William Scott stared at the woman kneeling in front of him, with her head down in supplication, and took a few breaths in order to stem the barrage of disturbing, erotic thoughts that assailed his mind. She was his to do as he wished. From this point on, he owned her. Whatever life she had before him would be abandoned and forgotten.
"Hello, Kitty." He grabbed a fistful of her soft, bubblegum-pink hair and wrapped it around his hand. He yanked her upward decisively to let her know that he wanted her on her feet. This forced her to lift her chin and show him her face.
The expression in Kiki's eyes was a punch to his solar plexus. They were wet with tears, but there was fire in those inky depths, a sort of defiant anger. She was not going to beg for her life. It was ridiculous, but he felt a sense of pride for her for that.
"Get up, pet. Now," he said in a clipped, cold tone. "Lift your sweet arse."
Her glare burned with malevolence. "Get fucked, Posh Spice."
It violated the very fiber of his morality to hit a woman for something so trivial, but it wasn't really a small offense, was it? She disrespected him in front of his people. That could not go unaddressed. He was, after all, the big boss and thus had the biggest dick to swing. Appearances must be maintained.
Gritting his teeth, he hit her across the face, the back of his hand striking her cheek and nose. He had done harsher things in the name of Guillaume Esposito in the past, but this one act truly turned his stomach.
She fell sideways to the ground with a pained groan, clutching her nose and bright red blood seeping through her fingers. "Motherfucker," he thought she said, as well as a string of other blistering curses.
Will forced himself to stay where he was even though it made him sick to see how much he had hurt her. He had to stand firm and deal with the consequences of his actions. That, his grandfather always said, was what a real man stood for. "Get up, kitten. I won't ask another time. Get up or I'll haul you up myself." He nudged her ass with the tip of his Givenchy shoe.
Lucinda, another one of his lieutenants, approached him and put a hand on his arm. She had always reminded him of the pretty, fresh-faced nuns who had watched over the students at his primary school, mildly disapproving and chastising but ultimately tolerant and kind. Sister Rosamund had the lead role in his adolescent fantasies for years.
"Gui, it's been a long night and we're all tired," she said in French. "This poor girl has been through a lot, neh? I'm sure she'll be a lot easier to deal with after a meal, a shower, and a good night's sleep."
Will released the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding and nodded. As far as he knew, only he and his female lieutenants spoke French in their entire crew. That was the advantage they had over their male counterparts. They could speak to him discreetly without the men picking up on what they were talking about. His mother had come from a small village in France.
"Capo, you want I should carry her?" asked Giuseppe, one of the younger guys in Dominic's group. He was the older man's cousin and eager to prove himself.
Will thought he might have the makings of a good made man... if he didn't get his idiot self killed first. "No, I..." He was being foolish. What claim did he really over have this woman? Except that the very idea of another man touching her made his blood boil and pushed him to pulverize something. "Yes, take her to the backseat of my car and secure her there. Wesley and Mangione will look after her."
Maybe it was instinct that told him Kiki was going to strike fast and viciously, which was why he allowed Giuseppe to pick her up. But suddenly the young man was on the ground, too, having received a kick straight in the face. His mouth exploded into ribbons of blood and some gushed out of his nostrils.
"Fuck," he snarled, letting fly his meaty fist.
Will caught it before it could make contact with Kiki's jaw. Twisting the young man's arm behind his back, he took him down quickly and planted his foot between his shoulder blades. "If I see or find out in the future that you laid a hand on her that isn't reverent or respectful of manner, I will tear off both of your arms and beat you to death with them. If you even breathe on her at all, I will bash your face in and drown you in your own blood."
To his credit, Giuseppe did not cry out or beg to be let go. "Yes, Capo. I meant no disrespect, Capo."
Will released him and pulled him up on his feet. "I'll take care of her," he said, dismissing the other man with a sharp upward thrust of his chin. "Off you go. See what you can do to help the others. And let them all know she is not to be touched by anyone."
"Si, si, Capo."
Will lowered himself next to where Kiki was still crouched, clutching her nose and mouth. The fury that flashed in her eyes triggered something deep within him. He'd be goddamned if he stood around psychoanalyzing himself now. No time for that. For an instant, an image of his younger sister Maria Teresa flashed before his mind's eye and his hands clenched into fists.
He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled in an attempt to center himself. His hand did not shake when he reached into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a white linen handkerchief with GSE embroidered in red on the bottom corner. "Here," he said, extending the folded white square to her on his open palm.
She snatched the handkerchief from him and balled it up against the lower half of her face, holding it there while scooting away from him to get herself next to a car and pull herself up. "I don't want any trouble, man. I just want to get out of here and get home to my cat. I won't say nothing to nobody, I swear. I'm not a snitch."
Will admired the quiet strength in her voice even though it shook and trembled with tears. She was holding up quite well, considering what she had been through this evening. She was an unholy mess. Her pink hair was a nest of knots and snarls and the t-shirt she wore was smeared with dirt muddied by blood. Her arms had cuts and scratches from the wrists to the elbows and he could tell by the swelling of her face just below the cheekbone that she was going to be sporting one hell of a bruise for the next few days. He wanted to look away from his shame but reminded himself that he owed her the decency of facing the consequences of his sins like a man. She was such a delicate, little thing...
Unless of course his Intel proved correct and she was indeed Akiko Takeshi in disguise. If she were, she was no stranger to blood and carnage. For Akiko Takeshi, it would be just another normal day in the office.
This was what he had come to the club to confirm, after all. But he never anticipated this bloodbath... nor this almost animalistic need that came over him the moment he touched her silky skin, along with this primal urge to claim her and protect what was his.
All of the innate logic and reasoning he was known for and cultivated during his training in the MI-5 after he was recruited right out of uni, just didn't apply when it came to this woman. Years of finely honed instincts that had served to save his life and countless others told him that she was not to be trusted, which made her dangerous. People had already been killed. But that didn't seem to matter to his traitorous body which demanded him to pick her up and cradle her close to his chest to tell her everything was going to be okay. This was not part of the plan.
"You know I can't do that, my pet." He approached her slowly which made her retreat a step herself. "You've witnessed so much tonight. Your life will be in constant danger from now on. News will quickly spread. An ambitious police officer in the Family's pocket may think he's doing us a favor and get rid of you on his own. The Kuriyama clan will seek you out for sure to find out what happened to Saito and the others. You will never be safe again, kitten."
He watched as her face drained of color and for a moment, was concerned her frail body would collapse from the stress and exhaustion of the evening. Instead, she lowered the blood-soaked handkerchief to her side and straightened her posture, raising her gaze to lock with his. "Then I guess you'll have to kill me."
"Is that what you want?"
A tear rolled down her swelling cheek and she swiped at it when the back of her hand. "No, I don't want to fucking die. Are you crazy?" Her voice had become reedy and slightly shrill. "But I know what happens next. I've seen movies and shit. I can't be trusted because I'm an unknown element. What are you going to do, chain me to your side and make me your unwilling love slave?"
Will raised his eyebrows. If she were indeed Akiko Takeshi, she was a brilliant actress. "The idea appeals to me," he murmured, noting that she directed her gaze at her shoes after taunting him. "But yes, Miss Chow, I do intend to keep you with me for now. Trust me when I say it's for your own good."
She looked up at him again, her hazel eyes blazing with outrage. "Trust you? You're a goddamn gangster!" She seemed to realize she might have crossed a line and an expression of panic crossed her face for a moment. She bit her lower lip, causing it to bleed more.
Will scanned the area around them, but the only one who had heard her was Lucinda, standing a few feet away like an ever-present sentry, watching them with a vague look of amusement on her pretty, solemn face. She raised one perfectly tweezed eyebrow at him and Will narrowed his gaze at her, jerking his head to the side in a signal to dismiss her. Her mischievous eyes glittered, but she abandoned her post after a quick curtsey.
He returned his attention to Kiki Chow who was looking at him with enmity and fear. He really had to get her out of here and get her cleaned up and comfortable. It was such a shame that her beauty should be marred by dirt and violence. "Miss Chow, you may come with me willingly or I can knock you out and throw you over my shoulder. I really wouldn't relish the latter, so I would vastly prefer it if you just go with me on your own volition."
She sniffled and looked around, suddenly appearing lost and uncertain. Her lower lip quivered and she hugged her arms to herself before taking a step toward him. "I just really want to go home," she said, her voice breaking. "There will be no one to feed my cat."
"I understand. I will have my people fetch your cat," Will replied, telling himself he shouldn't give in to the urge to cradle her head to his chest and stroke her hair. "This is for your own good, Miss Chow. I'm just trying to keep you safe."
She lifted her chin and met his gaze, her eyes brimming with tears. "Fuck you."
He had directed Mrs. Echevarria to clean her up and dress her wounds. The old housekeeper had installed her in one of the bigger suites with a personal bathroom and was now in the process of helping her bathe along with the assistance of two other maids, one of whom used to be a nurse's assistant. Mrs. E later reported that their guest was very quiet and cooperative, only saying "please," "thank you," and "no, thank you." This perturbed him a little bit because from what little he'd seen of Kiki Chow, he already discovered she was a whirling dervish of energy and emotions as well as a spark plug.And what he knew of Akiko Takeshi from the dossiers he had received, she was a fierce warrior in her own right, an exacting underboss who expected nothing short of excellence from her people. Within a matter of months, she crushed the Bakuto clan presence in both Toronto and Ontario, so she could claim the t
Kiki kept her eyes shut and breathed evenly for a few minutes after Guillaume Esposito left her room. It had been a struggle to pretend she was sleeping when he was standing next to the bed, just a few feet away from her. He emanated sheer masculinity and raw power. He prowled over her like a jaguar guarding its kill, his presence enveloping her like a cool shroud. Her body reacted hungrily to his scent. The moment she smelled him, a yearning she had never before experienced struck her core. Suddenly, there was nothing else in the world she needed, not even her next gulp of air, but the weight of this man on her, crushing her into the mattress. She had never been so tempted...To her relief and consternation, he was not there to seduce her, after all. She didn't quite know how to process this. On one hand, she was disappointed that she wo
The olive-skinned woman was not skinny, but not fat, either. Her dark brown hair which was pulled back into a thick bun was graying along the sides and her temples. She had a warm, open face with a prominent nose and crow's feet in the corners of her dark eyes. Kiki had a good feeling about her immediately.She wondered how much the older woman knew about whom she served--Big Shot Gangster Man. Did she know their guest was technically a kidnapee? But of course she did. She had to enter a code for the door to unlock, didn't she? How could she reconcile being an accomplice to unlawful confinement with the whole pleasant, helpful housekeeper thing?Kiki told herself to stop it. She didn't need all this crap cluttering her head before she could even have her first sip of coffee.The older woman seemed to loo
Will didn't think she would comply. He had, after all, terrorized and traumatized her in the last several hours. He even had her locked up. She should have been spitting nails at him.And yet her body was turned toward him at the waist and she was staring intently into his eyes like she was willing him to do something because she was lost and didn't know what to do next.Well, he knew what he should be doing right now. He was supposed to be meeting up with the undercover field agents one by one who would serve as his backup, to brief them on what he might need help with. Instead, he was here, on a bed with an incredibly desirable woman and for some reason, they were both still fully clothed and not even touching. Obviously, this was an error that must be immediately rectified.She put her hand on h
The glare she gave him was nothing short of malevolent. "Go ahead. Give me your best shot. And stop calling me kitten."He had to admire her. Almost everyone who knew him was afraid of him. But here she was, challenging him to what she might imagine as a slap-tickle fight. He grinned inwardly. If she could see it, maybe she wouldn't be as brave as she was now. "If I take you down, kitten, it wouldn't be with my fists, and you won't be getting up for a long time."His words appeared to have some effect on her as her eyes flashed with an emotion he couldn't recognize before she ducked her head to sip her drink. "Do you understand me, kitten?""Don't call me that." She set her glass down on a coaster on the bedside table. "So... beating women is your kink, huh?"He shrugged
She needed to do better. How could she expect Mister Boss Man to drop his guard and grant her more freedom if she weren't willing to play ball? Ugh, but there was just something about him that riled her up. She'd met some gangsters in the past who'd put up a classy, shit-don't-stank facade to cover up the fact that they're nothing more than two-bit thugs, but Guillaume Esposito was the real-deal Holyfield. The dude acted like a duke, probably because he had aristocracy in his bloodline or something. For all she knew, he could be the third cousin to Prince Harry or a descendant of Richard the Third. Who knew with British people? Ugh, he bothered her so much. In movies, he'd be the super-posh, ultra-rich asshole who was mean to poor people and customer service staff and never got his comeuppance at the end. It wasn't right, this preoccupation she had with him. She couldn't allow him to distract her from he