I'm taking it slow
Feeding my flame
Shuffling the cards of your game
And just in time
In the right place
Suddenly I will play my ace
-Eyes on Fire
Vince looked down at the fallen Siren, shook his head and tutted, “What a waste. She was so…” his glacial eyes flicked up to Aiden and he licked his lips, “Gifted.”
Aiden finally tore his eyes away from the only woman he’d ever loved and looked back at Vince, his stare unwavering and empty as if something had died and gone up in smoke inside of him; like that part of him that loved her so devastatingly, never existed. He turned his back on his enemy and unclipped the tracker button from his jacket, then walked back to Ava’s side. Out of all of the people on his end of the platform, she was the one who looked the most mortified by Ash’s sudden death; her hazel eyes were glazed with horror and her ruined lips were parted, expelling short, sharp, panicked breaths. She had seen more loss than she deserved to on this night…it was a shame that it wouldn’t be the last. Dani and Titan brewed with solemn rage; they looked the way that Aiden felt but wasn’t so inclined to show in front of his enemy.
“All right, let’s speed this along. I have other business to attend to,” he snapped. His irritation wasn’t so easily disguised.
Vince smirked sardonically, “Aren’t you going to get angry? You just lost your girlfriend.”
“A traitor is of no loss to me.”
“How quick you change your tune. Even my men on the top floor heard you cry out for her when Max shot her.”
Aiden looked at Max, “I wanted the satisfaction of doing it myself.”
“But you had the chance to do so and you didn’t.”
“You snooze, you lose,” Aiden shrugged and placed his hand and the top of Ava’s spine, his black eyes still watching Max. Slowly, he began to draw his touch down the centre of Ava’s back, taking satisfaction in the way that her muscles unlocked themselves from her tense stature as he moved lower. The muscle in Max’s jaw flickered. Aiden smirked at him, “Make no mistake, Ashleigh didn’t defy me because of my treatment of her. It was my treatment of your daughter that she wasn’t so fond of.” Discreetly, Aiden slipped his fingers into the waistband of Ava’s jeans and pinned the tracker to the outside then pulled the hem of her tank top over it. Ava’s spine straightened abruptly at the brief skin on skin contact. Aiden licked his lips and stood closer to her, “She loved me and didn’t like that Ava-Marie had taken such a shine to me. She probably hated it more than you do.”
Max narrowed his eyes at Aiden; he knew that the comment wasn’t made to antagonise Vince alone. He contemplated shooting Ash again just to see her body jump the way Ava’s did at her tyrant’s touch. It wouldn’t look as alive, but he knew it would piss Aiden off, even though he was concealing it so well.
Vince’s jaw tightened and his clear blue eyes fell upon his daughter’s blushing face as the sounds that she made for Aiden the first night he took her, replayed in his mind. “Deal or no deal, Michaels; if you so much as speak about or touch my daughter in that way again, I will kill you myself.”
“Oh, I’d like to see you try.”
“Keep pushing my buttons and it will be the last thing you see. Send my daughter.”
“Gladly,” Aiden smirked tightly and ushered Ava forward. “Go on then.”
She took a step forward then looked back at him, knowing that if she didn’t say anything now that they would never have their goodbye. She looked from Aiden, to her father, and then back to Aiden, and retraced her steps. She tilted her head to look up into his face.
“Ava-Marie, I told you to go,” he barked. Ava flinched but didn’t back away. Instead she reached up to touch his face. Aiden’s eyes widened and he caught her hand before she could make contact. “What are you doing?” he hissed through his teeth, knowing that they now held the complete attention of every single person in the room.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, staring at him like she wished that he could tell her the answer. Like she wished he could explain why she wasn’t ready to leave him when it was clearly the best thing for her.
“Ava?” Vince called.
Aiden dropped her hand and lowered his voice, “You need to go.”
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”
“No,” he said sternly.
Ava frowned, “But I’ll never see you again.”
“What does it matter? You’re free now.”
“I know what freedom feels like,” she looked at him pointedly, as the memory of the relief that came at the expense of his hand swatting her backside plagued her mind. She shifted even closer to him; “And this is not it.” Aiden swallowed and pressed his open palm against his leg. He understood why she didn’t want to go; a part of her belonged to him, that untapped part that drove her to give into his lust-stricken desires. He now had no doubt in his mind that she would have made the perfect sub. He now had no doubt in his mind that he would have ruined her beyond repair.
“AVA!” Vince bellowed from the other side of the platform.
“Maybe in another life,” she said, knowing that their story was not meant to end this way but that circumstances left them no choice. “Goodbye, Aiden.”
He nodded but kept his lips sealed. It was such a brazen thing to pull in front of her father, and dually messed up because of the settings -Ash lying dead just a few feet away on the platform of an abandoned underground station -but then Aiden and Ava had never had the luxury of the perfect setting. Everything was badly timed and cloaked in the chaotic darkness of the criminal underworld, so perhaps Ava had been so bold because she had just come to accept that that was the way things were with them –a disaster.
She began to walk away from him. Each step felt heavy and laboured, and the further she got, the less at ease she felt. She knew what kind of monster Aiden Michael’s was; he’d been that way since she’d met him, but up until three days ago she had no idea what kind of monster her father was. He’d just ordered Max to shoot a young woman in cold blood, right in front of her eyes. He hadn’t even given her a chance to get used to the fact that the man who raised her, was a murderous, traitorous criminal, who had done nothing but lie to her, her whole life, in the hopes that he could keep her wrapped up in his carefully crafted bubble of falsities, never knowing of the terrible things that he’d done, all the while pressuring her to be his perfect little princess, his star child, the one who had to bear the weight of never stepping out of line -of being the good in a world of untold evil.
Her stomach turned as she reached the halfway point of the platform; the pool of Ash’s blood made her sick. The air smelt like gun powder, burning flesh, and she was sure that she could smell other bodily functions. She’d heard about that happening when you died; that everything, including your soul, left your body. She held her breath and stole a look at the tragic corpse of red, white and black. What an awful way to die. And if what Aiden said was true, that this young woman had gone rouge all because she loved him, it made the tragedy all the worse, because not only was she dead, she was alone, and Ava thought that to be worse than anything else. Other people would find it odd for Ava to take pity on a woman who had treated her with such contempt, but Ava was good and Ava was kind. She knew that even the most terrible of monsters deserved to be shown compassion, even when they didn’t deserve it –perhaps especially then.
She looked up at her father. His blue eyes were cold and steely, but a warm smile wavered across his thin lips. She couldn’t bring herself to smile back at him yet. Too much had happened and there was far too much explaining to do before she could forgive him. She believed that it could be a while before she smiled at him again.
Whenshe got a quarter of the way, Max rushed out and came for her without being instructed to do so, stepping to her back and guarding her body with his the rest of the way, in case the Diamond Mafia changed their mind about letting her go at the last minute. He put himself as close to her as he could without it seeming like he was doing anything more than his job. “Are you okay?” he whispered. Ava nodded but fresh tears were gathering along her waterline. He wanted to hold her, and if they were alone he had no doubt that he would -but they weren’t. Although he had Ava back with him she was still not his to touch like that, and she would never be, so as usual he suppressed his urges and kept the words he wished he could say to her hidden away and burning beneath his tongue.
Vince threw his arms around Ava, and although she was still not sure how to handle her father, he was still her father and it felt good not to be at risk of immediate death anymore. To know that the one who held her meant her no harm. She burst into tears andheld him back, crying uncontrollably into his shoulder. “Daddy, I was so scared,” she sobbed, instantly becoming his little girl again. Parents can do that to you. No matter how old you are, or how mad you are at them, the people you love will always be your home. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t…I was so scared. Why didn’t you tell me about any of this? I didn’t know anything and I_”
“Sshhh,” he hushed his daughter, holding her tighter, “I’ll explain everything, I promise. You’re safe now and I’m never going to lose you again,” he said fiercely, kissing the top of her head. He held her at arm’s length, pulled his silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed at her tears, “I want you to go with your Uncle Chris now. I’ll be with you soon.” He kissed her again and handed her over to Chris. They took the exit marked ‘way out’ and once they were out of sight, Vince took a deep breath. Words could not describe how relieved he was to have his little girl back, but the time for rejoicing had to wait. He still had business to handle. He composed his features and looked back at Aiden. “Victor,” he called. One of his men stepped forward and took the large black briefcase from Dougie’s bound hands and popped open the sliver fastenings on either side of the handle. He lifted the lid to show rows upon rows of thick wads of fifty pound notes held together with rubber bands. “Thirty million pounds,” he said to Aiden before Victor snapped the lid shut again and stuffed the briefcase back into Dougie’s hands. Dougie grunted at him.
Aiden furrowed his brow, “We agreed on twenty.”
“Think of the extra ten as an apology,” he said with a wave of his hand.
Aiden raised his chin, “An apology for what?”
“If I am anything, I am a business man, Michaels. After tonight I would prefer that everything be laid to rest. I’m sure you want conflicts between our sides to continue even less than I do. Things are messy enough as it is.”
“You’re trying to buy my peace?”
“I’m giving you an incentive not to provoke me any further, because if you do, we will have a full out war on our hands. A war that you will lose,” he said darkly. The corner of Dougie’s lip twitched. “To sweeten the deal I will even grant you back your former clients.”
“How noble of you,” Aiden sneered.
Vince narrowed his eyes at him, “So it’s settled. We will leave now and Dougie will be instructed to move by Victor once we’re gone, and then we can pretend this whole ordeal never happened.” Aiden looked at Ash and his jaw tightened. “A traitor is of no loss to you,” Vince reminded him with a wry smile. “Once I’m safely away your brother will be deposited at your mother’s house and my men will leave the girl and your nephew alone.” He began to walk backwards towards the exit, “Goodbye Aiden,” he looked at Dougie, “Douglas.” He gave him a stern nod, a silent warning not to fuck this up.
Vince and the rest of his men filed off of the platform and out of sight. Once they reached the top of the escalators Victor nudged Dougie in the back with his gun.
“Start walking,” he grunted. Dougie glared at him and proceeded towards Aiden, “Slowly.”
Dougie looked at him again and slowed his pace. The crusted wounds on his battered mouth split open and filled with fresh blood as they contorted into a malevolent smile as he reached Aiden. He thrust the briefcase at him and the moment it was out of his grasp he reached in and took the pistol at Aiden’s hip. With his hands still bound, he spun on his heel and fired a clean shot at Victor, grinning with deranged contentment as the force of the bullet caused his body to slam into the wall before he collapsed to the floor.
Dougie turned back to Aiden, mumbling manically, his warning muffled by the dirty rag in his mouth as the thundering footsteps of Vince’s soldiers approached. Dougie was rarely flustered about anything, so Aiden knew that it whatever he had to say was going to be bad. Dani yanked his gag down as Titan busied himself cutting through the cable ties around his wrist.
“What is it?” Aiden panicked. He held his breath.
“Keegan’s dead,” Dougie panted, “Vince killed him. He’s been dead this whole time.” And there it was; the reason for what was left of Aiden’s sanity to be kept intact was now gone. Keegan was gone.
Aiden felt time stop.
His crew came in and out of focus as the heat behind his eyes blurred his vision. He was finding it harder to breathe. The air was already so thick with the stench of death and now it was all he could think about. Death. It was suffocating and the room was starting to spin.
He shook his head, “He’s outside of my mum’s house. He’s outside of her house in the car,” his words rushed out of him desperately, “He can’t be dead, I gave Ava back. That was the deal, so he can’t be dead, Doug. Keegan can’t be dead.”
The army of footsteps were getting closer and it was clear that there were more men coming than they had bargained for. Vince knew something like this would happen, so he had made sure to cover his back as best as he could and now Dougie needed to make sure that his friend would be able to cover his. He grabbed Aiden by the shoulders, “A, look at me.” Aiden’s eyes found him and Dougie could see that he was crashing hard and fast, “FUCK! You can’t do this right now. Do you hear that sound? That’s Syndicate soldiers on their way to kill us. If you don’t snap out of it they will and then you will never get Vince back for what he’s done to our family. Whatever you’re feeling I need you to harness it and use it. You need to pull your shit together for your brother.”
“Keegan’s dead,” Aiden said numbly.
Dougie squeezed his eyes shut, “Yes A, he’s dead.” The more he said it, the more unreal it sounded -Keegan couldn’t not exist anymore. People died every day, especially in their line of work, but they’d always been so good with protecting their inner circle, their family, and now in the space of a week both Keegan and Ash were gone. Dougie didn’t want Aiden to be gone too. He gritted his teeth and looked into those lost black eyes. He had to trigger something, fast. “Vince beat him to death then got his men to chop him up and put him in a body bag. They’re going to give your mum her son back in pieces if you don’t snap the fuck out of it. Is that what you want?”
“Look at Ashleigh, A. She’s dead too,” he said stepping out of the way and pointing at the redheaded corpse. Dougie didn’t care much for Ash but he knew Aiden did, and right now he needed all of the ammunition he could find to get that monster of a man to come all the way out of Aiden, the monster that had won him his status as the most dangerous and ruthless drug lord alive. “He had her killed right in front of you. Don’t you fucking let him get away with any of this. Don’t let him win.”
Aiden squeezed his eyes shut and made a tight fist, breathing through his teeth so hard that his chest rose and fell like a volcano on the edge of eruption. A vicious growl rumbled in the depths of his stomach and by the time he set it free there was a gun in his hand, hellfire in his eyes, and five more Syndicate soldiers’ dead on the ground.
“Dani, Titan, turn on your trackers, were gonna need back up,” Aiden snarled. He tossed Dougie a full clip to reload the pistol he’d grabbed from him earlier, “Kill every mother fucker in here.”
Thank you for reading!
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