In Too Deep

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Twenty One

Nova never knew that she had to run for her life, that she would find herself being chased by people with guns to kill her. But here she was, running through a forest with a man almost as dangerous as the ones behind them. A man who was running with her, holding her hand securely as they fought to stay alive.

Her hair whipped back and forth behind her as they sprint deeper into the forest. They had no clue where they were, nor did they have any idea where to go. The pounding noise of gunshots in the air matched her heart throbbing inside her chest with fear. The forest hummed with life around them; twigs and leaves cracked under their shoes.

Vicious wasn’t willing for them to stop, and Nova was not a fan of the idea either considering the men were almost catching up to them. They had nothing to defend themselves with. They were outnumbered.

Her feet slipped, and she almost tumbled over, the breath knocking out of her, but Vicious was fast and caught her before she could fall to the ground. He didn’t stop to ask if she was okay, which she perfectly understood. They couldn’t afford to waste any time. They could hear yelling and screaming of the enemies as they followed the same path. Her face was flushed red, and her expression was just pure panic.

They kept running, and her heart kept pounding out of her chest. She had no idea how many men were after them, but they were fast, and they had guns. Branches attacked her and brown logs seemed to appear out of nowhere as if to try and stop them.

“Wait.” Vicious halted their run as he stared around them, but everything looked the same. His forehead was sweaty, and he was breathing just the same as Nova was. He glanced at her with a wild look, but no fear was inflicted in those green eyes. It made her wonder how many times he had been in this situation.

“We can’t outrun them.”

Her blood ran cold. Was he suggesting they give up their lives? No, Vicious didn’t look like the kind of man who went down without a fight.

His eyes locked with hers. “You need to run.”

“No!” The word was expelled on a breath. “We have to keep running together. Maybe, we would find a road or a cabin—”

His expression was void of emotion as he gazed down at her. “If we stay together, we are going to get caught. But if you run now, I can slow them down.”

Nova’s surprise was evident. He wanted to stay back and hold off the men to save her? He would risk his own life for her?

“I liked you better when you were a selfish prick who won’t die trying to keep me alive.” She was frustrated enough to speak out loud. His smile was nearly blinding in its brilliance, but he was silent as if being tongue-tied was a whole new experience for him. “You’re not going to fight them alone when they have guns.”

“I’ve never been afraid of guns before,” he finally retorted, as he held onto her hand and trapped it between their bodies.

One part of her wanted to chuckle; the other part was angry for his foolish suggestion. “You can’t fight that many people alone, Vicious. You aren’t indestructible, you can die. It’s a no for me.”

“I can, and it would be unfortunate for them.”

“Vicious...”

“Get down!” He moved her out of the way so fast and roughly that she ended up rolling on the ground, hissing when a twig pierced through her cheek.

Nova lifted her head. Vicious was slamming his fists into a dark haired’s face. The man stumbled backwards, but before he could get his barring, Vicious’ left fist slammed into his stomach. He recovered quite fast and threw a few hits. All Nova knew was that every punch the man landed on Vicious, she felt it inside her. Another man crept up behind him with a knife in hand, but he twisted around in time to kick the knife out of his hand.

Something fierce and primitive gripped Nova’s core, and she was on her feet with a silent ‘no!’ the instant the dark-haired man rammed a hit into Vicious' ribcage. He was slammed so hard she could hear the breath take out of him. When he slammed his side once more, and Vicious dropped to one knee, a scream almost tore out of her.

Nova couldn’t help him when another man charged at her fast before she could even brace herself. His hands closed roughly around her upper arms, and she swung her arms and tried to punch at him, but his grip was firm. He was a large man who could easily overpower her.

The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back, struggling and shoving with all her might, while the vile man pressed his massive body to hers. She thrashed on the ground when his hands wrapped around her neck to squeeze the life out of her. Everything was hurting and burning. In seconds, she watched him fly upward and thrown back hard.

She sat up, and there was Vicious, standing over her, his broad chest heaving and his teeth bared in a murderous rage. Their eyes met and locked, and he stared down at her; his hair was matted with sweat, a split lip and bloodied nose. He turned back to the man who had attacked her and advanced toward him like he found his prey. The man scrambled to get up, but Vicious leapt and stabbed him in the throat.

More voices began to get nearer. Vicious walked back to the two unconscious men and slit their throats before Nova could blink. He finally reached her and held out his hand. She did not hesitate.

“Come on,” he growled. “Behind the bushes.”

She heard his footsteps behind her when they ducked and hid under the bushes. Five men stalked out of the trees with heavy loaded guns. Two of them went to check on their friends, finding them all dead.

“Batman won’t forgive this if we don’t find them. Kill Vicious, but don’t touch the woman.”

Batman? Nova struggled to recall where she heard that name before, and it came to her instantly. She shared a look with Vicious. Moments later, the men spread out in different directions to look for them and then there was silence, which went on for a minute.

“We need to go back to the car,” Vicious whispered into her ear.

“But the key...” He opened his palm to her, where his car keys rested on it. Surprise and disbelief shone on her face. “I thought you threw away the keys.”

“I ain’t stupid.”

“You made me believe that you did.” It was his fault that they were in this situation to begin with, but at the same time, pointing fingers wasn’t going to get her anywhere. But it was not long ago that he had saved her. So what was she feeling now, exactly? Was Vicious her tormentor or her protector? He certainly played both parts well.

He wanted her brother dead. He had blackmailed her into working for him. He had put her life in danger twice. He was brutal, and she was not entirely sure that she would not end up dead. Could she be fooled by the new changes? The sudden urge to keep her safe? It was too much in one day for her to deal with.

“Won’t be the first time I’ve made you believe something.” He laughed and pushed himself up, grabbing her hand. “We gotta move before they come back.”

They were whipping past branches and leaping over logs. It was quiet in the forest, except for the fast pounding of their footsteps against the dead leaves. The wind blew into their faces. Nova’s hand clung to Vicious as he guided them back in the direction they had run from.

There was no one guarding the car when they safely made their way back to the road. He opened the passenger’s door to let her in, leaning down to speak to her.

“You trust me?” he asked, and when she couldn’t bring herself to lie and say yes, he nodded. “I gotta go back, darling.”

“We just got out, and you want to go back?”

His eyes were expressing things she couldn't read, and she thought that this was probably the most intimate moment they had ever shared. “They have seen you. They know what you look like. I ain’t letting them go like that.”

Nova took a breath, and another before replying slowly, “So what?” she asked with as much attitude as her nerves would let her muster up.

And then, he was leaning in to brush a strand of hair back, the back of his fingers brushing her cheek, and she was trying to keep her breathing under control. “So, your life would be in danger. Everyone you know would be in danger. If I don’t deal with it now, you’re gonna kiss your life goodbye.”

She avoided his face.

“Hey, look at me." His voice was soft, but his tone was imperative, and she knew that it was an order. She met his eyes, seeing only amusement in them. “I’m hard to kill. Stay put, I mean it.” His eyes carried a twisted and dangerous light that made her shiver. “I’ll come back.”

I’ll come back.

The minutes that had passed since he went back for the remaining survivors were agonising and excruciating. Nova had abandoned sitting in the car and opted to stand outside, pacing back and forth. A phone rang from the car. She turned and opened the door, finding Vicious phone on the dashboard.

She answered Screw’s call. “Hello.”

“Mama? You’re with Vicious? Where the fuck is he? We just got robbed.”

“Yeah,” she started, trying to control the shaking in her voice. “We hit trouble. Vipers came after us. Vicious has gone to take care of them because they saw my face, and he thinks I will be targeted.”

Screw growled and cursed. “Where are you? I’ll—”

Nova stopped hearing what he was saying when she saw Vicious walking back to her. Alive and unharmed. She ran to him. He was a mess. His shirt was drenched with the blood she knew wasn’t his. She opened her mouth to say something, overwhelmed with everything.

His touch on her shoulder was gentle and careful as if he was asking permission to touch her. He never needed to ask for permission; he always touched her as if he was entitled to. But he was hesitating now, giving her an open to withdraw from him. It was in the way he was staring at her, and the relief that he was alive left her breathless. It let her forget all the shit they had inflicted on each other. She collapsed against his chest.

Vicious wrapped his arms around her, and she grabbed his shoulders before burying her face in his shirt, breathing hard. His left cheek rested on her hair, the warmth of his breath in her neck. She pressed her body against his, her hands sliding along his shoulders towards his back until she crossed her wrists around his neck.

When she heard a voice that did not come from one of them, Nova realised she was still on the phone with Screw. She quickly straightened, pulling herself away from him with pink cheeks. He followed her move, his arms untying her from his embrace.

“Um, Screw is on the line.” She gave him back the phone and took several steps back.

He blinked and took a long breath before slowly answering the phone. “Yeah? Got ambushed, and yet again survived. I left a pile of bodies behind. Can’t have anyone stumbling on that. Come with Peto and Muse. Clean it up, okay? See you soon.” He cut off the call and pocketed the phone.

Her voice was a whisper when she asked, “Can we go now?”

Vicious nodded, and the two of them walked back to the car.

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