out that she'd never given them a chance too because she was too selfish to drop her petty issues with her family and let her kids meet them. "You're bloody rich, you've got everything you need. The world is at your feet."

 

"It's just money."

 

"Yeah well some people don't have 'just money'. If it's just money then why are you so damn tight with it?"

 

"I just gave you two hundred pounds," he said through gritted teeth.

 

"Two hundred pounds is nothing but a drop in the ocean to the great Aiden Michaels. I hear what they say about you, how you practically own South London. I bet you've got more dosh than you let on."

 

Jamie whinged again.

 

Aiden bounced him gently on his knee and tried to ignore the burning sensation in his chest. He'd had enough. He spoke low and fast, "His tombstone is engraved and the flowers have been ordered an arranged how you wanted them. I told the choir to sing the hymns you asked for, they're in the programme." He dipped into his inside pocket and pulled out said programme. On the front was a dashing photograph of Keegan in a tailored suit at a wedding they'd attended the year before. He looked so smart, so handsome and...happy. His smile was roguish, but that was Keegan -troublesome through and through.

 

Aiden had frequently wondered if his kid brother would ever grow up and be a little more serious. He'd hoped for it when Jamie came along but Keegan stayed the same. Aiden told himself that he just needed a little more time; after all, he was only nineteen.

 

But now his time was up and Aiden would never know.

 

On the back on the programme was Ash. His mother screwed up her face, "Oh, the little white girl's dead too. Humph." Her tone suggested something along the lines of 'good riddance to bad rubbish'.

 

"Yes," Aiden said tightly, mentally preparing himself for her ignorant comment that was sure to follow.

 

"How'd she die?"

 

"She got shot."

 

"Serves her right; stupid girl. She had no business running around with you lot the way she did, like some damn hussy, thinking she was bad 'caused she was getting dicked down by a nigger. I told you, they're all the same, them white girls, thinking they're God's fuckin gift to_"

 

"Are you done?" The fire in Aiden's chest blazed. He couldn't stand his mother's closed-minded ignorance. She was so bitter and hateful toward everyone and it made him even more ashamed to be her son than he already was.

 

"I never did like you and her together. You could've done so much better. That's the thing with you young ones; the sistahs' ain't good enough for you."

 

"Is that right?" he scoffed.

 

"Yeah, it is. The media got all of you fucked up thinking everything else but black is better. You'd have been better off sticking with your own kind."

 

"I did stick with my own kind," he said darkly.

 

"That trollop was not one of us."

 

"She was a human being, wasn't she?"

 

His mother kissed her teeth, "Okay, 'All Lives Matter'. You know damn well that ain't what I meant."

 

Why did he even bother?

 

Aiden got to his feet and readjusted the squirming baby in his arms, "I came here to let you know what's going on and to let you see your grandson, and I've done that."

 

Grace's eyes dulled and the corners of her mouth turned down. She jumped up and ungracefully splashed her drink onto her carpet that was in dire need of a hoover, "You're leaving already?" She sucked the spilt alcohol off of her fingers like she didn't want to waste a drop more than she had to.

 

Aiden averted his eyes. Even without the drugs she was still a junkie.

 

"Jamie's being fussy. It's time I got him home."

 

"And where is home, exactly? 'Cause it ain't with Sophia. The police have been here, asking about where his mum went. You know I don't like police at my house, Aiden," she snapped making Jamie fuss even more.

 

"And what did you say?"

 

"I told them I didn't know shit...but you do, don't you?"

 

Aiden gave her an ominous look.

 

His mother pursed her lips and nodded to herself, "Of course you do. There is something really wrong with you. For fucks sake, that's his mother, Aiden!" she shrieked gesturing at Jamie.

 

The child started to cry.

 

"Keep your voice down," Aiden hissed.

 

"Don't tell me what to_"

 

"D'you know what, Mum -shut up! Just shut the fuck up!" He took a quick step towards her and glared at her, and for the first time since her son entered her home Grace quietened down and shrunk away from him. "That bitch Sophia is the reason your son is dead. She sold him out," he snarled lowly, looming over her like today would be the day he repaid her for all of her wrongdoings.

 

Jamie's cries became louder.

 

Aiden blinked and backed away. He patted Jamie on the back and bounced him on his hip, "I'm sorry J. Sshhh, it's okay. It's okay."

 

He looked back at his mother who stood still shrunken into herself, looking at her son like she had no idea who he was, wondering how she could have created such a big, angry thing. But that was just it; she didn't know Aiden. She never bothered to, and that was why that big, angry man stood before her.

 

He sighed, "The car will be here to pick you up at eight." He walked out into the hall still trying to settle Jamie down.

 

"Aiden!" she walked out after him.

 

"What Grace?" he snapped looking down his nose at her.

 

"...Be careful out there, okay." She bit her lip then went onto her tiptoes and planted an alien kiss on his cheek.

 

Aiden stood stock still and blinked at her. It was the most affection they'd exchanged with each other in years, and he was unsure how to take it.

 

Jamie stopped crying and for a few second the three of them stood in the hallway suspended in an uncomfortable silence that was filled with words unsaid.

 

"I will. See you tomorrow." He straightened up and left.

 

***

 

Thank you for reading, sugar lips 💖. What do you think of Aiden's mum? Let me know in the comments below.