SACRIFICE (Book Two: The London Crime King)

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CH 29

Alexa

Victoria Rose is a bodacious blonde enchantress, a bewitching siren who comes out at night and lures eligible candidates, scandalous politicians, corrupt estate moguls, business tycoons and avaricious, unpatriotic millionaires.

Miss Rose sits at a regal bar, sipping margaritas, admiring the stunning room with an idyllic layout, surrounded by jaw-dropping contemporary designs, high ceilings, concierge lounges, undulating black and gold marble, opulent crystal chandeliers, scarlet velour seating accommodation and a featured menu proposing a list of nearly fifty cocktails.

Yes, the deceitful damsel certainly felt out of place in her discounted red dress and affordable high-heeled shoes. She decided while scrutinising John Doe, a married baron who Nathan methodically hand-picked, that a trip to Bond Street mightn’t hurt. She required elegance, exclusive brands, designer fashion and fine jewels to fit in around here.

John Doe sought Victoria. He left his partners with pre-drinks and stood alongside the lonely woman at the bar, ordered himself a neat scotch and worked his charm.

He was a handsome man, lean, groomed, tailored and chivalrous. Before complimenting the woman’s blue eyes, he’d slipped his wedding band inside his trouser pocket and loosened the top buttons of his white shirt.

Without sexual inhibitions, Victoria conspired, brushing a finger along Doe’s knuckles, always maintaining eye contact and upholding a lascivious appeal.

Unabashed and impudent, he approved with heavy-lidded eyes and whispered vulgar promises in her ear.

It’d be only fifteen minutes later when Doe led Miss Rose to a private hotel room he routinely booked above the cocktail bar for his prognosticate clandestine affairs with available women or dependable escorts.

Inside his luxuriously hired penthouse suite, Doe shut the door and grappled Miss Rose with greedy hands. It had stunned her, the impromptu dress tear and alcohol tasting lips seeking her unwilling mouth.

She almost regretted the whole charade but managed to steady her breathing and cool his advances by coaxing him to the master bedroom.

He fell on the bed, unbuttoning his shirt, mouthing disgusting, sexual innuendos.

Brazenly erotic, she knelt between his parted thighs and held his gaze while unzipping and unbuckling his trouser pants. When his eyes rolled back, and he tucked his arms behind his head, she knew she had him, hook, line and sinker.

Three seconds into his craving jouissance, she stabbed his muscular thigh, the prepared syringe, courtesy of Nathan. Doe felt the sharp pinch and flinched, but the drugs took effect, knocking into a transient state of oblivion.

Thank God.

Victoria utilised the phone supplied by Nathan and made the call. Within seconds, he knocked on the door—disguised in his all-black attire and shoulder-length wig, a ball cap shielding his profile—entered the suite, borrowed Doe’s phone and wired it to his laptop. She didn’t watch him in action. She helped herself to the mini bar, waiting for the entire ordeal to be over.

Job one: prosperously complete.

I loved my new life. I loved portraying Miss Rose and vicariously living through her wondrous travels.

“That last one almost suffocated me,” I told Jace, stepping out of an opulent hotel and spa, the cold London winds blowing through my hair. “I can’t handle the big guys. Keep them lean and short.”

“Six was a good applicant, Vick.” He flung his leather satchel over one shoulder. “He’s filthy rich, baby!”

I shoved his shoulder, laughing at his peculiar excitement. “Quit screaming in my ear!”

He positioned his cap on backwards, hand on my lower back, coercing me into the hectic Underground. “You are a fucking ace at this. I don’t know how you manage to swindle them, Vick.”

I snorted. “There is no secret remedy, Nath. It’s called a vagina.”

Liam

“Updates?” I strolled across the office and draped my suit jacket on the rear of my leather chair.

Brad soared from the leather sofa, smoothing a hand down his shirt. “We got a problem,” he hedged, avoiding my intense gaze. “Your guy snuffed it last night—collapsed lung.”

I shot out of my chair and sprinted to the cellar. The afternoon quietness inside Club 11 meant a sharp, unhindered scurry to the underground chambers.

Nate, alongside my suited men, looms above Bajramovic’s body, hand clasped to his mouth, hiding his gnarled frustration.

“What the fuck happened?” I barked, and the men parted, giving me space to advance. “Tell me you didn’t let that motherfucker die, Nate?”

“I didn’t know this bitch was bleeding out,” he argued, chucking bottled water across the floor in distress. “I didn’t know, Sir.”

I squatted next to Flamur, slapped his cheek. Nothing. Pale. Lifeless. Bruised. Grotesque. Dead. “fuck,” I snapped, standing upright, pacing. “Fuck, Nate!”

“He sustained a lot of injuries and torture, Sir,” he reminds me. “His body couldn’t take anymore.”

“I needed him alive,” I stressed, blood heating in my pulsating veins. “I needed that son of a bitch alive!”

Nate exchanged worried glances with the men, relieved to see Brad arriving for the commotion.

“Come on, Bossman.” Brad held the back of my neck and squeezed. “It’s not the end of the world, right? We made sure that the asshole suffered. He died in brutality.”

Jaw clenching and unclenching, I stared at the dead body. “I wanted...” Alexa to finish him, I thought, lips pressing in a tight line. “Feed him to the fishes.”

Flamur Bajramovic’s accidental death infuriated me. He faced judgment day, yet bothersome dissatisfaction kept me awake that night. I had a visual, one where his victim hammered the final nail in his coffin.

The following morning, I met Hellen for brunch. I still hadn’t shaken my mood from the night before. Bajramovic’s demise was maddeningly displeasing.

“Are you going to be stroppy all day?” Hellen masters etiquette table manners and politeness (when in public).

“I’m fine.” Relaxed with a Macallan in hand, I witnessed her well-rehearsed routine, dabbing a napkin across her mouth between bite-size mouthfuls, soothing her palate with sipped effervesces, holding a wine glass while graciously praising the waiters. “You look nice by the way.”

That reaped me a delighted smile. “Thank you, Liam.” She blushed, uncurling her spine, sitting sophisticatedly. “I do try.”

Heads turned when Hellen swayed into the restaurant. She’s an attractive bombshell who models couturier designer dresses and six-inch heels—the full package—striking features, flawless white teeth complementing her infectious smile and crystal blue eyes.

Most men would appreciate someone like her on their arm.

But I am not most men.

And she’s got nothing on Alexa Haines.

“Well, you cannot deny the sourness, Liam,” she continued, and I knocked back alcohol. “Did I offend you somehow?”

What is she rambling about now?

“You proceed to cancel arrangements,” she said, settling her cutlery to the plate, “and you seldom respond to any messages I send.”

I clicked for the waiter and covered the bill. “I’m a busy man, Hellen. Don’t look for things that aren’t there.”

“Yes, well,” she stood in sync with me, collecting her jewelled handbag, “your behaviour makes it difficult not to.”

Placing a hand on her back, I escorted her outside to an impending Bentley. I held open the door like a true gentleman, signalling for her to climb into the backseat.

“It’s disappointing.” Popping open a compact mirror, she admired her reflection, lips pouting. “I need more from you, Liam. You cannot call one restaurant visit a week dating. What about functions and charity events? An overnight hotel stay would suffice.”

I rapt my knuckles on the partition, ordering the driver to give us some privacy and drive. “Am I not meeting expectations, Hellen?”

“You are completely flunking them,” she said humorously. “My friends disbelieve my relationship status. I spent the majority of my evening assuring them of your existence.”

I wiped my face to hide a smirk.

Hellen placed her handbag on the leather seat, fell to her knees and crawled to me. Hands splayed across my thighs, she nuzzled her cheek on my crotch and mewled. “I want more, Liam.” She slowly lowered her blouse, unclipped a white bra and revealed her ample breasts. “I want more dates,” she purred, circling her taut, pink nipples with delicate fingertips. “I want more shags. I want to spend the night in your bed.”

I hated that last request just as much as I hated the sight of her. “Nobody shares my bed.”

Huffing out an exasperated breath, she retrieved her wandering hands. “Liam if you cannot meet me halfway, we might as well call it a day now. I am not doing this back and forth with you. I am a mature woman who demands better respect and fawning.”

I’m too close to fuck this up at the final hurdle. “Fine,” I relented, popping an unlit joint to my lips “I’ll make myself more available to you.”

“Liam,” she complained, fixing her blouse and slumping onto the leather seat beside me. “Is the occasional sleepover too much to ask?”

I ignored her fluttering, doleful eyes. “I work.”

“That’s not a good enough excuse.” She threw her hands up in frustration. “Where’s the compromise?”

“I’ll organise a hotel visit,” I lied, and she squealed, clapping her hands infuriatingly. “Want some?” Lighting the joint and inhaling a lungful, i held it between us. “Well?”

“Sure.” Putting it to her pinched lips, she took a drag, wafting marijuana-infused smoke from her face. “I might pass out from this.”

I should fucking hope so.

Alexa

I used Jace’s phone to listen to music, selecting “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” by New Radicals.

Shaped in an oversized T-shirt, knee-high socks and bug-eyed sunglasses, I shoved my hair into a messy bird’s nest, snagged a vodka bottle and jumped on the bed.

Jace, chilling in a high-back chair, feet propped up on the sideboard, popped a “what the fuck?” eyebrow over his laptop screen. “Don’t break Heather’s bed.”

I ignored him. “There’s something about you,” I sing, bouncing pillows to the floor. “Tears me inside and out whenever you’re around. There’s something about, speeding through my veins until we hit the ground.”

“Vick,” Jace complains, rubbing his eyes. “Are you drunk?”

“I am fookin’ mortal,” I lied in a Newcastle twang. “Take it away. It made me feel so good. I got a feeling like we could die!” I kicked mounds of cash, sending fifty-pound notes into the air. “Mother, we just can’t get enough.” His eyes fell out of their sockets, and I laughed, wiggling my hips. “Come on, Nath. Let’s build a castle and live in enchanted realms.”

He set the laptop on the ground, stole the bottle from me. “You are losing your damn mind—” I seized his wrist, yanking him onto the bed. “Victoria!”

I bundled up cash and threw it above us. “Fly with me, Nath.” The crazy fool wrapped his arms around my waist and spear tackled me across the mattress. “Oh, God! Get off me you big lump.” I wriggled beneath him. “Stop crushing me.”

He smothered my face with wet kisses, eyelids, cheeks, chin and nose.

“Nathan,” I scold, thrashing my head from side to side. “Will you stop?”

Propping onto an elbow, he captured a feather-like note falling from our imaginary blue skies, holding it to the sun. “If you could do anything right now, what would you choose?”

I looked at the ceiling, thinking about a night in Liam’s penthouse. I’d wait for him on the balcony, feel his closeness before he wrapped me in his arms and rested his chin to my shoulder. He’d turn me to face him, hold my jaw and demand a meaningful kiss. Of course, I’d never turn him down. I am a fool for that man. I’d reciprocate such affections as he lifted me onto the table, tugging my legs around his waist, his mouth stealing the air that I breathe.

We’d fall into his bed shortly after, him above my writhing body, enticing multiple orgasms out of me. And he’d fuck me, hard yet passionate. We’d collapse in each other’s arm, dusted in sweat, listening to our thunderous heartbeats—all while I stare at his reflection in the ceiling mirror.

“Shopping,” I fibbed.

Jace accompanied me to the town centre where I hauled his complaining backside from store-to-store, buying designer shoes and glamorous attire. He loathes retail and cosmetic browsing, but I gave a convincing argument about essential glamour to seduce the fat cats. It didn’t work, though. He’d rather stand outside the store, the representation of a miserable, cranky old sod.

I had the best time, assembling my wardrobe, overly friendly shopping assistants offering champagne flutes an uplifting approbation.

“Get ice cream.” Parked inside a trolley as he pushed me, I pointed to the supermarket freezer. “Every flavour, so we can celebrate.”

Jace tossed a tub onto my stomach alongside a can of whipped cream. “What about some of these apple pies, Vick?”

“No, Heather will take offence.” Popping the cap from the can, I squirt cream onto my tongue. “Why don’t we buy ingredients and she can bake instead?” Our innkeeper loves baking. She spends hours slaving away in that kitchen, knocking up fresh muffins, cookies, biscuits and sponge cakes. “Hey, do you think we should buy her a new coffee machine for the dining room?”

“What’s the point?” He added litres of variated flavoured ice cream into the trolley. “She’s not open for business.”

I had a light bulb moment. “What if we help refurbish the bed-and-breakfast?”

“Again,” he pinched the whipped cream from my hand and swirled foam in his mouth, “what’s the point?”

“I reckon she lost business due to the neglected, insalubrious look. Let’s test her patience with the function room first. Those walls need serious damp treatment and a lick of paint. If she’s happy, then we’ll work our way through and improvise.” Gripping the handlebars, he unexpectedly bolted down the aisle, ripping a fit of laughter from me. “Nathan, you big lump. You’re drawing too much attention.”

“Says the woman sprawled inside a trolly,” he patted my head, “wearing sunglasses indoors.”

I unscrewed an unpurchased vodka bottle. “Amen to that.”

Tuesday morning, Jace drove to a DIY store and returned with decorating supplies.

Heather hadn’t asked questions, but I caught her snooping when Jace treated the damp. He laboured the next day, too, rolling light grey paint on the walls in between beer breaks and bacon sarnies, thanks to our wonderful innkeeper.

I helped Jace hammer nails in the uneven, raising floorboards. Sat on my haunches, I dry the sweat from my brow, drink lemonade and brush varnish to the sanded down wood.

Heather brought a tray of fresh homemade lemonade and cookies into the function room. “It smells lovely and clean in here.”

Jace, balancing precariously on a ladder, fixing the ceiling lights, shot me a relieved grin.

“How much will all this cost me?” she asked, snubbing her old chairs and cabinets, looking for price tags on the paint tins. “I might upgrade all this furniture if we’re reconstructing.”

“Give it a week, heather,” Jace said, and she sagged her despondent shoulders. “Just until we finish.”

Wednesday morning, white transit vans parked outside the guest house to deliver furniture for Heather’s newly decorated room.

Bursting with tearful excitement, she shadowed the movers and organised space for them. Two men removed and conveyed old and beaten furnishings into their van for an additional charge, leaving us to unwrap and assemble sofa suites, coffee tables, bookcases and televisions.

Jace busied himself with constructing, so I added the finishing touches, plants, photo frames, ornaments and gorgeous rugs.

Heather spent all night in her function room, drinking sweet tea and reading a book in an upholstered high back chair by the window.

I glanced at Jace knowingly and bumped his fist. “I think it’s safe to reconstruct the entire building.”

Covered in paint, dust and wood shards, Jace nods. “Agree.”

“Heather’s Bed-and-breakfast offers luxurious accommodation with historical charms, queen-sized pillow-top mattresses adorned in triple-sheeted, high-quality Egyptian cotton linens, high-definition flat-screen televisions and en-suite bathrooms. From the windows, admire the gardens’, picturesque views and London’s multicoloured lights at night with complimentary champagne and/or fresh strawberries...” Heather dropped the brochure, trembling fingers to her flattened lips. “Victoria this is too much.”

“I mean, we,” I signalled to Jace who stuffs his face at the fridge, “don’t expect you to open for business, but at least it’s prepared just in case you decide to welcome guests again.”

Heather hugged me. I hugged her back. “You two are diamonds,” she sniffled. “Thank you.”

I grab a shower after Heather’s steak pie for tea. Jace packs a case as I change into pyjamas. He’s journeying to Liverpool tonight to spend the weekend with Tommy. I received a personal invite but declined. I intend on eating my weight in ice cream and watching old movies with Heather.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Jace stuffed his case, hiding a gun in the compartment. “I left one for you underneath the mattress.”

“I’m sure.” I tore the covers back, crawled onto the mattress and snuggled under the blanket. “It’s been a hectic few weeks, Nath. I need some beauty sleep and lazy days.”

Pulling on a black parka coat, Jace zipped to the chin, tossed the bag strap over his shoulder. “I put a spare phone in the drawer.” He dropped a chaste kiss to my temple. “Only use it for emergencies, Vick. I’ll be back in three days.”

I closed my eyes, half-heartedly waving him off. “Stay safe.”

The door clicked behind him. I cracked a tried eye open, leaned over the bed to turn off the lamp and repositioned to my side, hands tucked under my cheek.

Enshrouded by thick clouds and black skies, the moon glows through the window, casting shadows to the walls and furniture.

I sat up in bed, letting the blanket fall to my waist. Feet sinking into the plush carpet, I retrieve the phone from the bedside drawer and ponder dialling his number.

Clearing my throat, I thumbed the digits from memory, set the phone to my ear and moved to the window.

“Warren,” he answered, his voice throaty, sleepy.

I opened my mouth, unable to formulate a sentence.

Why do I keep torturing myself?

My heart thrashed so violently against my breastbone. I inhaled a soft breath through my nose, respiring it in intervals. I end the call, switch off the phone and chuck it on the chair. “Shit,” I growled, massaging my forehead.

I faceplant the bed starfish style, groaning into the coverlets.

Why must I love such an asshole?

Liam

Incapable of rest or a good night’s sleep, I looked at myself in the ceiling mirror, feeling empty inside. Rubbing my tired eyes, pulling back the silk coverlet, I walked my naked backside to the bathroom, relieved my bladder, washed my hands and studied my reflection in the mirror above the basin. I don’t like the man staring back at me. He’s new, in dire need of a shave and has dark circles under his eyes. Detached, depressed and lonely, he casts judgements and taunts me with his grim expression.

I closed my eyes, splashed cold water on my face and towel-dried.

In the bedroom, I enter the walk-in wardrobe, pull on a pair of boxer briefs and slouch pants. I go to the kitchen, pour a coffee, open the balcony doors and sit on the chair in scenic silence.

Balancing a cigarette between my lips, I light the end, inhale and exhale smoke, rotating my phone in my hand. I stare at the descending moon, hearing singing birds as they prepare for sunrise.

My phone vibrated, but I didn’t recognise the number.

“Warren,” I answered, throat tight.

I wait, blowing a slew of smoke to the dark sky.

The phone clicked, ending the call.

Eyebrows merging, I lowered the phone from my ear, dialled the number and got diverted to a robotic answerphone message.

Hellen’s name bounced across my screen.

Having no patience, I answered the call and bit out, “What?”

“Liam?” Hellen’s confused tone vibrated in the receiver, and I hollowed my cheeks. “Is everything okay? You told me to call you for early morning breakfast.”

“I’m fine, Hellen” I clipped, unnecessarily curt. “It’s still early. Go back to sleep, and I’ll meet you in a few hours.”

“Is something bothering you?” she probed. “I can come over.”

Fuck, anything but that. “No.”

“Very well,” she sighed. “Oh, before I hang up, I wanted to tell you something.”

I cannot stomach another phone conversation about Hellen’s uninteresting life. “I’m about to leave for work.”

“It’s regarding Larry,” she said, and I sat straighter. “Baby--”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Liam, how obnoxiously rude,” she growled, and I rolled my eyes. “Yes, he’s open to the idea of you accompanying me...”

I sensed her reservations. “But?”

“Will you behave?” she asked, and my eyebrows welded. “And I don’t want your horrible men attending, either. Brad’s too eccentrically intolerable for me.”

I refrained from defending my right-hand man. “You can’t expect me to attend alone.”

“You can bring Nate.”

I’ll get what I want, eventually. “Let’s discuss this later.”

“Okay,” she let out a long breath. “What time shall I be ready?”

“I’ll text you.” Cutting off the call before she can ask more questions, I dragged on the cigarette and then balanced it on the ashtray.

I eyed the phone once more.

Expecting the unknown caller to divert me to a voicemail box, I hit the call button and held my breath when a familiar voice picked up. “I’m sorry,” Alexa croaked, sounding half-asleep, sending me into a nervous wreck. “I didn’t mean to use the phone, so please don’t yell at me—I blame the vodka.”

I massaged my chest with the heel of my hand. “Who’s complaining?”

She choked on an alarmed inhale. “I think you have the wrong number—”

“No, I returned your call,” I said, and she listened with bated breath. “As I said, I am not complaining, Victoria. I like the sound of your voice.”

“Do you always flirt with women you don’t know?”

My fingers tightening around the phone, I smirked. “If she’s beautiful.”

She scoffed. “The majority of London then.”

Why does she have such a negative perception of me?

“No, it is rare for a woman to gain my attention on this level of intensity.”

I heard bedsheets rustle as she changed position. “Are you trying to delude me into thinking our one conversation led to an infatuation, Mr Warren?”

No, it’s different because I fell in love with you. “Where are you?”

“In bed,” she replied dryly. “You?”

Okay, we’re playing another game. “Admiring the views of London from my balcony. I am rather fortunate enough to own a penthouse.” I know the next remark will irk her because I claimed no women luxuriated in my private space. “Perhaps you could visit sometime.”

“I’ll pass.” She gave me a humourless laugh. ” Keep your glorious penthouse for the harem of women you string along.”

“Why the disparagement, Victoria?” My forehead creased. “Should I ask why you’re conversant with my dating schedule?”

Her silence wasn’t reassuring. “Pardon my assumptions, Mr Warren,” she reigned herself in. “I’m half asleep.”

No, you hate me. I feel it, and it fucks with my head. “Give me a visual to help me sleep.”

She was silent for a moment. “A what?”

“A visual.” I kicked my feet onto the table. “What are you wearing?”

“I am not telling...” She hesitated, and a small smile crept on my lips. “Why do you care what I wear to bed?”

I fucking care. “Lace,” I whispered, contouring the armrest grooves with my fingertips. “I imagine red lace and some hideous jumper.”

“It’s not hideous,” she argued playfully. “It’s big, warm and fluffy to match my socks.”

Soothed by her voice, I closed my eyes. “What about that blonde hair?”

She considered a comeback. “Messy but passable.”

Knotted then, I thought, picturing Alexa’s dark hair thrown atop her head. “I might say something inappropriate.”

“Yeah? And what’s that?”

“How much I want to fuck you right now.” No regrets. “How much I want your body trembling beneath mine. I’d taste you first, though.”

She held her breath. “You can’t say something like that to someone you barely know.”

I couldn’t lose my smile if I tried. “I just did.”

“What if I protest the idea?”

“What if you didn’t?” I hunched my shoulders forward, elbows positioning on my knees. “What if you let it happen, Victoria?”

“Let what happen, exactly?”

I poked the bear. “Touch yourself.”

“No,” she disputed, but her shallow breathing, contradicting her feigned disapproval. “Liam, I mean, Mr Warren this is unacceptable behaviour.” Hearing my name whispered from her lips, thudded my heart. “For the two of us. And it’s weird, don’t you think? Under the odd circumstances.”

“There’s nothing weird nor unacceptable about two consensual adults who find each other attractive participating in a bit of foreplay.” And I do know you, Alexa. I know what makes you breathless, what makes you whimper and how you react to my body against yours. You like rough sex as long as I am passionate. You love how I respond to your hands on me—how much control you have over me. It’s my name you moan when you are high. It’s me that you allowed to enter your life and break down those impenetrable walls. “Give yourself to me,” I whispered, seconds away from blowing my cover and tracking her down.

“Who said I find you attractive?”

“Tell me otherwise.”

“I think,” she said, turning over in bed, “you are egotistical.”

“And I think you’re fucking beautiful.” Again, she stayed quiet. “Where did you go?”

“I’m still here, listening to your voice.”

No, where did you go, baby? “Touch for me.”

“I am,” she said, and my cock jerked to life. “I started the second you called.”

Fuck, she’s naughty. “Tell me how wet you are.”

“I’m soaking for you.”

I ground down on my teeth, hand crushing the phone. “Taste your fingers. Tell me how sweet that cunt tastes.”

“God, why are you so crass?” she asked, her voice almost normal. She’s lowering her guard, forgetting to sustain her ridiculous cover.

“Well?” I probed, and she laughed, embarrassed. “What?”

“I am not answering that.”

My cheeks ached from smiling so hard. “Why not?”

“It is—yeah, fine. I taste—whatever.”

I chuckled, imagining her flushed cheeks, head buried in a pillow to conceal humiliation.

My smile faded. I wanted to be there, in bed with her, touching and kissing. I didn’t want this barrier of incomprehensible lies and unknowingness between us. “Stop touching,” I ordered, evoked by beautiful memories, consumed by her. “The next time you cum, it’s with me.” I am done entertaining this façade. “Got it?”

“That’s a remarkable assumption, Mr Warren. Only I don’t think it is wise to arrange a meeting.”

Why is she insistent on hiding from me? “Do you know who I am, Victoria? You are stepping into dangerous territory with a man like me. I can locate you in a heartbeat if need be.”

“But you haven’t.” She sounded disappointed. “This conversation is absurd.”

“No, you’re fucking childish,” I spat, knowing it’ll infuriate her. “You rock up at my club and kill a woman—on what grounds? What possessed someone who doesn’t know me to commit such a merciless crime? And then you call. You hang up. I ring you back, and you answer.”

“Are you angry?” Alexa’s voice blasted in the receiver. “I helped clean up your mess, Mr Warren. You should be thanking me.”

“I can deal with a scorned woman. You had no reason to intervene.”

“You omitted the part where you impregnated her.”

Fuck. I was hoping she hadn’t caught that. “Kellie lied.” Fact. Nate examined her and ruled out pregnancy before burying her in an unmarked grave. “Not that it’s any of your business, Victoria. I don’t answer to you.” I caught her hitched inhale and cursed. “I apologise for upsetting you.”

“I thought regretful acknowledgements were beneath you.”

For Alexa, I’d do just about anything. Besides, I don’t like the sound of her suppressing tears.

“I enjoyed our random call, Victoria.” I watched the sun mount between skyscrapers, lightening our horizon in a warm palette of burnt orange and red hues. “Will I be fortunate enough to receive another?”

“I don’t maker promises,” she used my words against me, killing the call.

Chucking the phone onto the table, I rose from the chair and grasped the balustrade, feeling the rising sun on my face. “You can’t hide from me forever.”

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