I wish I was you
A piece of gold at the bottom of the blue
Too heavy to swim
But too beautiful to lose
Hold in my breath
And diving down to give you air
I never knew the colours that surround you
-Taking in Water
It was decided that Ash would make her first visit into Streatham to meet with the Jamaicans. Under Aiden’s orders (to avoid further conflict between the both of them) Driver promptly whisked her away. Aiden had bigger problems to address and knew it would be easier to do it with the volatile vixen out of the way, especially as Dougie was itching for an excuse to get rid of her, never mind what Aiden said.
Sometimes Aiden felt as if his best friend was more for the Mafia than he was because he would go to any length to protect what they had built, and even further to protect Aiden. Yes Ash was as much a part of the crew as rest of them, after all she had grown up on the same block with them, but her promiscuous nature never really sat well with Dougie; he didn’t think it gave off the right impression for a female to be so liberal with her body, so when she got involved with Aiden, it irritated him. To Dougie, Aiden was above wifing the estate hoe, no matter how pretty or trill she was. He was glad when it was over. Ash wasn’t good for, nor was she good enough for Aiden.
Mighty and Stone were back in the meeting room listening intently along with Aiden as Dougie reported back about the earlier incident at the salon, in his usual precise, no nonsense manner.
“It wasn’t so easy to get the feds off our back this time. The Syndicate have more of them in their pocket than we do and they’re paying them more too, but after I had a quick word with officer Dobson about how interested his wife would be in knowing about that hooker he likes to arrest every Wednesday and not take back to the station, he called them off,” Dougie smirked.
Mighty snickered, “Dobson likes prostitutes?”
“Mighty, focus,” Aiden snapped. He turned back to Dougie, “So we’re good now?”
“As far as the salon, everything’s handled. Polly contacted a builder to fix the damage; should be business as usual in two days.” Dougie picked one of his guns up off of the desk and stroked the cool steel of the barrel as if he were petting a pussy cat, “There was one thing that didn’t sit right with me after everything was sorted though.”
Dougie’s hand slipped down onto the handle, “Max Yang.”
Aiden frowned and furrowed his eyebrows at the sound of Vince’s oh so special soldier, “What about Yang?”
“He was following me.” Dougie’s index finger curled around the trigger.
“So why didn’t you just pop him?” Stone asked pulling a half smoked blunt from his jacket pocket and sticking it in his mouth.
Dougie swivelled his head slowly to the side and peered at his fellow lieutenant, “He’s not on my list.”
Stone rolled his eyes and produced his favourite new lighter that burned green, “You and your damn lists.” He set fire to his blunt and took a quick drag, needing a quick hit to get him going before he took his usual leisurely tokes. “What if he followed you back here?”
Stone exhaled, unconsciously blowing billowing streams of marijuana smoke in Dougie’s face, “How do you know?”
Dougie leaned across the table and snatched the blunt from Stone’s mouth, staring him dead in the eye as he took a drag and twirling his pistol in his other hand, daring Stone to take it back.
Stone kissed his teeth, “Whatever man.”
Aiden stroked his goatee thoughtfully. Why would Lockewood put Yang on Dougie whilst they were deep in the middle of a war? It was a provocative move and a stupid one seeing as Ava was still in Aiden’s custody. Did he want another of Aiden’s nearest and dearest to give him the upper hand? No, that couldn’t be it, Lockewood wasn’t that basic. Yang was one of his best soldiers, so if he was appointing him to follow Dougie, Aiden knew that it wasn’t just to watch him from afar; anyone (if they were stupid enough) could watch Dougie. Yang was as much a weapon to Vince as Dougie was to Aiden, so there could only be one reason Vince was having Yang follow his best friend. Aiden stopped stroking his beard, “Lockewood’s put a hit on you.”
Dougie shrugged, “I figured as much.” He took a nice long hit of the blunt and handed it back to Stone with a deadly grin, “Guess who just made my list.”
“Question is, why does he want you out of the way? What changed in the past forty-two hours that we don’t know about?” The room fell silent and the men watched as Aiden’s mind went to work. Aiden looked up, “Mighty, Ash bugged Yang’s phone right?”
Mighty’s face lit up and he took his laptop off of standby, “I’m on it boss.” He was practically buzzing with excitement as his deft fingers skittered across the keyboard, turning the soft clicking sounds of the key into one long, low hum. Scrambled codes scrolled across the screen at an alarming rate until and several windows came into view. Mighty tampered with all of them until at last there was a brief high pitched beep and rows upon rows of call logs from Max Yang’s phone popped up. “I’m in.”
“Good. I want you to listen to every call he’s made or accepted from the past two days and make a note of anything that might help us figure out what The Syndicate are up to.” Aiden pushed back from the desk and got to his feet, “I’m going to bed. Wake me up when you find something.”
“Sure thing, A.”
Aiden squeezed Dougie’s shoulder as he departed. Lockewood had already taken his brother, he wasn’t about to let him take his best friend too.
It was almost 7am and Aiden lay buried under a thick black Egyptian cotton sheet filled with goose down, his six foot four frame curled up in the foetal position with one illustrated arm flung over one of four pillows, and his serene face nuzzled against it. Thirty seconds later his heavy snores and the gentle sounds of the waves lapping against the shore from his soothing sound machine were pierced through by the grating shriek of his alarm clock. Aiden’s fist slammed down on the off button. Groaning, he scrunched up his face and scrubbed his eyes before sitting up, stretching his defined arms to the heavens and arching his broad back until he felt a deep, satisfying crack. He opened his eyes and jumped at the sight of a dark hooded figure sat quietly at the end of his bed, and instantly reached under his pillow for his revolver. He slowed when he realised who it was.
“Fuck, Dougie, I hate it when you do that,” he growled, withdrawing his arm.
Dougie grinned. “Just keeping you sharp,” he snickered.
Aiden kissed his teeth, “What if I shot you?”
“You wouldn’t.” Dougie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a Snicker bar. He chucked it to Aiden, whose grumpy morning face softened.
“Nice one, D.” He ripped open the packaging and took a huge chomp out of it, “Wait, where did you get this?” he mumbled through the sticky nougat and caramel.
“The corner shop,” he said in a tone indicating that it should be obvious.
Aiden frowned, “Yang’s after you and you’re fucking running around getting sweets.”
“Yeah,” Dougie pulled out a Mars bar for himself. Aiden sighed. He could scold his friend for putting himself in harm’s way, but if anyone could handle themselves, it was Dougie. Sometimes Aiden was convinced that the guy was invincible. They both ate their chocolates in silence, savouring this small moment of peace until it was over and it was time to get back to the present. They both crumpled up their wrappers and aimed for the bin at the same time. Dougie’s wrapper knocked Aiden’s out of the way and it diverted course onto the floor. Dougie gave a small smirk. Aiden shot him a look.
He swung his bare legs over the side of the bed, “So what are the findings?”
“Lockewood wants Yang to bring me in.”
“Did he say why?”
Aiden walked over to his laundry hamper and pulled on a pair of black jogging bottoms over his boxers, “And there were no other clues as to what he wants from you?”
“None. Mighty went through every audio three times last night to make sure he didn’t miss anything. The only other thing he discovered is how badly Yang wants to get the Lockewood girl back.”
“Ash said he’s in love with her,” Aiden chuckled, picking up his chocolate wrapper off of the hard wood floor and depositing it in the bin.
“How do you know? Did he say he was?”
“No, but I know what love sounds like.” Aiden’s expression became amused at Dougie suggesting he knew anything about romantic love. Dougie had never had a girlfriend in his life. “You used to sound like him.”
Aiden’s amusement dissolved and he became serious; he’d had quite enough of revisiting his former love life to last him a lifetime. He turned his back on his friend and his gaze travelled to the door. With a scowl and a heavy heart he asked, “Is she home?”
“She’s here,” Dougie replied in clipped tone.
“How is she?”
He glanced over his shoulder at his best friend with yesterday’s warning emanating from his soulful features. Dougie looked away. “I told you she would come back,” he said pointedly.
Dougie shrugged and got to his feet, “Doesn’t mean that I’m wrong about her.”
“Dougie, she came back,” Aiden huffed.
“So we’re just going to ignore the fact that she was the one who was monitoring Yang’s calls and forgot to mention that he is after me?”
Aiden paused; he hadn’t thought of that. This he could not dispute with Dougie about, but he couldn’t help himself -Dougie only needed one reason to do what does best. “She was pretty tied up yesterday_”
“The call was made in the morning,” Dougie growled, “You weren’t playing with her then.” He brushed past Aiden, knocking him aside with his shoulder, “Ever since you started fucking with the Lockewood girl Ash’s focus has been compromised, and when Ash is compromised so are you. Someone is out to get me and she’s worrying about your new play mate rather than doing what the fuck she’s meant to do; protect her family.” He pulled his hood down and stood toe to toe with Aiden, “I don’t know what it’s gonna take for you to see that she is a weak link and get rid of her, but I hope you figure it out before Keegan isn’t the only one missing.”
Aiden shoved Dougie out of his way. There was a possibility that Ash could go off the rails because she had lost focus, but at the same time, it was Ash, and when she was on, she was on, and up until recently she had been. He’d have to keep a closer eye on her to make sure that Dougie’s predictions would not come true because having to resort to getting rid of her…he didn’t even want to think about it. “I’ll talk to her.”
Dougie nodded sharply, “Good. Now what are we gonna do about Yang?” he said with a sinister grin.
The edge of Aiden’s lip quirked up, “Something tells me you’ve already decided what you want to do.”
“I know where he is and as you know, last night he joined my list,” he wiggled his eyebrows.
Aiden shook his head, “No, that’s not it. Lockewood wants you out of the way for a reason and we need to find out what that reason is before you kill him.”
“As long as I get to kill him.”
Aiden folded his thick artistic arms across his chest and pulled his lower lip into his mouth, nipping at it thoughtfully; something had to be done about Yang, that was a given, but if they got rid of him now, Lockewood would only send someone else along. “Where is he exactly?”
“I lost him near London Road.”
“Go to him. Let the prick capture you.”
Dougie cocked his head to the side, “And why would I do that?”
“Insider knowledge; learn what you can from them before the exchange.”
“That’s a bit risky. What if they kill me?”
“I won’t let them,” he said firmly, a promise coating his words.
Dougie smirked at his best friend, “Neither will I.”
“Oh I don’t doubt that for a second, D.”
It was decided that Dougie would ‘get caught’ by Max that evening, somewhere further from the compound that would keep the rest of the crew safe, but before then Aiden was going to do a little digging of his own.
After checking on Trish and Jamie, making sure his soldiers had everything under control at his mother’s house, and getting Stone to check in with Ash about how relations went between her and the head of the Jamaican’s (they were now back on side), Aiden ordered the maids to prepare a vegan breakfast for Ava and got dressed in preparation for today’s playful inquisition.
He chose his outfit carefully; a crisp black suit, a black shirt with the top three buttons undone underneath that offered a peek at his neck tattoo, and a pair of black brogues. He wore small diamonds studs in his ears, white gold cufflinks with his initials engraved in cursive on each of them, and a white gold diamond encrusted ring on his pinkie finger. He slathered his deep cocoa skin with shea butter and splashed his pulse points with Hugo Boss, then took a hard bristled brush and some Dax wax to his hair to smooth out his waves. His beard was starting to grow back and normally he would have neatened it up, but he quite liked the way the five o’clock shadow of soft, dark stubble made his face look a little less romantic, a little more rugged. It gave him the edge of black eroticism that went well with what he had in store for Ava today. With a salacious smile, he went into his cherry wood chest of drawers, slipped his hand into the back of his sock draw and pulled out a black velvet box the size of his palm and tucked it into his inner jacket pocket.
Once the maids notified him that it was ready, Aiden collected Ava’s breakfast of scrambled tofu, gluten free rye wheat toast, vegetarian sausages and organic orange juice from off of the kitchen counter and brought it to her room.
At the sound of the door opening Ava immediately closed her eyes and pretended she was still sleeping. This had been the only peace she’d had since being brought to this god awful place with it clinical helpers, gang members and their irrefutable leader, and she wanted it to last justa little bit longer before she was sucked back in to their calculated madness. The smell of the cooked breakfast hit her nose making her tummy grumble involuntarily…and then she smelt him; Aiden. The galvanising blend of Molten Brown body wash, shea butter, silk and aftershave made her grumbling tummy quieten and tighten. Had she not had her limbs strung up to the bed posts she would have crossed her leg to placate the pressure that had already begun to build between her thighs. She wasn’t high anymore and she disliked him more than ever, but she couldn’t rid her mind of the way he had made her feel last night. All that provocative taunting, teasing and titillating did something to a girl that was hard to forget anytime soon. Even in her dreams she feverishly relived the wanton moments on the counter with Aiden between her legs feeding her cake and wine, the way he caressed her skin, the heart-stopping sight of his nude God of War like frame with all of its dramatic dips and bulging planes strewn with street art and battle scars, the way his hands delivered violent waves of pleasure and beguiling thrums of pain in the same stroke, laying up against him in the perfumed water with every firm inch of him pressed up against her body while he purred in her ear, and how much she hated how good it all felt .
“Open your eyes, Ava-Marie,” he ordered her in his firm honey-coated baritone. Ava sighed; the haven was over. She turned her head towards him and her autumnal eyes opened with the intent to glare at him, but when she saw him standing there, her breath stopped short. She took in the immaculate suit and all the tastefully expensive trimmings that made Aiden look like he’d just stepped out of a Gucci campaign, and the light shadow of his beard that covered the lower half of his face that only intensified how handsome he was. Even unshaven, Aiden Michaels was something to behold. Ava cursed internally. “Good morning Ava-Marie,” he purred.
Ava didn’t reply, partially because she didn’t want to talk to him but also because she was afraid that if she opened her mouth nothing would come out anyway. She turned her head away from him and exhaled slowly.
Aiden frowned and set her breakfast down on the table in the corner. He marched over to the bed and yanked on the rope connected to her wrist, causing Ava to yelp as it rubbed against her shallow wound. “If you don’t want me to be nice to you then you are going the right way about it,” he growled, undoing the knot to free her. Ava bit down on her tongue to keep from retaliating and angering him further whilst she tried not to notice the electric warmth that consumed her body when his fingers came into contact with her skin. “So let’s try this one last time before I give up and resort to other methods; good morning Ava-Marie.”
“Good morning,” she said quickly.
“Who, Ava-Marie? Good morning, who?”
Ava scrunched her eyes shut and gritted her teeth, “Good morning, Sir,” she grumbled.
“Good girl.” He freed her other hand and began sliding the blanket down her body. Her nipples sprung to attention when the cold air hit them and goosebumps spread like wildfire once the sheet passed over her hips; the t-shirt Aiden dressed her to sleep in had ridden up in her sleep, barely covering the top of her thighs. Ava couldn’t bear the embarrassment of him seeing the evidence of just how much she couldn’t help but want him glistening like honey at her apex, so with her hands free she quickly yanked the t-shirt down as far as it would go and her cheeks turned that flattering rose gold colour Aiden was fond of.
None-the-wiser to her affliction, Aiden undone her ankle restraints and handed Ava her breakfast, then pulled the chair out from under the table, turning it to face her before he sat. Ava furrowed her brow at the tray of food and lifted it to her nose to sniff it. It smelt all right but so had the chocolate cake and that had been laced with cannabis. She lowered the tray and peered suspiciously at Aiden.
“Don’t worry, it’s all vegan friendly,” he told her with a small smile. “Eat.”
Ava furrowed her brow; how did he know she was a vegan? And even then, why did he go to the effort of making sure she had food that complied with her diet if she was only a prisoner? “What did you do to it?”
Realising why she had looked at him so mistrustfully Aiden’s small smile vanished and he scowled at her, “Nothing. Eat.” Ava hesitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him, he seemed very believable, but how much could she actually trust the word of the person who meant to harm her? “Would you like me to feed you again?” He leant forward in the chair, rested his elbows on his knees and pressed his large hands together, drumming the tips of his fingers against each other as he stared her down, itching to put her over his knee for her accusation. “I quite enjoy putting things between your lips,” he purred. Ava’s eyes widened as vision of sumptuous chocolate, rich fruity wine, commanding hands and Aiden…all of Aiden, passed between both sets of her lips.
She looked away from him and picked up her fork, shovelling a heap of tofu in her mouth. If her father could only see her now he would frown at the unladylike manner with which she was conducting herself -he hadn’t spent all of that money on finishing school for her to behave so commonly. She slowed her chewing, crossed her legs and sat a little straighter when the thought crossed her mind that had it not been for her father she wouldn’t be here now. She slouched -slightly -and made an appreciative noise; the tofu had been seasoned and cooked to perfection. It was bit of hit and miss when other people prepared it for her as they didn’t always know how to make it taste good, but Aiden’s staff knew what they were doing. She cut a piece of the rye bread and tried the vegetarian sausage and made the noise again.
Aiden stopped drumming his fingers together and frowned at her, not because she was eating like she was borderline famished, but because her small moments of enjoyment made him want to smile at her again. There was sweetness in Lockewood’s little princess that only exaggerated how much she had been shielded from the nuances of the underworld. He found it quite endearing; the girl who was in the thick of it all but had been untouched by it…until now.
“Good?” he asked, smoothing out his features.
Ava stopped chewing and looked at him. She swallowed and cast her eyes down into her lap and begrudgingly mumbled, “Yes Sir.”
“What else do you like to eat?”
“Answer the question.”
Ava shrugged, “Most things as long as it’s vegan. I’m not fussy.”
Aiden regarded her and leant back in his chair. Her vagueness bothered him. He needed to know exactly what she liked and exactly how she liked it. It was important to know these things when trying to seduce someone into submission, how they liked to be cared for, it made it easier for them to forgive you after you wronged them and Aiden intended to wrong Ava in many ways. “What’s your favourite thing to eat?”
“Why, are you going to get it for me, Sir?” she sneered, sarcasm dripping from her bitter tone.
Ava drew a breath and looked at him, studying his serious expression and his almost relaxed posture. He looked so alpha-like in his black suit with his air of superiority and irrevocable power vibrating around him making him seem untouchable in a way that made Ava ache to touch him. He was the most dominant being she had ever encountered, so sure of himself and his position that it made her feel small and helpless beause she felt she would never know that feeling for herself. Aiden carried himself like all things were created to serve him and only him, and even as she fought the desire to do so, a part of her wanted to serve him, just a little, just so she could experience the feeling of completion and satisfaction that awaited her as a reward if she did. That feeling would be enough. She shook the thought out of her head and drank her orange juice. “Sweet potato mash and baked beetroot chips. Together.”
Aiden cocked his eyebrow, “That’s an odd pairing.”
“You asked me what I liked, that’s what I like.”
“Then I will get it for you, Ava-Marie.”
Ava picked up her toast. She had planned to cut it with the knife and fork but what use was there standing on ceremony when she was nothing more than a prisoner. She took a bite out of it, “Why will you get it for me? I’m not your guest and it’s not like I like you.”
Aiden drummed the tips of his finger together again, “You’re my enemy either, and I kidnapped you, I don’t expect you to like me.”
“But you want me to?” she guessed, narrowing her eyes at him.
Ava held his steely gaze for as long as she could, up until her bravery ran out and his inexplicable power overruled her. She looked at her plate and continued eating. She could still feel his eyes on her and it made her feel so uncomfortable in her own skin, like he could see something in her that she couldn’t, as if he pinpointed something in her that she wasn’t aware was there but he could tap into anyway.
After about a minute of uncomfortable silence he asked, “Why are you a vegan?”
“The usual reason, just doing my part to save the world,” she replied with an exaggerated grin and thumbs up to rival an over-acted American style infomercial for cleaning products.
Aiden’s eyes flashed and he almost smiled at her sass. How she remained so flippant even though she was caught up in a whirlwind of a storm that someone like her wasn’t built for intrigued him. It was like she had constructed a skin tight cocoon to slip into to protect her sanity, and in that cocoon existed a world no one else could enter, a place that not even someone as formidable and determined as Aiden could disturb. “And how is trying to save the world working out for you?”
“Depends on what day you ask me.”
“I’m asking you now.”
Ava tucked her braids behind her ears and braced herself to look at him again. His expression wasn’t as discerning as before, there was something a touch warmer that wasn’t there before, a hint of a sparkle in his eyes that hinted at something more, but she couldn’t put her finger on what the more was. “I’m out of my depth,” she said, “I feel like I’m standing on quicksand and everything around me is on fire. If I stay I get swallowed up, but if I venture out there I get burned alive. I’m starting to believe that maybe the world can’t be saved, that the odds are against all of us and that it’s because of people like you and my father.”
The hint of warmth vanished from Aiden’s obsidian eyes and the cool impenetrable hardness returned. “That’s quite an answer.”
“Does it upset you?”
“No,” he said completely unruffled.
It bothered Ava that he wasn’t bothered, but how could she expect him to be when his occupation was peddling narcotics and killing anyone who crossed him. This wasn’t a man that felt bad about the things he did, his heart was set up differently to hers. In his head, his way of life was just. It was all skewed reasoning backed by street principalities and whatever harshness life had dealt him. Ava could never understand someone like Aiden because they were two different ends of the scale. She had grown up surrounded by love and what she now knew to be tainted luxury. A girl like Ava had options that a man like Aiden would never know and it had made him cruel, and that made her feel for him a little. “It should,” she frowned with a sadness that made her judgement less harsh. Having nothing more to say, Ava went back to her food.
Aiden clenched his fist him lap. Ava’s statement may not have bothered him much, but the way she frowned at him did. Disapproval Aiden could deal with, he was a black man from one of London’s known ghettos, he had been living the life of the lowest of the working class and now he was a criminal, he was used to being disapproved of, but Ava looked at him like she pitied him and that was something Aiden detested. He was a proud man. He worked his ass off doing what he had to, to get where he was today so that he could be respected. Pity was for the downtrodden, for those still in the struggle. Aiden had everything now, money, power and the kind of notoriety that could strike fear into a man at the sound of his name alone, there was nothing to pity and before the day was through he would make sure she knew that.
Aiden got to his feet and pulled the black velvet box out of his suit jacket.
Hope you enjoyed that chapter. Please leave your comments below (your feedback helps A LOT).
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