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Lyrical: Chapter 26


I’ve spent the best part of the last of couple days in fucking turmoil over David’s threats, backing off from the Breakers when I should’ve been getting closer to them. I’ve not been complacent though. I’ve tried to find out more about what Jeb and D-Neath are up to by feeling out the other students. If D-Neath is back to his old tricks and selling drugs, then it stands to reason he’ll start right where he has a willing market. I’m no criminal, but that seems the most logical step. The Academy is full of students who live and breathe a life of dance and everything that goes with it. I’m not saying they’re all drug addicts, but it’s not a secret that some dancers use drugs to keep them going when their natural energy is depleted. Fuck, some just do it for fun. It’s not as if I haven’t considered it myself.

But so far, nothing. We all know that Madame Tuillard has a zero tolerance policy for any drug taking. If she finds out a student is using, they’re out. No second chances. Which makes me laugh, given her choice of a fucking boyfriend.

It’s all so fucked up.

It’s midweek now, and tonight we have another rehearsal for our end of year performance. This time we’re working on the duets. I wasn’t the only one who got fucked over when Dax dumped me for Tiffany. River was dropped too. Naturally, we’re now paired up, and whilst I think River’s a fantastic dancer he just isn’t Dax. We don’t share the same connection.

I feel sick, just thinking about it. I can’t bear to see that bitch all over Dax. I’m not sure I’ll survive the torture. Dax has avoided me at every opportunity, and knowing he doesn’t want to partner with me twists my gut, but at least I’ve had this performance for Grim to concentrate on. Dancing might help me to express my emotions, but it also helps me to think. I’m fully aware that I need to get my shit together, which is part of the reason I called Grim and asked to meet with her under the proviso that I need to teach the strippers, I mean dancers, the choreography I’ve come up with. Of course, that’s not the only reason I’m here at her club today. What I’m about to ask is a risk, but one I have to take. I don’t have any other choice.

“It’s good to see you again,” Grim says, eying me from behind her desk. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with for your first performance.”

I nod, chewing on the inside of my cheek.

“She was quiet as a mouse on the drive over too,” Beast says to Grim, concern crossing his features as he props himself up against the wall. “Not her usual cranky-arse self.”

“Is that right? What’s on your mind, Pen?” Grim asks, turning her attention to me.

“Thanks for picking me up,” I mutter, my mouth going dry as I try to make small talk. Not quite ready for the big question.

“I was in the area,” Beast shrugs. “Besides, Grim said I should pick you up, and what she says goes. I don’t argue with the boss.”

“So, do you want to tell us what this is about? I can see this is more than you giving us a preview of your dance. By the way, the girls are waiting for you outside. They’re excited to get started. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as enthusiastic about anything else before,” Grim says, pushing back her seat and lifting her foot up onto the edge of the desk. She narrows her eyes at me as though trying to figure out if I’m going to try and fuck her over. I’m not. I just need her help.

“You once said that if I ever needed a friend that I should call—”

Beast’s eyebrows shoot up, but if he has any opinion on the matter, he keeps it to himself.

“That’s right, I did.”

“Were you serious?”

“Yes.” There’s no hesitation in her response.

I blow out a breath, fixing my gaze on hers. “Okay then.”

“What do you need?” Grim asks, getting straight to the point.

Jeb and David dead, preferably. Though, of course I don’t say that out loud.

“Spit it out, Pen,” Beast prompts, giving me a grin to show he’s not being an arsehole. I’m beginning to get the impression that he’s more kind-hearted than his appearance and reputation dictates.

“I need a friend. I need a friend like you.”

“What else have you got yourself mixed up in?” Beast asks, his eyebrows shooting up.

What else? He makes it sound like I’m some kind of magnet for trouble… Then again, I suppose I am. I scowl at him and he chuckles.

“A friend like me?” Grim tips her head to the side, showing off her pretty neck tattoo, the roses rise up her shoulder and wrap around her throat.

“Someone who has a reputation, and contacts…” I explain.

“I see, so if you think I can help, why the hesitation?” she asks.

I can feel myself trembling, coming here is a huge risk. Asking this woman for help, an even bigger one, but I don’t know what else to do. The Breakers work for Jeb and despite everything York and Zayn have said, I still don’t know if I can trust them completely. I want to. God knows I do, but they’re still part of the Skins’ crew and after Xeno warned me off them, I have very few options but to stay away until I can at least secure Lena’s safety. At least Grim has shown me she’s got some principles that I can agree with. She doesn’t let anyone touch her girls and she fiercely protects what she loves: her business and her man. She’s already told me she dislikes Jeb and she’s given me a job at her club that comes with her protection. It’s more than I could’ve asked for, but I’m hoping she’ll extend that protection to my little sister too.

“It’s complicated. I don’t know who to trust.”

“Yet here you are,” Grim says, studying me.

“Here I am…” I chew on my lip, my heart fucking racing. If I’m wrong about Grim this could be it for me. David will kill Lena. Jeb will kill me. Heck, Grim could decide I’m too much of a fucking problem and kill me herself.

“Do you trust me?” she asks, and isn’t that the million dollar question? Trust is easily breakable. I should know. Yet, just like Grim said, here I am. I’m trusting my gut and hoping to fuck I’m not wrong.

“You didn’t have to do what you did—giving me a job here. I know you said that me dancing at your club is good for business, but I also know there are tons of dancers out there who are just as good as I am. I also know that you could easily have agreed to Jeb’s terms and forced me to strip. You didn’t. I figured you had your own personal reasons for hiring me that wasn’t just to do with business. Besides, you did say if I ever needed a friend… I didn’t peg you for a liar.”

“Uh-oh, looks like you’re getting a name for yourself, Grim. Is the clock ticking, my love? Are you getting maternal in your old age? Because, babe, you know I’m up for helping with that.” Beast chuckles and she shoots him a dark look that has him slamming his mouth shut. It doesn’t stop the amusement in his eyes though. There’s no hiding that.

“Fuck off, Beast! I’m not fucking old, I’m twenty-six, you piece of shit, and if I wanted a baby, I sure as fuck would choose a better sperm donor than you,” she snarls.

“Fuck, love, my goddamn heart.” Beast places his huge hand over his heart and feigns heartbreak. Grim growls at him.

“Go on, Pen,” she snaps, focusing back on me.

“Maybe this was a mistake. Forget I said anything. I’ll figure something else out,” I say, moving to stand.

Grim lets out a laboured breath. “Sit the hell down, Pen.” She waits for me to settle back in the seat, then picks up a cigarette and lights it before blowing out a plume of smoke. “I’m a woman of my word, and despite how much this conversation seems to amuse this arsehole here, I meant what I said. Though I can see you still have reservations about me. I can understand that. I don’t trust easy either, but here’s the thing, Pen, you can trust me.

“I want to. I need to,” I admit.

“I’m going to call Ford and get Asia on the line,” she says suddenly.

“Asia?” I question, my mouth dropping open. “As in graffiti Asia? You know her?”

“Seems like we both do,” Grim says, dialing a number on the phone and pressing the loudspeaker.

I sit back in my chair, frowning. How does Grim know Asia and, more to the point, why is she ringing her now?

“What’s up?” a deep male voice answers after a couple of rings.

“Hey, Ford, how’s shit going down in the back arse of beyond?” Grim says, her smile a genuine one.

“Oh you know, so-so. The little rugrats are keeping us busy. You good?” he asks, his voice holding a pinch of concern. Grim’s eyes soften, and I detect love there. Wow. I don’t know who this dude is to Grim, but he clearly means something to her.

“Of course I am. Never better. I’m gonna call you back later to chat properly, but right now I need to speak to Asia… girly shit.”

“Girly shit? Is Beast treating you well?” Ford’s voice darkens and Beast laughs.

“You bet I am, you cheeky little shit. You ain’t too far away that I can’t come down there and beat your arse for insinuating that I’m not treating my queen with utmost care.”

“Never doubted it, mate. Just gotta check. You know how it is.”

“Yeah, yeah, shithead,” Beast retorts.

“Okay, enough of the bromance. Can I speak with Asia a sec?” Grim asks.

“Sure thing.”

The line goes quiet for a moment before Asia picks up. “Hey, Grim. What can I do for you?”

I’ve never met Asia in person, even though we grew up in the same borough, but I’ve heard a lot about her over the years and have admired her artwork from afar. It was bullshit when she got sent to a reform school for her graffiti art a couple of years ago. The girl should be adored and admired like Banksy, not put away for her art. Then again, like me, she’s just another street kid viewed as a nuisance rather than seen for her talent. That’s just how it is for us. There were rumours about her links to the King, another criminal who lorded it over the London criminal scene, but then Asia seemed to fall off the face of the earth about a year ago. No one knows for sure what went down, but the King’s death and her disappearance are more than a little coincidental in my opinion. I’m curious as to how Grim knows her though.

“I’ve got someone with me who’s a little unsure whether she can trust me. I figured my friend here would’ve heard of you given you grew up in the same area, and I was right. Wanna back me up?”

Asia laughs, but there’s caution in her voice. I don’t blame her. She obviously disappeared for a reason. I could be anyone. “Who is this someone?”

Grim looks over at me and nods, giving me the go ahead to speak. “My name’s Pen. You once did some artwork as a gift for me. I used to hang out with the Breakers,” I say, hoping she’ll remember that Christmas when the boys asked her to do some graffiti on the basement wall in number 15 Jackson Street.

“Pen? Shit, yeah, I remember that. Those boys were into you, girl. Pretty sweet gift.”

I laugh, but it comes out strained. “I never got a chance to thank you. It was a beautiful piece.”

“Well, cheers…”

“So, now that you’ve been introduced, I want to put Pen’s mind at rest. She isn’t sure she can trust me, and I don’t blame her hesitation—”

“Look, we don’t know each other, Pen, but I can tell you this. You can trust Grim,” Asia interrupts without hesitation. “This woman is one badass bitch you don’t want to get on the wrong side of, but if you remain on her good side then you’re set up. Let’s just say she had my back when I needed it the most. She helped me and my family. I owe her my life. Whatever it is that’s going on with you, if she can help, she will.”

Grim looks up at me, her eyes meeting mine. “Is that good enough?” she asks.

I nod. “Yeah, it is. Thanks, Asia…”

“No problems. Grim is one of the best, and I love her like a sister, but don’t tell her I told you that, okay?”

“Okay,” I nod, even though she can’t see me and flick my eyes to Grim whose cheeks are now a soft pink. She coughs and rubs at her face.

“Well, Asia, give those boys a kiss from me,” Grim says, eliciting a growl from Beast. She looks at him. “Not Asia’s boys, the other two cuties,” Grim reassures him, shaking her head.

Asia laughs. “Still the alpha arsehole, Beast?”

“You got it in one, sweetheart,” Beast replies, chuckling.

“Well, it’s been good to speak to you all, but I gotta go. My two little boys need their lunch and the big boys need my attention.”

“How the fuck do you keep them all in line, Asia?” Grim asks chuckling, shaking her head.

“Oh, it’s easy when you know how. Looking after my brothers is a breeze. Having four boyfriends ain’t so hard either.”

“Sounds like it’d be just the opposite,” Beast says, laughing at his own joke. Grim rolls her eyes.

“Ha ha,” Asia retorts, but we can all hear the smile in her voice.

So the rumours were true then? Asia did get away from Oceanside with more than one boy in tow. Listening to her laughing and talking about having a relationship with four men like it’s the most natural thing in the world makes me feel better. That might not be something I can ever see happening for me now, given how Xeno and Dax feel about me, but I don’t feel so bad about ever wanting it, now that I know other people live the same way and make it work.

“You two should come visit sometime. I know Ford would love to see you, though he’d never admit to that,” Asia says, and we can all hear a male voice in the background cursing. “See, he loves you. Don’t you, Ford?”

I can hear him groan, and Asia giggles. Their easy way with each other makes me long for my Breakers. We were like that once, knowing what buttons to press to get a rise out of each other, but doing it out of love and affection not unkindness. I miss it.

Beast chuckles and Grim smiles. “Talk soon,” she says, before clicking on a button to end the call. She levels me with her gaze. “So, wanna tell me what the fuck is up?”


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