The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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“Jase,” Sam was banging on the bedroom door. Jase and Madison were making out softly, still semi-naked, his hair damp with sweat. Madison pulled away, laying her head over his heartbeat.

“What?” Jase called, putting his arm above his head and hoping it wasn’t something he needed to move for.

“Ollie’s refusing to pay again.” Jase rolled his eyes, looking down at Madison.

“No rest for the wicked,” she mumbled with a pout.

“You’re fucking telling me,” he muttered back, dragging himself away from her embrace. Madison remained laying in the tangled sheets. The ghosts of his hands still sliding over her body, caressing every curve and angle. The feeling of lightness from her climax echoing from the inside out. She watched Jase as she sat up, pulling the sheets to cover her breasts and taking a cigarette from the packet he had left on the nightstand.

“I hate it when you leave,” she said. He looked at her, smiling as he looped his belt through his jeans.

“There’s always work to be done.” She smiled softly, taking in as much of him as she could before he disappeared again. After he’d pulled a t-shirt over his head, he cupped her chin as he spoke. “I woke be long.” Traces of his velvet lips pressed against hers were all that remained after he gave her a kiss goodbye and left.

“He’s such a fucking prick,” Sam muttered as they got back in the car, counting the money Ollie had eventually handed over. Jase just laughed, lighting his cigarette and ignoring the faint stinging of his bloody knuckles. He opened his glovebox, taking out a cloth and wiping the blood off of his switchblade. Ollie would have a slim scar on his cheek soon.

“I told everyone not to give him tick anymore, I tried to prevent this shit.” He tossed the stained fabric into the compartment, slamming it shut, slipping the tool back in his pocket and pulling his seatbelt across him.

“Oh well, I’m sure he’s learned his lesson now,” Sam said. Jase highly doubted it.

They stopped at the shop on the way back to pick up more cigarettes. They’d been gone for a total of two hours. It was beginning to get dark by the time they got back to the house, walking in, Jase was still chuckling at something Sam had said. The cheery disposition was short-lived when they noticed the atmosphere. It could have been cut with a knife.

Sam and Jase stood in the doorway of the living room. Adam was sat in Jase’s armchair, glaring straight ahead of him. Silently, Jase and Sam looked at the sofa. Madison was sat with tears streaming down her eyes. Her hair was sticking to her face, her wrists were bound with a zip tie and burn marks dotted her forearms. Jase took a slow drag on his cigarette, studying the situation carefully.

“What’s going on?” he asked calmly. His attention flicking back to Adam who was practically frothing at the mouth.

“Your pretty little girlfriend is practically best mates with McKinney,” he replied. Madison didn’t say anything. Jase let the information sink in, his stomach twisting with questions and uncertainty. A weight dropped in his chest.

“Right. So, you did what?” he asked. Adam looked at him,

“Taught her that secrets aren’t a good thing to keep from us.” Jase nodded slowly, staring at Madison again. There was no anger in her eyes like he’d expect from her, she wasn’t glaring at Adam with a burning desire to slit his throat. Instead, she looked empty. Every time she blinked; fresh tears rolled down her pink cheeks.

“And where’s your proof of this?” Jase continued, waiting to see if Adam’s actions towards Madison were justified. After all, Madison was renowned for misbehaving and causing trouble. Adam took something from his back pocket, handing it to Jase. He looked down at it, a picture of Madison when she was younger, with braces and the bob cut she had spoken about. She was sat next to two boys on a brick wall, one of them was clearly McKinney. Jase tried to hide the hurt. Nodding, he put his cigarette between his lips, ignoring the smug look on Adam’s face as he crouched in front of Madison, taking his switchblade from his pocket and carefully pulling her hands towards him.

This was the ultimate shot to his pride. And he knew what he had to do to regain control. No more distractions. Madison looked down at him. She looked exhausted which was understandable. Jase didn’t have it in him to torture her further, he would make it quick. But this was the last straw. If he didn’t kill her and Mitch got anywhere near her, that was everything she knew about the house, the business and everyone in it being handed over to him. He couldn’t have all of that information getting into the wrong hands. She looked down at him, her eyes half-closed as if she was having trouble keeping them open.

“I didn’t know,” she said, her voice was hoarse. Jase had the knife just underneath the zip tie, ready to cut it off when he stopped, meeting her eyes. There were bruises coming up on her cheekbones and her lip was split. He clenched his jaw. “I didn’t know it was him you were dealing with,” she insisted. Jase lifted his head slightly, taking the cigarette from his lips. “I would have told you. I swear.” His instincts told him that she wasn’t lying. She had no way of knowing it was McKinney they were having trouble with; he’d made sure that names weren’t mentioned in front of the girls. As he looked her in the eyes, he pulled the knife through the plastic and it sliced open like butter but he said nothing, standing up and staring down at her. Her breathing was hitched and sharp, like she was struggling as she rubbed at the redness around her wrists.

“Adam, how is she supposed to have known that it’s McKinney giving us all this shit? Whether she is friends with him or not, he didn’t start until after she got here,” he said, blowing smoke out.

“You know what she’s like, it’s probably all some part of a master plan,” Adam replied dismissively. Jase rubbed his lips together, shaking his head.

“You’re suggesting she planned to get kidnapped?” he questioned, knowing that it would be absurd and way too well orchestrated, even by Madison’s standards. “She didn’t know,” he declared, turning to face Adam. “She had no way of knowing.” Kieran, Tommy and Sam looked at each other. It appeared Adam had made a serious mistake. “Sam, take her upstairs,” Jase ordered quietly. Sam helped Madison to her feet and left the room.

“So, are we just going to let this slide? You saw the picture; we can just kill her and get all of this over and done with-” Jase was shaking his head at Adam’s desperate words.

“You don’t know that. If she’s the reason he’s causing all this trouble then he’d have said something a lot sooner. She had no way of knowing we were going to take her, no way of knowing about McKinney. It’s not like she’s infiltrating the house and feeding shit back to him. The fact that they have a picture together means fuck all.” Adam looked uncomfortable and agitated.

“Of course, you’re going to stick up for her, you’ve done nothing else since she got into this fucking house, you’re losing all control Jase, the whole organisation is starting to look like a joke-!”

“Shut the fuck up!” Jase snapped back. Everyone froze. “I tolerate your temper, Adam, your stupidity, even. But I definitely won’t stand for you dealing with something on your own when you don’t know how to use your fucking head.” Adam clenched his fists, Jase ignored it as he continued. “If people have a problem with how I run things then they can come directly to me rather than whispering quietly with each other because they don’t know how to put their dicks down and speak out. You had no right to lay a damn hand on her, even if what you said is true. You don’t run this fucking house, I do.”

“Well, you’re doing a shit job of it right now because of her,” Adam grumbled.

“You know where the door is, I suggest you fucking use it before I do to you what you did to her.” The men glared at each other, Jase silently daring him to try his luck. But he wasn’t brave enough. They all watched him walk out of the living room and slam the front door behind him. Jase turned to Tommy and Kieran. “Did either of you two touch her?” he asked, looking at them each in turn.

“No,” Kieran quickly shook his head, “we even told him to let you deal with it but he wasn’t having it.” Jase nodded, trying to control his anger. The two of them only relaxed when Sam came back down and Jase tipped his head back, taking a deep breath. This was all such a mess. His eyes went back to the picture he’d placed on the coffee table. Clearly there was more to Madison than he had originally thought and it was now time to get it all out of her.

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