Don, the woman who handled Vicious' money, was not what Nova expected her to be. She was the worst—straight-up I-will-shoot you if you look at me kind of girl. Nova was not embarrassed to say she was terrified of the woman, and she was only five feet two of a hot temper.
After Nova got her fake business cards and the location of the party, Vicious had told her Don was going to be there. She had imagined someone different, not the woman who showed up in leather and black eye shadow. It took Nova a complete minute to grasp that Vicious sent her a demented woman when Don almost cracked open the skull of a drunk rich man who had groped Nova on her way to the restroom. If Nova hadn't intervened, she had no idea what she could have gone. The man could have lost his dick. And when a security guard had tried to kick her out, she throat punched him.
Don, Nova realised was a temperamental woman. Everything ticked her off. She was like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. She would have completely blown everything if Vicious' orders hadn't been to pretend they didn't know each other. Imagine if they had sat together, drank together—they would have both been kicked out, and their plan washed down the drain.
The party had like fifty people, but Vicious’ orders were only to get ten men. Ten was small, but they ought to start slow before they jump into high numbers. More people could endanger all of them, so as soon as Nova secured those ten men, she was out of there before anyone could imprint her face on their minds. The less you were in the shadows, the better. The fewer people know what you look like, the chances of them not recognising you.
"You're insane; you know that," Nova said as she got inside the car Vicious got for them and shot the woman sitting in the passenger's seat a dirty look.
She was tall, probably the same age as Nova, or a few years older. Her long black hair was piled up on top of her head in a messy bun, and she had tattoos all over her arms that she covered with a leather jacket which was now discarded in the back seat, revealing the dress she was wearing that didn’t leave anything to the imagination.
Don tilted her head to stare at Nova. "Ease up, Vitch.”
Nova’s brows snapped together. "Vitch?"
The woman threw her another glance with a sharkish grin on her face. "Vicious' bitch; Vitch." She laughed as she said it, or more like cackled and hit the dashboard.
Nova's breath caught, and she couldn’t help but send a glare to Don, almost losing control of the car. "I'm no one's bitch!" she yelled, knowing as much as she screamed, the message wouldn’t be received. Don looked like those people who lived to annoy the shit out of you for pleasure.
Removing her heels, she tucked her legs under her and nodded her head vigorously, not sparing the third glance. "I'm calling Vicious. Vicious didn't say that. Vicious will —Vicious, Vicious, Vicious," she singsong in a lousy attempt to mimic Nova, which pissed the hell out of her because that was not what had happened.
And that certainly didn't require Nova to be called his bitch. She was doing what he would expect her to do, and besides, she had been in charge. It was her job to be cautious. It was her job to ensure both her and Don stayed in the yellow line and not divert from it.
Nova stepped on the brakes, so hard that Don went flying forward and hit her head against the dashboard and almost slipped out of the seat. She groaned, lifting her head to rub her forehead before straightening back to her previous position.
"What the fuck is wrong with you, you bitch!"
Nova beamed and started driving with more speed this time. "Thank you for acknowledging the fact that I'm my own bitch. Should you call me Vitch again, I promise to give you a concussion by the time we reach the warehouse."
"I see why he likes you, you V—"
She slammed on the breaks again, sending Don forward. It was so satisfying to hear her groan in pain. “I'm sorry, did that hurt?"
Don growled and then laughed, something hard this time, and angrily. "Do that again, and your boyfriend will have to pick you up in pieces."
Nova blinked, surprised. She turned over the words, trying to ignore the thrill that coursed through her at the word boyfriend and the panic that was stuck in her heart, threatening to burst out. Vicious, her boyfriend? Did he tell Don that? Did she assume that? Did they look like boyfriend and girlfriend?
Don's words cut through her thoughts, and she blinked, refocusing her, "Well, unless of course, he's not your boyfriend, and you would be doing all of this for nothing."
"Maybe I like doing what I'm doing; has that ever occurred to you?"
She grinned, something big and childish.
"See, the difference between you and me is, I do what I do for money. You do what you do for Vicious."
Nova decided to ignore her because it was a topic she didn’t want to touch, but she knew she did everything for herself.
When she parked the car outside the warehouse, she got out and didn't wait for Don. Vicious stood with his back to the door and a phone in his ear. His arm was crossed, and he was staring out of the window, giving the impression of a man who hid behind the shadows but still ruled it.
Leaning into the door, she drank him in. Sometimes, Vicious could look like one of those rich men who were always on the front cover of the magazine, and sometimes, he looked like he could be sent to kill you. Nova didn't know which one she liked the most.
He turned like he knew she was standing behind him, and a smile curved at the corner of his lips. He told the person he was talking that he would call back and ended the call. Vicious stepped closer and fingered a curl of her hair.
"I take it it went well?"
"You got on with Don, I hope? She's supposed to play nice to you," There was a dangerous purr to his voice that sent a shiver through her. She could feel the warmth of his big, hard body and smell the richly masculine scent of his skin. Nova was falling under his spell, deeper with every minute that passed.
She snorted. "She's a psycho, and I don't like her. She almost blew everything, but it went well. We have our targets.”
His body shook with laughter as his knuckles ran up and down her cheek. "I knew you could do it." The proud smile he was giving her was making her stomach twist. No one had ever looked at her like that or appreciated what she did. "So, no hope of teaming up with her in the future, then?"
Nova shrugged and wrapped her arms around his neck, tipping her head back to look him in the eyes. "Sure, if you want me to hurt her."
He chuckled again. "Or if she hurts you?" She slapped him in the chest, and he cried out, "Ow."
"Don't underestimate me, Vicious."
"My bad." His eyes were dark as they swept over her. "God. You look beautiful. I can't remember ever wanting anything this much. Did you choose that dress for me?"
With just those few simple words, Nova became hot and blushed. She felt vulnerable in front of him. “Don't flatter yourself. I chose it for our targets."
"Yeah?" He grinned. His tongue traced the wildly throbbing vein in her throat, and she melted into him when he pulled her close. "Come home with me tonight."
She pulled back, surprised and excited by the request. "Like your house? Where you live?" She hadn't thought about seeing where he lived, or any chance of him inviting her to come over. That was a huge step for them.
"Scared?" The simple question was laced with a challenge.
Nova scoffed, trying to hide her nervousness. "As if."
Lowering his head, Vicious pressed his lips into the crook of her neck. "Then come with me," he dragged the words out on her neck, making her shiver. "Don’t tell me this is the first time you’ve been invited to a boy’s house.” He embraced her tightly, burying his face in her neck. "You smell so good."
She hugged him back.
"So, are we going?" he asked hoarsely, pulling back to cup her face in his hands. Something on her face must have betrayed her wariness because he pressed his lips to her forehead and murmured, "I'd let you take control of the playlist, how's that? And I will give you two days off."
"Like the last two times you gave me a day off but called me in?" She arched her brows. Nova had already made up her mind about going, but she enjoyed saying no to him and watching him try to convince her otherwise.
Vicious chuckled and brushed the hair back from her face and bent closer to whisper in her ear, “And you came in without complaint, muneca."
And he was right.
Vicious drove them to his place, holding onto Nova's hand the entire time despite her surprise, but she came to realise that he was a man who liked to touch. She was nervous riding up in an elevator to his penthouse apartment, realising she had underestimated how much money he had. She had always known he had money, but not a lot to live in a big apartment.
Nova noticed that she wasn't the only one nervous, and it made her realise that this was a big deal to him as well. This was another step in their relationship, but they never really talked about where they stood with each other. They had never talked about being boyfriend and girlfriend, that sort of thing which didn't seem like a big deal to Vicious, because Screw told her he wasn't big on giving titles to his relationships. Still, she wanted to talk to him about it, now that he was inviting her to his place. She wanted to ask him if they were exclusive, or if this was an open relationship where they could sleep with anyone they liked.
When the elevator opened directly into his apartment's marbled entry foyer, he unlocked the double-door entrance to usher her inside, and Nova could feel his eyes on her back as he watched her reaction.
She had expected Vicious' home to match his personality; dark and mysterious, but his house was so very different from him, which was sleek and cool. It was warm, filled with antiques and art anchored by gorgeous brown rugs laid over gleaming hardwood floors. It was so beautiful. She couldn't believe he lived here. If Nova had owned something as remotely close to his apartment, she would never leave.
"It's beautiful," she said, a warm feeling cascading deep inside her when it dawned on her that he was baring his private life to her. She couldn't say she was only linked to his business life, but also his private life.
"It's one out of the few that I own." He tugged her deeper into the apartment. "Being me requires jumping from one place to another. I don’t have the luxury to stay in one place.”
So he didn't get jumped on, she realised. It was a clever idea, but she wasn't sure if she would enjoy moving around to so many places. It had to be tiring. This was the first time she felt sorry for him.
"But if I were to have a permanent resident, I'd definitely pick this place. It just has something that I like; I don't know." He shrugged his shoulders, laying his hand on her shoulder as he walked her around the apartment. When he paused, she looked at him, seeing the thoughtful look he had on his face. "You know what I think?"
She shook her head.
"We should get you a toothbrush." He pulled her into him and set his chin on the crown of her head. "And a few clothes, or do you wanna go shopping?"
She elbowed him in the stomach. “Vicious, stop."
"Bet that freaked you out, huh?"
"Almost to my grave." She pushed her hands under the back of his shirt to caress the hardness of his bareback.
"Come on, let me show you my bed." He led them down a hall that had two other rooms before they reached his bedroom. "Welcome to my room." He flicked on the light. A massive dark bed with cream linens, which dominated the space and the furnishings matched the bed, and the curtains were brushed silver.
"That's the bed, where we gonna fuck three times a day." He turned to point to an enclosed door. "Behind that door is the bathroom, where we'd always spend an hour fucking in the showers." He turned her around again. "There's the closet, where I keep the clothes I would let you wear every time I tear your clothes off."
He turned when he felt her chuckling while shaking her head in amusement. His stare burned through her. "You don't see me laughing, do you? Ain't a joke, Nova."
She rolled her eyes. "Show me where you keep your weapons.”
"Now," he started, walking backwards. "why would you think I have something like that?" His back hits the wall as the smirk on the corner of his mouth lifted higher. Nova didn't know what happened next. She just knew the wall he was leaning on started to shift, revealing a hidden room. "Or maybe I do," he ended with a light chuckle.
Her jaw dropped to the ground. Her feet moved before her mind could wheel itself back to reality. She stepped inside the small room, which felt out of the world. Covering every wall in the room were guns—small and large, knives, and were those grenades? Two swords hung up on the wall, inscribed in Chinese. The glass racks on the lower ground contained more guns and knives, and things she had no idea what they were.
This was like stepping into—no, this was not like stepping into anything. She had never seen anything like this before. So many weapons. All meant to hurt or kill but preferably kill.
She whirled around to look at him. "You're serious?"
He answered with a shrug. "I lead a gang, doll. I require backups."
This wasn't backups. This was insanity. "Where did you get these from?”
"The black market. The easiest place to buy the hardest things," he replied, coming to tilt her chin up to press a kiss to the tip of her nose. "You're not going to rat me out, are you?"
Nova grinned and teased, "Well, it would be hard to, but I guess I can try to forget about all of this. It would have been nice evidence for the FBI.”
Vicious ordered Chinese because he refused to let her cook when she offered, and they sat on the floor at the coffee table to eat. The lights in the living room were dimmed down, and the curtains were opened, so they had the perfect view of Portland.
"Where did you grow up?" Nova asked, and when Vicious arched his brows, she bumped shoulders with him. "You made a thorough research on me, Vicious, so now you're going to tell me everything about you, and unlike you, I’m asking nicely and not going out to gather everything about you.”
He snorted out a laugh. "Doubt you could find anything."
"Because I didn't grow up here."
Now grew curious to know everything about him or the small things he would offer to her. She would hang onto anything like a starving shark. “Where did you grow up in?"
He wasn’t hesitant to answer, “Maine. We moved here years ago. Left the family behind and never looked back. Kinda glad we did. I like Portland and what it offered."
He said we, so he had to mean him and Mario. She swallowed her food before she asked again, "Do you ever think about going back?"
A shadow loomed over his face, and if she hadn’t been paying attention to him so well, she wouldn’t have caught it. “I have a life here, and I'm running a business. Don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon."
"Don't you miss your family?"
He snorted again. It was dark. It was ferocious. “Just cause you miss your own family doesn't mean everyone does. My family and I are a bit complicated, Nova." Vicious seemed like a cornered animal hellbent on destroying his way out of it.
She nodded. She didn't want to pry on that subject, and she could tell he didn't want to. "Got any siblings?" That, she could at least touch.
"Better than your shitty brother." He laughed when she glared. "Two little sisters. Maddison and Addison. Twins. They must be a little close to your age now. Haven't seen or spoken to them in years. For all they know, I might be dead." He pushed the food away and ran his hand through his hair. “Where are you hiding your brother?"
Nova’s jaw slacked at the abrupt question, and it was that exact moment when Vicious' head swivelled and their eyes locked. She blinked. He smirked.
"You think I don't know that you sent him away? Come on, Nova. Give me some credit.“
Neither of them spoke nor moved for the first few seconds, but she decided to break the silence by saying, "You know, I'm not going to tell you, right?”
"You think I will use him against you again?"
He smiled at her, his lips a whisper from her neck. “Yes.”
Vicious shrugged and tipped his head back a little. "I'm a businessman. Blackmail and threat are in my job description," he said casually as if it was nothing. For her, it was a lot.
"You will fuck me and threaten me?"
"I'm still the asshole you met months ago, doll. Nothing's changed. Don't act like if you find a loophole, you won't have second thoughts before you get yourself away from me. Of course, I won't let you find a loophole until it's too late."
Her heart drummed wilder at his words. "Is that why you're dragging me into everything? You want me to get used to it, so I won't feel like leaving." It was a statement, not a question. They both knew she was right, and she had known it for a while now. "Not everyone will be addicted to crime like you, Vicious."
"You've tasted it, Nova. What do you think?"
He stared into her eyes, searching for something. She didn't know what it was, but she wanted him to find it in them. Her stare dropped to his lips, and she gulped. She could almost taste them again.
He chuckled, shaking his head, and she closed her eyes, trying not to let his voice stop her heart. "I asked you a question."
"I don't want to answer."
"You're required to." His words sliced through the dark, filled with intensity. He reached over and brushed his fingertips over her cheek. Nova was coming to depend on receiving those touches. “You know what I think? I think it’s already seducing you, and you know what they say about seduction?”
She swallowed when he brushed his lips over her ear. “It’s enticing someone into doing what they secretly want to do already.”
“Shh.” His finger closed over her lips as he continued to whisper under his breath, “You and me, Nova, we are like the storm, and everyone around us is not strong enough to withstand it.” Vicious brushed his lips over hers. “We could make the whole world jealous if we want to. Would you like that?”
She nodded, entranced by his touches and his voice that had her locked in tight. Nova grabbed the back of his head and pressed their lips together, but before she could open her mouth, he was pulling back.
"I love having you here tonight."
She smirked. "Is that what you tell all the other women?" she asked, as she took control of his hand and moved it around her face and neck.
"We don't usually talk, but I prefer letting my hands and mouth do the talking."
"You're not gonna be cheesy and say I'm different from other women, are you? Because I might walk out of here."
Vicious' chest rumbled. "Well, there's one thing different between you and them." He drew her hand back and guided it to his drawstring, pushing her hand down his pants. "You make me harder than they ever could."