“Well, we seem to have a little issue now, don’t we, pretty girl?” Jeb says as he kicks the dead man’s body off the seat and places the chair in front of me, sitting down.
He’s still holding the gun. It dangles from his fingers carelessly as a pool of dark red blood spreads over the wooden floor getting closer and closer to my feet. I look at him with wide-eyes, fear leaving me mute.
“You know it’s a shame because I hear my nephew has taken quite a liking to you. Putting a bullet in your head won’t do good things for our relationship,” Jeb muses, cocking his head to the side and running his fingers over my cheek. My jaw begins to chatter, and he grips my chin tightly in his hold. “Then there’s the small matter of you seeing something you shouldn’t. This bastard was shot because he was supposed to be keeping an eye out and preventing someone like you from stumbling across something you have no business seeing. It’s quite a predicament, don’t you think? So, what should I do, huh?” He lifts the gun and places the cold, hard, metal edge against my cheek.
“P-please, don’t kill me. I’ll do anything…” I stutter, slamming my mouth closed as he leans forward, the gun biting into my skin. He looks into my eyes for a long, long time. His eyes are as pitch black as Zayn’s, but there’s no life in them. When I look into Zayn’s eyes I see stars, when I look into Jeb’s I see nothing but a void as black and final as death.
“Funnily enough, I believe you.” Jeb suddenly jerks back, removing the gun and throwing it onto the table. I flinch, expecting it to go off. It doesn’t.
“Safety’s back on, pretty girl,” Jeb says with a smile that’s far too dark to be friendly.
“So, how are we going to play this, huh? You look like the kind of girl who can keep a secret. Can you keep a secret, Penelope? That is your name, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I confirm. He can call me what the fuck he wants as long as I’m still alive to hear it.
“You keep my little indiscretions a secret and I’ll let you toddle off back to the Breakers and keep my nephew happy. Provided you keep this quiet, then we’re all good. I’m happy, you’re happy, my nephew is happy.”
“I-I can’t,” I stutter.
“What do you mean you can’t?” Jeb spits out, reaching for the gun once more.
“My b-brother, he threatened to kill my little sister if I stayed friends with the Breakers. I-I have to break up with them, tonight. He’s going to kill her if I don’t,” I sob, tears falling freely now. I swipe at them, forcing anger into my heart so that fear doesn’t make me look weak.
“Did he now? Why am I not surprised?” Jeb says, lifting his foot and placing it on the dead’s man’s back. “Your brother is volatile and has already expressed his dislike of you hanging out with my nephew and the Breakers. I can’t see the problem myself. Then again, no one quite knows what the fuck goes on in David’s head at the best of times.”
“I hate him,” I seethe. No truer words were spoken and Jeb, being the kind of man he is, recognises that powerful emotion all too well. Hate fuels violence and violence fuels hate. A vicious cycle that people like Jeb thrive in.
“I can see that. Thing is, I’d offer to put a bullet in David’s head myself if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s exceptionally good at his job. Business is booming and I owe a lot of that success to David. Of course, I’d never tell him that. So, I really need to keep him on my side. Hmm…” Jeb taps his chin, thoughtful for a moment.
“He can’t hurt my sister… Please, she’s just a kid. Isn’t there anything you can do? Even if I walked away from the Breakers he’d still find a way to hurt her, to hurt me. I know it. I don’t want to lose them, but I can’t lose my sister. I can’t.” I’m shaking so violently now that the tip of my trainer slides into the pool of blood. I yank my foot away, holding back the puke threatening to break free from my mouth.
Jeb nods, watching me closely. “The way I see it, keeping away from the Breakers is your only option. David is a man of his word. I know that. He will kill your sister if you break your promise. Now, I can deal with Zayn’s broken heart. All he’ll need is a few women to fuck and he’d be over you, but I sure as fuck don’t need a little girl’s murder on my hands.” He laughs raucously and I flinch. This isn’t funny. None of this is fucking funny.
“Will you help me? I’ll keep your secret. I swear to you I will never, ever, tell a soul about anything I saw today. I’ll do whatever you want, I swear it.”
Jeb nods. “Isn’t it ironic. Here I was thinking that I’m going to be indebted to you and now you appear to be indebted to me. Funny how that goes.”
“Please. I’ll do anything,” I repeat, determined to save Lena’s life even if that means sacrificing my own happiness. I need to get out of this room and back home to my sister. I need to hold her and know that she’s going to be safe.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Tonight, I’m going to secure your sister’s safety and send your brother away in exchange for your silence. I’ve got contacts in Mexico and have been looking to widen my net. Your brother is going to run my business over there. It’s a win-win on all counts.”
“Thank you.” I blow out a heavy breath, tears pricking my eyes.
“But, you’re still going to dump the Breakers because your brother won’t be any good to me if he’s obsessing over you and your friendship with them.” He rolls his eyes at the word, as though such a thing as friendship is insignificant. I suppose for a man like him, it is. “You’ll have no contact with them for this moment on.”
My heart fucking cracks, bleeding as heavily as the dead man on the floor, but I nod my head anyway. “Okay,” I whisper, dropping my head and gritting my teeth against the flow of tears that threaten.
“But you’re going to have to do something else for me too,” Jeb says, inching closer. He lifts my chin with his finger, forcing me to look at him. “You’re going to have to be mine.”
“Yours?” I choke, shock filtering into my features.
“Yes, mine. Don’t worry, Penelope, I don’t want to fuck you, but one day I’m going to call in this debt and you’re going to have to do what I ask. No fucking questions.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Tonight you’re going to go out there and walk away from the Breakers. Then you’ll work for me here at Rocks and when the time comes, I’ll call in the debt. If you fail to do what I ask, then your life and that of your sister is forfeit. Understand?”
“Yeah, I understand.”
By the time I make my way back into the main portion of the club with Jeb, it’s nearing closing time, even though the club is still pumping. I walk alongside Jeb in a daze, feeling numb. I’ve gone through a gamut of emotions this evening: joy, fear, hate, desperation, resignation.
Now I feel nothing.
Self-preservation has kicked in and I’ve buried every thought, every memory of the last three years with the Breakers just so I can survive the night and do what I must.
We walk through the crowd, stopping periodically so that Jeb can greet members of his crew and business acquaintances. Every single one of them stare at me now with interest, noting how Jeb guides me through the crowd with his hand on my lower back. Finally we reach the booth where the Breakers are sitting. Xeno notices me first, standing abruptly but the second his gaze meets Jeb, he stops dead in his tracks. I drop my gaze, not able to look at the fire burning in Xeno’s eyes.
“Good evening, boys. I understand congratulations are in order?”
“Yeah, we won the battle,” Zayn says carefully. I can hear the questions in his voice and when I glance up at him, his face is a mixture of relief and confusion. He keeps looking between Jeb and me. Next to him York is watching my face carefully, his face paling when his gaze meets mine. Dax is glaring at Jeb, his hands curled into fists on the table.
“Five grand is a nice tidy sum. I was just saying as much to Penelope here. We’ve had a good chat, haven’t we, pretty?”
I nod my head, forcing my face into a mask. “Yeah.”
“Well, I’m gonna grab us all a drink to celebrate. I’ll leave you to tell them the good news,” Jeb says, and I can see the delight in his eyes as he walks away knowing that I’m about to detonate a bomb on our relationship.
“What the actual fuck, Tiny?!” Xeno growls. “We’ve been looking for you everywhere and you’ve been with Jeb?”
“I bumped into him. He wanted to buy me a drink and I couldn’t say no to the leader of the Skins. You of all people should know that,” I fire back, trying to hint at the predicament I’m in without snitching. He just frowns, leaving me hanging.
“Sit down, Kid, before you fall down,” Dax remarks after a moment, his tumultuous gaze resting on my face. He knows something’s up and as much as I want to tell them all what’s happened, I can’t. I can’t.
“Too much to drink, that’s all,” I say, plastering a smile on my face as I slide into the booth next to Zayn, careful to keep my distance.
“What’s the good news you need to tell us about, Titch?” York’s ask, his voice cautious.
“Jeb has given me a job here at the club,” I respond immediately, plastering a fake smile on my face and hoping he can’t read the sheer fucking terror I’m feeling beneath the mask I wear. I’m positive I have droplets of that man’s blood covering my dark jeans.
“You don’t seem to be happy about it.” Xeno points out, narrowing his eyes at me.
“I am happy about it. I can earn some money working behind the bar for a few hours on a weekend night and then dance the rest of the time. It’s a no brainer.” I fall silent, stuffing my hands beneath my thighs so they can’t see them trembling.
Silence descends and I worry my lip not knowing how to bring up the devastating news that we can no longer be friends. Ever. Any minute now, Jeb will return, and he’ll have expected me to have done the deed. I glance over at the bar, noticing that Jeb is currently talking to one of his crew. Drawing in a shaky breath I return my attention to the Breakers.
“There’s something I need to say,” I begin, my voice trembling so much that I have to cough to keep it steady.
“Wait! Before you say a word, we wanted to give you this,” Zayn says quickly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small black jewellery box, placing it on the table. “Happy Birthday, Pen. This is from all of us.” There’s a smile in his voice that matches the happiness in his eyes. My heart fucking plummets. The evening had started so well, the perfect fucking birthday, winning the battle with the boys I love. Now, the only thing I know for certain is that Lena will remain safe so long as I do what Jeb and David asked.
“What’s this?” I whisper, staring at the box, knowing that whatever lies inside is going to break my heart for good.
“Open it, Titch,” York says gently, leaning over the table and pushing it towards me.
With trembling hands, I reach for the box and flip open the lid. Inside is a necklace, the thin gold change holding onto the word Breakers. My eyes immediately swim with tears, but I blink them back. If I cry, if I give in, I might just confess everything that’s transpired tonight, and my sister will die for it.
“Well, ain’t that pretty,” Jeb says, making me jump. I snap the lid closed on the jewellery box and grasp it in my hand as he places a tray of drinks on the table.
“So, have you told them the good news?” Jeb asks, a wicked smile on his face.
“Yeah, Pen said you offered her a job at Rocks,” Xeno comments, his face unreadable.
“That’s right.” Jeb turns to look at me and it’s clear from the sheer joy on his face that he knows I haven’t dumped them yet. He hands a drink to each of us, then takes a swig of his. “So what did I interrupt?”
“We were wishing Pen a happy birthday,” Zayn says cautiously.
“It’s your birthday?!” Jeb exclaims, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and pulling me against his side, planting a kiss on my head. I hear Dax growl, and out of the corner of my eye see York lay his hand on Dax’s arm. Xeno’s nostrils flare and Zayn looks utterly lost.
“Why didn’t you say so?”
Because my sicko brother was confessing his deepest desires and threatening my sister’s life, and you were busy shooting the brains out of one of your employees.
“It didn’t seem all that important at the time,” I whisper, cringing as his fingers start stroking up and down my arm.
“Tiny?” Xeno asks, looking at me with confusion.
I want to tell him what’s happened. I want to tell them all, but everything’s stacked against us. David won’t just kill me and my sister, he’ll kill them too if I defy him. Jeb’s no different. I tell the Breakers about his secret then we’re all dead. That man’s lifeless body is proof enough that Jeb has no qualms ending someone’s life without any thought or care. He didn’t even flinch.
“What, Xeno?” Jeb snaps as the tension rises. He’s getting bored and I’m running out of time.
“I have a question for Pen, do you mind…?” he asks Jeb, maintaining the level of respect Jeb has come to expect from his crew members.
“Whatever…” Jeb waves his hand and leans back in his seat. He’s fucking loving this, and I hate him. I hate him as much as I hate my brother for putting me in this position.
“Tiny, you remember what I asked you to do?” he says, staring at me intently, just like the others are doing.
“Yes,” I whisper, still clutching the necklace in my hand. My heart thunders painfully. I know where this is going and it’s killing me. Right now, part of me wishes that Jeb had shot me because this, this is too fucking hard.
“It was a mistake. You don’t have to do that anymore. You can have what you want, Tiny.”
There’s so much hope in his eyes, in all their eyes and I can’t help it, my lip starts to wobble, my eyes tearing up. I think about our friendship, about my love for them all. I think about my innocent little sister oblivious to the threat hanging over her head. I think about my brother and his sick, twisted heart. I think about the man with his brains blown out in a room not far from where we’re sitting now, and I think about Jeb’s threat. Knowing I have no other choice, I take a deep breath and harden my heart so I can break theirs. It’s too late.
“No, we can’t. I’ve made my choice,” I say, placing the jewellery box back on the table and sliding it away from me.
“And what have you chosen, Titch?” York asks me, his voice even, steady, careful.
I press my eyes shut, forcing back the tears. “None of you. We’re over.”
“What?!” Zayn snaps, shock making his voice sharp, brittle, broken.
“You don’t mean that, Kid,” Dax adds. There’s a crack in his voice that cuts right into my heart.
“Titch…” York begins, but I refuse to look at him.
“It’s over. I’m done with you all.” I swallow, hardening my features and forcing down every last ounce of emotion deep inside. “This was never going to work. At least now you get to screw as many women as you like without fear of me getting in the way.” Bitterness seeps into my words, an ugly and cruel mistress.
“No!” Xeno’s fist crashes against the table, making me jump. “What are you doing?”
“I’m moving on. Isn’t this what you wanted?” I accuse, forcing myself to forget the fact that there’s a necklace sitting on the table that tells me otherwise.
Xeno presses his mouth into a hard line, shock rendering him speechless.
“Titch, what are you saying?” York shakes his head as though trying to clear his thoughts and get a hold of the situation, of me.
Biting on my tongue, I force myself to look at him and pour all of my hate for my brother and David into this one hard stare. He needs to believe me. They all do. “I don’t love any of you. I don’t think I ever really did. Don’t embarrass yourselves by chasing after me because I’m done. Understand? We. Are. Over.”
All four of them flinch, but I make sure to keep my emotions locked down. I don’t buckle under the weight of their obvious hurt, their shock. I refuse to acknowledge the angry tear glinting in Dax’s eye or the disappointment in York and Zayn’s stare, and I certainly don’t entertain the deep well of pain that emits from Xeno’s gaze.
“You heard her. Penelope has made her choice, haven’t you, pretty girl,” Jeb purrs, brushing his lips against the top of my head, before wrapping his arm around my shoulder and guiding me out of the booth. As we walk away, it feels as though every single person in the club is staring at us both. I bet they’re thinking the same thing as my Breakers. I’m Jeb’s now.
With a broken heart and a heavy soul I leave my Breakers behind.
I don’t look back at them, and they don’t follow.