If you used your due diligence and researched the definition, society claims such intense feelings of deep affection stems from the gravitational attraction, sexual tension and early romanticism between you and another, a fated soulmate, who, one day, ingrained in your heart and paired their soul to yours. In all honesty, though, our relationship, Alexa's and mine, feels like a painful disaster, or perhaps our collision was a beautiful tragedy. Either way, I fell hard, and I cannot breathe or function without her.
Was it instantaneous magnetism and carnal enchantment with a degree of idealisation?
Yes and no. I saw a beautiful woman and concluded she was different. The sound of her genuine laughter earned a rare smile from me. I knew that the unfamiliar emotion I felt when all-consumed by her proximity meant something. Her happiness and infectious smile made my heart beat harder, yet, for an unshakeable time, I refused to believe she could be anything more than sex.
Before you question my prior indeterminateness, take into consideration that I am not a normal man. You will not find me working industriously to line another person's pocket. You will not see me wandering around convenience stores, dressed in average or casual attire, selecting groceries and contemplating what flavoursome wine must sit on the dinner table that evening, or operating and functioning in a sphere of normality with moral citizens trying to make ends meet, neither will you witness me rearing children with a doting wife on my arm.
No, I am an egotistical opportunist who's influenced by fashion designers, tailored suits and top-of-the-range vehicles. I luxuriate in affluence and wealth, without marriage complications and the stress of rioting offspring. I don't wait for the universe to brighten my future, or rely on another individual to motivate aspirations. That's tedious and boring. Take note: If you want something enough, you'll depend on yourself solely and snatch everything—even what doesn't belong to you—and stake claim. How else do you achieve an abundance of accomplishments? Do you think opportunities just land on your idle lap? Must I be a sheep and follow expectancies because someone once expressed the importance of education, nine-to-five jobs, marriage and children?
Is my outlook on life pessimistic?
Yes and no. I know where I stand, where my loyal subjects stand. My lifestyle, although frowned upon, is familiar, uncomplicated, fulfilling and gratifying.
Is my immoral conduct fair?
No, but when did I care for the opinions of others?
People judge me, and so they should. I am a renowned criminal and drug baron, a notorious crime lord who waits for you to fall asleep at night before ripping you from pleasant dreams and instilling gruesome nightmares. Challenge my honourability. I am a man of my word, but that doesn't mean I won't hold your eyes while tearing out the thumping muscle beneath your ribcage and feeding it to the wolves.
Was I born evil?
No, I bleed the same tears as everyone else.
You needn't forget I was once a little boy, someone who watched interacting families through park railings, imagining how it felt to enjoy blanket-picnics with siblings. I sat on many a bench, pushbike to the side, scarfing cheap peanuts, listening to mother's compliment their beautiful daughters, hearing the father's praising their sons, demonstrating and leading them into young men in preparation for civilisation.
Neglect and dejection hurt more than I ever cared to admit. I often wondered why my mother chose drugs over my welfare and why my father despised my existence.
When I was young, naive and optimistic, I played out various scenarios inside my head. Even when Bill—the eccentric Jamaican guitarist who took me under his wing and showed raw compassion and empathy for a boy who's small white hand fitted perfectly against his large brown palm—became a huge factor of my existence, I dreamt of a different life. I held onto the hope that my father would someday remember me, or that my mother hadn't injected heroin into her veins and left me alone in the world.
Do I blame my childhood for the man that I am today?
To any psychologist, yes would be an acceptable answer, but blaming the people who wronged me doesn't give me a semblance of closure or understanding. Disadvantaging myself with laborious scorn and resentment repairs nothing, the pain of yesterday strengthened and created the man that I am today. Without sustaining bitterness for the people who brought me into this world, I'd have never mustered the committed strength to better myself and, in an absentminded state, sought like-minded people to stabilise my future.
Did I plan to rule on high?
Yes, I had a vision and barely slept until a gilded cage domed the city I like to call my empire.
Back to the original point: what is love?
Forget the cliché romance stories, happily-ever-after platitudes, eternal promises and unrealistic perfected partners. Yes, Love is soul-consuming, an impassioned connection between yourself and a significant other, but is your undying affirmation of affection enough to never stray? Will you get bored in twenty years and tarnish your relationship by inviting a third person into your bed? Would your adulteries lead you to a life of lonesomeness? If not unfaithfulness, will complacency wreak the foundations once written in stone? When the honeymoon period subsides, will you continue to venerate, aggrandise and serenade your better half?
People whisper some defaming untruths behind my back. The streets of London declare that I am a heartless man who deserves misfortune and hardship for my sins and their spurious claims narrate a vivid story. And, to a certain extent, their unsolicited speculations aren't far from the truth; however, set the corruption to the bottom of the pile so that I can address the philandering rumours—the age-old canards that nark me the most. Yes, I appreciate women. It's impossible to enumerate my past affairs, and quixotic for me to vow never to admire a decent face in the crowd again, but honest opinions aren't a testimony of infidelities.
When I met Alexa, I shared a weak moment with Natalie. Back then, she was one of Club 11's principal dancers. It was a time where I denied myself the woman I truly wanted by allowing Natalie to pleasure me.
Aside from Natalie, there were no others until an officer informed me of my woman's death, cutting out my heart in the process.
If I could expunge those blurred memories, I'd do it in a heartbeat, remove every woman I embraced in Alexa's absence. If I knew—even if had the most diminutive inclination—that she was alive, I'd have never tarnished our relationship with nameless, faceless women.
People change—I changed. I met a seraphic beauty and claimed her as mine. If unimportant nobodies enjoy groundless gossiping, then you must wonder why. Boredom, I concluded, picturing their monotonous lifestyles where maligning others is the highlight of their uninteresting and unproductive existence. The difference between this hellacious criminal and your doting husband—who sleeps with his Personal Assistant while you're at home taking care of his kids—I made a pledge to love one woman and one woman only. You won't find another female in my bed—hold me to this promise in thirty years' time. You mightn't see me regulating with the common folk, as aforementioned, but for Alexa Haines, I'd move mountains, capsize the city and drain the soul of any fool that wrongs her. I'd die in her honour tomorrow if it meant she could breathe again.
"It's not worth it." Chief superintendent Reginald Burton paced the alleyway belly, the midsole of his brown leather shoes, sequencing a jarring squeak with each frustrated stomp. "No woman," he spat furiously, shoving his face in mine, "is worth this shit. Are you fucking blind, Warren? Alexa Haines isn't worth this fucking bullshit. Not for you. Not for me." He punctuated each syllable. "Not for the city of London."
I led a solitary life in anticipation of my brothers and settled for meaningless affairs to protect the broken pieces of my ice-cold heart. And then she entered my life and righted my future. "Before this entertaining harangue, you asked me a question, Reginald." Foot propped up the polychromatic bricked wall behind me, I set the end of a cigarette alight, respiring veiled smoke to the night sky. "You asked, 'what is love?', and always, when evoked by sentimentalism, I consider how far I've come and the people who helped me along the way."
Reginald fixed his brown fedora hat and corrected the buttons of his trench coat. Before his appointed arrival, he disguised himself to conceal his identity.
Somebody blew the whistle, a rat anonymously informed the independent police complaints commission about the Chief breaking anti-consorting laws, so, while taking a break from the metropolitan—forced sabbatical leave rather—he's awaiting response from the parliamentary office to determine the accurateness of evidence held against him.
Has Reginald received illegal payments from the syndicate?
Yes, I pay the man an extortionate amount of money for his services. Without Reginald's loyal involvement, it is impossible to mislead the law and escape punishment for my wrongdoing. Bent coppers like him, for a prosperous lifestyle, happily hides evidence to undermine potential investigations at court and passes tip-offs to prevent citizen arrest. It's disadvantageous, him sitting on the outside, looking in. I want him inside that interrogation room, imposing and sponging, surreptitiously helping Alexa in her hour of need.
"Such senile questions remind me of a life I no longer care about—a time where Alexa existed merely twenty minutes away from the place I slept at night, waiting for me find her," I admitted, shrugging a shoulder. "Will love be my greatest failure? Probably. It doesn't change how I feel, though, Reginald. For me, love is more than a vow of lifelong promises. It is a possessive need to put her before everything and everyone, including myself."
His condemning glare held firmly in place. "You cannot love someone who lets you go down for her crimes. Hell, if she's not careful, the entire fucking organisation will collapse on everybody—including me!"
"Your arrogance insults me," I barked, tossing the half-smoked cigarette on the floor and getting in his face. "Alexa's no informant or fucking dry snitch. She'd never, ever, squeal truths to bluecoat scum for salvation. I know that woman like the back of my hand, and she'd take everyone's secrets to Hades if it meant protecting me—not that I'd permit it. You and I both know as much." Uncertainty flared in his narrowed eyes. "I need to see her, Reginald. Find a way to get me inside a room with her."
"It's impossible, Warren. They will detain the pair of you incommunicado." He sighed in defeat. "Shit, I can't even brush palms with the woman. It's an iron cast case."
"Why the fixation? If the police obtained unarguable facts and concrete evidence, why haven't they charged her already?"
"They have a reliable eyewitness and an anonymous tip-off." His tone of voice lowered. "It's bigger than fraud and murder, Warren. They will use this evidence and coax her—have her singing like a bastard canary. Don't you see it? It's not Alexa they want sitting on that stand, facing justice." His murderous glare burnt into me. "It's you."
What I feel for Alexa exceeds heart-warming fondness and over emotionalism or nostalgia. It borderlines a dangerous obsession. He believes she's undeserving of our exposure, but to me, she's worth my heart. I'll face life imprisonment to ensure her freedom. If the metropolitan throws the law down, I will willingly enter the station and take accountability for her crimes. "Then you leave me with no choice."
Before I stride past him, he grabbed my elbow, sending a maddening boil through my blood. "Your foolishness will cost everyone that's ever assisted you, Warren."
My furious scowl went from his hand to his face. "Unless you want a broken wrist, Reginald, I suggest you release me." Clearing his throat, he lessened his hold on me. "I will not leave her to rot. If it is me, they're after? Then I am here for the taking." Towering over his plump frame, I rock back on the heels of my leather shoes, hands fisted inside my trouser pockets. "You disappoint me, Chief. Perhaps it's time to invest and upgrade."
"You are illogically tenacious," he barked, flicking his eyes toward the parked Bentley, awaiting my return. "I appreciate your limited trust issues and your lack of faith in me. However, if I cannot intercede, why not accept Stevens' offer? No, he's not an active member of the syndicate, but he's a damn good detective. He can overturn this nonsense with a click of the finger."
Detective Donny Stevens, the Chief continues to prattle. I am unacquainted with the man in question, but apparently, he's one of Vincent's closest allies. He's also a dependable yet dishonourable man who works closely to Reginald. "He belongs to Vincent." Schooling my features, I rubbed rough stubble, contemplating the concept. "You know my feelings regarding outsiders. I will not be indebted to anyone."
Since Vincent's phone call, I repudiate consideration of our bloodline. I'm not entertaining the nonsensical conversation or accepting my alleged brother's proposal. Once Alexa's unshackled, I'll meet with my loyal men. In particular, Brad, sit with them over a bottle of Macallan and discuss this unwanted nuisance. Quite frankly, Vincent's declaration is unfathomably unrealistic. If he becomes a reoccurring hindrance, I will have no choice but to eliminate the problem and move forward. Right now, though, I have more significant issues to deal with—my woman.
"Accept Vincent's offer," Reginald prompted, staring at me despairingly. "If you want Alexa released, then he's your only hope."
"Why must I go through Vincent?" I asked, irritated by the thought of amalgamating with some rinsed out, needy cynosure who craves my attention. "Donny's one of yours. Make him settle this under your firm advisement."
Shaking his head, he scratched the nape of his neck. "He's a damn good homicide detective who loves his job, but insubordination is one of his many wearisome tendencies. Stevens' manipulated by Vincent. He won't disobey that man's orders—"
"Fine," I snapped, ready to extract my phone. "I don't have time for this cocksucker's noncompliance. If he's refusing to help me because Vincent hasn't given the go-ahead? I'll pay him a kind visit and twist some acquiescence out of him."
"For heaven's sake." Tired and pale, he paced the narrowed space, rechecking his surroundings. "What, so now you're going to eliminate one of my most valuable men for this bitch? Is that what we've succumbed to?"
Ignited by disseminating rage, I abruptly snatched his throat and rammed his quaking body to the wall. "Have you forgotten who I am?" I spat, and his wet eyes rounded. "First, you question my rationality. Now you're insulting my fucking woman." Thrusting my knuckles under his chin, I clung to him, ignoring his pathetic wheezing, detecting advancing footsteps. "Who's the bitch now, huh?"
"Bossman." Brad's sanguine presence and calm voice filtered between our hostile performance. "Good old Burton's seconds away from vomiting. You might want to alleviate the noose."
"Fuck his noose." Promising threats lasered from my firm scowl. I snatched the fedora from Reginald's head, dishevelling his receding grey hair. "You are getting too big for your boots, Reginald. I'd hate to make an example out of you."
"Warren," he pleads, his fingernails desperately clawing at my wrist, cheeks puffed out and ruddy. "Please, I beg you."
"Begging is for the weak," I snarled, using unnecessary force to shove him aside. Panting, he collapsed, backside crashing to the ground, splattering stagnant rainwater from an uneven pothole. "Recite the rules, Chief."
Repositioning onto his hands and knees, he lowered his head, levelling his frenetic breathing. "Never challenge the boss."
"Correct." Removing the Desert Eagle from the waistband of my trousers, inserting a magazine for panic-stricken effect, I point the barrel at his head, hearing Brad mutter a curse beside me. "What happens to insolent soldiers?"
Reginald licked his dry lips, gazing up at Brad beneath hooded eyebrows. "Don't let him kill me, Jones. You know I got your backs. He's not thinking straight—" I booted him clean under the chin, sending his wailing body into a heap on the cold floor. "Warren—"
Reaching down, snatching a handful of his hair, I forced his staggering legs upright, backing him up against the wall. "Nobody calls my woman a bitch," I enunciated harshly, ramming the barrel into his heaving mouth, "and lives to hear the end of it."
Reginald grappled my shirt, eyes widening like a deer in the headlight. He whimpered a long line of apologises, a single tear rolling down his cheek.
I caught his muffled promise, and withdrew my hand, ripping the gun from his mouth. The second oxygen clogged his lungs, he doubled over at the waist, splashing a force of projectile vomit between my leather shoes.
"Oh, that fucking stinks." Brad wafted the stench of too many ales and regurgitated fast foods from his nose, dramatically dry-heaving. "Fucking hell, Burton. You need to get that ass on a diet before cardiac arrest puts you in a premature box."
"In case you hadn't noticed," Reginald fires back, spittle dribbling from his chin, "I am already a dead man walking."
"Thanks to those greasy kebabs." Brad shuddered, paying great attention to the mess Reginald left on the floor. "Is that a whole fucking mushroom? Boss, he's irredeemable. Just shoot the fucker and be done with him."
Straightening his spine, Reginald's hands curled into fists. "You chopsy wanker—"
"Enough." Holding up a commanding hand, I silenced their puerile argument. "In a moment of defeatism, you vowed assistance, Reginald."
Resigned, the Chief wiped puke from his lips, shaking residue off his hand. "I know someone that can get you ten minutes with Haines." His sad eyes held mine, subjugated by our unusual contention. "But that's the best I can offer. Fuck, my job is on the line here, Warren. Cut an old man some slack, huh?"
Angry yet adrenalised, I bellied relief and gestured towards the Bentley. "Lead the way."
I am lying on the world's most uncomfortable cot, reading the horrific graffiti displayed on the stained walls and ceiling. Black and blue ink unadorned my unprepossessing, impermanent cell, a detailed story about countless detained criminals and their certifiable thought process.
Rolling onto my side, I squinted, reading the delineation of committed crimes, penned in what resembled human excrement on the wooden bench the detectives ordered me to utilise if in need of a bathroom break.
My nose twitched in disgust.
Yanking Liam's hoodie over my head, covering my face, I fell back onto the groaning bed, complaining under my breath. I cannot believe my unfortunateness. This morning, I awakened to a new era, wrapped protectively in Liam's arms, feeling a sense of closure. I hadn't foreseen this minor setback—well, it's hardly trivial, Alexa. It's more of a grievous situation, but, hey, you wear Liam's clothes. The scent of his cologne lingers on the material, so there is that—when scouring the penthouse for Jace, and most certainly hadn't considered interrogation when imagining a lazy day on the sofa with an inexhaustible supply of ice cream.
What has my miserable life surmounted to?
According to Detective Asshole, Alexa Haines, impersonating Victoria Rose, was last seen with the victim, Rohan Wallace. I mean, at first, I snorted. This deranged woman over here has absolutely no recollection of the said man. In fact, this senile mental patient assured herself that the arrest was a misunderstanding. Perhaps she'd get a tap on the wrist for not voicing her "death", but once she puts on the waterworks and explains her not-so-acclimatising history with Flamur Bajramovic, the department of justice will empathetically understand and wish her on her merry way, right? "Wrong."
Why must I soliloquise in the third person?
"Because you are a damn nut job, Alexa." Huffing wayward strands from my face, I peered through the tightened hood and stared at the cracked ceiling, the one that seems to be shrinking with each passing minute. "Oh, God. I am going to die in jail."
What if someone tries to make me their bitch?
A turbulent of nausea wreaked havoc. "I need to get out of here." Throwing my legs over the bed, I staggered to my feet, made a short journey to the metal enclosure and grasped the poles with gripping hands. "I can't stay here!" I yelled, studying the locked door disparagingly. "Please, I will die. And this isn't a wishful stunt or desperate act." Shaking the bars with vigorous strength, I choked on an inhaled breath, undesired tears flooding my eyes. "I can't breathe."
Releasing the guard rail, clutching my throat, I inhaled short, sharp breaths, failing to calm my frantic breathing. "Oh, shit," I moaned, putting my back to the enclosure, sliding down the cold metal, slumping on the floor. "In...and..." I can't do it, I thought, whacking the back of my head to the railings, inwardly scolding myself for being so weak. "Help..."
I heard the room door unbolt and thanked my lucky stars. I wanted to face the guard, admit my sins and repent just to get out of this hellhole. While wrestling for oxygen, I'd sell organs to refuel my lungs, to alleviate this benumbing, immobilising quandary that persistently controls my life.
"Alexa, breathe," Liam whispered behind me, and a stuttered sob fell from my lips. His arms snaked through the obstructing bars and curled across my waist, tugging me close. "In and out, baby."
Nodding, I latched my hands to his forearms, wishing this impenetrable wall would disappear so that I could wrap myself in his arms, where I belong. "Liam..." It's not working, I thought, chest heaving, fear rippling through my ice-cold veins.
"Slow," he coaxed, withdrawing the hood from my head, freeing me from the flimsy shield I hoped would protect me. "Alexa, breathe." His agitated voice sliced through me, rending me to awareness, compelling me to conquer those ever residing demons. "Fuck's sake."
In a brusque fashion, Liam tugged me into stance, face-to-face, haphazardly eradicating the hoodie from my body. A soft, ever-present chill immediately sheathed my burning flesh, quelling my claustrophobic ambience.
"Liam," I croaked, unable to see him through momentary impaired vision. "My...chest..."
His hands cleaved to my elbows, fingers painfully digging into my skin. "It's not real," he rasped, kissing my sweat-slicked forehead, growling deep in his chest. Wrapping my hair around his fist, he tore the roots, ripping an excruciating whimper from me. "Breathe, Alexa. I need you to fucking breathe." Concentrating on the pain he inflicted, I shut my eyes, urging myself to steady my breathing. I inhaled a long, deep breath, and we respired in unison, accumulating each other's air. "Good girl."
"I feel..." Blowing out a stream of concerns, I dropped my head to the bar, hands falling to his waist, holding his belt. "Liam, I feel sick."
"Are you speaking figuratively because of the situation, or do I need to call someone?"
"I don't know," I complained, rubbing sweat dews from my brows. "My stomach is in knots."
Liam took hold of my waist, kneading my taut mid-section with his therapeutic thumbs. "Fuck, I hate this," he said angrily, his body fused to the enclosure, desperate to reach me. "Look at me."
I tilt my head back, chest collapsing with each strained breath. I stared deeply into his beautiful blue eyes, the sight of his despondency shattering my heart. "I am fine," I lied, hating his pained features. "Don't look at me like that, Liam. It hurts."
"Like what?" he asked, his eyebrows cinching into a harsh frown. "Like a man in love? A man who, for the first time in his adult life, cannot control or capitalise a situation?" Gritting his teeth, he snatched my throat with gentle yet callous hands. Irked by the restrictions limiting our vicinity, he huffed out an impatient sigh, rolling his bottom lip between his teeth. "What are the charges?"
His hand flattened over my mouth. "No, you didn't," he stressed, and I nodded obsequiously. "Play smart, Alexa." His voice lowered to a hushed whisper. "Don't let those bluecoat pricks put words in your mouth. They'll twist and bend an admittance out of you if you don't use this." He tapped my temple with a pointed finger. "You did not kill anyone. You have no recollection of the man in question and when they throw times and dates in your face, hit them back with an alibi." I leaned in, and he murmured a soft kiss to the tip of my nose. "You were with me. There is no concurrence, Alexa. You tell those motherfuckers that you were with Liam Warren. Let them come to me."
His ruling felt like a knife to the throat. "No, I will not turn the heat onto you."
Vehemence blazed in his cold eyes. "You have no choice."
"Someone once told me that everybody has a choice," I reminded him, slipping out of his firm hold. "Harming you, in any way shape or form, will never, ever, be a choice for me, so don't you dare expect otherwise from me, Liam."
"Foolish obdurateness means sentencing," he said calmly, taunting me into submissiveness. "Is that what you want, baby?" He gripped the bars, resting his head between two poles, teasing me with those cynical eyes. "Can you handle that, day in and day out, fighting with life imprisoned inmates who got nothing to lose? Look at you," he added sardonically, eyeing my slender frame with a hurtful glimmer of disapproval. "What do you weigh these days, Alexa? How much energy could you muster to fight off admirers."
"Fuck you," I retort, and he chuckled dryly. "Your weak mind games are futile, Liam. I made a choice. My choice is to protect you."
"I don't want your fucking protection," he said vehemently, holding the bars with white-knuckled urgency. "Alexa, come here."
"No." Stubbornly persistent, I put my back to the filthy wall, keeping space between us.
"Fine." Retreating a few steps, he thrust his hands into his trouser pockets. "I'll just go out there and admit to shooting Wallace so we can be done with it."
I smiled smugly. "Although I am not inclined to tell you Rohan's cause of death, I wish you the best of luck with that bogus admittance." I don't even know how that man died. I mean, I am no saint. I brandished guns on impulsive occasions, but I know damn well that Rohan's murder has to be from those funky looking vitals Jace gave me to inject our rich candidates. Either that or I'm seriously facing charges for a crime I did not commit.
If there weren't a barrier between us, I am confident Liam would have charged at me by now. His eyes briefly wavered to my chest, reminding me of the flimsy lace bra I aimlessly clasped on before arrest. "I thought you didn't remember the victim."
"I don't." I genuinely do not recall anyone by the name of Rohan Wallace. "I do, however, recall each man I lured into hotel rooms, Liam. Not by name, though. If they show me an image, I am sure that I screwed up somewhere." His gaze dashed to the rotating camera, fixed securely in the corner of the room. "Can they hear us?"
"No," he assured, rubbing a hand over the scruff of his jaw. His arms dropped to his sides, the muscles in his shoulders, tight, stretching his white shirt. It's only in that admiring moment that I belatedly discern his absent suit jacket. "Fuck." Taking out his phone, he tapped the screen and placed it to his ear. "Vincent." My interest piqued. "Do it." Rudely ending the call while Vincent was in mid-conversation, he shoves the phone back in his pocket. "Stop being stubborn, Alexa. Come here."
I pushed myself away from the wall, stopping millimetres away from the bars. "My decision isn't an act of petulance, Liam. I just don't want you caught in the crossfire."
Returning to the enclosure, he weaved his arms into my cell, coiling them around my body, tight and unyielding. His lips brushed my earlobe. "They'll interrogate you further," he whispered, clinging to me like I'm his lifeline. "Only respond with short answers. Yes, sir. No, sir. Got it?"
"Yes." Turning my head, I met his gaze, touching his lips with mine. "Mr Warren."
Against his better judgment, he smiled against my mouth. "You admit to nothing. No matter what they throw at you. Don't speak to anyone until my lawyer, Carl, is present. Trust Stevens to assist, but, at any point, if you feel uneasy by his involvement, withdraw and remain tight-lipped. Understand?"
"I want to take you home," he admits, and I've never heard him sound so vulnerable, so exposed for the sake of love. "I want you to be my forever, Alexa."
Tears saturated my eyes. "Forever is a long time."
"Not with you." Respiring a shuddering breath, he kissed the corner of my lips, his fingers absently playing the piano along my spine, sprouting goosebumps across my arms and chest. "With you, forever isn't long enough."
Liam Warren has ruined me for any other man. "Liam?"
His eyes jerked up, colliding with mine. "Yes, baby?"
Composing myself, I slipped a dark strand of hair behind his ear. "Do you love me?"
"You have no idea." His lips paid homage to my jawline. "No fucking idea how much you mean to me." Someone knocked on the door, and he spat out another curse. "I can't leave you here."
"Yes, you can." Cupping his face, I thumbed his honed cheekbones, assuring him with a genuine smile. "I have endured worse than a sordid cell and scripted vulgarity, Liam."
"Don't say that." Clenching his jaw, he seized my wrists, his thumbs pressing down on my pulse. "I swear, Vincent better pull through or I'll bury him."
I have yet to inform Liam of Vincent's involvement with City Hall's bombing, or his departing admission. Telling Liam what his alleged brother said to me can wait, though. I sense this man's already hanging on by a thin thread. "I trust him if you do." For some unknown reason, my undying loyalty proceeds to astonish Liam. Expressionless, he watches me, searching for a crack in my armour, or possible deceit in my steadfast stare. "What?"
"I'm still trying to understand how I got so fucking lucky with you." The door knocked once more, but Liam ignored it, pinching my chin with a thumb and forefinger, angling my head so that he could look deep into my eyes, unearthing whatever assurances desired. "I am not leaving this station without you."
"Wait in the car," I advised, knowing the metropolitan would provoke Liam into aggressive action, just to detain him. "Please, for me. Stay with Brad. Call your lawyer and please, for the love of God, get a bottle of vodka on standby." My light teasing failed to assuage him. Shoulders uncoiling dejectedly, I picked up the discarded hoodie and redressed. "I love you, Liam," I whispered, not looking at him. "It's you who is clueless to the magnitude."
Liam caught my elbow, drawing me close. "Then you better come home to me, Alexa, or I won't be held accountable for any upheaval I may or may not cause."
His frightening warning permeated our humid space. "What's that supposed to mean?" I chanced to look at him, and dread paralysed me. "Do not hurt that man, Liam."
"You mightn't have filled the gaps, Alexa, but I am a perspicacious man who can read between the lines. This entire fucking mess has Jace's name all over it." He voiced my deepest concerns, a deathly promise darkening his expression. Pulling me flush to the railing, he bruised my lips with a firm kiss. "I fell in love. I didn't grow soft. If anything happens to you that cunt will pay with his life." Before I could protest, he shoved me away and stalked towards the door. "Keep your threats, Alexa. I am not a man to barter with."
A suited male, who I am not familiar with, held open the door and closed it just as quickly, both men leaving me alone in this cold, isolated room. "Shit."