Allure has always been a tough girl with a slight edge to her but seeing her walk in a dress right now reminds us all of how feminine and classy she can be. Allure is alive and well. Her hair has been changed yet again which isn’t unusual for her. She changes her look often as many people from the Assembly were prone to do. Her hair is now a vibrant carroty auburn which created an immediate contrast to her fair skin. She has green eye eyes now with dark black eye shadow to intensify them. She looks less like the hardcore punk badass I knew from the past and looks more like some sort of debutante. She reminds me of our old team leader Love. It makes me reminiscent with her pale skin similar to a young Nicole Kidman. Regardless of how my friend has changed in the years since I’ve seen her one thing remains the same.
Her cold Russian accent pierces through the hallway, “My boys are here.”
I hold back from wanting to go hug her. Love doesn’t. He drops protocol. He’s always been the closest to Allure. He leaves Baron Steele unchallenged and runs over to her. Urge seems annoyed. I expect it though. I expect him to give Allure a long hug.
“You’re OK,” he says to her.
Allure smiles at him, hugging him back. She looks over to Craving, Urge and I. Maybe she expected that kind of reception from all of us. I don’t know what to do. I’m still on edge but seeing Allure smiling kind of calms me down a little bit.
“What are you doing here?” Urge asks her.
Allure shakes her head walking over to Urge. Seeing one of my closest friends alive and well is surprising, to say the least. Urge wasn’t the only one. We were all ready for a fight. I had no plans to let any of these people leave here alive.
Dennis struggles to talk, “We aren’t your enemies.”
“Was I speaking to you?” Urge asks.
“They aren’t the bad guys,” Allure explains, “Urge. Look at me. They aren’t the bad guys.”
Urge doesn’t look at Allure. Instead, he looks at me. Allure was the leader of the team when we were a team years ago. Now she is just like the rest of us. I shake my head to Urge, letting him know not to drop his guard. He listens to me. His grip around Denny’s neck gets tighter. I don’t trust these people yet.
“They kidnapped you. They attacked Love,” I explain.
“They were bringing us in,” Allure states, “You and I both know Desire that we wouldn’t have come in peacefully.”
Love surprisingly seems to jump to Allure’s defense, “I did make it harder than it needed to be. Maybe that’s why I ended up so hurt.”
He’s too trusting. It has to be the fact that Allure is there. I look over at Allure and cross my arms.
“They sent an assassin codenamed Avarice to kill me,” I stated.
“No they didn’t,” Allure explains, “The Assembly is back. These people have been fighting against the assembly since it begun. They have been keeping tabs on us. And now they need us.”
Allure isn’t just talking. I can look in her eyes and see that she is speaking for them. Dennis, Baron Steele and all the others in the room are quiet. It’s almost as though they know Allure is the only way to convince us at this point.
“You trust them?” I ask.
“I trust them.”
I look over at Urge. I give him a nod. Urge listens to me. He releases Dennis. Dennis walks away. Baron Steele walks away as well. Their men drop their guards. I look over at Dennis. I can hardly remember anything about him. I can hardly remember him. All I know is that he is familiar. I know why I can’t remember him though. The Assembly brainwashed me for years to forget my old life. I had no name but Desire. I held onto the fact that I was Jonathan at one point.
Jonathan dated this boy named Dennis. Jonathan probably trusted this boy named Dennis. The fact that Dennis wasn’t who he said he was blows my mind.
“How long have you been watching me?” I ask.
“As long as the Assembly has been watching you,” Dennis replies, “We knew they wanted you. The day that you were kidnapped I tried to stop them. I tried my best. I fought them in Tahiti but the assassins of the Assembly have always had a step up on us.”
“Who is us?”
“The Society of Steele,” Baron Steele states, “Avarice didn’t come here for you. She was sent here to get information on us. The Assembly still exists and we’d like your help to stop them.”
“Who started the Assembly back up?” I ask.
“Someone very dangerous.”
“One of the seven?” Craving asks.
Craving looks shaken. I know why. The seven were the seven deadly sins. They were sort of like captains in the Assembly. Some were dead. Some went into hiding after Tom was killed. There were many assassins in the Assembly but these were the most dangerous by far. It would only make sense if one of them tried to take over the Assembly after Tom died.
“Not quite,” Denny responds.
Suspicious. I roll my eyes, “You are hiding information from us. Give us one reason why we shouldn’t leave?”
“Because for once in your life you’ll be able to do something good,” Mr. Steele says, “I’ve brought property here. I’ll give you all homes if you’d like. We can give you intelligence. We can keep you safe. You can live a somewhat a normal life in Pleasantville if you’d like.”
This was his plan all along. He invited me here. I got the job at that corporation in that diner for a reason. He was trying to make me feel comfortable. The truth is I was comfortable in this town. I liked staying here, but I was tricked into coming here. This Society of Steele wanted to make me feel safe. They wanted to make me feel comfortable…but to what end?
I ignore Mr. Steele. My eyes are on Dennis. He had lied to me. He had been using me all this time. What difference was this new society compared to the Assembly?
“You’ll give us a house…for free?” Craving asks.
Mr. Steele nodded, “We’ll buy a home for you. Yes.”
“We’ll be safe here. Craving aren’t you tired of being attacked by the Assembly?” Allure asks, “Desire aren’t you tired of hiding in the woods? This can be a brand new start for all of us. This can be our home.”
“What do you want In return?” I ask Baron Steele.
“We’d like you to work for us. Help us stop the Assembly.”
“I knew it…” I state.
I knew there was a trick to this. I knew it! All of a sudden, I’m shaking my head. These people weren’t trying to save us. They were trying to use us. They were trying to use us against the Assembly.
Mr. Steele nods, “Your skills are invaluable. Your team took down Tom. You understand how the Assembly works. You understand how we can stop it. This time stop it for good.”
Who was this guy? Mother Theresa? Was he just trying to do good for the world by getting rid of the Assembly? I didn’t trust him. There was something about Mr. Steele that rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I had bad history with men using people for their benefit. I had bad experiences with men who liked to kidnap other people as well. I had bad experiences with people who came in my life and pretended to be something else just so they can spy on me.
“You want me to be your assassin. I’m done killing. I won’t kill for the Assembly. I won’t kill for the Society of Steele. I’m not anyone’s assassin,” I respond, “I’m done with that life.”
“We don’t want you to be an assassin,” Mr. Steele says, “The Society of Steele is an organization surreptitiously funded by NATO. We aren’t assassins. We are covert agents.”
“We’d be the good guys?” Love asks.
Love smiles. Him and Allure actually look excited. What the fuck was wrong with them? How the hell could they be so convinced? We didn’t know shit about this organization. How were we supposed to know that they were legitimate? Were we just supposed to take their word for it?
“You’d be the good guys,” Mr. Steele responds, “You’ll get a paycheck. The Assembly is causing death and destruction around the world. You’d be able to stop that and make a difference.”
I look over at Craving. He looks confused. Love seems immediately all on board. Then there is Urge. I can’t read him. I can never really read him though. It’s nothing new. Did he believe this society? Was he happy here? I couldn’t tell.
Is this what I wanted?
“No,” I state.
The others all look at me. There is a moment of tension. Urge looks at me. He squints.
Allure looks over at me , “Desire think about this. You can have everything that you want. You can be happy here. Plus you’d still be able to use your skills.”
“I said no,” I respond.
Love rolls his eyes, “Well I’m down. Desire can go hiding in the woods hunting Bambi and talking to the walls if he wants.”
Love says it in a sharp rude way. Our eyes meet. He’s being an asshole. He’s being dumb at that. At least they had some time to convince Allure. Love was convinced in a few minutes like a fucking idiot. I can’t take how dumb he is. I can’t take the fact that he is actually trying to make me look like I’m making the dumb decision right now. I want to argue with him but here isn’t the place.
“You can stay here. Good luck,” I respond, “Craving, Urge and I are leaving. I don’t think it’d be smart for you to get in our way.”
Mr. Steele nods and raises his hand, “You are free to go. We won’t stop you.”
Weird. He would go through all this trouble to get me to come to Pleasantville only to allow me to leave? The assembly would never let me leave that easily. I’d escaped the Assembly before. They hunted me down for years. We were never safe with the Assembly. People simply didn’t just leave the Assembly. Once you left you were an enemy.
“That’s it?” I ask.
Mr. Steele nods, “That’s it. Whoever wants to stay will be given a house in Pleasantville and a job. Orientation begins tomorrow.”
Allure shakes her head, “Desire, please don’t go.”
“Let him leave,” Love argues, “The innocent bullshit is getting played out if you ask me. If Desire really wanted to live a normal life he would fight for it.”
He’s talking about me as though I’m not even in the room. Love doesn’t look back at me. He doesn’t even acknowledge me. He’s trying to embarrass me in this room in front of all these people and it’s really pissing me off. I know this has to do with the argument we had earlier. He’s being petty. It’s clear as day.
If he wanted to trust these strangers that was on him. I’d learned my lesson a long time ago from Urge. We don’t anyone that isn’t us. Period.
“Goodbye Love,” I state, “C`mon guys.”
I signal to Craving and Urge. We start walking out. We get to the door. That’s when I feel a hand grab onto my shoulder.
I turn around to see Craving standing there. He is grabbing on my sleeve. I’m confused.
“I’m not going,” Craving tells me.
Craving isn’t trying to embarrass me like Love. He moves in and pulls me out of the room. He wants to speak in private. I can see this look in his eyes though. He’s confused.
“I need to stay,” Craving explains.
“You don’t need to do anything.”
“You don’t get it,” Craving responds, “The Assembly has fucked me up. Every time I close my eyes I see all the people I’ve killed for them. I lost Love because of it. It wasn’t because I cheated on Love. I knew that he was a good person. I knew that I should be with him. I felt nothing. Not just for him. I felt nothing period. There is this emptiness that I have. I turned to alcohol. I’ve been drinking just because that’s the only time I feel anything, Desire. Drinking is the only time I feel emotion. For the last few years…I’ve been numb. I was numb to losing the man I love."
Craving must been talking about his ex Ardor. I shake my head sad at the idea.
"You should have told me."
"I have been unable to feel anything. They robbed me of that. They made me into a walking ghost, Desire. If there is a way to stop them from doing that to anyone else I’m going to take it.”
I look at Craving. I want to cry. I knew that we all were affected by the horrible things we did at the Assembly. I knew that everyone was affected differently. I also knew that Craving and Love had issues. I never assumed it would effect Craving like this though.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask him, “You seemed so happy…with life. You’re always laughing. You are always smiling.”
“Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying. Sometimes you laugh to hide the fact that you can’t cry any longer…”
Humanity was what Craving was talking about. How many people can you kill before death doesn’t mean anything to you? How many times can you watch people die before you just stop crying over them?
I don’t want to leave Craving here but at the same time I know that he’s made up his mind. This is deeper for him than anything I could imagine. Craving might not be able to feel emotion but right now I’m crying for him. Tears soak my face as I lean over and give him the biggest hug that I can. I hold him there for a few minutes wondering if this is the last time that I am going to see him.
“Take care of yourself,” I tell him.
He nods, “Be safe Desire.”
Urge doesn’t speak. He follows behind me. We leave to get to the house but I see Craving’s eyes following behind me. He looks like he wants to say something else but he just doesn’t.
I’m packing my things back at the house. I make sure to grab some knives. I wonder if these people are really just going to let us drive out of this city. Could it really be that easy? I grab my suitcase and walk downstairs hoping to find out what is taking Urge so long to get ready. He doesn’t have a lot of clothes and things but it would take hours for him to pack up his weapons alone in all their separate containers. I find Urge sitting in the study. He’s sitting in the lounge chair in the darkness. I flick the light on. It’s weird seeing him sit there.
“What are you doing?” I ask him, “We need to start packing. Don’t tell me you’re still mad…”
Urge sighs shaking his head.
“I’m not mad at you. That’s not the point. I don’t think we should leave,” he says.
I think I’m in the twilight zone. This can’t be real life. The tables have turned. I am wanting to leave and Urge is wanting to stay here with people? I look at home wondering if Urge has discovered a sense of humor all of a sudden. I don’t see signs of that. His deep blue eyes look up at me with this immediate glare.
“Are you joking?”
“This is what you want,” he explains, “You want to be normal. Truth is we’ll never be that. We’re special. But this might be the closest thing to normal that we can get.”
“Urge you trust them?” I ask.
Was it really just me? Denny had been watching me! He’d been stalking me. He’d infiltrated my life and posed as my boyfriend. How the hell was I supposed to trust him or anyone that worked with him?
“It’s not about them,” Urge states, “It’s about us. You and me have some serious problems in our relationship. Problems that we need to fix before we get married.”
My chest caves in a little bit. I’m not expecting Urge to say something like that. Urge has always been somewhat gentle with my emotions and my feelings. Right now he’s being very blunt.
“Are you saying you are second guessing us getting married?”
Urge gets up.
He walks over to me. He puts his hands on my face, “No. Of course not. I’m just saying that this is what you wanted. I feel like you really still want this but you think I don’t. So I’m telling you that I want this to. I don’t want us to have to argue about our life and have to lie to one another. We have a chance of really getting rid of the Assembly once and for all. You know and I know they’ll never stop hunting us.”
He had a point. I look at this house. It’s beautiful. It’s everything that I wanted. Why was there something grinding in my stomach then? Why did I feel so uncomfortable in Pleasantville now?
“It’s not that. How do we know they are who they say they are?”
I’m pushing back so hard. I don’t trust them. I can’t trust them after one conversation. I needed proof. I needed receipts. I wasn’t the type to have faith in people. As an assassin I learned the truth about people. People are horrible things.
“How do you now?”
“My father mentioned them before. SOS he called them. I always thought he was saying Save Our Souls. Now I know for sure. It’s the Society of Steele. They are secret agents, not assassins. They don’t kill. My father thought he got rid of the last of them years ago. He must have been wrong. But Desire, anyone who is against Tom has to be the good guys. Because Tom…my father…he was the bad guy.”
“Urge I don’t know…I…”
I’m hesitating. He is patient. He waits on me to finish but I have nothing to say. A feeling wasn’t going to do it for Urge. He needed an argument. The more I think about it though I want to believe that this could be a new start for us. We can use our skills for good and not evil.
“Look at me,” he explains, “I overheard what Craving said to you. He isn’t the only one that needs redemption for the things he’s done. We all do. This might be a chance at that. We can redeem ourselves by fighting against the Assembly. We can find absolution.”
“I don’t know. I guess.”
“Do you really have to guess?” he asks.
Urge grabs me around my waist. He pulls me close. It’s hard to frown and worry when he holds me like this. I laugh and try to get away from him. He puts me in a half nelson. Straddling me with his knees. I am underneath him. He slides his right hand under my armpit and puts it to the back of my head. He pushes his head down as he rolls his right hip down towards the mat. He puts his chest flat across mine. I’m pinned to the ground with him over me.
“Does everything have to be violent with you?” I ask him.
He nods, “Yeah. That’s who we are. We fight hard. We love hard. So let's do it. Let’s stay here. Let’s fight for them and come home and love even harder.”
He presses his lips up against mine. His tongue goes in my mouth. I’m still resistant but I can’t deny Urge, especially after he has been mad at me today. We kiss for a few minutes. He gets me out of the pin and rolls me on top of him. He holds me there, stroking my hair.
I thought the offer in Pleasantville was a house. I thought it was a new start. That wasn’t the case. Absolution was what they were selling us. Redemption.
A chance to save our souls.
We arrive at the Steele building on time. I get nervous when a woman comes to meet Urge and I in the building. Craving never came back to the house yesterday. I wondered why. I get a nervous feeling in my chest wondering if they did something to him already. I still don’t trust these people.
“Right this way sir,” the woman in the orientation says.
I give her a half smile. I hesitate to leave the elevator. Urge reaches his hand out at that moment. Urge was smiling! You would think this isn’t my crazy, homicidal fiancé and that this was some nice corporate guy.
“Come on baby,” he says, “I got you. I promise.”
I put my hand in his. I didn’t trust these people but I definitely trusted Urge. We make our way down the hallway. There are glass offices and I notice the stares I’m getting from people who work there.
“What the hell is going on?” I ask, suspiciously realizing the stares.
“Urge is a big deal. Sort of a legend in a way,” she states.
That’s when I realize it. The stares aren’t for me. They are staring at Urge. I watch how they look at him. They are glaring. It’s as though they are watching their favorite celebrity walk down the red carpet. Urge was no celebrity though.. Urge seems confused as well. He’s always been somewhat confused when people pay him attention.
“You’re the son of Tom,” the woman stated before, “You probably have the most kills of all the assassins in the assembly. People call you the black monster. The shadow prince. The black shadow. The blue eyed devil. There are a million other nicknames. There was an entire department dedicated to stopping you when you were active.”
“I’m dating a star assassin,” I realize giving Urge a bump, “Might have to watch my back. Someone might try to steal you.”
Urge gives me a nervous look probably not realizing I’m joking. We get to the front of the office where the woman puts in a code. She stops at the door. Someone else walks over to us from behind the steel door. It’s Denny.
“You’re a little late agents,” he states with a cold stare but then gives me a slight little smile, “I’m glad you decided to stay.”
I nod, “Thanks.”
“Right this way,” he says touching my shoulder, “Everyone is waiting for you in the Steel room.”
Urge burns holes into Denny’s hand when he touches me. Denny releases me realizing that Urge is giving him that kind of stare. He turns and quickly walks away.
Urge looks over at me, “I still might kill him.”
I’m not sure if he’s joking or not. I give him a nervous smile. We end up walking into what is definitely a steel room. It looks like some sort of mission headquarters. There are monitors everywhere. The room with a million monitors. People are running back and forth. It’s busy as hell and seems a little chaotic, to say the least. This is definitely not the Assembly. By how chaotic it is, it definitely makes sense why the Assembly always had the upper hand against these people.
Denny leads us to another table, “You’re team is right over there. Go have a seat. I’ll be over in a minute to debrief you on the situation at hand.”
“I knew my boys would make it,” Allure states from the table giving us a wink.
I am given all this paperwork to fill out. It’s piles of it. I’m already ignored. At least this seems legit though. It isn’t like the Assembly. This literally would be more like a job than anything. I’d take working in the kitchen any day as opposed to this. What I’m surprised about however is Urge. He sits down and starts filling out the paperwork almost immediately.
Was Urge excited?
Craving gets up and actually gives me a hug, “Thanks.”
I want to tell Craving that I didn’t stay for him but there’s no point. I’m staying anyway. I notice that Love doesn’t seem that happy to see me. He’s still sitting down. At first I think he is going to completely not acknowledge me but instead, he crosses his arms, rolls his eyes and sighs.
“Guess people’s values aren’t what they used to be,” Love states, crossing his arms, “Everyone’s wishy washy.”
I ignore him. I ignore him because we aren’t alone at the table. The person standing there is a handsome man. A lot of people at the Assembly were attractive and maybe that’s why I knew immediately that this guy was a man from the Assembly.
Denny walks the boy over, “Actually there is one more member to your team. We recruited him many years ago. He actually gave us the idea to use old members of the Assembly.”
That was fishy. Why the hell was this guy here? Looking at him I knew he was a member of the Assembly. The age. The beauty. I guess our team wasn’t the first members of the Assembly that SOS tried to recruit. Was he the only other one?
“We work alone,” I explain.
Craving gives me a hard little look, “Desire be nice.”
I was being nice. What the hell? We didn’t need another person on our team. My team was solid. We had worked together for years. They couldn’t just throw some random guy on a team with us. We all played our roles. We all had jobs. Why the hell did we need this strange guy?
I’m not the only one suspicious of him. Love raises an eyebrow, “He looks familiar.”
Craving jumps up being the horndog that he is. He damn near trips over himself getting to the boy, “Hey I’m Craving. And let me guess your codename. Sexy? Handsome? Charming?”
Craving was flirting hard and Love looked like he was ready to flip out. I kind of feel bad for Love but can’t help snickering a little bit. The boy is something for Love to be concerned about. He’s dark skin. His skin looks like dark chocolate. His eyes are narrow and slanted. His lips are full. He has more muscles than me but less than Urge. He has on a tight black shirt and tight black leather pants. He has a piercing on his lip. He looks edgy and almost mysterious in a way. Love rolls his eyes when he sees Craving tripping over himself to get in the boy’s face.
I almost want to laugh when Love starts acting jealous. It suits him right. Then I realize that Craving isn’t the only one getting in this boy’s face. There is someone else.
“Ego…” Urge states.
I’m shocked when they embrace. I’m shocked because Urge didn’t ‘embrace’ people. He didn’t embrace anyone but me actually. The fact that he is not only happy to see this guy but smiling blows my mind. They hug really tight.
They hug for a second.
What the fuck is going on?
Craving looks back at me. I wonder if he’s thinking the same thing. Who the FUCK is this guy hugging my fiancé like this?
Love starts breaking out into laughter. Allure looks a little embarrassed for me. I turn back to Urge. They are still hugging.
“I’ve missed you,” Ego says, “Oh my god…”
“I’ve missed you too man. Wow. I thought you were dead…”
“Eh-erm,” I clear my throat.
The two of them finally let go of each other. I don’t like it. I don’t like the hug. I don’t like that there was no room separating them while they hugged. I never heard of this Ego person. All I knew was that he was uncomfortably handsome and he was uncomfortably close to my fiancé.
“Ego---this is my fiancé Desire,” Urge states.
I reach out to shake Ego’s hand. He doesn’t take it. He acts like he doesn’t see it. I’m sure he does. A wide shocked face comes over him.
“Fiance?” Ego looks over at Urge, “Oh wow Urge. You just broke my heart.”
“Well you better fix it,” I respond bluntly before turning to Urge, “What is he talking about Urge?”
Urge looks at me. For the first time in forever Urge looks embarrassed. Urge is dark but his cheeks still end up getting a little bit red. His blue eyes flicker a little bit. I know he doesn’t know what to say right now. Why the hell was this guy making Urge so fucking uncomfortable? What the hell was it about this guy that was putting him on edge?
“Just friends. From back in the day.”
Craving and I look at one another. If anything I knew my best friend and I knew my best friend was defensive. Craving crosses his arms stands next to me and cocks his head to the side.
“Now Urge we all know you don’t got no goddam friends.”
“Mind your business.”
“Why you defensive? What you trying to hide?” Craving asks him.
Urge is sweating. I swear to God he is sweating right now. The idea that my fiancé is so nervous is making my stomach turn a little bit. Urge didn’t have friends. I was his life. I’d always been his life.
“Tell them Urgency,” Ego says.
“Just a nickname,” Ego says with a strong little laugh, “Our little nickname. I would call him Urgency. He would call me Egotistical. Should I tell them Urgency?”
“I thought you were dead. Tom killed you…” Urge states.
“No, he didn’t. I escaped,” Ego states.
"No one escapes the Assembly," Allure responds.
"I escaped," Ego responds with this cocky demeanor, "But now I'm back. God. Urgency. We have to catch up man."
He puts his muscular toned arm on my fiance.
"Urge come stand right here by me," I say.
Urge walks away from Ego. Ego seems annoyed that my fiance is listening to me. He seems disappointed. I don't like it.
“Desire can I talk to you in private for a minute?” Urge asks.
His breathing is heavy. I turn to Love. His laughing is growing louder. Craving is looking more and more pissed. Denny and Allure look like they would rather be anywhere else than here.
“No. Why private? Say it right here,” I respond.
I’m annoyed. Why was Urge making a big deal out of this? Who the hell was Ego to him? Why the hell was I in here feeling like this all of a sudden? Urge takes out a handkerchief. He wipes his forehead. I don’t get it. Urge could disarm bombs. He could take on squads of people singlehandedly. He could kill without blinking an eye. Why the fuck was this Ego guy making him nervous?
“I’ll tell him,” Ego says, “Before there was you. There was me. You weren’t the first person that Urge was engaged to.”
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com