We're on the brink of danger
No I ain't letting go
I've got the keys to your heart
I'll be the anchor to your soul
Put you're trust in me
I'll never let you go
Baby, don't look so scared
Max dragged his feet up the stairs of the Rococo Lounge with his eyes cast to the ground. His skin was wan, his face unshaven and his dark hair flopped down to the purplish rings under his eyes that told the tale of his sleepless night.
He thought he had her back for good, that the nightmare had finally come to an end, but the moment she was out of his sight it started all over again.
He'd lost Ava all over again.
He had no idea where to find her. Syndicate men had been on the lookout for her since Friday night whilst Max ran like a mad man all over the city trying to spot her waist length braids flying through the crowd. With everything that was going on it now that Vince was gone, the search for Ava didn't seem like a priority to anyone but Max; the crew were more concerned with holding their position than saving the girl they didn't know existed until last night. They didn't realise that she was worth risking it all for.
He pushed through the door of the VIP box and scowled at the lieutenants and capos surrounded by throngs of beautiful wasted women, laughing and drinking with them as if they didn't have a care in the world. Chris stood at the helm with a girl half his age holding onto him and purring in his ear.
He looked up when Max came through the door and sighed. "Give me a minute darlin'. Let me see what the kid wants." He patted her on the ass and let her go. His steps were staggered as he moved across the room with his arms spread open and a big grin on his face, "Maxi, what can I do for ya?" he slurred, spilling brandy from his tumbler onto the carpet.
Max frowned at him. "Have you heard anything about Ava?" he asked tightly, wanting to knock the drink from Chris's hand. How dare he be in here getting pissed when Ava was god knows where probably scared out of her mind?
"Nah, but the boys are still looking."
Max pushed his floppy hair out of his eyes, tugging at the ends of it, "Tell them to look harder."
"Kid, they're doing the best they can, all right," Chris patted his shoulder with mock reassurance, "They'll find her, don't worry. Come, have a drink, you look like shit, mate."
"I'm fine," Max shrugged him off, "I just wanted to know what was going on and now I do," he scanned the room pointedly then sneered at Chris, "Nothing."
He turned on his heels to continue his one man search.
"Oi," Chris snapped pulling him back, "Don't pull that stroppy shit with me. You're not the only one that wants to find her. She my fuckin' God daughter, I'm doing everything I can, but I'm running the show now, I've got to stay on top of everything else too."
"By getting drunk and partying with paid company?"
Chris's eyes darkened, "The club's open ain't it?"
Chris grabbed Max by the scruff of his shirt and pulled his face close to his. Max could smell the alcohol on his breath and to make matters worse, he spat as he spoke. The whole room turned to look.
"You watch your tone, Maxi. My best mate died last night cause of those DM cunts and Ava's missing again, but you don't see me moping around, do ya?"
"No, boss," Max replied, turning his face away from the sour smell of Chris's mouth.
"No, you don't, so suck it up!" He released him with a shove and took a swig of his drink. "It's business as usual, all right. The world don't stop turning just 'cause bad things happen Maxi, you know that."
"Yeah, business as usual." Max narrowed his eyes at him and he readjusted his shirt. How could Vince leave such a colossal imbecile in charge? Chris was all temper and ego, he didn't have the head for leadership; he was the one who needed to be led.
"Come, sit for a minute," Chris tried again.
"No, I'm gonna keep looking for Ava."
"Suit yourself, kid. I'll let you know if the boys see anything."
Max barrelled out of the room, swinging the door back so hard that it smacked into the wall. Chris sucked his teeth and emptied his glass before grabbing a fresh bottle form the mini bar for a refill.
The cool night air washed over Max's skin and he found himself wishing for rain. He was wound up so tightly and every second without her was even worse than the last. There was no trade off to come this time, no set way to get her back and that meant that there was an even bigger chance that he'd never see her again.
Maybe Chris had the right idea; getting drunk and going through the motions was definitely easier to deal with than caring so much about everything that had gone wrong over the course of the week, but Max slacking off was the reason Ava was gone in the first place. He owed it to her to keep trying.
There had been no more conversation between Aiden and Ava for the rest of the day. After he'd calmed himself down enough to be around her, without the need to take her then and there overpowering his senses, Aiden returned to the kitchen, sat across from her and ate his breakfast in silence.
Ava was grateful that he didn't want to talk. She worried that he would ask her questions or say something provocative to spark further reaction from her. After his heightened illustration of their coming together, she couldn't be sure that she would have be able to find the words to respond coherently. Her replies would have tumbled out of her mouth in a tangle of stutters and awkward silences. Sitting across from him in silence was torture enough.
She tried not to look at him the whole time. She knew what would happen if she did -she would see him. She didn't want to see him; none of the rough, scarred, tattooed expanse of his dark skin hugging his sculpted body like god given armour, lips full and swollen from being bitten too much due to their interminable tension, and those arresting midnight eyes that could hold her in place at will, that could see past every defence she put up, penetrating and unyielding, impelling the beautiful disaster that was ever on the brink of happening to them.
With a handful of small gestures and low grumbles, Aiden only communicated when she was to return to her room, use the bathroom and when it was time to eat again. If this was supposed to be any different to being his prisoner, Ava had yet to see evidence of it. It felt the same. She ran on his schedule, spending most of her day alone in her room until he summoned her, and then doing her best to ignore the stirrings inside of her whenever he got too close or when she slipped up and looked at him. The only saving grace was that he'd kept his word and not touched her, but it was clear the strain that it was putting on him.
It almost frightened her how badly he wanted her, but she'd be lying if she said she didn't find the thought of it appealing. The things he would have done to her if she'd chosen to give up her power would out do the vivid thoughts in her mind. She knew it would. She could see it in the way that he warred with himself in every moment they spent alone together, the way his breathing changed, how fiercely his gaze burned, the tempting way his lips parted when stared for too long, and the way his veins stood out as he'd grab on tightly to the nearest solid object, trying to suppress his arousal. Every meal would end with him muttering something and rushing from the room to collect himself.
After dinner, exhausted from balancing on the figurative tight rope for so many hours, Ava returned to her room and drifted off to sleep with less difficulty than she'd expected. The same couldn't be said for Aiden. Once he was alone in his room with no motions to go through and nothing left to do but think, he thought of Ava.
He didn't realise that it would be this hard to make it through one day alone with her -minus Dougie's intrusion. He knew he had to be patient and resilient in keeping his word, but she didn't make it easy. A day full of stolen curious glances, intimate home-cooked meals for two, accompanied by the bespoke soundtrack of stainless steel cutlery chiming against porcelain crockery, and breathy hi-hats was enough to spark his nature. It was maddening.
And there was so much that needed to be said, important things that he had to tell her...but how was he supposed to talk to Ava about those mundane things when passion was saturating every fibre of his being, demanding priority over everything else. What he wanted to tell her was that having her within his reach but denying himself the satisfaction of touching her the way he wanted to, felt like torture. Like a shiny red apple dangled in front of him, ripe, juicy and waiting to be bitten, hard and deep so that the sweet nectar spilled from his wanting mouth, but if plucked it from the tree before it was ready to fall it could be poisonous.
He had to be smart about this, keep his head and lure her in slowly, but until she was ready to give in he'd have to use other ways and means of coping...
Aiden slid his open palm over his clenched fist and bit down on his bottom lip so hard that he winced. The pain was a distraction from the molten desire that coursed through his veins and seared him from the inside out.
Revealing his wanton longings to Ava had backfired. He'd watched her try her best to stay calm while he uttered his personalised pornography, listened attentively for every sharp breath, admired the flushes of rose on her skin, and the added tension in her stature, and it was enlivening but speaking his thoughts out loud made the craving grow stronger.
God, he wanted to hurt her, to have her fall apart in his arms before he pieced her back together with his practiced hands...
She was only a few feet away from him, sound asleep in her room. He contemplated going to her and touching and kissing her into submission then fucking her over and over until she passed out from ecstasy. He had no doubt that he could do it, but it wouldn't be the same. Aiden was desperate to own her, but not like that -she had to want it as much as he did for their relationship to be able to reach the levels he imagined they could rise and fall to.
He hoped she wouldn't take too long to come around because the tautness below his belt was throbbing, hot and rigid, begging for the sweet relief that only she could grant him...
He bit his lip harder and cracked his knuckles. It wasn't enough.
He paced back and forth across his bedroom, treading a path in the carpet with his bare feet. "Fuck!" The throbbing wouldn't let up.
Aiden sat on the edge of his bed and his hands rushed to his belt buckle. He tugged at it impatiently, wrestled with the button on his jeans and yanked down his zipper.
Freed of the clothing restrictions, his hardness sprung to attention through the gap in his black Calvin's. He wasted no time in closing his eyes and wrapping his hand around the base of his shaft and his breath escaped him as relief began to blossom.
His strokes started slow, moving from base to tip as he imagined Ava before him, undressing slowly for his pleasure, blushing as her delicate hands skimmed across her cinnamon skin, over her neck, her breasts, waist, hips and thighs, teasing him, taunting him.
He pressed his lips together as he grew fuller, tighter, longer, his hand motions advancing to twisting as it travelled up and down, rotating in gentle circles along his shaft.
Once liberated of her outerwear, Aiden envisioned her turning around for him so that he could see her round ass swathed in black lace panties, the kind that he would fervently grab at the seams and tear apart as he delighted in the violent ripping sound and the way that the tiny pieces of frayed thread would shower the ground.
He quivered at the thought. He couldn't wait to tear her panties off in real life.
He applied more pressure as he pictured her slinking closer to him and pressing her thighs together in the way she did, before she sunk to her knees and bent over in front of him, presenting herself like she was his for the taking. She tilted her hips to up the night making the soft swell of her sex poke out from between her thighs. Aiden pushed back into his hand as his mind willed her legs apart until the strip of material that cupped her nature slipped between her glistening lips.
He sucked in another breath and his hand moved faster.
She swung her hips seductively from side to side, purring, giggling and moaning for him to take it because it was his.
She slipped her hand between her legs and moved the damp lace to the side.
Her fingers delved between her folds.
She entered herself...so slowly...performing for him...begging him...crying out for him to cum, cum, 'Please Sir, c_'
With an animalistic snarl, Aiden's stomach muscles locked up and his toes curled, gripping the fibres of the carpet as his body convulsed like kinetic electricity was shooting out of his limbs. His eyes were shut so tight that his lashes tangled together, holding in the blinding white light beneath his eyelids, bright enough to burn holes through his bedroom walls.
"Fuuuuck," he groaned languidly. His stroking slowed to a stop.
Panting with a light sheen of sweat across his forehead, Aiden's eyes blinked open, astounded at the force that everything had come rushing out of him over imaginings of her. How was this girl able to make him so far remove from himself him without even being present?
He'd done it to slake his lust, but though the immediate desire had been dealt with, it didn't mean it that it was gone. It didn't make him want her any less. In fact Aiden found that he wanted her even more. At least there wasn't a raging hard on to go with it now. He grabbed a tissue from his bedside table and cleaned himself up then took a long shower.
At least now he would be able to talk to her with a clear head when she woke up.
"AIDENNNN, AIDEN PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME. DON'T LEAVE ME. NOOOOO_"
Ava was brought back to reality by Aiden's strong arms wrapped around her and his soft lips at her temple purring, "I'm here, I'm here. You're okay, Ava-Marie. You're safe." The fire was gone but her sheets and nightclothes were drenched in sweat. Confused and terrified she clutched onto Aiden, crying hysterically as he rocked her and spoke to her until she calmed down.
Once she was lucid again, Ava swiped her tears from her face with the back of her hand and shifted out of Aiden's embrace to the other side of the bed.
"That's the second day in a row," he said quietly.
Ava rolled her eyes at his lame attempt to fill the silence. She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them and held herself tightly. She didn't need Aiden to hold her... "Yeah well, traumatic experiences don't go away after a day," she sniffed turning her face towards the sun. "They don't seem to end either."
Aiden slid his hand across the mattress and stopped just centimetres away, wanting to hold her again. She had felt so good in his arms, so solid, and warm, and real. "It'll get better," he promised.
"How? My parents are gone, I can't go back to my life because apparently a bunch of criminals want me dead and my only option of survival is to stay with you." Ava held her arm out under the ray of light that leaked through the curtains and surveyed the burns and suicide rings around her wrist, "Spending the rest of my life waking from one nightmare to live another is not better." Her chest tightened and she hugged her knees closer until they pressed into her rib cage so hard that she was sure that if she applied a little more pressure her bones would snap. "Has anyone tried to burn you alive?"
"No." He drew his hand back.
"Then how can you tell me that it will get better? You're not the one who has to relive it every time you close your eyes."
"You're right," he nodded, "I don't." He thought that after yesterday that today would be easier to get through, that he could just come right out and say what he had to say, but her nightmare had kicked him right back to square one.
He sighed and shifted across the width of the bed and sat back on his calves in front of her with a morbid expression, then rolled up the sleeve of his sweater and extended his arm to her. "I got these when I was seven," he pointed to a string of four small black scars dotted along the inside.
Ava furrowed her brow.
"When my mum went through her heroin phase she started seeing this guy called Danny. Danny thought that I complained too much because I was always whining at my mum for spending our benefits on shooting up instead of groceries -and no one likes a moany child, especially one that isn't theirs -so Danny thought that the best way to shut me up was to mellow me out."
"What do you mean 'mellow you out'?" she asked, but by the horrified expression on her face, Aiden knew she already understood.
He presented the back of his other hand to her. It was decorated with a tattoo of a sparrow holding a scroll. He flexed his hand under the same beam of light she'd stuck her arm in, revealing the linear scars under the ink where the scroll was drawn.
Ava held her breath and waited for an explanation.
"This was when she decided that crack was her thing. She'd just gotten with Keegan's dad, James. She was convinced that what they had was love, so that meant that her money was their money. One day I'd stole two pounds from her purse and James found out. He was pissed; it was what they needed to get their next hit, but now I'd fucked it up by buying myself some chicken and chips from Moreley's. He took the spoon that they basted with and held the lighter under it until it was good and hot..." Aiden ran his fingers over the scars, "He told me that back in the day thieves used to get their hands cut off."
Ava's hold on her knees loosened.
Aiden turned around and lifted up the side of his sweater where his tribal tattoo curled around his ribs. "Give me your hand," he said monotonously. Ava swallowed then reached out to him. He took her trembling fingers in his clammy hand and dragged them from his under arm to his waist, swallowing the unwelcome lump in his throat and drawing slower breaths to keep from reacting to her touch. "Most people have twelve ribs," he lifted her hand up under his last rib, "I have eleven."
"What happened," she whispered in spite of herself. Two traumatic tales in and her animosity towards him had dissipated into compassion. It was hard not to when the monster that he was, was starting to make sense to her. She'd suspected that Aiden's life had been hard growing up, it was a given with men in his line of work, but she never thought that he would have gone through anything as vile as what he was showing her. She expected stories of gang warfare, not his mother's junkie lovers attacking a small child.
"I was twelve, I remember 'cause my mum was pregnant with Keegan, and James had ducked out on her. He owed some scumbags a lot of money and my mum's place was his last known address, so when they came looking for him all they found was us. They didn't believe that he was gone so they wanted to leave him a warning for when he returned so that he'd know that they weren't playing. They wanted to hurt her, but I wouldn't let them." Aiden dropped Ava's hand and pulled his top back down, "She was carrying my baby brother and I didn't want anything to happen to him. If there was anyone in that house who was ever gonna give a fuck about me it was gonna be Keegan, so I had to give a fuck about him. That was the first time I put my life on the line for him." Dark humour flitted across his face, but his eyes were so withdrawn, continuing to hold back the sadness. He dropped his head and spoke into his chest, "By the time they gave up my rib had fractured in three places. The doctors said that if they didn't remove it, it could pierce my liver, and if that happened I could die. So I have eleven ribs, not twelve."
Done with his trip down broken memory lane, Aiden stood up and looked at Ava. He despised relying on her pity but it was the only hand he had to play. "So no, no one has ever tried to burn me alive, Ava-Marie, and I'm not trying to take that away from you. I did a bad thing, I own that, but no one came to my rescue either," he bit down on his back teeth, "Not even my own mother."
Ava glanced into her lap and fiddled with her fingers. Taking a leap of faith, Aiden reached for her hand. She didn't pull away.
"There was no guarantee that I would have gotten either of us away from the car in time, but I did it anyway. I put my life on the line for you because I give a fuck about you." Aiden dropped to one knee by the side of the bed and gazed up at her, "I'm trying to fix what I broke the best way I know how, so when I tell you it will get better, I mean it. I can keep you safe, Ava-Marie...but only if you agree to be my wife."
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. If you did, please vote and let me know what you thought of my lil plot twist (and Aiden's lil solo scene; was that hot or like, weird...but low key hot?) lol.