Layla danced her way backstage with Summer. She felt so giddy with delight and adrenaline, the crowd had loved their impromptu dance together, of course they had – two beautiful Divas shaking their bodies like that. And they'd loved how Layla and Summer Rae had beaten down Fandango. It'd been a strange moment, looking across the ring and seeing the same frown on Summer's face and knowing exactly what she’d wanted to do. Layla was glad that she'd done it but her heart lurched when she thought about it now and her steps slowed in response.
Summer slowed down too as they reached the Divas locker room, much to Layla's surprise. After all, they'd hated each other for weeks and one beatdown and shared dance didn't equal an instant friendship. But here Summer was, looking at Layla with something like concern. That was going to take a bit of getting used to, as was the warm buzz that Layla felt now when she looked at Summer.
“I can't believe we did it,” Layla said at last, managing a smile.
Summer snorted inelegantly “God, did you see him out there? That spotlight was ours.”
Layla nodded but she'd loved being Fandango's partner and she knew that Summer had enjoyed being by his side too. Summer didn't look too broken up about what had happened though, like she wasn't that shocked at all. Before Layla could ask, Fandango suddenly stormed in, shoving Layla aside like she didn't even matter and going straight for Summer Rae.
One of his hands wrapped around her throat while the other pointed close to her face. “Nobody humiliates Fandango, no one. You're nothing without me, do you hear me? Nothing!”
Summer gasped fruitlessly for air and kicked out hard at Fandango, he grimaced but didn't let go. Layla got to her feet, wide-eyed. He was actually going to choke Summer out. He looked overwhelmingly furious, like he might not stop once Summer was unconscious. Layla felt cold, frozen in place for a horrified moment, then she shoved at his shoulder.
“Stop, you're hurting her!”
Fandango only smirked, her eyes terrifyingly hard. “Good.”
Layla had spent a lot of time trying to hurt Summer Rae but never to this extent. And who knew what Fandango would do once he was done with Summer?
She thought about dancing with Summer in the ring, how good Summer had looked, how the fans had responded and how much Layla had enjoyed herself, how warm and animated she’d felt beside Summer.
Layla leapt into action. She clawed at Fandango's face, raking her nails across his eyes. Fandango roared and Layla shouted loudly, knowing that in the busy arena she might not be heard but also that she had to try. Fandango responded by backhanding her hard across the face.
Layla stumbled away from him, shock coursing through her system. She’d never thought that he was actually capable of hurting her like that. It’d been an abstract thought before; now there was blood trickling out of her mouth and all Layla could feel was anger and completely horrified pain. Summer was crumpled on the floor, one delicate hand to her neck as she tried to breathe properly again. Her other hand clenched and began knocking against the nearest wall, tapping out a familiar beat. She repeated it several times, even as Fandango went for her again. Layla was on her feet, she could go for help but she couldn’t leave Summer, no way, especially not at Fandango’s mercy.
She kicked his leg hard. Like Summer Rae, she had good leg shaping and strength and she knew how to use it. She shouted again, anybody, was anybody listening? Summer was still knocking her fist against the wall with a sort of determination tensing her mouth, even though Fandango had a hand high up on her thigh, like a threat. And he was trying to fend Layla off too, his other hand curling dangerously. Layla didn’t stop kicking him though, her anger already beginning to overwhelm her pain.
Then the door opened and there was a crowd out in the hallway, dressed in sequins and costumes and there was Adam Rose, for once not smiling as he tore Fandango away from Summer and Layla, clobbered him hard and then threw him out of the door. The Rosebuds parted and then reconverged, making sure that Fandango couldn’t get back into the room. Adam shoved his shades up onto his head and offered a hand to Summer Rae who looked very pleased to see him. Layla was just glad to see that Summer okay.
“How’s the weather, Summer girl?” Adam asked, concern threading through his voice.
Summer took his hand and got to her feet. “All Summer all the time.”
“You chose a great beat to play,” he told her, squeezing her hand and then easily letting her go.
“I know. It was great, wasn’t it?”
Summer was tossing her head, looking close to okay now that Fandango was gone. The beat that she’d been tapping out had been familiar, it’d…it’d been the song that played whenever Summer walked down the entrance ramp. Of course it had and Adam had answered it. What was going on?
Layla winced; her face was really hurting now that the adrenaline had leeched away. She delicately touched her mouth and grimaced at the blood that showed up on her fingers. Adam made a tutting noise under his breath; he’d turned his gaze towards her when Layla hadn’t been looking.
“Darren! One of your silks is disposable, isn’t it?”
One of the Rosebuds standing at the doorway, an Asian guy dressed in a shiny red shirt and tight black pants, a silver mask covering half of his face, laughed and threw something towards Adam. Adam snatched it out of the air to cheers from his Rosebuds and held it out to Layla with a flourishing bow.
Layla’s brow wrinkled. She was being offered a silk handkerchief. Adam’s smile seemed softer now and conspiratorial as he spoke.
“He uses about three for his magic tricks. He’s very good.”
Darren grinned and made a coin appear, seemingly plucking it from someone’s clothing. Layla took the handkerchief and pressed it to her mouth. Adam nodded like everything had gone to plan and then crooked his arm out, offering it to Summer.
“There’s always a place for you aboard the Exotic Express, isn’t there, guys?”
The crowd cheered, apparently genuine in their enthusiasm. None of the girls looked jealous or upset about the idea of two Divas holding court on-board the bus. And Summer, Summer linked arms with Adam and looked like this was exactly what she'd been expecting all along. She was clearly able to breathe properly now and hadn't she recently tag-teamed with Adam against Layla and Fandango? She'd also accompanied him to the ring too when he'd faced Fandango. Summer had clearly been making plans. Just as clearly, it'd been a smart thing to do. Layla really admired that.
She was smart, but she hadn't put her faith in anything but Fandango. She used to have plans to, plans that'd put her ahead and in the spotlight. She'd adored Fandango, she'd loved him, but in the end, he'd refused to really choose between her and Summer and had only been concerned with grabbing all of the spotlight and all of the female attention. Summer had come out of it ready and with a plan and allies. Layla hadn't.
She'd still beaten Fandango down though, because it'd been too important not to, plan or no plan. Then Summer had extended her hand, a glint in her eye, and with the crowd cheering, they'd danced together. It'd felt wonderful, the dancing and the crowd and being dipped so playfully by Summer. Still, seeing Summer now, how determined she was despite the marks on her neck and the bruises she was clearly going to get there, was a worried jolt for Layla. She had to rebuild and, she'd been reminded also by Summer, that she could still dance without Fandango. She'd forgotten that somehow, everything had been so wrapped up in him.
Adam was peering at her, worry glimmering in his usually jovial expression. There was more to him than Layla had first thought. Summer clearly trusted him, or maybe she was using him and Adam was happy to be used or maybe he didn't have any idea. A party sounded good though, it sounded like the kind of place that Layla could safely lose herself in for a while. That could be exactly what she needed.
She took the handkerchief away from her face and Adam craned his neck to take a closer room.
“The bleeding's stopped, no permanent damage done. Lovely. Anyway we've got a doctor on-board who can take a look at it if you like.”
Layla raised her eyebrows “There's a doctor on-board the Exotic Express.”
Adam nodded. “He's the one in the straitjacket.”
Of course he was. Adam turned back towards Summer.
“He'll definitely be taking a look at your throat, Summer girl,” he warned, frowned at her neck. “You don't want to be taking chances with your temple of a body in this business, do you? And you don't want him to win.”
Summer didn't protest at all “As long as I get a margarita afterwards.”
“Oh, I think we can swing a bit more than that.”
The Rosebuds cheered again and began pouring away from the room and down the hallway. Summer wriggled her free hand towards Layla, almost a mischievous challenge in her eyes, like the look she’d worn in the ring when she’d offered her hand to Layla after they’d kicked Fandango out of the ring. She looked good and strong and Layla really wanted to hold her hand, to maybe reassure herself that Summer was truly okay or to drown herself in that amazing buzz or…Layla didn’t know, she just wanted to. So she intertwined her fingers with Summer’s and quickly slipped into the rhythm that they were all walking to, well bouncing to really as they began to head towards the door. Layla's heart clenched, would Fandango be waiting? She was so angry with him but there was still a bit of heartbreak too. She really had loved him.
Adam must have noticed because he spoke over the noise of his crowd. “The Rosebuds will keep an eye out for him, and he won't get on the bus, no lemons allowed. We'll be ready, all right?”
Summer actually wore a reassuring smile when Layla glanced her way. Layla wouldn't call them friends yet, not by a long shot, but she did feel a kinship, a bond maybe, with her former rival. That buzz was still under her skin, it hadn't stopped since she'd danced with Summer, and it still felt good. It was all wordless for now.
For now, Layla knew what she needed. “Make mine a margarita.”
Adam laughed and called to one of his Rosebuds, telling them to get Bunny started on the open bar immediately. Summer kept a firm grip on Layla. Layla held on just as tight and danced through the pain. She knew she wasn't the only one.