SACRIFICE (Book Two: The London Crime King)

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Chapter 17

Liam

I am standing inside a small kitchen, the black veneered counters, scattered with avoidable rubbish and unwashed dinnerware. Old newspaper articles case the windows, preventing natural light from entering the insalubrious, unwholesome council home—thorough squalid replicates throughout. The narrow space confined in the cramped living room presents negligible furnishings; one frayed corner sofa, portable television and strewn cardboard boxes hoarding miscellaneous items and accumulated magazines with highlighted gossip columns.

What a filthy, shambolic residence, I pondered, nudging a box with my shoe, startling and disturbing an unexpected rodent. Scurrying across the floorboards, the mouse collapsed its spine and crawled beneath a gnawed baseboard next to the condemned fireplace.

Lips twisting in repulsion, I stepped across strewn clothes and shoes, entered the box-shaped hallway and, foot by foot, ascended the narrow stairway.

I moved through a place that felt cold and unlived, unprepossessing, neglected and unloved. Not one family picture mounted these undecorated walls, and the uncarpeted floors illustrated further uncaring neglect.

Bypassing the bathroom, I opened a door and peered inside a bedroom. Before the window, a single bed presented with a chequered blue comforter and a shabby rug adorns the scarce walking space. It's somewhat tidy compared to downstairs. I looked inside the wardrobe. He folded clean towels, spartan clothing and stored cleaning bottles in a plastic container.

I unclasped my Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch and stuffed it inside a hoodie pocket. It's worth a mint. He can model and boast, or pawn for a fresh financial start.

Shutting the bedroom door behind me, I extract gloves from my trouser pocket and wriggle my fingers into the worn leather.

The second I entered the mother's room, stale cigarette smoke and pungent urination wafted down my throat.

Previously, she collapsed face down on the double-bed and blanketed the bedside lamp with sheer pink fabric to dim the room. She only wears a black thong, revealing her pale derriere. Her discarded clothes tossed on a nearby chest of drawers.

I sloped my gaze to the used condom on the floor and breathed out a sedative sigh.

Sensing a presence, she squinted her bloodshot eyes open and stared at me for longer than necessary. "Who are you?" she croaked, rolling onto her back, exposing saggy her breasts and taut nipples. "You're new, huh?"

Standing at the foot of her bed, I smirked, looming over her stretching frame. "Something like that."

She reached for a cigarette with blind determination, opened the box and groaned. "I thought I had some left."

I opened my packet, extended my arm and offered to share. She pinched two fingers around a cigarette, balanced it between pouty lips, and leaned close for me to light the end. "Did you bring enough money?" she asked, eyeing my solid gold curb bracelets and diamond rings. "I'm not cheap."

Tucking my lighter away, I stifled a disbelieving laugh. "I can afford you."

Half-drunk from her afternoon of carousing, she laid back on the mattress, respiring smoke to the ceiling. In her hand, the cigarette lingers precariously close to the coverlet, a devastating hazard waiting to happen. I can ignite a fire and let her burn inside the sanctuary of her destructive ambience. No, it means the entire house will aflame. I had to consider the lad.

Unbuckling my belt buckle, I held her eyes while tugging the leather through my trouser loops.

She followed the movement with dilated eyes, moaning her approval. "Where do you want me?" Wafting smoke from her face, she leaned over the bed, tossed the cigarette in an ashtray, kicking off her thong. "Men ain't looking like you these days." She slipped a hand between her thighs, fingers stroking her unshaven cunt. "Will you eat my pussy?"

I couldn't think of anything worse than putting my head in those thighs. "Are you paying?" I positioned a knee on the mattress, snapped the belt and fastened it to her upper arm. "How does your son feel about his mother selling her ass?"

"Ryan," she purred, licking her chapped lips. "How do you know my son? Is that little asswipe playing up again?"

Securing the belt around her arm, I opened the bedside drawer and searched for the requisite narcotics for fatal consequences.

When I didn't respond, she rolled her eyes. "Don't be worrying about my Ryan," she clipped, reaching up and cupping her breast. "There are some toys in the ottoman. I prefer the rabbit. It helps me squirt."

I put the lighter under a spoon, liquifying excessive heroin. "Why don't we have a little fun first?" I mused, offering her a daring smile. "I'm feeling generous."

"Oh, I love your voice," she purred, pinching her aching clit with begrimed fingernails. "So gravelly and rough—woof."

I refrained from sneering, preparing a syringe.

"I deep throat for a tenner," she tells me, moaning while chasing her pleasure. "I can take that cock to the back of my throat. I swallow, too. I bet you love that, huh? Shooting your cum on a woman's face, ordering her to lick it up."

Her seductiveness requires honing. "Nice to know." I can't believe this woman only charges ten pounds for a blowjob. At Club 11, clients pay seventy-five for a lousy handjob. My women charge extortionate hourly rates. You wouldn't even cop a grope for ten quid.

"How about you let me suck on that juicy cock first?" She ran her tongue across tar, stained teeth and gums. "I love sucking on a thick cock."

She tried to snatch my crotch, and I caught her wrist. "Let's shoot first." Massaging her palm, I draped her arm above her head, tracing my leather-clad fingertips across crusted track marks. "Don't be stroppy," I rasped, discerning her pouty lips and furrowed brows. "It doesn't suit you."

Her untidy blonde hair fanned across the stained sheets. I noticed a faint bruising beneath her left eye and pondered whether a client used unrestrained force amid their last encounter. I reckon she was a looker prior to hardcore drugs. I looked beyond her jet, black roots, gaunt cheeks and distasteful smile, envisioning a younger version—a blithe, attractive woman who once lived accordingly, worked full-time and dated decent men. I could picture someone who took pride in their appearance and demanded respect.

Those blue eyes told many sad stories. You don't hit rock bottom without a cause. "Where's Scott's father?" I pressed a thumb to her inner elbow, prodding for a vein.

She flinched but thought I hadn't noticed. "Who knows, huh?" Her voice broke, lips puckering. "Fuck 'em."

I am a sharp-witted man. I didn't get thus far in life without exceptional perceptiveness. "Born of rape," I conclude he forcibly impregnated, and her doe eyes narrowed. "It's a painful legacy for him. Does he know?"

She bit her tongue, refusing to respond.

"You see a monster in your son's eyes," I continue, lining the needle. "The same eyes of his father. Such striking features that you can't ignore—a painful and prominent reminder of what his father did to you." I inject heroin into her protruding vein. "I understand, although counterfactual resemblance doesn't mean he inherited his father's villainousness."

"I try," she groaned, heroin taking effect. "I raised him; I fed him; I kept a damn roof over his head. What more could he possibly want, huh?" She blinked against euphoric pleasure. "You don't know what the fuck I've been through, so don't judge me."

I applied pressure to the syringe. "Why do women birth children and then neglect them?" I asked, quenching interest. "He didn't ask to be here." I didn't ask to be here, I thought, leaving the needle in her arm, rising to my feet. "It's not his fault."

Her shallow, irregular breathing thwarted her response. Limpness and semi-unconsciousness coincided with choked gurgling. Her addiction asserted to a typical heroin junkie who overdosed. I unbuckled the belt from her arm, ignored her gargled whimpers and shut the door.

I waited on the landing, back to the wall, whistling tunes while she wrestled her last breath. I had no shame or compunction; I had to kill.

Scott's mother's condition evoked unsettling memories, though. I do not recall the woman who birthed me. I had no concept of what she looked like or if her dire situation replicated this one. For the first time in my adult life, I deliberated and considered her.

Irked by undesired conclusions, I tampered down unspoken, unasked and unanswered questions, descended the stairs and powered to the back door. I didn't reach the exit. I paused, contemplated how to approach the young lad with his back to me. He wears over the head headphones, listening to music while washing the dishes at the sink.

Ryan Scott.

I noted his straightening spine. He glimpsed over his shoulder, eyes rounding. "What the hell?" he barked, tugging the headphones to his neck, stumbling toward the stove. I hadn't foreseen his impulsiveness. He snatched open the drawer, retrieved and brandished a serrated kitchen knife. "What the fuck are you doing in my house?"

His fear puzzled me. Rex claimed Scott's used to his mother's degrading lifestyle, so why the hostility? Am I not just another man swinging through for sexual gratification?

"Warren," he said in the blandest undertone, his eyes never straying from mine. "What do you want?"

He recognises me. "You're tall for a thirteen-year-old," I pointed out in a monotone voice, my hands buried in my trouser pockets. "Isn't it past your bedtime, Scott?"

With fostered gallantry, he squared his shoulders, jutting his bare chest. "Get out," he ordered, and a dry laugh fell from my lips. "I don't want any trouble." His rounded blue eyes dart to the living room door. "What did she do? Does she owe you money or something? Listen, I can get it back. Give me a few weeks—"

"Shut up," I scold, sensing an emerging headache. "Yes." I began my web of lies. "Your mother owed me money. I checked in to collect what's rightfully mine. She has a severe problem with heavy drugs, which I am sure doesn't come as a surprise to you."

He tousled his brown hair with a trembling hand.

"I will be leaving empty-handed," I continued, resting an elbow on the kitchen counter. "Overdose."

Scott withered on the spot, unhinging his jaw. "What?"

"It's unacceptable. I am inclined to overturn this property and claim valuables..." I raked my disapproving gaze over the furniture. "However, It is unlikely that I'll find anything of significant value." He's yet to shed a tear. Interesting. "I guess her debt falls on your shoulders."

His Adam's apple jived in his throat. "Please don't kill me."

I fixed my cufflink. "I don't know, Scott. Twenty grand is a lot of money to overlook." I settled my eyes on his holey trainers. "It is not unreasonable to feel upset and offended."

Nodding in agreement, he dropped the knife back into the drawer. "Can you at least make it quick?"

Boldfaced and dauntless, I thought, opening the back door. "I was never here," I said, and he listened with sharp attentiveness. "You have never met Liam Warren, let alone shared a conversation with him. If you so much as breathe my name around the East End? Expect a visit. I don't play nice, Scott. I'll beat you within an inch of your life only to let you heal and repeat the torture all over again. By the time I'm through with you, death will be your only saviour. Have I made myself abundantly fucking clear?"

I had gotten inside his head. He swallowed what seemed like a punishing knot, wiping sweat from his forehead. "Yes."

"Good lad." I smiled with sardonic optimism. "I look forward to seeing you again."

He muttered his breath, "I'd rather eat my shit."

"It would be inadvisable to do so," I retort, tone laced in sarcasm. "Careful Scott. I get the impression you're going to need me in your corner someday."

Eyebrows joining in irritation, he spat out a venomous response. "I don't need anybody but myself."

His arrogance and warlike temperament suggest otherwise.

Ryan Scott is an impending detonation.

I cannot wait for the day he wreaks mass destruction and pleads for my help.

Shutting the back door, I wander down the garden path, light a cigarette and respire smoke to the night sky.

I fulfilled my good deed of the day.

***

"Bossman," Brad chimes, swinging an arm over my shoulders. "I missed you."

"Get the fuck off me," I snapped, spurning his playful advances. "You're cruising for a backhander."

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he slipped a toothpick to the corner of his mouth. "Where did you go?" he asked, following me into the prestige suite. "I called you." He sought Cherry across the room. She's the head female at Club 11. It's her job to lead and command the dancers, keep them in check and collect payments after each shift ready to leave on my desk. "I will cave tonight. Cherry's looking sinful."

Yes, the vivacious redhead screams concupiscent in her skin-tight corset, diamante G-string and lecherous gaze.

Brad has danced around Cherry since he joined the syndicate. She is his go-to woman if you may. They have a love/hate relationship. She literally worships the ground he walks on, whereas he only tolerates her for libidinous purposes. Once they fuck, he palms her off, regretting his sex-induced mistake.

"You'll only regret it," I said imperiously, accepting a crystal glass topped with Macallan from Nate. "Where's Josh?"

Nate gestures toward the back. Josh, intoxicated, rested on the leather sofa, drapes his arms around two women, immersing himself with their carnal kisses and greedy hands. Cora, a fresh-faced recruit, kneels between his parted thighs, rubbing a palm over his trouser-clad groin, easing his arousal.

"Christ," said Brad. "He's in fanny heaven right now."

I burst out laughing.

Nate shot him a disparaging look. "He had a superlative teacher."

"I am not that bad," Brad lies, knocking down a whiskey shot. "You're no better."

"I got more dignity," Nate drawled in a condescending tone. "And self-control."

Affronted, Brad blew out a long breath. "Why don't you crawl back up the ass you fell from?"

"What the fuck did you say to me?" Nate jerked Brad, which only humoured the jester more. "I should pummel your white ass."

"No, thanks." He grimaced, slipping between us to reach the bar. "I don't want you touching my virginal bottom."

Nate, lost for words, puffed out his cheeks. "That's not what I meant," he assured me, and I arched an eyebrow. "Come on now. You know I don't play like that."

He's a straight, warm-blooded male. I upheld indifference, though. "It's none of my business." While he defended his sexuality, I noticed Kellie at the bar, observing me with intense adoration. "Why the fuck is she here?"

"Oh," Nate winced, itching his jawline. "Yeah, she rocked up here about an hour ago. Also," he tipped his head, indicating to the blonde woman headed in our direction, "Miss Bennett arrived at the appointed time."

I grapple for words. "Nate," I whispered, turning my head away from prying eyes and perked ears, "escort Miss Bennett to my office. I'll be there in a moment."

Leaving him to clean my mess, I walked to Kellie, poised and unperturbed. I can feel Hellen's curiosity, clawing at the back of my head, but paid her no heed. Stationed beside the bar, I clicked my fingers, ordering the barman to refill my glass.

I scrutinised her from head-to-toe, marvelled at her slender legs, purple, figure-hugging dress and ample cleavage.

Sat tall and elegant on a leather padded bar stool, she twisted at the waist to face, a question on her tongue. "Are you not delighted to see me?" Her brown eyes, sliced, questioning. "Warren...?"

I peered over her head, watched security settle an argument between two dancers. Acclimated to the raucousness and sultry ambience, tonight, however, I am too anxious. I'd rather be in my office, drinking Macallan and thinking—I prevented my wandering thoughts. No, I shan't return to that dark place. It's done. I am over it—over her. Moving on. "Get one of my men to drive you home." Curling a hand around the glass, I brought it to my lips and swallowed liquid courage. "I'll call you."

"What?" she asked, lengthening in her spine. "You're kicking me out?"

"Something came up." She snatched my suit sleeve. "Kellie," I said curtly. "Remove your hand."

Obsequious, she released me, sinking back a touch. "I want to spend time with you." Her rueful smile and increasing dejection foiled future appointments. "What if I wait until you finish?"

"Don't look at me like that," I said with impatient harshness, neatening my appearance. "This no longer works for me. You're too attached."

"No, I am not," she lies, slipping off the stool. "Am I allowed to fancy the man I am shagging?"

Every punctuated syllable aggravated me. "I made myself clear," I said, lowering my voice. "I was straight with you, Kellie. I am not looking for anything serious—somebody to pass the time with. And you agreed. You also assured me, in the event we parted ways, you wouldn't be a problem. It's our first setback, Kellie and, as predicted, you're a fucking problem."

"Surely, Alexa would want you to live, Liam," she sniped, and impossible rage clawed from the pit of my stomach. "I doubt your dead girlfriend—"

"Warren," I spat, snatching her throat in a firm grip. "You do not address me informally, Kellie." Her watery eyes protruded. "If you ever, ever, mention her name in my presence again?" I thrust the barrel of my Desert Eagle under her chin, sensing the unnerving shift in the room. "I'll fucking kill you."

"Warren," she whispered, her eyes pleading with me for relief. "You're hurting me."

"Bossman." Brad squeezed my elbow, urging me to stand down. "Let me handle it."

Applying pressure to her throat, I snarled, thrust her into the bar and stormed through gathered security and dancers. Deafening music fades as I ambled down the hallway. I lingered outside my office door, disarmed and smoothed two hands over my head, correcting my ruffled state. "No one enters this office," I said, and posted security dipped their heads.

I found myself in a state of resigned ataraxia.

Perched on the desk edge, Hellen smokes a cigarette, crossing her legs in a graceful movement. "Mr Warren," she purred, respiring a train of veils. "I must say that your unexpected invitation astonished me."

I outlined her curvaceous physique and attractive features. Yes, I remember our night. She'd been fierce in bed, unselfish, sexually gratifying. "Miss Bennett." I offered an open palm, and she accepted, flattening a hand over mine. "You look ravishing."

That compliment earned me a satisfied grin. "As do you," she murmurs, and I pressed a soft kiss to her inner wrist. "I am thrilled for this second-chance, Mr Warren, though, I do wonder why the sudden interest?"

"There's no hidden agenda, Hellen."

She stood to her full height, placing us eye-to-eye. "Really?"

"I saw your face on the news." I unbutton my suit jacket and sit on the desk edge. "Your fight for women empowerment is riveting."

"I am glad you approve." She leaned over me to snub the cigarette, leaving it half-smouldering in the ashtray. "And?"

"And," I mulled over a response, "I wanted to see if another night was on the table."

She splayed her hands over my chest. "I am not interested in a night of passion," she purred, lowering her head to my shoulder, nipping my earlobe with her teeth. "I am worth more than a quick fumble in the sheets."

"Of course." Encircling her waist with one arm, I fisted the back of her gold dress, tugging her in. "I can be lenient."

"You'll make an exception?"

"Why don't we see if there's any chemistry first?" I played into her hands, cupping her ass cheek. "What do you say?" Her lips peppered along my jaw, near my mouth. I evaded, sank my teeth into her shoulder, hiked the dress to her waist. "Hellen?"

Fumbling with my belt and zipper, she groped my arousing cock, humming in appreciation. "I can't wait for you to fill me again."

I opened my wallet and slipped a foil packet in her hand. "It's yours." I eliminate my suit jacket, the shirt follows.

Hellen lowers her dress, exposing her voluminous breasts and perked nipples. "Let me show you a good time," she promises, tearing the wrapper with her teeth.

I stroked myself, released for her to sheath me.

Condom in place, she loses her French knickers and saddles my thighs. I watched her sink on my length, cunt parting to accommodate me. "Fuck," I groaned, hands clinging to her curvy waist. "Ride me."

I'll be a sycophant if it gets me what I want.

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