Twisted love by ANA HUANG ,chapter 34,ALEX

I MADE PANCAKES. I rarely cooked—why waste my time doing something I didn’t enjoy and which I could pay other people to do? But I made an exception today. I was waiting for a visitor, and I didn’t want to miss them by eating out. The doorbell rang. 9:07 a.m., according to the clock on my microwave. Earlier than I’d expected, which meant he was eager. I shut off the stove and sipped my tea as I answered the door. When I did, I had to mask my surprise. Not who I was expecting. “What are you doing here, Sunshine?” Not the warmest greeting, but she needed to leave before he arrived. Mild panic shot through me at the thought of them meeting. Ava frowned. She looked exhausted, and I wondered if she was having nightmares again. They’d eased since she recovered her memories, but they still popped up from time to time. Worry and guilt washed over me. We hadn’t spoken in days. She was still angry with me, and I’d been caught up in my plans. It was hard to convene a corporate board the week before Christmas—in secret, no less—but I held enough blackmail info over every member that they’d acquiesced to my request. “We need to talk. About us,” Ava said. Not words any man wants to hear come out of his girlfriend’s mouth, especially when he and said girlfriend were on rocky ground. I couldn’t wait until this mess with my uncle was over so I could give her the attention she
deserved. As for my twisted and apparently ill-placed revenge plan against her “father”…that was a confession for another day. If I ever confessed. Michael Chen was a sociopathic bastard even if he hadn’t plotted my family’s murder, and I was tempted to follow through with my original plan to hire someone to off him in prison. But I wouldn’t…yet. “Can we talk later?” A familiar gray Mercedes came into view, and my muscles tensed. “Now isn’t a good time.” Ava shook her head. “It’s been a week, Christmas is in two days, and I’m tired of us tiptoeing around each other. You’ve been acting weird for a while now, and I deserve to know what’s going on. If you don’t want to be with me any longer—” She exhaled a sharp breath, her face tinting red. “Just tell me. Don’t string me along.” Goddamn it. If only Josh had come home for Christmas like he’d planned, he would’ve kept Ava away. But there’d been an earthquake in his volunteer region—he was okay, thank God—and the people needed all the medical help they could get in the aftermath, so he’d stayed. I’d donated a hefty sum to help with his organization’s expenses as well. Partly out of charity, mostly out of guilt. Ava wasn’t the only Chen I’d fucked over these past few years. My uncle parked and got out of his car, his face thunderous. My grip tightened around my mug. “Of course I want to be with you,” I said in a low voice while keeping an eye on Ivan. “I’ll always want to be with you. But I—” “Alex.” My uncle’s pleasant tone belied the fury simmering in his eyes. When Ava turned, startled, he smoothed his face into a gracious smile. “Who’s this lovely creature?” If the mug were glass, it would’ve cracked by now. “Ava, Uncle Ivan,” I responded, voice clipped. “Ah, the infamous Ava. How lovely to meet you, dear.” She smiled, looking uncomfortable. “I didn’t realize you were expecting company,” she told me. “Um, you’re right. We can talk later—” “Nonsense. I’m just here for a friendly chat with my nephew.” Ivan placed a hand on Ava’s back and guided her into the house. Get your fucking hands off her. Anger streaked through me, but I tamped it down. I couldn’t lose my cool. Not now.
We settled in the dining room—Ava and I on one side, Ivan on the other. Tension laced the air. “Anyone want a drink?” I set my near-empty mug on the table. “Tea? Hot chocolate?” Ava shook her head. “No, thanks.” “Green tea for me.” Ivan patted his stomach. I returned a few minutes later with his drink and found him in deep conversation with Ava. “…Thanksgiving weekend?” My uncle took the tea from me with an oily smile. “Alex, Ava was telling me about how you spent your Thanksgiving. He loves his holidays with the Chens,” he told her. “He finds them so… enlightening.” My muscles burned from how tense I was while Ava returned his smile with her own uncertain one. “What can I do for you, uncle?” I asked, taking my seat with careful nonchalance. “It must be important if you’re here this early. Long drive from Philly.” “I wanted to congratulate my favorite nephew.” Ivan’s smile tightened. I didn’t bother pointing out I was his only nephew. “Ava, dear, did you know you’re sitting next to the new CEO of Archer Group?” I betrayed no emotion while Ava’s head whipped toward me, her eyes wide. “My uncle graciously stepped aside,” I said. I addressed Ivan. “I’m grateful for your tutelage and all the years you’ve dedicated to the company, but now you can retire and indulge in fishing, crossword puzzles, TV dramas…a life of leisure, just like you deserve.” “Yes,” he said coldly. “I’m looking forward to it.” It was all bullshit, this show we were putting on. My uncle didn’t resign, though that would be the official story we fed to the press. He’d toppled from power thanks to the secret boardroom coup I’d spent the past week executing. I’d had to use more dirty tricks than usual to get it done in such a short time, but anger is the world’s greatest motivator. I was now CEO of Archer Group, and Ivan was nothing. After I finished with him, he wouldn’t have anything, either. “Congratulations. That’s amazing.” Ava looked genuinely happy for me, but she also sounded confused and a little hurt, probably because I hadn’t mentioned something so huge to her. Then again, the changeover hadn’t been official until yesterday afternoon. No doubt the board notified Ivan, and he’d
driven here first thing in the morning, intent on reaming me out. He didn’t take his eyes off me as he said, “You and Ava should visit one day. I’m an old man who doesn’t have many friends, and I don’t like to leave the house much.” He chuckled. “I’m a bit paranoid about security, you see. I have cameras all over my home—my office, the kitchen…the library. I rarely go through all the tapes, but—” He sipped his tea. “What’s a man with too much free time to do?” I read between the lines in an instant. Fuck. How had I missed the cameras in the library? I’d jammed the ones in his bedroom and office and adjusted them afterward so they didn’t show any suspicious missing time periods, but my uncle had never had cameras in the other rooms before. He must’ve checked the feeds to see what I’d been up to after he received word of the coup. He’d grown more paranoid—and I’d grown more lax. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Ivan and I stared at each other. The jig was up. He knew I’d seen the letters between him and my mother—the ones where he’d professed his love and begged her to leave my father, the ones where she’d rebuffed him until he grew more and more aggressive and she had to threaten him with a restraining order…the ones where he promised she would regret spurning him. Once I had that piece of information, the rest of the puzzle fell into place —why my father and Ivan fell out, how the burglars knew so much about our family, why my uncle sometimes got a weird look on his face when we talked about my parents.. I’d known all along how narcissistic my uncle could be, and my mother’s rejection must’ve hit hard—hard enough that he’d plot his own brother’s death. That didn’t explain why he chose Michael Chen as the scapegoat, but I’d figure it out. I wouldn’t stop until I’d peeled back every layer of Ivan’s deception and strangled him with them. I now understood how Ava felt. I’d been lied to most of my life too, only my reaction was far less benign than hers. “Um, sure.” Ava glanced at me. “We’ll visit someday.” Yes. Over my dead body. Or, to be more accurate, my uncle’s dead body. “Excellent.” Ivan set his empty mug on the table. “Well, I think I’ve overstayed my welcome. I’ll leave you kids alone. Alex, I’m sure we’ll talk soon.”
“I’m sure we will,” I drawled. After he left, Ava and I sat in silence, eyeing each other warily. I wanted to pull her to me, kiss her and reassure her, but everything had gotten so fucking complicated. Not to mention, she still didn’t know the truth about me and what I did. She won’t find out. The only other person who knew was my uncle, and he would be out of the picture soon. A better person would tell her the truth, but I’d rather be the villain with her by my side than the hero who risked losing her because of a misguided sense of morality. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. “Your uncle is not what I expected,” she finally said. “He’s very…slick.” That pulled a small smile out of me. She didn’t like him, either. Atta girl. “Why didn’t you tell me about your promotion?” she asked. “That’s huge news! We should’ve celebrated or something.” “It wasn’t official until yesterday. Thought I’d announce it as a Christmas surprise.” That was partly true. Ava sighed, her expression growing sad. “I miss you, Alex.” God, this girl. She had no clue what she did to me. “I miss you too, Sunshine.” I opened my arms, and she climbed into my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck. I breathed in her scent, my heart aching. I wanted to keep her here, safe and cherished, forever. Fuck the rest of the world. It could burn for all I cared. “I don’t want to fight, but…” Her bottom lip disappeared between her teeth. “You have been acting strange lately. If something is wrong, you know you can tell me and we’ll figure it out together, right?” “I know.” How was she so amazing? Anyone who’d gone through what she had would’ve locked themselves away from the rest of the world by now, but not Ava. She was always thinking of others. I didn’t deserve her. “Is it because I told you I—” She paused, pink blossoming on her cheeks. “I loved you?” “Of course not.” I tightened my hold and kissed her. “You know I’d do anything for you.” “Okay, because you started acting weird right after…” “It’s work,” I lied. “I’ve been stressed about the CEO transition.” Also partly true.
It was a testament to Ava’s trust that she took my words at face value. “You’ll be a great CEO.” She brushed her lips over a sensitive spot on my neck, and my cock jumped with interest. I hadn’t touched her in a week, and I was dying to tie her down and have my way with her. “Now, how about we alleviate that stress…” I responded with a wicked grin. “I like the way you think.” But as I carried her upstairs and fucked her in every position until she couldn’t scream anymore, the sense of impending doom hovering over me remained.

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