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Freestyle: Chapter 10

Present Day

Just like the night of my first kiss, my heart pounds in my chest trying to search for a way out of this situation. Back then Dax would always come to my aid, whether I wanted it or not. Perhaps it was because he understood the kind of home I came from, perhaps it was because he could reclaim some of his own power by protecting me. Either way, he was always the one who came to my rescue first. That’s what makes this so hard. I never wanted to battle against any of my Breakers, and especially not Dax who gave me my first kiss and allowed my heart to blossom with love.

“Braaap, braaap. Here comes the big man himself. It’s TEARDROP DAAAAXXX!” Little Dynamite calls over the mic.

My eyes snap open, zeroing in on Dax as he strolls onto the dance floor, bare chested, powerful, and oozing a dangerous kind of sex appeal that makes my mouth go dry and my knees, god-fucking-damnit, weak. His slacks are low on his hips, showing off his prominent v-muscle. He was always built and the biggest of the guys both in height and width. That hasn’t changed. His biceps are as large as my thighs, his shoulders broad, his chest muscles defined, and his abs ripped. Somehow he’s developed into a beast of a man that has all the thirsty bitches in the crowd cawing over him. I don’t blame them. There’s no denying his physical prowess, but his physique isn’t what gives me pause.

It’s the artwork tattooed onto every inch of skin he has on show.

The only part of his body left uncovered is his face and head. Dax’s whole upper body and torso, from the slow slung waistband of his tracksuit bottoms, up his arms and neck are covered in beautifully detailed tattoos. It’s too dark to get a good look at the smaller ones, but there’s no mistaking the fallen angel on the centre of Dax’s chest with dark black wings that spread out across his pecs and up across his shoulders and upper arms. I know I’m staring, but I can’t help it.

Here’s my dark angel.

None of the others knew I called him that. It was just something between us and now he has a piece of our love tattooed eternally onto his chest. Blinking back the tears threatening to pour from my eyes, I grit my jaw.

God fucking damn it. This is emotional warfare.

Forcing myself to focus, and as is customary in battles, I keep my gaze fixed firmly on Dax, hoping I’m not giving anything away. It’s a good opportunity to check each other out as we circle the dance floor trying to psyche the other out. Dax locks his gaze with mine. His face is void of any emotion, but that isn’t what cuts me the most. It’s the betrayal I see swimming within the murky depths of his eye.

Well, fuck him.

Fuck. Them. All.

I wasn’t the one who broke us first. I wasn’t the one who decided that dance wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t enough. This is utter horseshit.

I’m the first one to make my move.

I zone out. It’s something I do when I’m at my most vulnerable. I look into myself and find my strength in the one thing that has got me through life, dance. I allow movement to take over my body because it’s never been the music that drives me, it’s always been the dance.

Freestyling for me is as easy and as natural as breathing.

This is my battlefield, and I don’t fucking lose.

Without even thinking, I form a series of hip-hop moves that are timed perfectly with the beat of the song. I pop and lock, drop and spin. Vaguely, I can hear the crowd go wild, but it’s as though I’m underwater. They’re muffled, distant. I make shapes with my body, twisting my arms up and around my head so it looks like I’m double jointed, when in fact, I’m just well versed in this kind of dance and know how to move my body just the right way. With sweat pouring down my back and strands of hair sticking to my cheeks, I throw a front flip, landing in front of Dax. I jerk my chin, looking directly into his eyes, knowing exactly what he sees in mine: challenge and blind fury.

Sound rushes back in as the crowd loses it around me. Even Little Dynamite bigs me up, impressed with my moves, but none of that matters. None of it. Instead of cursing me out like is customary in these battles, like I expect, Dax leans over and brushes his lips against my cheek. A sweet kiss that hurts me more than I can explain.

“Dax,” I mutter. Forgetting we’re in a club full of people, my hand lifts automatically to his chest. He captures my wrist, folding his fingers over the exact same spot Xeno had gripped me earlier and squeezes tightly, his whole demeanour changing.

“You lost the right to touch me like that three years ago. Next time you try, I won’t be so lenient,” he snarls, then rips himself away from me and eviscerates my heart with his dance moves.

Dax was always the least confident dancer of us all but watching him now, that’s changed. He’s stunning, articulate with his movements. Watching a big guy move the way he does seems like an impossible feat and yet he’s as light on his feet as I am.

Like the rest of us, Dax danced hip-hop because it was a cool thing to do, but unlike the other guys, contemporary dance was his first love, just like mine. We bonded over the fluidity of the dance and the way it allowed us both to express our inner turmoil. It suited us both. Seeing Dax move now, interspersing hip-hop with contemporary has me hurting in a way I never dreamed possible. He circles me, using up the whole space, and just like a predator closing in on its prey, he stalks me with perfect poise and a rage that has me cowering. Dax is articulate with his pain, with every movement, each one telling our story so succinctly that you’d have to be stupid not to understand what he’s saying.

When he lands a perfect leap into the air and finishes with happy feet, a signature move in hip-hop and one we all used to love as a crew, I crumble. Dax knows where to slide the knife in and twist, and even though my face is empty of emotion, just like his is, we both know that he’s crossed the other invisible line we drew all those years ago.

Without saying a goddamn word, Dax’s pretty much told everyone our story. The crowd might not be able to completely understand it, but I can, and it hurts that he’s revealed who we were so publicly to everyone here.

Dax steps towards me, sweat beading on his shaved head and rolling down his temple. He jerks his chin, waiting for me to fight back. I back away, my chest heaving as I shake my head. Turning towards Little Dynamite, I slide my hand across my throat indicating that I’ve conceded the win. I’m in way too much of an emotional state to even consider continuing. Dax was a better dancer. Everyone knows it, including me.

Tonight we battled, and I lost.

“Yo, arseholes, we have a new winner of the singles battle! Teardrop Dax has torn up the dance floor, laid down the gauntlet, and handed Pen her tight little arse.”

The crowd loses their shit, but I don’t care if I’ve been beaten. I just want to get the fuck out of here and as far away from the Breakers as possible. I move to walk away, but Dax grasps my elbow.

“Not this time, Kid,” he growls as I snap my head around to look at him.

For a fraction of a second his gaze meets mine and his eyes flare with pain, before he snatches his hand away and strides off across the dance floor towards Zayn, Xeno and York who’ve appeared from the shadows like spectres in the night. Zayn chucks Dax a t-shirt and he swiftly pulls it on before the four of them melt into the crowd, leaving a clear message to me and everyone in the club.

I’m no longer part of their crew. I’m no longer their Pen.

But I knew that anyway.


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