SACRIFICE (Book Two: The London Crime King)

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Chapter 45


"I don't know what to call you."

Jace, stone-faced in his all-black attire, sent me a slanted glance. "Same."

I pressed the elevator button. "I mean, technically, until Liam meets with the Chief and straightens out Alexa Haines' fake death, I cannot gallivant around London like a phantasmagorical vision, giving people heart attacks."

Plus, I had some explaining to do. Grayson and Chloe, for example, will either welcome my safe return with smothering, overemotional and excitable kisses or deliver me a black eye and sentenced banishment for trivialising their importance.

Chloe, specifically, has the right to be angry with me. Without a shadow of a doubt, she grieved her best friend. It's unjust to hear about Alexa's return on the news station. I had to soften the blow by resolving conundrums in person.

"It's safer to call me 'Vick', in public, for now, but I'll speak to Liam tonight so that he can ensure a straightforward and expedient administration of liberation." Thoughts of rotting in a prison cell made me queasy. "God, can you imagine if the law chucked the rule book at me? I'd die in prison, Nath—Jace."

He laughed, low and husky. "I think you underestimate your credentials, Vick. You survived far worse than bitchy inmates and unpalatable prison food."

God, he's right. Get a grip on life, Alexa.

The elevator doors chimed open. Jace noticed the long line of posted, officiously intimidating Suits and shilly-shallied. Adam's apple bobbing, he glared at me, bending a scarred, deriding eyebrow.

"Ubiquitous." Rechecking my reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirror, I fixed my olive green coloured dress, the satin material, skin-tight and paired with gold high-heeled shoes. "They're not here to hurt us, Jace. Those men stand guard to guarantee their Boss' safety."

"Yes, but..." He scratched his chin, walking alongside me. "Why the aviators?"

I remove my blonde curls, tuck it under my arm and unravel my dark, untamed waves. "I reckon it's so people can't see them nosing." Confirming my hypothesis, Suit three, who stands by tiered Ficus plant, itched his cinched lips. "Do you guy's want drinks or anything?" As expected, not one male responded. "Maybe a bite to eat?"

Jace, dumbfounded, stared at the Suits with a what-the-fuck look. "Are they mute?"

"No, I hear them converse when they think no ones around." I rapt my knuckles on the penthouse door. "It's either they don't like me, or they fear Liam will blow a fuse if they speak to me."

"We like you, Ma'am," one alerted, and a gloating smile invaded my miffed expression.

"Well, I like you guys, too," I said, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Now, do you fancy a beer?"

"Lower ranks aren't allowed to drink on the job, Ma'am. Thank you, though."

That sucks. "I'll sneak out with some orange juice then." The front door flew open sharply, and euphonious music spilt into the corridor. "Hey, Brad."

A bottleneck in hand, Brad pulled a sip of straight Jameson, eyeing Jace, a suspicious glimmer in his whiskey hues. "Boss doesn't like you, not even after all that help, but he's feeling generous." His glare briefly flicked to me. "You can thank Alexa for that. Be on your best behaviour, Jacey boy, or anticipate a pummelling from me, got it?"

Jace assisted the syndicate, and I knew it'd take more than hacktivism to win over Liam's trust. I don't like Brad's rudeness or blatant threat, but it's only fair I interpret both sides of equivalent detestation. Jace hates Liam and vice versa. Even if Brad warmed-up to Jace, he'd pose dislike for his Boss.

When the syndicate bombarded City Hall last night, Jace got caught up in a crossfire. Our initial plan to meet at the maze fell to shit. He diverted and stumbled upon Brad, who helped my friend fight his way to the finish line. Hell, according to Jace, the pair even joked about women when waiting for the famous black Bentleys to arrive.

Jace, assured of my safety, drove with Brad, who dropped him back to Heather's bed-and-breakfast before returning to Club 11.

After Liam drove me home, I found Jace waiting for me in the kitchen, too anxious for sleep. Liam hadn't escorted me indoors, and Jace breathed a sigh of relief, knocked together some beans on toast and sat out in the garden with me. We talked until sunrise, overheard Heather slaving away in the kitchen, conversed with her before finally hitting the sack.

While changing into an oversized T-shirt, something caught my eye. Beneath the double-bed, a white gold chain glimmered. I reached for the red diamond, recalled the heated argument with Liam. Enraged, he lunged an object at me before absconding the building. Overwhelmed and devastated by our upset, I hadn't checked what slid across the floor. I examined Jace, and then chased Liam outside, pleading for his understanding.

Now, however unsure of what the future promises, I wear a necklace, branded, by the man himself—Liam Warren. Whether it be separation or death do us part, I shall bear my undying love for that man and wear his claim to right with pride.

Muting Brad and Jace, I smiled, rolling the delicate chain between my fingers. Eager to find Liam, I slipped between the rising testosterone, dodged stunning, vivacious women and subdued, tailored men, passed the suited waiters, searching for the only person I cared to see.

Jazz music segued from the entertainment system, and lively guests enjoyed champagne alongside Hors d'oeuvres, bright crescents and stuffed vol-au-vents.

"Champagne, Madame?" A silver tray appeared. "Perhaps a baked-brie bite?"

I shook my head, thanking the gentleman, continuing to the kitchen. Josh, arms folded, leans against the counter, flirting with a voluptuous brunette. I jabbed him in the ribs. "Hey, stranger."

"Ah, what the fuck?" Josh growled, rubbing his side. "Why the bony fingers?"

I examined my finger. "Why call it bony? Why can't I have a normal finger like the other women here?"

He snatched my wrist, sucked my finger to the knuckle and gnashed his teeth.

I watched, fascinated and thunderstruck. "Because that's normal."

Josh dismissed his lady friend with a flippant hand gesture and pulled me in for a tight hug. "I fucking missed you," he whispered in my ear, his chin on my head. "This dress..." Groaning his approval, he fingered the hem with investigatory touches. "I like this image."

He has flirtatious tendencies, but he's never looked at me inappropriately. It's all banter, friendly and innocuous.

"I fancied a change." Still, I brushed red matte across my lips before leaving the bed-and-breakfast, but the satin material and olive shade hugged my figure. Let's just say I wanted to knock Liam on his ass tonight. "Where's Liam?"

"On the balcony," Josh confirmed, holding me tighter. "Don't go out there. He's giving Nate a brutal scolding."

I frowned at that. "Why?"

Josh winced, keeping my back to his chest. "Nate's gotten attached to the new girl."

"New girl?" Oh, I liked the sound of that. At least Natalie can get off my case now. "Where is she?"

Pointing over my shoulder, Josh signals to a woman drinking wine by the U-shaped leather sofa. "Blaire."

I choked on air. "Are you serious?" No, I don't like thoughts of her sniffing around the men, specifically Liam Warren.

"Yeah." Scarfing down a handful of salted peanuts, Josh lifted a whiskey glass to his lips. "Blaire's living with Nate for a bit while he teaches her the ropes. I don't know her much, to be honest—only what he tells us."

Our quiet exchange burnt her ears. She glanced over one shoulder, eyes crashing straight into me—her smile, amiable yet unnerving. Perhaps I am jealous of her natural beauty, and that's why I feel bitter loathing towards the girl who shares my egregious background. Then, why when Nate and his Boss returned to the party, did she look at Liam longingly? If Nate's the man comforting her in those dark moments, why does she watch the man I love, seeking his affection?

Liam, unaware of my arrival, sat on the coffee table, his back to me, facing the damsel. Nate stands between them, adjusting his gold rings, anxious and perturbed.

My eyebrows pulled down, and a sharp knot coiled inside my stomach.

"Pipe down," said Josh, flicking my earlobe. "He doesn't see anyone, Alexa. Trust me."

I nod, chewing my lower lip. "I don't appreciate the way she looks at him."

Josh's chewing gum pop resounded. "Like she wants to fuck him brainless?"

In all honesty, I will never habituate to the Suits' vulgarity and intolerable tongues. "Like he's her lifeline." Blaire fixed her spaghetti strap, accentuating her ample breasts. If Liam stared at those jutted out assets, I am not privy. "Be careful with her, Josh." Her gaze attained mine again, and something akin to competitiveness shifted in our optical axis. "We might share demons, but I don't trust that woman."

Her fondness fell on Liam, and she placed a hand on his knee. When Liam caught sight of Jace, the muscles in his back corded and his attention shifted, looking around the living quarters. Excusing himself from the conversation, he stood, tapped Nate's back and disappeared into crowds, hunting for me.

Slipping out of his quotidian leather jacket, Jace set a carrier bag onto the kitchen counter and added shop-bought vodka, gin and whiskey bottles to the donated stockpile. "You good, Josh?"

"What's happening, Jace?" Josh gave Jace a fist bump, keeping an arm locked around my waist. "Hey, I'm sorry about your little girl, man."

Jace steeled his jaw, momentary sadness darkening his eyes. "Thanks, Josh. I appreciate it."

I gripped Jace's elbow, massaging him with a thumb. He looks at me, a grateful smile on his lips. I love you, I mouthed, and he nodded, sharing my sentiments.

"If it's any consolation?" Josh mused, gulping whiskey. "Warren tortured that asshole for weeks. Bajramovic suffered."

Good, I thought, expecting no less than barbarism from Liam and his staunch men.

Jace scratched the furrow between his knitted brows. "Knowing he's dead comforts me..." But it doesn't ease the pain, I thought, completing his unfinished sentence. "Nice ink," he redirected topics, motioning to the skull-piece on Josh's hand. "How did you take it?"

Josh covered his mouth, flaunting the intricate bone work. "Like a Trojan." He slapped a palm across my lips. "What do you think, Alexa?" I'd answer if he weren't smothering my air supply. "Looks good, right?"

I yanked him down by the wrist. "It's wonderful, Josh. Now quit trying to kill me."

With a perplexed head shake, Jace poured two vodkas, slid a glass across the marble countertop. "Shot?" he asked, and I declined. "Josh?"

"Pour some 'bucas." Josh accepted a clear shot glass and swallowed. "Fuckkk me. That burnt like a motherfucker."

Relaxing his back to the counter, Jace put the glass to his lips and tilted his head. "Shit," he winced, face screwing up in distaste. "That wasn't Sambuca." He rechecked the label on the bottle. "Fuck."

My interest piqued. "What is it?"

He gave me a sharp look. "Absinthe."

"And that's bad because...?"

"Because..." Josh points for another, "it's associated with negative psychotropic effects. Basically, it is fucking deadly, and I can't wait." He tilts his chin, highlighting a female watcher by the fridge freezer. "You got an admirer."

Aloof and indifferent, Jace side-eyes the purple-haired woman. Unabashed and brazen, he catalogued her figure-hugging silver dress and sexy shoes that-I-want-to-steal-from-her-feet. "Not my type."

"Not your type?" Josh repeated disbelievingly. "The chick got big tits. She's every male's type."

I trapped him with a derisive scowl. "And if they don't?"

His bubblegum ballooned. "Don't what?"

"Have, you know, busty boobs."

"Then she better own some mean nipples," he joshed, and both men burst out laughing. "No offence, Alexa."

I am seconds away from wiping the cheesy grin off his face.

"Come on, man," Jace half-heartedly cautions. "Ain't nothing wrong with her chest—I can assure you."

His sexual innuendo burnt my cheeks.

"And you'd know that how?" Josh asked, and Jace lifted a noncommittal shoulder. "Oh, damn. You guys bumped uglies."

"Please stop," I whispered, knowing Liam would lose his mind if he caught this uncharted conversation. "Jace, that girl seriously wants a taste."

"I know, right?" Josh, forgetting the past five minutes, jumps straight back to the kittenish female. "She's proper eye-fucking you."

Dragging a titanium barbell between his teeth, Jace contemplated her, eyes itemising. He blew out a beaten sigh, incapable of mustering the energy to pursue her. "Maybe later."

"Unlike you, Josh," I jabbed Josh's stomach with an elbow, "Jace isn't a manwhore who daydreams about pussy all day."

Josh smirked knowingly. "No, Jace loves eating pussy," he said, and my friend feigned an eye-roll. "He's respecting your ears. I bet if you weren't here? He'd be balls-deep in that cleaver."

At Josh's affirmative assessment, I telepathically asked Jace if the incorrigible Suit spoke with validation. Jace, flush-cheeked and uncomfortable under my scrutiny, evaded, clearing an itch from his throat.

"I need a piss," Josh exclaims, slapping a kiss to my cheek. "I'll find you guys in a bit."

I wait until he's gone. "Is that true?"

"What?" Jace played unawareness. "Ignore Josh. He's drunk."

I busied myself, pouring us vodka. "Do you feel obliged to act differently with me around?"

Jace fixed all his attention on me. "It's been us for months," he husked out. "I don't know how to separate myself from you."

My head tipped in contemplation. "Romantically?"

"In general." He stood awkwardly beside me. "Don't you feel the same?"

"I don't know life without you." I lifted a pinkie. "Ride or die."

Jace weaved our fingers. "One and the same." His hand captured mine, thumb sweeping across my knuckles. "How do we say goodbye?"

My heart froze. I didn't want to part ways. "Why finish something that works?"

"How does it work, though?" His tight eyes softened. "It's unconventional, right?"

"Forgetting the one time we..." Had sex, I thought, handing him a refill. "It's been platonic, Jace. I mean, I don't know how it feels to have a brother, but I imagine he'd be like you. So families spend a lot of time together, and that's normal..." He's become my best friend. "Can we not care about the opinions of others? As for female attention? No judgments or concerns from me. I already told you: as long as they treat you right, I am forever a supportive wing-woman."

Acting on instinct, Jace curled an arm around me, soothed by my closeness. Head rested on his head, I listened to his steady heartbeat, sharing a silent moment.

"I love you, Alexa," he said for only me to hear.

My real name whispered from his lips, warmed my insides. "Likewise." He let me unravel from his muscular arms. "Vodka shot?"

Laughing huskily, Jace splashed alcohol into glasses. "I don't understand the need for vodka shots. We drink it neat anyway."

I suppose. "Bottoms up." Tasting buck courage on my tongue, I swallowed a burning dose, exhaling a soothed breath. "I need to find Liam. Will you be okay by yourself?"

"Sure." He walked with me until reaching the seating area. "Find me later."

Assured Jace's comfortable, I strolled down the intersecting halls, my high-heeled shoes clicking against the marble floor. Keen conversationalists glued to the walls, imbibing bubbles, the males, complimenting females, hoping it'll land them a lay tonight.

I tried the door handle to the master bedroom, but it's locked from the other side. Lifting a closed fist to knock, I hesitated, detecting Liam's rough, baritone voice, commanding and brusque.

Not wanting to interrupt his phone call, I pushed myself away from the door, turned the corner and scoured for an unoccupied guest room. Closing the door, keeping the lights low, I chucked my purse onto a velvet wing back chair, ignored the female mewls next door and stationed myself by the window.

The views of London from on high never fail to amaze me. I loved watching the intermittent bright colours, excitable tourists and night wanderers.

Palm flat to the windowpane, I breathed in, held it, felt the soft brush of his lips to my neck. "Liam?" I whispered, and a husked sound vibrated in his chest. "I looked for you."

He put his back to the window, me in his sights, hand knocking ice blocks in crystal glass. Sipping a generous amount, ice-blue eyes on me, he tasted chilled whiskey, savoured its elegant flavours. "Do you want some?"

I shook my head, and he set the glass onto the vanity table, hands slipping in his trouser pockets. "You look good," I said. He wears a gunmetal grey two-piece and black shirt, collar buttons loose, revealing a silver of his chest.

His ever-present smirk widened a fraction. "All for you, baby."

The intensity of his stare palpitated my heart. "What's the celebration?" Brad called Heather's this morning, inviting me to his Boss' penthouse for celebratory drinks. I had not, however, anticipated a full-house or an extension for Jace. "And why not Club 11?"

"Change of scenery," Liam said evasively. "The men work long, industrious hours. From time to time, they warrant a night off to unwind, drink and fuck some bitches—" He considered for a second. "Unhurried intercourse." Attenuating discourteous mannerisms for my benefit, he alleviated an itch from his nose, dilated eyes giving me a long, unhurried once-over. "Nice dress."

"Oh, this old thing?" I hummed, teasing the hem with my fingers.

Keeping a shoulder to the window, facing me head-on, he ran the pad of his finger up my thigh. "Lace?" he mused, but I didn't respond. "Was all this for me, Alexa?" Hand disappearing under my dress, he cupped my sex, finger slipping between my soaked cleft. "Why do you test my self-restraint?" When he lifted his hand to my mouth, I parted my lips and sucked my arousal from his fingers. "Good girl."

Opening the vanity drawer, Liam combed through unused purchases, spares for guests, found what he's looking for and towered before me. Gathering my hair atop my head, he snapped a bobble in place, loosened delicate tendrils by my ears. "Beautiful," he whispered, eyes on me as he lost his suit jacket, hurling it on the chair.

Beginning with his shirt sleeves, he unbuttoned, hand popping the ones leading south. It slipped from his well-built shoulders, and my mouth salivated at the sight of him. I reached out and touched him with a trace of covetousness, admiring his prominent abs and muscular chest. Within five minutes, this fine specimen of a man soared completely naked, erect yet composed, all while I stood fully clothed and unsettled.

Liam put himself on one knee, collected the material of my dress, held it to my waistline. Eye-level with my sex, he inched in, inhaled the scent between my thighs and tasted me, tongue flat, warm as it teased.

Inhaling a harsh, stuttered breath, I set my back to the window, knees almost giving way. "Liam," I choked back a moan, my fingers tousling in his hair.

Using his thumbs, he separated my lips, buried himself, suckled and tasted, not a sensitive spot left untouched. He twirled and nibbled my needy core, tongue coaxing from hole to clit.

Oversensitive, I tried to push his head away, but the determined asshole sucked harder, hooked my legs over his shoulders, rough hands pressed to my stomach, supporting my weight.

His enamoured eyes greeted mine, watching me watch him. Grunts of pleasure vibrated on my swollen bud as he sucked me into his mouth, adding just enough pressure to pull a broken scream from me.

Satisfied by my pleasure, Liam put my feet back on the floor, rose to his full height, his one hand to the window beside my head as he stroked himself from root to tip. Dipping his head, he whispered a kiss to my lips, flicked his tongue in my mouth, wanting me to taste myself. And I did, sucking on his tongue, my hands hugging his shoulders as he engorged his thick length.

"I want that mouth on me," he rasped, sinking his teeth in my shoulder, painful yet impassioned. He tore the straps of my dress down, revealed my breasts and cupped one in a bruising grip. "Get on your knees." I went to take my dress off, but he stopped me. "Keep it on."

Nodding in a state of stupor, I sank to my knees, splayed my fingers over his thighs, and his muscles bunched up from contact. Releasing his vice-like grasp to his shaft, he let it drop heavily before me, his hands flattening to the window, head lowering to watch me engulf him.

Before I could perform, he palmed my cheek, thumb entering my mouth, pressed firmly on my tongue. Eyes lust-filled and heavy, I sucked him, kissed and nestled into his hand.

"Do you love me, baby?" His throaty voice was shiver-inducing.

"Yes," I breathed, enthralled by his unmasked, all-embracing reverence and devotion. "It's unbreakable, Liam." My face level with his cock, I let my mouth slide over him, sucking onto his swollen crest, tongue stroking the underside, attentive to each throbbing vein.

When I took him deep, his head fell back on a guttural moan, every muscle in his body, tight and misted. Holding the back of my neck, he eased in a bit, enough to drip pre-cum down my throat.

His shaft swelled in my mouth, and I moaned around him. My eyes were hot, never leaving him. Each throaty moan of approval made me squirm, thighs welded together, easing the ache.

Noticing my discomfort, Liam pulled back, his cock sliding from my mouth. "Stand," he ordered, and I obeyed. "Face the window."

Interlacing our hands together, he raised my arms above my head, kissing the crevice between my shoulder blades. "Do you need something, baby?"

I wanted him, but I worried someone might catch us. "Is the door locked?"

"You presume I'd leave it open for anyone to walk in and see you?" he said in a thick, erotic voice, his hard length pressed against my derrière. "Nobody dares to look at what belongs to me." He tugged open the dresser drawer, found a foil packet and tore it with his teeth. "Not now." Snapping the condom in place, he sheathed and lined himself at my entrance. "Not ever." He entered me with one harsh thrust, and my head fell to his shoulder, a strained whimper escaping my lips. "Understand?"

I turned my head, facing him. "Yes."

Liam released his grip on my fingers, but I daren't free my hands from the window; it's where he wanted them. He snatched my waist, pulled me to him, right to the base and drove into a thrusting pace. He fucked hard, each stroke of his cock, arching my spine.

Grappling my gathered dress in one hand, he held on, his other arm dipping between my legs, fingers circling, strumming my pulsing numb, pinching as an orgasm slammed into me, too powerful to stand upright. "Liam," I cried, goosebumps puckering my flushed skin. "Oh, shit."

"I want another one." He sucked the tender spot beneath my ear, mouth touring to my shoulder—another painful suck, one that'll bruise, for sure. "Baby." He eased out, and I whimpered at the loss of him—until my back met the glass, legs wrenched around his waist, his cock burying to the hilt. "Tell me."

Initially, while he hammered at a vicious pace, I hadn't understood his vagueness. And then his unspoken vulnerability registered.

Entrapped in the thrall of his arms, I wrapped myself around him, the heels of my shoes pinching his driving backside. "I belong to you," I breathed into his mouth, shifting my hips. "Only you."

His hips rolled, and he filled me, setting my skin on fire. He worked me faster, deeper, harder. I savoured the feel of him and blocked out every dark memory, all-consumed by this man and what insatiable effect he has on me.

"Liam, I'm close." I enveloped his shoulders and met his long thrusts.

He held my bowed spine and sank his head to my heaving chest, breathing hot on my pebbled nipple. I knew he was close because his groans came in harsher, gravelled.

With us still connected, he carried me to the bed and fell over me. Shoving his knees under my thighs, he widened my legs to accommodate him, tearing an agonising moan from me.

Hands holding my head, he lifted his hips and drove so deep my trembling legs slackened. "Liam, I'm—" I came, orgasm claiming my body in a moment of sheer ecstasy. He quickened his movements, chasing his release, but the brutal feeling of his cock pounding in and out became unbearable. "Liam," I moaned, tearing my fingernails down his spine, urging him to slow down.

He hissed through gritted teeth and smashed his lips to mine, kissing me breathless. "Fucking hell," he spat out a rough growl, gripping my hips and pinning me beneath him as wedged into me. "Fuck, you're making me cum." His back tensed, cords of muscle rippling in his arms. "Fuck." He jerked and throbbed as he emptied himself, respiring a shivered breath into the groove of my neck.

I kissed him, clenching around him, draining him, legs curling around his waist, to hold him in. "I love you, too."

Liam was all smiles as he licked the seam of my mouth, seeking my tongue for a raw, passionate kiss. "I should feed you."

"You just did," I teased, thumbing sweat from brow, "gloriously."

"I meant food, Alexa." He stared deadpan at me. "Not my cock."

"I could live on your cock."

His eyebrows jerked to his hairline. "Mentally documented for future reference," he half-joked. He brushed a feather-light kiss to my jaw, an unreadable expression twisting his harsh features. I sensed he wanted to say or ask something but chose to address it another time. "Come on." He eased out and helped me stand. "Fix yourself."

Leaving me to discard his condom, he busied himself in the bathroom while I righted my dress, covering my breasts.

Liam returned with a damp hand towel. "I'll never tire of you, Alexa." He pressed the cloth to my sore heat, soothing and eliminating evidence of our time together.

Satisfied, he chucked the towel straight in the bin, fixed his hair and redressed, keeping the top buttons of his shirt loosened.

Unlocking the bedroom door, he held it open for me to pass. I automatically clutched his hand and laced our fingers, walking alongside him, bypassing amassed party guests. I hadn't noticed at first. Even though the music played, and conversations continued, I suddenly sensed too many eyes on us.

Liam did, too, stopping by the leather U-shaped sofa, his arm instinctively bending around my middle section.

Their innocent stares, although harmless, peeved Liam. It wasn't his most trusted men eyeing me from head to toe, but unidentifiable people I had never met before. Perhaps it's because they recognised me as Alexa and it flummoxed them, or maybe, it's because a woman consumes Liam Warren's attention and that revolution rendered them speechless.

"What the fuck is everyone staring at?" Liam snapped, and my eyes widened in horror. "You all got something you want to say?"

"Liam," I hissed, fisting his shirt. "Don't embarrass me." When his contemptuous glare intensified, I snatched his chin and forced him to look at me. "It's called curiosity. Do not reprimand people for wondering—"

"Wondering what?" he asked, raising his authoritative voice. "It's none of their goddamn business. If seeing a woman on my arm puts their noses out of joint, then they can back-the-fuck-up. You, Alexa Haines, are here to stay—with me." Holding my hand, he collapsed on the sofa, tugging my wilting body onto his lap. "You are my woman. If they don't like it? They can get the fuck out of my penthouse."

Brad, licking a toothpick to the corner of his lips, sank on the chair beside his boss. "Alexa." He winked, giving me a lopsided smirk. "You look well and truly fucked."

"I am well and truly fucking humiliated." I flung a finger towards Liam. "Why be a caveman?"

Liam stifled merriment. "You look flushed."

"I am," I stressed the obvious.

"Alexa, everyone diverted their attention the second Warren raised his voice, so quit fretting." Brad handed Liam a half-smoked joint. "He's playing with you."

At Brad's assessment, I looked at Liam and, for the first time since knowing this man, I saw a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. His playfulness was a rare moment; one you seldom get the opportunity to witness. Instead of continuing the conversation, I propped an elbow on the sofa rear, welcomed his hand absently smoothing my leg as he smoked and listened to the men talk business—foolishly paying no attention to whoever just slammed that front door behind them.

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