Lyrical: Chapter 4


Pen

My hands and knees slam onto the bloodied canvas, my chest heaves as I draw in precious oxygen. I’m shaking all over. My teeth chatter and sweat pours from my skin. The soles of my feet are raw, blistered from dancing barefoot. I’m spent. Every last ounce of energy is gone, and blackness threatens to take over.

I don’t want to faint. I don’t want to be that vulnerable, so I give myself a moment to breathe as my head drops between my shoulders and my hair falls over my face. All I can hear are my laboured breaths as I suck precious oxygen in and out of my lungs, drawing on it so that I don’t fall into darkness. Then, slowly, as I sit back on my haunches with my head still lowered, other sounds trickle in. Someone close by begins to clap. I peer to the side, not lifting my head, but looking through the curtain of hair that falls over my face. A pair of shiny, black shoes approach me as I try to steady my thundering heart. They’re buffed to perfection and sit beneath a pair of dark grey suit trousers, coming to stop directly beside me. Beyond them I see the strippers walk out of the cage leaving me alone with this man and it’s definitely a man given the size of his feet and the clothes he’s wearing.

“That was quite incredible. You are an outstanding dancer,” a deep male voice says to me, proving my point.

This man has an accent. I’m no expert, but it sounds Russian or eastern European with the way his lips wrap around the w making it sound more like a v. I don’t respond to his compliment, focusing instead on getting my pulse back to a less dangerous beat and trying not to succumb to the black spots threatening my vision. He slowly lowers himself into a crouch beside me and I see a white shirt rolled up to the elbows to reveal tan skin and dark hair covering thick forearms.

“Look at me, piękna tancerka,” he says, lifting my chin with his finger. There’s something in the tone of his voice that sends warning bells ringing. I listen to my gut, it’s never wrong. This man is dangerous, but then again, what man isn’t? All the men in my life are dangerous. I’m used to the predators. Can smell them a mile off.

I peer at him through my messy strands of hair, some of which are sticking to my forehead with sweat. He’s wearing a mask, but it isn’t much of one. Just a thin length of red silk wrapped around his eyes with holes cut into the material so he can see. There’s really no effort to hide his identity and that only makes me more wary of him, not less. He’s older than I expected, maybe in his early fifties with dark hair smoothed off his face in a sharp style that greys around the sides of his temple. A short, clipped beard covers the lower half of his face, wrapping around plump pink lips and teeth so white and straight they must have been paid for. He’s handsome, there’s no denying that, but I can see the truth of who he is deep in the dark recesses of his cobalt eyes.

Like Jeb, like David, this man is vicious, cruel, calculating.

There’s something else too, something darker, something that hints at a wickedness that surpasses both Jeb and David, if that’s possible. He smiles slowly, his fingers pushing back my hair before he lowers his hand over my shoulder and trails his fingers down my arm, cupping my elbow.

“My name is Malik; I’d like you to accompany me to my table. There are matters I wish to discuss with you,” he says, and though on the surface it sounds like a request, it comes out as an order, one I’m betting most people will follow or lose their life for disobeying him.

Except I’m not most people and I’m done with being ordered around tonight.

“I’m with someone,” I respond, pulling my arm out of his hold and pushing to my feet, hoping to God they hold me upright. My body betrays me, and I wobble from sheer exhaustion and light-headedness. Malik grabs my elbow once more and steps closer, an elegant smile plastered on his face.

Beyond the spotlight lighting up the cage, I hear a commotion, though I can’t make out what’s going on. It’s too bright where I am, and too dark in the rest of the warehouse to see clearly.

“Do you think that matters to me, Stopy Płomieniach?” he asks, ignoring whatever the fuck is going on behind us. I have no idea what Stopy Płomieniach means but I’m guessing it’s some kind of disparaging remark. Not that I give a shit. I’ve been called so many names that I’ve become immune to the harm they cause.

“It will matter to the people I came here with,” I retort, yanking my arm free from his hold and stepping away from him so that I can pull my dress back down over my hips.

“Oh, I’m not sure that I give a fuck,” he retorts with a shrug.

“Grim will have you shot if you start shit here tonight.”

“Hmm, yes, that is quite a predicament. Then again, everyone has a price. I’m certain whoever owns you now would gladly hand you over to me if the reward was high enough, wouldn’t you say?”

I take another step backwards, but he just enters my space again, unperturbed. Reaching for me, he grasps my hand before pressing a kiss against my knuckles. The second his lips brush against my skin, I can hear the familiar sound of Dax’s roar and York telling him to calm the fuck down. “See, you’re pissing them off,” I point out.

He smiles lazily at me. “Regardless, I tend to get what I want, by using force or by spending money. I have a lot of both.”

“I’m not someone you can buy, and if you try to take me then there’ll be consequences,” I bluff. Jeb would sell me out in a heartbeat and I no longer have faith in the Breakers to protect me like they once did. Still, putting up a front is a better option than crumbling.

“Everyone has a price, even you.”

He taps my nose and anger whirls inside my chest once again as another man tries to own me. It pisses me the fuck off. Maybe I brought this on myself. I knew dancing the way I did just now would garner attention, but it was because I couldn’t face the alternative. I’m just trying not to get raped, for fuck’s sake.

“I’m not for sale,” I grind out.

“Let’s see, shall we?” he asks, yanking me against his chest and kissing me on the mouth. I try to break free from his hold, but his arm wraps around my back as he crushes me against him.

I can feel the hard edge of his cock pressing through his trousers and against my lower belly.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

I’m about to bring my leg up and knee him in the balls when he’s forcefully pulled backwards by Dax who now has his throat gripped in a tight stranglehold.

“You do not fucking touch her, motherfucker!” Dax growls, his teeth bared in rage beneath his mask as he pushes Malik up against the wired fence of the cage. His body is whip tight and the veins beneath his skin popping with tension.

Malik smiles, the slow spread like black ink in water. He’s not afraid, not in the slightest. This is a game and I have the sense that he’s always the victor. He narrows his eyes at Dax and mutters something I can’t hear. Dax pulls back then slams his body into the wire once more, all whilst his grip on Malik’s throat tightens.

“Don’t!” I say, finding myself in the position of trying to prevent Dax from doing something that’s going to have consequences. Consequences that will end very swiftly in his death. Half a beat later, Beast walks into the cage with a gun held out in front of him and Grim by his side. I’m too shocked to do anything but stare at the unfolding events. Beast aims the gun at Dax’s head, pulling back the safety.

“Let him go or get a bullet in your brain,” he grinds out.

“He touched what isn’t his,” Dax grunts, not loosening his hold, but not tightening it either.

“Let. Him. Go. Or. Die!”

Dax doesn’t let go.

Beast doesn’t back down.

And my heart? My heart fucking splinters.

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