Dax wins the fight. His opponent didn’t stand a chance and is currently sprawled out on the floor with a barely recognisable face. Two men are checking him over as Dax is declared the winner and the room erupts. Some are cheering and others are clearly unhappy, slamming their fists on the table, probably losing thousands of pounds backing the wrong fighter.
“Never fucking loses,” Jeb remarks, knocking back the remains of his drink with a sly smile.
It was a brutal fight, violent but swift.
Dax didn’t hold back. He went in with aggression and speed and didn’t stop until his opponent hit the deck ten minutes later. There’s blood everywhere, darkening the already stained canvas and gathering around the guy’s head as blood oozes from his mouth and nose. Dax got off lightly with a swelling cheekbone and a split eyebrow that’s dripping blood, but is nowhere near as injured as the fighter out cold on the floor. The scene makes my stomach roil. The crowd loved it. I fucking hated every second. It might have been a quick fight, but it lasted an eternity for me.
Fighting to survive, to protect someone you care about is one thing. Fighting to inflict pain, to maim or kill, for dirty money, is something altogether different. I can’t correlate the man I see before me in the cage to the boy I bonded with as kids. Yes, he always had a violent streak when pushed too far, but that was born out of necessity, never desire. Underneath all of the provoked aggression was just a kid desperate for a home that provided safety, and parents who loved him. Right now, that boy is nowhere to be found, because the man I see before me enjoyed every second of this fight. Like a caged animal, Dax paces back and forth, shaking out his arms, rolling his head on his shoulders and fucking grinning at the audience with blood-stained teeth.
Every punch he threw reminded me of the ones I endured at the hands of my brother. The sound of Dax’s knuckles splitting his opponents skin, and the crack of bones breaking beneath the force of his wrath stirring up memories that I’ve tried so fucking hard to bury. I might not be a stranger to getting into scrapes over the years, I stuck up for myself on the street when I needed to, and fought for the ones I loved, but I never, ever enjoyed it.
“See, fucking brutal,” Jeb whispers against my ear. I stiffen, revolted by the sheer joy in his voice and the salacious way his words caress my skin.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I suddenly say, wanting to remove my mask, to breathe deeply and settle my nerves as anxiety and memories from that night three years ago threaten to drown me. The blood on the canvas, the glowing red of the skulls on their masks, the heady violence in the air proves too fucking much. My skin crawls, my teeth grind, and my fingers curl into fists as my nails bury into the skin of my palm, seeking pain to numb the fear. If I don’t find a moment to control the crawling fingers of trauma, I’ll fucking crumble. I refuse to allow myself to do that. Not here, not now.
Zayn stands, Jeb getting up with him. Xeno and York watching us both.
“I’ll take her, Sir,” Jeb says with amusement.
Zayn nods once, then sits back down. I can feel them watching us as Jeb leads me to a darkened corner of the warehouse. Pushing through a door in front of me, Jeb steps into a bathroom that is surprisingly well decorated for a warehouse in the middle of nowhere.
I rip off my face mask and breathe in deeply, sucking in a lungful of air. “What the hell is going on?” I ask Jeb, forgetting for a moment that he is in fact the leader of the Skins and not Zayn who’s just acting like it.
“I thought that would be obvious,” he chuckles, leaning against the vanity.
“I don’t mean the fight…” I grind out.
“You need to loosen up, pretty girl. Violence is in our blood,” he remarks, removing his mask and gloves and avoiding my question as he pulls out a small cellophane bag from his pocket that’s filled with white powder. Jeb dips his little finger into the baggy and rubs the powder along his gums. “This is fucking good shit. Newest delivery of cocaine from your dear brother, David. How is he by the way?”
“Much the same,” I say vaguely, not willing to get into a conversation about my brother. Not when I have so many questions. Nothing tonight is making any sense. Why is Zayn pretending to be Jeb when everyone’s identity is hidden anyway? Grim appears to have a handle on the situation. There won’t be any blood spilt tonight other than in the cage. Then again, what the fuck do I know? Anything could happen.
“You managed to calm your brother down?” Jeb asks me, drawing me out of my head.
“Good.” Stepping close to me, Jeb pushes back a strand of sweaty hair away from my forehead. “You know I appreciate you playing along tonight…”
“Playing along?” I ask, not liking the look of glee in his eyes.
“Zayn is doing a fucking excellent job as my doppelganger, don’t you think?”
“Why though? I don’t understand. Everyone’s identity is hidden.”
“You don’t need to understand, pretty girl. You just need to put that mask back on and follow me,” he says, pulling his own mask back on, the red neon flickering on the moment he pulls it over his head.
When we head back into the warehouse, Dax is no longer in the cage. Instead there are five topless women dancing provocatively to the music that’s now playing out over the speakers. It’s a low, sultry beat with a sensual base that vibrates up through the floor. The atmosphere has changed dramatically. It’s like all that violence has bled into a different kind of passion. Debauchery unravels around us as a dense kind of heat envelopes the space. In the corners of the warehouse fires are lit in oil barrels, and from the ceiling women dressed in nothing more than lingerie are hanging from lengths of black silk, performing acrobatics that would impress me if there weren’t people fucking at every table.
Everywhere I look there are women spread out across the surfaces, their masks askew, their short dresses lifted up to reveal peachy arses and glistening cunts. Some of the gangsters are feasting on their women, their tongues deep inside of them, and some are fucking their women from different angles whilst others look on, their hands firmly gripped around their cocks, jacking off. One of the female gangsters has a man on his knees in front of her, whilst he eats her out.
“It’s a fucking orgy,” I blurt out, cold dread covering my skin.
“No, just a damn good party,” Jeb laughs, his lascivious voice making my skin crawl.
Stopping for a moment, he grips my arm, pulling me up sharp. “You know you really did fuck the Breakers up, Penelope.”
“Don’t talk to me about fucking the Breakers up,” I snap, biting my tongue to prevent me from saying something that’s going to get me killed.
“They were never quite the same after you dumped them. I didn’t realise quite how special you were to them until that night,” he continues.
“I didn’t want to hurt them.”
“But you did.”
“I had no choice,” I grind out, not wanting to have this conversation with him of all people.
He waves his hand in the air, dismissing my remark as we traverse through the tables once more. “They were always so reluctant to really let their true nature out when they were friends with you, but the moment you screwed them over they didn’t hold back. They show no mercy to our enemies, and I have you to thank for that. Without you as their conscience they were set free.”
“Set free?” I scoff, wanting to hurt him with words brimming on my tongue, but knowing it would be a pointless exercise. Jeb has no conscience. He doesn’t give a shit. Nothing I could say would make him feel any guilt and anything I do will only give him ammunition to hurt me further. So, I hold my tongue.
“Anyway, I decided that they deserved a little RNR for all the work they’ve done for me over the years. When I heard Grim was throwing one of her infamous parties, I figured it’d be a good way to let them know just how much I appreciate them.”
“Well, aren’t you the perfect boss. Illegal fighting and live porno, just what the doctor ordered,” I grind out under my breath.
Jeb laughs so loudly that he draws the attention of the gangsters sitting at the table closest to us. They’re wearing white skull masks that cover only half their faces. One of them looks at me, his gaze travelling lazily up from my feet to my chest, then stopping on Jeb’s tight grip on my arm. His gaze flicks up and he smiles at me. All his teeth are gold. Every single one.
Ignoring his salacious gaze, I snatch my arm out of Jeb’s hold and stride towards our table on the other side of the warehouse. He catches up with me, grasping my arm once more. “I have big, big plans for you, Penelope, and I’m willing to overlook your sassy mouth tonight. But test me, and I’ll make this so much worse for you.”
“I want to go home,” I reply, firmly. My chest is heaving with anger and that acidic trickle of fear I always feel around Jeb. The debt I owe is a ball and chain that imprisons me, something that I won’t ever be able to escape until it’s paid off in full. The problem is, I still don’t know the price.
“Home? You’re not going anywhere tonight, Penelope. You, sweetheart, are going to put on the best show of your life,” Jeb explains with an evil smile.
“My best show?”
“That’s right, pretty girl. The leader of the Skins can’t come to a party like this and not partake now, can he? What would everyone think, hmm? Besides, Zayn is my blood, and I owe him a gift. Tonight that gift is you.”
My head snaps around to meet Jeb’s gaze. “No, please,” I whisper, backing away from him as realisation dawns.
“Zayn jumped at the chance to have you. Perhaps he’ll fuck you out of his system for good. We’ll just have to see.”
“That bastard!” I seethe.
That apology in the limo was because he knew what was going to happen here tonight. He fucking knew and he thought that would be enough to absolve him from his guilt.
How could he agree to this? Are the rest of the Breakers here so they can fucking watch? Is this some twisted, fucked up punishment to get back at me?
“I must say, I’m mighty curious about how this will all pan out. I never gave my permission for the others to enjoy you. Perhaps I’ll let them all have a go at fucking your sweet pussy tonight.”
“Fuck you,” I bite out, my voice cracking and my stupid, stupid heart shattering with the threat. Stepping away from Jeb, I ready myself to run. He tuts, wagging his finger and shaking his head, loving every second.
“Don’t even think about running from me.”
But I don’t listen, I do run.
Kicking off my ridiculous heels, I sprint through the crowded space, shoving people out of the way and careening past people fucking like animals. My body thunders with adrenaline that pours inside my veins and blurs my vision. Tears prick at my eyes as the full weight of what’s about to happen crashes over me.
But I’m not fast enough. No one gets away from Jeb. No one.
He moves with lightning speed and before I know it, my arms are pinned behind my back roughly as he brushes his lips against my ear.
“Consider this the first down payment of your debt, pretty girl.”
The story continues in
Academy of Stardom #2