For the next few days, it was quiet. There hadn’t been any break-ins or phone calls that demanded her services, and Nova started to fall back into her old life. She had gotten so nervous the first few days that she was too petrified to come out of the house, convinced that the police would knock on her door to arrest her for stealing.
She had thought about hiring a lawyer if it ever came to it, but it was only after four days later, that Nova realised she was safe. No one was coming for her. And while she had worked her ass off at work; taking orders and serving the customers; taking more hours and staying up late to close the cafe, she found herself disinterested in it. She found herself thinking about being out there, doing something she shouldn’t be doing.
Ever since she had made Lorenzo’s delivery and had tasted that slight intoxicating power that came with knowing she had it in her, it had continued to grow inside her. She discovered she liked the thrill of almost being caught, of accomplishing something dangerous and being involved in the criminal world. She rediscovered what it felt like to be alive.
But her excellent mood crawled away every time she remembered she hadn’t received any calls from Grant. The last time she heard from him, he was out of town and wasn’t going to be back soon. She knew he had run away, but what she also knew was that Vicious would hunt him throughout the world if he wished to. It eased her mind to know that at least he wasn’t still in Portland and he had a head start.
However, what seemed to be a quiet Tuesday turned out to be the day Ron showed up unannounced at work. This was the second time she was seeing him, but the two of them had frequently been talking. She had walked out from the employees' room without knowing he had been the one to call her out here. All she had been told was that a man wanted to see her. She thought it had been Vicious.
He was sitting on the stool when she saw him. Ron smiled at her. He was always so immaculately dressed. Black stubble shadowed his jaw, and his shoulders were covered with a shirt and a coat. “I’m sorry for showing up like this without giving you a heads up,” he started, sounding indeed apologetic. Here was a man who knew to apologise for doing something wrong, but Nova wouldn’t classify his unexpected visit as an offence. But he still felt the need to apologise, something Vicious didn’t learn.
“It’s fine,” she said, trying to put as much cheerfulness in her voice as she could. It wasn’t because she didn’t want him here; she was just annoyed for no reason. “Can I get you anything?”
“You have ten minutes break.”
His comment didn’t imply that it was a question, but he left it off like that, so she felt the need to say, “Yeah...? But my break is in two hours.”
“I talked to your manager. He said you can take your break now. Would you like to take a walk with me, Nova?”
A nod came from here. “Yeah, sure.”
They have been walking in silence for a minute now.
Ron cast a quick grin in her direction, watching her with an intense stare that made her look away. “You’re not mad that I took you out of work, right?”
“Please, I’m glad that you did. I don’t remember the last time I took a walk, or even pay attention to anything but what’s on my mind. This is nice.” Sunlight gleamed against the windows that they walked by. Watching strangers go about their day was one of the few things that made her feel peaceful.
He reached out and took her arm, his fingers resting lightly on her sleeve. Nova felt the warmth of his hand sinking through the fabric. “I’m glad I didn’t go through with taking you to a bowling alley.”
She laughed. “You know I hate that place. It brings back bad memories. Those days still flash through my mind, and I get taken back to the time you baited me into accepting your challenge. You made me lost in a humiliating way, Ron. You were a bully.”
“I ask for your forgiveness now.”
Nova playfully glared at him, noting the smirk that was dancing at the corner of his mouth and his twinkling eyes. “You’re years late.”
He shook his head. “No, I can’t take that. There has to be something that you want; otherwise, I’m not going to let you get back to work. What would your manager say about that?”
“Oh, you’d love for me to get fired, right?” she teased back.
“You can always work as my assistant.”
Nova gasped exaggeratedly. “An FBI assistant? That would be an honour, kind sir. I’ve always wanted to be an assistant to an FBI. Am I going to get a gun too, or a badge. Do I get a badge?”
Ron chuckled. “You get neither, but if you play nice, I can let you hold my badge.”
As they were turning back, he suddenly grabbed her arm again. She turned to look at him in question. “I need to ask you something.” The light that was in his eyes was gone. He looked serious. He looked like something was on his mind that he couldn’t wait to share.
She walked out of the cafe, trying to lock the door. A firm hand clapped over her mouth and dragged her away from the door. Nova’s scream had died abruptly in her throat. Someone put a bag over her head as she wrenched, but his arms tightened. She tried to stamp on his toes, but he lifted her off her feet.
Her face and chest were shoved down onto what felt like a seat. She thrashed around, trying to get away, but it was useless. Her heart was drumming in her chest, paralysed with fear. As the car began to move, her arms were pulled behind her and held tightly at the centre of her back with enough pressure to keep her shoved down against the seat; she could barely move a muscle.
Her captor didn’t speak. He didn’t offer any explanation or where he was taking her. The car stopped. She tried to twist around, but her arms were locked securely. Nova felt herself being picked up and dropped to the ground. Two arms circled each side, jerking her to walk. She couldn’t see anything; she couldn’t sense where she was. Everything was just dark.
Where was she?
A door was opened, and she was halted to a stop. The bag was removed from her face and dropped near her feet. For a moment, she stood rigid in fear, but her eyes opened to find two men holding her arms, preventing her from trying to make a run. She scanned her surroundings; it was an empty warehouse. Quickly glancing around the corners of the room, she saw Screw and Mario lingering around in the shadows. She opened her mouth to ask them for help, but her eyes followed the third person in the room. Seated in the darkness in front of her, he leaned forward slightly to come into the light.
She paled first, and then her face morphed into anger. “What the hell are you doing, Vicious? Tell them to let me go.” She could barely get the words out, could barely understand what was happening; all Nova was seeing was a mouse caught in a death trap.
Their gazes stayed locked, his strong and enraged, holding her frightened one. “No.” His expression became cruel, even ugly. She had never seen him like this. The anger that was radiating off him was like an energy that surrounded them. “You’re here as my prisoner, and we treat our prisoners like this.”
Nova thought she might faint. “Prisoner? What the hell are you saying?” she cried, hysterical. She jerked forward, but she didn’t reach him. She couldn’t reach him. He was far; she was being held against her will. “Let me go because you’re out of your mind!” Her face was a mask of rage and worry.
“You’re right, Nova. I’m out of my mind,” he said with a deadly sound in his voice. “Which is why I’m going to ask you an important question that if you fail to answer....” He lifted a bow she hadn’t seen before and aimed at her chest. “I’m going to shoot.”
Her anger fled in the face of an icy cold panic. “What?” She tried to jerk her arms free, but she wasn’t strong enough. She had never been strong enough. “You’re a bastard! Let me go!”
Vicious’ smile, predatory, grew. “The next few minutes are going to be the most important minutes of your life. The choice is in your hand: to die or to live. Which one is it going to be?”
Her heart slammed wildly in her chest.