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Omega, p.3

Omega, page 3

 part  #3 of  Alpha Series



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  "I'm going to set up a meeting with Harris, today, to tell him about our wedding plans. We'll work out the security angles and then give you the safety parameters, so that you and Layla can get to work planning our wedding."

  "How about you plan the wedding, and just let Layla and me pick dresses and flowers? That's all we care about anyway."

  "If you mean it, that would be infinitely easier. We'd find a good defensible location, fly in whomever we want, get security arranged...but still create a beautiful event."

  "I just have one request," I said.

  "What's that, love?" He twisted in place, putting our bodies chest to chest. He palmed my backside possessively.

  "Can we get married somewhere warm and sunny? It's interesting and all, being down here in Tierra del Fuego, but it's a little chilly."

  He laughed. "Sure, darling. We can do that. Somewhere warm and sunny it is."



  Life onboard the ship had its own patterns and routines, and everyone, from the Captain down to the deckhands, was engaged in keeping this huge craft running smoothly. Layla and I also had our own routines. We spent a lot of time during the day in what Roth called "the salon", or the living room, watching movies, reading, listening to music, playing cards. But Layla was right in that without a job to do, boredom was a constant specter of life aboard a ship. Especially when, like Layla and me, you were used to working all the time or studying for classes or just living life.

  Roth had arranged for Layla to finish her degree via online courses, using his encrypted satellite internet signal, but that only occupied so much time. I audited classes here and there, studying whatever interested me, but I wasn't working toward a degree; I just didn't see the point.

  As for Roth...he was always busy. He stayed in constant communication with Robert, his business guru in New York, staying abreast of the few businesses he'd not already liquidated. He always seemed to be on a call via encrypted satellite phone. And when he wasn't on the phone, he attended to what seemed to be an endless stream of emails. And when he wasn't doing that, he and Harris spent a lot of time behind closed doors.

  Usually, the four of us all had dinner together and, typically, it was a pretty lively affair. It had become another one of our onboard rituals, I guess. Harris was often gone a lot during the day, taking the helicopter from the ship to whichever shore was closest, doing some mysterious business or other. He never really said, and I never asked. But he was almost always back onboard ship for dinner.

  Dinner that night was anything but lively; in fact it was slightly awkward. Layla's mood hadn't improved since she'd left the deck earlier in the afternoon. She wasn't even looking at Harris nor really talking to me. Harris was his usual taciturn self, except maybe more icily silent. Roth appeared to be lost in thought, working through plans, I supposed. Even under the best of circumstances I wasn't the best at idle chatter, and tonight I had even less to contribute in the conversation department.

  So we ate in silence.

  As soon as he was done eating, Harris thanked the steward, then excused himself from the table and disappeared from the dining room. Roth followed soon after, leaving Layla and me alone at the table. She continued to move her food around her plate, and I let the silence between us stand for all of perhaps three minutes, and then I had to break it.

  "What's eating you, Layla?"

  She shrugged. "Nothing. I'm fine."

  I snorted. "Please, Layla. We've been friends for too long for you to feed me that bullshit."

  She sighed, and set her fork down on her plate with a clatter. "Kyrie...I've lost track of time. Like, legit, I don't even know how long we've been on this boat. I never know where we are. I don't know how long this is going to go on, and worst of all, even really why I'm here. I know what you and Roth and Harris have told me, but it's hard to have my entire life put on hold just because other people say 'Oh, Layla, you're in danger!' I don't get it, especially when I don't have anything to be worried about." She glanced at me. "Don't get me wrong, I love you, Roth is cool, and even Harris is pretty okay. And this boat is absolutely unbelievable. But...I just want to go home."

  "I get it, babe. I do." I moved from my seat across the table from her to go and sit beside her. "I don't even have a home to go back to. This is my home now. And as for why you're here...I don't want you to have to understand it. Believe me, I don't want you to know firsthand what could happen when you least expect it. You're here on this boat with us so we can keep you safe. Please, trust me on that. I've got your best interests at heart. I know it's...disruptive. But it's for the best. Believe me."

  She nodded. "I hear you, Key. But hearing you say those things doesn't really help." Layla leaned back in her chair, tipping it backward, balancing on the back legs. "I know it may seem trivial to you, but when I said I was horny, it wasn't a joke. I've never gone this long being totally alone. I'm not good at it."

  "At being horny?" I said, trying to make a joke.

  Layla just glared at me. "No, you tool. I'm great at being horny. What I don't do well is celibacy. I don't need a serious boyfriend or anything, but I do need a booty call, at the very least. I have needs."

  "And those needs aren't being met on the boat."

  "Not even a little bit." She jabbed a finger at me. "And don't you fucking dare suggest Harris again. We are not having that conversation."

  "Why not? What's wrong with Harris?" I'd probably regret ignoring her warning, but something about her reaction to my line of questioning niggled at my suspicions.

  "Dammit, Key. Just leave it alone, would you?" She shot to her feet so fast her chair almost fell over. "It's not happening. Let it go."

  "Jesus, Layla. You don't need to bite my head off." I followed her as she stalked out of the dining room and made her way topside.

  "Well you keep harping on it, and it's pissing me off."

  "'Methinks the lady doth protest too much,'" I quoted at her.

  Layla laughed despite herself. "Really? You're going with Shakespeare?"

  "If the quote fits."

  To our left, Ushuaia was a crescent of urban life against the wild majesty of snow-capped mountains. Layla slumped over the railing and stared down at the waves. "You ever just have this feeling that something is a bad idea? Like, you don't have a reason, you don't have any proof or anything to really go on, you just have this gut feeling that it'd be super, super bad?"

  I stared at her in silence. "Layla. Hello? I went blindfolded into the private residence of a mysterious billionaire to whom I owed several hundred thousand dollars."

  "Yeah, and look how that turned out," she quipped.

  "Um. In love? Happier than I ever thought possible? Fucked senseless by the most amazing man on the planet multiple times a day?"

  "Whoa! Way more than I needed to know." She shook her head in disbelief. "And what about the whole business about being pursued by an underworld crime kingpin? On the run for your life? What about the part where you were almost raped, where you were shot, beaten up, kidnapped, and had to be rescued by fucking mercenaries?"

  I shrugged. "I'd go through it all again if it meant getting to be with Roth."

  A long, fraught silence. Finally, Layla looked at me intently, skeptically. "Really? You would?"

  I nodded slowly. "I would. That's the honest truth. I mean, shit, yeah, it sucked hard. I've never been so afraid in my life. I still have nightmares sometimes. More about shooting Tobias and Gina than anything else. I wouldn't choose to have all that happen to me again, for sure. But would I run from it? Not if it meant losing Valentine. I'd go through it all again, do it all again."

  "Roth means that much to you?" Layla asked.

  I met her gaze. "More."

  "Damn. Wish I had that." Another silence, then Layla turned away and fixed her eyes on the city in the distance. "This is the first time you've really talked about what happened to you."

  She'd asked, of course, but I hadn't wanted to burden her w
ith the details. Nor did I really relish the idea of reliving it by talking about it. I sighed. "It wasn't pretty. I'm not sure I'll ever really be able to talk about a lot of what happened."

  "You never told me you shot anyone."

  I couldn't respond for a long moment. "Roth was kidnapped by an ex-girlfriend. I woke up one day and he was just...gone, and there was a note. Harris and I went after him. We rescued him. The details don't really matter. It was shitty, and horrible, and awful. Not knowing where he was, or if he was alive. After we'd gotten him back I worried if he would ever be the same again...that was the worst part. She'd done some horrible shit to him. Not gonna say what, because it's just too...private, and too awful to say out loud. It was ugly, though, the aftermath of that. We thought we'd gotten away, but then Gina, the ex, she kidnapped me. Shot me in the knee and sent a picture of it to Roth. Just to hurt him. She took me to this private island in the Mediterranean and held me captive in a dungeon." I paused to gather myself, then continued. "Gina had this guy, Tobias. Huge, nasty, ugly, a vicious monster. They had me tied up, bound and gagged, and naked. Alone. I was terrified. I figured she'd torture me or kill me just to piss off Roth, but that didn't happen. They left me there for...I don't even know how long. Days, I think. Eventually Gina showed up with Tobias, and this...innocent young girl. Gina held a knife to my throat and forced me to watch while her trained ape did...unspeakable things to her. There's no way to describe what he did to that girl. I'll never--I'll never ever forget it. It was the most...vile, disgusting, evil thing I've ever seen. And that was just to fuck with my head. It was for no other reason."

  "Jesus, Kyrie," Layla whispered.

  "Yeah." I paused another long moment to summon my fortitude. "I puked on Gina's shoes, and that was when she cut my hair off. She did it with a pocketknife. Cut it all off, and then dry-shaved my scalp, which felt pretty fucking terrible. Anyway, hours later...Tobias came for me. He wasn't supposed to, she'd told him specifically to leave me alone. She wanted all the fun for herself, see, and Tobias had a tendency to ruin things...he couldn't get hard unless the victims were bloody, and after they were dead, that was when he got his rocks off."

  Layla's face twisted. "He was a necrophiliac? That's fucking nasty."

  "You have no idea. So yeah. He was planning to--honestly, I don't even want to know what he was planning to do to me. I had a bullet hole in my knee, I hadn't eaten or drunk anything in who knew how long. I'd been beaten up, and I had to pee. So I let him get close, then I got a scissor-hold on his neck with my legs and I--I pissed all over him. Right in the face. And then I stole his gun and I shot him. Three times. Then I put his clothes on and waited for Gina to appear. I waited until she was right in front of me, and I shot her, too. Seven times."

  "Jesus. I don't even know what else to say, Key. Just...Jesus." She turned and looked at me. Tears glistened on her cheeks. "I had no idea."

  I wiped her face, pushed her curly black hair away from her wet cheeks. "Don't cry, Layla. I'm fine, now."

  "You shot her seven times?"

  I nodded. "I hope you never know what that's like. That kind of--hate. It' a bad trip, almost. It consumes you, takes over. And then after I shot her the first time, I just couldn't stop. It felt so good to see her hurt, to see her bleed. To watch her die. That's the part that scares me, that gives me nightmares. I didn't feel bad about it. I still don't. I mean, I have nightmares about it, because it's hard to forget when you watch someone fucking bleed to death because you shot them. You see it over and over in your mind, again, again, and again. But I don't regret it, and I don't feel guilty about it."

  "And you'd do it again, for Roth?"

  "I love him that much. If I never touch a gun, if I never see another dead body for as long as I live it'll be too soon. But for Roth? Yeah, I'd do it all over again."

  "What does that kind of love feel like?" Layla's voice was so quiet I barely heard her.

  "Indescribable. Loving him isn't a choice. It's not something I have control over. Being his, being with's all of me. I don't know, Layla. It's--everything. And it's worth going through hell for."

  "I'm not sure I'm brave enough for that." She followed the path of a cawing seagull as it carved through the evening air overhead. "I'm not sure I'm capable of that."

  "You loved Eric," I pointed out.

  She snorted. "Eric was convenient, and I didn't dislike him. But, ultimately, he was a loser. He was my loser, sure, but he was still a loser. I always knew it. He was good enough in bed that I never needed to go elsewhere, you know? I mean, I would have dumped him had that been the case. I'm no cheater, you know that. But did I love him? Hell no. Not even close. We were together for almost three years, yeah, but that was more because it was just...easier to stay together. Good enough that we didn't break up, but not good enough that it really meant anything. Love? I don't know what that looks like." She shrugged, traced the cold metal railing with a short, unpainted fingernail. "I never have, and I never will. I'm glad for you, but it's not for me. It's not gonna happen for me. I just...I don't know how it ever could."

  "You think I expected this with Roth? You think I knew what I was doing? Shit, you think I know what I'm doing now? You close yourself off to it, it won't happen. But if it comes along, you jump at it and you hold on for dear life."

  Layla rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mom."

  "What happened with Eric, anyway?"

  "I told him I was moving." She shrugged. "You called and asked me to come out onto the boat with you, so I just...told him I was moving. Didn't tell him where, or why. He just lit a joint and was like, well, I'll miss you, see ya."

  "Wow. You're right, he is a loser."

  "Tells you how much I meant to him." She waved a hand in dismissal. "The only thing he was gonna miss was my half of the rent and the BJs when I didn't feel like fucking."

  I stared at her. "Wait, what?"

  She glanced at me. "Even I'm not in the mood all the time."

  "So you'd suck him off?"

  She shrugged. "Sure. Why not? It only took a minute or two, and he'd shut up and leave me alone for a day or two."

  "A minute or two? I thought you said he was good in bed?"

  "Okay, number one, no, I said he was good enough in bed. Not great. He had decent stamina and didn't mind letting me use a vibrator so I could get off faster. Plus he was pretty well hung for a skinny white dude."

  "But back to the blowjobs. A minute or two?"

  "Well, if you do it right, yeah. When it's not about foreplay, it doesn't have to last forever. You him until he shoots off. That's the point."

  "I think you may need a new set of standards, babe," I mused.

  She smacked my arm. "Hey, now. My standards assure me of sex when I need it. And besides, not all of us have billionaire sex gods to pleasure us until we scream." She quirked an eyebrow. "In related news, you should think about looking into gags or something, because bitch, you scream loud."

  I flushed. "You can hear us?"

  "Nope, I can hear you." She started moaning loudly, mimicking an orgasmic scream, thrashing her hair all over the place, and generally doing her best Meg Ryan/When Harry Met Sally impression. "And that's how you sound before you come. I don't have the lung capacity to do an impression of you orgasming. If I didn't know better I'd say he was murdering you...over, and over, and over...and over. And over--"

  "Shut up, Layla."

  "--And over, and over. All night. Every night. Like Jesus-fuck, woman, don't you ever take a break? Does he have any refractory period at all, or can he just fuck all night long? And you wonder why I want off the damn ship. It's like living on a porn set."

  "All right, Layla. I get it." I pretended to be extremely interested in my cuticles. "I'll try to be quieter."

  But Layla wasn't done. "You know, I'm not a voyeur or anything, but you scream so loud for so long I can't help but be a little curious as to what the hell that man is doing to you. I mean, earlier today he had you screami
ng so loud Harris and I had to go down into the very bottom of the ship and turn on the music to drown you out. God knows what the crew hears. And even then, I swear you two were rocking the damn boat. In the middle of the day, no less!"


  "We've sailed through twenty-foot waves that didn't faze this fucking aircraft carrier of a yacht, but you two, fucking?" She pretended to be tossed side to side, lurching wildly. "Swear to god, I thought we were gonna capsize or some shit."

  "SHUT THE FUCK UP, LAYLA!" I shouted.

  "You shut the fuck up!" she shouted back at me. "How's a bitch supposed to sleep with you yowling all night long like a damn cat in heat?"

  "I'm about to shove you overboard," I warned, laughing in spite of myself.

  "Good. I'll swim my ass to shore and find a dick to sit on. I swear I've got cobwebs in my cooter."

  "Cooter, Layla? Seriously? Who the hell even says cooter?" I was laughing, though, which I needed. "You are so vulgar, sometimes, I swear to god."

  "Like you're any better!"

  "I would never refer to my lady parts as a cooter! That's nasty!"

  "''Lady parts'? What are we, twelve?" She snorted and rolled her eyes. "Besides, what do you call it? Besides lady parts--which, I submit, is equally as embarrassing as calling it a cooter, if not more so."

  "I don't call it anything, usually. I mean how often are you in a situation where you use an actual word for it?"

  "In everyday life, I suppose you're right. But what about during sex?" She leaned close. "You guys talk dirty?"

  I flushed again. With Roth I was bold and willing to talk nasty. But with Layla? Not so much. "I'm not having this conversation with you."

  "You do!" She laughed like a hyena. "You totally talk dirty, don't you! You'd only avoid this question if you had something to talk about! I bet you call it a pussy during sex, don't you?"

  "Jesus, Layla. Shut up, already."

  "You have to know we can all hear you when you're fucking, and you don't seem to care about that, but you can't talk to your best friend about whether you talk dirty during sex?"

  "I get caught up in the moment, okay? And you and I don't usually talk about this kind of stuff, do we?"

  "Well, you never did. I don't give a shit. I'll talk about anything."

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