Plausible Deniability

decisions, decisions

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Aila wakes before Niall does in the morning, before the sun is even fully up. Every time she’d jerked out of sleep through the night, he was there. His arms and soft voice—whispers of assurance and safety—had comforted back to sleep. Of course he’d still be sleeping now.

She stares at his face, lax with sleep. The Niall she saw last night is nowhere to be found in this moment. He’s warm and gentle, nothing like the ice in his eyes as he gripped her chin too tightly. She wonders if he feels guilty for that.

Sighing, Aila carefully slips out of bed. Her pale blue robe hangs on a hook near the bedpost, and she pulls it on as she pads toward the doors leading to the terrace. A small part of her tells her he must have an alarm on the doors, he isn’t foolish enough to leave them unsecured. But no klaxon sounds when she pulls one open.

The early morning air smells of rain and greenery. A breeze ghosts lightly along her cheeks, her hair moving in a tiny dance with the gusts. Aila pushes a lock behind her ear and rests her elbows on the balustrade. A shadow moves at the gate further down the lane, another at the fence-line. The city beyond is slowly stirring to life.

He runs this, she thinks as lights fill windows. Skyscrapers kiss the sky, and she knows smaller neighbourhoods circle around the city centre. The sight makes her question just how much dark there is beneath the tourist-trap happiness. How much evil the festivals hide with their joy and revelry.

Can she do this? Can she really stay by Niall’s side through everything he does? Knowing what he’s done, the weight of his ‘businesses’ that rests firmly on his shoulders... It terrifies her. Even if she stays, she will never fit in his life. She can never be as ruthless as the others are.

“I could hear you thinking from all the way inside,” his voice murmurs from the doorway behind her. Niall plasters himself against her back, and she straightens as his arms snake around her waist. “Talk to me, darling. What’s on your mind?”

“What would I have to do?” she asks, voice wobbling.

“What do you mean?”

“To be with you. What’s expected of me?”

“Nothing. All we need is for you to never betray us. Never tell anyone the truth about what we do. No one expects you to become like us.”

She swallows thickly and rests her hand on his, squeezing gently. “And if I can never take someone’s life?”

“Then that’s my job. We—I—will keep you safe, no matter what. Even if you leave. I told you, Aila, you’re something else. You’re sweet and kind and so giving. I don’t want you to lose who you are.”

“I want...” Aila closes her eyes when his lips press to her hair. “I want to belong.”

“You already belong here. If you can never kill someone, if you could never do everything we do, you’ll always belong as long as you’re by my side.”

Aila sighs but doesn’t take her eyes off the city. His control extends further than she could ever imagine, and she knows now how merciless, how brutal, he can be. She understands the tundra in his eyes and why he pushed her away.

It should terrify her that he can so easily take someone’s life. It doesn’t.

After a few minutes, Niall guides her back inside, and they dress in silence before moving to the bathroom to brush their teeth. The domesticity of the actions feels too much like tenderness. Love.

She sits on the bed and watches him as he slips a watch onto his wrist, as he smooths out the front of his dress-shirt. He leaves the top two buttons undone. She steps closer to fix the collar, and he turns to her once she’s done.

“I’m still not sure,” she admits as she stares up at him. “It’s… It’s a lot to ask of me, Niall.”

He gives her a soft smile, fingers pressing to her cheek. “I know. I told you last night to take your time.”

She nods, stretches up to kiss him. His lips curve against hers, then he laces their fingers together. Aila follows him without hesitation. The corridors are barren, no house-staff scurrying about. Aila’s bare feet slap against marble as he leads her to the dining room.

Tania glances up from her book, flashing a smile dripping with sympathy. “Hey, how ya doing?”

“I think I’m okay,” replies Aila as she sits in the chair to Niall’s left.

“Does she—?”

Niall nods succinctly and reaches for the mug beside his plate. “She knows.”

“You staying?”

Aila lets out a sharp exhale and meets Niall’s eyes. She was as honest as possible in his room—she isn’t sure she can do this. If she stays, she risks endangering her life. If she goes, she still risks endangering her life. The last few days only proved that no matter what, she will never be truly safe. At his side is the only place she will find a modicum of that safety.

Niall raises a brow but stays quiet. This is a choice only she can make, she knows that. He does, too. Breathing in slowly, Aila’s smile trembles.

“I’d like that.”

The only sign Niall is affected by her decision is the way his throat works as he swallows, the gentle flutter of his lashes as he closes his eyes. The way his hand relaxes around his cup of coffee. Aila presses her foot against his and turns back to Tania who gestures toward a woman stood near the wall. The woman bows and disappears through a doorway.

“Good. Now when Lilyen gets back out here, you need to eat some fucking breakfast. You didn’t eat last night, and I can’t imagine you had anything to eat before.”

“I didn’t trust them,” Aila admits. “I didn’t want to rely on them in any capacity.”

“Smart choice.” Tania scowls as she focuses on her book once more.

“Wait. My friends. They must be worried.”

Niall squeezes her hand, shaking his head. “Tania already took care of it.”

“Yep, stopped by your place last night to get clothes for you. Told them you and Niall got into an argument which is why you hadn’t gone home.”

“And they believed you?” Aila really thought her friends were smarter than to believe a perfect stranger.

“Eh, I explained that your house was the first place Niall would look for you, but he’d never think to go to mine. Also, I might have told them we worked together at the Northend so they wouldn’t ask questions.”

Aila pauses then relaxes in her seat. “Sneaky.”

“Gotta be in this line of work.”

Lilyen returns with a plate. Fluffy scrambled eggs take up half the dishware, two strips of bacon and a slice of toasted bread. Aila murmurs a thanks as she grabs up her fork. Not eating isn’t an option—not with Tania and Niall watching so closely.

She gets through less than a quarter of the meal before her stomach cramps. Lack of sustenance has done its damage. She pushes the plate away, slumping in her chair. Niall lifts her hand, presses a kiss to her knuckles, and Aila watches Lilyen sweep away the evidence of breakfast.

Footsteps. Robert’s voice announcing that ‘Mister Harry’ is requesting Aila’s presence in the infirmary. Niall waves for her to go, and she hesitates before following Robert from the room. Tania’s voice cuts off as the door swings closed.

Harry stands next to the cot, the same one Niall laid on while getting bullets pulled from his body. Aila swallows thickly at the memory. Hindsight tells her she really should have seen there was more to Niall and his career back then.

After all, no one tries to kill a simple businessman. They do, however, try to kill a mob boss who controls a city.

“What’s up?” she asks, and Harry gestures for her to sit. She stays on her feet. “You’re not going to microchip me, are you?”

Harry rolls his eyes, shoving gently at her head. “Of course not. That would be inhumane. This may be awkward, but can you remove your shirt?”

“Seriously?”

“Yep,” he replies breezily as he slips on a pair of latex gloves.

“I’m fine! Why won’t anyone believe me?”

“Humour me, Aila. We were all... scared for you.”

“You lot don’t even like me.”

He huffs out a laugh and guides her to perch on the cot. His hands are gentle as he pulls her blouse over her head. “We like you just fine. We don’t trust you. There’s a difference.”

“Well, ouch.”

“Can you really blame us?”

“I was talking about this,” she quips while pulling the pen from under her thigh. “I sat on it. Anyway. I guess I can’t blame you for your reservations. I wouldn’t trust me, either, if I were in your place.”

Harry smiles, tucking the pen into the back pocket of his jeans. “Just stick around, and we’ll get there. Okay?”

Aila sighs and sits still as his fingers press firmly into her arms. She doesn’t move while he checks nearly every inch of her body for any injuries he might have missed last night. His green eyes lighten, worry disappearing, the longer he goes without finding anything. Finally, he declares her perfectly fit and unharmed.

Physically.

“Think I’d be able to go home today?” she asks as she swings her feet. He looks up from where he’s dropping his gloves into the bin, and she shrugs. “Gotta make sure my friends know I’m still alive.”

“You’ll have to talk to Niall about that. He might not want to let you out of his sight after what just happened. You’ve done something to him, Aila. You’ve somehow changed him.”

“Is that good or bad?”

Harry blows out a breath before smiling at her. “I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.”

Aila hops off the cot and heads for the door while he cleans up the room. She understands the apprehension from the others—she doesn’t really want to leave the safety of being here—but she can’t just abandon her life outside these walls. She built something out there that’s been hers since she first moved to Primden. Relationships and steady, if paltry, income.

To her surprise, Niall agrees to her request. She stands in the doorway to the parlour, struggling to hide her confusion. He must see it anyway, because he beckons her closer to the couch. She lets him drag her down to sit in his lap, and he holds her tightly against him.

“I’m not going to stop you from seeing your friends or going home. Just... Promise to let me know if you decide to go anywhere.”

“I swear you’ll be the first to know.”

He chuckles and kisses her forehead. His lips trail along her cheek, her jawline, and Aila tilts her head to give him better access to her throat. He nips at the skin, breath ghosting against her as her heart starts racing. His hand comes up to wrap in her hair, and she gasps when he tugs lightly at the strands.

“Before you go...”

“Fuck me,” she whispers, mostly to herself, but Niall accepts it as permission.

His teeth continue scraping along her skin even as his hand leaves her hair. Drifts between her thighs. She shifts in his hold, legs falling apart. Somehow, he manages to manoeuvre them both until she is on her back across his lap. He shakes his head when she reaches toward him.

Aila lets her hands fall, one resting on his shoulder and the other hanging off the couch, and his fingers leave a burning path over her torso. She closes her eyes when he stops at the waistband of her jeans, at the gentle tug of the button sliding from its loop. At the calloused palm dragging along her skin.

Someone could come in, could see the way Niall works her without hesitation toward her climax. Heat slithers through her veins at the thought, but her attention narrows to the rough slide of his fingers inside her. The base of his palm that remains firmly against her. The hard length beneath her spine. The jerky shove of her hips into his touch.

His free hand covers her mouth as she clenches around him, a high-pitched gasp of his name escaping her. “Shh, gotta be quiet, darling.”

“Don’t, damn it, I swear if you stop, I’ll—I’ll kick your ass.”

“Evidently, I’m not doing a good enough job if you can still talk,” he growls as he shoves his fingers more forcefully into her. “Guess I’ll have to do better.”

Aila’s head falls back, body tightening and heart pounding hard enough she fears it will burst. She stifles a whine when he murmurs praise as her legs shake. Her head swims with the fire in her blood and unsteady breathe gusting from her lips. Her cry is muffled by his palm, and she opens her eyes in time to see the smug smirk curving his lips.

“C’mon.”

Aila can barely stay on her feet as he ushers her up the stairs and into the nearest bedroom. He sits on the bed, out of place and sharp against the white duvet, and she pushes her jeans and underwear down her legs. He doesn’t bother with more than undoing his fly. His hands grip her hips, tug her forward, and pulls her until she straddles his lap.

It’s rough, sloppy, and far too desperate. Her thighs burn as she moves over and around Niall, and she buries her face against his neck as he meets her thrust for thrust. His groans fill her ears—the most beautiful music she has ever heard. His arm encircles her waist, a hand clinging to her hair, pulling her with him as he falls back against the mattress.

Aila lifts her head until she can kiss him, until she can breathe into him everything she feels. Everything she has felt since they met: Attraction, lust, want and need and everything between. The beginnings of love. He tightens his hold on her, keeping her immobile, even as he shoves up into her once, twice, three times. His curses flood her veins.

“That was not what I planned when you came to the parlour,” he admits softly once he stills, and Aila releases a breathy giggle, shifting to sit upright.

“Well, I’m not complaining.”

“Neither am I, darling. God, you’re gorgeous like this.”

“I know.” She bites down on her lower lip and narrows her eyes as if in thought. “I suppose you don’t look too bad, all debauched and stuff.”

“You’re gonna be the death of me.”

Laughing, Aila carefully rises onto her knees. A wince pulls at her face as his cock slips free; how can she feel so empty already? Not just physically, but the intimacy seems miles away. She reaches for her clothes while he sits up.

“You’ve made a mess of me,” he announces, gesturing toward his lap.

“You’ll clean up fine. So what are your plans for the day?”

He stands, taking her hand, and leads her to the closest bathroom. Aila is only grateful the trek goes without witness. Niall stays outside the closed door while she uses the toilet and wipes herself clean.

“I have... things to do.”

“Stabby things?” she questions as she pulls the door open.

“Do you really wanna know?”

She hesitates then scrunches up her nose. “No. If you tell me, I can’t claim plausible deniability.”

He laughs and kisses her.