The man’s eyebrow rose. “With what?” Eyes slithering over my chest, he planted his hand back on my leg. Pushing my dress out of the way, he inched higher and higher and higher on naked skin.
I wanted to curl into a ball and cry until I drowned from tears. I wanted oblivion from this nightmare. But the drugs kept me sitting prim and willing, a perfect toy to play with.
There are others. Many others who have the right to help me ensure the debt is fully repaid. The sentence had been on repeat in my head ever since Jethro whispered it on the plane. Was that why he permitted his brother to manhandle me? Would I be given to him to do as he pleased?
Please, God. Please don’t let that happen.
I had enough strength to stay true to myself and survive one man. But multiple? They’d tear me into smithereens and ruin me even for death.
Jethro placed his hand—slightly larger and far more scary—on my other leg, pressing me hard against the leather. His touch hurt—burning my exposed skin like dry-ice. “I gave her Diamond Dust.”
Daniel’s vile touch stopped just as the tips of his fingers brushed the crotch of my knickers. I sat frozen, every part of me humming with horror.
“Diamond Dust? Shit, Jet, that stuff hasn’t finished testing. You know Cut didn’t authorise it to be sold yet—let alone be used in public. What if she had a seizure? How would you have explained she’s nothing and deserved to die? You couldn’t. You’d end up in fucking prison.”
My heart hammered. Not only had he stolen my mobility, he’d run the risk of killing me. The fear crested again, burning through the drugs bit by bit. Even with the knowledge that I’d have to live through countless horrors before my time was up, I was glad I hadn’t had a seizure. Death was so final. As long as I breathed, I might find some way to survive.
You say that now. My pain threshold hadn’t been tested. I had no guide on how strong I’d remain or how precious my life would be when I no longer wished to live it.
Jethro shrugged. “If she died then the final debt would’ve been paid sooner rather than later.” Glancing at me, he added, “I admit it’s taking longer than I thought to leave her system. But it did a nice job shutting her up.”
His fingers turned to pincers. “See how enjoyable silence is, Ms. Weaver?”
I stayed immobile beneath his touch, but my heart flew with terror, burning off the residual frozenness, leaving me at the mercy of reactions. Every second the drug weakened only meant I had to work extra hard to maintain the deception I was still its prisoner.
Daniel’s fingers inched further. His eyes locked on mine as he touched my clit through my knickers. His touch was horribly warm, invasive, and gross.
I wanted to kick him in the damn nose.
But I just sat there.
And died a little.
I sat there, because I had no damn choice.
Don’t. I swallowed, drinking the tears fighting so hard to be shed. Don’t spiral. I couldn’t let myself be sucked into useless sadness. I’d never claw my way out. I’d never be ready to fight.
And I mean to.
My life might be earmarked for extinction, but I meant to be the last Weaver the Hawks ever took.
At least I don’t have children. Once they killed me, there’d be no more Weaver women.
Oh, my God. Until Vaughn has children.
The fist around my heart squeezed until lightheadedness made the car swim.
Daniel yanked me from my horror, rubbing my clit viciously. He grinned, dragging his repulsive touch downward, violating every part of me. “She looks younger than twenty-four. Sure you didn’t get the younger sister instead?”
I jolted, sucking in a breath. I forgot to pretend the drugs still held me prisoner. A sister? Impossible.
She left us. Could my mother have had another life—a whole other existence that I didn’t know about?
The thought pulverized my heart. Not only did she have a family—tearing us apart when the debt came for her—but she’d thoughtlessly given life to another girl?
Jethro’s head snapped toward me, his light-brown eyes flashing in the darkness. I stayed as statuesque as possible. My gasp was the first sound I’d made since the bar. Since I entered into an agreement with Kite not to make him care, and the last conversation I had with my brother for who knew how long.
Jethro leaned into my neck, whispering, “I see you fighting it. I see you winning. You can’t hide anything from me.” Pulling away, his eyes narrowed. “You’d do well to remember that. Don’t give me a reason to hurt you so soon.”
Looking to his brother, he muttered, “She’s the right one.” His fingers clenched and unclenched on my thigh. In a lightning move, he snatched Daniel’s wrist and jerked his probing fingers from my core. “She’s the right one and mine. Enough.”
I couldn’t stop the sigh of relief. Only one other man had touched me there. Only one boy had seen me naked and taken my virginity. I never thought I’d be in a situation where I’d be forced, and for a fraction of a second I was grateful toward Jethro for stopping it.
“I can touch her if I want. Shit, I can fuck her too.”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t. I just said…enough.” He bit the word into pieces. Sharp, deadly, unforgiving.
Daniel tore his arm from Jethro’s grip. “Fine. But don’t climb up your arse thinking she’s just yours. She’s not. She belongs to all of us.”
There are others. Many others who have the right to help me ensure the debt is fully repaid.
“No. But she’s mine until I say you can have her. Hierarchy, little brother. You know how receiving charity works.”
“Fuck off, Jet.” Pointing a finger at Jethro’s face, he said, “Cut changed a few things tonight at the Gemstone. He’s named me VP—given me your role.”
Jethro settled into the seat, his broad shoulders brushing mine. “If you think he did that behind my back, you’re mistaken. I asked for time. Cut was more than happy to grant it. After all, I’m the firstborn son of a Hawk. She’s the firstborn daughter of a Weaver. There are more important things on my agenda for the foreseeable future.”
My brain swam. Everything they said sounded cryptic and layered in code. Cut? Was that a name? Gemstone? It sounded like a place, but that didn’t make sense.
“You’ve always thought you’re better than me. But you’ll see who extracts a debt from flesh better when I get my turn.” Daniel sneered, his gaze bouncing from his brother to me.
I gritted my teeth against dropping my eyes or trying to turn invisible. As much as I hated Jethro, I would make sure to remain in his good graces as long as possible.
Daniel reached out and patted my knee, ignoring Jethro’s icy look. “Enjoy your time with my brother, because when you’re mine…enjoyment won’t be something you’ll be feeling.”
Jethro sat forward, his suit rustling against the leather upholstery. In his signature terrifying quietness, he said, “You disturb my work before I’m through, blood or not, you’ll pay the price.”
The two men glowered. I didn’t know either of them, but the air shimmered with past conflict and animosity—hinting that this standoff was nothing new.
“You’re not untouchable,” Daniel hissed. “You better—”
Jethro shook his head, eyes dark as amber. “Stop. There’s nothing I better do. Father didn’t pick you. He didn’t choose you.” His hand came up, casually checking his fingernails. “Life rewards those who deserve it. And you—don’t.”
Jethro was calm, made worse with the swirling ferocious temper existing just below the surface. The atmosphere thickened, changing the breathability of the car’s interior until I choked with the urge to flee.
Daniel trembled with violence.
Clive, the driver, never slowed, continuing through the night as if brother rivalry and debts extracted from human misery was common. The gentle rocking of the vehicle did nothing to relieve the anger between Jethro and Daniel, but every wheel spin helped shed the fogginess I’d existed in for the past few hours.
The fact I was trapped between two males who might explode at any second helped drench my system in adrenaline, kick-starting my heart, dragging me to the surface of being master of my own body once again. The heavy drug-ocean receded.
I didn’t witness what made Daniel concede—Jethro never moved—but he growled a curse, then spun in his seat to glare out the windscreen. I followed his attention, holding my breath at the soft glow in the distance. If that was our destination, it was giant. A looming residence breaking the darkness with false warmth and welcome.
My new home.
My new hell.
“It’s called Hawksridge Hall. Take a good look, because it’s the last place you’ll ever live,” Jethro murmured. Grabbing a handful of my hair, he tugged me closer. His hot breath disappeared down my dress, making me tremble. “Hawksridge has been in our family for countless generations. A fortune we built from nothing. Unlike you, we weren’t born into privilege. We earned our wealth. We deserved the titles bestowed, and it’s time to show you what we had to do to achieve that.”
His fingers wrapped tighter, burning my scalp. “To dispel any thought of running, there’s over one thousand hectares of land. You’d never find your way to the boundary. You’re trapped.” His lips grazed over my jaw. “You’re mine.” Keeping his fingers tangled in my hair, he reclined, pulling my neck into an uncomfortable angle.
The sadness I’d done so well at battling crested again. There wouldn’t be bars on my cage—or at least I didn’t think so—but there was a fortified moat in the design of woodland and lakes and hills. I wasn’t outdoorsy. I didn’t know north from south.
But you do run.
I was fast. I had stamina. If the opportunity came, I wouldn’t hesitate to put my obsession with running to use.
Until you fall and break your leg thanks to an episode.
My shoulders rolled. Not only was I trapped by a maniac family, but I was vertigo’s favourite stumbler.
The car continued deeper and deeper. Every turn, I lost all sense of direction and knew I would never find the gatehouse without a miracle.
Taking a deep breath, I looked at my hands in my lap. I willed sensation to come back. They twitched, returning to life with a wash of pins and needles.
They fell off my lap involuntary as we bounced over a cattle grate. Jethro pursed his lips, looking at my offending limb on the seat beside him. His gaze trailed up my arm to my chest.
I breathed faster at the calculating look in his eyes. Unwinding his fingers from my hair, he trailed them down my neck, along my clavicle, across my shoulder, and down my arm. “My brother was the first to touch you below, but I’m going to be the first to touch you here.” His hand skated across to my breast, clamping around the sensitive tissue.
The soft cotton of my dress did nothing to protect me from the coldness of his grip.
“You seemed to want my attention at the café. Don’t say I never give you anything.” His finger pinched my nipple, rolling it painfully. There was nothing sexual about his hold—only punishment.
Giving up pretence of being under the influence of whatever he’d given me, I squeezed my eyes, swallowing back a whimper.
He twisted my nipple again, shifting from demeaning to the edge of painful, but what made it worse was I’d wanted him to touch me there. I would’ve willingly slept with him only hours before. Before I knew the animal inside the cultivated man.
“You’re too skinny. I prefer women with more…assets than you,” he whispered, cupping my other small breast. “However, your tiny stature might prove to be a blessing with some of the things I have planned.” He pinched me again, turning my nipple like a corkscrew.
I flinched, forehead furrowing against the pain.
He chuckled. “I knew it was wearing off.” His touch turned from painful to excruciating. I bit my lip, barely holding back a cry.
“Just in time.” Letting my breast go, he captured my hand, linking his icy fingers through mine. There was nothing romantic or caring about Jethro holding my hand—it was a pure reminder that I had no chance in hell of getting free.
I wanted so badly to talk to them. To beg for rescue. But I could no longer be the woman I’d been. I couldn’t be the workaholic who blamed others for my unhappiness. I’d accepted my father’s old-fashioned law about not being permitted to date, because in all honesty, I wasn’t ready. I would never be ready. Because meeting someone meant the possibility of falling in love. Which meant the worst pain imaginable when they left.
If anything, Jethro had done me a favour. I never wanted male company again. If I could return to my sewing machines with no other companionship but my twin, I’d be happy, eternally grateful, and would live the rest of my life in peace.
Tugging my hand into his lap, Jethro murmured, “I meant what I said on the plane. Play your part and you’ll live to see another sunrise.”
Something snapped inside as if the drug suddenly gave up its hold on me, along with everything I’d been trying to avoid. The tears, the fears, the constant worrying of what was to come.
It all disappeared.
I couldn’t afford to drain my energy with useless wonderings. Jethro said I could work. I intended to drown myself in fabric and continue designing my next runway show. I would pretend my world hadn’t become a monster-filled nightmare, and lock my mind in a place where it was safe. Mundane was safe. Routine was safe.
I would create a sewing room deep in my soul and ensure no one—including the numerous activities Jethro had planned—could ever ruin me.