Different things were going on in her mind when she stopped at his front door and knocked on it, holding a bottle of wine in hand and wearing a giddy smile on her face. But it was the knowledge that she hadn't fucked up that still kept her on her feet, the relief and longing that she felt seeing herself standing in front of his door and realizing that she had missed him. She had truly missed Vicious. She couldn't hide that feeling, not even from her face.
When she knocked, there was no answer. On her way up, she had seen his car, so there was no reason to think he wasn't home. Nova knocked again, and this time when she knocked hard, the door creaked and opened slightly.
The door was unlocked. She rolled her eyes at how thoughtless and careless Vicious was, not locking his door despite knowing the danger in that. Someone could sneak in and kill him or rob him blind. She couldn't wait to lecture him on how important it was to keep himself safe.
Walking into the house, she went ahead to search for him after locking the door behind her. He wasn't in the living room or the kitchen, so he had to be in his bedroom. She crossed to his room, found the door slightly ajar before she pushed herself through. The lights were off. The room was dark, but the curtains were drawn, so moonlight peeked through the bedroom, enveloping it with light. Nova could barely process what she saw. Vicious sat on the floor next to his bed, his knees pulled up to his chest and his white shirt smeared with spots of blood. Her heart leaped up into her throat.
"Vic?" she managed to whisper, setting the wine on the top of the drawer as she started to approach him cautiously.
He refused to move from where he sat, his eyes fixed on some distant point. He looked like he had been through some hell. His eyes were ringed with red. He had cuts on his fists, and blood dripped onto the ground. He didn't blink. Instantly, her heart lurched. Something must have happened. Mario didn't tell her anything had happened. He didn't mention any of this.
"Vicious," she called his name again with a silent whisper, breathlessly closing the distance before she sank to her knees in front of him. "Vicious, talk to me."
Once again, he wasn't moving or reacting. Nova's hands came to his face, cupping his cheeks. She forced him to look her in the eyes, and when he did, she could see how his hazel eyes were glowing intensely.
"Talk to me. Is something wrong?" She was pleading. She was aching so much in her heart.
Then, tears fell down his open eyes.
It shook her to the core, trying to push her off the edge. Vicious was crying, something he had never done before, and it was more than she could bear to see him in so much pain. A part of her had died seeing his tears. The strong Vicious, her Ghost, the ring leader of a gang who was ruthless to the core, was crying, and she had no idea why.
Nova threw her arms around his neck, shaking. This was new to her. Usually, he would have been the one to comfort her, but she didn't know what to say. She was out of words.
Vicious' weight collapsed on Nova, catching her off guard, and they fell backward. She lay flat on her back, and he pulled her close, breathing harshly on her neck. She could feel how fast his heart rate was going, and she feared that it might burst. Nova wrapped her arms around him, holding him as tight as he was holding her. His entire body trembled and shook with force, but he wasn't crying. She felt like a knife was buried in her chest, directly on her heart, and someone was turning the blade. The only thing she could do to keep from screaming her frustration and her pain was to hold him.
"Shh, I'm here. You've got me." She stroked his hair, not minding that his weight could literally crush her. Vicious was barely allowing her to breathe, gripping her so tightly. "Do you want to talk about it?"
His breathing increased with her question. It sent his heart roaring and speeding, and she felt how tight he was holding her. More than a few seconds ago. It took another few seconds before he lifted himself off her chest and caged her in with his body. His eyes raked over her face, moving quickly from her eyes and her mouth. Nova cut her eyes to his hands, and he followed her eyes, watching her rub his fists against her clothes, trying to wipe off the blood on them. He narrowed his eyes on her face. Nova guided his fists to her lips, planting soft kisses on his bruises. She tilted her head to look at him, and then Vicious was bringing his lips down on her so harshly it startled her.
Nova opened her mouth to him, letting his tongue invade her mouth. He groaned when she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him down on top of her. The kiss went wildly and intensely, and his touch seemed to be everywhere at once, touching her hair, pulling her close, and driving her over the edge. His hand found her arm, trailing upwards and cupping the side of her neck. His kiss grew deeply and rough. She registered the bites on her lips and felt his fingers wrapping around her neck. Vicious continued to kiss her, stealing her breaths, tightening his hand around her neck. The more he kissed her deeply, the more the fingers around her throat kept tightening as if he was unleashing his anger until Nova registered that she wasn't able to breathe.
Her eyes opened, and she tapped her fingers on his hand wrapped around her neck. She tapped once more when he didn't let go, squeezing her neck and refusing to let go of her lips. That was when she began to panic when she realized that seconds were ticking and he wasn't allowing her to breathe. She tried to push him off, but he was relentless. He was aggravated. It finally dawned on her what was happening.
Vicious was choking her. He was choking her.
Nova thrashed around in his arms before he finally released his lips on her, tilting his head back to stare into her eyes, but he hadn't let go of his hand on her neck. He kept applying pressure, and with wide, frightening eyes, she tried to pry the hand away, looking up into his own eyes. It was like staring into a dark, empty abyss. Her hands, her nails, nothing seemed to be working. Her mouth was opened, but she couldn't gasp out a breath. She couldn't inhale in a breath, and he was staring at her like he was lifeless, his eyes cold and dead.
When she started seeing dark spots over her eyes, Vicious released his hand on her neck, and she gasped out a breath, rolling to her side. She began to cough, her heart beating out of her chest. Her eyes blurred, and she blinked away the tears, the coughing finally subsiding. When she lifted herself to sit, that was when she heard the sound of a gun cocking. Nova froze, her breath hitching as her heart pounded in her chest. Slowly, she began to lift her head up and immediately sucked in a breath. One click, and it was loaded, ready to fire. The moment she saw the gun pointed at her, she saw her life flashing before her eyes.
Nova's eyes went further up to catch the gaze of Vicious, and a sob bubbled up in her throat. His hand went into the pocket of his jeans and fished out a phone, which he threw at her, and it landed directly in front of her.
"Call him," he stated, flicking the gun between her and the phone. She didn't move. "Call him!"
The gun was pointed at her head, air leaving her lungs in rapid breaths. "I don't know who—"
"You don't know who to call?" he interrupted, and chills ran down her spine from the way his tone had changed as if all the bad emotions he felt had gathered in a ball and hurled at her. Nova's fingers shook, and her breath faltered. The gun fired two shots, one right on the bed and the other on the wall. The shots weren't loud. They were soft, gentle, but they aroused panic inside her.
Terror filled her. "Vicious, please! I don't know who I'm supposed to be calling!"
His thunderous voice made her grab the phone in her hands, but she didn't unlock it. She didn't know who she was supposed to call. She was afraid to ask again. This wasn't the man who loved her. This wasn't the man who had taken care of her. This was entirely a different man and one she had expected to see, but why did it hurt so much to see him like this? Why did it bother her so much that he seemed to be in pain? Why was the gun pointed to her head the least of her worries?
Vicious' eyes narrowed, and his lips became thin. "Nova, I ain't going to repeat myself. Call the man who is holding Screw. Call him now before I kill you, and don't give up anything. Set up a meeting place today." His eyes were on her like a hawk.
Her eyes widened, and she suddenly shook her head. "No," she whimpered, still shaking her head. She wasn't going to call. She wasn't going to put Keenan in trouble. Vicious knew the truth about her, and he wouldn't hesitate to kill Keenan. He wanted her to draw him out so he could kill them both. She shook her head, pressing her eyes to stifle the tears that kept trickling down her cheeks.
"You can't....you can't kill him," she managed to whisper. His nostrils flare. Nova tried to pull herself up, but he stalked to her in a rush, pressing the gun to her forehead. She quickly shifted enough that her back was against the bed.
"Do you think this is a joke?" He swayed the gun to the left, still pressed to her forehead. A pull to the trigger would render her dead. "Do you think I won't kill you?" he continued, pissed off.
Nova's heart was racing, practically beating out of her chest. Tears kept falling down her eyes, but she still looked up into his eyes. "Then kill me," she rasped. He was a killer, anyway. She would just be another added number to his kills. Sniffling, she continued, "If it means keeping Keenan safe, then kill me, Vic. I won't let you hurt my friend. I didn't hurt Screw. I would never hurt him. He's my friend."
"Just fucking shut up." His command was short and snappy. "Do you think I'm going to believe anything you say now? For so many fucking months, you lied to me. You made a fool out of me, out of my feelings..." He pressed the gun pointed to her forehead, which shook under his hold.
She took in a gulp of air at his words. "Vicious...."
"Shut up! Mario was right. I shouldn't have trusted a fucking bitch like you. I should have let him killed you."
"Do you think I wanted this?" she screamed, even though it came out barely a whisper. "Do I want to betray you? Do I want to hurt you? Do I want you to hurt me?" She swallowed away the tears welling up in her eyes. "Every single day, I hated myself because I'm supposed to hate you. I wasn't supposed to love you. Everything I did, Vicious, I did it because I had to. Because if I didn't, how would I look at the person who had been there for me for years? Do you think you're the only one who feels pain?"
In complete silence, he let her words ran through his mind, mulling over them, and just when she thought he would take pity on her and lower the gun, his next words broke her heart into million pieces. "I don't care about your feelings. I don't care how you fucking feel. I hope you choke on it."
Her breath seized in her throat, refusing to come out so she could breathe. She was trying to keep the tears at bay. Desperately trying to hold onto her strength, but it was hard. It hurt so much. Hearing him say he didn't care how she felt punched her in the gut. It felt like she was being ripped apart. It hurt so freaking much that she was trembling.
"Do you also hope that I don't love you?" Nova muttered her question.
He laughed. Vicious lowered his gun and laughed full-blown laughter. It sounded nothing like his usual laughter. This one seemed hollow and empty. "You want to talk about love?" he demanded, staring at her in disbelief. "Do you think I'm a fool? What, I let you fool me once, and you expect me to be fooled twice, bitch?" He sounded livid now. Her gaze lingered on the lowered gun, the metal that could either save her life or end it.
When he raised it a little higher, her breath hitched. "What was your purpose, Nova? Why did you betray me?"
"Because I had to. You hurt me first."
It wasn't the answer he wanted from the way his brows snapped together. Suddenly, he got back up in a standing position and pointed the gun to her face again. "I don't want to hear more. Call your man." He tilted his chin toward the discarded phone on the floor between them. "Call him."
"No, I won't call him. You're going to have to kill me." She would never put Keenan in trouble. He was the only one left on her side. He had been there for her and took care of her when Grayson couldn't. She would never put his life in danger just to save herself.
"Dammit, Nova!" A loud shot rang out. It shattered a vase into million pieces, and the bits flung through the room from the explosion. Vicious was back in her face again, breathing fire. "You care for him so much that you're willing to sacrifice your life for him, but you couldn't care for me enough not to betray me? Did everything mean so little to you that you couldn't give a fuck how it turns out?" His words hurt her just as much as they hurt him because she could hear the broken-hearted man under it.
He ground his teeth, almost breathing fire. "I sat there with you. I told you everything. I let you into my fucking kingdom. Fuck, I showed you everything." His fingers were clenched around the gun as if he was forcing himself to pull the trigger. "I gave you a seat next to me and made you my queen, let my boys around you, and bared all my secrets to you. All those times, I've been making a fool out of myself. I invited a snake into my home."
"That's not true." She shook her head. "Everything means so much to me."
"If it did, would we be here? Would I be kneeling before you with a gun pointed to your head? Would we both be hurting if you had just been a fucking honest girl?" He leaned over, his free fingers curling around her chin as he stared right into her eyes as if he was trying to imprint her with his fire. "Do you know what hurts the most? It's not your lies or your deceit. It's because I let myself think anyone could ever love me the way I am. That I could have someone who would understand me and share my world with me. That I could be more than just a criminal."
"I do, Vic, I see you." Nova leaned in to touch his face, but he slapped her hand away, and she fell back, swallowing a sob. Casting her eyes on the ground, she continued, "I love being with you. I love your world. I want to be part of it—"
Grabbing her hair, he forced her to lean back and look at him. "Cut out the bullshit!" He held her hair tight and pulled it back, hissing down on her face. "You came to me with a purpose. You are Batman, and I should have gunned you down the moment I found out. Aren't you the least bit ashamed or remorseful?" He tugged her hair back again, pulling her scalp. It didn't hurt her as much as he was hurting. "You don't regret anything, do you?"
Nova winced. She didn't care to know how he found out everything about her, but he obviously had been digging up about her. So, all those times they had been together, was it all a lie? Did he hate it when he touched and kissed her? Knowing who she was?
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, swallowing a sob. Her heart grieved a loss of something they had been and something that could never be brought back. No matter how things would turn out, that trust was broken between them.
"Sorry? I gave you a second chance." He watched tears roll down her cheeks as he lowered his gun. Vicious walked back to the chair in the room, slumping down and keeping the gun pointed to her head. "I was ready to forgive you for everything, Nova. That was how much I fucking loved you. I didn't listen to Mario when he said I should kill you, but I couldn't. I wanted to give you another chance. I wanted to know if you loved me more than your revenge, but you ended up following me today. I set you a trap, and you fell for it. If you had just done nothing and stayed at work, I would have forgotten everything. I would have forgiven you, and I wouldn't have brought up your betrayal."
She glanced up at him as she wiped her tears away, a tight frown coming over her face before she laughed huskily. "You put so many expectations on me, but you won't ask me why I did what I did. Why I set up everything and came to you. Are you not going to ask me your sin? Huh, Vicious?" she bit out angrily. Her breath faltered. "Because it's your pain that matters? That your feelings should matter to me more than my feelings?"
"I did nothing to you."
"Then, why is my brother lying in the hospital barely alive?" she exploded, the sharp pain biting her skin before she could stop it. His shoulders suddenly tensed, and his lips became thin. "What, you can't speak now?" she taunted, wiping another few tears. "I don't expect you to. My brother is on life support, Vicious, and it's all because of you. You did this to him. You did this to us!"
Laughter escaped him as he bent his head down, rubbing the bridge of his nose with the barrel of the gun. When his eyes drifted back to hers, there wasn't an ounce of amusement in his eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about, and even if I do, then you should have come to me. I would admit it to you if I was guilty and let you punish me as you see fit. There was no need to betray me. There was no need to kidnap Screw. You already made me kill one of my boys. I won't let you hurt my boys again."
She blinked. "What do you mean you had nothing to do with it?"
"Do you have proof? That I did what you're accusing me of doing? Who is your brother, and what did he do to deserve that? Suppose I was the one who hurt him, then he had to have done something to earn it."
Nova's mouth parted and closed. Vicious saw that.
"You can't tell me, or you don't have proof?"
Her cheeks flushed, and she glared at him. "Why would I paint you the bad guy if you had not been the one to hurt him?"
"Then, show it to me. Tell me what he did and where he is. If I see him, I might recognize him, and then you'd know if I was responsible or not."
"You are," Nova pressed, glaring at him. "And I'm not taking you to him. I don't trust you. You will hurt him."
Vicious laughed. "How can I hurt someone who is already on a hospital bed? What do you take me for?" He rolled his eyes and licked his lips. "You don't want to call your guy. You don't want to tell me what I did, and you don't want to take me to see your brother. I'm starting to think all of this is just bullshit." Shaking his head, he added, "It doesn't matter now. You're going to have to talk eventually. You would want to. I'm the only one who can save you."
"Save me? You're the one who wants to hurt me."
"Oh! I didn't tell you?" He looked amused now. She pinned her gaze on him suspiciously. "There's something that we do in the gang when someone betrays us." He laughed again, shaking his head. "I cut off their collars and set them free." Another laughter that didn't sound amusing to her ears. "When I told you I'm the only one who can save you, Nova, I meant it. Right now, there are people outside waiting for you. The moment you step foot outside, you're a dead woman. You're going to be the bone I'm going to throw at them, and baby, they are dying to take a bite."
Her eyes widened, and her chest beat rapidly. Nova blinked a couple of times to process what he said, trying to come to terms with it. He planned this. If he couldn't kill her, he would get others to kill her, and her blood wouldn't have to be on his hands. The moment she stepped foot outside, she was dead. He set his dogs on her, and there was nothing she could do. Nova felt sick. If she managed to get away from his guys, she knew she wouldn't be able to escape Mario. He would hunt her down. He would kill her. The only one who could hold him down was Vicious.
She stared at him as he stroked his gun, his face blank. She wondered if Vicious had a conscience. If his soul was still salvageable. Keenan wasn't lying when he said he was a monster. She didn't believe it before. She couldn't believe it before, but now she saw it.
"Are you going to throw me out to them?" she asked quietly, a chill going through her.
His eyes darted back to her as if she pulled him back to reality. He stared at her like he wanted to do anything besides that. The expression on his face was vapid and emotionless, then his lips parted slowly, spreading into a smile. "You walked in willingly. Do you need my permission to leave too? Go." He waved her off with his gun. "Walk out of here, Nova. I've changed my mind about keeping you. You're free to go."
She didn't attempt to get up and leave. His shoulders shook with laughter. She didn't know if he was telling the truth or not, that his men were out there waiting for her to walk out so they could kill her, but she also knew he wouldn't say that if he wasn't serious. Vicious wasn't in a mood to joke about something like this.
"No?" His eyebrows shot up. "You ain't walking out of here? You have decided to stay?" he mused, then laughed like it was funny as hell.
"Fuck you." Nova swallowed away the lump in her throat.
A devious smile appeared on his face. "Then, call your guy. Set up a meeting with him, and I will pull the dogs back into their cages. Say no, and you walk out of here. Time to pick the right decision, muneca."
Her chest tightened when he called her that, and a rush of adrenaline shot through her body. Nova stared at the phone but couldn't pick it up. Luring Keenan out had never been part of the plan. He would never betray her, and she couldn't betray him either.
With a ghost of a smile on her face, she glanced at him. "I guess your room doesn't sound so bad after all. Besides, I have been on your bed and under you. This is just another normal day for me." Nova finally picked herself up and stumbled over to him. Leaning over him, their faces were inches apart. "So, where would you like me? Under you or on top? Free or handcuffed? How many times would you fuck me and hate me, Vicious?"
His eyes narrowed, and he growled. It was low and scary, and it was meant to scare her. She was scared. However, she was willing to risk it. No matter what, she wasn't going to call Keenan, and she wasn't going to leave the house without him. If she gets shot, then she would make sure she dragged him with her to hell.