REDEMPTION (Book One: The London Crime King)

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

Liam

Pete cleaned the kitchen and exited the penthouse, leaving me alone with Alexa. I blew out the candles on the balcony, conveyed leftovers to the bin, filled the dishwasher with dirty plates and opened another bottle of white wine.

Alexa studies the glass unit showcasing vinyl covers and stored memorabilia from my youthful years. "You have a big collection," she said, reading thin spines. "Madness?"

"Brad's favourite." I hand her a wine glass. "Alongside Dexys Midnight Runners and The Proclaimers. He tends to invade my life."

She smiled fondly, nodding in agreement. "Does Brad live with you? He spent a lot of time..." When she lived here, I mentally finished. "In the guestroom."

"No, Brad has a place to call his own, though, he might as well live here because he never bastard sleeps there."

Selecting a case, she smoothed her finger over the small print. "I didn't take you as an Il Divo fan."

"What did you base your conceptualisation on?" I asked, removing the disc, carefully setting it onto the old fashioned turntable. "At what point is a man allowed to appreciate classical music without judgment? Or any music, for that matter."

"I suppose," she concurs, sipping her wine.

"Isabel is my favourite," I continue, hands slipping into my trouser pockets. I watched her watching the disc rotate, and when the baritone voice reached its peak, goosebumps sprouted across her arms.

Alexa swallowed, seemingly surprised by the instrumentals and powerful vocals. "It's beautiful."

"Yes," I said, meaning her. I lift the needle, return the vinyl to its case. "Come." I return to the kitchen, losing my suit jacket, draping it on the back of a stool. "Sit and let me finish feeding you."

"I think I've eaten enough for one night." Climbing onto a stool, she placed her glass onto a slate coaster, admiring the granite island with investigating hands. "I love this feature. You can't swing a cat in my kitchen."

Unbuttoning my shirt sleeves, I roll them up to sit casually at the elbows and extract the dessert from the fridge freezer. "I have quite possibly sampled every dessert under the sun," I said, unwrapping the plastic package. "But nothing beats Tesco profiteroles." I place the chocolate pot in the microwave, set the minutes. "What's your favourite?"

Alexa chewed the corner of her lip. "Lemon sorbet."

I rolled my eyes. "So basically, anything that resembles ice cream."

She flashed me a knowing grin. "Basically."

"Easily pleased." Taking the container from the microwave, I drizzled melted chocolate sauce over our dish, presented. "For you."

Her eyes widened with dramatic glee. "I hope we're sharing." She rubbed her hands together, inspecting each cream-filled ball.

"They're all the same," I deadpan, and she picked the smallest. "I should imagine they equally taste satisfying."

"Aren't you eating some?" she asked, sucking cream from her thumb.

"No, I'm full," I said, and she stared at me in disbelief. "Later."

"You're trying to fatten me up," she jokes, biting into another one. "I know there is a hidden agenda, Mr Warren. You want some meat on my bony ass, right?"

Fuck, I don't even know why I said those demeaning words. Alexa is thin compared to the women I usually pursue, but she has a sinful ass, one I'd like to sink my teeth into. "I don't want you to change." I wipe chocolate from her lips with my thumb, bring it to my mouth for a taste. "I like you just the way you are."

"Thank you," she said coyly, slipping off the stool. "Okay, so I have naughty intentions."

"Really?" I tried not to laugh but failed miserably. "Go on."

Shaking her arms at her sides, she glanced around the room, searching for something. "Oh, God. Why am I so nervous?"

My smile disintegrated. "What's wrong?" I set the glass down, ready to intervene.

"No, Liam." Her cheeks were bright red, chest rising and falling unsteadily. "Okay, I'm just going to—" She grabbed my hand, lead me to the U-shaped sofa. "Can you sit for me?"

Eyes darting from her to the leather, I asked, "What's going on?"

"Okay, remember when I said that I am inexperienced and..." She nervously wrung her fingers together. "Shit. I'm embarrassing myself."

Before she could storm away from me, I captured her wrist, hauled her close and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. "Are you waiting for my permission?" I asked, discerning her predicament. "I am a willing participant, baby. Take whatever you want from me."

Her distressed expression tugged on my heartstrings. "I don't want to disappoint you."

"You could never disappoint me." My words didn't assuage her. "I am not judging you, Alexa. Tell me what's on your mind."

Those watery eyes held mine. "I feel stupid."

"Close your eyes," I ordered, and she obliged, gnawing down on her bottom lip. "Talk to me." Caressing her cheek with my lips, I kissed her warm skin, hands smoothing down her arms.

"I want to recreate the interview," she said quietly, and my heart palpitated. "To rewrite what happened."

"Tell me, Alexa," I probe, unknotting the bow behind her back. "What really occurred at the interview?" I carefully slip the straps from her slender shoulders, freeing her perfect breasts.

With trembling hands, she began to unbutton my shirt, revealing my chest. "I pleased you."

Fuck, she has no idea. "You did please me. I thought about you all night."

"Likewise." That gained me a smile. "At the interview, I wasn't a lousy dancer. In fact, in my mind, I was your favourite."

The corner of my lip twitched. "Are we discussing dancing here or...?" I had no idea where she was going with this random roleplay. "I hope you're not referring to the club women."

Eyebrows knitting, she unbuckled my belt, pulled it through the loops. "In general," she prevaricates, flummoxing me. "I am your favourite in every aspect of life."

"You are my favourite pastime," I admit, cupping her head in my hands. "Now stop doubting yourself and finish this sensuous interview."

Adopting courage, Alexa put her hand to my chest, prompting me to sit down. I sank onto the leather, outstretching my arms across the sofa rear. She opened her eyes and held my dilated gaze as she let the dress fall to her feet. Magnificent, I thought, openly cataloguing her flawless body.

"I kept my heels on," she figuratively explains, descending to her knees—I stopped breathing. "And I pleasured my boss."

"You don't have to do this," I said, those tainted images highlighting why she'd avoided it. "You satisfied me in more ways than I admitted."

Under the aloft light fixtures, those hazel hues looked greener, glassier. Alexa splayed her hands across my thighs, obtaining the waistband of my trousers. I cupped her jaw, thumb circling her cheekbone, reached for the clip holding her hair together, loosened untamed curls, letting them cascade down her back. I eliminated my shirt, tossed it on the armrest; everything else followed until I laid bare for her. "What happens next?" I asked, throat tight, hoarse.

Alexa has yet to look at my aroused cock, but I am too aware of the ache resting against my stomach. Hands positioned on my thighs, she inched closer, looked up at me, and ran her tongue along the underside of my shaft, sending a shiver through my body.

It's been too long since a woman wrapped their mouth around me—having her pretty lips down there only excites me further. I've envisioned this moment, craved it.

She grabbed the base, squeezed, upstroke, thumb smearing pre-cum from my swollen crown. And then she tastes me, tongue flattening against the head, moaning her approval.

The muscles in my thighs bunched together, a satisfied groan fell from my lips, hands gathering her hair, holding it back.

Outlining the veins with her tongue, she ravishes me, parting her lips, engulfing my cock—eyes capturing mine while striving to take me to the back of her throat. "It's a common misconception," I said, regarding her teary eyes. "Women think men need to fuck their mouths to cum, but that's not the case. Your appreciation does more for me than your gag reflex." I lean forward, grasping her chin. "Forget what you think might please me." I hate how much she doubts herself. "Be yourself."

Alexa waits until I sink back, clears her throat and slowly strokes my length. Her mouth closed around me, tasting, sucking, tongue flattening. Pure ecstasy wired through my scorching veins, her beautiful face magnetising my burning desire. My cock twitched in her stroking hand, a bead of cum leaking onto her tongue, which she lapped up with earnestness, losing herself in the moment. She hollowed her cheeks, consumed me further, on her terms, groaned around me, pulled back a touch.

"Fuck," I spat through gritted teeth, cords of muscles tightening in my arms and abdomen. "You're fucking killing me." Her eyes greeted mine once more, and I felt my heart collapse. "Killing me," I whispered, not recognising this gravitational connection we share. "Come here, Alexa."

Evident puzzlement twisted her features. She withdrew, releasing my cock from her mouth with a wet pop. "Did I do something wrong?"

I caught her wrist, tugged her onto my lap. "You're perfect," I rasped, helping her astride my thighs. "I was close."

"Isn't that the point?" she teased, enveloping her arms around my shoulders. "I was looking forward to tasting you."

"I don't want to wear a condom." I dropped my head back, studying her intensely. "I don't want to pull out, either. Tell me you're covered." I want nothing between us, I thought.

"Who said we're having sex?" she playfully flirts, lips brushing my stubbled jaw. "I am not sure if you're worthy of my pussy tonight—Liam!" I abruptly put her back to the sofa, hovering above. "Why must you manhandle me?"

"You love it," I taunt, taking her breast in my hand, tweaking her taut nipple. "And that's the first time you've vocalised explicitness in my presence."

She scoffed. "It's hardly explicit."

"It is for you," I retort, cheeks aching from smiling so hard.

Extending an arm between her thighs, she slipped a finger between her folds, teased her clit. "Would you rather I said, lady garden?"

"Don't ruin this moment for me," I said, amorous seriousness replacing prior merriment. I peppered my lips between the crevice of Alexa's breasts, sucked the tight skin around her navel, hands pushing back her thighs, opening her fully. I whispered against her trimmed landing strip, kissed her fingers. "Part yourself for me."

Breathing out a quivered breath, she parted her lips with two fingers, and I flicked my tongue over her sensitive spot. Silence befell on us as she held her breath, spine curving off the leather, hips shamelessly rocking on my mouth. I held her waist, pinning her back, mouth devouring ravenously, sucking juices from her fingers, lips and throbbing clit. "You're close," I arrogantly point out, swiping my tongue between her cleft. "Alexa I need you to tell me you're covered."

She raked her fingernails through my hair. "I am on the pill."

I gathered her in my arms, carrying her to the master bedroom. I kicked the door shut behind me, cloaking us in dimmed solitude, the London lights filtering through the window.

Collapsing onto the bed, sending the cushions askew, I braced Alexa above me, cock eager, nestled between us. "I got you a late birthday present," I said, hands contouring her thighs. "It's in the drawer."

"You got me a present," she squeaked, leaning over me, yanking open the drawer. "You didn't have to..." The lid popped open, her eyes rounded, brimmed with tears. "What's this?"

I sat straight, back to the headboard. "I purchase similar diamonds for the men," I begin, extracting the necklace from the velvet padding. "Each has a permanent number. When selecting yours, I didn't quite know how to position you in the ranks, so I decided to engrave the label instead." I draped the Cuban micro chain around her neck. It settled beneath her breasts, above her navel, white gold tags encrusted with authentic ice diamonds presented with a ruby halo.

Alexa weighed the tags in her palm, smiling as she read the engraving. "The property of Liam Warren." Overwhelmed, she settled the tags, quietly looking back at me. "Are you admitting that I belong with your beloved men?" I cleaved my tongue to the roof of my mouth, heart thrashing wildly against my rib cage. "Who's marked one?"

"Brad," I confirmed, sparing details. "I didn't give you a number; you don't need it."

"You can't take this back," she warned, tucking hair behind her ears. "It's all mine."

"I don't want it back," I whispered, bemused by her innocuous threat. "This is an extended interview."

"Oh, yes," she said, placing her hands on my shoulders. "Where were we?"

"You were getting ready to ride me—" She bites down on my lower lip, dragging it between her teeth. "Fucking hell."

"This is an intense interview," she breathes, lips separating as she sank onto my length. "Shit." Aquiver with desire, she intentionally squeezed around me, palms declining my chest. "I missed you, Liam."

"You have no idea." I licked my lips, breathing her in. "No fucking idea."

Knees positioned onto the mattress, she rolled her hips forward, lifting up and down my shaft. I hiked my knees, braced my feet, allowing her to sink lower, kept her ass in my hands, fingers kneading, encouraging.

Placing one palm on my knuckles, she slapped her other hand to the wall behind me, hips moving into a steady rhythm, seeking a gratifying momentum.

Her small breasts jerked in front of my face, and I couldn't help but suck one of those nipples, gently biting, hands touring her body, pausing at her waistline.

Alexa delivered, fucking me into submission, our bodies slick with sweat. She combusted above me, cunt strangling my cock, taking what she wants from me.

I captured her spent body, rolled her beneath me, knees nudging her thighs apart, burying myself to the hilt. "You're beautiful," I said, and I meant it. "It fucks with my head."

Hair fanned across the sheet, neck elongated, inviting, I sucked the hollow spot beneath her ear, leaving a territorial blemish, synchronising her thrusts, rocking hard, deep. She ripped her fingernails down my back, and I stiffened all over, hissing, fisting her lustrous hair.

I hoisted one of her silken legs around my waist, repositioned my hips, brain scrambled with incoherent thoughts.

"Liam," she cried, perspiration dusting her forehead.

Chest-to-chest, I embosomed her in the thrall of my arms, fused our lips, dragged another moan from her mouth. I am impossibly hard for this woman, barely sustaining restraint, too close to orgasm. "What I feel for you terrifies me," I confess what's on my mind, and her eyes fluttered open. "I am terrified of keeping you..." In case I fall, hard. "And losing you."

Craning her neck, she looked deep into my eyes, fingers tracing my chain. "Was there a woman before me?" she asked, albeit guarded for my response. "Did you lose her?"

"No." Affronted, I gripped her hand from my neck, lowered it between us. "I never let anyone get this close." Alexa's the first woman to imprint my life. "It's different; you're different." She opened her mouth to respond, and I shook my head. "No," I rebuff, rocking into her. Dropping my head to her shoulder, I fisted the sheet beneath the pillows, listening to her heavy breathing. "Don't say it."

"I love you," she whispered, I shut my eyes. "You can't stop me from loving you, Liam."

Alexa just became my enemies number one target—I selfishly allowed our foolishness to get that far.

Crossing my arms underneath her neck, I put our foreheads together, kissed the tip of her nose. "I am overrated," I half-joked, slowly moving in and out, resolute but restrained. "You'll tire of me, eventually."

"Please don't undermine what I feel for you with facetiousness. Before I met you, I couldn't even stomach a man admiring me from afar, never mind touching me. You helped me overcome so much darkness." Her whisper vibrated against my lips. "You unclipped my wings, Liam."

"Alexa..." Her erratic heartbeat harmonised mine. "Ah, fuck." A shiver contorts down my spine, knuckles whitening as I shoved myself deeper, cock throbbing. I bite her shoulder, hand latching onto her hip bone, jerking three spurts, emptying. "Shit." I pulled out, staggered off the bed, hearing her yell my name. "I'll drive you home."

"No," she protests, unexpectedly snatching my arm. "No, Liam. You're not tossing me aside this time. You came back to me—"

"To stop you from doing something stupid," I barked, ambling toward the living room, snapping on my discarded boxer briefs. "I am a heartless bastard, Alexa, but I don't want you to fucking die—"

"Why not?" she challenged, yanking on my shirt, the material burying her frame. "I am not your responsibility, so why does it matter?"

"This is a moot argument," I said, snatching the whiskey, drinking from the bottle. "We're futilely going around in circles."

"Because of you," she retorts, throwing up her hands in exasperation. "Make up your damn mind, Liam. You either want me, or you don't."

"I am confused." I put my back to the kitchen counter, defeatedly drowning. "Tell me, no," I said huskily, pain enwreathed my heart. "Tell me to leave you alone. Don't let me back in your life, Alexa. Be strong and close the door in my face."

Her glassy eyes blazed with abhorrence. "Why are you doing this?"

"Do you think I enjoy arguing with you? Do you know how hard it's been for me to stay away from you—I've never wanted something so much in my goddamn life. You," I point, the bottleneck in hand, "are a foreseeable death. What better way to bring Warren to his knees than crushing his fucking heart, huh? You wanted some truths from me. Well there you have it," I add smugly, lips sneering into a grimace. "Even with this knowledge, I am not strong enough to stay away from you, Alexa, so do yourself a favour, walk out of that door and don't look back."

Amidst my frustrated enrage, she remained demure. "You love Brad," she whispers, stifling her wobbling lips. "And Nate. I know you do. You treat them differently to the others." Snivelling, she quickly wiped tears from beneath her eyes. "Why is there room for them and not me?"

I chuckled dryly, degrading her with a wry look. "You got your whole life ahead of you—"

"That's not what I asked," she scolds, spearing a hand through her unruly hair. "Stop patronising me, Liam."

"You got it all figured out, right? You think you know me—you think you know my men." I stepped into her personal space, deliberately intimidating her. "You don't know shit, Alexa. Don't let Nate's sagaciousness pull the wool over your eyes or Brad's gregarious coquettishness mislead you. Those men chose to amalgamate with me because they had nothing to lose—nothing," I enunciate, nostrils flaring. "You want to be cognizant of your potential surroundings, Alexa. I found Nate on a street corner with a fucking serrated knife in his hand after he just slashed up his mother. And Brad? You want to talk about Bradley Fucking Jones. That man mutilated his ex-girlfriend—took a fucking iron in his hand and mercilessly caved in her skull just before he murdered his best friend."

She stumbled back, pallid, ashen. "Why are you telling me this?"

"It doesn't end there, not for them, not for me," Bringing the bottle to my lips, I drew a sip. "What choice did they have, Alexa? They were both looking at life imprisonment or noosing their fucking necks. I was their ticket to salvation."

"I don't care," she said fiercely, and I believed her. "I want you, Liam."

"I am not worth your fucking demise!" I spat, the vein in my neck pulsating. "You got your whole life ahead of you, Alexa. Do not settle for my bullshit."

"Why do you assume loving you will cost my life?" Hope pervaded her doleful eyes. "You can teach me," she suggests, nodding vehemently. "Get Nate to train me like he does the men, or maybe Brad can show me how to handle myself," she stuttered, grasping straws. "I can learn to fire a gun—"

"Now you want me to corrupt you," I interject, slamming the bottle onto the counter. "No."

Her shoulders sagged despondently. "Why not?"

"You're not strong enough, Alexa," I barked, candid, regretting the words the second they came out.

"So you lied to me," she said, downhearted, her voice breaking. "I am not a ruthless empowered woman, yet I overcame more than most women do in a damn lifetime!"

"Alexa," I gripped her arms, hauling her to my chest. "You know that's not what I meant. You are incredible—perfect in every way—but you cannot stand alongside me and get inferiors to fucking bow to you. Yes, you suffered an ordeal, and I am proud of all your achievements, but there's a huge difference between overcoming a disturbing past and pointing a gun to someone's head." Defeat washed over her features. "The second the streets of London discern I have a woman In my life is the second I prepare for your premature death. They will crawl out of the woodwork and target you to get to me."

"You don't know my capabilities," she stubbornly persists, whacking my hands away. "You haven't even given us a chance. What if I can fight back? What if I am strong enough? Instead of living in pessimistic assurance, why not test the theory first? I might surprise you—Liam!"

I stormed across the room, snagged the Eagle from the hallway sideboard and flung open the front door. "You," I point to the first guard, gesturing for him to come here, "get inside."

Straightening his posture, he glimpsed toward the men for guidance. "Sir," he whispers, moving past me.

"Stand in the kitchen." Snatching Alexa's hand, I slap the gun onto her palm. "Go ahead. Show me."

Her horror-filled eyes protruded. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"You want to prove yourself?" I jerked my chin to the guard. "Kill him."

He unhinged his jaw, hands raising in surrender. "Sir, I don't want to die."

"Shut the fuck up," I berate, forcing Alexa closer. "Come on, baby. Prove yourself to me. Demonstrate just how fucking remorseless and cold-hearted you can be. Kill without conscience. Kill without hesitation—"

"Liam, this is insane," she cried, trembling with the gun in her hands. "I am not killing an innocent man."

"Fine." I snatched the gun, yanked the hammer back and aimed at his face. "It's not personal."

She slapped me across the face. Heat coursed through my cheek, blood pooling at the corner of my mouth. "You just fucking hit me."

"Leave," she ordered, but he remained rooted, anticipating my command. "Why are you awaiting his approval. Get out before the fucking lunatic puts a bullet in your head!"

"I rest my case." I chuckled, licking the taste of metallic from my teeth. "Get out." Murmuring apologies, he scampered away, shutting the door behind him. "Alexa—"

"You are an asshole." She shoved my chest, impaling me with her shoulder as she rushed past me, bare feet clipping against the tiled floor. "You made your point, Liam. I am not cut out for this lifestyle."

I followed her to the bedroom, expecting to find her half-dressed. "What the fuck are you doing?"

Losing my shirt, she flung it on the carpet, crawled onto the bed and shimmied under the covers. "I am going to sleep."

I was speechless. "You know if I had a psychotic ex-girlfriend? I imagine she'd behave like this." I heard a sniffle and spat a slew of expletives. "Alexa..."

Head behind her hands, she shook her head. "No."

Fuck if this woman doesn't make me weak.

Raising the coverlet, I stretched onto the bed, drawing her into my arms. "I'm sorry."

She recoiled, gazing up at me beneath glossy eyelashes. "I thought you didn't apologise to anyone."

Affirmative. "I seem to be breaking a lot of rules for you."

"Liam," she whispers, thumb eliminating blood from my lips. "I know you're trying to protect me, but is there even the smallest chance you might love me someday?"

I fear that I already do. "I don't believe in love."

"I can love you enough for the two of us." She gave me a reluctant nod. "If you let me."

There was a pregnant pause. "You will agree to twenty-four-hour security," I said, leaving out the cameras and rotational drivers guarding her apartment building. "This means that you'll allow a team member to park outside the Coffee House and your home." She bolted upright in shock, flinging curtained hair across one shoulder. "You will agree to a tracking device on your phone, house keys, handbags and shoes. That way, in the event, something bad happens to you, I can reach you within fifteen minutes."

"Liam..." she extends my name with an infuriatingly piercing chime, straddling my waistline, hands clutching my shoulders. "Does this mean you're making us official?"

I said the unthinkable, "Yes." I curled my fingers around her chain, tugging her lips to mine. "You and me. Nobody else."

She was all smiles, kissing every inch of my face. "Always?"

I stroked her spine with my fingertips. "For as long as you'll have me." She rested her head to my chest, and I wrapped my arms around her, praying my selfishness doesn't backfire. "Go to sleep, baby."

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