REDEMPTION (Book One: The London Crime King)

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Following the epic fail of being kicked out of Club 11, I decided to take a break from my "stalking activities" for a while. Liam Warren disordered my emotions. The only reasoning behind knowing him was to retrieve information on my sister; however, being a young woman, not in control of her hormones, a little breather did my vagina a world of good. I can't allow my attraction towards him to affect my plans.

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about him since he dragged my reluctant self into that small cleaning cupboard. It wasn't just his lustful performance and suggestiveness that fried my brain. It was the way he felt pressed up against me, his hand brazenly on my thigh, lips on my cheek, a touch of whisky on his lips.

As much as I've allowed my imagination to get ahead of itself and believe there's a tiny percentage he might find me attractive, I know his motives were questionable. A mundane girl like me doesn't enchant a man like Liam Warren. He used his charm to chisel inside my head, beguile and distract me, instincts telling him I had ulterior motives.

The man is more perspicacious than I'd initially pegged. He sensed I approved his good looks, and used his appeal against me, deluding me into reducing my guard. I am infuriated at myself for being so damn evident with my attraction toward him. I was seconds away from making a fool out of myself, wanting to know how it felt to kiss a man like him. The fact he had a romantic past with my sister didn't enter my mind when conversating. In that particular moment, I didn't care.

Liam's entire demeanour screams trouble, yet something inexplainable draws me to him. I cannot speak of any man that has stolen my responsiveness to this insane, carnal level.

For as long as I can remember, I have tried and failed to replace my gruesome past with positiveness and potentialities, to immerse in those passionate feelings, butterflies and tender lovemaking.

My sleeping heart hasn't beaten for anybody until Liam.

In all honesty, I don't know how Kathy worked alongside such a captivating man. No wonder she was smitten and falling over herself for him. The man is simply too good-looking. It's not even healthy. Quite frankly, I think it's fucking unreservedly unfair to women.

So, clearing my head and taking time for myself was a compulsory requirement. I needed to think, breathe, consider different options. Be sure I'm in a better frame of mind before approaching him again.

"When will you remove that stick from your ass," Chloe shouts from the other side of the fitting room, "and get that job?"

Even Chloe's becoming desperate for me to land work at the club. Currently, she's carrying the responsibility load alone, settling grocery shopping, utility bills and rent. The settlement money awarded to Kathy and me for compensation is not going to last forever. If I fail to achieve a position and Club 11, I'll have no choice but to look for employment elsewhere and formulate another plan.

"I don't know. I can't be myself around him," I said, pulling a dress over my head, adjusting chiffon material over my body. "Liam makes me nervous."

"Alexa quit theorising it so much and do it. Imagine if Kathy was looking for you." She plays the sister card. "Would she give up?"

Chloe is right. Again. Kathy would've done whatever it took if it meant helping me, so no matter what, I must go through with this. The man might be better looking than I'd anticipated but using that as an excuse is a copout.

"You know what? You're right. I'm going to pay for this dress." It's a beautiful red number. I am in love. "Then head down to the coffee shop and nail that job."

Changing back into my clothes, I head to the till and pay for my new purchase.

"Now, you're talking." Chloe flung two garments next to mine. "Go hard or go home, Alexa."

"I promise I will not come home tonight without that job."


I arrived at the coffee shop ten-minutes before Liam's due to land, ordered myself a latte and settled in my favourite booth at the back of the room.

When Liam arrives, I'll feign shock. I mean, what are the chances of stumbling into each other again? I'm uncertain if he'll fall for my charade, but this time, I'm not going down without a fight.

Through the window, I repeatedly scan the street outside, making sure I see the exact moment the famous Bentley's arrive. Prepared for him, not caught off guard.

I drum my nails on the table as I anxiously wait, glance at the wall-mounted clock: ten past eleven. He's already late. That's not good. He's always on time. Every Friday. Eleven a.m., without fail.

I finish my coffee.

I order another.

My eyes alternate from the window to the clock, hand ticking away along with the minutes.

Where the hell is this man?

He doesn't want coffee today, Alexa. Ever wondered if the man had a life? Perhaps he didn't wish to buy a beverage this morning. Maybe he found a new coffee shop.

Jesus Christ.

My stalker activities are becoming extremely obsessive.

Lowering my head to the table, I blew out a defeated sigh. Liam's cottoned on to my harassing behaviour and determined to avoid me with caution. God knows I would if it were the other way around.

"Who are you waiting for?" a deep voice asked, making the hairs on my neck stand.

"Nobody." I flinch at the roughness in his tone, but I don't lift my head. "Besides, it's none of your business, so off you fuck."

"Really?" The chair groans as he becomes seated opposite me. "I've watched you for the last twenty minutes, and your eyes seldom veered from the entrance. Naturally, I presumed you were expecting someone."

Hmm. I guess I'm not the only stalker in the neighbourhood. "As I said, none of your business. If you don't mind, can you leave? So, I can continue feeling sorry for myself." I still feel him near. "Abscond, asshole. You're killing my mojo."

A pause settled between us. "Are you always this aggressive?"

I decided ignoring him was for the best.

"The name is Liam," he announced, and I withered. "Liam Warren. In case you were wondering."

My heart stopped beating. Please let this be a coincidental experience for me! I raise my head gingerly—possibly with only one eye open, and look at the exceptional tailored man, cheeks burning from humiliation. I don't move, neither do I blink, or speak. I might've stopped breathing. This isn't a coincidental experience because it is, in fact, Liam Warren—the guy I was meant to prepare for—that's taken a seat at my table!

What the hell?

I should have recognised his voice, considering I haven't stopped fantasising over it since that night at the club—under the sheets at night, pleasuring myself with him as my only thought.

Why did I remind myself of venereal activities? Now my cheeks are scorching. If he weren't sitting here to witness, I'd fan my face to cool down.

Liam leans back in his chair, studying me meditatively. "What are you thinking about?"

If only you knew. "Nothing," I breathe out my lie. He burst out laughing, and I stare at him dumbfounded. "What's so funny?"

He looked at me consciously. I'm confident this man knows what's going through my head, judging by radiating smugness and arrogance. "Are you sure you want me to answer that?"

I'd rather he kept his apparent empath abilities to himself. "No." I couldn't handle a conversation of him knowing my secret, naughty thoughts. "What do you want?"

Though he appeared amused, I get the impression that's no longer the case. If anything, he's become cold, distant and impatient with the sheer sight of me. Gaze holding mine, he overturns a laminate menu, taps the corner on the table, waiting.

"Well..." I unclogged my throat, breaking this tongue-tied stare competition. "It's nice to meet you, Liam." I already know his name, though, I'll fake unawareness. "Didn't think I'd be seeing you again."

More lies. Dear God, I'm embellishing a pathological liar!

He clasps his hands together, resting his forearms on the table. "Are you a cop?"

"What?" I snorted. "No!" Is he for real? I wish I flaunted a dutiful badge. "I might consider it, though."

His eyes foraged again. "Well, if you're not a police officer, why is your bony ass following me?"

Bony ass? Ouch. I know I'm not the curviest of women, but I don't believe I'm emaciated either. "I'm not following you." I portray dumb. Puzzlement plastered over my face. "I'm here minding my business, drinking coffee." I point to the empty cup. "See."

"You intentionally bumped into me the first time we became acquainted. Merely a day later, you turn up at my club." How did he know my successful coffee-bump was deliberate? "Then I walk in here today, finding you longing for my presence." His lip turns up in disgust. "If you're not fucking bent, what the fuck are you? Obsessed, stalking, do share."

Ego-fucking-much. My chin hit the floor. "I'm simply none of those things," I emphasise defensively. "More to the point, if you know the details of my weekly activities, doesn't that make you the stalker?" I am totally flipping deceitful roles here. I am attracted to him, but that's a far stretch from obsession, neither do I possess typical stalker tendencies. I am certainly starting to honour that degrading title, though.

"Touché," he said, flinging the menu aside. "However, I am the sort of man that likes to know everything occurring around me. So, if you've adopted some fascination with me, I'm making you aware that it hasn't gone unnoticed. I'm always one step ahead of my opponent, Alexa."

My eyes bulge.

How does he know my name?

"Although it's somewhat cute that you obtained this little girl crush on me, I'll save you the hassle by informing you that I'm not interested." He clicked his tongue. "No offence."

"None taken." Asshole. I played games long enough. It's time for honesty, tell him I required a job and I am not an undercover informant with a death wish. "Okay, you're right." My shoulders sink despondently. "I was somewhat watching you. And it's not because I am experiencing a stupid girl crush, either." I search his face, waiting for a reaction. He doesn't falter. "I wanted a job."

Another unpleasant, cricket chirping moment lingered. "A job," he finally said, teeth clamping together. "That's what all the hounding is about?"

"Yes, someone told Club 11 is advantageous and dancing was monetising." Kathy informed me money-making had no ceiling if you keep punters happy. "Formally and professionally approaching you... It's never been the right time," I lied. I've had ample opportunities to ask and not taken them. "You know?"

"That's why you were at the club." He appears taken aback by my admittance. "You wanted a job."

Did he think I was there for different reasons? My mind starts to race ahead of itself again, speculating all these crazy ideas that maybe he liked the idea of me wanting him.

He tilted his head and examined me with conscious intensity. "I'm not certain you're a definite prerequisite for satisfying clientele."

What requirements are needed to be a stripper? "Well," I gesture to my chest, "I have boobs—"

"Did you refer to your fucking tits as boobs?" He crushed me with one haughty look, sighing exasperatedly. "Not happening kid." Without second consideration, he leaves the booth, eager to get away from me.

"Hey, wait!" I fell off the leather bench, chasing him outside. "Wait!" Near the Bentley, I see Bald Suit rearing his shiny head. "Don't you dare touch me this time, buddy. Next time, I'll take my nails to your dick—castration." I don't await his reaction. I spin around, colliding straight into a wall of muscle—Liam's chest, to be exact—patting him awkwardly, composing myself. "Can we start again?"

He doesn't answer, but he's still standing here. I determine his patient silence as an affirmative. "My name is Alexa Haines. I'm sorry I referred to my tits as boobs. I am a humble and modest person so aimed for politeness. I'll call my vagina a fanny if that's what makes you happy." I don't particularly like that reference, but I'm growing desperate. "Honestly, I need a job. I could do with the extra money as I am struggling financially, and I know dancing could help..." I blew out my cheeks, hair strands blowing past my face. "Please reconsider."

Peremptory, Liam orders his men to get into the impending Bentleys. Once we're alone, he came closer, tall frame intimidating, towering over mine. "What do you do?"

My features tightened. "I don't understand the question."

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're only nineteen. Are you in college? Where do you live? I assume you reside with parents, " he blathered on. "Why would you need a job at my place? If you need part-time work, settle for a restaurant. Flip some burgers."

"I don't attend college." Affronted, I settled my hands to my hips. "My parents are dead. I share a flat with my best friend..." I stare at my shoes, ashamed by how inadequate I am. "I might be young, but I live in the real world—where bills need paying, and life goes the fuck on. Restaurants and flipping burgers don't keep a roof over my head." I pray I said enough to sell my worthless self. "Plus, bussing tables is taxing, right? I'd much rather shake my booty and earn some hefty sterling."

"Booty," he whispers, and I swear he nearly bestowed me a smile. "No-can-do, kid."

Oh, for crying out loud. "Why not?"

"I fucking said so, that's why." He spears a hand through his hair, irritated. "You might live in the real world, Alexa. But you don't live in mine." He eyed me up and down. "And trust me, you don't want to."

Without another word, he turned his back to me, ready to leave.

I idiotically latched onto his suit jacket, urging him to wait. "Please, I'll do anything."

He curtly seized my wrist, viciously wrenching me to his chest. "Alexa, go home," he instructed, the warning in his cold tone corded every muscle in my body. "Go to college. Fuck. I don't know, attend university, excel in life, strive for a well-paid job." His fingers dug into my wrist, and my breath hitched. "Know your worth."

What is that supposed to mean?

I stared stonily at him. "Why do you care about which road I take?"

"Mistaking advice for earnestness is foolish" He released me with an uncaring shove. "Take the fucking hint."

My eyes welled up. "If you'd—"

"I'd never hire a girl like you," he interjects, crimson with fury. "Go home, Alexa. And quit fucking hounding me."

I stood inaudibly, watching Liam slip into his vehicle. I begged him, practically offered my soul, and he didn't budge. The cars accelerated, leaving a cloud of dust around me.

Impassive and disheartened, I inspect my appearance, tugged the hem of my jumper with a childlike pout. Of course, he didn't take me seriously. At Club 11, those women are perfect, attractively tall, curvaceous, beautifully glamorised, confident, and inviting.

I am no Aphrodite, but I didn't think my image was that bad. Liam's preposterous requirements floored me. Kathy managed to get a job the moment she met him. Why would he employ my sister, but not even cogitate possibilities of hiring me?

I consider my appearance and consciousness slammed into my chest. Kathy embodied flawlessness before meeting him. Thus far, I made a minimal effort of enticing him, oversized hoodies, dishevelled ponytails, slouch pants and no makeup.

I eyed the window across the street, marvelled at the mannequins exhibiting sexy lingerie and pulled out the big guns.

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