Lyrical: Chapter 40


Pen

I stand in the middle of the cage and wait. The lights are out, and the pyrotechnics won’t start until the music does. There’s a general buzz of excitement and a tension that fills the air much like it had that night I danced here three weeks ago. Except this time, I’m not second guessing what’s happening.

This time I’m in control.

There’s no fucking, there’s only anticipation and a roomful of gangsters waiting to see me dance. For the first time in a long, long time, I feel powerful.

Surrounding me in a circle are the girls. They look amazing and a far cry from what these gangsters have come to expect. Grim agreed to trust my artistic streak and paid for the outfits to be made, no expenses spared. Each of the girls are barefoot and wearing black bodysuits encrusted with tiny black and silver gemstones which sparkle when the light catches them. The sides of their bodysuits have a section cut out of them, showing off their beautiful curves and acknowledging what they once were. I wanted them to use their sexual prowess as a weapon, much like I use dance as mine. Their eyes are framed by kohl liner and their lips shimmer with gloss. All six have their hair pulled back in a high ponytail and their legs are bare. In short, they look fucking incredible.

In contrast, I’m wearing the dress Zayn bought me. It fitted perfectly with the idea I had for the dance. From the ankles up, my legs have been painted on with body makeup, flames licking upwards—not as a nod to Malik Brov, The Collector, though I suspect he’ll see it that way—but because I have a fire, a strength that burns within me.

Three years ago my brother and Jeb changed the course of my future, they took away my happiness, my joy, and I let them. They tried to dampen my fire, they tried to make me weak, and they almost succeeded, but tonight I’m rising from the ashes, like a motherfucking phoenix from the flames. From this moment on, I will not allow anyone to get between me and the men I love. Xeno might have disappeared, but I have to trust he will return. I have to trust that my love for him is enough to bring us back together, and when he returns I’m going to fight for us. For all of us.

“Ready?” I whisper.

“Ready,” the girls respond in unison. We’ve practised every spare moment and they’ve got this routine down.

“I’m so proud of you all.” And even though I can’t see their faces clearly, I know they’re smiling at me.

“Let’s do this,” Nancy says. She was the beautiful blonde who acknowledged me that night I first danced in the cage. She’s the best dancer of the six.

Drawing in a soothing breath, I get into position. With my knees bent in a plié and my arms held wide, I drop my head and wait. Around me the girls raise their arms and rest their hands on each other’s shoulders.

Thump, thump, thump, thump.

The opening beat of Play With Fire by Sam Tinnesz begins to sound out around us. It’s the perfect song to represent how I feel.

Danger, secrets, past hurt, anger, all of it is funnelled into this dance.

Like a match lighting petrol, walking away from the Breakers had blown up in all our faces, burning us all. But now that the truth has been shared, I know we’ll find a way to rise up out of the damn ashes. All of us.

Even Xeno.

I have to believe he will come back. I know I hurt him, but I also know he felt guilty. I saw it in his eyes, he isn’t to blame. Jeb and David are, and one day those motherfuckers will get their comeuppance.

Drawing strength from the music, from the badass dancers surrounding me, I let the angry cadence of Sam Tinnesz’s voice lift me emotionally. I’m fucking ready.

The first line of the song plays just as indoor flares rigged to each post of the cage go up in a burst of startling orange and yellow sparks, heating our skin in a fiery glow. With the next beat the flares suddenly go out and the cage is lit instead by a soft orange glow. This is the cue for the girls to begin to dance around me, and just like I knew it would be, their timing is perfect. Twisting and turning, spinning low, then sweeping back up high, the girls move like ash billowing from the flames of a fire.

As I watch them, my veins run with heat, with passion, with a raw intensity and a determination to prove my strength, to show my worth. I’m no longer weakened by Jeb and David’s threats. I’ve found a way to protect my sister and myself. It may not be foolproof, but it’s a fucking start. I’m not that terrified, cornered girl anymore, I’m so much more than that. I’ll only get stronger each and every day I’m surrounded by my boys.

My men. My Breakers.

This dance is for them as much as it’s for me.

A breeze passes over my skin, lifting up my tulle skirt and fanning the flames that have always burned inside my chest. I spin on my feet in a series of fouetté turns, the girls mirroring me.

They’re the ash.

I’m the flames.

The dress Zayn bought me moves fluidly, the tulle skirt light, perfect for dancing in. The material whispers over my skin, revealing my thighs, and showing off my dark, blood-red underwear as I move. Just like we practiced, the girls raise their hands in the air above them as six, topless men lower down from silk ropes and grasp their wrists. One by one they’re lifted ten feet off the ground, as though a fierce wind has blown through the warehouse and has churned the ash rising up from the flames, from me.

Below the spinning, sparkling girls, I dance.

Every step is a word. Every line of my body, a story. I tell my tale right here in the club named the same. For some it will just be a pretty dance, a performance to thrill, but this isn’t for the gangsters that surround me. This is for the Breakers. This is for them.

I transition from a fouetté turn into a renverse tilt jump, landing lightly then dropping to the canvas as I work the floor with long lines and smooth strokes. Bending at the waist, I flip forward into a split, then sweep my legs together before stepping upwards in one graceful move. I use every single part of my body to express how I feel. From the tips of my fingers to the tops of my toes, I burn the fucking canvas with my dance.

I feel.

Boy, do I feel.

This is who I am. This is who I was born to be.

A girl who dances like flames rampaging through a forest. Powerful, potent, oxygen stealing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone step into the cage. Someone familiar.

My throat tightens. My stomach churns. My chest heaves.

My heart fucking leaps.

I come to a standstill, blinking back the shock, and holding my nerve.

Even if he wasn’t dressed head to toe in black, even if his face wasn’t covered by a black mask with just the eyes and mouth cut out, I’d know who it is.

Xeno.

He strides towards me, the taut muscles of his stomach contracting beneath his skintight top as he moves. My throat constricts as he ducks beneath Nancy’s legs, stepping into the circle the girls are making around us as they’re lowered back onto the canvas, the men dropping behind them as they fan out into a wall. Nancy captures my eye, giving me a look asking if I need help. I shake my head telling her it’s okay, to just go with it. She nods and begins to dance, wrapping her long legs around her partner just like I’d choreographed. The other girls follow.

“You’re back,” I breathe out, my hands pressing against his chest, my fingers skirting over his bare skin between his top and mask. Xeno being here wasn’t part of the plan, but I just go with it, and like the true professionals they are, the girls continue dancing. One by one they wrap themselves around their partners, grinding on them. It’s sexy as fuck.

“Look at you,” he whispers, bringing up his hands to cup my face. Electricity zings between us, the air potent and crackling, eddying with emotion. Passion. Fire.

“What are you doing here?”

“Dancing with you.” He places his arm around my back, jerking me against him. Air whooshes out of my chest as my body slams into his. “Don’t think, just move.”

He dips me backwards, mimicking the couples around us, one leather-clad hand sliding up my thigh and lifting my right leg around his hip whilst the other holds onto me firmly. Xeno grips me tightly, the beat of a new song vibrating up through the canvas as we move. It’s Fire on Fire by Sam Smith. My head tips back as I bare my neck to him, the ends of my hair reaching the canvas.

He leans over me, just like he did that first time he danced with me in the studio. This time he isn’t hiding who he is from me, just the rest of the warehouse. I can see his beautiful eyes burn fiercely behind the mask he wears before he lowers his mouth over the bare skin of my chest. For a moment he holds me there, pressing a lingering kiss over my beating heart whilst the couples dance around us, their movements whipping up the air and covering my skin in goosebumps.

“Tiny,” he laments, his lips sliding over my clavicle, and my neck as he lifts me back upwards. “I fucked up.”

He presses a gentle kiss against my lips that is almost painful in how heartfelt it is. I’m all for passionate kisses, but this is something more. This is a promise of everything I’ve always wanted. There’s a tremulousness to his kiss.

He’s holding back.

This is the slow trickle of water through a crack in a dam, waiting for the moment to burst. This is the low heat of a flame flickering to life, waiting for the tinder to catch and burst into an inferno. This is a heart slowly cracking open, but not wanting an audience in that moment when it does. This is a boy called Xeno, kissing a girl he calls Tiny.

This is an apology, and a declaration.

“Xeno, this is dangerous…” I mutter against his mouth. My heart’s pounding in my chest, not just because he’s kissing me the way he is but because out there in the darkened warehouse are men who still have the power to hurt us.

“Keep moving,” he responds, gripping my right hand within his and gently pushing against my left shoulder so that I spin away from him. He chases after me, catching me before I collide with one of the couples, and with his hands on my hips, he uses the momentum to lift me up above his head. My hands grasp his shoulders as I pull in my core and level my legs horizontally above him. It takes great strength and trust on both parts to be able to perform a lift like this. Being able to pull this lift off without practice just tells me what I’ve known all along, that Xeno and I were made to dance with each other.

The way we move together is instinctual, just like it is with the rest of my Breakers. He grins, baring his perfect white teeth as he lowers me down his perfectly toned body. Lust and passion—that sets my whole body alight—glimmers in his eyes.

Sam Smith sings about passion colliding, fires alighting, desire burning, and the timing couldn’t be more fucking perfect. That’s what we are Xeno and I, we’re passion, desire, lust, hunger. Love.

I feel that.

As we dance, I feel his love. It’s fierce. It takes my breath away.

Xeno presses another kiss against my lips, his teeth edging against my bottom lip, nipping at my skin with a low growl that rumbles through his chest into mine.

“Fuck,” he mutters, before he pushes against my hip with his left hand, encouraging me to spin away again. I kick out in a series of fouetté turns across the canvas and behind me he performs a front flip without his hands, meeting me once again in an embrace that has my heart fucking soaring. He grasps the back of my head, tucking me under his chin and holds me close. The push and pull of our relationship so perfectly described within our movements. For a moment he just holds me as we sway together, my hand resting over his heart as it pounds like a bass drum. Every inch of me is pressed against every inch of him as he strokes his hand up my back and cups my face. When he bends over me, his mouth dropping to my ear, I shiver with anticipation, my senses telling me that something isn’t right.

“I need you to trust me. Can you do that?” he asks.

“What do you mean—?”

His fingers dig into my bare skin, the urgency of his voice making me suddenly fearful. Around us the girls continue to dance, covering this brief, urgent conversation. “I’m sorry I let you down, Pen. I’m so fucking sorry for it all. Your pain,” he says, holding his fisted hand against his chest, “It’s mine now. That motherfucker won’t hurt you ever again. I’ll make sure of it.”

“Xeno, you’re scaring me! What are you talking about?”

My question is cut short when the lights suddenly go out, bathing us all in darkness.

“Fuck!” Xeno whisper-shouts.

“What?”

“There’s no time. Know that I love you, Tiny,” he says fiercely, then I feel the sharp stab of a needle sliding into my neck and the cold intrusion of something liquid entering my veins.

My body goes limp as my mind fights to say conscious, but it’s no good, the darkness grabs hold of me with sharp claws, dragging me under. The last thing I remember before I slide into oblivion are warm arms picking me up and the distinct sound of gunshots being fired.

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