If God's the game that you're playing
Well we must get more acquainted
Because it has to be so lonely
To be the only one who's holy
Aiden gripped his phone tighter and looked at Ava. Vince was finally requesting his daughter back, and what perfect timing he had chosen because if he had waited for one more second...
Aiden knew that he had no place doing what he had been aching to do since the first time his beautiful captive had cried out for him that night in the bathroom. This phone call was their fates being corrected, putting them back in their opposite corners, away from temptation, away from each other. He took a step away from Ava and a haunting emptiness blacked out the intensity in his obsidian eyes as he became the cold-blooded drug lord of the Diamond Mafia again, swallowing his lust for her that he'd been consumed with only moments earlier.
Ava furrowed her eyebrows, not understanding how only moments ago Aiden had stared at her like he needed to kiss her more than he needed air, and now he was so closed off like he flipped a switch and reverted back to looking at her the way he did when they first met -like she was nothing more than leverage.
She reached for him, "Aiden?"
He gritted his teeth and turned his back on her, "Is he holding up his end of the bargain?" he snapped in a steely tone. He couldn't have her touching him anymore. The wall was back up with steel reinforcements. It was over now. It had to be over now.
Ava immediately dropped her hand and stepped back. Now she understood; everything good between them was quickly being eaten alive by their reality. She was once again only a captive, a means to an end -leverage. She fisted the hem of her t-shirt and yanked down on it, wishing that it was long enough for her to hide herself under. God, how could she be so stupid as to let herself get caught up with him again when she was well aware that Aiden was only holding onto her to trade for his brothers freedom from her father.
"Vince knows the rules of the exchange," the gruff cockney voice sneered, "Be at Aldywych tube station in one hour. Someone will be there to take you and Ava in. You come alone, and don't try any funny business."
"I'm not coming alone," he said with blunt finality.
"Those are the terms."
"Fuck your terms."
"You what?" the voice scoffed.
"I said fuck-your-terms," Aiden growled, "I will be there in one hour with my men and I don't give a fuck about how you or your boss feels about it. I don't take orders."
"You sure you wanna cross Vince again, kid?"
Aiden rolled his eyes, "See this is what you ain't getting; you're a bunch of puffed up business men, playing mobsters, throwing out orders and counting your money in your penthouses while a bunch of knuckleheads do the dirty work down on the ground. You're not the side worth worrying about here. The streets raised us. We're the real thugs. We're the real fucking killers. The real question is," Aiden turned to face Ava with a look so dark that it made her swallow and shrink back, "Is Vince if he's sure he wants to cross me again?"
Aiden hung up.
Chris gritted his teeth in annoyance at the dial tone and put his phone back in his pocket. "That Michaels kid's a right fucking smart ass! Said he's not coming on his own, so we've got to be on our game, otherwise this will get real messy, real fast."
"Don't worry about it. The Syndicate outnumbers the Diamond Mafia's people five to one, and he's meeting us on our turf, plus," Vince grinned wryly as he sauntered over to the corner of the room where Max stood with his arm extended, pointing a gun at the silent figure dressed in black, with a bag over his head. Vince yanked the bag off, "We've got Dougie Monroe." He smiled at Max, "Good job, Yang."
Max gave a sharp nod, "Thanks boss."
"I'll be honest, Max, I didn't think you could do it," Chris admitted, inspecting Dougie from a distance. Even gagged and bound, with a gun pointed at his head, Dougie still made him uneasy. He was so calm, too calm, like he knew something that they didn't. "The guy gives me the creeps."
Dougie's eyes crinkled at the corners. He was smiling now and his full attention was on Chris.
"Neither did I," Vince said, kneeling down to get on eye level with Dougie. Dougie didn't flinch or shift, he just continued to stare at Chris, watching him avoid making eye contact with him and occasionally pacing, almost as if he was trying to walk out of Dougie's line of sight.
Max's jaw tightened at their admissions. "It's a good thing you trained me so well," he said evenly. He had hoped that Vince had sent him after Dougie because he thought he was the only solider who could take him, but now he realised that Vince had expected him to fail. If you failed when you went after Dougie Monroe, it would be the last thing you did. He looked down at his boss.
"Indeed." Vince looked back up at Max with a blank expression, "Lord knows if you made even the slightest mistake you'd be dead." His icy blue eyes flashed and Max wondered who would have administered his death had he failed; Dougie or his boss. Max turned his focus back to training his gun on Dougie. He lost Ava-Marie to the deadliest drug cartel in South London; Vince would never let him fail again.
Vince grabbed Dougie's face, forcing him to shift his focus. "It appears I've gotten your teams notoriety levels wrong. I underestimated Michaels and overestimated you, because he has my daughter and you got captured by one of my soldiers. Not what I was expecting at all." He hooked his fingers under the dirty rag used to gag Dougie and tugged it down roughly. Dougie's smile grew wider, showing two rows of gleaming white teeth. "Now when we make the exchange tonight you will walk to Aiden with the thirty million in tow -I added a bit extra seeing as I killed his brother."
Dougie stopped smiling. His rage set his veins alight, spawning deadly imaginings of the many twisted and depraved ways that he would kill every man in this room, in the darkest part of his mind. Keegan was dead. That was his family. That was his heart. They may not have been blood related but K. Dot meant as much to Dougie as Trish did. He was as much Dougie's little brother as he was Aiden's. God, Aiden -Keegan was his world. Everything he did, he did it for his little brother and now Keegan's gone. Fuck the room, Dougie would kill everyone in the fucking building.
"You killed him?" Dougie asked quietly. He didn't miss the way Chris flinched or the way Yang gripped the handle of his gun a little tighter when he spoke.
Vince was the only one who appeared unaffected; he cocked his eyebrow, "That's what I said, isn't it?"
So that was why Vince wanted Dougie -after killing Keegan he had no leverage left to get his daughter back. Dougie's bound hands clenched into a fist behind his back and now he was really looking at Vince, studying every feature from those icy blue eyes to his smug mouth -he would enjoy watching his eyes glaze over and his mouth fall slack once he killed him. He'd kill Chris next, just because he enjoyed how frightened he was of him and it would make for good entertainment, and he'd save Yang for last because it would make for good sport.
Vince released Dougie; he knew he had his full attention now. "You will not say anything to Michaels about his brother until my daughter is out of the building. She had no knowledge of any of this," he dropped his gaze to his wedding ring, "She's good." Vince got to his feet and slipped his hand into his pocket, "That is the only way you will walk out of there alive."
"We will be the only ones who walk out of there alive." Dougie looked around the room at each of them. His lip quirked up at the corner, "You can put my gag back on now."
The unsettling feeling that had spooked Chris took root inside of Vince, but he kept his expression neutral. Maybe releasing Dougie was not the best idea, but he was the only leverage that Vince had to get his daughter back; he couldn't screw that up again. He dragged the gag back over Dougie's mouth. At least now the smile was gone, but that uncanny happiness was still in those light brown eyes.
One am in London. Synonymous to the city that never sleeps across the Atlantic, the city still buzzed beneath the moonlight, with every star lost to the skies, clouded over with a haze of pollution and outshone by the glare of the electric circus beneath it. The air smelt faintly of factory fumes, a smell you begun to notice less and less the more time you spent there, mixed with alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, the North-East winds, and the occasional burst of perfume from a fragrant passer-by. It wasn't as noisy as it was during the day, as many folks had already turned in and the trains had stopped running since midnight, but the buses still rumbled through the traffic lights. Bars, clubs and pubs were in full swing, even though it was a weekday, and students, creatives, estate agents, bankers, general over-timers, hookers and homeless people still roamed the streets, along with the criminals.
The Diamond Mafia pulled up in an unmarked black SUV down one of the city's side roads. Driver shut off the headlights but kept the car running as Mighty, Stone, Ash and Aiden piled out of the vehicle, head to toe in black, with concealed weapons in every available crevice. A second identical SUV pulled up behind them and out came Titan, Merkz, Dani and Baby -some of Aiden's most capable soldiers.
Aiden walked to the boot of his SUV and waited for his crew to assemble around him. He nodded to Stone, who he put in charge of the soldiers.
"A'ight, boom. We wanna make this as quick and easy as possible," Stone grunted, "Get in, get the mandem and the guap, and get the fuck out. Lockewood took Dougie, so he's probably got some next fuckery up his sleeve, so all you man need to watch your back. Me, Titan, Dani and Ash will follow Aiden into the station. Merkz and Baby, you lot will stay here with Mighty and Driver, keeping tabs on us in case shit goes left and we need back up."
Mighty stepped forward with a duffle bag in his hand and his blue eyes sparkling with excitement. He opened it up and pulled out a small button sized device, "Each of you will have one of these little wonders pinned to you so we can track where you are. You'll be deep underground, so I can't use the usual trackers as the concrete and steel will block the signal. This is the next best thing." He began to pin one to each members' jacket. "It works sort of like a sonar device; it emits electromagnetic waves that will bounce off of your surroundings. The frequency of the vibrations will give us an idea of where you are, should we need to come find you."
"How are we meant to see each other?" Baby piped up. Mighty grinned at her as if he was waiting for someone to ask. Ash rolled her eyes as he enthusiastically dipped into the duffle bag again.
"With these," he handed Baby another device.
She gasped, "No way, an iWatch! Mighty, how did you get these?"
"I know a guy," he shrugged, trying to make it pass as cool and casual, but failing. He reached for the watch and began to fasten it around her wrist excitedly, "Well, it's not exactly an iWatch; it's a prototype that I've fiddled with. Apple created the frame but I modified them to sync with the sonar trackers." He handed one out to everyone else. "At first glance they will seem like iWatches. They display the time, but the app icons are just for show so it looks passable, but," he returned to Baby and held up her wrist for the others to see, "If you double click this button on the side...Boss, do you mind turning on your tracker?" He glanced at Aiden, "Just twist the top of it until you hear a little click." Aiden did as Mighty requested. "Thanks! Right, as I was saying, you double click the button on the side and it turns into a screen." He double clicked Baby's watch and a soft green glow pulsated inside of a black background, outlining the shape of Aiden's frame and everything around him. "The more trackers that are on, the more split screens you will get, which is why for now only the A team need to have theirs on." He said nodding at Aiden and the lieutenants. "If you want to focus on a particular person all you have to do is tap the screen in the area of their split screen and it will go full screen. To return to the split screens, double tap it. As you can see there is a second button on the side," he pointed at the second button on the side of the modified iWatch, "That is the alarm button. I didn't want to risk you all having to wear wires, so if you're in trouble, just press it and it'll send an alert to my laptop; everybody good with that?" The crew nodded. "Good. Looks like we're all set to go," he clapped.
Aiden bit down on his back teeth and pulled out a Mora knife blade from a hidden sheath under his jacket. His footsteps sounded heavy as he walked over to the boot of the SUV they arrived in. He opened the boot.
Grimy street lights illuminated the darkness, making Ava blink and squint until her red rimmed eyes adjusted. She'd been gagged, bound and thrown into the back of the car, trapped in the dark, unable to move and crying quietly, warned not to make a sound. Aiden reached inside and slipped the blade under the French bowline knot tied nylon rope that he'd grabbed off of the wall of his play room, along with the leather strapped ball gag he used to keep her quiet.
Once they returned upstairs, they shared a silent, twisted farewell as he got her ready for transportation, taking his time to dress and bind her, making sure that each knot was perfect. Ava hadn't struggled against him or complained, she just sat and watched as his fingers meticulously crafted the intricate knots, holding her breath, gritting her teeth and squeezing her thighs together each time his warm, rough hands brushed her skin. He'd left the Ben Wa balls inside of her. She'd considered asking Aiden to take them out, but she thought she'd miss the heavy thrumming ache in her core -it was the only feeling of them that she could hold onto since he shut off from her.
Aiden noted that Ava hadn't asked him to remove them. She wasn't as good as she thought she was. He was glad that she didn't. With her wrists and ankles bound together, and the leather strapped ball gag to go, putting his hand between her legs into that warm, wet place, and pulling the slick silver balls out of her, witnessing what he knew would be a spectacular reaction, would have been more than he could cope with.
He pursed his lips and yanked the blade against his binding of choice so violently that they sprung apart and frayed.
Ava watched Aiden silently as he went through the motions of enabling her to move again. He wouldn't make eye contact with her, not since he'd brought her back upstairs and informed the rest of his crew that she was being given back to her father. He refused to meet her eyes or say more to her than he needed to as he put her clothes back on and then escorted her to the underground garage. Everything he did felt so mechanical. His motions lacked the intensity he had brought to her before. He was wound up so tightly, and his eyes were so painstakingly empty that she almost believed that she'd imagined everything. It bothered her that he was shutting her out. It bothered her even more that she cared that he was. His intensity had made him almost bearable before; it had been the thing to make her forget herself within those heightened moments, but now she just felt like a piece of cargo been herded from one hell to another. She wasn't sure how she was meant to feel about being handed over. Did she want to be free again? Sure. Did she want to be away from Aiden? Well, that she didn't know yet, but once they met with her father, if all went well, she knew that she would never see him again. A lump rose in her throat.
Aiden let his eyes rise as high as the hollow of her throat. He licked his lips; "I'm going to remove your gag now. If you scream or cause any sort of fuss before I get you back to your father you will regret it. Do you understand me?"
Ava didn't respond. She was angry too with him to be compliant. What almost happened under the dark pulsating lights of his play room wasn't nothing. Ever since Ava came into contact with Aiden, everything that happened between them had inexplicably felt like something, so how could he just pass her over like this? He didn't even say goodbye, or hold her one last time, or even attempt to see if fireworks to rival Disneyland's would spark if their lips touched. God, she bet they could blow Disney out of the water.
Maybe it was for the best. They had no business feeling that thing that they felt for each other -whatever it was. Perhaps it was better to just shut down and pretend it didn't matter, to accept that it was just a fleeting moment in time that would stay there, and never bloom with the miraculousness of a rose that grew in concrete. It was an overly tortured romantic notion to think that someway, somehow, they would survive this. It was just an almost kiss.
"Do you understand?" Aiden repeated.
Why wouldn't he look at her? She needed him to. She needed to see if it was just her caught up in this little bubble of something by herself -it would make it easier for her to cut off her emotions too. His standoffishness had her in limbo and she couldn't bear to go on with this uncertainty any longer. Ava decided that she would provoke him. She would make him look at her. She knew how he hated when she didn't respond, so this was her trade-off; he looked at her and she would answer.
Aiden gritted his teeth. They were wasting time that they didn't have because this insufferable girl wouldn't answer, and he couldn't risk taking off her gag in case she screamed -that would throw everything off -and he couldn't leave her gag on because it would look even more suspicious (and a little kinky) walking with a ball-gagged woman through the heart of London into an abandoned station. "Ava," he growled.
Ava frowned. Aiden never called her by the shortened version of her name, and while she didn't like being called by her full name, she liked the way Aiden said it. It sounded different when it came from his mouth. It was their thing, but he was only pushing her away more. She felt heat behind her eyes and the lump in her throat swell.
"Do not make me ask you again_"
"We don't have time for this." Aiden was shoved out of the way and suddenly the beautiful redhead with the freckled alabaster skin was hovering over Ava. She leaned in close and grabbed Ava by the collar of the white dress, "Listen here, bitch," she hissed with vivid turquoise eyes that reminded Ava of waves crashing violently against the rocks, "We need to get our people back and the only way we can do that is with you returned to your dad, so I'm going to pull off your gag and if you make so much as a peep I will slap the shit out of you, are we clear?" Ava nodded frantically. This girl didn't look like she was playing. In fact it looked like she was itching to strike Ava.
Ash's red lips quirked up in a nasty mean girl smirk, "Good." She pulled her own blade from a sheath in the back of her trousers and slid it haphazardly under the leather strap that lay against Ava's cheek.
The blade sliced Ava's skin as it tore through the thick leather. She cried out in agony as the small red ball fell out of her mouth, and then again as Ash's hand collided with her face.
Red droplets splattered onto Ava's tank top and her once flawless cinnamon skin now had a soon to be scar to match the ones on her wrist, and a busted lip.
Aiden's fists curled around the back of Ash neck as he yanked back her and slammed her against the wall. "What the fuck are you doing?" he boomed.
"My job," she screamed back, shoving him off.
He slammed his palm against the wall next to her head, "You didn't need to do that."
"Well you weren't getting anywhere, and we have shit to do, so I sped up the process. The gag is off and she's agreed not to make any more noise, so we can go now?"
"Look at what you did her face."
Ash looked at the blood running down Ava's pretty face and smiled, "What about it?"
He gritted his teeth and stepped back from her. She was goading him and right now he was considering giving in. "This is Vince Lockewood's kid. We can't bring her to him like this!"
"Do you think Dougie and Keegan are gonna look as pretty as a picture when Lockewood hands them over? She's our prisoner, Aiden."
"She is my prisoner," he growled dangerously, his black eyes glinting like onyx under the streetlights, "Keep your hands off of her." He stormed over to the boot and scooped Ava up into his arms, holding her tightly against his chest before he set her down. He finally looked at her.
Ava's heart stopped and her rattling sobs hitched in her chest. Fuck. He was far too much to behold; this deeply tormented man with a tainted soul and heavily tarnished heart of gold. Everything was in his eyes; it was like staring into the endlessness of the universe and seeing God for the first time.
Aiden scanned her face, the skin between his thick dark eyebrows creasing as he frowned at the small cut. He lifted his hand to wipe the blood away but as he came close to touching her face his hand slowed and he dropped it back to his side. He broke eye contact again. Ava wanted to grab his hand and tell him that it was okay, that she understood why he couldn't go there with her any more, but it would be a lie. It wasn't okay. Aiden would continue to fight what he felt and in a few minutes she would be back with her father and that would be the end of everything.
"Thank you," she whispered loud enough for only him to hear.
Aiden didn't make any sign of acknowledging her. "Ash, Titan, you're in front, I'll follow behind with Ava, and Dani, you cover my back."
They reached the back entrance of Aldwych train station where two of Vince's men were posed out front. The largest one stepped forward, before the group dressed head to toe in black reached them, and held out his hands. "That's close enough." He whistled through his teeth and four more Syndicate soldiers emerged from the back entrance and surrounded the group. "Take their weapons," he commanded. He pointed at Aiden, "You, with the girl, come to the front."
Aiden cocked his eyebrow at the head guard. "You're not taking anybody's weapons," he whipped his Weihrauch Silver Star pistol out and put it to Ava's temple. She yelped as the coolness of the steel pressed into her skin. Aiden had never pointed a gun at her before, and she'd like to believe that this was just for show and that he wouldn't shoot her, but in truth she had absolutely no idea of the horrors that he was capable of. Her legs began to shake. "Now back the fuck up and let us through."
"Nice try," the big guard laughed, "Hand over your weapons." He pulled out his gun and the rest of his men followed suit. The Diamond Mafia mirrored their action and soft clicking sounds rattled the air as they all prepared to fire.
"It's a sad day when the security detail thinks they can fuck with me." Aiden shifted the barrel of his gun from Ava's temple and fired a clean shot right between the eyebrows of the big guards head.
Aiden shoved her behind him, "Get down and stay down," he bellowed as his crew circled around her and let off shots at the surrounding guards. She cowered behind his legs as gunshots, howls and lifeless bodies came crashing to the ground, shaking the earth and shattering the silence of the night. More men came barrelling through the door. She screamed again and covered her ears, squeezing her eyes shut so that she couldn't see the blood and the soulless eyes of the dead staring at her from beyond the black clad legs. She thought about running, but with the bullets flying she wasn't sure it was a good idea. Hidden behind Aiden seemed to be the safest place. For the first time in her life, Ava found herself praying.
The ground continued to quake as more bodies fell, one after the other, not one of them dressed head to toe in black.
"MICHEALS, ENOUGH!" A bullet raced through the air and skimmed past Aiden's head.
Ava's eyes popped open, "Max?" She peered around Aiden's legs and there was her best friend and protector, staring down the barrel of his hand gun aimed at the man who stole her from him.
Aiden raised his hand and signalled to his crew to hold fire. If Vince saw fit to send Yang out then that meant that he wasn't prepared to waste anymore of his soldiers' lives.
"Where's Ava?" Max growled fiercely, his sharp almond shaped eyes darting across the bodies at the Diamond Mafia's feet, hoping that he wouldn't find her in the wreckage.
Aiden narrowed his eyes at Yang and cocked his head to the side, "She's right here." He reached down and hooked his arm under hers, hoisting her to her feet.
Max's eyes widened at the sight of her, his expression a mixture of relief, remorse and rage. Her clothes were dirty, her lips was busted and swelling with a deep purple bruise forming around it, her face was bleeding and her wrists were red and scabbing over. He wanted to run to her, sweep her up into his arms and never let her go, but he knew that until Aiden released her that that could never happen, and with the high risk trade-off waiting to commence below, there was a chance that it never would. Max tightened his grip on his gun. "Hand her over," he snarled.
"That's not how this goes," Aiden held her tighter and pulled her closer to his side. "First I get my people back, then you get the girl. Now, lead the way unless you want to join your friends."
"Lower your weapons."
"No, I don't think I will," Aiden pointed the gun back at Ava, "You lower yours."
Max gritted his teeth and slowly lowered his arm. He already had Ava's abduction on his hands, he wasn't about to risk her death being on them too, not when he was this close to getting her back.
"So the rumours are true," Aiden muttered, surprised by how easily Max conceded. Ash was right; Yang had a thing for the boss's daughter.
"Oh no," Aiden smirked, shaking his head, "They will, but not me. I'm having way too much fun watching you bitch up." The rest of the Mafia lowered their weapons. "That's the best you're going to get lover boy, so let's not waste any more time. You want your girl back and I want my brother and my best friend," he waved his gun at the door, "Let's go."
Right, so Aiden's about to come face to face with Vince Lockewood. So many things could go wrong -isn't it exciting? *claps hands* It's all going down in the next chapter.
We all know Aiden is going to lose his shit, so my question is, what you think is gonna happen to Ava-Marie?
Hope you enjoyed that chapter. Please leave your comments below (your feedback helps A LOT).
Fancy your steamy romance more visual? Watch the complete first season of my hit web series, Unfamous (as seen in Teen Vogue) click the image below: