As if I would be interested in a girl like her. Meek. Skinny. Beyond fucking sheltered it was insane.
Grabbing the throttle of my bike, I waged with ignoring my father’s rules and stalking into the venue and stealing Nila Weaver in front of everyone. She could scream, shout—it wouldn’t make a difference. But that wasn’t allowed.
The other option was I could just fuck off and kidnap her from her hotel room.
She has to come willingly.
My father’s voice again. Kidnapping was the last resort.
I growled under my breath.
I’d let her go, not because of some decency, or concern of what would happen to her family’s happiness, or even the upcoming pain in her future. No, I let her go, because I was my father’s son and followed a plan. But there was a deeper reason, too.
I was a hunter. Skilled with both bow and arrow and gun. I stalked the weaker and slit their throats when they succumbed to my careful aim.
But sometimes I liked to…miss. I liked to give them a small window of safety, all while closing the noose when they didn’t expect it.
I liked to play with my food.
The chase was the best part. Hunting was intoxicating. And knowing I had the power to snuff out Nila Weaver’s life the moment I caught her gave me a certain…thrill.
That was the only reason I restrained myself and followed the rules.
I had no secrets of why I would stain my hands with her blood. I had no misplaced vendettas or agendas. Everything that would come to pass was for one simple and undisputable fact.
There was a debt to be paid. And I was the method of extraction. Plain and simple.
I’m a Hawk. She’s a Weaver.
That was all I needed to know.
In the library a week ago, while sipping on a ten thousand pound bottle of cognac, my father proceeded to tell me a little of our history. He told me gruesome things. Dastardly things. Tears shed. Blood spilled. He told me what happened to Nila’s mother.
He also told me why every firstborn Weaver girl had a stain upon her life. I understood it. I accepted it. I was given the task to uphold my family’s honour. And I fully intended to extract payment as meticulously and as painfully as possible.
It wasn’t often I was given the opportunity to make my bastard of a father proud. I didn’t intend to let him down.
Even though I wouldn’t enjoy it.
Liar. You will enjoy it.
A tight smile twisted my lips. Fine. I would enjoy it. Nila Weaver would be my greatest trophy. I might not be able to display her head on my wall once I was through, but I would treasure the memories. Something told me I would no longer find pleasure in hunting hapless deer after I’d hunted a woman.
Oh, yes. I would enjoy ruining Nila, because I liked breaking things. But not in a gruesome barbaric way. I liked to break them smoothly, gently, ruthlessly. I liked to think I transformed creatures from their present to their potential.
Pity once Nila was transformed she wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy her evolution. She would be dead. That was the final toll. That was her future.
To kill something so naïvely pretty…
It made me angry in a way to think of such delicate perfection snuffed out. But there was no point thinking of the end when the chase had just begun.
My head snapped up, eyes locking onto my prey. The same prey who’d run yet returned.
She’d returned? I was right before. She truly is stupid.
Nila drifted forward, threading and unthreading her fingers. I didn’t move or utter a sound. She responded to my silence—like everything. I’d learned that cursing and yelling could be frightening—but silence…it was the empty void where enemies’ fears polluted. Stay quiet long enough and horror would be struck with one whisper instead of a multitude of profanities.
She waved at my bike, her eyes wider than before…darker than before.
Deciding to grant her a reply, I said, “It’s my version of accessorising.” The Harley-Davidson was a new purchase. Sleek and sharp, nicknamed The Little Black Dress.
Stroking the throttle, I tilted my head. Her dusky skin had colour. Her pronounced cheekbones were flushed, trailing residual temper down her neck. Something had happened. Something had upset her.
Did she find her father, only for him to disown her and send her back to me?
I frowned. Could Archibald Weaver truly send his only daughter not once, but twice, to her death? He knew what awaited her. He knew what would happen if he didn’t give her up. But was family honour that strong? Or was there more to this debt than I’d been told?
Either way, it was time to go. Time to begin her nightmare.
She nodded. “I returned. I want something from you. And I’m not going to be shy about asking.”
A flicker of surprise caught me unaware. She came across shy and timid, but there lurked steel in her voice. Little did she know what I wanted from her in return.
“Fair enough. I have something to discuss with you.”
Don’t make her suspect.
Your future. Your death.
“Nothing important, but we need to go.”
Time to begin. The time is nigh to pay your debts.
Nila came closer, shedding the tameness, and embracing courage. I would’ve been intrigued if I didn’t already know everything about her.
Such a silly girl. A silly toy.
Whatever she wanted from me, I’d oblige. After all, she’d been given to me to do as I pleased.
And everyone knows you don’t give a pet to a killer.
I blinked. “Excuse me?”
Jethro didn’t move. He didn’t look condescending or annoyed or anything other than cold and collected. Nothing seemed to interest him. I thought I could use him for sex? He didn’t look like he knew what a smile was, let alone passion.
His legs bunched beneath the dark charcoal of his trousers, steadying the heavy motorcycle between them. “I said, get on. We’re leaving.”
I laughed. What a ludicrous suggestion. Waving down my front, I hoped he wasn’t blind, because no one could ignore the kilograms worth of black diamantes or acres of material I wore. “I struggled to get here in a limousine. There’s no way I can perch on the back of a stupid motorcycle.”
Jethro’s lips quirked. “Come closer. I’ll fix that.”
My heart jumped; I clutched my phone tighter. No response from Kite. Which is a good thing. I just had to keep telling myself that. I never wanted to hear from him again. “Fix it how?”
“Come here and I’ll show you.” His eyes drifted down the front of my dress.
I’d been around powerful, attractive men all my life. Both my father and brother were well known for being eligible bachelors, but they lacked something that Jethro held in abundance.
Everything about him spoke of trickery and wile. He’d barely spoken, yet I felt his requests. For some stupid reason, it felt as if he’d trained me with his silence to be alert, ready, eager to please.
I hated his effortless power.
Backing away, I shook my head. “I won’t.”
A small smile graced his lips, golden eyes flashing. “That wasn’t very polite. I gave you a request, kindly delivered, respectfully even.” His fingers tightened around the handle bars. “Should I ask again, or will you rethink your reply?”
A trickle of fear blustered down my neck. I knew that glint in his eye. Vaughn would get it when we were younger. It meant destruction. It meant getting their own way. It meant a world of pain if I didn’t obey. And for some reason, I didn’t think a wedgie and being tickled until I couldn’t breathe counted as pain in Jethro’s dimension.
Clutching the bodice that’d taken me weeks to hand-sew, I took another step backward. Keeping my chin high, I said, “I’m not being impolite; I’m stating the obvious. If you wish to leave, we need a different method of transportation.” Speaking so formally sounded odd after screaming via text message to Kite. “And besides, I don’t want to leave yet. I promised myself I’d ask you something, and I’m not going anywhere until I do.”
God, Nila. What are you doing?
Nerves attacked my stomach, but I kept my stance. I wouldn’t back down. Not this time.
Jethro shook his head, displacing his longish salt-and-pepper hair. His smooth face remained expressionless with patience, but it didn’t relieve—it terrified. With precision born of wealth and confidence, he kicked the stand down and placed the bike into a resting position. Swinging his leg over the machine, he climbed the curb and hunted.
No. Don’t let him touch you.
I stumbled backward, a slight edge of dizziness catching me off guard.
Jethro caught me, placing his large, cold hands on my waist.
I froze, breathing shallowly. Shoving away the moment of wobbliness, I fixated on his strong jaw and glinting diamond pin.
The temperature of his touch seeped through the ruffles on my hips, bringing with it fear manifesting like icicles over an innocent dawn.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jethro jerked me closer, peering into my eyes. The first sign of animation lurked in their golden depths. It wasn’t concern though, merely annoyance. “Are you ill?” Annoyance turned to carefully hidden anger.
I swallowed hard, hating my condition all over again. To him, I would come across as weak. He wouldn’t understand the strength it took to live a normal life while shackled to an improperly balanced form. If anything, it made me stronger.
“No, I’m not ill. Not that you’re worried for my health.” Twitching in his hold, I searched for a way free. But his touch only tightened. Blowing a blue-black strand from my eye, I added, “It’s not contagious. I suffer from vertigo. That’s all. Google it.”
That’s all. I scrape my knees if I get out of bed too fast and faint if I swivel my head too quick, but that’s all.
Jethro scowled. “Perhaps you shouldn’t wear such heavy clothing.” He plucked the dense material and delicate stitching on my waist. “It’s a hindrance and delaying my night’s activities.”
My eyes flared. Night’s activities?
Perhaps he had the same conclusion of where we’d end up? Captive in his strong hands, I stared up. I wasn’t short for a woman, but Jethro had at least half a foot on me. He didn’t move, only watched as if I were an interesting specimen he couldn’t decide to enjoy or throw away.
My breathing grew shallow the longer he held me. Dropping my gaze to his lips, it didn’t help my anxiety at having them so close. It’s now or never.
I knew nothing about him. He scared me. But he was a man. I was a woman. And once, just once, I wanted pleasure.
“I want something from you,” I murmured.
He stilled. “What exactly makes you think you’re in a position to ask something of me?”
I shook my head. “I’m not asking.”
A moment thickened between us. His nostrils twitched. “Go on…”
“Take me for a drink. I want to get to know you.”
Not quite what I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t be so bold.
He laughed once. “Believe me, Ms. Weaver, I’ll save you from a mundane conversation. The most you’ll ever know about me is my name. Everything else…let’s just say, ignorance is bliss.”
His aftershave of woods and leather came over me again. The chilliness in his gaze warned not to push, but I couldn’t help myself. Not after the way Kite treated me.
“Bliss…that’s a word I don’t understand.”
Jethro cocked his head, the trace of annoyance coming again. “What exactly are you trying to do?”
A rush of wobbliness hit me. I looked over my shoulder at the café across the street. “Have a nightcap with me. Over there.” I motioned with my head. I didn’t care in the least I wore a huge gown or that the coffee shop was empty. The couch in the window looked comfy, and I wasn’t ready to have this small freedom destroyed.
He looked to the small venue, a flicker of confusion filling his eyes. “You—” Cutting himself off, he straightened and let me go. “Fine. If that’s all you want, I see no reason why I can’t prolong our true agenda for thirty minutes.” Capturing my elbow, he half-dragged, half-marched me across the street.
My heart sank at the lack of romance and anticipation. I’d hoped he’d relax a little—knowing I was interested—and drop the chilly façade.
What if it’s not a façade? His demeanour was steadfast and engrained. I doubted he’d ever been carefree or impulsive.
The propulsion was fast, too fast for someone like me with the balance of a damn butterfly, but his hold was firm and granted a certain safety.
Striding over the curb, Jethro yanked open the glass door, scowling at the bell jingling above. A young Italian girl looked up, smiling in welcome.
The rich aroma of coffee and warmth instantly stole the stress from my blood from Kite, the show, and Jethro’s company.
“Sit.” Jethro let me go, pointing toward the faded yellow settee with purple and orange throw cushions. “And don’t move.”
I stood frozen. Jethro had no wish to be here, especially with me. What the hell was going on? First my father pushed me on him, then Jethro barely tolerated my company. Am I that repulsive to the opposite sex?
“Wait,” I said. “Aren’t you going to ask what I want?”
Jethro raised an eyebrow. “No. Want to know why?”
I did. But I didn’t want to play his ridiculous game. I was tired, had been dumped via text, and not wanted even when I practically threw myself at him. The night had turned from promising to disastrous, and I wanted it over.