The fight begins with a slight tussle. Avarice uses pots and pans to block my knife attacks. I'm quick but she's quicker. Her reflexes are fast. They are quick. I play the aggressor drawing blood from her arm. She flings back and lets out a scream of pain. Avarice attacks recklessly probably realizing she is losing the fight.

She throws a pan at me. I dodge it.

I struggle to maintain my balance but she comes after me and grabs my head. The hot fryer is on. Avarice is attempting to dunk my head in the oil at that moment. I'm fighting against her. The hot oil is popping and burning my face as she keeps pushing my head down.

The heat burns me!  I'm struggling to keep my head away from it.  I"m pushing up against the the counter.  The oil pops.  It's scolding me.  I get closer.  Closer.  My heart races as she pushes me down.  I get closer still.  I'm inches away before I realize it.

I realize my face is going to burn off!. I struggle and I punch her twice taking the risk to remove my hand. . Once to the stomach and then once again to the side of her face. As she falls backward I tackle her into the stove. She falls over and I hit her a few times with the oven door. She falls to the ground. I grab a knife.

It's time to finish this.

Just as I am about to cut her open the door opens!

I jump off Avarice and tackle the person who walks in the door, scared that somehow she got backup. I pin the person to the ground.

"I used to play football and I swear this is the first time I've been turned on by someone tackling me," the person says.

It's Denny. Fuck. I turn at that moment getting off of Denny. Avarice is gone. There is a window open in the diner's kitchen and she's jumped out of it. I run to the window to see if I can see her but she's nowhere to be seen. Fuck.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" I ask him.

"I never got to give you your engagement gift. I came back here to see if I can give it to you," Denny states handing me a closed gift.

I look at the gift. I don't take it. What's the chances that he shows up now? The more I look at Denny the more I am suspicious of him. Hell. Martina wasn't really Martina. She was an assassin named Avarice. The Assembly had found me already and they were attempting to get rid of me.

"Thanks," I say taking the box from him after a second of hesitation, "Was that all?"

Denny looks around the kitchen, "Did a hurricane go through here?"

Avarice and I had made a mess of the place. The fight was nasty. I attempt to fix myself up. There are pots and pans all over the ground. There are knives out. Avarice seemed like a desperate assassin. She was going to go through anything to attempt to kill me. She was dangerous and she proved it. And because of Denny she had gotten away.

"I'm remodeling," I state.

"Did you uh...realize your friend is knocked out?" he asks.

Denny's eyes squint. Sure enough he's staring at Love. Love is in his wheelchair. His head is slouched over. He's not moving. Denny is smiling when he says it but I wonder if he's suspicious of me. A part of me wonders if I should just take Denny out right now. That's what Urge would do if he was in this situation. The thing was...I wasn't Urge. I couldn't just kill Denny unless I was completely sure he was a threat to me.

"It's the painkillers. They probably relaxed him," I respond.

Denny nods a few times. One time too many. He's unsure of what I'm telling him. I can tell he doesn't believe a word I'm saying by his body posture. None-the-less he forces a smile. He forces it a little too hard.

"Right well I should leave. Again congratulations on your engagement. Hopefully I get an invitation to the wedding."

"I'll make sure of it. Don't have a lot of friends in town," I respond.

"Well you have one now," Denny says, "You know I'm your friend right?"

Our eyes are both summing each other up. I'm contemplating everything about Denny. There is more to this guy then he is letting off. He still looks so familiar and I still can't put my finger on where I know him from.


I watch Denny leave at that moment. He closes the door behind him. Then I remember something right when he walks out. How was it possible that Denny got into this kitchen in the first place? I was sure I had locked the door. The only way he would have gotten into the kitchen is if he had a key. Now why the hell would Denny have a key to the kitchen diner.


The day goes by fast. I'm starting to get nervous. Urge and Craving should be back by now. I look outside of the window. I have Urge's rifle in my hand. I'm no good with these guns. I know I'm not. Allure was the best shot my team had and she was taken. Urge was gone.

I call up my realtor, "Hey this is Thomas Royce. I was calling for more information on the sale of my home."

"Mr. Royce. How are you liking the new place?"

I was alone and there was a killer on the loose. A good friend of mine had been drugged and he had been knocked out for hours. I had a busted lip. Avarice could be out there and she was exposed now. I had no idea when my lover and my best friend could be back. She had no reason not to try to do another attack when I least expected it. I could get killed in this very home tonight possibly.

Nonetheless I put on an upbeat tone, "I love it. Perfect place."

"Great to hear. Was there anything I could help you out with sir?" he asks.

"There was an offer sent to me to buy this home. I was reaching out to know who extended that offer."

"All offers came directly from the seller. His name is Baron Steele."

Baron Steele. It could just be an alias. I never heard of the person. `

"Do you have contact information for Mr. Steele. I wanted to reach out and thank him. Personally."

"He asked me not to give out his information."



"Yes. However, if you would like me to pass along your phone number and email to him I'd be happy to."

I pause.

"Please do."

There was no need of hiding from this man. He sold me the house. He obviously knew where I stayed. I hang up the phone. I feel nervous in my stomach. Still. There was a reason I ended up in this town and there was a reason Avarice was here when I got here. It might have had something to do with Baron Steele. I open up my phone and start googling the name. I'm frantic to figure out who this person is.

Just as I'm looking in my phone I get an email.

It's immediate.

Good afternoon Mr. Royce,

I was reaching out to see if you would be interested in attending an event at the local country club. I heard you wanted to connect I think this would be a great time.

-Baron Steele.

Mr. Steele sent that email fast. He sent it a little too fast. I contemplate on telling him yes or not. I just stare at my phone. Who is this Mr. Steele? Who was he and why the hell had he sold me this house? Why was he now inviting me to a party? It was all a bit strange. It was just all a little too strange actually.

"Everything OK?" a voice says from the living room.

It's Love. I put my phone away quickly before he sees what I'm doing. Hours later he's just waking up. The dose that Avarice gave him must have been strong to say the least. Seeing him up walking around makes me feel a little bit more comfortable. I was hoping that Avarice hadn't given him some sort of poison and it was too risky to head to the hospital anyway. They wouldn't be able to treat an attack from the Assembly and it would just raise suspicions. I had enough suspicions on me already.

"Should you be up walking?" I ask.

"I was exaggerating a little with the wheelchair," he responds, "Truthfully I just liked the idea of being catered to for a while. I'm fine. How are you doing though? What happened?"

I try to be strong. I stand there in the middle of my living room. I'm in the middle of my dream home. I'm worried about my fiancé. I'm sick over the fact that Avarice is in the city. I struggle to keep my composure. I avoid Love's eye contact.

"I had an assassin surveilling me."


I nod, "Yeah. Codename Avarice."

Love takes a deep breath. He puts his hand on his head. After hearing how life was for Craving, Love and Allure all these years I shouldn't have been surprised. It's not surprise that is making me feel like shit right now. It's sadness. Maybe Love can see it on my face. Maybe that's why he walks over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder.

He does something at that moment that I don't expect, "Come here."


"Come here. Let it out."

For so many years I've been with Urge that I don't expect this coming from Love. I feel stupid thinking about crying to him. What would Urge think of me showing this sort of emotion to another member of the team? He would hate the idea.

I feel so vulnerable right now though. Maybe that's why I do it. I lean on Love's shoulder and I start crying. The tears flood all over his shirt but he doesn't seem to mind. For a few minutes my old friend just lets me cry on him. I know then that he understands me. Love and I had our disagreements. Out of everyone on the team I probably got along with him the least. But we were family. In the end when family needed each other they were there. Love was there for me now.

And I loved him for it.

"Urge is going to want to go back into hiding."

"You don't know that," Love responds.

"I do. There is an assassin in this town. She showed up before I arrived. That means she somehow knew I was going to be here."

"You don't know that. She could have come into town for something else?"

"What the hell is there in Pleasantville for her to be here?" I ask, "The Autumn fair? No. She knew I was going to be here. There is a man who invited me here. Maybe she works with him now. His name is Baron Steele. He sold me this place. He just emailed me inviting me to a party."

"That sounds suspicious."

"I knew finding this house was too convenient. This town was TOO perfect! This was a set up from the beginning."

Love pats me on my back a little bit, "Maybe it's not so bad."

"How can it not be so bad Love? Honestly?"

"Urge wants to protect you. Maybe you guys go back into hiding for a while. Craving and I can figure things out and let you guys know when it's safe."

I know Love is trying to look out for the best. I also know that Love has emotion though. He has to understand why I'm upset deep inside. He's not going to automatically jump on my side of things like Craving but he's far from being the hard ass that Urge was.

"What if we don't tell Urge?" I ask.

Love shakes his head at that moment. He looks around nervously, "Man I'm not fucking with it! I'm not fucking with Urge. I don't want to get on his bad side. That guy scares me..."

"I'm just saying don't mention anything," I respond, "It's not getting on his bad side. If he figures things out, I'll say it's all me. I can handle Urge."

Love is hesitant. I know he is. He is scared of Urge and for good reason. I was the only one really immune to Urge killing tendencies. Urge would take anyone down to protect me and if Love was standing in the way of that I was sure he'd take Love down.

Love knew as well. His face gets ghostly white when we hear the door open. In the next few minutes Craving and my fiancé walk through the door. They walk in to Love and I hugging. If it was anyone else Urge would have probably been a little jealous but I don't even think he was possessive enough to think something was going on between me and Love.

"You guys worried me," I state walking to the door.

I run right into Urge's arms. He grabs me and holds me for a minute. He kisses me on my forehead. I can take those kisses forever.

"It's well," he responds, "How have things been here?"

I don't answer. I look over at Love. I don't want him to blow my spot. If Urge knew what really happened here he'd drag me back to the cabins. He'd keep us in hiding. We'd be that paranoid couple all over again.

Love is hesitating. He doesn't even answer.

"Everything's been quiet," I respond to Urge.

"Where you crying?" Craving asks me.

Urge must not have noticed it. He is horrible with emotional things. He probably just thought something was in my eye. Craving was different. Craving looks concerned as he walks over to me. He puts his hand on my shoulder at that moment.

Urge seems to pick up on it all of a sudden and he starts to panic, "Desire were you crying?"


"Don't lie to me Desire. Look in my eyes and you better not lie to me."

I don't answer. He'd know if I was lying. I realize I have to come out and tell the truth. I have to admit to the fact that I was attacked. I have to tell him about how the seller reached out to me directly to advertise this house and not the realtor. I had to tell him how I was getting more and more suspicious of Denny. I had to tell him everything.

"We were just watching a sad movie," Love states, "It was the worse."

Craving rolls his eyes, "Bottoms."

"Shut the hell up," I respond pushing Craving back and turning to Urge, "What did you end up finding out about Allure?"

"Not much. She was taken. We know that much. A lot of the evidence was gone. We also know that it isn't the Assembly."

I shake my head.


Craving and Urge look at me suspiciously.

"What do you mean impossible?" Craving asks.

Avarice was an Assembly assassin. The codename was an assembly codename. The way she moved was Assembly movement. If the people who kidnapped Allure was different then why the hell was Avarice here at all.

"Nothing." I respond.

"You're acting weird," Urge tells me before crossing his arm, "None-the-less I'm sure she was taken by someone else. Not assembly. I was able to hack into the airport mainframe. The men who took her had threw her into a van. The license plate was registered to a Baron Steele."

What the fuck?

Love's face goes blank. He looks at me. I look back at him. His facial expression gives him away. Craving and Urge are clearly onto us. I can tell by how they just stand there watching at that moment. They are paying close attention our expressions.

"What's going on?" Urge asks, "Love what's going on?"

"Nothing," I respond.

Urge takes a few steps towards Love.

"Love, what's going on?" he asks again.

Craving attempts to defend Love. He tries to step in between them. With two moves Craving ends up face planted on the carpet by Urge. Urge side steps right past Craving and gets closer and closer to Love. Love is attempting to look brave. He can probably put up a real fight against Urge but I'm not sure if he was in the mood for it.

"I said nothing is going on," I say.

"We should just tell them," Love states, "They are going to figure it out anyway."

"Love don't."

"Love tell me," Urge says.

Love takes a deep breath, "Desire is lying. He was attacked by an Assembly assassin. Baron Steele is the one who sold him this house. He emailed Desire. He invited him to a party."

Great. I feel weak at that moment. The look Urge gives me at that moment is beyond disappointment. He seems upset to say the least. He walks over to me and puts his hand out. I put the phone in his hand. Urge looks through the phone. He reads the message. I see him typing a reply in the message. With that he hands me back my phone.

I lean up against the nearest wall. I feel defeated.

"What now?" Craving asks getting up from his fall.

"This weekend we are going to a party," Urge responds.


It's the day of the party and we pull up to the country club. Urge is driving. Craving and Love are in the backseat. Craving is drinking already. Who brings their own liquor to a party? Usually I would be worried but right now I'm focused on Urge. He hasn't slept in the same bed as me. He slept in the third guest bedroom all week.

"You look nice," I tell him.

I was telling the truth. Urge looked fucking beautiful to say the least. I was so used to seeing him either dressed in all black in his assassin gear or in his hunting gear. Right now he had a tuxedo. Luckily Craving had all these extras and we just had to get them tailored down. I looked decent but Urge was spectacular. He has on an all-black tuxedo with a black shirt underneath. He had a solid satin lapel and pique stitching that really detailed the satin nicely.

Urge ignores me and gets out the car announcing, "We're here. Everyone stick to the plan."

We aren't searched as we get out of the car. The valet comes over and gets the car that we are driving. It's a brand new car that Urge bought with some of the money that he had left over. He offered to buy me one too but I figured I'll just get a bike soon since Pleasantville was so small. I hop out of Urge's car and realize he doesn't look back at me. It's clear he is pissed off at me.

Someone else is trying to get my attention though. Love.

"He'll get over it," Love states.

I'm pissed at Love. He's standing there smiling at me. I wonder if he enjoys this.

"No he won't. You don't know Urge," I respond, "Disloyalty is real to him. It's important. Thanks for fucking trying to ruin my relationship...yet again Love."

"Whoa...I told him because I wanted to save Allure," Love responds, "I don't give two fucks about your relationship."

"Guys stop," Craving says.

"That's not what my best friend tells me," I respond to Love, "He says you are so desperate to have a relationship like Urge and me. I wonder if you did this shit on purpose. Maybe you wanted me and Urge to break up like you and Craving."

I don't mean to drag my best friend into this but I can't help it. Craving stops getting involved. He takes a step back. Craving takes a long sip of alcohol. If Love wanted to put everything out on the table, then we can definitely do that. I can see the two exchange awkward glances. The break up must have been bad because the two of them hardly talk about it.

Love gives me a hard push at that moment, "I fucking let you cry on me, you heartless piece of shit."

"And you promised me you wouldn't say anything."

"The world doesn't revolve around your relationship with Urge. I promise you. As soon as I find out Allure is safe I'm leaving this place and I'm not coming back."

I want to push him back. I swear I do. I am about to but I realize that people are around. This was a classy place. I wasn't going to entertain Love right here and right now. I felt betrayed though. He could have kept his mouth shut. I asked him just for that. I turn around and attempt to follow behind Urge into this place.

The country club sits on about 3 acres of land. There are tennis ball courts and a golf course outside. As we walk in there is a large statue at the entrance way. I recognize a few of the faces but these are the business men. Some people from the corporation where the café is. A few of them smile at me. I attempt to smile back but really I'm distracted. I'm distracted because Urge has walked all the way into the place. He stands next to the window. He puts his hands in his pockets. A couple of the ladies are looking him up and down. Urge must not know he sticks out like a sore thumb. He's definitely always been bad when it comes to sneaking around and being low-key. Urge is good at one thing and one thing only. He's good at killing.

He stares at me but doesn't say anything. I go get a drink at that moment. The place is crowded and Craving is already at the bar when I get there.

"That wasn't cool," Craving tells me.

"What?" I turn to him.

Craving gives me a hard look, "You saying what you did to Love wasn't cool. We all are trying to find ourselves in this normal world. Not just you. You should apologize."

He would take Love's side. He was still in love with him whether he wanted to admit it or not. I saw the day that he broke down crying. I also notice that Craving orders two double shots at the bar while I get a glass of wine. Did he come here to find info on Allure or did he come here to get drunk?

"How about we deal with this later and focus on the mission?" I state looking at his shot.

Craving takes the shot right in front of me, "Yeah. The mission. Whatever."

He walks away with the other shot in his hand. Whatever I said to the Craving and Love must have really hit a nerve because they are acting as awkward with each other as Urge and I are right now. Right now we are far from being any sort of effective team.

"Mr. Royce?" a woman comes up to me and says.


"Mr. Steele would like to see you upstairs."

I nod. I give Urge the signal. I touch underneath my chin. It's our signal letting him know that Mr. Steele wants to meet with me alone. It is up to Urge and the others to find a way up there. It's up to them to be my backup if I need it.

I'm surprised when the woman smiles at me, "No need for code language. Your friends are welcome as well..."


I get more confused by the time I gather up Craving, Urge and Love. The three of us start walking upstairs away from the main party. Urge gives me a look. He has his hand on right side next to his gun. I have a knife underneath my lapel. Love is carrying a small miniature pistol at his ankle. Craving has some brass knuckles in his crotch. However, from the woman's cool demeanor and the fact that we aren't searched I have the feeling that we didn't bring enough weapons.

I have the feeling that they might have the drop on us and we don't have the drop on them.

The woman opens the door and we are upstairs in a private lounge. There is a bar there. There is a man standing at the bar. He's handsome. He might be in his mid-30s. He has a youthful face but his hair is gray but in a bleached way. It almost looks white. His skin is this olive tone. He smiles at us and flashes us a white smile. He walks over to us. He specifically walks up to me and offers me a drink.

"Mr. Royce," he says, "I've heard so much about you. Would you like a drink?"

I look down on the drink. I wasn't a rookie. I was far from it.

"No thanks," I respond, "Mr. Steele I presume?"

"Yes. Glad to meet you. I hope you are enjoying your new home," he states, "I'm building new houses all over Pleasantville."

There is a room to the right. I hear footsteps. Soft shadows. There are people back there. There are people listening to our conversation. I quickly navigate my eyes back to Mr. Steele. I don't want to let him know that I'm onto him. Above him there is a camera. It shifts slightly...slowly from me Craving to Urge. It seems to be focused on the more dangerous looking ones.

I signal behind my back. Love is standing behind me. He sees my finger pointing. He gets it. Love is good at going under the radar. He makes his way towards the bar. Sure enough the camera doesn't follow him and neither does Mr. Steele's attention. Love doesn't look intimidating at all. We may have had our differences but I respected his innate ability to fly under the radar.

Craving takes the brunt of the attention. His mere size is causing Mr. Steele to talk to me and smile over at Craving after every few words.

"You reached out to me specifically to buy your home. How did you find me?"

"It was my cousin's idea."


Mr. Steele gets on the phone. He says something. Urge and I exchange glances. Whatever Mr. Steele said was coded. It wasn't something normal people would do. In the Assembly we used to code our language just in case our phones were tapped. Mr. Steele was not a member of the Assembly though. I knew that much. He wasn't the right age. He was a little too old to be one of the kids that were kidnapped and trained to be assassins.

The door opens at that moment and someone walks in. I'm shocked when I see who walks in.


"Fuck this shit," Urge states.

Urge pulls out his gun at that moment. He tackles Denny to the ground. Mr. Steele reaches for his phone but Love jumps on his back, wraps his body around him like some sort of miniature monkey and pins him to the ground. Love takes his phone away from him.

Just at that moment the door opens. Within a matter of seconds, we are surrounded by all sides. These men I recognize. These are men who work at the corporation that I serve food at. All of them. These were some of the people that Denny worked with. They surround us at all sides. Within that second I have my knife out and Craving has his brass knuckles. We stand back to back.

I know they won't attack us though, not as long as Urge has Denny and Love had Mr. Steele.

"Remarkable," Mr. Steele says, "Better than I expected."

"I want answers," I state.

"I'm willing to," Mr. Steele says, "If you'd just have your friend let me go..."

Love tightens his legs around Mr. Steele. He doesn't loosen them. I ignore Mr. Steele. I look over at Denny.

"I want answers from you. Is Denny even your real name?"

"You don't even recognize me do you?" he asks.

"Should I?"

"It's me. Dennis. Your ex-boyfriend. I was with you when you got kidnapped."

My heart drops. Dennis. Dennis? I remember the name all of a sudden. Memories flood back. I had been brainwashed to forget so much from the assembly. I didn't remember the life I had before I was taken. Looking at Dennis though I knew him. His name wasn't Denny. He was Dennis. He was my boyfriend. He had gone on a trip with him to Tahiti. Yes. That was the place! Tahiti! That was where I was kidnapped.

I was with Dennis.

"You were watching me even back then," I realize.

No. He wasn't my ex-boyfriend. He was spy infiltrating himself into my life when I was just a kid. Why?

"I knew the Assembly was interested in you. I was trying to get to you first," he explains, "Let me explain."

"No need," Urge says putting the gun deeper into his head, "You should have paid closer attention to my fiancé's life. I have a tendency to kill guys he has dated."

Urge is about to pull the trigger.


Someone runs into the room from the side door. We all look to see who it is. Our mouths drop open when we realize who the person is that walks into the room.

I don't know if I should be happy, confused or frustrated.

"Allure...is it really you?" I ask.


To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com