Lyrical: Chapter 11


Zayn

I came here with a message from Jeb. I came here in search of Pen with his words burning on my tongue and his wrath bleeding from the wound on my chest.

I came here to destroy Pen.

Only she destroyed me.

Every step, every move, every twist, turn, and leap cut me deep. Far more than the two-inch slash to my chest. That’s just a superficial wound in comparison, something I’ve become accustomed to, but seeing her like this, so raw, in pain, bleeding from her soul, that hurts me so much more.

It makes me view things differently. It makes me question everything.

Once again she cut me, just like she had Friday night at Grim’s club.

Her power to wield her emotions and weaponize dance floors me.

She’s incredible.

And she’ll be the death of me. Of us.

I’m here to do a job. I’m here for our crew.

But Pen is a problem we hadn’t foreseen.

Stupid.

Of course she would be here at the Academy. This place was always her dream, and despite every damn thing going against her, despite a mother who never supported her, she’s made it happen anyway. She’s grabbed her future by the balls, and I admire her for it even if in the beginning I’d believed that Jeb had pulled strings for her to be here. I can see now that wasn’t the case. Why the fuck we didn’t factor her into the equation is beyond me, and now we’re all fucking struggling. The end goal doesn’t seem so clear anymore.

Nothing is clear anymore.

Reluctantly, I release her from my hold and lower her to her feet. My hand is slick with her heat, with her release, and my cock is desperate for the same. But this moment isn’t about me, it’s about her. Pen.

My Pen.

She holds so many secrets. Secrets I need to unravel. I see them in her eyes. I tasted them on her tongue. I mourn for the time when we were open with one another, when she trusted me enough with her hurt and her pain. I want her to trust me again, but the second I give her the message from Jeb she will shore up her defences and harden herself to me.

I hate that.

I fucking hate that, but I have little choice.

Actually, who am I fucking kidding? I do have a choice. I could have told Jeb to take his message and shove it up his fucking arse, but I didn’t. I played the game even when the prize wasn’t so clear anymore. We’ve always had a goal in sight, and Pen was never part of that. Xeno never fails to remind us all of that fact over and over again. The fucking prick.

With flushed cheeks and the dignity of a queen, Pen looks at me, her gaze searching. “What do you want, Zayn?” she asks again. Her body is trembling and it’s all I can do not to pull her back into my arms and hold her like I often did when we were kids. It takes monumental effort to keep my distance when all I want is to close the gap and end this fucking torment for good.

“Zayn, what do you want?” And I know she isn’t talking about the here and now, she’s asking about the future, about what’s really in the depths of my fucked-up heart.

You.

God fucking damn it, I want you, Pen.

That’s what I want. That’s what we all want, even Xeno, if he would only just let himself acknowledge that. Of course, I don’t give her the honest truth. Instead, I deliver the message from Jeb because that’s what I have to do.

“I’m here to pass on a message. Jeb said that your dance, whilst entertaining, wasn’t what he had in mind. That he hasn’t forgotten your conversation and you’d be mindful not to piss him off again.” I swallow hard, hating the way her gaze flashes with anger, then with fear. But more than that, I hate the fact that I still have her scent on my fingers whilst I deliver this message, that the connection we just shared, that her coming apart is tainted now. That it will always be tainted by him, by Jeb.

“And?” she asks.

“You no longer work at Rocks—”

“But I need the money…” she whispers after a beat, even though there’s an acceptance in her gaze. She expected this, and for some reason that scores a deeper cut into my flesh than the knife wound that sits there now. She knew something like this was coming. Pen hasn’t had it easy, but like with everything in her life, she handles it. The least I can do is the same. Drawing in a deep breath, I continue, loathing the fact that she’s so obviously been struggling these past three years. She’s thin, drawn, tired. She’s barely hanging on and I’m a bastard for making this worse for her. We’re all cocksuckers for making this harder for her.

“There’s more, right?” She jerks her chin and squares her shoulders. I nod.

“Jeb said that you are too valuable to be working behind a bar. That your skills are required elsewhere.” I try to hide my distaste, but fail. He’d talked about her like a commodity, like a piece of damn meat and that had angered me more than I thought it would. I’ve spent three years hardening my heart. Three years forgetting the girl I loved. It took me a long time to not think about her every second of every fucking day, wondering what she was doing with Jeb. Whether he was treating her well, whether he made her smile like we did, whether he loved her like I did, I do. I turned my pain into anger. I fucked other women, I cut people, broke them and didn’t fucking blink, but a couple of weeks in her presence and I’m questioning everything I’ve become.

“Malik Brov…?” she croaks, swallowing hard.

“No! Not him. I made sure of that,” I say fiercely. No fucking way. Not that man. Not him.

“What do you mean?” she snaps, confusion in her gaze.

“He offered a price for you, Pen, a high price that I paid for in blood, my blood.”

“What are you saying? I don’t understand.”

I undo my jacket and point at the stain of my blood. I lied when I said it’s only a scratch. The wound had to be sewn up, a two inch gash that fucking stings like a bitch. It’ll scar, just like all the rest. “Jeb cut me for disagreeing with him. I let him.”

“Zayn, oh my god!” She reaches for me then, cupping my face this time and I swear to fuck my knees almost give out at the tenderness I see in her gaze.

“Don’t do that. Don’t pity me. That was my choice. I knew the consequences of disagreeing with him. I’m used to it. ”

“Used to it—?” Her hands fall away, and I see her connecting the dots. I’m scarred not just from the knife fights I’ve been in, but from the years of punishment I’ve had to endure at the hands of Jeb. Blood ties, blood binds, blood weeps. Anyone else would be dead for the insolence, this is nothing. He cuts me, I get to see another day.

It is what it is.

The Breakers don’t know. They assume every cut is from a knife fight, and not me taking punishment for them, for any wrongdoing we make.

“So if not Malik, who?” she whispers.

“A deal was made with Grim,” Zayn explains.

“Grim?” Pen bites out, anger flashing.

“Yes, you will perform in the cage at her club with the other…”

Strippers?” she spits, her gaze narrowing on mine.

I nod tightly. Believe me, I fought against that decision too. I don’t want her paraded like that, I fucking don’t, but it was the lesser of two evils. Grim might be a tough bitch, but she has some morals at least. She won’t let anyone touch Pen. She treats her girls well. She helped Asia and Eastern get out of a sticky situation with the King. Of course, she’d deny it. Grim hasn’t got to where she is today by being an open book. She’s secretive, private and an astute business woman. Beast is one of the handful of people on this planet that she truly trusts. Besides, whilst Grim gave Jeb the impression Pen would be stripping, there was a look in her eyes that told me that perhaps that isn’t exactly what she has planned, and I hope to fuck I’m right about that.

“Grim might have a reputation that precedes her, but I don’t believe she’d let anything happen to you—” I say, hating myself for even allowing this to happen.

“Fuck!”

Pen spins on her feet and strides over to the table, snatching up her mobile phone and the apple that sits there. It looks bruised and on the turn. I’d throw it away, but Pen clutches hold of it like it’s the last thing she has left to eat. Looking at her, reading between the lines, it probably is. I stride over to her, and rest my hands gently on her shoulder. She flinches, but she doesn’t pull away. Her head drops, and words fail me. I was always so good at finding the right thing to say. But now? Now I have nothing but hollow words that mean jack shit when all is said and done. After a beat, she lifts her head and locks gazes with me in the mirror opposite.

“I’ll do it.”

And even though she really doesn’t have a choice in the matter, that Jeb will force her regardless, I can’t help but ask myself why she’s agreeing to it. It’s a mystery I intend on getting to the bottom of, because if I’ve realised anything since returning it’s this: my uncle has something over her, and I intend on finding out what. York and Dax are on the same wavelength as me, and after Friday night’s fucking mess seem as invested in finding out what the fuck is going on. Being in Pen’s orbit again is affecting them both and causing issues between us all and what we came here to do.

Xeno, however… Well, let’s just say that he’s being a dick. He’s determined to keep Pen at arm’s length. He refuses to back down. He’s single-minded in his goal. That’s what’s most important to him, and that fucking pisses me off because for a long time, it was the most important thing to me to. Not anymore.

“When do I start?” Pen eventually asks, turning to face me. I can see her mentally shaking herself. She used to do it a lot when we were kids. Pen would straighten her spine, raise her chin, and hold her shoulders back. Fierce, brave, fucking courageous.

Damn, I’ve missed her.

Ignoring the tightness in my throat, I dig into my jacket pocket and pull out Grim’s card. Pen takes it, her eyes flicking to the black card with gold lettering. “Call Grim. She’ll fill you in.”

“Fill you in on what?” A bubbly voice asks. Clancy.

Fuck. I wanted more time alone with Pen. I growl under my breath. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Clancy, but her timing sucks. For a split second Pen stiffens as she struggles with how to answer. Then she flicks her gaze from me to Clancy behind us, and plasters a smile on her face. A beautiful, fake, smile.

“Hey girl,” she grins, her face lighting up even when her eyes don’t shine. I watch her tuck away the card into the pocket of her joggers.

“Hey girl? Don’t you hey girl me!” Clancy exclaims, her words tempered by her laughter. “You’ve been ignoring me. I should be chucking your arse to the curb!”

“But you won’t because you love me, right?” Pen asks, tipping her head to the side. There’s a moment of apprehension in her gaze that only I can see before she steps around me, ending any further conversation between us. Not that I could say much with Clancy here anyway.

“Of course I love you! I know a good thing when I see it and I intend on keeping it close. Besides, I don’t do easy,” Clancy responds, her words clearly directed at me.

I grit my jaw, refusing to rise to the bait whilst simultaneously wondering what she knows. I flick my gaze to Pen, but she’s well and truly shut-down. I see how it is.

“Well, I got shit to do,” I say abruptly, twisting on my feet and striding to the door. Clancy gives me an incredulous look as I pass her by.

“Nice outfit,” she smirks, her curiosity piqued.

Ignoring Clancy, I stop at the door and turn to face Pen. She meets my gaze with a steady look of her own. A few minutes ago I had my hand cupping her pussy and my tongue fucking her mouth. She’d fallen apart in my arms and opened herself to me, giving me a way in, but you wouldn’t know it looking at her now. My ego takes a hit at her ability to shut off her emotions so well, but if she thinks this is over, she’s got another thing coming.

Fuck that.

She’s not shutting the door on me, not again. Now that I’ve opened her up a crack, I’m going to do anything I can to keep it that way. If Xeno has an issue with that, he can have a conversation with my fist. He’s been begging for an excuse to fight. Right now I’m happy to indulge the bastard.

“We’ll continue this conversation later,” I say, brooking no arguments, because this isn’t an invitation to talk, it’s a promise.

One I intend on keeping.

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