I see something in you, I know that it's crazy 'cause girl I just met you
But we joining forces 'cause that would be gorgeous, no girl, I won't let up
I just rolled the dice so no more thinkin' twice, destiny she won't fail us
If you feel what I feel can you just keep it real
Baby, it ain't no pressure
Aiden swerved into the car park of the diner and sprung out of the car before it had even come to a complete halt. He bolted down the narrow alleyway on the side of the restaurant, where he’d last left her, hoping to see a coil of candy pink hair, praying that Mighty’s technologically enhanced iWatch on his wrist was wrong.
“Ava-Marie?” he called into the still of the night when he saw no signs of her. He gritted his teeth and looked back at his wrist. The green pulses of his sonar tracker showed Ava miles away, so far that he couldn’t estimate how long it would take to track her down.
His heart tremored uncomfortably.
She really was gone.
He sprinted back to the car and took off in the opposite direction he was meant to go, back onto the M1, pushing the engine well over the speed limit as he dialled a number into his latest burner phone.
“Mighty?” his breath rushed out of him the moment the ringing stopped.
“Boss, you okay?” Mighty frowned into the receiver. The unfiltered concern in his tone made Aiden clear his throat and take a slow, hushed breath.
“Ava-Marie is missing.” He said steadily, “The tracker shows her miles away on the M1. She’s moving fast. She has to be in a car. Before I do anything, I need to know what kind of car.”
“You think feds got to her?”
“I hope not. Find her coordinates and access the cameras so I know what I’m dealing with.”
“I’m on it.”
Deft fingers clicked frantic rhythms across the keyboard.
The silence on the line that followed felt like saying goodbye to an old acquaintance, then walking in the same direction and realising that you might have to hold another awkward conversation. “It’s just loading now.” Mighty filled it.
“The M1 has a lot of cameras, so you know…”
Even more silence.
Aiden didn’t bother to reply. He was tightly wound as it was and this unnecessary small talk with Mighty was only winding him up further. He wanted answers, not idle chit chat.
“I’ve got eyes on her,” Mighty said finally, his voice lighter, “Good news, she’s not in a police car, so we can rule that out.”
Aiden almost relaxed into his seat. “Bad news?”
“It’s not necessarily bad…it’s…interesting. The Lockewood girl is alone.”
“Alone?” he frowned. He was sure that if she wasn’t in a police car then she must have hitched a ride, after all she was a sheltered rich girl and it was the most naïve option, so he didn’t imagine she’d do anything else -except, it appeared she had. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Why was this girl set on making a complicated situation even more complicated that it had to be? Once again, he was trying to avoid the police, but now instead of picking her up and getting the hell out of dodge as he’d planned, he had to chase after her to stop her from fucking up what little progress they’d made.
“Yes. Alone. And she’s singing.”
Ava sped down the motorway and screeched The 1975 at the top of her lungs. Her voice sounded like a drunken parrot, and did the song more harm than good, but she didn’t care. It felt good to lose herself in her musical interlude and pretend she was just a university student obsessed with Matty Healy again. It felt good to head bang and do poor air guitar impersonations like she used to do with her friends back in their dorms as they were getting ready for a night out.
“He’s got his gun. He’s got his suit on. She says, ‘Babe, you look sooooo cooooool_”
A horn blowing at her from the car in the next lane snapped her out of her concert.
She immediately stopped dancing and screeching and sat up straight, pretending that she had never been doing that, because despite what she was singing, she looked far from cool.
Her head snapped to her left. “No fucking way!”
There he was, Aiden, keeping pace alongside her. Livid. She felt all of the lightness rush out of her stomach and her body grow heavy with the weight of the shackles she thought she’d broken free of.
“Pull over. Now!”
“No,” she whispered to herself. She slapped her palms against the steering wheel, “No, no, NO!” She hit the wheel even harder, then glared accusingly at the skies, “I was free!”
She smashed her foot down on the accelerator and the Volkswagen lurched forward.
Aiden’s jaw tightened, “This gyal must think I’m ramping with her.” He shifted gears pushed his car faster.
“One last chance. Pull over.”
She gripped the steering wheel, gritted her teeth and muttered a string of profanities that Aiden couldn’t make out, and leant forward as if sheer determination would enable her to outrun him, even though fate clearly had other plans for her.
He sighed and pushed his car faster than he knew the VW would go, thankful for the late night and empty roads. He swerved in front of her and swung his car around so that it sat horizontally, blocking both of their lanes.
Her foot slammed on the break and the tires screeched against the tarmac. Before she could think to swerve into the next lane, Aiden whipped out his gun and shot the front tires. He heard her curse words this time. It was a strange comfort. He’d grown used to her swearing at him as of late. He tucked his gun into his harness and marched over to her door, only to be met by the barrel of the gun he’d given her.
His eyes flashed. “Put it down before I put you across my knee,” he growled.
She opened her mouth then closed it. It had been a while since he’d said anything remotely sadistic or had been this openly angry with her. It coaxed beloved unwanted memories to the surface.
She rolled her shoulders back, put her other hand on the gun and pointed it at his face, “How did you find me.”
Bent at the waist, Aiden brought his face level to Ava’s and looked past the gun. “You knew I would find you. You wanted me to.”
She broke eye contact.
“I didn’t want you to find me. I was hoping they’d kill you.”
“No, you didn’t.” He moved closer. “You’re mine, Ava-Marie,” his eyes slid slowly down her neck to her rose gold collar, “So I will always find you.” When they flicked back up to her, steeled with his solemnity, she swallowed. “Always.”
His promise intertwined seamlessly with his threat and made her heart constrict…and flutter.
Ava flexed her fingers around the handle and pressed the tip of the barrel to the small gap between his brows. He didn’t flinch. “I did. I made it this far without you, Aiden. I’ve proven that I don’t need you. I can take care of myself.”
“I can see that.” Despite his anger, the corner of his mouth turned up into an almost smile. He carefully pushed the gun down. “How’d you get the car?”
She looked away, “I stole it.” Her cheeks turned red at the thought of poor Roy deserted in the middle of the field.
His smile broke through in a full-on eruption of white teeth. “That’s my girl,” he said proudly.
“I’m not yours, Aiden,” she sneered, lifting the gun back up, “I haven’t been yours for a while.”
He pushed it away with more force, and scoffed, “What? Because of your tantrums?”
Her eyes widened, “Tantrums? You think these are tantrums?”
“You think they aren’t?” Aiden reached to open her car door and she hit the lock. He frowned, “Open the door.”
“Fuck off,” she glared at him.
He reached inside the car and flipped the lock off but the moment he let go she flipped it back. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re behaving like a brat.”
“You’re not taking me seriously.”
“You’re not doing serious shit.” He kissed his teeth and reached in again, then yanked the door open before she could repeat her counter action. “Let’s go.”
“I stole a car_”
“So, you stole a car, big whoop! Now you’re a criminal. Maybe now this means you’ll finally get off of your holier than thou bullshit. Now can you come the fuck on, the police are coming.”
She slumped forward and banged her head on the steering wheel, “This is exactly what I didn’t want.”
“So you stole a car?”
“Don’t say it like I’m stupid!”
“Maybe if you didn’t act like you were_”
She jumped out of the car and barrelled into him, driving hm back, her face contorted in fury, “How did you find me?”
“I knew you’d head back to London. That’s what a stupid person would do.”
“If you call me stupid one more time_”
He stood taller, “You’ll what?”
As her gun went back up Aiden matched her action. She stilled. “We’ve both got guns, Ava-Marie,” he tilted his head to the side, “Now what?”
She looked from him to his pistol, then scoffed. “You won’t shoot me.”
“You’re getting on my nerves, and we both know how impulsive I am.” He stepped into her gun. “But to be honest, I really would rather put you across my knee.”
Ava edged back, her pulse spiking and her skin warming at second mention of it. “You wouldn’t dare.”