Velvet Roses Ch. 16byvirgofemme©
*So, this is it. The last chapter of Velvet Roses. I want to thank everyone for reading, and also thanks to those who commented and voted on the story. The positive feedback that I've received was more than I ever expected, and it truly pleases me to know that you all have been entertained by my writing.
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, I have decided to go ahead and write a sequel. The supportive comments I received in the last chapter encouraged me to go ahead with my plan to write a follow-up, so Dane and Jeneda's story will be continuing.
I can't say just yet when I'll be posting the sequel, but I'm planning to write at least a couple of chapters before submitting the first installment, that way I can ensure that the story has a good flow and is completely ready to be viewed. So, give me a few weeks, and check back then.
Once again, Thank You All so very much for sticking with me and investing your time in this story. Words cannot describe how appreciative I am of your support!!
The uncharacteristic silence was the first thing that struck Dane as he woke from sleep that evening, and after blinking a few times to bring his surroundings into focus, momentary disorientation followed. There was plenty of space around him, and he didn't have that tight, closed in feeling of being trapped in a jail cell.
Then slowly it came to him. He wasn't in prison, but at home, and the soft, rhythmic sounds of breathing came from Jeneda, who was curled up next to him with her hand resting against his chest.
No words existed to describe the relief that he felt, and although her body was already pressed flush against his, he tightened his arms around her, pulling her even closer. She murmured drowsily and shifted her leg so that it was slung over his, then nestled her face against his throat.
Dane angled his head so that he could look at the bedside clock, and after seeing that it was a quarter past eleven p.m., he contentedly sighed. It had been a long time since he'd had such a deep, peaceful sleep, and although he more than welcomed the blissful silence of his apartment, it seemed almost foreign to him.
After seven long months of constant prison noise, the absence of any sound at all was almost deafening, and yet at the same time it was completely serene. Never before had he felt so blissfully content, and although he felt the need to empty his bladder, he found himself reluctant to leave Jeneda's side.
Still holding her tightly in his arms, he gazed down in wonder at her face. His eyes roved from her closed eyelids and thick lashes, down to her pouty lips, which were slightly parted. Her face was smooth and slack with sleep, and her hair, which had grown out of the bob style and now reached just below her shoulders, was rumpled and tangled against the pillow. It still didn't seem real, his being free and in the company of his lover again, and for the countless time that day, he got the feeling of being in a dream.
Minutes passed and he continued to lay there, staring down at Jeneda's face as she peacefully slept. He could have remained in bed with her forever, perfectly appeased to listen to the gentle inhale and exhales of her steady breathing, but the sound of his cell phone ringing suddenly cut through the air.
It sounded harsh and shrill to his ears, and he quickly reached out to grab it, cursing himself in the process for not putting it into silent mode. After retrieving his mobile, he clicked the button on the side to stop it from ringing, then glanced at the display screen to see who was calling.
A feeling of dread came over him as he realized it was Slade, and although he briefly considered turning off his phone, he knew that evasion was ultimately impossible.
With careful slowness, he disentangled himself from Jeneda's sleeping form, then slipped out of bed and padded to the bathroom, which was the only walled-in area of his loft. Once there, he shut the door behind him, then pressed the call answer button and put the phone against his ear.
"Good evening, Dane," a smooth, deep voice said. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
He exhaled deeply through his nose, brows crinkling in aggravation. "Just tell me what you want, and let's get this over with."
"But we haven't even had a chance to catch up." Faux amicability laced his voice. "So, tell me. How's it feel to be a free man again?"
"Like you give a fuck," Dane said sharply. "It's because of you that I was even arrested.
"Wrong." Slade's voice turned grave and serious. "You were stupid and didn't cover your tracks properly. That's why you were arrested."
Dane gritted his teeth and tried to remain calm, but he was already growing hot with anger, and his body had tensed with anxiety. "Tell me how much I owe you, and I'll deliver the money tonight."
"Twenty grand. And make sure they're unmarked bills."
"I need a location."
"My club, The Asylum. You remember where It's located, don't you?"
"When you arrive, tell the bartender on the first floor that you're here to see me, and he'll escort you to my office on the third level."
"I'll be there in half an hour."
"Wonderful," Slade said. "See you then."
No sooner did the line go dead, did Dane dial Kenichi's number, and after only a few rings, Kenichi picked up.
"I need a favor," Dane said.
"What kind of favor?"
"You know that guy I told you about? The one that killed Marla."
"Yeah, Slade. I know all about him. We've done business before."
"I'm meeting up with him in half an hour, and need to bring a sizable amount of cash with me. Only thing is, I'm a little short."
"Twenty thousand. The thing is, I have the money in the bank, but I can't get to it right away."
"Of course. It's too late to go in and make a withdrawal."
"Right. So you'll only be out of the cash until tomorrow, when I can go to the bank and pull the funds from my account."
"Alright, Tell me where to meet you and I'll be there."
"A club called The Asylum. It's in the Tenderloin district, right off of Jones Street."
"I know where that is," Kenichi said. "I'll be there in thirty minutes."
"Thanks, Kenichi. See you then."
Dane placed his cell phone down on the top of the toilet tank, then turned on the tap and splashed his face with cold water. He patted himself dry with a washcloth, then ran his fingers through his hair a few times, and after grabbing his phone, he left the bathroom and headed back to his sleeping area.
As he reached the bed, he saw that Jeneda was awake, and was sitting up in bed with her back against the headboard. The look she gave him spoke volumes, and she didn't need to speak a word for him to know that she was deeply disappointed.
"You're going to meet Slade, aren't you?" She asked.
"Yes." He grabbed his underwear from the floor and put them on, then slipped into his pants.
"How long will you be gone?"
"Not certain, but I'll be back as soon as possible."
She sighed deeply and watched him pull his T-shirt over his head, then put on a pair of socks and boots before grabbing his car keys from the bedside table. The bed dipped as he sat down on it, and he leaned in close so that he could take her in his arms.
"I'll be back before you know it."
There was sadness in her eyes as she looked at him, and with her lower lip quivering, she begged, "Promise me you'll be back. Give me your word."
"I promise. You have my word."
She cupped his face in her small hands, and after staring at him for several long moments, she leaned in for a kiss. Their lips brushed tenderly before melding in a passionate embrace, and although neither of them wanted to entertain the idea of him not returning, they both knew that there was a real possibility.
Perhaps it was this thought that caused their lips to move with such reckless abandon, and Dane heard her softly moan as his tongue probed the sweetness of her mouth. It wasn't until they breathlessly parted that he saw her face crease with trepidation, and stricken with guilt for having to leave her in the middle of the night, he looked at her with moistened eyes.
"Keep the bed warm for me," he said, and kissed her once more before abandoning her side.
He was certain he'd seen a gleam of tears in her eyes, but before his distress could sink in any further, he headed out the door, leaving her in bed alone with the promise of his return.
* * * *
It was just before midnight when Dane pulled into the parking lot of The Asylum, and as he got out of his car and took a look around, he spotted Kenichi leaning against his own vehicle on the other side of the lot.
Dane clicked the lock button on his key fob, and as it beeped in confirmation, he headed over to where Kenichi stood. His shoes crunched against the gravel as he walked, and as he came to a stop in front of his former colleague, he noticed with disappointment that his hands were empty.
"I thought you were bringing the money," Dane said.
"It's in the trunk." Kenichi said it nonchalantly, as if their impending meeting with Slade wasn't a matter of life and death, but some lighthearted affair.
"Are you going to get it out?"
"Nope. I brought it along just in case, but I doubt we'll be needing it."
"Why not?" He peered intently at Kenichi.
"Because I'm going to make Slade a deal so generous, he won't be able to resist. And if he accepts my proposition, which he will, you won't have to pay him a dime."
Dane's brows furrowed, and with inquisitiveness lacing his words, he asked, "What could you possibly offer Slade that would make him erase my debt?"
"I have confidential information about those computer chips he stole from Invotech. And once he finds out what I know and realizes that I can use this information against him, he'll more than likely do whatever it takes to smooth things over with me."
"So this is a vendetta. You have bad history with Slade, and you're going to fuck him over."
A sly smile tugged at Kenichi's lips, yet instead of giving a reply, he only started walking across the parking lot.
Dane fell into step beside him, and with distress in his voice, he said, "I'm already in deep enough as it is, so if you're going to burn him, then I can't be a part of this. I have a girlfriend to keep safe, and nothing is worth putting her life on the line."
"Don't worry, he won't dare come after you."
"Why not? Once he sees I'm connected with you, he'll think we're in on this together."
"Maybe he will, but he won't be able to do a damn thing about it. Trust me."
"If this comes back to bite me in the ass, you'll pay for it, Kenichi, I swear."
"I already told you, everything will work out fine. So just be cool, okay?"
But Dane couldn't be cool, and he was trying very hard to maintain a state of non-panic. He wasn't just on edge about his lack of control over the situation, but overwhelmingly furious at Kenichi for putting him in a compromising position. For a moment he considered backing out of the meeting with Slade altogether, but he knew that would only heighten this clusterfuck of a situation.
As they stepped into the darkly lit nightclub, the state-of-the-art sound system pumped out synth-laden music at deafening decibels. Flashing strobe lights pumped in time to the heavy industrial beats, and in no time at all Kenichi and Dane were enveloped by throngs of PVC clad people. It took quite a bit of effort to fight their way through the crowded, smoky club, but finally they reached the bar.
"What can I get you boys?" A female bartender with cherry red hair asked.
"We're here to see Slade."
She lightly nodded, then gave a signal to a solidly built bouncer standing next to the entrance of the club, and after coming over to where they stood, he led them over to a flight of metal stairs.
With him leading the way, Kenichi and Dane headed up to the third level, and after walking down a long hallway, they reached a black door. The meaty bouncer knocked one, then twice, and after a few seconds of waiting, the door opened to reveal a stocky, Nordic-looking man with a powerful build that radiated strength.
His eyes drifted from the bouncer to rest on Kenichi and Dane, and after giving them both a long, hard glare, he pulled the door wider. A leather chest holster was strapped to his broad chest, and after slipping a large gun back inside of it, he gestured for Dane and Kenichi to enter.
The long, mahogany table he led them toward was situated in the middle of the room, and sitting at the head of it was Slade. His all black attire provided a sharp contrast to his spiky, platinum blonde hair, and as Dane's gaze came to rest on Slade, his eyes immediately hardened.
But the blonde haired man didn't notice the look that Dane had given him, because his attention was firmly planted on Kenichi. It wasn't until both Dane and Kenichi had been seated for several moments that Slade finally broke his silence, and with clear displeasure on his face, he addressed Kenichi.
"I wasn't aware that you two knew each other." His gaze ping-ponged between the two men in front of him a few times before once again coming to settle on Kenichi.
"We go way back," Kenichi said, and he retrieved a carton of cigarettes from the pocket of his leather jacket.
"I see." As Kenichi held the carton of cigarettes out to Slade, he waved them away, then watched as Kenichi lit one for himself. "So what's the deal? Why did you two come together?"
As Slade's eyes came to rest on him, Dane matched his callous gaze. "We have a proposition to offer you."
A humorless chuckle passed Slade's lips, and he leaned back in his chair, then crossed his legs horizontally so that his ankle was resting on his knee. "A proposition? Since when did this become a negotiation?"
"That heist you pulled at Invotech didn't go quite as smoothly as you would have liked, did it?" Kenichi asked.
"How do you know about that?" Slade asked.
"These men who work for you...," He paused to glace at Slade's three henchmen, who were all at the ready and standing next to the door with their hands on their guns. "They aren't as loyal as you think."
"You're trying to play me," he said. "Trying to get into my head."
"Am I? Kenichi took a long drag on his cigarette. "Or are you just too scared to admit that it could be true?"
Slade seemed to contemplate what had been said, and after allowing his eyes to rove suspiciously over each of his hired men, he retrained his gaze on Kenichi. "I'm not in the mood for games, so get to the point, and do it fast."
"Those computer chips you stole from Invotech's warehouse," Kenichi said. "I'm interested in working out a deal to buy them from you."
"Is this what you came here for?" He lightly scoffed, then said, "We stole those chips seven months ago. That's old news."
"But you still have them in your possession, right?" Kenichi asked.
"Of course. You don't fence high-value goods like computer chips right away. You let months go by, then unload them."
"But that's not why you've waited seven months. Those chips you're trying to sell have serial numbers etched onto them, which makes it twice as difficult for you to fence them. Not to mention, one of your men killed a guard during the Invotech heist, and we both know that when a homicide is involved, not many fences want to be involved with the goods that were stolen."
"I fail to see what any of that has to do with Dane paying me off," Slade said.
"Keep listening, and you'll find out."
Slade stared unblinking at Kenichi, but didn't say a word.
"You need a good, solid connection," Kenichi continued. "Someone you can trust."
"And what makes you think I'd put my faith in you?"
"Because you have no other options. If you did, those chips would have been sold a long time ago."
Slade averted his gaze to Dane, who only looked right back at him, and then resting his eyes back on Kenichi he said, "I'm listening."
"I have connections to a person in law enforcement, and if we cut him into the deal, he might be willing to look the other way and keep those chips from being traced back to you."
"And you can guarantee this?"
"Yes, I can."
Slade looked hard into the other man's eyes, and after a long moment of contemplation he asked, "What kind of a deal are we taking here?"
"I'll pay sixty percent of their market value."
"Sixty." Slade's brows rose with clear interest. "The going rate is usually fifty. Why such a generous offer?"
"Dane is indebted to you, right?"
"Forgive the money he owes you, and we have a deal."
"Why?" His brows drew together. "What is he promising you in order for you to do a favor like this for him?"
"He isn't promising me anything. I just don't like seeing my friends get screwed over. "Especially not by someone like you."
"You know, I think It's real cute how close you two are." An amused smile crossed Slade's features, but just as soon as it had shown up, his face suddenly darkened. "But the debt still stands."
"He just offered you sixty percent of those chips market value," Dane said. "Who else is going to offer you a deal like that?"
"I don't trust him." His eyes narrowed to slits before he added, "And I don't trust you, either."
"This Isn't about trust, It's about doing what's smart," Kenichi said. "And if you have any sense at all, you'll accept my deal and sell those chips to me for the price that I offered."
"What if I refuse?"
"I know where those chips are located, and as I mentioned before, I have connections to a person in law enforcement."
"You're threatening to rat me out?" He snorted before angrily saying, "You can't actually be stupid enough to burn me."
"There's no honor among thieves. You should know that better than anyone else." In an act of disrespect, Kenichi stubbed his cigarette out on the mahogany table, then with a glare of hatred, he said, "And besides, It's only fair play, considering that you've ripped me off on several occasions."
"So this is retribution for those cases I took from your warehouse." He gazed off into the distance as if recalling earlier events, then turned his attention back on Kenichi. "Well as you said, there's no honor among thieves...."
"Those cases contained rare artifacts worth nearly a million dollars."
"Yes, I know. That's precisely why I took them."
Kenichi's jaw tensed and his eyes burned with hate. "The deal I've offered you is more than generous. Now are you going to accept it, or will I have to disclose the location of those stolen computer chips?"
Slade stared intently at Kenichi, as if trying to read his thoughts. His eyes were hard and there was a stubborn set to his jaw. It couldn't have been any more obvious that he was hedging, trying his best to think of some way of evading Kenichi's ultimatum.
But he knew he'd hit a wall, and after sighing deeply through his nose, he poured himself a drink, then consumed it with one gulp, as if to symbolize that he was swallowing his pride. He wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand, and fixing his cold blue eyes on Kenichi, he acquiesced.
"Fine, I'll sell you the chips."
"And what about Dane's debt? That's part of the deal, too."
Momentary silence followed while Slade shot Dane a harsh look, and after a few moments of the two men engaging in a hostile stare down, Slade finally responded.
"It's absolved. He no longer owes me any money."
"Very good," Kenichi said, and he rose to his feet, then pulled a fat envelope out of the inside pocket of his leather jacket before tossing it on the table. "That should cover half the cost of those chips. You'll get the remaining amount once they're delivered to me."
Dane rose to his feet as well, and along with Kenichi, made his way to the door where Slade's henchmen were standing guard. But they only made it a few steps before Kenichi suddenly halted, then turned to once again face Slade.