REDEMPTION (Book One: The London Crime King)

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Liam

I stuff my hands into my trouser pockets and lean against the bricked wall behind me.

Alexa holds out her split palm to Nate while he bandages her cut. "All done," Nate assured, leaving her at the venue's entrance, returning to my side. "What the fuck just happened?"

I watched her subtly. "I don't know."

Nate scratched his jaw with his knuckles. "Do you need me to hang around?"

I shook my head, and he left, jumping into a Bentley with some of my men in tow. I kicked myself away from the wall, closed in on Alexa, wishing she'd look at me or reassure me at best.

Her eyes are bloodshot from endless tears, face pale and blotchy.

Not bothering to speak, I grasped her arm and coerced her into limousine backseats. She scampers furthest away from me, pressed up against the window.

I settled onto the leather, cracked the window down mid-way and sparked a cigarette. "You going to tell me what happened?" I mused, respiring a veil of smoke. "Alexa?"

Despondent, her eyebrows drew into a tight frown as she examined her fingernails.

"Did I trigger that?" I asked, leaning forward, unsure how to break through her iron armour. "Did the violence bring some heavy shit back?" Nothing. Not a word. "Alexa quit fucking ignoring me and answer the question."

"There's nothing to say," she said in a soft voice, cheeks the colour of crimson. "It happens sometimes. I don't know why you're shocked, Liam. You've witnessed my freak episodes enough times to understand."

"That's a fucking bullshit response," I fired back, and she glared at me. Good. I'd rather fierce strength. I can't deal with the unresponsive, timid and frail. "You closed up again, right? It's what you do when everything becomes too much. You shy away from it—hide."

"Asshole," she murmurs under her breath, mouth resting on a closed fist. "How long until I am home? I am tired."

Outside the high command, the driver kills the engine. I flew out first, and Alexa almost joined me until she comprehended our vicinity. "I don't live near the Thames," she said, sinking back in her seat. "I didn't even hear half of what happened tonight, Liam, so discarding me is stupid—"

"Shut up," I berate, yanking her protesting body out of the backseats. "Quit fighting me, Alexa—"

"No, Liam. Please," she protests, fighting my hold.

Glimpsing toward the penthouse building, I grasped her jaw, fingers pinching her hollow cheeks. "Enough."

I have never done this before. Yes, I fucked a lot of women, but that's all it was—meaningless fucking. I don't do the whole holding hands and cuddling shit. A woman's lucky if I kiss her on the mouth. My cold behaviour is not only to protect myself, but it's to ensure I don't give women false hope. Yet here I am, with a woman that's been fucking with my head for months, holding her hand as we enter my private home.

With that thought, my fingers tightened around hers.

The reason I initially chose the penthouse suite was—not for its luxuriousness—for the balcony. It provides me with a great view of the Thames. Some might say, it's callous of me, overseeing that river like a vicious hobby, knowing the number of bodies swimming with the fishes—bodies I put there. It's quite the opposite, though. The views from the balcony are phenomenal. I get to watch the best parts of London.

I dragged Alexa's disputing ass through the rotational double-doors and stepped straight into the elevator, pressing the button to the top floor.

Alexa released my hand, hugging herself protectively. She sucks her bottom lip into her mouth, head dropped back, examining the lights above us. I take her vagueness as an opportunity to scan her body. "Is this your home?" she asked, and I remained tight-lipped.

The woman wears the sexiest red dress, flaunting her mile-long legs. I love the colour on her. It's fucking sinful, tight in all the right places.

"Follow me," I instructed, exiting the lift onto my private floor. I came to a stop, glimpse at her over my shoulder. "Alexa, that was an order."

She glued her back to the elevator wall, intimidated by night security safeguarding the floor. I retracted, and her eyes bulged. "No, Liam," she holds out her hands, "I am not leaving this lift—" I picked her up and threw her over my shoulder, "Oh, God! Put me down, you fucking caveman!"

I swiped my front door with a key card, ignoring her pathetic slaps to my ass. Entering the luxurious penthouse, I descend the few steps space adjoining the living quarters—open plan kitchen and dining suite—reached the U-shaped sofa and plopped Alexa's kicking body onto the white leather. "Enough," I scold again, admiring her exposed legs and flushed chest.

Alexa bolted upright, yanking satin over her thighs. "I want to go home."

Beneath the wall-mounted Muhammad Ali painting, I tossed my keys onto the high-gloss dresser, unclipped my cufflinks, lost my suit jacket. "Are you ready to tell me what happened tonight?"

She blinked, dismissively turning her head to the side.

Moving onto the balcony, I pulled out a cigarette, balanced it between my lips and light. I snatch a drag and blow smoke ribbons toward the night sky.

I hear Alexa's heels echoing behind me as she looks around. Tonight is the first time she's come here—the first time I brought any woman here, for that matter. The penthouse is my private home. Very few people know it belongs to me. It is my safe haven. Somewhere I can rest and switch off.

Cars speed over the bridge, commuter boats drift along the river and Big-Ben strikes in the distance, indicating its midnight. This is the earliest I've ever returned home, not that I'm here often. Most of my time is hauled up in the office.

"It's beautiful out here, isn't it?"

I faced her, settling my back to the glass balustrade.

Alexa stays in the doorway, gazing at the river.

Drawing one final drag, I respire smoke, out my cigarette, watching as she cautiously drifts toward me. Her hand touched my chest, and I swallowed thickly.

Alexa' s never forward with me. It's been on me to instigate any moments we've shared. This time, if she wants me, she'll need to push past coyness and make a move.

"This is a great place, Liam," she whispers, hand to my shoulder, gripping my neck. "It's very you."

I refuse to speak.

Alexa brings herself closer, pushing up on her heels. Her lips touch mine softly, and I close my eyes, holding back—she relinquished, stepping back, lowering her hand.

It infuriates that she'd give up so easily. "Alexa," I said harshly. "Do you want to talk about what happened tonight?"

Her eyes locked with mine. "You Know what, Liam? No, I don't. I don't even know why you dragged me to that stupid function. I knew it wasn't a date, but I never thought you were using me for business..." She faltered, chewing the inside of her cheek. "You used me."

"I asked you to accompany me," I said calmly, pleased to see she has some fight left in her. "I wanted you beside me."

She laughed bitterly. "As your escort."

"I don't remember making a financial exchange."

"Oh, then I guess I'm a cheap date. Free service and maybe a fucking blowjob at the end, right?"

Is she fucking serious?

I opened my wallet and brandished a wad of cash. "Here," I chucked them onto her palm, "for your service."

She unexpectedly slapped me across the face. My head whipped to the side on impact, and rage instantly simmered in my ice-cold veins. I caught her panicked inhale before she flings money in my face. "Keep the money," she gathers her dress trail, storming indoors, "you fucking asshole!"

"You put your fucking hands on me." Hands curling into fists, I marched in behind her. "You think you're fucking tough now, huh?"

Alexa beelined the door. "Screw you, Warren."

I was on her in a heartbeat, slamming her back into the wall. She inhaled a harsh breath, but her chin maintained high defiantly. "You hit me," I said huskily, positioning my hands astride her head. "I have killed for less."

"Then fucking kill me, Liam," she retorts, hands forcefully jolting my chest. "I am sick of living like this—constantly walking on eggshells while you bide your time." In warp speed, she stole the Eagle from my trouser waistband, thrusting the barrel under her chin.

"Don't you fucking dare," I yelled, snatching and bending her wrist, flinging the gun to the ground. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Why not?" she challenged, her chest heaving, misted in sweat. "It's inevitable, right? You'll get bored of me eventually and toss me aside like the worthless piece of shit that you think I am!"

Letting out a baffled growl, I squeezed her jaw. "I don't think you're worthless."

"You used me," she whimpers, her voice breaking. "You don't give a shit about, Liam—"

"I didn't use you, Alexa," I stressed, resting my forehead on hers. "I wanted you with me."

"For what, Liam? To look good on your damn arm," she prattled on, "so that you could bait that fucking—fuck!" she shrieked, blindly slapping me. "Stop it! Stop it!"

I faltered back, dodging her senile blows. Never in my life have I been so confused. "Alexa that's enough!"

Breaking into hysteria, she slides down the wall, sobbing onto her knees. Her inconsolable cries reverberated throughout the penthouse.

I drop my head back and study the ceiling, hearing nothing but her heartbreak. "What is this really about?"

"I don't have to answer you," she hiccupped. "I answer to no one."

"You've hit me. You've yelled at me, and you've put words in my goddamn mouth," I remind her, the vein in my neck throbbing. "I am entitled to know what the fuck you're accusing me of."

"Fuck off," she snipes, wiping her cheeks.

I blinked at her brazenness. "What did you say to me?" She staggered to her feet, heading to the door. "Where the fuck are you going? We're not done here."

"I'm not doing this," she snarled, hand landing on the door handle, "whatever this is—Liam!" I put my chest to her back, fusing her to the closed door. "Let go of me!"

I brushed my fingertips along her arm, entwining our fingers together. "We're. Not. Done."

She fights for all of two seconds, breathing out exasperatingly. "I want to go home." Her sad, pleading voice left an ache in my chest. "Please let me go home."

My other hand finds her stomach, and I keep it there. "You're not going home," I whisper in her ear. "I want you to stay."

Alexa's face softens and, for a short duration, I thought I'd calmed her down. "No. I can't handle a man like you—you're ruining me, Liam. I am already fucked up, and you're adding to it. I can't think clearly around you. I can't function when you're near me—"

"Alexa..."

"No. Liam, please," she cries, face scrunching up in frustration. "I need to leave."

"No." I stand my ground.

"Why do you even care?" she screamed, spinning in my arms, glaring up at me with such devastating despondency. "Can't you see that I'm not worth this shit? I'm broken, Liam! I'm fucking broken!"

I've had enough. "You're not fucking broken!" Before another protest escaped those pretty lips, I fisted her hair and shut her up with my mouth.

Alexa

Liam growled, snatching my hair, wrapping it around his fist. "You're not fucking broken!"

I open my mouth to tell him he's wrong, that he doesn't know or understand me, but Liam doesn't give me a chance to respond. His mouth comes crashing down on mine, hot and demanding.

I stand still for a second, not entirely sure that I should pursue this. I am terrified that he's going to hurt me.

"Kiss me back," he grunted into my mouth, hands fastening on my hair. "Alexa, kiss me."

I am not Kathy. I don't think casual will work for me, but how can I be sure without trying? Liam mightn't care for recurring sex. It could be this one time.

Can I handle a one-night stand?

I want someone like Liam to remove my captor's dirty hands from my body. No number of hot showers were ever enough. It'll take a real man to rid me of those bad memories and replace them with good ones.

I'm beyond attracted to Liam. I knew I was in trouble the very first time he captured me with those all-consuming blue eyes, so stop fighting this, Alexa. Forget about concerns and let yourself immerse in him.

My breathing calms, and I melt in Liam's arms, completely offering myself to him. His hands grasp my cheeks, compelling me closer. "I want you," he groans, biting into my lower lip, backing me against a sideboard. "Alexa."

"Liam," I gasped, clinging to his shoulders. "Take me."

He abruptly tore through my dress, ravishing my neck with open mouth kisses. The material pools around my feet, but I didn't need to step out. He gathered me into his arms, mouth devouring mine.

I wrapped my arms and legs around him as he sightlessly meandered through the penthouse, toward his bedroom. "Fuck." My back hit another wall. "I could fuck you right here." One arm reaching behind his back, he removed my shoes, and they hit the floor with a loud bang. "Hard," he rasps, teeth grazing my neck. "Deep. Fast."

Oh, God. My fingers grappled his hair.

Liam unlocked a door, carried me over the threshold, kicked it behind him, shrouding us with darkness. He dropped me onto a mattress, eyes holding mine as he eliminated his shirt.

I almost concealed my breasts but remembered his previous words. He wanted to see me—all of me. My arms fell on either side of my head, and I caught my breath, seeing his muscular arms and chest so vividly for the first time. As he unbuckled his belt, I lowered my gaze to his impressive abs, marvelling at that glorious V-line.

Chucking the belt on the floor, he drags down his trousers and black boxer briefs, and that's when I made a great mistake by examining his rock-hard, glabrous shaft. It's too big, so hard and ready.

I looked away, quelling an alarmed whimper, thighs clamping together automatically. No way is that fitting inside me.

"Alexa, stop worrying," Liam said as if reading my mind. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Somehow, I find that hard to believe.

The mattress dipped as he climbed over me, gently taking my jaw in his hand. He searched my eyes before his lips claimed mine, tongue delving straight into my mouth, stroking.

Fingers lacing through my hair, he tugged my head back, kissed and sucked my throat.

Hand curling around my lace underwear, he tore them off my stiff legs. Those rough palms flattened over my thighs, coercing me to relax and part, expose my soaking sex.

Feeling bare in front of him, I attempt closing my legs. "Don't hide from me, Alexa," he said roughly, gliding his hands behind my knees, opening me fully.

Aquiver with both desire and nerves, I shut my eyes, choking on a sharp inhale when his tongue flicked between my swollen lips. A muffled moan fell from my lips, arms extending above my head, hands fastened onto the iron headboard.

He held the backs of my thighs, opening me further, sucking me hard. Easing two fingers into my needy cleft, he searched for my G-spot, knuckle-deep, tongue teasing my sensitive clit, tasting, groaning his approval.

My spine anchored off the mattress, and his hand clamped down on my stomach, keeping my hips low. "Baby, enjoy it."

I am soaked for him. I can hear my wetness as he pumps those fingers in and out, building me to orgasm. "Liam," I moaned, perspiration misting over our skins.

Liam withdrew his hand, individually sucking my arousal from his fingers. "You cum with me." He leaned over me and searched his drawer for protection. Tearing through the foil wrapper with his teeth, he grasped the base of his angry shaft, rolled down the condom.

Okay, this is happening. I am ready—have been for a long time. I'll likely regret this, but uncertainties aren't enough to stop him from going further. I want him too much to protest.

Bracing an arm above my head, Liam lines up his cock ready to fill me. He hesitates, eyes seeking mine. I'm not the only one concerned about repercussions once we finish.

I twirled my fingers around his chain, tugging him in for another kiss. "Don't stop." He began pushing forward, and I fought for breath. It's too thick. "Liam—"

Before I can over-complicate, he shoved into me, deep, making me accommodate his entire length.

"Liam," I cry out, fingernails tearing down his spine, overwhelmed by his burning invasion.

He waits a few seconds, allowing me to adjust then starts moving, slowly riding back and forth. His mouth trails over every inch of my face, kissing me softly, down my jaw, over my chin, until he finds my lips again, tongue lazily sweeping into my mouth. "Fuck," he growled huskily, pumping into me at piston pace.

Through hooded eyes, I cling to his powerful body, belatedly noticing the mirrored ceiling. Awestruck, I witness the muscles in his back bunching together, the cords in his arms tighten as he caged me beneath him. The gold chain around his neck, glimmering. He nudges one knee into the back of my thigh, prompting me to open up further, backside clenching with every sharp thrust.

Watching him fuck me is erotically arousing.

His teeth dragged my earlobe. "Like what you see?"

I am too turned on to answer. I grab a fistful of his hair and drag his mouth back to mine.

"Fuck, Alexa." Hand snatching my hip, pinning me beneath him, he thrusts into me, hard but careful. "That's it, baby. That's it."

Liam is holding back, treating me like glass. I don't want softness. I want him to take me and fuck the demons right out of me.

"Harder, Liam." My fingernails dig into his ass, coercing him to go deeper. "Fuck me, hard."

"Baby, don't talk like that. I can't handle it." He slams his hips into me. Hard. Fast. Deep. The sounds of our slapping bodies imitating around his bedroom, the headboard banging into the wall.

I need Liam to claim my body.

I need him to remove the bad and replace it with the good.

I need him.

Feeling brazen, I force him onto his back and set my knees on either side of him.

He looks surprised but doesn't comment, hands on my hips, helping me ease back onto his shaft. I slide down and regret my bold decision. His hands tighten, thumbs making lazy circles to my hip bones. "You sure?"

I don't want to be a disappointment.

Setting my hands on his chest, I bury any negative thoughts of me not being good enough and make him see me—only me. I study his face for reactions, learning what pleases him as I roll my hips.

Hissing, his hands smooth across my ass, clinging to me as I slide up and down his length. Feeling elated, I continue to work his cock, ass cheeks slapping against his thighs, gaining myself throaty groans.

"Alexa." He sits up, yanks my legs around him, causing me to sink onto the base of him.

"Shit," I panted into his mouth, arms enveloped around his shoulders.

His eyebrows cinched as he breathlessly met my thrusts. He holds my waist in his calloused hands, keeping me low on his shaft, burying himself.

"Liam, I'm close," I groan, sensing that pleasurable sensation rising.

Repositioning me onto my back, he kneels between my thighs, stretching my legs further apart and sinks back into me. "Fuck, your cunt is tight." His harsh, relentless pounding is too much. "Alexa, I need you to cum." One hand falling beside my head, he hikes one of my legs around his waist, hips hammering violently.

"Liam," I whimpered, and something intimate passed between our gaze as I came undone, hugging him as if my life depended on it. "Oh, God."

He kissed me, hand latched onto my throat, waves of pleasure rippling through me.

I hit my pinnacle, gold speckles dancing behind my closed eyelids.

His teeth sank into my chin, cock throbbing, emptying on a throaty growl.

He came with me, I thought, head nestled into the groove of his neck.

Liam brushes my jaw with his lips. "Did I hurt you?"

That was more than I'd ever imagined. His concern brought tears to my eyes. It's done. I've officially replaced my monster.

I dropped my head to the pillow and again, something intimate exchanged in our heated stare. "It was perfect."

His body seized up in my arms. "You know this was just sex, right?"

Yes, I'd prepared for dismissal, but hearing him say it while still being inside me was a low fucking blow. "Did those words actually leave your mouth?"

He eased out his cock and collapsed onto the mattress beside me. "Alexa." Rubbing his hands down his face, he stifled a frustrated sigh. "You looked..."

"Happy," I bitterly spat. "You're pissed off because I looked happy."

Liam stares at us in the ceiling, refusing to answer.

"Yes, for a moment, I was pleased, Liam. But not for the reasons you so cockily presumed." I threw my legs over the bed and stood, wincing from the sharp pain between my thighs. I gripped onto the bedside table. "Fucking asshole," I muttered, not giving two shits if he heard.

The bed groaned as he clambered to his feet. "I didn't want to give any false hope, Alexa. That's all."

I had no right to be angry. I knew evasiveness was a possibility if we had sex. "You replaced a bad memory with a good one," I admitted. "That's what made me happy." I don't care to go into details.

Liam gave me a stiff nod, understanding. His hand finds my hip, and his thumb kneaded me there. "I'm going to take a quick shower." He leans down to kiss me, but before his lips connect with mine, I turn my head to the side, forcing my cheek to him. He stared at me with an impatient glint, deciding to omit sentiments. "Get dressed. I'll drive you home once I've finished." He walks away, closing the bathroom door behind him.

This is how it feels to be one of Liam's conquests. Used and tossed to the side. And to shower within seconds of us touching.

Did he regret us?

Did it make him feel dirty?

I laugh to myself.

Did I honestly think I could be different?

I stare at the messy sheets on his bed and pain locked inside my chest. To him, what we shared was just sex, but to me, the closeness and passion, the way he kissed me, it meant everything. I knew I'd feel like this, demoralised and deflated. That's why I tried to walk away this evening. I'm not cut out for casual. At least I recognise that now.

Pulling out a drawer, I rummage through and steal a white T-shirt that still has the price tag and pull it over my head. I'm not sitting in this room like a desperate woman waiting for her lordship. I might've fallen for the man, I might've made a foolish mistake tonight by sleeping with him, but I will not be thrown out of this building once he's finished with me.

I'll save him the hassle and walk away from this beautiful disaster.

I'll save myself the humiliation.

I grab my clutch bag in the living room, uproot my phone and dial Chloe's number as I quietly close the front door behind me.

I've possibly made the biggest mistake of my life.

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