I know to be there
When and where, I'll be there
You know what's to be said
We said out loud, we never said
-Together, The xx
If a volcano could be a person, in that moment it would be Ash. Her bright eyes glowed with indignation, her cheeks and neck flourished with heated hues that burned all the way out to the tips of her fiery red hair, and her lips, those permanently scarlet painted lips, curled back over her white teeth into a snarl that was to be the beginning of her eruption. Nobody could erupt quite like Ash; the Siren, a mythological beauty famous for luring men to their deaths.
She locked her bright eyes onto Aiden’s dark, unwavering ones and settled back into her chair. “Mighty, Stone, may we have the room.” It wasn’t a question.
“That won’t be necessary,” said Aiden.
Something silver shot through the air, whistling as it went, narrowly missing Aiden’s face and landed in the wall behind him with a heavy thud. Aiden didn’t flinch but Mighty and Stone did. They looked at the wall to see one of Ash’s Mora knife blades lodged deep in it.
“Get the fuck out.”
Mighty and Stone looked at Aiden. “Give us five minutes,” he growled through gritted teeth; why did she have to be so irritating? He shot her an annoyed look and Ash smiled. Mighty and Stone left and Aiden got to his feet.
“Find another way,” Ash demanded.
Aiden sighed and yanked the blade out of the wall. “Ashleigh_”
“Aiden,” she snapped, clenching her fist in her lap, “Find another way.”
Aiden turned the blade meant for his head over in his hands, “There is no other way.”
Ash slammed her fist against the desk, “Then fucking make one!”
Aiden walked over to her and held the blade out with the sharp end between his fingers, “So is that a no?” he asked coolly.
“Is that a fuck you?” she snatched the blade from him.
“It’s a question. Give me an answer.”
Ash looked up at Aiden from under her eyelashes and brought the tip of her blade to the inner curve of his knee. Slowly, she dragged the gleaming weapon up his inner thigh until she reached his apex. She pressed the blade into the seam of his black trousers and nicked one of the threads so it popped apart, “I already did.”
Aiden’s mouth subtly quirked up at the corner; she was really testing his patience today. Holding her pretty indignant gaze, he wrapped his thick fingers around her pale wrists and pulled her hand away. She fought against him of course, Ash was never one to give up when she wanted something, but Aiden, with his rippling muscles and unrivalled strength, overpowered her with next to no effort. He let go of her hand, “Then this conversation is over.” He turned his back on her to return to his seat.
“No it’s not,” Ash snarled and lodged her Mora knife blade into the table top, “You are going to find another way.”
“Am I now?”
“Yes,” she jumped up from her seat, closed the space between them with two determined strides and tugged on his arm to turning him back to face her, “Aiden, you can’t force me into some bullshit ultimatum like this. It’s not fair.”
“Not fair?” he scoffed, “Ash, I’m telling you to do your job.”
“My job is more than that Aiden. I am more than that,” she screamed slapping her freckled hand into her chest with every syllable.
Aiden lowered his voice to a low growl and squared up to her, “As true as that may be Ashleigh, this is what I am telling you to do, this is what I need you to do. You don’t have to like it you just have to do it, because that is how this works. I am the boss, I give the orders and you follow them, and if you can’t follow orders then you have no place here.”
“Send someone else. You have other females at your disposal.”
Ash shifted her weight onto her right leg, popping her hip out to exaggerate her sweeping curves, “If that’s the problem then I can teach them a few tricks. It’s not hard to get a man to have sex with a woman, trust me I know,” she jested with a suggestive wink.
Aiden bit down on his back teeth and lifted his chin. She was shifting tactics, flirting as he knew she would eventually. Ash was tenacious in her endeavours; if one way didn’t work she would find another, but so would Aiden. He admired her tenacity once, how she slinked, swooned and seduced her way through life to get what she wanted, but over time Aiden figured her out. This beautiful woman that looked like art and fucked like poetry would always fall to sex as her final attack -it was what she was good at. Aiden was better. He’d enjoyed her seduction countless times, refusing her every now and then to see what trick she would pull out of the bag next until she had run out of techniques, until Aiden knew all of her harmonious lyrics and had memorised the enthralling choreography she displayed that had made so many men fall. After that she was no longer a challenge to him, the mystery was gone and the Siren stripped of her super powers because her victim had learned her ways and had made himself deadlier than her. He had become her kryptonite. That was how he’d gotten her to cave to him and crave him the way she did. She should have chosen a better tactic.
Aiden’s brooding brown eyes stared down at her, “It’s not just sex with you Ash, it never has been. It’s you,” he lifted his hand to touch her face, bringing it close enough to her skin so that she could feel his heat, but not him; “All of you.” He waited and she waited, but his touch never came. Instead Aiden caught a loose tendril of her red hair between his fingers and twirled it slowly. It wasn’t much of anything, but it was Aiden and she was Ash so it was enough. Ash exhaled through parted red lips. Aiden leaned in a fraction of an inch and his voice came softer, “Ashleigh, you are altogether something else, and you pretend like you know, but you don’t; not really. Many women have loved me, but you were the only one who made me love you back. No other woman has been able to hold my affections the way you did, no other person drove me to the point of insatiable insanity that you did.” He tucked her hair behind her ear and she quivered. “You were almost the ruining of me, of everything. You we’re spectacular. What you have can’t be taught.”
Ash fought not to function more than necessary, because if she breathed too deep, looked too hard, listened too intently or attempted to move even a little, she knew she would move closer to him. Aiden would consume her senses. How intoxicating it was to stand centimetres apart from the love of her life and hear him speak of her as if she were something to be worshipped. He had worshipped her once and she missed it; everyday she missed it. Having the heart of Aiden Michaels was a wondrous thing; he was so intense and passionate in his way once he finally let her in that Ash was convinced that no other man on the planet was worth loving or being loved by because they would never be able to love her like that. But he didn’t love her like that anymore.
“Nor can it be given away so freely,” she whispered unintentionally. She cleared her throat and stepped backwards. Aiden stepped with her. “I have brought world leaders to their knees.”
She stepped back again, “I brought you to your knees.”
Aiden stepped forward, “I remember,” his eyes burned into hers, “Vividly.
Ash continued to walk backwards but Aiden kept close, “I’m no angel, I know that, so I made sure to be a perfect sinner.” Her back hit the wall.
“So sin,” he purred, staring her down. He pressed his large palms to the wall on either side of her frame, trapping her against the wall and keeping her there with the intensity of his gaze, reminiscent of a time when they were so lost in each other that the world stopped when their lips touched.
“Don’t do that,” she whispered.
“Do what?” his eyes fell to her red lips. She ran her tongue over them and pulled the bottom one into her mouth.
“Don’t manipulate me this way, Aiden. Don’t make me choose between myself and you.”
“I’m telling you to choose your family.”
“No you’re not, not anymore because you know it’s not enough. The Mafia is my family and I love them, I swear I do, but you…” she was trying to delay saying it out loud, she hadn’t said it in so long, “Aiden you are my life.” A strange sensation came over Ash. This tension that had knotted itself around her ribs since Aiden pushed her away suddenly burst inside her chest and it felt like breathing. Ash could breathe. She gasped and blinked up at him.
Aiden clenched his jaw. He forced himself not to acknowledge the brutal sincerity in her sparkling turquoise eyes. He wanted to look away from her but he couldn’t because Ash looked like a Monet; a picturesque freckled fantasy crafted out of dots and a dream. He had kept her once upon a time; this beautiful woman was all his to do with as he pleased and she was so willing to belong to him again…but Aiden shouldn’t keep beautiful women. He frowned and dropped his arms then turned his head from her, “You can’t say that.”
Ash boldly grabbed his face and forced him to look at her making Aiden’s dark eyes burn bright and wild, torn between what he wanted and what he knew was right. Her grip on him loosened to something more affectionate and she sighed; he had said that she was spectacular, but looking at him Ash could only think, ‘he has never seen himself?’
“I just did,” she said stubbornly, “And I don’t give a fuck about how you feel about it because I love you Aiden. I am in love with you to the point that I will do anything for you and you know it, so I am asking you, please Aiden, please do not make me do this.”
Aiden regained his resolve, “Ashleigh,” he said quietly, standing taller and glaring down at her. She couldn’t do this, not right now, not when they had so much on their plate to handle. He needed his Siren, his soldier, not his fallen ex-lover, “Understand this now because it is the last time I’m going to say it; this is not about you, this is bigger than you, this is more important than how you feel. My brother has been kidnapped, Sofia is dead, my baby nephew is in hiding, we are in hiding. I have soldiers guarding my mother twenty-four hours a day whilst we have a street war on our hands and not enough soldiers to fight it and survive, and the only reason we are still alive is because of that pretty little girl tied to the bed, so right now we need everyone to do their job, and I am getting tired of telling you to do your fucking job Ash, I really am, so if you are not going to play your role then I don’t need you, okay. We don’t need you.”
“But seven men, Aiden_”
Aiden slammed his hand against the wall silencing her in an instant, “We are not good people, we don’t do good things. We are bad, Ash, we are very, very bad. In fact we are the worst kind. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we torture, we kill, and sometimes we even fuck to get what we want. That is who we are, that is how we survive, we could be more but we’re not because that isn’t the life we chose. We. Chose. THIS! So let me reiterate that how you feel doesn’t matter, okay? In the grand scheme of things, if you’re not down with us, YOU don’t matter!”
“What about to you?” she screamed in his face.
“Do I matter to you?”
Aiden pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, “Did you hear a word I just said?”
“Yes, and now I’m asking you, do I matter to you?”
“Do you want to matter to me?”
“It’s all I want, Aiden,” her voice broke as she spoke his name. She was used to his harshness; he had been dishing it out to her by the truckload since they ended things to get her to keep her distance, but having him talk to her the way he used to meant that she couldn’t take it so easily. Breathing again felt too good.
“Then do as you’re told,” he snarled.
“Fine,” Ash lowered her eyes and lowered herself onto her knees, “But only if you make me.” Ash dropped her head , rested on her thighs and parted her knees whilst keeping her ankles together just how Aiden had trained her to do in their other lifetime.
Aiden’s eyes widened and he took in a shaky breath. This was an unexpected turn of events. Aiden thought that he would be able to navigate her at every curveball she threw his way but he wasn’t prepared for her to do this.
“What are you doing?” he said staring down at the top of her bowed red head, “Ashleigh, stand up.”
“Is that an order…Sir?” she purred softly. That made his heartbeat quicken, the way she said it so well and so willingly. He shoved his hand into his pocket to stop himself from stroking her head for being such a good girl.
“No. Yes. I mean…Goddammit Ashleigh, stand up!”
“Only if you make me,” she repeated.
Aiden stepped back from her. He wanted to make her stand up. He wanted to reach down and grab a handful of her soft curls and yank her to her feet, listen to the way the pain made her whimper and how the fear would make her eyes glisten as the tears made them glassy, then feel it all fall away as he clutched her trembling body against his, and kissed her and kissed her until her lips were sore with how much he truly missed her. That would only be the beginning, the careful part. After that all hell would break loose and he would do terrible things to her, terrible, wonderful things that would make him regret ever keeping himself away from her, but he’d sworn that he wouldn’t.
Aiden closed his eyes so that he couldn’t see her with her knees apart waiting for him, “Why are you doing this?”
“Because you said that it was different. You said that it was different with me,” she whispered into her chest.
“What are you talking about?”
“Ava. You said that it was different, but it wasn’t and if it’s not different then I don’t matter, and if I don’t matter then what’s the point of me doing any of this? I know we’re bad people and we do bad things but there is good in us Aiden, there is love. I could do what I did up to this point because I knew that no matter how many men I was with, I was still yours. You were the only man who could see past all of my fuckery and love me anyway, and I loved you for it but most of all I love that you were the one who loved me. No one else mattered to you like I did, but now she’s here and you’re doing the same thing. You’re giving her you and you swore you wouldn’t do it ever again. You swore it was different.”
Aiden opened his eyes, “It was.”
Ash’s head snapped up and although she was on her knees she was no longer being submissive. She glared at him and it made him relax. “No it wasn’t so don’t fucking lie to me. I heard her. Tell me what you did to her.”
“Tell me,” she screamed.
Aiden narrowed his eyes at Ash. He wasn’t about to explain himself to her. What for? He was the one in charge here, not this beautiful ruin with painted lips and freckled alabaster skin. He knew that if he told her what he did with Ava-Marie to make her call out for him the way that Ash once had that it would only fuel Ash’s fire.
She rose up from the ground, “Don’t look at me like that,” she hissed before she turned her back on him. She couldn’t take the weight of his lead eyes anymore; it was too heavy with something that made her feel like an insolent child and she hated it. “I have a right to know Aiden.”
“No you don’t.”
She whipped back around, “Yes I do! You said that it was over and that that was it, that for the sake of the Mafia you wouldn’t go to that place with anyone again. That’s why I came back, Aiden. I came back to you because I knew that this way no matter who you had after me, we couldn’t be touched, but one look at her strung up and you reopen Pandora’s box then tell me I have no right. I have every right!” She shoved him, “You got to me, you were relentless. You made me need you, but as soon as you couldn’t control what we were you abandoned me! You forced me to be without you when you knew I didn’t want that. You do what you do for the Mafia and I do what I do for you. I have a fucking right!”
“NO YOU DON’T,” he boomed, “What I do with my prisoner is none of your business. You’ve given me your answer, you’re not going to help us so get your shit and get out.”
“I will help you, but you have to compromise with me,” she said.
Ash shook her head at him, “I know you Aiden, you’ve scratched that itch with the Lockewood girl and now you need it.”
“I don’t need it.”
“Yes you do. I bet you can’t wait to resolve this little spat with me so that you can take your frustrations out on her and then call it torture. It’s not torture, it’s heaven and she’s this untouched angel that you will drag to hell screaming hallelujah in tongues.” Ash moved closer and pressed her palms to Aiden’s proud chest, “She’s not used to a man like you and you will go overboard because she doesn’t understand how to handle you, but I do,” her hands slid u and caressed his broad shoulders. “I’m offering you your solace Aiden. We can do it differently this time, we can both work together to keep it under control and to keep the Mafia up. It can be me and you again.”
Aiden pulled her hands off of him. She was saying all of these things and they sounded so good and he wanted so badly to believe that they were doable, that he and Ash could actually function as a couple in their world but he knew it was impossible. Ash didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had felt for her and even though he had weened himself off of her he couldn’t be sure that if he had a taste that he wouldn’t devour her again. He needed to keep his head in the game. “No,” he repeated standing taller.
“Well then you have to stop, Aiden. You’ll ruin us if you carry on.”
“There is no us Ashleigh,” he grunted. Why couldn’t she just stop? Did she see Ava-Marie being such a threat that she had to push so hard not to be disregarded from his heart? Ava was a prisoner, Ash was his first love; her place would never be taken. She needed to let him be because the more she pushed, the more irritated he became, and the more irritated he became, the more he was tempted to act on it, and he only had one way of acting on it when it came to Ash.
She scowled at him, “I meant the Mafia. You will ruin all of us if you don’t get your shit together!”
“I’ve got my shit together, you’re the one that needs to wake the fuck up. Here tryna give me a lecture just because you’re so caught up in your jealousy that you can’t do what the fuck you’re supposed to do.”
“Jealous?” The volcano erupted once more. Ash’s eyes flashed and she shoved her hand in Aiden’s face, “I DID WHAT THE FUCK I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO. IF IT WASN’T FOR ME YOU WOULDN’T HAVE THE BITCH IN THE FIRST PLACE. I CAUGHT HER, NOT YOU!” she screamed getting up in his face and shoving him in his head again. “I FUCKED LIKE A GOD DAMN PORNSTAR TO BRING HER HERE AND YOU WANNA HAVE THIS BITCH SCREAMING DOWN THE WHOLE FUCKING COMPOUND, DISRESPECTING ME LIKE I DIDN’T GO UP AGAINST MAX YANG FOR YOU, LIKE I DIDN’T KIDNAP VINCE LOCKEWOOD’S CHILD FOR YOU, AND NOW YOU WANNA MAKE HER YOUR GOD DAMN PLAY THING!” Her hand went for his face again but Aiden caught it, nostrils flared and growling viciously, but Ash was too fired up to care. “I risked my life so that we could get Keegan back and now you’re throwing that away and pretending that you can’t see the way this is going to end.”
“Don’t put your hands in my face.”
Ash sucked her teeth and thrust her other hand into his forehead, “Or what? You’ll put me across your knees and make me call you ‘Sir’?” she asked mimicking the way Ava-Marie had whimpered it. Aiden mouth tightened and his palm twitched at his side –he would love nothing better than to put this insubordinate woman across his knees and remind her who she was taunting. “Like I said, we all fucking heard her. You’re so fucking twisted Aiden,” Ash said snidely. She grabbed his hand and placed it at the base of her creamy swan-like throat. Aiden’s eyes widened and he sucked in a short sharp breath as memories of Ash gagging and clawing at his hand before her eyes rolled back in her head as she climaxed before passing out catapulted to the front of his mind. He hadn’t touched her like that in years and doing it now made him want to. Fucking Ash was phenomenal. How easy it was to make her porcelain skin flush under the strength of his dark limbs, and oh the many ways he could paint her body shades of red, purple, black and blue until she looked like living expressionism. Ash always looked like art, but when she was Aiden’s she was a masochistic masterpiece. “I bet you loved having something wild and vulnerable in front of you to tame, break and piece back together with your immorally capable hands, didn’t you Sir?” she laughed, mimicking Ava-Marie again.
He clenched his teeth and his fingers twitched, so tempted to tighten... “Stop it.”
“There’s nothing quite like having complete control over a woman and discovering that she likes it,” Ash purred, “It makes it okay to be what you are, to want the things you want and not have to feel like a monster for taking such perverse pleasure in it, isn’t that right Sir?” She let go of his hand. Aiden didn’t remove his, he just let it rest there around her long white neck as he tried to get his breathing under control, clenched his jaw and stared down at her and imagined squeezing, pressing into her windpipe and hearing that strangled gasp. “Look at you, you need it,” she stated, watching him struggle to keep his composure. Aiden’s lips parted. “You miss me, don’t you Aiden?” she asked softly, staring up at him with her long black lashes and hopeful eyes.
“Yes,” he admitted with a gruff pant.
“Then show me,” she stepped forward pressing her throat into his hold and gasping the way she knew would drive him wild. Aiden closed his eyes and grunted feeling himself harden. “Show me, please,” she begged. She knew Aiden liked it when she begged him
“Stop it Ashleigh, I can’t.”
“I’ll do whatever you want me to, I promise Sir.” This time she said it in her own voice and Aiden fingers snapped into position.
“Why are you pushing me,” he rumbled.
“You need it and I need you. I’m your fix, not her.”
“But I told you it’s not the same with her.”
“It could be. This is the start of it and if you don’t stop this you will get us all killed, so do it to me.”
Aiden’s arm began to tremble. He knew he should let go but he didn’t want to, not yet. “I’ll hurt you Ash,” he warned.
She gulped and said, “I know. I want you to.”
The sound that followed Ash’s admission resembled the last huge intake of air before being dragged down into the depths of the sea and not knowing if you were ever going to get the chance to see the sun again. Aiden closed his eyes and smiled.