She was detached from her body.
Sitting on the tile floor under the shower that wasn't turned on, Nova acknowledged that Vicious was speaking to her, but her eyes seemed to be mute to any sound around her.
Ben was dead.
She killed Ben. She was a murderer.
Her eyes slowly glanced down, at her hands, although clean, dark red blood seemed to drip from it and bounced onto the floor. She knew whose blood it was. She bit her lip, eyes watering as she started to wipe the blood away on her clothes, but it was still there. Still red. Coated along her fingers. Nova turned on the shower as the cold water hit her skin. She ran her hands under it, scrubbing at the blood away, which still lingered and lingered, and seemed to bubble up from the center of her palm.
When she blinked again, the blood was gone, but red bruises marred her palms from the assault it had endured. Nova ran her hands through her face, then looked up to turn off the shower. Movements from the bathroom pulled her attention away from her thoughts to the man that had just knelt down in front of her, lifting his hand to her face.
Vicious cupped the side of it and ran his thumb over her cheek softly before he murmured, softly, "Come back to me."
Nova roamed her eyes over his form, registering that he had changed out of his earlier clothes, now clad in dark clothes from head to toe. His hair was falling out of his face, and his green eyes were glowing brightly as they rested on her dull eyes. He resembled a dark, fallen angel.
Her words came out very robotic as if she were reading lines, "I'm not a murderer," she told him, but she felt it was more for herself than for him.
You represent something good, something innocent. Vicious wants to corrupt that. That was what Mario had said. She had been good, right up to the moment she had pulled a trigger and killed someone. What was she now?
He nodded. "You're not," he agreed calmly.
"It doesn't change how twisted you see the world and the people in it. You can't be right. There's no darkness inside me," she continued quietly, gazing at him. "I'm a good person."
They build this bubble of goodness around them, but with a little shove, he thinks he can bring out their dark side. After what she had done, was she still a good person?
Her words had the desired effect as she felt him freeze. Vicious' eyes flashed at her words like he knew where she was going with it. The atmosphere around them changed drastically. Both of them knew he hadn't forced her hand. He didn't threaten her to pull the trigger on Ben, and he certainly didn't tell her to kill him. However, maybe his words had a true inkling to it. People did have dark sides, and when push came the shove, it comes out.
Not a flicker of emotion passed through his gaze, but he did exhale, tilting his head to the side as he reached up and brushed her hair away from her face. He simply gazed at her through his eyes, completely still like they were both a ticking time bomb.
"I need you here with me." His voice was a sensual caress against her skin. "And I want you to listen to me. You did what you had to do, now you gotta let it go." Then he rested his forehead against hers and breathed out, "It won't do you any good if you keep torturing yourself."
"I killed someone, Vicious. I know that may seem easy for you, but it's not for me. I took a life. I can't just let it go. I'm supposed to help people, not take away their lives." She was carefully watching him, trying to gauge his reaction. She was trying to find herself in his eyes. Was a monster reflecting inside his eyes?
"I killed for you," she finally could say it, turning away from his gaze. She killed for him. Did Vicious deserve it? Did he deserve her awakening a tiny black spot in her heart?
He wrapped his hands around her upper arms, gently coaxing her onto her feet. She didn't say anything when he began to peel her clothes off and dropped them onto the floor, leaving her in her bra and underwear. Vicious picked her up and left the bathroom. Walking to his bed, he sat her there and went back to the bathroom. He walked back with a towel in hand, and without needing to say anything, he began to dry her wet hair.
Nova didn't say anything, even when he began to roam the towel down her arm and chest. After he was done, he threw the towel aside, kneeling down in front of her. For someone who had proved his theory right, he didn't exactly look happy. He seemed so tense and angry like he was holding back from unleashing whatever he was feeling.
Her heart kept pounding, stronger, and stronger at the cold look in his eyes. His hand touched her arm. His hold was gentle, yet hard. He murmured, dropping his voice to an intimate whisper, "I would take the guilt from you if I could, Nova. I would kill him so you don't have to feel like this. I'm sorry for what happened."
"You didn't make me kill him."
His hand cupped the back of her neck. He tilted her head up to meet his eyes. They were cold and dark. When she saw the intensity in them, something lit inside her. It grew into a fire that blazed hotter and brighter the longer she held his gaze.
"I may as well have."
Vicious gave her space for a while. Space for what? To catch on her thoughts? To remind herself of what she had done? Ben was her friend. She knew him. They had mutual friends. What would they think if they knew? They would hate her. They would shun her. They would seek justice for him.
Is this how it feels? To kill someone you know? How do murderers do it? Kill someone they knew? A loved one. Do they feel this emptiness in their hearts? Do the faces of their loved ones haunted them?
As she processed through everything, she came to realize that accepting what happened would be easier than denying it. She had been sitting on the bed, clothed in his shirt when he walked in. Vicious gave her a glass of water and a plate of food. Her stomach grumbled as she saw the sloppy made sandwich on it, but she left it untouched. She couldn't eat right now. She couldn't stomach anything. The water, she managed to drink that.
"How are you feeling?" He sat beside her and lifted the covers to slip his legs inside, letting it fall on their thighs.
"What are you going to do with the body?"
"Mario is taking care of it."
Okay. "Does he know?" That I did it? He acknowledged the inquiry by giving a slight nod.
He pulled her against his side and ran his hand up and down her arm. "You don't have to worry about anyone finding out. Mario is going to stage a fake drug bust operation. It would look like Ben met his ending there."
She winced and gazed down. He pushed her hair over her shoulder, his thumb tracing circles just beneath her ear.
"Make me forget, please," she whimpered. "Just for today, make me forget."
When his head moved closer, Nova closed her eyes and felt his lips touch hers. There was a soft insistence from him and she opened for him. As his tongue swept inside and took command over her, it wasn't long before he rolled over on top of her. She gasped as he lifted her shirt off, then her bra. The need for him rose, threatening to take control of her. Nova shuddered as his hand slid up her side. Her skin burned for more, for a distraction.
Vicious' eyes continued to roam over her form, tasting every inch his eyes fall on. His fingers slipped underneath the straps of her panties and slid them down with his thumbs brushing against the insides of her thighs as he went.
Nova pulled him down to her to take his shirt off, and it didn't take long before she had it discarded to the side. His skin against hers made her feel delicious, and in seconds, she was tugging at his jeans. Vicious was between her legs, kissing her, touching her. He loved her with every touch and caress from him.
When he slid inside of her, she trembled. Then he started to move and she came alive in his arms. With each thrust, she came with him. With each thrust, her body was his. She skimmed a hand down his back, and he trembled underneath her touch. His body was hers as well.
They belonged to each other.
She clung to him with dear life as he lifted her leg higher. His eyes were open, bearing into her own. She felt stripped open to him, her soul bared. In a moment, she felt him tense at the same time her climax ripped through her. Waves of pleasure slammed into her and she rode out each of them. As she finished, he let himself go.
He collapsed on top of her, letting out a long breath. His hand trailed up her arm, coming up to trace her lips as he looked down at me now. Vicious was hers. This dangerous and powerful being, sculpted to perfection was hers. He touched his lips to hers, a soft claiming as he whispered against, "You're mine."
She tried to give her a hundred percent attention to the next auction. It was in a different location and with different people. It's been a couple of weeks since the last job, and they were starting to up their game. New players, new forgeries. Nova did what she did the last time—she tried to be charming, tried to flirt, but she was finding it harder to slip back to the confident woman from the first auction.
The customers had noticed too. She took time before she could answer their questions. She stammered and tried to remember Vicious' briefings, and she was struggling to put the smile back on her face. At one point, Riley had to draw her away from the customers. She was asked to take a few minutes to grab her bearings.
She washed her face. She sat on the toilet seat. Nova leaned her head back against the bathroom wall and tried to take in few breaths. When she felt a little better, she went back in. This time around, she tried not to mess up. Tried not to tremble.
While discussing with a customer, she made a show of looking around, she found Vicious in the crowd. Well, he wasn't in the crowd. He was standing in the shadows, watching her. He wore a three-piece suit that made her mouth salivate, her eyes working through him from head to toe. He was deliciously attractive and his gaze burned through hers as if he could read what was going on through her mind. Throughout the auction, she felt his gaze watching her every moment.
They found themselves in a bar. Another successful night. It was a small private bar with no peering eyes. She ordered a drink. The music failed to flow through her. She could feel her jaw clenching and unclenching, her hand gripping the glass a little too tightly, and her breaths were becoming faster and more shallow as the minutes' tick by. This was a luxury Ben would never afford. He would never get to go out and drink. Have fun. Get married. Have kids. Be a grandfather. She gritted her teeth. All because of one stupid decision of hers.
The door opened, letting in a quick gust of cold wind before it closed again. She didn't look. She felt the exact moment he approached the bar, slid into the stool next to her, and the moment his eyes fall on her face. He didn't say anything, just ordered a drink. His eyes were back on her. Nova knew what he must be thinking, or at least, she had an inkling. She took the last sip of her drink and hoped it calmed her down, tilting her head back to get every last drop.
She could see him tilting his glass back and forth, then shaking it before moving it towards his mouth. The bartender walked off. It was just the two of them now. She tried not to pay attention. She hoped he wouldn't speak to her.
"Do you know what I did the first time I killed someone?" he said, just above a whisper, and not loud enough for anyone to hear. "I paid to fuck it out of my head."
Nova slid a glance towards him. His hair looked unruly and he looked tired. He didn't look at her. She didn't demand him to look at her.
"Did it work?"
Mario turned his head. His eyes were hardened, jaw clenching as an unfamiliar emotion passed through his eyes. "Nothing ever works," the honest truth passed through his lips. "You never forget your first kill."
She swallowed, and her heart sank down to her stomach, her throat becoming incredibly thick all of a sudden. "What do I do, then?" her question came out soft as if she were too afraid to voice it, too afraid to know the answer.
"You live with the stain."
His words washed over her like ice water, and Nova brought her hand up to her face to eyes, breathing through her nose as her hands started to tremble. Cold hand enclosed over her hand, squeezing it lightly. It came and went quickly.
"Thank you for protecting him. I know it wasn't easy."
No, it wasn't.
"I owe you one."
"I don't want it," it came out harsher than she intended, dropping her hand to face him again. "What I did was for me, Mario, not you. I didn't even do it for him."
He nodded in understanding. "It's killing him, you know?" he admitted with a sigh. "what it's doing to you. He isn't saying anything, but he doesn't have to. I can tell he's in pain and he blames himself."
Nova lets out a shaky breath. "I don't blame him," she replied in an equally quiet voice.
It went quiet after that. Nova had no idea how long they had sat in silence, but it felt nice.
After some minutes, she heard him say, "Wanna head out?"
She tossed her head behind her and realized that the bar had been emptied out. She had no idea that time had run out like that, so she inclined her head and slipped out of the stool. The two of them walked out of the bar, only to run into Vicious. When his eyes caught hers, darkness flashed in his depths.
"Did you meet with Devon?"
Vicious' gaze darted from her to his cousin. "I did," he answered, his eyes shooting back to her. "Everything's good. Turns out that no one knows Ben went rogue. The FBI has thrown their hook into something else."
"So you're good, then?" Mario asked again.
"Yeah." Vicious held her gaze steadily. "I'm taking her to meet him."
"Wow." Mario coughed, eyes widening. "That's a big step, brother. You sure?"
Nova stared at him, watching his mouth tilt up into a smile. Whoever it was he wanted her to meet, he had to be important. Her chest rose and fell.
"I've never been more sure."
She said goodbye to Mario and followed Vicious to his car. She was excited and nervous, but she was mostly impatient. When they were in the car, he leaned and pressed his lips to her. Vicious pulled away and his hand traced down the side of her face, his brushing against her bottom lip. It wasn't long before he pulled into the road.
"Where are we going?"
He chuckled. "So impatient. You scared?"
Nova ran her hand from her neck down to her chest, letting it fall to her lap. Twisting her head to the side, she caught his gaze. They darkened when she bit on her lip and swept her tongue over her lips.
"There's nothing scary about you," she returned with a grin.
His voice was husky as he murmured, "I'm the most dangerous man you'd ever meet, darlin'. You want to test it out?" She rolled her eyes, and he must not have liked it because he stepped on the break so fast. A squeal left her mouth when he picked her up and had her flush against him, on his lap.
"Vicious," she murmured hoarsely as he pressed a kiss to her shoulder. His teeth grazed over her shoulder while his hand slipped under her top, running his thumb in circles over her stomach. Desire flooded her. Her heart pounded against her chest. Nova's breath hitched as his tongue swept down her chest, catching her nipples through her top. She sucked in a breath, her hand sliding into his hair and held on.
Vicious pulled away and laughed huskily. He murmured into her ear, pressing a kiss there. "I just remembered that we have to be somewhere." He lifted her from his lap and settled her back onto the passenger's seat.
She glared at him. "You're a bitch."
The house he took her was a small house with a white picket fence and a lawn. She kept shooting a confused glance towards him when they made it to the front porch. He knocked on the door. A man opened the door, nodded at Vicious, and allowed them to walk inside. It was an average house, but nothing was put much into it.
Nova noticed three men sprawled on the couch, playing cards, and when they saw Vicious, they nodded their heads and greeted him. She understood that these were his boys. She followed him down the hallway, stealing a glance at the messy kitchen then pushed herself to walk to the last door on the right. Vicious knocked before he opened the door.
It was a bedroom they walked into. A short, bald man with chestnut skin rose from his chair and grinned at Vicious. Nova watched as they had a quick hug, something that had her raising her brows. The man swept his gaze towards her, and she smiled politely at him. Vicious followed his gaze and turned around to look at her.
"Nova, this is Elon Bo," he introduced with an affectionate smile. "Elon, meet Nova."
Her eyes widened at the name. "As in the attorney who had been missing since last year?" she asked, staring at the man in shock. His face had been all over the news last year. He had just vanished, leaving no trace behind. Presumed dead. She swung her gaze back to Vicious. "What the hell? You kidnapped him?"
Elon stepped up with a shake of his head. "No, no, he saved my life."
She stared at him in confusion. "I don't get it. Saved you from who?"
"From those who want me dead."
She jerked her head to where Vicious stood and asked Elon, "He doesn't want you dead?" As far she could tell, Vicious didn't save people. People were saved from him.
The accused found it funny and laughed. "Elon is the reason why Vipers are after me."
"I thought you said you stole money from them?" Her tone was cool but curious.
"He is the money."
"I'm not following."
In his drawling manner, Vicious continued, "Elon is a Mafia whistleblower. He exposed the Russian Mafia and gained a lot of resources on the other international Mafias. The head of the
European Mafia put a bounty on his head."
She was struck speechless.
"I was kidnapped by Vipers eight months ago," added Elon. "but before they could take me to them, Vicious swooped in and saved my life. He has been hiding me for months."
She reared back. Their cold tones whipped at her. Mafias. Whistleblower. It was a lot to take in.
Uneasily, Nova inquired to Vicious, "But wouldn't that put you in danger of the mafias? If they know you have Elon, why are you still not dead?" Mafias were the bigger players. The gods of crime. You are automatically dead if you cross them.
"Because Batman knows if he breathes a word about me and Elon, the mafias would swoop in, and then he would risk the bounty money and a chance to be owed by them."
She squirmed uncomfortably. "He doesn't sound stupid." A grin replaced the faint look of tenseness on Vicious' face while he ordered Elon to get ready and grabbed her arm to walk out of the room with her. When they were in the hallway, she asked, "Where is he going?"
"We are going to take him to another safe house," he retorted, holding her hand to play with her fingers. "We bounce him around every month."
"We? As in I get to come along?" She beamed up at him.
His arms slipped to her hips and he held her loosely between his feet. "You have earned every right to everything that goes on, Nova. I ain't sidelining you anymore."
I had to kill for you for that to happen.
As if he read her thoughts, he shook his head and muttered, "That's not the reason why. You've shown me that I can trust you." He tugged her closer to him. Nova closed her eyes when he moved to her neck and pressed a kiss there. "You did what a lot of people couldn't do."
Her head whipped to his. "Made you mine?"
An arm came around her waist and he trapped her, pulling her back against his chest. He continued, speaking into her ear, "That too."
His boys were heavily armed when they left the house thirty minutes later, falling into step around them, surrounding them, as they made their way to Vicious' car. Nova, Elon, and Vicious got into his car, with her sitting at the front. Elon wasn't at the back alone for long before Riley joined them in the car. She didn't know where he came from because he hadn't been inside the car.
The others were in the other car behind, waiting for theirs to start moving. And when it lurched into movement, they followed. It didn't seem like they had gone far when the car jerked to a stop. Nova's heart flew into her chest.
As soon as the car braked, Vicious reacted. He flew out of the car before she could even comprehend what was happening. As soon as she had, the air outside was filled with screams, gunshots, and shouts.
"Keep them safe!" was the last thing she heard from him. He was gone.
Nova scrambled out of the car, hitting the concrete ground. By-passers were screaming and running. She looked around. Even Riley was gone. Some of the guards were positioned around her and Elon, who huddled close to her, and could see that he was praying, shaking.
In the distance, she saw Riley fighting someone. Where was Vicious? Panic started to rise when she couldn't see him. Then she yelled out, "Vicious!"
Gunshots kept popping off into the air.
People were still screaming. Nova was trying not to die a little inside. She made a move to chase off into the chaos when one of Vicious' boys closest to her grabbed her arm and started to push her back into the car.
"Get inside!" he shouted, as he pushed Elon into the backseat.
She recognized the voice. Everything in her tightened with tension. Vicious. She scrambled to get to the door, but they were blocking it, so she had to do with looking at him through the windshield. He was there, running back to her.
He yelled next, "Brack, get them out of here!"
Someone screamed. Nova shook her head. She wasn't leaving. She wasn't going to leave him. Her feet kicked at the door, hard enough for Brack to move away from the door and let Nova escaped from the car. As soon as she was out, an arm gripped her and she was lifted in the air, but then she saw something else. Horror rose in her throat and her eyes bulged out. She couldn't stop it.
Vicious was covering the distance at breakneck speed, but someone stepped out from an alley. He was too far away for the guards to grab him, and not close enough for Vicious to tackle him.
He lifted the gun in his hand. It was small, but he lifted it with ease with a cold mask gripped his features. Then he turned the gun towards her, but he wasn't pointing at her. Elon was standing next to her, petrified. Nova pushed him away and he fell onto the sidewalk, and one of Vicious' boys grabbed his arm and hauled him up to take cover. The gun was aimed at her now, and his eyes were angry for missing his chance. It was coming. It was a matter of seconds. Everything stopped. Her heart stopped beating. She stopped breathing. She readied herself. She was going to die. She knew it at that moment, and she couldn't do anything to stop it.
All of a sudden, Vicious was there. He snaked a hand around his neck and grabbed a hold of the back of his neck and twisted. It was a clean movement, lethal. His neck snapped and he let go of the body. It dropped at his feet. Nova knew she wasn't breathing. Vicious sprinted and was next to her seconds later. He hurled her up in his arms and put her in the car, slamming the door shut. Riley swooped in afterward and their car took off.
Nova was in the back, her heart pounding in her eardrums. Vicious was holding her on his lap tightly and possessively as she trembled in his arms. He was breathing excessively, clutching her in a death grip. She felt him collapsing his head into her hair and continued to breathe her in.
She had almost died.
She had almost lost her life.