Ava clenched her eyes shut, almost as if she believed that she was simply experiencing a bad dream that she would wake up from any moment now, but she couldn’t ignore the smell of Molten Brown shower gel and crippling body heat of the man who identified himself as Aiden Michaels, hovering over her as she trembled beneath him, tied to a bed. “This is insane,” she whispered half to herself, half to her captor, “This doesn’t make any sense; why on earth would my father kidnap your brother?”
“Because the jack ass stole your father’s product, and unluckily for him, your father found out.”
Ava opened her eyes, confused. “Product? What do you mean he stole his product –how on earth do you steal a night club? Was he stealing drinks from behind the bar? That hardly seems like a good enough reason to kidnap somebody. I don’t understand_”
“You know damn well I’m not talking about that shit!” he growled, making her flinch, shriek, and shrink further into the mattress.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she screamed, “Please, I don’t know what else there is, I just wanna go home! Please, let me go home. I don’t know anything Aiden, I swe_” Aiden slammed his fist down close to her head, crushing it forcefully into the pillow and cutting her frantic pleas short.
“DON’T LIE TO ME AVA-MARIE!”
“I’m not lying. I just want go home.”
“You’re Vince Lockewood’s daughter; do you really expect me to believe a word you say?”
“Yes, because I’m telling you the truth!” Aiden detected an edge to her voice that cut through the fear; she was getting angry. “You can’t threaten me and keep me tied up like some animal. You have no right!”
Aiden smirked sardonically and carried his face closer to hers, with a stare so intense that as much as Ava wanted to, she was unable to look away. He had her trapped. She could feel his warm breath blowing across her lips, the crippling heat from his dripping frame emitting intrusively onto her skin, and his freshly showered scent surround her. “I can do whatever the fuck I want, and believe me, Ava-Marie, I will exercise my right to do so -” she noticed his dark eyes flick down to her mouth then back up again, “Thoroughly.”
She gasped at the possible implications of what his threat could mean, but just before she could scream, Aiden clamped his large hand over her mouth, forcing her to swallow it.
“Here’s the deal sweetheart; I have given your father three days to return my brother to me alive and the sum of twenty million pounds in order to get you back. If he doesn’t comply, you die.” Ava’s strangled cry for help reverberated inside the palm of his hand. His hand that rested deep in the pillow next to her head began to descend slowly, approaching her trembling frame as he spoke softly; “It’s only fair, Ava-Marie, don’t you think? I mean, your father had his men torture my little brother,” his hand grazed the length of her neck, then crept up over her shoulder and onto her collar bone, “Beat him so bad that he couldn’t even speak,” he lifted the heel of his hand so that the padded tips of his fingers were the only thing stroking down her soft mound of breast tissue, slowing even more as they skimmed the curve of her nipple. Ava sobbed harder. “As if it wasn’t bad enough that they took him from me in the first place, they tortured him too, so I figured that it’s only right that you receive the same treatment,” his fingers passed her breast and his palm was now flat against her rib cage, gliding down her stomach to the hem of her tank top. Once he reached the edge, he slipped his hand underneath and begun to push upwards, causing her top to rise with his touch.
Ava eyes widened; she thrashed around in a panic, screaming so hard that her face flushed from red to puce and her tears flowed heavier, leaving puddles by her ears. The restraints that Aiden loosened started cutting into her wrists again, but she forced herself to tune out the pain. The danger that he presented had her shaken senseless. She had to get away from him, no matter how hopeless her freedom seemed.
Aiden continued purring threats at her in his luxurious velvet voice, “While you are here, I will torture you day and night, every day and night. I will make you scream and beg me for mercy, but I will not be merciful. I will enjoy it,” he stopped pushing her top up once it reached the satin bound underwire of her bra, and snatched his hand away from her warm skin, “Just as your father’s men enjoyed torturing my brother.”
Ava stared up at him and shook her head, pleading with him with fear in her wide eyes, not to follow through with his vengeful plan. Aiden looked down at her blankly; he’d seen fear more than enough times in his line of work and had trained himself to become desensitised to it so that he could do his job right. Crying, trembling and screaming bloody murder didn’t move him anymore, because victims are supposed to be scared. He loved that Vince’s daughter feared him; it made him feel powerful to bring her to such a state of tragic desperation, he loved the control it gave him…but this wasn’t how he wanted her to respond to him. Fear is a useful way to control people, but fear backfires if the person on the receiving ends decides to stop being scared. Aiden knew the best way to control someone was to make them love you; it was the method he had used with every member of his crew, which is why they were all loyal to him. In one way or another, Aiden had saved them and nurtured them, and because of that, they all felt as if he was a saviour of some sort and that they owed him something. He needed answers if he wanted to get Keegan back and he was going to make sure Ava gave them to him. It would be easy to knock her about like The Syndicate had done to his brother, but that wasn’t Aiden’s style when it came to women. Growing up he’d had to rescue his mother from countless numbers of abusive junkie lovers, and he would be damned if he did to another female what those men had done to his mum. Ava had to want to tell him everything, and for her to want to do that, she had to want him.
“I’m going to remove my hand now Ava-Marie. If you scream, I will gag you. Are you going to scream?”
Ava shook her head.
“Good girl.” He removed his hand, but as he suspected she would, Ava let out an ear-splitting cry for help. Aiden rolled his eyes; she could yell all she wanted, it wasn’t like anyone would be able to hear her. The compound was situated in the warehouse district on the outskirts of South West London, leading into Surrey, which was generally deserted most of the time unless the few people that rented some of the spaces were picking up things or dropping them off, which wasn’t too frequent. Aiden had selected the warehouse deep in the centre of the industrial park where there was nothing but buildings and more building surrounding them. He had double glazing, fire doors, thick insulated walls, floors and ceilings installed when the barren space was being converted into one of his compounds, so that even if someone was nearby, they wouldn’t be able to hear anything. Ava’s screaming annoyed him. He clamped his hand over her mouth again, “Are you trying to piss me off Ava-Marie?” She mumbled something into his hand. He lifted it, “Say that again.”
“Please, this is crazy! My father is a nightclub owner; he doesn’t have your brother. You’ve got the wrong person!”
Aiden sighed, “How long are you going to keep this up? Everybody knows what your father really is, so stop acting like you don’t. It’s getting really old, really fast.”
“I’m not acting,” she cried, “You’re not listening to me. I’m telling you the truth!”
Aiden got to his feet and walked to the door, poked his head out and called for The Maids. Two of them appeared in uniformed looks of sleek black cat suits, gloves, boots and dark cat-eyed sunglasses, with their hair slicked back into immaculately ponytails. They were definitely not what Ava expected to see when she’d heard Aiden call for maids; they looked more like glamorous assassins and it was immediately clear that these women were no ordinary maids, and that maybe Maids was just an ironic title to soften the reality of what their jobs really entailed. They entered the room side by side –seemingly not acknowledging Ava -and awaited their orders from Aiden.
“Clean her up and feed her. Have her downstairs in one hour. Oh, and gag her if she makes too much noise; I have a headache.” The Maids nodded at him and he left the room without another word.
The Maids finally acknowledged Ava.
After going over the next step of his plan, Aiden yanked on a long sleeve polo shirt and made his way to the boardroom at the back of the compound. He had called a team meeting to find out where the Diamond Mafia stood as far as getting Keegan back, and to make sure that the rest of the crew were carrying out business as usual so that the rival gangs didn’t know that something was up. In the world of street crime, if chinks in a crew’s armour become common knowledge, there was no shortage of enemies willing to see if they could find the opportunity to take a stab at you and steal your crown. He had fought too hard to get to where he was and would be damned before he let any of those two-bit gangsters think they could take his spot. He shoved open the double doors of the large charcoal grey room to see Ash with her long legs up on the table and filing her nails, Mighty tapping away manically at his laptop, Dougie sat quietly in the corner watching the multiple CCTV camera screens mounted on the wall, and Stone rolling up his afternoon joint -business as usual.
“Any word on Keegan’s whereabouts?” he asked.
Mighty glanced up from his computer screen; “Not yet, A. I’ve tried tracking his phone, but wherever they are keeping him either has a really dense structure, is deep underground, or they have a DK500 machine blocking the signal.”
“I’ve been checking in with the soldiers to see if they have anything to report,” Dougie said, “So far no one has any information, but they’re gonna keep trying. The good news is that Driver called in to say that he delivered Trish and Jamie safely to the other compound. He wasn’t followed.”
“I’ve got my boys tracking Syndicate soldiers. We sure that they’re gonna make a move soon, and when they do, we’ll be the first to know,” Stone added.
Aiden slid his hands into his pockets, “Okay. Does anyone have any useful information?” he asked tightly. He knew that his lieutenants and capos were doing their best, but as they were now on day one of the three day threat, he needed to know something that could give him another leg up in this face-off, because he knew that Vince wasn’t about to go down quietly. He was going to make a move, and when he did, Aiden needed everyone to be ready.
“I do,” Ash smiled smugly, raising her freshly filed fingernails into the air –Stone rolled his eyes. Aiden nodded at her. “Yang is awake and on the move. I took the liberty of planting a bug in his phone before I left. He spoke to Vince a few hours ago,”
“Vince is talking war. Said he’s sending some Syndicate soldiers out to dig around our hood, and you know what that means.”
Aiden frowned, “Where do you think he’s gonna hit first?”
“I reckon either the salon or your mother’s house,” Stone guessed. “Those are the two most obvious choices and Vince’s soldiers aren’t all that bright. He still doesn’t see us as being on his level; he’ll probably just send a bunch of goons.”
“I don’t know about that,” Dougie interjected, “Vince already underestimated Aiden once, I don’t think he’s gonna be so quick as to do it again. We’ve got his kid, he’s not just trying to make some noise, he wants to send a message; 'don’t fuck with me'. This is Vince Lockewood we’re dealing with; he’s got a lot of powerful allies in high places, and my bet is that he’s gonna call in some favours for his daughter’s sake.”
“Dougie’s right,” Aiden agreed, “Vince wants me to know that this is his city and he will spare no resources to make sure I know that. You think he’s gonna hit my mum and Diamond’s first?” he asked Stone.
“I’m positive. I’ve already sent some of the man dem to patrol your mum’s place and make sure she’s cool, and I’ve got a few gal dem posted in the salon as customers just in case some shit pops off.”
“Good looking out Stone.”
“Also,” Ash piped up again, not appreciating the shine being taken off of her, “Vince sent Yang to come for Ava.”
“You say that like I should be worried,” Aiden scoffed. He knew that Yang was good, but Yang was just a solider; Aiden was a mob boss.
“That’s because you should be,” Ash replied tightly, annoyed by his cockiness. “I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I can promise you Yang will find you, A.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“He is in love with her; he will find you,” she said with confident finality as if it were written in the stars just because some solider was infatutated.
Aiden jutted out his chin, too proud to share Ash’s concerns. “Well if he does, then I feel sorry for him.”
“Ugh,” Ash rolled her eyes, “He’s probably thinking the same thing about you, you arrogant twit!”
“Ashley!” Aiden warned gruffly, his dark eyes flashing at her. She looked away.
“Sorry, but I’m just calling it as I see it.”
“What, you think I can’t take him?”
Ash lifted her head and made a point to look her boss in the eye; “I think love makes people do crazy things.” There was a pregnant pause that made the atmosphere in the room suddenly turn thick and awkward, giving Aiden a nagging urge to leave. He hated it when she lost her professional edge.
“Yeah, well, I’ve got things to do. If there are any further developments then let me know right away, got it?” They all mumbled that they understood. “Good. Mighty, pick up your laptop, you’re coming with me.”
“I thought you said she was over it?” Mighty whispered the moment the double doors swung shut behind them.
“She is,” Aiden replied stiffly, keeping his eyes forward, not believing his own words.
“Doesn’t seem that way to me,” Mighty didn’t believe Aiden’s words either, “Maybe you should talk to her.”
“And say what?” he snapped.
“I dunno, A,” he shrugged. “You know Ash better than I do. What I do know is that we’ve all gotta stay focused and work together as best as we can if we wanna get K Dot back. Ash is one of our strongest members; we can’t afford to have her running off again, not now. All I’m saying is to make sure she’s straight.”
“A’ight, I hear you,” Aiden conceded. If Ash flipped out and left in the midst of this war, the Diamond Mafia’s chances of winning and getting Keegan back would be dramatically reduced.
The two men made their way downstairs to the basement and Aiden took Mighty inside the small control room. “The Maids will be bringing Ava-Marie down to the main room soon for questioning. Set up the audio feed and when I give you the signal, connect it to Vince’s phone. Channel the audio to my wireless headset.”
“No problem!” Mighty grinned and hooked his laptop into the control room workstation. He didn’t bother to ask Aiden what his plan was exactly, and to be honest, he didn’t really care. As long as Mighty got to play with his toys, Mighty was happy. He powered up the control panel, fiddled with the necessary buttons and knobs to turn on the microphones in the main basement area, set up the compound’s own DK500 machine to stop The Syndicate from tracking their signal once they contacted Vince, then entered Vince’s number into the system, keeping it on standby for when Aiden needed it. “Ready when you are, big guy!”
Aiden messaged The Maids and instructed them to bring Ava downstairs and put her in the main room. A few minutes later he walked in with a leather briefcase in his hand, which he set down on top of a cabinet against the back wall, and there she was, beautiful and barefoot, wrapped in a floor-length black satin robe with a Diamond stitched onto the breast pocket in metallic silver thread, her micro braids loose and tumbling all the way down to the back of her thighs, and not a lick of makeup on her face. She looked younger, more vulnerable than before. Her wrists were now handcuffed behind her back and Aiden noted that The Maids had gagged her too; she had solidified herself as a screamer. Good, Aiden smiled to himself.
Ava’s watery eyes watched him cautiously as he approached. She had finally stopped crying but knew that he would probably set her off again. She’d made her mind up; nothing good would ever come from being left alone room with Aiden Michaels. She hated him, and during her time with The Maids she had fantasized various ways of maiming him that would remain a fantasy because she wasn’t the agile bad ass that she envisioned, in real life. She was just a pampered little rich girl with no real clue of how to protect herself. Max had always protected her, but Max wasn’t there –Aiden was.
Aiden opened the briefcase, “I hope you’re feeling better, Ava-Marie. You were in quite a state this morning,” he said with his back to her. “I hope The Maids weren’t too harsh either; they can be a bit clinical at times, but they’re good at what they do.” He turned to face her with a soft expression that momentarily tricked Ava into believing that he wasn’t a monster, “They certainly cleaned you up well.” He approached her and carefully took her face in his hands and skimming the tip of his nose along her cheekbone the way a lover would, “I can’t fathom why you wear makeup. You’re so beautiful Ava-Marie, you don’t need it.”
There was the crippling body heat and expensive shower gel smell again; Ava’s breath hitched in her chest against her better judgement and she cursed herself internally; it was unfair that her captor was so engrossing -it distracted her from hating him properly.
Aiden distanced his face from hers. “I had a little think about what you said -about how you were telling the truth. You seemed so adamant about it that I thought I’d give you the benefit of the doubt and give you the chance to prove if you are as honest as you claim to be, so we’re going to play a little game.” He reached behind her head and undid the gag. “Do you want to know what the game is?”
She didn’t reply.
“This is no time to get all shy on me now Ava-Marie, this game requires you to talk. It’s called Lie to Me; have you played it before?”
“I didn’t think you would have. Let me explain the rules, it’s pretty simple; you see that briefcase on top of the cabinet? There is a lie detector inside of it.”
In one swift motion, Aiden unravelled the sash that held Ava’s robe closed. The robe opened up, presenting Ava’s body to him with a flamboyant flourish of black satin. All the maids had left Ava in underneath it was her underwear. She whimpered and bit down on her lip to stop herself from bursting into tears again; she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Aiden took a step back to admire her shape. She had the perfect, slim hourglass figure, with the kind of blemish free skin only money could maintain; not a stretch mark or patch of offensive body hair in sight, just a smooth, seamless cinnamon canvas.
He hooked his finger under her thong strap that rested on her hip and pulled her deeper into the room where a heavy iron hook connected to thick chains hung from the ceiling. Aiden disappeared behind her and undid one side of the handcuffs. He held onto both of her wrist in case she got any bright ideas and brought her hands forward, pressing his provocative body lightly against her and wrapping her in an almost embrace as he fastened the cuffs once more. He brought her arms up over her head and caught the chain between the cuffs onto the hook, elongating her svelte frame. He sauntered back into her line of sight.
“I’ll be placing the heart rate monitors on you and stand five paces away, giving you only five chances not to lie to me,” he warned. “I will ask you a series of questions, and every time the machine says you’re lying, I will take a step towards you. If by the end of the questions I don’t reach you, I will reward your honesty, but if not...” he turned towards the camera and signalled to Mighty to call Vince, “…well. I guess you’ll just have to pay the price. Are you ready to play?”