Lyrical: Chapter 39


Pen

It’s been almost a week since I spilled my guts to the Breakers.

Almost a week since Xeno lost his shit and told me to leave.

Almost a week since Xeno left town.

He’s gone.

Not a word to the rest of the Breakers. Not a word to Madame Tuillard or D-Neath. He just upped and fucking left. I guess I’m not the only one capable of walking away without an explanation. Perhaps this is karma. Perhaps this is just what I deserved.

Or maybe he’s just a fucking coward.

York, Dax, and Zayn are trying their best to hold everything together, but every day that passes without word is a day too many. They’re worried. I’m worried, but if the rest of the Breakers can carry on regardless, then so can I. Right now I have to put all thoughts of Xeno out of my mind if I’m going to get through my first performance at Tales and secure my sister’s safety. Grim might have agreed to keep Lena safe, but I’m not testing my theory that Lena’s protection would stop the second I didn’t perform. She has a business to run first and foremost. Me not dancing because I’m fucked up by recent events isn’t going to wash. So here I am. In twenty minutes, Dax will be fighting Beast in the cage, and at midnight, I will be performing with the girls. We just need to get through tonight then figure out where to go from here.

“How are you doing, Pen? Nervous?” Grim asks me as she steps into my changing room. She’s wearing her usual uniform of leather trousers and black shirt, and she’s holding onto a bottle of whisky with one hand and two cut glasses with the other. “Need a bit of Dutch courage?” she asks me, dropping the glasses on the vanity unit in front of me and filling them both up with a double shot.

I take the proffered glass, knocking back the liquid in one fiery gulp. “Thanks, I needed that,” I reply, pulling my floor length dressing gown tighter around my waist. Beneath it I’m wearing my outfit for my performance later, but I don’t want anyone to see it until I’m ready to dance.

“I thought you might.” She cocks her head to the side, watching me.

“What?”

“It’s a busy night. The warehouse is packed—”

“That’s good, right?” I ask, not understanding the concern that flits across her face.

“Yes, good for business, sure.”

“But…”

“The Collector is back.”

“Malik Brov is here tonight?”

“Yes. He paid a lot of money to be seated closest to the cage.”

“Fucking great,” I grumble. Couldn’t she at least have barred him entry? I really don’t need another goddamn nutcase on my back. Then again, Grim doesn’t owe me shit. It’s me who owes her, so I guess I’m going to have to just suck it up.

“The Skins are here too, including what’s left of your Breakers.”

I flinch at that. “News travels fast then, I take it…”

She nods tightly. Of course she knows Xeno’s gone. Grim makes it her business to know everything, after all.

“Perfect.” I swallow heavily.

This is the first time I’ve laid eyes on Jeb since that night here three weeks ago. Am I comfortable with the fact that Zayn and York are sitting with him? No, of course not, I hate it, but I’m also aware that getting out of the Skins only happens when you’re dead and I don’t want my Breakers dead. So here we are.

“I’m giving you a heads up because I didn’t want you to be surprised. Don’t worry, my men will have eyes on both of them all night. You’re safe, Pen,” she says, trying to reassure me.

I laugh. I can’t help it. “Safe? I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe.”

Grim grits her jaw in understanding. “You just go out there and dance. Do your thing and let us worry about the rest, okay?”

I frown. “Us?”

“Yeah, me and Beast. He likes you, Pen, and my man barely likes anyone.”

“Does he like me enough to go easy on Dax?”

Grim laughs. “Nope.”

“Good, because I don’t want any special treatment,” Dax says as he enters the room wearing the same boxing shorts as he had the last time he fought here. My gaze lingers on the red skull motif emblazoned on the shorts and my stomach churns. He nods at Grim. “Evening.”

She gives him a curt nod. “Well, I guess that’s my cue to leave. You’re up in fifteen, Dax. Make this quick.”

“Got it.” When Grim leaves, Dax kicks his foot against the door, shutting it, before pulling me into his arms. “She likes you,” he mutters against my hair as I press my cheek against his bare chest.

“I’m her employee. I think that’s as far as her liking me goes.”

“It’s more than that.”

“Yeah? If she liked me so much, why has she allowed Malik Brov in here tonight? The guy wanted to buy me, Dax,” I point out, looking up at him.

“That motherfucker’s here tonight?”

“Yes. As if I haven’t already got two crazies to worry about. Now I have to worry about that arsehole too.”

“Nothing will happen, okay? Jeb already made a deal with Grim. He can’t back out on that. You’re safe,” he repeats, echoing Grim’s words.

“I don’t feel safe, Dax.” It hurts me to say that to him, standing here wrapped up in his arms, but it’s the truth.

“I swear to you, Pen. We won’t let anything happen to you.” He pulls back and rests his forehead against mine. “I would rather die than see you taken from us again.”

“Don’t say things like that, Dax. Not when you’re about to go into the cage with Beast.”

He smiles at me. “You think I’m going to lose, don’t you?”

“I think you’re going to get very badly hurt.”

“Have a little faith, Pen.”

I frown, and he presses a gentle kiss against the crease between my brows. “Do you know how many times I wished I could turn back time, Dax? How often I’ve thought about making a different choice? I should’ve gone to the police. I should’ve told you back then what happened. Maybe Xeno was right, maybe together we could’ve dealt with my brother. Now look at us. Xeno has gone AWOL, you’re about to go head-to-head with Beast, York and Zayn are out there sitting at a table with Jeb, and you’re still part of his crew. You’re still Skins.”

“You can’t change what’s happened, Kid, but you gotta trust me on this. We’re gonna make this right. I promise you.”

“How? How can you possibly make this right? Xeno’s gone, and my brother will be ringing me at the end of the month regardless. I know Grim and Beast have made a promise to protect Lena, but can anyone actually tell me that she’s going to be one-hundred percent safe?”

“Believe me when I say, no motherfucker is getting anywhere near Lena. The rest? We’ll figure it out. It will be okay.”

Outside a bell rings telling us both that Dax’s fight will be starting in five minutes. He hugs me close. “You gonna come out and watch?”

I shake my head. “I don’t think I can,” I murmur.

“I’ll see you back here in twenty then.”

“Twenty minutes? You’re that confident you’re going to win?”

“Yeah, Kid. I’m that confident.” He gives me another lingering kiss on the lips then leaves.


The fight is over in thirty-five minutes.

Beast wins.

“I want you at my gym, Dax. You’ve got potential,” Beast says as he lowers a beaten and bruised Dax onto a chair in my dressing room.

“What have you done to him?” I screech, glaring at Beast before dropping onto my knees before Dax. His face is literally covered in blood, and his left eye and right cheek are swelling fast. “You fucking arsehole!” I shout, pressing the sleeve of my white towelling robe against his cheek. Blood blooms. Beast just smirks.

“I told you I wouldn’t hold back, but I didn’t kill the shithead. Just knocked him out briefly,” he says, shrugging. I get a sick sense of satisfaction when he follows that statement up with a wince of his own. Arsehole.

“You knocked him out? We need to get him to hospital to check for a concussion!” I say, still dabbing at Dax’s bloody face.

He gives me a weak smile. “I’m good, Kid.”

“Beast, look at him!” I snarl, not liking how unfocused Dax’s eyes are.

“Don’t sweat it, sweetheart. We have a guy on hand who can check him out. Besides, he was only out for a minute. It’s just as well he went down. Fucker wouldn’t have stopped otherwise. I’ve got a reputation to maintain, you know.”

“Un-fucking-believable!” I grit out. “Go fucking get this guy then!”

“Kid,” Dax warns. He understands Beast has a reputation and is worried I’m overstepping. I don’t care if I am, but given the amusement in Beast’s eyes he’s finding my outrage amusing and not offensive.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Joey sees him. Fuck—” he says, wincing again.

“That hurt?” Dax asks, a smile pulling up his split lip as Beast presses against his side.

“Yeah, yeah, you got me good.”

Despite his chest-beating bullshit, Beast hasn’t come out of the fight unscathed. I’m fairly sure that his split lip and eyebrow have got to sting. Plus, there’s a deepening bruise on his chest, so I’m guessing Dax managed to break a rib or two. Good.

“Guess you’re not infallible then, yeah?” Dax grunts.

“Big word for a street kid. I’m impressed.” Beast laughs, then coughs, then winces. “So you up for training with me?” he asks Dax, all friendly like he hasn’t just beaten the shit out of him.

Dax chuckles, then groans as more blood weeps from his own split lip. He licks at it. “I’ve heard you’re the best trainer in London. Yeah, I’m up for that.”

“Just in London? Mate, I’m the best in Europe.” Beast grins broadly and all I want to do is punch him in the face.

“Well, as much as this blossoming bromance warms my heart, I’d appreciate it, Beast, if you got the fuck out of my dressing room and fetched Joey.”

Beast chuckles. “She’s a keeper, this one.”

“She sure is.” Dax smiles then immediately groans again.

“I’ll go get Joey. He’ll have you sorted in no time.”

An hour later, Dax has been cleaned and wrapped up by Joey, an old dude that looks more like a biker than a doctor. I’m betting the kind of training he’s had isn’t the kind most doctors get. Talk about shady backstreet doctor, and I’m using the term loosely here.

“You’ve got a mild concussion, bruising and swelling to your eye and cheek, and some nasty split knuckles. Other than that, you’re good. There aren’t many people who get in the cage with Beast and come out with relatively minor injuries like this,” Joey says, clearly impressed.

“Minor injuries?” I scoff, clearly unimpressed. As far as I’m concerned, Dax needs to go to the hospital to see a proper doctor and have a head scan or something to check he hasn’t got bleeding in the brain. I don’t trust this two-bit backstreet doctor who smells of beer.

“Yes. He’ll be good in a few days!” Joey says, slapping Dax on the shoulder before winking at me. “Beast tells me you’ll be coming to the gym to train?”

Dax nods. “That’s right.”

“Good, then I’ll be seeing you there, son,” Joey replies, before giving me a wink and leaving the room. Urgh, arsehole.

“You’re not seriously going to train with him, are you?” I ask Dax as he knocks back a glass of neat whisky and looks at me from his good eye, given the other is swollen shut. “You hate Beast.”

“He ain’t so bad.”

“So now you’re friends?” I shake my head in bewilderment. “Did those blows to your head scramble your brain or something?” I laugh but it comes out slightly hysterical.

Dax leans forward and grasps my hands in his. “I owe him and Grim for having your back when we couldn’t. Anyone who helps you is a good person in my book.”

“So that’s two debts you owe, or have you forgotten the deal that was made the last time we were here?”

“I haven’t forgotten.”

“Dax—”

“Shh, it’s all good,” he says, leaning forward and kissing me gently. I allow him to pull me into his arms and bury my head into the crook of his neck momentarily. It helps to ease the building anxiety I’m feeling.

“I don’t like seeing you like this…”

“I know, Kid.”

Sighing, I press a kiss against his jaw, stroking my fingers gently across his lips. “I never wanted this for you. I’m scared to fucking ask what you all did whilst we were apart.”

“Kid…”

“It’s okay. I’m not a fool. I know it can’t be good. But you know what?”

“What?” Dax asks, pulling back to look at me.

“I don’t care. I don’t care what you’ve done in Jeb’s name. I only care about us from this point onwards. That’s all. That’s it,” I say fiercely.

Dax sighs, then presses a sweet kiss against my mouth. “Fuck, Kid. Do you know how much I love you?”

“How much?” I whisper, my heart soaring.

“It’s a tear-the-sky-down-and-rip-a-man-to-shreds-for-even-looking-at-you amount. A lot, Kid. So fucking much.”

“That’s pretty huge,” I grin, unable to help myself.

“Yeah, fucking scary amount actually. I know the others think the same,” he adds, as though sensing my need to hear that too, and I believe him, about Zayn and York at least. But Xeno…

“Where is he, Dax?” I ask, my heart hurting.

He sighs heavily. “I don’t know. If I did, I would tell you. I swear it. The last thing he said to us before he snuck the fuck off was that he needed to get his head straight. I should’ve known he’d pull something like this.”

“He’s done this before?”

“Once, about a year ago…” Dax frowns.

“What?”

His response is interrupted by Nancy, one of the girls. “Sorry to interrupt, but we’re up, Pen.” She grins widely, clearly excited. I love her enthusiasm. It’s about the only good thing that’s come out of the mess; being able to teach the girls to dance and watch them flourish.

“Thanks, I’ll just be a minute,” I say, waiting for her to leave before fixing my gaze back on Dax who’s looking a little unsettled.

“If your outfit is anything like hers, I might have to stab a few of those bastards sitting out there in the eyes,” he mutters.

“Dax, stop sidetracking. What aren’t you telling me about Xeno?”

“I’m not sidetracking, Kid. What exactly are you wearing under that robe?” he asks, pulling at the edge of the collar. I slap his hands away.

“Dax—!” I warn.

“Just go out there and knock ‘em dead, Kid. Then we’ll talk, okay?”

“Is that a promise?” I ask, getting to my feet and untying the bathrobe that’s covering my outfit.

“That’s a prom— Fuck me, Kid! There’s gonna be murders tonight,” Dax exclaims, his eyes popping open in shock at my outfit. Well, one eye at least.

I chuckle and let the robe slide from my shoulders, allowing the material to pool at my feet. An hour later I get to find out just how true his statement was.

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