In Too Deep

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Twenty Six

Nova drummed her left foot on the ground, flipping through the pages of the magazine she had selected from the wall rack near reception, and it was not because she was interested in it; she wanted to give herself something to do. Something to ponder over. Occasionally, she would glance at the other people occupying the blue plastic chairs, mulling over them, and even that didn't help her.

She turned back to stare at the wall in front of her. Her chest felt as if a million pounds were settling right on top of her heart. It had been more than thirty minutes since she had been sitting here, waiting. She was never good at waiting or good at keeping herself calm.

"Hey." Someone touched her shoulder, getting her attention. Vicious stared down at her before he grabbed her arm and helped her up, far away from the other people, until it was just the two of them. "What the fuck happened?" he instantly questioned, green, forest eyes darker than its original color.

Right. He had no idea what happened. When she called him, she forgot to explain and instead, told him where she was. There had been no time to explain. Nova pressed her lips, staring at him.

"Someone, please help!" she screamed. It was a petrifying sound that was filled with panic and fear. The sirens were loud now, close. The noises were louder, but she didn't let it fade from her mind. The unconscious man in front of her was her priority.

Someone squatted next to her. She didn't look at him. She knew who it was, and if she looked now, then he might read the truth in her eyes. "What happened, ma'am?"

"He just came..." She hiccuped, as more tears emerged from her eyes. "We were just talking about celebrating our anniversary today, and—" A choke caught in her throat. "He came out of nowhere and tried to take our car. Owen fought with him, but he hit him in the head, and now he won't wake up. I don't know if he's breathing, or if he's..."

She cradled Screw's head in her lap. The passenger window of the car was shattered, and the pieces of the glass were scattered around. She was touching his arm, his face; she was leaning to check his pulse, and she was crying hysterically. It was a lot of work, and surprisingly, the tears came as quickly as she didn't think they would. All she had to do was think of all the emotional stress she had been through, and it flooded her face like Niagara Falls.

"Ma'am, please...."

She suddenly grabbed the officer's arm. "Tell me you will catch him!" she demanded, looking every bit like a real terrified girlfriend. Maybe she should consider theater. "Look at the cameras! Find the person who did this to my Owen." The first thing she had done was to make sure there were no cameras in the garage, and there were none, so the police wouldn't be able to see their attacker because there was no attacker.

Well, except she was the attacker. Maybe the police were a little smart; they would realize the people they were here for were the ones they were helping get out of the mess.

Vicious snapped his fingers in front of her eyes. "Nova? What happened?"

Her pulse spiked higher, anticipation building, feet and shoulders braced as she unconsciously slipped into a defensive stance. She didn't know how he would react to the whole story. Oh, I just hit one of your guys, and I don't know if I hit him hard enough to cause damage, but at least we aren't going to jail. Right?

"What can I say," a voice spoke from behind. Nova went stiff, silently cursing herself before forcing her posture to ease. And when she saw him, a bandage wrapped around his head, she felt her spine ease because he was alright. He was up and walking again. When the doctor had not said anything to her, she had feared the worst. There was a familiar gleam in his eyes when Screw continued, "She saved my life; that's what happened."

Vicious fastened his gaze on her, but she was still looking at Screw. "She did what?"

She refrained from rolling her eyes at how his voice was thick with surprise. As if she hadn't proved him time and time again that he shouldn't underestimate her. She was more than what he thought her to be.

Screw threw his hand around her neck and crushed her to his side. "She got huge balls, Vic." His visage morphed from a spark of delight to mischief in the space of a beat. "Sorry I doubted you a lil, ma." He teased, lifting his free hand so he could brush her hair out of her face, and then his thumb was brushing over her forehead.

She had no idea what he was doing, but the slight tilt at the corner of his mouth revealed nothing. However, when she was yanked out of Screw's hold and pulled to stand next to Vicious, she understood. She glared at the other guy, whose mouth kept expanding. Nova felt a little breathless at Vicious' proximity, and damnit, she really hated how her body reacted to his sometimes.

"Would either one of you tell me what the fuck happened?"

She shifted her weight back and forth between her feet as she began speaking, "Like he said, I saved his life, our lives." She didn't school her features when she turned to Screw, guilt clenching in her chest. "I'm sorry I hit you. I wasn't sure you'd go with my plan. There was no way we would have—"

"I ain't mad, Nova, 's cool." The corner of his lips quirked. "Wouldn't have thought you'd be the one to do it. If you're feelin' guilty about the head injury, I've gotten worse than that. Actually, I've been hit more than that and knocked into unconscious more than you think. I'm just glad I woke up this time." When Nova's eyes widened, he quickly dismissed her concern with a careless wave of his hand. "Not that it was gonna happen. My head is made out of titanium, so you ain't gonna do me more harm. I'm goin' to stop blabbing now, but for saving our lives, can I take you out to celebrate escaping prison for now?" The way he said for now made her laugh a little.

"Would love to." Her heartbeat skipped as Vicious turned to face her, eyes raging like the turbulent sea.

"So, I asked you out, and you declined, but he asked you out, and you agree?" He carded a hand through his hair, shoulders tight before releasing a deep sigh as he tipped his head back and closed his eyes, lines creasing his forehead.

Nova just blinked for a minute, trying to process his tone of jealousy. But still, she responded without hesitation or thought. "He let me hit him to unconscious." She thought she would've felt a little sense of relief that he was focusing on the wrong thing to be mad about.

Screw's face split across the center, a grin stretching from end to end. "That's right, what are you offering besides tormenting the poor woman?"

The tension in Vicious, in his shoulders, the set of his jaw, was plain, like he was bracing himself when his gaze narrowed. "Shut the fuck up."

"No, you shut up." Her jaw worked silently for several moments, as though mulling over how far to push the matter. "We almost got caught, Vicious, give us a break."

He looked off to the side, jaw clenching as he seemed to consider his next move, but Nova beat him to it when she looked away from him to Screw. "Come on. Let me at least drive you home. I may not have a car, but I know how to drive."

An expression flashed across Vicious's face that had her pausing, but it was gone so fast she thought she might have imagined it.

She linked her arm through Screw's, turning to leave without another word.

"I think you just broke his heart."

She bit back a smirk, even though he wasn't around to see it. "I think he will survive." He needed his ego and arrogance to be knocked down a few times.

Screw pressed onto her arm. "But there's no guarantee for me."

"Do you think he will follow?" she wondered. If there was one thing she got from Vicious, he didn't like to lose, and he didn't want to be made a fool out of.

Screw shook his head. "Nah."

She wasn't expecting that, and she was glad her surprise and something else didn't show on her face. "I'm offended." She placed a hand over her heart just as they walked out of the hospital.

They ended up taking Vicious' car because she suddenly remembered they were dropped off in a patrol car. Hotwired the shit out of it and left him stranded. Screw's idea, and because it was so funny to screw with Vicious, she went along with it happily.

What's the worst thing that could happen?

"This chili is so good," she was practically moaning in the diner.

Screw had refused to go home, insisting on taking her out to eat, and he didn't fail to add that Vicious might drop at her house, and if he saw her there, he would think that she couldn't go with him because she was too wrapped up in Vicious.

And Nova, to prove that she wasn't wrapped in him, decided to come out here to eat. She didn't want either man to think she was wrapped up in the gang leader. She wasn't.

Screw almost finished half of his bowl. "I like coming here after a shitty day," he explained. "Food really does comfort people."

She knew what it was like to have a bad day and come back to the only thing that makes you happy. For Nova, it was curling up on her couch to watch a tv show. After she swallowed, she quirked a brow. "What do you do after killing someone?"

He couldn't help but devilishly smile when he answered, "Is that your way of asking me if I've ever killed someone?" He flicked his gaze onto the grapes on the table before deciding to pick one and throw it into his mouth.

Nova snickered in response. "You're in a gang, and you're one of Vicious' right hand. Why would I think you haven't killed someone?" she quipped, rolling her eyes. "So, tell me."

"I–uh–try to get past that with booze. You know, killing someone ain't easy, but living through, that sucks," he admitted the quivering syllables too loud, even in one of the busiest of places, and she was startled by the contempt loaded in such a short statement, the extent of the damage left behind by the things he had to do.

She wanted to ask him if he ever thought about quitting or just taking the time away.

"Thank god you have consciousness. I can't say the same about your boss," she drawled, the volume of her voice dipping into something more of a tease, something to tone down the tension in him.

Her gaze moved between her chili once more and the man sitting across from her. Nova had no idea why she brought up her gang leader boss, and for that, she wanted to bang her head against the table. If there was anything she had started noticing these past few days was that Screw reveled in knowing that she was thinking about his boss, and every time she mentioned him, it was like admittance to what he was suspecting.

She needed to stop.

But the man across from her wasn't backing down from it when he leaned forward and grinned. "Yet I see the way you look at him," he quipped, grinning in earnest when her lips turned up at the corner, the tiny twinge of pity she felt for him beginning to fade from her expression. "It doesn't bother you the number of people he's killed is higher than your age."

"You don't know how old I am," she remarked, almost playfully, feeling sufficiently pleased with how fast she had started mastering the art of dodging questions about Vicious. If only she would learn not to talk about him.

"Ma, I also know your blood group."

Surprise and slightly horrified, she blurted out, "That's creepy."

He snorted at that, his features contorting with a different kind of grin that had her suspecting he wasn't regretful or ashamed about knowing things he shouldn't know about her. "We gotta do thorough research on everyone we bring in."

She wasn't taken aback by his words, but she pulled her lips off her spoon so that she could level him with a curious gaze. "How did you get pulled into this life?"

"I used to run for a local dealer before Vic's gang busted him and gave him an ultimatum; join him, or join the grave. Shane saw a good deal, and now he cooks for Vicious," Screw drew out each word, letting them sink in.

"As in, cook food?"

He huffed out a laugh, clearly amused by that, and shook his head. "No, as in crystal meth," he corrected.

Her brows arched up as she looked at him incredulously, shaking her head in revulsion, speechless, before asking, "Why would Vicious do that?"

"He doesn't like competition," he stated definitively, his smirk only widening. "Any kind of competition."

There was genuine surprise at the implication of his words as she leveled him with her gaze, her cheeks pinking slightly. Fuck that. "How come I have never been told the name of your gang?" She decided to change the subject to something less threatening.

It took a minute to find his voice, amusement weighing heavy in his tone. "Vic doesn't do gang name." Amusement wrapped around his syllables. "He thinks that not having a name makes us invisible."

She snorted, recalling all the things his gang was dealing with, and when she took her last spoon of Chili, she muttered, "So much for invisibility."

Screw erupted into laughter.





Her fingers were dipped in caramel when the doorbell rang. When she opened the door, she was expecting anyone other than Vicious. The tension sparking between them each time they came closer had not vanished after she had turned him down, and it was the same now.

She was breathless all of a sudden and mostly hidden by the door as she stepped back to let him step in. She couldn't deny that she was surprised to see him. After the way they left things off earlier, she didn't expect to see him at her house so soon. Maybe after a week? No, a week might be too much for him.

"I'm surprised you know how to knock." Why did her voice have to sound like that right now? All breathy, nervous and weird. She could imagine him rolling his eyes as he followed her into the living room. Nova tried to act normal, but she knew he was watching her right now, staring at her. It was not until she turned that she fully saw him. Like always, she couldn't read him.

Vicious gave her a thorough once over from head to toe, sucking his lower lip into his mouth as he did, and she squirmed. And then, he was walking towards her with an expression that flashed across his face that had her swallowing. He merely hummed in response to her words, reached out and tilted her chin up, swiping at her bottom lip with his thumb.

Her eyes gazed at the bits of caramel now stuck to his thumb before he directed it to his mouth, sucked on it until there was nothing left, and Nova had to breathe in slowly to let the air in. Vicious stretched his hand out to give her a small package with a blue ribbon that she hadn't seen when he came in.

Her eyes dropped from his face down to his hands and swallowed thickly. "What's this? A bomb?" She made a face, just the thought of it making her feel on edge.

He laughed, shaking his head at her like he couldn't believe how ridiculous she was being. "Open it and see."

She opened it, and when she did, she huffed out a breathy chuckle. "A crown?" It was the same one he had his men sent to her weeks ago, but while the other one was small, this was a little bigger—big enough to fit four fingers. Nova raised her head to arch her brows. She knew what the gesture meant, but what she didn't know was why he was giving her a crown again.

Vicious glanced around the room before settling his attention back on her. "A little bigger than the one you got last time," he answered what she already knew. With a shrug of his shoulders, he added, "Figured I should give you a size bigger every time you prove yourself—" His lips tilted as he scratched at his brow. "Until the crown can fit your head."

A king needs a queen.

She doesn't know what to say to that. "That's...." She flustered a little—at his words, at how serious but also amused he was. Nova doesn't think she should take it. She didn't want to be his queen—she only wanted to be Nova.

"Take it. Treat it like you would a trophy." He grabbed her wrist and brought her caramel covered fingers up to his mouth, licking it, and then sucking it off in an obscene way that had her almost weak in the knees.

Time seemed to slow down, and Nova completely forgot everything as her tongue darted out to wet her lips, her body leaning into him of its own accord. When Vicious dropped her hand and swiped his tongue over his mouth, she gripped the edge of her sweater.

"Um...thanks," she breathed out, his proximity and touch always making it difficult for her brain to function correctly.

"I knew you would like it." His voice was low and husky, his eyes hot on hers. She struggled to remember how to breathe, and when she took too long to respond, he lets out a low chuckle. "Goodnight, Nova." He was leaning in also, so close before something snapped inside him that had him shaking his head, stepping away from her. With his hands in his pocket, he gave her one last devastating smile before he turned and began to make his way for the door.

The words were out of her mouth before she could even think them through. "Vicious, wait."

He stopped moving abruptly, and Nova realized maybe that was a mistake. A mistake she didn't care to make, another realization.

He turned.

"I'm watching The Devil Wears Prada if you'd like to join me." She stopped as that same expression from before passed over his features, gone before she knew it, and then he was lifting his brow. "I know that's not your kind of movie, but it's great. It reminds me of you—the title, of course, but I would change the Prada to black because you love it. The Devil Wears Black; it's quite fitting." She laughed nervously, eyebrows furrowed together as she squinted at him. "I mean, it's just a great movie. If you watch it, you might like it, but whatever you want to do," she finished uncertainly.

It was embarrassing, but she was glad she got that out of the way. It would have been more uncomfortable if she had continued to make a fool out of herself.

"No."

She blinked at his response, her stomach collapsing until she felt nothing but emptiness. Her mouth opened and closed a few times without producing any words. "Huh? Is it because I went out with Screw? We are...we're just friends. You don't have to be..." She cuts herself off, though it was clear enough to both of them where she had been going with her explanation.

His stare was deceptively calm, and she squinted at him in reply, attempting to read him just as he had always done.

Vicious sighed heavily, leveling her with a deliberative gaze as he wrangled his irritation back beneath the surface of his voice. "It's cause you askin' me the wrong thing."

Nova seemed to relax at that, but her eyebrows were still furrowed as she asked, "What wrong thing? What do you—" And she knew. She knew what he meant, and she thought her heart literally stopped beating for a second at the infuriating smirk on his face.

He was taking in her stunned expression as his words sat heavy in the space between them. When it looked as though she was struggling to come up with something to say, and she was, he shoved both hands into his pockets as he stepped back, a little smile tugging at his lips, and with a softer tone, he continued, "G'night."

"Vicious."

He stopped again, but he didn't turn. Nova licked her lips, crossing to meet him with quiet steps. She reached out and touched his arm, fingers curling around his long-sleeved maroon Henley. She turned him around, and he complied without hesitation.

They stared at each other for a few beats as a bubble of silence fell through them. She was the first to burst it.

"Nothing about you is easy," she admitted, diverting her gaze from his eyes to the rest of his face.

"No one likes easy things," he threw back, amusement coloring his tone, and he was not surprised when she delivered a lengthy eye roll.

"And you're a jackass too."

His lips pulled into a smirk as he huffed out a laugh. From one instant to the next, the air between them shifted, his gaze locked steadfastly with hers. She tilted her head to the side a fraction, studying the contours of his face.

"Vicious."

"What?" he asked, his voice quiet as his body curved closer to hers. "What, Nova?"

She was tired. She was so tired of fighting.

She threw her arms around his neck and went for his lips. The kiss started slow and gentle, and with a rough groan, Vicious hauled her up into his arms as her legs wrapped around his waist. His tongue delved into her mouth, sucking and searching as he palmed her ass.

Nova could feel him between her legs, growing hard and straining against his pants, and the flood of desire as he grounded his hardness against her, making her delirious. Her fingers delved into his hair, sliding through the strands before grabbing fistfuls of them as if she was trying to hold him in place so she could devour him.

Vicious started walking without breaking the kiss. He refused to let them take in air, and when she was thrown onto her couch and his body pressed against her, she gasped into his mouth, unable to pull in a full breath, as his large hands moved over her body. His fingertips slipped under the hem of her sweatshirt, and the second they came into contact with her bare skin, she whimpered, jerking her hips against him. He deepened the kiss, sucking her tongue into his mouth before breaking away and trailing kisses over her jaw and neck.

His hand went to her throat and curled around it, pressing into it while his tongue worked on her shoulder, biting and latching on it, nibbling and sucking as his hand kept applying little pressure on her neck. Her hands gripped on his waist, eyes closed as she moaned at every skin he was touching, and every drop of his kiss.

Vicious hand slipped down to her chest, and he was tearing down her sweatshirt before she realized. She gasped, her eyes large, and when she tried to lift herself, he pushed her down roughly. A dozen emotions danced across his face, tightening his features. Something was churning under his soul, and she could feel it bubbling up inside him. And when he kissed her again, it was like tasting something dark and ominous.

Somehow, his Henley was gone in seconds. Nothing prepared her for the shot of pleasure she experienced when he drew her against him, and her breasts met with his chest. Then one of his hands cupped the fullness of her breast, and her breath stalled in her throat as he left her mouth to capture the tightly presented peak. The sensation made her writhe as he sucked gently, his teeth lightly grazing her, and she found herself groaning and clinging as the sharp feel of his tongue drew pleasure down to her thighs.

"Vicious," she moaned, buckling.

His mouth was suddenly hot and urgently covering hers. And she could feel the hunger in him, the urgent intent of his desire demanding the same from her and getting it when he kissed her so deeply she felt like she was floating in the air.

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