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Lyrical: Chapter 13


After a busy day of lessons, throwing myself into learning new dance techniques and avoiding the Breakers, I head up to my flat to change. Monday is the only day of the week when I don’t share any lessons with them. Which is just as well, as I need to get my game face on ready for tonight’s group practice. The show must go on, right? Madame Tuillard and D-Neath don’t give a fuck if I’ve got issues with half of the dance crew and I need to show everyone I can be professional despite everything that’s happening right now. Like Tuillard said, there are a hundred dancers willing to take my spot in a heartbeat and I refuse to fuck this up. I have to focus on the end of year show. I need something positive to hold onto in this mire of shit I’m wading through.

That show is my golden ticket. That’s my future. My way out. It’s my first step into a career in dance that I’ve always dreamed of and worked towards my whole life. Maybe I’m just being naïve believing that, but I have to hold onto something, right?

My stomach growls as I climb the stairs to my flat, reminding me that yet again I’ve eaten nothing for breakfast or lunch, and all that’s keeping me going are two cups of cheap tea sweetened with sugar to give me a boost in energy that I lack these days. I’ve literally got ten pounds to my name and somehow that’s got to keep me going until I start work at Grim’s. I decide that my only option is to call my new boss and ask for an advance. It’s not as if I can back out of my agreement with her, so she knows I’ll be good for it. Stepping into my flat, I head into the main living area only to stop short when I see three shopping bags filled with food sitting on my kitchen counter.

“What the fuck?” I whisper, my mouth dropping open in shock.

Reaching for the first bag, I pull out three packets of pasta, several jars of sauces, bread, eggs, tea, coffee, and other essential items to make enough meals to last me until the end of the month. The next bag is filled with fruits and vegetables, and the third has snacks and crisps and all kinds of treats I’ve never been able to indulge in, making me squeal in delight. I pull out biscuits, bags of crisps and chocolate bars. It’s all so wrong, but oh so right. I pick up a pack of chocolate biscuits and shove one in my mouth, moaning around the explosion of taste. My stomach gurgles, practically doing the jig as it relishes the sugary goodness I’m feeding it. I grab another biscuit, this time chewing on it slowly, rather than shoving it into my face, and take a good look at all the goodies. Relief floods my veins making me feel almost lightheaded, or maybe that’s just the sudden rush of sugar.

“Clancy, you gorgeous wonderful woman.” I laugh out loud, not remotely cross that she’s somehow snuck into my flat to leave me all this stuff. Not only is she an amazing friend, she’s a freaking badass lockpicker to boot. Though I am beginning to worry about how easy it really is getting into my flat. I need to sort that shit out.

Noticing a piece of folded paper on the counter, I snatch it up grinning, but my growing smile freezes on my face when I recognise the handwriting. “Fuck,” I whisper, placing the half-eaten biscuit on the counter and unfolding the note, my hands shaking.


You will never go hungry again.

I’ve filled up your fridge too.

Eat first, then go look in your wardrobe.


No way! No fucking way. My throat constricts. Zayn bought me all of this. I grip the counter to steady myself, blinking back the sudden rush of tears that prick my eyes. Ignoring his command to eat first, and with hope fluttering in my heart, I walk towards the wardrobe. Attached to the glass mirror is another note that I hadn’t noticed when I entered.

This is the least I could do.

You deserve so much more, but this is a start.


I slide open my wardrobe and next to my clothes are a dozen hangers holding all sorts of dance gear. There are leggings, short and long-sleeved leotards, joggers, t-shirts, hoodies, even legwarmers. I flick through all of the items, my fingers running across the expensive dancewear. I’ve never owned anything as luxurious as these items. I’m used to hand-me-downs and second-hand clothes. I’m used to using what little spare money I have to buy from charity shops and cheap high street stores. All of this stuff is high-end dancewear that I’ve only ever dreamed of owning. It’s overwhelming. My gaze follows my hand as I touch every item reverently, my fingers finally landing on a black suit bag that’s been hung in the far corner of my wardrobe. There’s another note pinned to it.

Malik might be a dick, but he was right about one thing.

You dance with passion, with fire. You fucking slay me.

I’d willingly burn up in your flames, and suffocate in your ashes, if it meant I could hold you close again. If it meant you’d let me in.


“Zayn,” I whisper, needing him in a way I haven’t allowed myself to in a long time. He was always so good with words. He always knew what to say.

I might still feel pain at the way things ended between us, but after Zayn’s apology and our kiss I felt myself wanting to let him in. Even when he delivered Jeb’s message, I couldn’t hate him. He fought for me, protected me, and was cut by Jeb for his insolence. Now he’s backing up his actions by taking care of me in another way. I don’t know what this means for the rest of the Breakers, but at least Zayn’s showing me he’s not backing down, and that both fills me with happiness and dread because David’s threat still hangs over me. He remains like a spectre in the night, a monster under the bed, a nightmare just waiting to happen. He taints everything, even this moment of happiness.

Taking a deep breath and pushing all thoughts of David aside, I unzip the bag, refusing to let him ruin this moment of joy that is so rare these days. Inside is an absolutely stunning dress, the top half is a dark-grey silk held up by delicate straps edged with lace. The bodice is lightly boned and fitted, but it’s the skirt that takes my breath away. It’s made up of layers of light, floaty, red, gold and orange tulle giving the effect of flames creeping up the dress.

Flames and ash, just like Zayn’s note.

I’ve never owned anything as perfect as this.

Taking the dress out of the bag I hold it up against me and look in the mirror. I know without even having to try it on that it will fit. My fingers run over the material as I hug it against my body. A flush creeps beneath my skin as more tears swim in my eyes and I allow myself to believe that sometimes we can fix what’s broken, that maybe hope is worth holding onto no matter how impossible a situation might seem.

Hanging the dress back up, my eyes trail to the bottom of the wardrobe and the dance shoes lined up there. I fall to my knees, picking up the ballet slippers, then the pointes. My fingers stroke over the silky material and I hug them to my chest before placing them back lovingly. My gaze falls to my ruined trainers and I yank them off my feet before picking up a pair of black dance sneakers and pulling them on. They fit like a glove. There is a pair of tap shoes too, as well as a couple of pairs of stretch canvas, half-sole shoes that will prevent the balls of my feet blistering when I dance. I won’t have to constantly wrap my feet up now that I have these. Wonderment fills me at Zayn’s generosity, his thoughtfulness, and his words.

My heart squeezes as my gaze settles on a pair of black, high-top, Adidas trainers with three white stripes up the side. As a kid I’d hankered after a pair, often talking about the beauty of this particular trainer and how cool they were. I would go on and on about them to anyone who’d listen, mainly Zayn as he was into fashion as much as I was. Now here they are. With my throat thick with tears, I pull off the dance sneakers and grab the trainers. Tucked inside the left foot is another note and this time when I read it, there’s nothing I can do to stop the tears from falling unbidden down my face.


Do you remember how you used to talk about these trainers? Because I do. I remember everything. I remember wanting to be able to buy these for you, and I remember vowing that one day I would. These past few weeks I’ve been reminded of how it felt to be your friend and when we kissed in the studio yesterday, I remember how it felt to be loved by you. I told you it fucking hurt when you walked away, and it did. But I don’t give a shit about any of that anymore. Do you hear me, Pen? I don’t give a fuck what made you leave, only how to fix this distance between us.

I’m here when you’re ready to talk.

I won’t push you, but I’m not backing off either.

The others can do what they want.

You were mine first, so it’s only right you’re mine first again.


My tears blur the ink, and I swipe at my eyes roughly. It takes me another ten minutes of sitting on my arse in my hallway crying like a baby before I pull myself together and unpack the food Zayn bought for me. After scarfing down a pasta dish covered in a thick tomato sauce with mushrooms and bacon, I shower and change. Selecting a pair of knee length leggings from my new hoard, a black crop top and a loose green vest to wear over it, I pull on my dance sneakers and head across the hallway to Zayn’s flat. There’s only a few minutes until we all need to meet for practice down in Studio Two, and I wanted to thank him in private.

With nerves fluttering inside my belly, I knock on his door. A few erratic heartbeats later, it swings open. Zayn’s talking softly into his mobile phone and his eyes smile at me whilst he continues to converse with whoever is on the other end of the line. He motions for me to enter, closing the door gently behind us as I step inside.

“It’s been taken care of,” Zayn says into the mouthpiece as I hover awkwardly in his hallway. I jump when he places his hand on the base of my spine and guides me into his main living area.

“Take a seat,” he mutters to me. When I look from his unmade bed to the chair covered in clothes, he pulls an apologetic face and rushes over to the armchair in the corner of the room, gathers the clothes thrown over it and chucks them onto the still unmade bed. His room’s a mess and it makes me smile inside. Zayn was never tidy. I guess some things haven’t changed after all. Zayn scowls suddenly, clearly not happy with whatever’s being said on the other end of the line.

“I told you, it’s sorted. Speak to you later,” he grits out, clearly pissed off. Flicking off the call, he chucks his mobile phone onto the bed.

“I came at a bad time…” I say, not sitting down. My hands absentmindedly run over my hips, my fingers reaching for the hem of my brand new top. Why am I so damn nervous?

“No! It’s fine. Sit down, Pen. I’m glad you’re here.”


I sink down onto the armchair, flattening my sticky palms against my thighs. Zayn perches on the end of his bed and rests his elbows on his knees. He waits, watching me whilst my gaze roves over his bare arms and the tattoos that wind up them and disappear beneath his loose V-neck t-shirt. My gaze travels along his wide shoulders to the smattering of hair I can see peeping up behind the v of his t-shirt, then back down his arms to his hands dangling between his parted legs. I can feel heat bloom beneath my skin, remembering how his hand had cupped my mound, how his fingers had brought me to release. He coughs, covering a soft laugh as my gaze snaps up to meet his.

“Thank you,” I blurt out.

“You’re welcome, Pen.” He gives me a lopsided smile, his chipped tooth peeking out at me from between his plump lips. My words get trapped in my throat and I have to mentally give myself a shake as Zayn takes the opportunity to admire the outfit he brought me. Well, at least I think that’s what he’s admiring, though the expression on his face tells me it might be more than that. “Everything fit okay?” he asks, his eyes lifting up.

“They do. They fit perfectly…” I falter at the look in his eyes. I don’t see hate anymore. I see possibilities and a heavy dose of lust. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Just accept the gifts. You deserve to be wearing the best gear. You’re a star, Pen. You’re a fucking phenomenal dancer…” He frowns, his plush lips pressing together in a hard line.

“What?” I whisper.

“Grim. The club. Did you speak with her?”


He nods tightly, a muscle jumping in his jaw. There’s a sudden fierceness in his gaze and I realise he still thinks I’m going to be stripping at Grim’s club. “I didn’t want that for you, Pen. I swear to fuck, I didn’t. I guess this was my way of trying to make up for it. Fuck!” he shouts suddenly. “I keep fucking going over and over it in my head. Was there something more I could’ve done? I don’t want you bare for anyone. It twists me up inside knowing those fuckers will be watching you remove your clothes, knowing they’ll see you fucking naked like that. It makes me want to kill a bastard. No. I’m going to sort it out. You ain’t doing that shit.”

“Wait! Calm down, Zayn, you’ve got it wrong. Grim wants me to dance, not strip,” I say emphatically.


“Grim doesn’t want me to strip. She wants me to dance. I’ll be starting the night of Dax’s fight.”

His shoulders drop, relief washing over his face. “Thank fuck,” he exclaims.

“She’s going to pay me a wage. A good one. I won’t be needing any more handouts,” I say without thinking. Zayn frowns, his mouth popping open to speak but I cut him off, cursing my stupid mouth for running away with itself. “That wasn’t what I meant. I’m grateful for all the food, the clothes. I am. But everything I’ve ever been given—which, let’s be honest, hasn’t been much—comes with a caveat. My mum never did anything nice for me, but even when she passed on hand-me-down clothes or second-hand stuff it always came with a stipulation. To clean the flat from top to bottom until my fingers were raw from the bleach, to run errands. Even to grab her damn cigarettes because she was too lazy to get them from the convenience store herself. So, I can’t help but wonder what you want in return,” I say softly, holding my breath as I wait for him to disappoint me and hoping to God that he doesn’t.

“Nothing but your friendship, and even then, only if you’re willing to give it. I swear to you, Pen, I have no ulterior motive other than that.”

“Are you certain? Because you seemed pretty keen on digging up the past yesterday.”

“I can’t deny that I want an explanation, Pen. That I deserve one, that we all do, but I’m not trying to buy your honesty or your truths. I understand that I need to earn your trust again, the old-fashioned way.”

“Then I accept your gift for what it is, Zayn, and I’m willing to try.” It takes everything in me not to throw myself at his feet and beg for forgiveness, but a little bit of fear and a whole shitload of pride holds me back.


“But what about…”

“The others?” Zayn sighs, scraping a hand over his face. The shadows beneath his eyes might have lessened but the worry within them hasn’t.

I nod. “Yes. How do they feel about it?”

“Honestly, I really don’t give a fuck.”

“Zayn, I don’t want to get between you all—”

“I’m a grown man, as are those motherfuckers. They can do what they want, but it won’t stop me from going after what I want, and I sure as fuck don’t care what he wants.”

“Xeno?” I question, knowing I’m right. “He’ll never forgive me, will he?”

“Xeno has always been a hard arse, but these past few years have changed him, Pen.”

I nod my head in understanding. These past three years have changed all of us. “What about York, Dax?”

“That’s a conversation you need to have with them, but I will tell you this. When you walked away, Dax withdrew into himself more than ever and York lost his optimism, his enthusiasm for everything. It was fucked up. We were fucked-up for a long time,” he says with brutal honesty.

“I’m sorry,” I say, meaning it even though I know my apology won’t change a thing, it won’t negate what I did. There are so many wounds to heal, but it’s not so easy a task to pick up where we left off. In fact, right now it seems like an impossible task given the situation I’m in. “I’m sorry I hurt you all.”

“I can see that now, Pen. I can also see that something’s eating away at you. York isn’t the only one who can read you. He was just always better at it than me,” he says, getting up as he looks intently at me, trying hard to see the secrets in my heart.

“Zayn—” I begin.

“It’s okay. I meant what I said. I’m here when you want to talk.” He walks towards me, wincing a little as he moves. The stitches must be bothering him still. I swallow down the bile rising up my throat. I can’t believe Jeb cut him, has done it repeatedly over the years. I hate that man. I hate him so fucking much.

“You’re in pain…”

“Not anymore I’m not,” he says gruffly. “You look like you could use a hug.”

My eyes flick downwards to his hand. I hesitate, wanting nothing more than to fall into his arms but David’s words ring inside my head, reminding me once again that nothing will ever be easy or straightforward between us.

“You’re going to befriend the Breakers once more. You’re going to make them fall in love with you again, and you’re going to find out every last secret Jeb is keeping from me. Then when the time is right, we are going to destroy them once and for all. I will stick to my side of the deal, so long as you stick to yours.”

“Pen…?” Zayn questions, cocking his head to the side. He waits patiently, his hand held out. This is a peace offering, a chance to begin again and rightly or wrongly, I take it. I push David’s words out of my head as Zayn pulls me against his chest and wraps his arms around me. “I’ve missed you so fucking much, Pen,” he mutters into my ear.

“I’ve missed you too,” I reply softly. He squeezes me tighter and I bury my nose in his neck, breathing him in and hoping to fuck I can find a way out of this mess before I hurt him all over again.

After a while, Zayn eases back and stares down at me. I recognise the look in his eyes, see the lust flaring in his obsidian orbs, and as much as I want to give into my own desire, we really don’t have time for that now. I can’t deny that I want to seal our tentative bond with more than a kiss, but I get the feeling that Xeno’s petty enough to report back to Madame Tuillard if we’re late to rehearsals. Besides, I need a little more time before I can give myself completely to Zayn like that. Sleeping with him is a huge leap, one I’m not quite ready for.

“Another time, perhaps?” he mumbles, reading my hesitation.

He leans down to press his lips against mine and I accept the softness of his mouth, revelling in the firm grip of his fingers as he grasps hold of me possessively.

“Hey, how did you get into my room exactly?” I ask when we finally head down to Studio Two.

Zayn laughs. “York isn’t the only one who can pick a lock.”

I shake my head in disbelief. So he knows about that then? “What the hell have you four been up to these past three years?” I ask. The question is light-hearted but the sudden change in atmosphere isn’t. Zayn’s smile drops.

“Nothing you’d approve of.”

He holds my hand when silence descends over us. His touch is reassuring but his words aren’t. Do I really want to know who the Breakers have become? Do I really want to know why they’re here at the Academy? Will the truth hurt more than all the secrets? Probably.

When we hit the bottom of the stairs, I reach for the door opening onto the first floor, but Zayn places his palm on the wood and steps close, trapping me.

“In time, I will answer any question you have, but don’t ask me anything you don’t want to know the honest answer to, okay?”

I nod. “Okay.”

Zayn cups my cheeks in his palms then kisses me roughly. He pushes his hips against mine, pinning me beneath him. There’s no doubting his arousal or mine when I moan into his mouth and his fingers tangle in my hair. We only part when both of our lips are bruised from the kiss and lust thunders beneath our skin.


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