And it hurts so bad when you know it
What can you do, love?
When I run again chasing
You know it, know it
If it's a game I call, I'll cheat it
Just what can I do, love?
It's a dance we both do and we know it
We know it, we know it
"We're wasting ammo shooting at this fucking tree," Dougie grunted as he reloaded his clip. "Screw this, I'm gonna go take him out."
Aiden furrowed his brow and stuck his arm out blocking Dougie's determined advance, "I don't think that will be necessary." Long tendrils of ebony tresses danced erratically in the air in the manner of a white flag used for surrender. It was the wig gripped between Ava's fingers.
"I'm coming out. Please don't shoot."
Dougie snapped his fully loaded clip back into place and resumed his battle stance, ignoring the 'stand down soldier' look Aiden flashed him. Where Aiden was blind it was Dougie's job to see what his best friend and leader couldn't or refused to.
"I've got this," he assured him, pushing back with a touch more force.
"I know bruv, but just in case you don't, I've got you, aight?"
Aiden put his hand down and nodded. Ava was harmless but she wasn't by alone anymore and lord knows what Yang had put into her head. All those weeks of progress that they'd made felt like they were dissipating and trickling away like sand between his fingers. He lowered his gun a little "Drop the wig and keep your hands where I can see them."
"Are you going to shoot me?"
"Haven't decided yet," Dougie interjected.
"Dougie..." Aiden warned under his breath.
Dougie smiled his slippery smile and shrugged. He was nothing but honest and extremely unapologetic about it, and when you had the kind of disturbingly accurate, quick fingered temperament as he did, you could afford the luxury.
Ava looked at Max; how on earth was this going to work? He brushed the back of his hand against hers, his skin casting a promise that no matter what, she was going to be okay. It was hard to believe it when the heads of the Diamond Mafia had landed enough bullets in their shield to take down an entire herd of wild animals, which were meant for them, but the certainty that Max exuded made her want to. So she did. She swallowed. "...Aiden?"
"I want to see Yang first."
The faith that Max instilled in her only moments ago shrivelled up in an instant. There was a chance that she could survive Aiden, but not Max. Beyond being his enemy, she knew he wasn't fond of her fondness for her friend. He'd never said it, but he didn't have to. He was an alpha male, possessive and egotistical. That fused with his fixation with her, made Max a threat. "No," she said quickly, her voice coming out panicked. Max's plan was a good one in theory but Aiden was proving to be as unpredictable as she'd anticipated. She was going to have to work off of instinct if she wanted them to have half a chance. "You'll hurt him. It's me you want." She stepped out from behind the bullet-worn tree with her hands in the air feeling the breeze fly past her as Max's startled hands tried to grab her back. Boldly out in the open, her shock of pink hair drew eyes from far and wide. She could feel them on her, taking notice, squinting and studying her features, putting two and two together, their curious voices carried on the wind wondering if it was her, Vince Lockewood's not-so-secret-anymore daughter. This is part of why she'd chosen such a striking shade, so that she would draw attention, so that somebody, anybody would get her the hell outta Dodge. They looked from her to Michaels with his gun pointed in her direction...
...And nobody did a damn thing.
These were her father's men, and nobody came for her. This had to be Chris's doing. There was no other explanation as to why she could be in plain sight in obvious danger and not so much as a step was taken in her direction. Witnessing it only made the pang of unwarranted betrayal that much sharper. Fuck 'em, she didn't need them. All that mattered was her and Max. "I'll go with you, just leave Max alone."
Aiden narrowed his eyes and her and cocked his head to the side in his calculating way, "Didn't I tell you to drop the wig, Ava-Marie?" Now his gun was trained on her. He pulled the clip back.
Ava's eyes widened and her heart shuddered at the sound of war being raged on her. She was certain that having a gun pulled on her would never feel normal or less panic-strickening. She couldn't get how these men and woman of the underworld encountered it so calmly. Either they'd had it happen to them so many times that they were used to it, they had some bizarre unflappable confidence that they would be the survivor of these standoffs...or that the calm was a bold-faced lie. That underneath the mask of their gangster personas, that they were all as terrified as she was. She had to think fast. "I'm sorry!" She threw the wig to the right as if it had caught on fire.
In the few seconds it took for the wig to distract the Mafia leader's attentions, Max sprung from behind the tree.
The bullet pierced right through Dougie's kneecap and the silent killer let out a ghastly noise of a delusional immortal, his disillusion blasted to pieces and the acceptance that he too was just a man forced upon him.
Dougie never got shot.
Ava's slippery hands gripped the spare pistol Max had handed her that she'd concealed beneath the wig, and pointed it shakily at her sweet tormenter.
So this is what I was like to hold a gun. Cold. Hard. Heavy -in more ways than one. It felt dangerous, and powerful...and wrong. She wasn't the type of a girl who held guns, let alone pointed them at people with the intent to shoot. She had the power to take another human's life at the twitch of her fingers and it was even scarier than having a gun pointed at her. This kind of power was bathed in black with a 'NO WAY OUT' sign glaring back at her in the midst of the darkness. There was no way to come back from something like that. She imagined that after killing someone that your soul would be permanently disfigured and that it would haunt you and torment you until you met the same permanent fate as your victim.
It would be easier to point it at Dougie. He hated her, he wanted her dead. Against Dougie, the gun was protection, but Aiden...
Against Aiden her feelings about it was like everything else. Conflicted.
The whites of his eyes blazed bright enough to set fire to his enemies, making the black coffee of his irises more deathly. She'd tricked him and now his best friend had a bullet in his leg, growling through bared teeth as he dropped to the ground and the morning dew on the green grass began to drown in red.
Dougie never got shot. Ever.
The scratching, clawing and incessant rattling against Aiden's ribcage halted. His beast drew back then broke into a gluttonous run, hungry for disaster, and hurtled itself toward the surface at the speed of light and sound combined, crashing through his bones and spreading rapidly like a line of cocaine into the bloodstream.
He pointed his gun at Max.
"Don't!" she yelped, the gun slipping a little between her nervous fingers.
Her sweet, desperate voice halted him. It halted him and he hated her for it. She made him weak and her hated her for it because he kept halting and going against is nature for this fucking exquisitely maddening woman. "Or what, Ava-Marie?" he snarled.
He sounded demented. She was aware of the monster and the situation grew all the more terrifying because he was. That was when the adrenaline kicked in. She copied the stance Max had shown her briefly behind the tree and something like fire tingled in her bones. An understanding. A desire. The lust for power that had driven so many before her was giving birth in her veins. "I'll...I'll shoot you."
She was maddening.
Aiden fixed his gaze on her, bared his white teeth and stormed forward.
"AVA!" Max roared, "AVA, SHOOT HIM!" He would have done it himself but although Dougie was badly injured, he wasn't out of the game just yet. His face flickered between his sinister grin and a grimace as he stealthily dragged his wounded body across the grass to reach his weapon. Max wanted to kill him, but getting rid of Michaels's best friend before Ava was safe couldn't possibly bode well for them. The plan was crashing and burning right in front of his eyes and the feeling of faith fading that Ava had felt was now plaguing him. If Max didn't kill Dougie or Aiden now then he would be dead, but if he did, with the way Michaels was coming for her, Ava would be. He wanted to shoot Aiden but he couldn't afford to take his eyes off of his injured opponent. Wounded or not, this was still Dougie Monroe. "SHOOT HIM!"
Aiden was coming hard and fast. Her hand shakily followed the knotted spot between his eyebrows –the kill shot Max instructed her to take when he'd given her the plan. In her panic at losing this chance to get away, she'd said yes, and despite the fire of desire in her bloodstream, agreeing to kill a man, a terrible man, seemed as simple as it was to let him live. As simple as it was to breathe. His death would be the release of the breath she'd been holding; the one that pressed hard against her ribs and turned her face blue since he'd disrupted her reality and painted it black. But it wasn't simple. It was as complex as their relationship had become, with so much good and evil merged together that to make a final decision made her head hurt and her heart ache. She'd be free...but she'd be a murderer, and then she'd be no better than he was.
She curled her finger tighter around the trigger...
"AVA, DO IT. NOW, AVA!" Dougie was within reach of his weapon. "KILL HIM!"
Kill him? Kill Aiden? Take his life and remember that she did it for the rest of hers.
She turned the gun on herself.
Her had stopped trembling then. The flames of power burned brighter and made her eyes glow. She closed her eyes. She exhaled.
Aiden whacked the pistol out of her hand with such a force that it flew across the graveyard and disappeared into the bushes. The whites of his eyes stood out stark against his black skin, wide with alarm as he yanked her to him. He held her unbearably tightly against his chest, his wild heart thudding against her, gripping her white dress between his bloodstained fingers and burying his nose in her valentine curls. It lasted all but one fleeting moment; the fear of losing her pushing away the escalating violence of his beast...and then he spun with her still clutched to him, to face Max.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The blasts of gunfire were accented by Ava's muffled screams and Max's war cries as Aiden emptied his clip into each one of his limbs, starting with his knees.
She struggled against the solid bulk of his arm, biting and clawing at him with all of the fight she had in her, but he was too strong. She couldn't get to Max. He'd come to save her and even her best efforts wouldn't allow her to save him. Howling and crying, she whipped around violently, her swan song the harmony to the fading sounds of Max's screams. The fire that once graced her veins burned out and turned her whole body cold with ice that spread like a virus until it hit her heart. The last candle that had flickered so precariously in the wind finally went out. It felt like dying.
Max became silent. His blood seeped into the grass and roots of the forsaken willow tree as the stone angel looked on.
Aiden grabbed Ava by the shoulders and forced her to look up at him. He looked different; soul stifled and empty again. The tyrant she knew him to be when they'd first met. And she feared him the way she was supposed to. Whatever small changes her presence had inspired within him were erased. He'd gone back to black.
He didn't utter a word. He didn't have to. Everything that needed to be said was emblazoned across his heart-breaking features.
I am Aiden Michaels.
The weight of his true self had never really hit her until then, and it was crushing and exasperating. He was still a god but not one to be revered. He was Hades incarnate and she, ashamedly, was his Persephone. He'd taken everything from her so that she had nothing but him.
She didn't want him.
"I hate you."
He merely blinked at her venom, unaffected. She had every right to hate him but it wouldn't change anything. He'd made a promise and even if it damned them both he was going to keep it. When all he did was motivated by money, respect, power and heartlessness, there was something noble about at least keeping his word, no matter the promise. He gripped her wrist and marched her over to Dougie's side, blocking out her god awful screaming when her eyes finally rested on Max.
"Can you walk?" he asked Dougie over the harrowing sound.
"I don't know yet?" he said, his fingers nipping at his gun until he dragged it back to him.
Aiden stuck out his hand. "Hold onto me. We're leaving." He hoisted Dougie up and slipped his arm under him for support. Dougie gritted his teeth as the pain shot through his nervous sytem, and growled. "Your sister is going to kill me."
Dougie glared over Aiden's shoulder at Ava; "Good."
Her eyes hadn't left Max. He was barely breathing now. Short, sharp, shallow breaths and the lulling flutter of his eyelids were the only indication that he hadn't gone just yet but that he was close. He looked like he was drifting off to sleep, as if peace was coming to gently whisk him away into an eternal night filled with so many trillions of stars that it would be like re-joining the universe rather than leaving hers. She couldn't bear it.
Aiden yanked her forward and she dug her bare heels into the ground. "NO! NO, I'M NOT LEAVING HIM. I'M NOT GOING WITH YOU. MAX!" she cried so hard that the sound made her voice raw and tears ran like rivers down her face, "MAAAXXX, GET UP PLEASE. PLEASEEEE!"
"Stop it," he snarled tightening his grip on her wrist.
She struggled again but with Dougie relying on him to keep him upright, holding onto her was even harder than before.
"LET ME GO!" She swung at him and her fist connected with the stab wound his mother had given him. Aiden roared and let her go so as not to drop Dougie. She ran to Max, wanting to throw herself across him and shield him from every evil, but as she collapsed onto her knees at his side and surveyed the horrors of Aiden's bullet wounds in very joint his arms and legs, she knew it was too late. "Max, I'm so sorry. I don't know what to do... there's so much blood." Her hands waved over him wanting to cradle him but fearing that she would only make it worse. "Please don't die." He turned his head slowly to look at her and twitched his fingers. She clutched them tenderly, "Your body temperature is dropping. We need to get you to a hospital. Do you have your phone?" She began to pat him down frantically
"Ava..." he groaned.
She stopped and grabbed his hand again. "Yes?"
Before she could process his warning, Aiden came up behind her and jerked her from him. He slapped his hand over her mouth, "Quiet!" his voice was less harsh, "We have to go, now. Say goodbye," he nodded at Max, who despite his dwindling life force, managed to glare at him with as much contempt as any man hold.
"I'm not fucking com_"
"Ava-Marie," he hissed impatiently, "More cars are pulling up and they are not your father's men. Someone let them know you're here." He narrowed his eyes at the Syndicate men wondering who had snitched and vowing to kill them as soon as he had the chance. "They have seen you now_"
"I don't care."
"They will kill you."
He covered her mouth again and flared his nostrils, "Well I do. Come quietly or I'll shoot him in the head right in front of you, and you will never get to say goodbye or get that image out of your head."
More tears blurred her vision as she looked back down at Max. "I love you, Max. You're my best friend and the greatest man I've ever known and I'm so sorry that I wasn't strong enough to do what had to be done." She laid her hand on his chest and her voice broke, "I'll never forget you."
"C'mon." Aiden pulled her away over to the tree that he'd left Dougie leaning up against. They dropped behind them as he half dragged her and half carried Dougie towards Keegan's empty hearse. He hadn't even been able to lay his little brother or Ashleigh to rest. Their coffins lay by the graveside with bullet holes in them and white flower petals scattered around them smattered in blood. He would never forgive the Syndicate for this. No amount of revenge could absolve their continued disrespect, but he would make them pay dearly.
As they passed the bushes near the groundskeeper's house, Ava spotted one of her father's town cars. In the front passenger seat, watching her get carried away was Chris. He looked at his goddaughter without an ounce of concern or discomfort, and when she cried his name in vain, he looked away as if she wasn't even there.
Max was right.
Her heart turned to dust and suddenly the tension in her walk evaporated. She followed Aiden obediently.
"I'm all you've got now." He said it like it was a victory, as if her loneliness was a prize to be won because now it meant that whether she liked it or not the only person who was looking out for her was him.
"I have no one." She said dejectedly.
Poor, sweet, Ava-Marie. A victim of unfair circumstance, forced to suffer over the pride and arrogance of men who didn't deserve to know her.
Dougie fired a shot that did little more than dent the bulletproof glass of the windshield, but was so obviously a kill shot. Chris was forced to acknowledge them then. He locked eyes with Dougie, and Dougie...well, Dougie just smiled.
Ava glanced back one last time at Max lying still underneath the willow tree, his chest still rising and falling, the stone angel watching him from afar.
She squeezed her eyes shut and wished, "Please."
There have been a lot of interesting conflicting conversations about Aiden. Most of you LOVE HIM OFF and the rest of you HATE him. How has this chapter made you feel about him now? Let me know in the comments below.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO CLICK THE HEART AND SHARE TOO, M'LUVS
Till next time, stay slaying for tha gawds, you majestic swan!
Love Scotty x