Bolting upright, whipping unruly hair from my face, I ripped the blanket aside, hearing Liam's sleepy groan as I shifted. I blindly searched for a discarded T-shirt on the floor, dressed amidst haphazardness, brushed my teeth, and then quietly crept out of the master bedroom.
Bare feet teetering across the cold marble floor, I rushed to the kitchen—which had the semblance of a rebellious young adults student accommodation; empty alcohol bottles, half-eaten produce, dispensed drugs and a surplus supply of condom packets—and opened the fridge. I selected a medley of flavoursome juices and began pouring chilled glasses, arranging them on a tray.
Leftover appetisers cluttered the counters. I cleared a space on the stonework island, scrubbed alcohol stains with disinfectant and hunted the cupboards for edible pastries. I found a loaf of bread, checked the date first, popped slices into the toaster. I am not the best cook, far from it, but buttery toast, jams and marmalade portion packs, packaged croissants and microwaved breakfast tartlets, I execute.
I opened the balcony doors to generate a cool breeze. Hopefully, that morning air can eliminate bad odours. God, what is that awful smell? A mixture of old man's flatulence, fetid sweat, rubber latex, lube and other body fluids.
My nose twitched in repugnance. I used a fork to lift a lace thong from the coffee machine and tossed both items straight in the bin, a sordid delineation of the Suits' vacuous and meaningless drunken orgies, I imagine.
Pouring myself a coffee, I add a splash of milk and inspect the aftermath of last night's carnage. It wasn't a wild night, even though the penthouse's disordered, diabolical state suggests otherwise, but understanding the nature or purpose of Liam's "celebration" still puzzled me. He's comfortable being in the public eye, so it's quite normal for him to withstand an assemblage of acquaintances or close friends. However, It's unorthodox for him to invite people to his private home.
I sipped coffee with permanent furrowed eyebrows.
Last night, I was too excited to spend time with Liam, so I hadn't considered the unusualness of his event.
What are you up to, Mr Warren?
The toaster popped. I stockpiled the plates, organised the Suits' breakfast onto a tray and carried edible deliciousness to the lobby.
"Morning," I chimed, using my back to hold the door open. "I didn't forget about you," I fibbed, and the suited, stoic men stared at me, nonplussed and speechless. "Well, come and eat."
Exchanging puzzled glances, the men briefly abandoned their posts and thanked me for the cold drinks. "Can one of you grab the other tray inside the kitchen?" I asked, and a lean male slipped past me. "Take as much as you want, guys. You can grab a coffee, too."
The tray lightened as they plucked off orange juice and buttered toast slices. They individually entered the penthouse to pour beverages and balance pastries in their mouths.
"Thank you, Ma'am," one said, and the others mumbled gratitude.
"Do you want anything else before I close the door?" I mused, and they stiffly shook their heads. "Are you sure?" Again, they seemed uncomfortable, declining my offer. "Okay. Well, if you change your mind, knock the door and ask for me."
Leaving them to finish breakfast, I returned to the kitchen and cleared the sides, eliminating any evidence from yesterday's partying.
Satisfied with my cleaning skills, I tied-up filled bin liners and asked two Suits if they can discard them. Without fuss or complaints, both men hurled recycling downstairs, ready for the refuse collectors.
Dusting off my hands, inhaling the pleasant scent of lemon air freshener, I stalked the interconnecting halls, on the prowl for Jace.
Staggering inebriated and stoned to the point of red-eyed bewilderment, Jace agreed to spend the night, and Liam, to appease me, grudgingly tossed my friend keys to a guest room farthest from the master suite.
On my travels, I find a comatose Josh in the bathroom. "Josh." Closing the door, I knelt beside his outstretched body, spurning the unsightly display. His trousers, unbuttoned, slacked and bunched-up around the ankles, backside bare for the world. "Seriously, Josh. Who drinks themselves stupid and falls asleep half-naked on a bathroom floor?"
Lips twisting into a puckered grimace, Josh groaned, cracking open his red-brimmed eyes. He rubbed his wearisome face, rolled onto his back and belatedly discerned his uncovered manhood.
My eyes rounded in utter shock. I snatched a towel from the cast iron radiator, surfacing his morning glory. "I didn't see anything," I lied—the bastard's hung like a slongdaconda. "What the hell, Josh? Did you fall while relieving your bladder or something?"
He's yet to avert his aghast eyes and sickly pale face. "Alexa," he croaked, exemplifying a dying patient. "Please tell me we didn't?"
"God, no." I scoffed, and he took umbrage to my manifest disapproval. "Sorry that came out wrong." I whittled down in a nanosecond. "It's not that I wouldn't because I would..." No, I'd never touch Josh, not sexually. "Shit, what I meant..." Keep digging a bigger hole, Alexa. "I'm with Liam, remember? You are beautiful, Josh." He responds with a shit-eating grin. "Alright, lothario. Don't let flattery inflate your ego."
He reached up and cupped my jaw. "I like that you think I'm sexy, Alexa. It soothes my hangover."
I never said Josh was sexy, though, he's not lying. He's gorgeous—a handsome young man, warm, chocolate brown hair and a carved jawline, soft-looking full lips, naughty yet boy-like smile and, together with his incredible image, he has the kind of personality that guarantees lifelong friendships wherever he goes. And of course, female admirers. "If we don't get these cacks up? Liam's going to think we—"
"Fuck." He whooshed into a sitting position and regretted it, slapping a palm to his forehead. "I think I died."
"No, but you certainly drank too much." I picked up the small, clear bag, wielding scarce white substance. "You might want to lay off the drugs, Josh." A barrage of questions pelted me. "Is this a one-off, or are you partial to frequent cocaine abuse?"
"Am I under interrogation, Alexa?" He lost the towel, cupped himself and stood, making a lazy effort of tucking himself away. "You do realise the boss-the man you date, need I remind you—distributes gear for the men, so don't judge me, not unless you want to chide him in the process."
"I am not judging you," I fibbed. I hate his newfound vicissitudes of criminality. He's one of the good guys, inherently chivalrous, courteous, respectful and considerate. Why should he reinvent himself to conform to the syndicate rules?
Josh, fully dressed yet disordered, tugs his suit sleeve. Jaw slackening, he examined his wrist and sucked in a bracing breath. "That bitch stole my watch."
My eyes bounced from his wrist to face. "Who stole your watch?"
"One of those women from last night," he said, bitterly vague. "I knew she was too invested—fucking money grabber."
I winced. Judging by Josh's furious expression, I guesstimate he's lost an extortionately priced item of jewellery. "Rolex?"
"Vacheron Constantin." He tsked me, fixing a cufflink. "A gift from Brad."
"Yes, well, if you didn't allow yourself to get in a stupid state of intoxication, a stolen wristwatch could've been avoided," I educated him smugly. "Are the other's about?"
"No idea." Swinging open the bathroom door, he gestured for me to exit first. "I'll check the guestrooms. I think Nate left early with Blaire. Knowing Brad, though, he's probably hauled-up in a room somewhere with women—plural. Just saying."
Thanks for that knowledge, Josh. "With the array of women he sleeps with, that man's pending gruesome knob-rot. It stuns me that his member hasn't fallen off already." Suppressing a shudder, I watched Josh with a grin. "And you, close behind, of course."
"Of course," he mimicked, playfully probing me ahead. "Fuck off. Your jibber-jabber worsens my headache."
I gave him an eye-roll, left him feeling sorry for himself and skulked the grandeur halls. On exhale, I knocked my fist on Jace's door and rudely invited myself—to front row tickets of inked legs with hunkered purple hair between them.
"Oh, shit." Eyes snapping back in their sockets, I fumbled to shut the door, hearing him spit a curse on the other side. "It's okay, Jace. You keep doing that thing you are doing..." Enjoying a blow job from the evangelical woman. "I can—" The door flew open, whipping hair over my shoulders. "Hello."
Jace, the towering, glorious wall of inked, well, gloriousness, uses a hand to hide the muscle swinging between his legs futilely. His companion, Miss Nameless, falls back on her haunches, wiping his...stuff from her lips.
"Is she your bitch or something?" she asked, and I envisioned strangling her. "Why are you two always floundering around each other?"
Jace scoffed, mouth opening to defend—what are we defending? We don't have to justify ourselves to her. "Did you enjoy yourself?" I asked, and his brows merged. Pointing to his concealed portion, I added, "If you didn't finish? I'll wait outside and then come back and skull drag the mutt—"
"Excuse me?" she barked, staggering to her feet on the bed. "Speak for yourself, bitch. You don't want to try me."
"Really?" I clenched my fists, fingernails stabbing my palms. "You might want to drop the claws." Jace, gripping my T-shirt, blocks me from entering the room. "I bite."
"Shit," Jace groaned, rubbing his tired eyes. "Get out," he ordered, and her face turned ashen white. "Come on. I ain't got all day."
I stifled self-satisfaction, itching the scar under my eye.
"Jace?" she whispered in shock, watching him collect cast-offs on the chesterfield suite. "Fine. Whatever." Her dislike drilled into me, but I ignored her unspoken scorn, studying my fingernails with a bored expression. "Bitch," she muttered, yanking on a skin-tight dress, shouldering past me, a deliberate impale. "Watch your back."
"Watch yours," I advised, and she halted pace, glaring at me. "I am personally barring you from returning to Liam's penthouse, and this resolute warning applies for all his businesses. If you have a problem with that, by all means, speak to him and overturn my ruling; however, I should forewarn you, Liam, my partner, might take offence to you bad-mouthing me and make an example out of you."
I had paralysed her into dumbstruck discombobulation.
Without another word, I left her in the hallway and shut the bedroom door.
Extending a weary yawn, Jace stretched his arms above his head and fell back on the bed. "You can calm down now."
"I am calm." That's a crock of shit. My body hasn't stopped shaking since Miss Nameless called me a bitch. "Why did she attack my jugular like that?" I hadn't meant to disturb their sex-play. "I seem to have a face that offends people."
Jace propped onto his elbows, his hand tapping the spot beside him.
I was a little disgruntled by his lack of concern. Nonetheless, I huffed out a resigned breath and star-fished the bed.
"Your face doesn't offend people." Repositioning onto his side, he swept hair strands from my face and drew invisible images of my back. "She was jealous."
"Jealous?" I snorted, snuggling closer. "It wasn't me who had you by the balls, Jace. That woman quite literally had your cock in her slurping mouth."
He snickered as I glanced irritably at him. "What?"
"She covered you in hickies," I mumbled, finger playing connect-the-dots on his inked neck. "Do you fancy a lazy day? I'll say goodbye to Liam. We'll take the Underground, but grab a Nando's en-route."
"I could smash a Nando's," he groaned, eyes rolling back in heavenly thought. "Lots of hot sauce."
"Same." Rubbing his chest, patting, I sat up, feet meeting the floor. "Stop yawning, Jace. It's contagious."
He disregards me, stuffing an arm under a pillow, nestled to slumber. "Wake me up in an hour."
I shot him a sharp look. "I thought you wanted Nando's."
"I do," he croaked, complaining pointlessly to himself. "Once Warren lets you leave."
"You are such a drama queen." I jolted the bedroom door open, faltering at the threshold. "Liam's out like a light bulb. I think he might be hungover."
Jace snorted and turned his somnolent stare to me. "That man's alcohol tolerance puts my masculinity to shame."
My eyebrows danced playfully. "Do you think he's a functioning alcoholic?"
"No, I think he's a quintessential crime lord. He'd never undervalue or underestimate a situation with careless susceptibility. For Warren, drinking quenches hunger, not thirst." He settled back to the pillow. "Try and remember that."
His crapulous blathering fell on deaf ears. I closed the door and hastened pace, hearing Brad and Josh arguing from the living quarter.
I tried to evade them.
"Alexa," Brad called, and I paused. "Did you just sneak out of Jace's boudoir?"
Josh collapsed on the sofa beside my favourite Suite. "Quit shit-stirring," he admonished, blowing over the surface of his coffee mug. "We fuck our way through different beds, so why can't she?"
My chin hit the deck. "I am not..." Keeping my dignity, I folded my arms. "Nice, Josh. Really smooth."
He plastered a toothy grin. "You are most welcome, Babe."
Heat reddened my cheeks. "Babe is a pig."
Chuckling into a tight fist, Brad, leaning forward to grab a smouldering joint from the ceramic ashtray, lingered his questioning glare. "Does Warren know his Buttercup prowls the halls?"
"Yeah?" Josh wondered, kicking his feet onto the coffee table. "You should be careful, Precious. Don't want to aggravate the Boss, now, do we Sunshine?"
"It'd be a ghastly sight, Toots." Brad, the jokester-instigator, respired smoke circles. "Jace garrotted from the ceiling and whatnot, Boo."
"Dollface," I said, and Brad simpered. "Please refrain from using ugly pet names to address me, Dumpling. And you, Honey," I pointed at Josh, "stop laughing, or expect Poohbear to stick."
"Poohbear," Brad repeated, feigning empathy for his friend. "Ouch."
Josh shuddered, smacking away Brad's wiggling fingers. "I stand corrected," he said, curbing a naughty smirk, "Pumpkin."
With a dismissive hand, I left the childish men to chortle behind my back and barricaded myself in the master bedroom. Right where I left him, Liam lays face down on the bed, the black sheets tangled between his legs.
Tucking hair behind my ears, I carefully climbed onto the mattress and straddled his lower back. He groaned a sleepy moan, and I smiled, peppering kisses to the stubble along his jawline.
"Alexa," he whispered, not opening his eyes.
My arms covered his muscular ones as I laced our fingers. "I like sleepy Liam," I admitted, and his eyebrows cinched slightly. He smells too divine for someone who hasn't left the bed. "You smell freshly showered—Liam!" I squealed as he unexpectedly rolled over, keeping me above him. "You are such an asshole. I thought you were asleep."
He gets comfortable, arms tucked behind his head, staring at me through hooded eyes, bottom lip gripped between his teeth. "Where did you go?"
I rested my palms on his bare chest, fingers tracing the thin, dark line of delicate hair leading to that glorious V-line. "I wanted to make the men breakfast." Leaning over him, I tugged open the bedside drawer, found a foil packet and tore it with shaky fingers. "Can I have you?"
Liam, understanding what I craved, sat straight, putting his back to the headboard. "Don't ever ask for my permission, Alexa." His hand crept under my T-shirt, fingers outlining the feathers on my shoulder blades. "I am yours."
I tossed the packet aside, found his hard length and sheathed him, loving the feel of him in my hand. Tugging the T-shirt over my head, exposing my breasts, I set one hand on his shoulder and evaded his seeking lips, smiling as he tried to claim me for a kiss. "Give me that mouth," he growled, his teeth nipping my jaw. "Don't make me beg."
Fisting the back of his hair, I grasped the base of his cock, thick and heavy, easing myself onto him, lips stretching painfully to adjust. A low, guttural moan fell from his parted lips before his tongue, soft and tentative, stroked mine. I caught his strained breath, positioned my knees on either side of him and forwarded my hips, feeling him swell inside me.
"Alexa," he said roughly, his jaw muscles tightening as I slowly rode him. "I want this. You and me, every day." Grounding down on his teeth, he grabbed my waist and bucked his hips, a short, sharp sequence of steady, meaningful thrusts. "Do you want that?" He dragged my arms behind my back and captured my joint wrists. "I want to wake up to your beautiful face, baby." With me in his sights, he lowered his head, licked and sucked my nipple, teasing the hard peak. "I want to fall asleep with you in my arms."
I didn't get a chance to respond. He abruptly pulled me beneath him, his powerful arms caging me in. I widened my thighs for him to settle, the raw intensity of him dragging his cock in-and-out coaxed a breathless moan from me.
With one hand, he fixed the chain around my neck. "What's mine is yours, baby," he said, burying himself deep and settling. "I want you to move in with me."
I think my brain exploded. "I'm sorry, what?"
His smirk, devilish and captivating. "I don't like repeating myself, Miss Haines." I'd answer if his mobile phone weren't vibrating. "Ignore it—"
Snatching the phone, seeing Hellen's name flash on the screen, I scowled at him. "This is a bad time to have you inside me."
Reclaiming the phone, he diverted the call, changed the settings to silent and tossed the pending argument over his shoulder. "Don't let her ruin us, Alexa." He fucked and kissed me slowly, growling when someone bashed a fist on the door. "What?"
Will we ever catch a break?
"Don't let her ruin us, Alexa." I moved, slow, unhurried, her in my arms, exactly how I like it. "I—what?" I snapped, the muscles in my back, tight and burning.
Brad swings the door open, frantically buttoning up his shirt. I geared up to pummel him, tearing the blanket up to cover Alexa, when, in his defence, his eyes never once veered from my murderous glare.
"You need to get the fuck up, Bossman," he barked. By detecting the alarm in his voice, I knew to act on instinct, not ask questions. "Bluecoats—everywhere."
"Fuck." Unravelling myself from Alexa, ignoring her panicked questions, I rolled off the bed, found the first pair of slacks and yanked them on. "Everything in the bathroom! Now!"
"Liam?" Whiter than white, she rested on her knees, hugging the blanket to her chest. "What's happening?"
"Get dressed," I ordered, pacing to the en-suite. "Move it, Alexa!" Shaking her into submission, I blindly fingered the bath ledge, watching her scamper off the bed and change into a black tracksuit. "Hurry up." Popping the seal, dragging the panel aside, I rushed around the bedroom, collecting firearms, bullets and drugs. "Don't just stand there. Assist us."
Alexa jerked back to life, knotted her hair above her head and gathered anything deemed illegal.
Six of my men stormed into the bathroom, alternatively hiding evidence inside the safe, speaking into their earpieces.
"Come on," I said, irritably impatient. "Move it."
Brad jogged back into the bedroom, the phone to his ear, spitting commands to Nate. He unzips Alexa's clutch bag, finds a bobble and knots his hair. "Two minutes," he tells me, slipping a toothpick between his lips. "Come on, Nate. Break the servers; we need to know what they got." I heard Nate's muffled drawl, but whatever he said, failed to mollify Brad's tense apprehensions. "Be quick." He killed the call. "What do you think?"
My arms folded. "Fagan."
Brad gave me a curt nod. "Okay, depending on the evidence, we let a syndicate member take the flack."
"I'll do it," said Josh, standing in the doorway.
"Hell-fucking-no," Brad retorts, sending the lad an affronted glance. "I am second in command. It's on me."
Alexa cut her concerned eyes to me.
"I didn't become Liam Warren by standing behind my army." To the sound of violent knocking, I tore on a T-shirt and strode towards the desperate, raised voices. "I earned my title by leading them." Heart hammering in my chest, I powered down the hallway, gesturing for the loyal men to stand back.
I paused at the front door, clicked and released tension from my neck before facing the mob of officials. "You better have a warrant, motherfuckers. I am not feeling too generous this morning."
"Issued thirty minutes ago, Warren." Detective cock sucker slapped an envelope on my chest. "If you refuse to let us in the property, by any means, we can arrest you and your trusted accomplices." Furrowing his dark brows, he squared up to me, nose-to-nose. "Not so smart now, huh?"
I crushed the envelope in my fist, rage soaring from the depths of my stomach.
The detective smiled, ordering his armed men to overturn the property. They dispersed, meandered through furniture, forgoing cupboards and drawers.
Confused by their lack of thorough search, I secretly eyed Brad. He wears a similar expression, intrigued concern.
Jace chose this raucous, turbulent moment to exit a bedroom. His long strides dwindled, and he stayed back. When his wide eyes drifted past my head, I followed his line of vision. "Wait." I shoved past my men, hindering the process of them entering the master bedroom. "Is all this necessary? I—"
"Zip it, Warren," the detective barked in a no-nonsense voice. "You make me think something hides in that room."
An officer jolted the door open and, in a moment of painful distress, I watched two armed men reach for Alexa, and my stomach sank. "You better not touch her—"
"Alexa Haines." With additional strength, he shoved her chest to the bed, wrenched her arms behind her back and handcuffed her wrists. "I am arresting you on suspicion of Rohan Wallace's murder."
A red veil fell over my eyes, and I snapped. "Get your fucking hands off her!" I spat, ready to intervene when Nate's bulky arms wrapped around my shoulders. "Nate, get the fuck off me—that's an order!"
"You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court." He ripped her into stance, and her glassy eyes crashed into mine. "Anything you do say may be given as evidence. Do you understand?"
I wrestled against Nate, hearing only my raging pulse roaring in my ears. Powerless in his unrelenting hold, I dropped my arm, patted his trouser leg for a gun. I will shoot these motherfuckers—dead. "You fucking cunt!" I growled, and Brad assisted, pinning my chest to the wall. "I'll kill you—I will kill each and every goddamn one of you!"
Alexa, while being pushed towards the hallway, caught sight of my frisking and shouted my name. Her words travelled to me like a ball splattering over the surface of the water, slow and repetitive. "No", she mouthed, shaking her head. "Don't do it, Liam."
Blinking back disordered confusion, I let my arms sag, succumbing to defeat, grappling for a calming breath before I rip the Glock from Brad and raise Hell on these bitches.
The officer led Alexa right past me, and my thumping hearing lessened. Nate eased his arms a touch, and I reached out, snatched her jaw and let the men quickly intercede, giving me ten seconds. They squared up to the irate, yelling officers, creating an Indomitable shield around us.
"Alexa, you say nothing," I whispered against her lips, and her terror-stricken expression crushed my goddamn heart. "You keep this beautiful mouth shut until I get to Reginald. You got that baby?" Someone snatched my elbow, but my lips fused to hers, breathing her in, my hand tight to her hoodie. "I need to hear it, Alexa."
"I'll wait for you," she said, her voice breaking. "Liam, I didn't mean to do—"
"Shut up," I gritted out, covering her mouth with a palm, snaking an arm around her waist. "I love you, Alexa."
"—Two seconds, or you'll be joining the slammer." Someone ripped me away from her, and my chest tightened. "Back off, Warren!"
Spearing a hand through my dishevelled hair, I stepped back, seeking her eyes. Two officers marched her to the door, clinging to her cuffed wrists. As if feeling the pain in my chest, Alexa, peered over her shoulder and smiled. "I love you, too," she mouthed, optimism replacing distress. "Always."
I was never vulnerable. In that slow-paced time-frame, though, I felt completely helpless.
Jace, hands to his mouth, put his back to the wall. His genuine trepidation had no place in my home. "Get rid of him," I growled under my breath, and Josh nodded, wading between armed men, patting Jace on the shoulder. He points to the front door, mumbling for him to leave. I felt Jace's stare but paid scarce attention to him scurrying behind officers.
The penthouse emptied, a cold, deathly silence in their wake. I sank onto a sideboard, benumbed and knocked for fucking six. "Get Reginald on the phone." Pain like no other enwreathed my heart. "I am not letting the love of my life rot in fucking chains. Get that prick on the phone and fix this!"
Brad busied himself, one hand covering his eyes, the other hand, putting a phone to his ear.
"Sir?" Nate drawled, passing me a phone. "I think you should take this."
I didn't recognise the number.
Inhaling a deep, composing breath, I cleared my throat. "Warren."
"You are an impossible man to pin down, Warren." He sounded authoritative but young.
I wasn't in the right frame of mind to barter. "What can I do for you, Vincent?"
He was silent for all of five seconds. "I don't recall giving a name."
"Perspicaciousness," I said arrogantly, and he chuckled, dark yet humoured. "You hound my attention. Why?"
"Reginald cannot assist Alexa Haines' arrest." The second her name flew out of his mouth, my spine stiffened. "Someone told the Magistrates' Court how your relationship to the Chief might be a conflict of interest. Detective Donny Stevens, a rather close friend of mine, so happens to be leading inquiries. With the right amount of gratitude, I may or may not offer my services."
"You conceited motherfucker," I growled, hand crushing the phone. "I march to no one's drum."
"Not even for her?"
"Not for you," I corrected, noticing Brad's soaring frustration as he argued on the phone. "What type of fool do you take me for, Vincent? Nothing in life comes for free. If you offer a service? It means you expect something in return. I dish out favours, but lend a hand from no one."
"I want nothing but acceptance, Liam."
"Warren," I fired back, impossible rage honing my bones. "You are not above me, Vincent. You are below me—a dispensable, worthless, desperate man, who should feel privileged I even entertained this nonsense. Do not call. Do not hound. My friendly warning expires the second I terminate this call, so I dare you to fuck with me one more time."
"I don't fear you, Liam." He laughed, low and sardonic. "I love you far too much."
It's not often someone renders me speechless. "You got a death wish, Vincent?"
"By no means," he said nonchalantly. "I do, however, wish to amalgamate with my estranged sibling. Imagine that, Liam. Two Warren brothers. It's a force to be reckoned with, right?"
I lunged the phone straight through the penthouse window.
To be continued...
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