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Lyrical: Chapter 14


I hear Tiffany’s loud laughter before I even step into the studio. It tracks like sharpened nails down my spine. I fucking hate that bitch. It’s like she’s got a sixth sense of knowing when I’m close by and does everything in her power to piss me off.

“Xeno, you’re too much,” Tiffany simpers as I walk into the studio, Zayn stepping in behind me. Dotted around the room are the rest of the dancers. River and Clancy are talking quietly in the corner of the studio. Clancy gives me a huge grin, her gaze flicking to Zayn behind me. I can read her thoughts even without her having to say a word. ‘Woah girl,’ and ‘what the fuck? Spill,’ comes to mind. I try not to laugh. River gives me a wink and Sophie, Tiffany’s side-bitch, looks me up and down, her gaze narrowing as she also notices how closely Zayn is standing behind me. I can feel his heat at my back, and I know my cheeks and lips must still be flushed from his kiss.

Dax and York haven’t arrived yet, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. I haven’t seen either of them since Friday night. A sudden bout of nerves settle in my belly, but I resolutely ignore them. Instead, I funnel those nerves and turn them into hate aimed at Tiffany for being a clingy bitch.

“So, I’ve been working on a bachata routine. I’d love to show you what I’ve come up with after we finish tonight,” Tiffany leers, her intention clear. She’s wearing a skimpy dance outfit showing off her long, toned legs and tiny waist. I mean I’m not a big girl, but I do have curves in the places a woman should. “Perhaps you’d like to partner with me again,” she adds, making sure to catch my gaze in the mirror.

“I’m going to deck a bitch,” I mutter under my breath, stiffening when I see her place her hand on Xeno’s arm, cocking her non-existent hip to the side. Xeno flicks his gaze at me briefly before giving Tiffany a sexy smile. His curly hair falls into his eyes as he lowers his gaze to meet hers, but I can tell by the way his shoulders stiffen that he’s as affected by me as much as I am by him. The vibes I’m getting might be hate and distrust, but I’d prefer that over nothing at all. I can work with hate. At least he feels something, right?

“Sounds good,” he replies, dropping his voice so he can whisper in her ear. Tiffany chuckles, then throws a pointed look over her shoulder directly at me like she’s won some kind of battle. Well, fuck her. Fuck Xeno and his bullshit too.

“Perfect,” she whispers sexily before twisting on her feet and sashaying over to her bag hanging up on the opposite wall. She makes a big deal about pulling out a bottle of water and wrapping her lips around it like she’s sucking a fucking cock.

“You’re late,” Xeno snaps, drawing my attention back to him. He’s pointedly glaring at Zayn standing behind me and even though I’m facing away from Zayn and can’t see the expression on his face, I know there’s a silent conversation going on, one that ramps up the tension in the room.

“I had something important to do,” Zayn responds tightly, placing his hand on my lower back and guiding me further into the studio.

Xeno’s gaze drops, noticing how Zayn’s touching me, and his teeth grit. “Something more important than this?” Xeno questions, challenge in his gaze.

“Yes, something more important than this,” Zayn throws back.

I dare not look at Clancy because I know she’s putting two and two together and getting the exact right answer.

Xeno sneers, shaking his head in disgust. “You haven’t forgotten what you’re here for, have you?” he asks, and I get the distinct impression that he isn’t talking about this particular rehearsal and the end of year show. No, he’s talking about whatever it is that Jeb has them at the Academy for.

“Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten why I’m here. I’m fully aware of what’s at stake.” With that, Zayn drops an arm around my shoulder, giving Xeno a proverbial fuck-you as he refuses to engage him further and guides us to an empty spot in the studio.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’re choosing that bitch?” Sophie growls under her breath, giving me daggers as we pass her by. Zayn pulls up sharp, and gives me a quick squeeze before rounding on her.

“What the fuck did you just say?” he seethes.

Sophie’s eyes widen. “It was nothing.”

Zayn cracks his knuckles menacingly, and whilst I don’t think he’d ever hit a woman, Sophie doesn’t know that. “I’m here to partner with you in our duet, to dance in this group for the end of year performance, but other than that I’m not fucking interested in you. Got it?” he sneers, and for a moment I see a glimpse of the man he’s become in the three years we’ve been apart. There’s a hardness in his eyes, a darkness that speaks of a violence not befitting the boy I loved or the man I’d always hoped he’d be.

Sophie blanches, her skin paling. “Fine. Got it,” she mutters.

“Oh, and another thing,” Zayn says, leaning in closer, his voice dropping so only Sophie and I can hear what he’s saying. She shrinks into herself as his lip pulls up in a snarl. “If I hear you bad-mouthing Pen again you’re gonna find out exactly what I’m capable of. Most of the rumours about me are false, but some of them are true. You don’t want to find out which. Fuck with her, fuck with me. Understand?”

Sophie nods, gulping. “Understood.”

Zayn stands upright, a warm smile plastered back on his face. “Perfect. Let’s fucking get on with it, shall we?” he states, raising his voice so the rest of the room can hear. Zayn gives me a wink then strides to the front of the studio, ignoring Xeno who looks like he’s about to combust.

“Where are Dax and York? We can’t rehearse the group dance unless they’re here too.” Tiffany remarks as she folds her arms across her chest, looking one part annoyed and two parts wary. She might not have been able to hear clearly what Zayn just said to Sophie, but given the look on Sophie’s face it’s clear to everyone that what he did say wasn’t a compliment. Internally, I’m fucking beaming, but rather than gloat, I simply start stretching. It feels good to know Zayn’s got my back.

Real fucking good.

“They’ll be here soon. In the meantime, warm the fuck up. Madame Tuillard and D-Neath will be dropping by at some point this evening. I need you all at your best,” Xeno states gruffly, clearly not giving a shit that he’s being more gangster than dance teacher this evening. He picks up his mobile that’s attached to the speaker system and takes a moment to choose a track. His eyes meet mine for a brief moment before Pillowtalk by Zayn Malik begins to play. I can’t help but think that he’s trying to tell me something, or maybe this song is a message to Zayn seeing it’s his namesake who’s singing about reckless behaviour, paradise, and goddamn warzones. Zayn barks out a laugh and gives Xeno a dirty look, but he doesn’t bite, refusing to engage. Xeno’s lip curls up in a snarl, his anger snapping at my heels. He’s amped up for a fight and it pisses me off. How fucking dare he try and push our buttons like this? What Zayn and I choose to do has fuck all to do with him. Xeno’s made his feelings perfectly clear, but I won’t put up with him trying to put a wedge between Zayn and me, not now that I’ve only just got him back.

“Problem, Pen?” Xeno asks.

“Yeah, you could say that,” I retort.

Screw him. If he wants to have it out, he can fucking have it out. Friday night, I thought I saw something in his eyes, something close to empathy at least, but given his attitude today, I can see I was wrong. I move towards him, ready to go head-to-head and screw the consequences when Zayn takes a step in front of me, shaking his head. Not now, he tells me with his eyes.

Drawing in a deep breath through my nostrils, I unclench my fists and focus on Zayn.

“Fine,” I snap.

It’s not his fault Xeno’s acting like a prick but I can’t seem to help how Xeno makes me feel. I’m pissed off. Now might not be the right time to confront him, but soon Xeno and I will lock horns and I’ll be fucked if I sit back and let him continue to walk all over me. No.

“What are you all fucking looking at?” Xeno barks out to the rest of the crew.

“Fuuuck,” River whispers, not so softly that we aren’t able to hear.

Xeno turns away from us all and grabs a clipboard resting on the table next to the music dock. I imagine it lists his ideas for our end of year show. Not that he’s actually paying attention to it because I can see him watching Zayn warm up from his reflection in the mirror, a scowl on his beautiful face.

“What the fuck is going on?” River mumbles to Clancy as they start warming up next to me.

“I have no clue. Time of the month?” Clancy retorts under her breath, widening her eyes at River before pulling a face. He laughs and bends forward, placing the flat of his hands on the floor. Above him I meet Clancy’s curious stare and silently thank her for not giving anything away. I mean, River isn’t stupid, it’s obvious that there’s an issue between the three of us. Still, he doesn’t know it has everything to do with our past and nothing to do with this end of year show. I’d like to keep it that way.

When Clancy’s gaze shifts lower over my brand new dance clothes, a smile pulls up her lips. Wow, she mouths, flicking her gaze to Zayn and back to me, giving me one of her knowing looks. I cock my head, shrugging, knowing that I’m going to have to fill her in at least on a part of what’s gone down between Zayn and I, considering we’re now talking again. I’m not willing to share everything with Clancy just yet, when I’m not certain that Zayn and my tentative friendship is going to last given Xeno’s so obviously against it. Then again, I should have more faith in Zayn, he’s already shown me that he isn’t that same kid who follows Xeno’s orders like he always had when we were young. He’s his own man.

Clancy shifts closer, leaning over to talk quietly enough that she’s not overheard. “Girl, I think you’ve lit a fire beneath their arses,” she says, covering her mouth to cover a snort.

“Seriously, you’ve no idea,” I respond, thinking about Malik Brov’s nickname for me and Zayn’s letter. She’s about to respond to that statement with another question when Dax and York enter the studio.

“Oh, shit. Here comes more trouble,” Clancy mutters.

Refusing to look up, I concentrate on making sure I stretch in earnest and try not to focus on the heated glares between Zayn and the rest of the Breakers. The tension ramps up and I don’t think there’s a single person in the room that doesn’t feel it. Eventually I give in, unable to stomach the tension I feel. I look over at Dax surreptitiously beneath my lashes. He’s taken up an empty spot on the opposite side of the studio from me, his jaw is tight, his body tense. He doesn’t look at anyone, instead he warms up robotically, moving stiffly. The muscles on his thick arms tense and flex beneath the material of his tight, long sleeved t-shirt. The cut in his eyebrow is scabbed over and the swelling to his cheek not as pronounced, but the dark bruise is obvious and I’m not the only one who notices. Tiffany and Sophie give each other a look, and I know they’ll be gossiping the moment rehearsals are over. Screw them. They can talk all they like, so long as they don’t try and comfort Dax, then we’re good. Well, not good, but I won’t have to kill a bitch.

I watch Dax closely, not in the least bit surprised by how stiff he is. He might have won the fight on Friday and beaten his opponent to a pulp, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered for it. I swallow hard, trying not to think about how Dax will fare after his fight against Beast. Dragging my gaze away from Dax, I focus on York who has ignored everyone and is talking to Xeno in hushed tones. Their heads are pressed together, and York seems to be hissing something under his breath. I see that Zayn is watching them closely too, and whilst he seems relaxed on the surface, I can tell he’s far from it. I finish stretching out my spine and arm muscles and sit down on my arse. Spreading my legs wide, I lean over, placing my left hand on my right foot. I can feel the delicious pull of my hamstrings as I stretch them out, giving me the perfect opportunity to watch York and Xeno without being too obvious about it. A few moments later York catches me staring. He turns his back to me and reaches for the docking station to turn the music up. I sigh, resigning myself to the fact that this is going to be one awkward-as-fuck rehearsal.

Then again, what’s new?


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