Chapter 18: Mayhem
"Don't yell at me!" I hushed and spun around, facing the mirror wall. Even the cold shower I took just minutes before couldn't help the heat in my cheeks, and my eyes still glimmered with a flame that was waiting to be reignited.
It was still unclear to me how I ended up where I was right this moment: hot, bothered, and waiting to be kissed. Again.
And, preferably, again.
And again, maybe.
"So? Now what?" Amara ripped me out of my thoughts. "Do I need to find a name for the two of you?"
I grimaced. "What? No! God, would you please stop jumping to conclusions?"
"No one's jumping anywhere. You kissed him! That's not a conclusion, that's a bright red neon sign telling me you want more of him. More of... Flonix."
"Ames!" My interjection got accompanied by the ding of the elevator, which then released me to the ground floor. "I don't..." I glanced around the lobby as I walked out, making sure no one I knew would hear parts of this conversation. "I don't want more. It's just... Ugh. I don't know what I want."
She laughed. "Wow. Florence Nyx doesn't know what she wants? That's rare."
"You know I won't. And you love me for it."
"I'm not too sure about that..." I grumbled and opened my umbrella, heading across the street and toward the port next to the paddock. Azure Racing was throwing their annual yacht party, an event most teams planned for their time in Monaco.
It wasn't the kind of party I'd go to back home, not that I went to a lot of parties to begin with. My last name carried responsibility, and that meant keeping a low profile. I wasn't complaining, though. It was just part of who I was. A part I was proud of.
"No, for real, though. What's your plan now?" My best friend was my voice of reason - who would've thought?
"I don't know..." I didn't like how often I said those words today. "I know he'll be at that damn party, so that won't help either. Fuck. This is already impacting my work..."
"No, it's not. You're Florence Nyx, the girl who can do it all."
A laugh fled my lips from the sing-song voice she used. Amara surely knew how to hype me up. "Thanks, Ames. I guess I'll have to face the storm and ride it, huh?"
"Hell yeah you do. There's also something else you could ride..."
"Ames!" I gasped and laughed at the same time. People on the street shot me weird looks, but I ignored them as I made my way through the crowd and toward the port. The blue and red flag of my team already waved in the distance, announcing the wild ride I was about to embark on.
"What? Don't act like you're a prude... You're the one playing for all fields."
"Doesn't mean I'm mastering them too." I rolled my eyes. "But, as much as I'd love to listen to your innuendo for the rest of the evening, I gotta go now. I'm sure they're already waiting for me."
"Of course they are. Well, you know what to do."
Amara chuckled. "Yeah, you do. Be brave. Be badass. Be you."
This party was nothing like I expected it to be.
Monaco was glamorous, sleek, and filled with champagne. But the Azure Racing team always spoke to me by the way they handled their affairs: surprisingly down-to-earth.
Sure, they handed out cocktails and beers and blasted music from every corner of their super expensive yacht, but they did it with a juvenile audacity that didn't exactly fit into Monte Carlo.
"What are you having?" Jin nudged my shoulder, his already semi-intoxicated being sending a smile to my lips.
He almost cried tears of joy when we met at the yacht entrance, and I could tell this win meant as much to him as it did to the rest of the team, if not more. People underestimated the amount of work that goes into bringing a car on track, and even more, on the podium.
"Just some ginger ale is fine."
"Coming right up." Jin glanced behind the bar and reached for a small glass bottle of ginger ale, which he then handed to me, but I didn't miss the furrowed brows on his face before he looked at the bar again. Spotting what he wanted to, he leaned over the counter and behind the beer pump and then faced me once more, a bottle opener now fixed in his hands. "Just so you know it's not spiked with champagne," he said with a wink while opening my bottle.
And even though I hated the fact that knowledge about this one fateful evening already spread, I couldn't help but laugh with him.
"Right." I shook my head with a chuckle. "Thanks. That's actually very thoughtful."
He shrugged and motioned his beer bottle in my direction, clinking our glasses. "Ah, I'd say it's just human."
We both shared a long look, and suddenly I appreciated this specific human being even more than before. Jin had always been my partner in crime during the internship, but that he cared enough to think about my feelings in a social setting like this made me all mushy inside.
"I guess it is."
"So," the male voice to our right interrupted the exchange, "I guess that was a success."
The foul undertone of his words made it easy to recognize its owner, and yet I hoped that maybe my instincts were just off. But as I turned around, I had to realize they weren't. In fact, the way my hairs stood up on my neck only supported my suspicion.
"Sebastian." Jin nodded in his direction, but I could tell he was less than enthused by our visitor.
"Oh, what was your name again?"
Williams's comment made my eyes go wide, and I curled my hands into fists just from seeing the smug look on his face. "His name is Jin Tanaki. Shouldn't you know that, considering he's one of the most important people in the garage?"
I expected him to be offended by my brazenness, but instead, Sebastian Williams just shot me an amused grin. "Right. Where are my manners — You're one of the mechanics, right?"
"Front end mechanic," Jin added. I could tell he wanted to stay polite, but it was hard to miss the sour undertone of his message. Reaching a position like this took years and years of hard work, and it was disrespectful as hell not to acknowledge that.
"Ah, yes. And you've shown Miss Nyx here the ropes, I bet?" His teeth shone so brightly in the dark light of the bar that I had a hard time looking away from him, even if it was all I wished to do.
The last thing I wanted was to spend another minute with this man. Any involvement with him meant trouble, and his relationship with my father was explosive enough to burn down the entire grid. I didn't need to add fire to the fuel by making conversation with him.
"Actually, I think Jin and I have somewhere else to be." I grabbed Jin by the arm and pushed him away from the bar — Anywhere but next to this asshole would be my dream.
"For someone trying to make a career in the industry, you sure know how to miss out on opportunities," Sebastian quipped, his message making me stop in my tracks.
I spun around, facing him. "Just because you have enough money to buy yourself and your son whatever you want, doesn't mean you have any influence here. Even if you had, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it. Connor would be smart if he stayed away from you, too."
"Says the world champion's daughter."
"Yeah, at least my father knew how to win a championship, unlike you."
I could tell he didn't appreciate the jab, but Williams quickly recovered.
"Spicy!" He laughed. "Just like your dad... No wonder you're hanging around the rogue kid. His mom said he had a tendency for chaos."
"Leave him the fuck out of this."
"Who? The boy who'll never amount to anything, or your precious daddy?"
I waltzed up to him, leaving just a small gap between the asshole and me. Formula 1 drivers were rarely tall, but Sebastian Williams took the cake in regard to size. I had no issue towering over him, and even though he tried not to show it, I could tell he didn't particularly like that fact. "Both," I spat out the word.
"Or what?" He grinned. "You're going to punch me?"
"Is that an invitation?"
Jin tugged at my shirt, probably trying to prevent the unpreventable. "Florence, there's no need to—"
"Oh, let her!" Sebastian laughed, looking up at me. "I'm sure the tabloids would love this."
Of course they would, and he knew that.
I couldn't give him that satisfaction, even if my veins burned with rage at the mere sight of this guy. "Just stay away from my friends and family, Sebastian. You'll regret it if you don't."
"I'm afraid I can't do that... It's in my blood, I guess." The smug grin on his lips let me read that statement like a threat, and I made a mental note to talk to my father about this development. "But I'd advise you to stay away from him, if you want to do your father a favor."
And even though there was no way Sebastian Williams could know about what transpired mere hours ago, I felt the undeniable urge to tell him just how wrong he was. "You're delusional if I think I'd take advice from a lowlife like you."
"The millions on my bank account wouldn't exactly call me a lowlife," he quipped, but before he continued, his gaze fell on something right behind me. "Oh! What a delightful surprise. It's the delinquent!"
I didn't need to turn around to know who he meant, given I already felt a familiar hand on my arm.
"Florence, let's go," Phoenix said, but my gaze still lingered on Sebastian.
Something about the way he looked at me made me uneasy. There was a confidence in his eyes that was either misplaced or scaringly accurate, but I couldn't tell which one, yet. That made this whole spiel even more dangerous.
Did he know something I didn't?
We held each other's gaze for a long moment, and with every second that passed, the itch in my fingers worsened, and I found myself opening and closing them into fists to release the pressure.
That was, until a hand found my own and squeezed it tightly. "Flo..." Phoenix's voice was softer now, and something in the way he held onto me made me turn and look at him. His green eyes sparkled with sympathy, though I could practically feel his own rage burn through my fingers. "He's not worth it. Remember why you're here."
Never in my life did I ever expect Phoenix of all people to tell me to not waste my energy on Williams, but sometimes life just did that. It played its own game, and right now, I was so close to losing it.
And I guess that's exactly what I needed to realize.
My name was Florence Nyx, and I didn't just play this little game called life.
I won it, too.
Without deigning to look at Sebastian Williams and his ferret-like face, I stormed through the bar and out onto the bow of the yacht. The rain had regressed into a slight drizzle, but with the fire raging through my veins, the droplets were a welcomed cool-down.
I took a deep breath and held it for a long moment, letting the much-needed oxygen flow through my lungs before I exhaled again. Still holding onto Phoenix's hand, I leaned against the railing, letting my back hit the cold steel until I finally opened my eyes again.
From my peripheral, I saw a few other Azure Racing members drinking and smoking cigars on the deck, but none of them seemed to have noticed us yet.
"You'd think we'd learned to stay out of trouble," Phoenix muttered.
I laughed and turned to look at him, watching the faint droplets hit his skin.
"I'm thoroughly convinced mayhem is actively seeking me out, not the other way around."
He stepped closer to me, almost imperceptibly so, but every ounce of my being felt his presence like we jumped straight into fire. It was just my right hand on the railing that kept me steady from the storm that carried his name, my left one being occupied with his own.
A thin smile played on his lips as he studied my face, a hint of humor and sorrow hiding in his irises as he said, "That'd make a lot of sense, for sure."
"It would." I nodded.
"Still... You shouldn't punch Sebastian Williams."
My mouth flew open. "Damn, I thought you would've appreciated that."
The chuckle that flew over his lips warmed my heart, though it held despair I didn't like to see in him. "Well, I mean... I probably would've, but still. Wouldn't want you to risk your career just for that."
A shiver ran down my spine; whether it was the weather or the intensity of his gaze, I didn't dare find out. All I knew was I couldn't stop looking at him, and that the drizzle around us probably could've been a hurricane and still never would've lived up to his stormy being.
"I just can't stand whatever bullshit comes out of his mouth," I mumbled.
"I get it." He nodded, and I could only imagine how much he understood what I meant. "What did he say this time?"
My heart tumbled from the mere memory of his words, even though it shouldn't. I shouldn't care about what Williams said. I shouldn't even care enough to let any mention of Phoenix influence me.
But I did. And it was starting to become a problem.
Phoenix raised a brow. "You're a terrible liar."
I sighed, though I couldn't suppress the smirk on my lips. Who knew Phoenix could be observant like that?
"That's why I never lie."
"Except for now," he added. "Why?"
My eyes narrowed and I moved to cross my arms in front of my chest, but Phoenix held onto my hand tightly, leaving me with just one arm over my stomach. "You're asking an awful lot of questions for someone as quiet as you."
He glanced around the deck again, probably noticing the same people I did before. But when he turned back around and minimized the distance, merely leaving space for a few stray droplets between us, his gaze wasn't nervous or insecure. Phoenix knew what he wanted, he just didn't show.
"That's because there's a lot of people here and I'm trying damn hard to occupy my mind enough so I won't do something stupid."
For the second time today, I was at a loss for words. All I could do was look at him and use every shred of resilience I had left to not do something stupid myself, because fuck. This was not the plan.
Not at all.
His hand squeezed my own again, and I almost feared he'd cut off all the blood my heart was vigorously pumping through my veins from how tightly he held on, but I didn't mind.
I needed it.
"You drive me fucking insane, you know that?" I barely heard his husky voice with the wind whipping around us, but swallowed deeply from his words.
His gaze flicked to my lips, and the longer he watched them, the tougher it got not to do something about the urge deep inside of me, the one that makes me want to throw all caution in the wind.
"I wish I could just kiss you," Phoenix spoke determinedly this time, making sure to get his point across.
My heart leaped in my chest while I held on to both the cold railing and the scorching man who was about to set my whole life on fire, and it became harder and harder to breathe evenly. Not even my countless techniques could help with this kind of respiratory issue.
"Yeah. Same..." I exhaled. "But you can't."
"I know," he grumbled, and I almost smiled at the sullen tone of his voice. If only I didn't feel the same...
"We should probably head back inside." I cleared my throat, slowly realizing just how long we must've been out here. "If we stay here any longer, we'll be soaked again."
"Didn't peg you for the rain-shy type." He grinned, though his amusement turned into discontent when I untangled my fingers from his own.
Throwing my head forth, I shook out my hair, sending a few wet droplets to the ground before I got back up. Phoenix's gaze burned straight into my skull as I ran my hands through my hair, trying to comb the mess into a somewhat presentable hairdo.
"I'm not," I finally replied with a wink, "I just need to be kept warm."
He shook his head with another chuckle, although the heat in his eyes didn't meet the amusement in his voice. "Fucking hell..."
Nudging his shoulder, I made my way back into the saloon where the bar was located, hoping to hell and back that Sebastian Williams fled the scene as swiftly as I did. Servers with trays full of mimosas and champagne crossed our path, but I headed straight for the bar at the other end, spotting a few others of the Azure Racing crew.
Maybe some company would help this tension.
"Hey guys," I greeted the three mechanics I already knew, along with Felipe's race engineer. "Congratulations!"
We shared a few hugs and quickly engaged in small talk, which even Phoenix participated in. He was particularly interested in Felipe's race engineer, who opened up about the brilliant teamwork between strategy department, mechanics, and pit crew. They all had to work together today to bring success.
"So, Silverstone next week, huh?" Klaus, one of the rear-end mechanics, chimed in. "That'll be fun!"
"Oh, absolutely. I can't wait!" Silverstone was one of my favorite race tracks, so I was damn excited to get there, too.
"Yeah, we'll have to leave early in the morning tomorrow," Jin joined my side, a thoughtful look in his eyes as he studied me and Phoenix, who was just making his way back over to me.
"I know. I'll be there."
Jin smiled. "I sure hope so."
I chuckled and started my response, but got interrupted by a champagne glass held in my face. The orange liquid made me raise my brows before I turned to my right, where Phoenix stood with a bright grin on his lips.
"Don't murder me. It's just OJ."
My eyes narrowed, but I couldn't help the laugh from my lips as I grabbed the glass. "You're an asshole, you know that?"
"I thought I was a dickhead."
"Well..." I shrugged. "Now you're both."
Phoenix insisted on escorting me to my room, even though I tried telling him multiple times that I wasn't drunk from the OJ he gave me, and also that the hotel was merely a five-minute walk away. He didn't care about that, though.
Instead, I had to suffer through the charged energy between us for the entire walk there, the elevator ride, and even the few steps right up to my room.
Deja vú kicked in as we reached my door, given we were both carrying our damp clothes from the way home. Just now that I reached my doorstep did I realize I left my umbrella at the yacht; Guess it was too late now, anyway.
"This is me," I said, unintentionally repeating past me's words.
Phoenix reached over and brushed a strand of short hair behind my ear, all without actively touching my skin, and yet I felt every fiber of his being when he responded, "Yeah... I know."
I swallowed from the way he looked at me. His gaze was full of heat and longing, a longing that felt so similar to what happened deep inside of me, that I had a hard time not just inviting him in.
Truth was, no matter if I knew what this was, or whether it was a good idea, — well, let's face it, this was probably the worst idea I've ever had —, I wanted him. Why, how, and when? I didn't know. I just knew my heart was longing for him.
Everything and everyone screamed at me to stay away from this man, but maybe that was it.
I always loved dancing with fire, embraced playing with the flames.
All until they burned me.
"I'll see you tomorrow," I said, mustering up all my confidence and strength to get through this night without any burn marks.
Phoenix nodded. "Yeah."
Swiping my card over the reader, I opened the door before I turned back once more. "Goodnight, Phoenix."
And then the door fell shut.
But as I leaned with my back against the door, I still felt my fingertips prickle with heat and electricity. Everything within me was screaming for me to go after him, to just give in, for once.
I've always seen life as what happened beath the hood.
Life, or better all of us, were wired like cars, in the end. With an engine that kept us going, just like our heart pumped blood through our veins. Brakes and gas pedals either accelerated or stopped our journeys, but the main issue would always be the same. The entity behind the steering wheel.
Sometimes, our hearts didn't listen to the mind, much like a car couldn't always do what the driver wanted.
That race driver in my head was telling me to steer away from the danger I was facing. After all, every logical human being would know to avoid an oncoming wreck.
But the engine in my chest knew I could do more. I wanted more. Every inch of me longed to push the gas pedal, just for the thrill of the ride, no matter where it left me in the end.
My train of thoughts got interrupted by a knock on my door that made me jump, and I fumbled with the handle before I slowly opened it.
"Phoenix?" I asked, my mouth suddenly gone dry from the wild look on his face.
"Connor locked me out," he said, and that statement alone made my heart stop.
Shit. We did not need that.
Or did we?
His dark hair was all over the place, almost as if he ran his hand through it a few times too often, but my stomach warmed from the sole sight of him. This was just undeniably him: Chaotic, stormy, and wild.
But as he stepped closer to the threshold, his hands bracing against the frame, I knew I was in deep, deep trouble. Because that engine was revving its heart out right now.
And then he spoke again.
"Can I come in?"
Hey, folks! Thank you for your patience while I took some time off. I spent an entire week without social media or my books, so that's pretty crazy!
Here's a rather long chapter with a nice cliffhanger for you all, I know you love them (lol)
So, with all the talking about Formula 1 race tracks and vacations, I wondered where you guys would love to travel to? Any dream destinations? Let me know!
Now, as always, please stay safe and healthy.
Let those engines rev!
Lots of love
P.S.: special thanks to my friend aliceben16 for coming up with the brilliant #Flonix. *applause*