Debt Inheritance Page 1

Author: Pepper Winters

Series: Indebted #1

Genres: Romance

THE WORLD WAS a dangerous place, but I was worse.

The human race left the dark ages behind—technology improved and ruined our lives in equal measure, and the devils in society hid with better camouflage.

As the years rolled by, and we left our barbaric ways behind, people forgot about the shadows lurking in plain sight. Men like me morphed into predators in sheep’s clothing. We preyed on the weak with no apology, and everything landed in our fucking laps. Civilization cloaked us, hiding the animals at heart.

We traded caveman mentality and murder for suits and softly spoken curses. I hid my true temper beneath a veil of decorum. I mastered the art of suave.

People who knew me said I was a gentleman. They called me distinguished, accomplished, and shrewd.

I was all of those things, but none of them. We might live in a civilized world, but rules and laws didn’t apply to me. I was a rule-breaker, curse-maker, life-stealer.

The projection was a farce—but even the worst of us had someone who owned us. Whether family, honour, or duty.

I’d embraced my inner barbarian, yet was governed by a hierarchy and when the Hawk matriarch snapped her fingers, we all came running.

Including my arsehole of a father, Bryan Hawk.

There, in the cigar and cognac laced library, I learned a truth that forever changed my life.

And hers.

My family owned another.

An IOU on their entire existence.

To this day, I didn’t know why, and I didn’t bother asking.

Who gave a shit why a wealthy family called the Weavers were indebted to us? Who gave a damn that they’d royally fucked off my family and earned the wrath of my ancestors?

All I cared about was the news I’d inherited something more than just money, possessions, or titles.

My twenty-ninth birthday gave me a pet. A toy.

A responsibility I didn’t want.

Debts I had to extract from unwilling flesh.

A job to uphold our family honour.

Nila Weaver.

One mistake six hundred years ago put a curse on her entire family.

One mistake sold her life to me in a mountain of unpayable debt.

I inherited her.

I preyed on her.

I owned her life and had the piece of paper to prove it.

Nila Weaver.

Mine.

And my task…

devour her.

“TOLD YOU THIS collection would be your break, Threads.”

I smiled, not taking my eyes off the model prancing down the runway. My stomach churned like an overworked loom with stress and adrenaline.

“Don’t jinx it. There’s still the couture collection to go.” I flinched as the model sashayed too much, wobbling in the insanely high heels I’d buckled to her feet.

My cell-phone buzzed in the only place I had available in this dress—my cleavage.

No, no. Not now.

I’d been waiting to hear from him for two days. Lying in bed in the fancy hotel, willing my phone to chime, granting me the intoxicating rush of flirtation. But nothing. Not a peep.

A month of this…what was this? It wasn’t a relationship. Liaison? Nameless courtship? I had no name for the craziness I indulged in. I panted for scraps of communication like a high-school wallflower.

It’s time to end it.

Another message vibrated, shattering my willpower to ignore him with his impeccable timing—as usual.

“You know the couture line will raise the roof. Stop being modest.” Vaughn nudged my shoulder with his.

Ignoring my brother and the suddenly heavy cell-phone, I winced as the model flicked her hair pirouetting at the end of the runway, before flouncing away in a whirl of pink silk.

Too much attitude for that dress. I shook my head, stopping the inner monologue that never shut up when it came to models flaunting my creations.

“I don’t know anything anymore. Stop nettling me, V. Let me focus.”

Vaughn scowled. “I don’t know why you’re so worried. Cheque books are already open. You’ll see.”

Another message arrived, sending my phone into throbbing excitement. Even my phone got excited when he texted.

My heart fluttered. A hot flush covered my body remembering the last sentence I’d received from Kite007. I’d made the mistake of reading it just as I boarded the short flight from England to Spain.

Kite007: I don’t need to know what you look like to get hard—guess where my hand is.

Of course I couldn’t help myself. Because I was a sex-starved woman surrounded by over-protective men.

I replied: I don’t need to hear what you sound like to get wet—guess where my hand wants to be?

I’d never been so blatant. With anyone. The moment I sent it I freaked out, wishing I could unsend.

I’d spent the trip in a confused state of arousal and denial. And never received a reply.

Until now.

I hid my flush, pretending nothing enticing taunted me on my phone. I loved my father and brother—so damn much—but if they knew…the proverbial shit would hit the fan.

“Oh, God.” I clutched my heart as another stick-thin model paraded down the catwalk, failing to show off the intricate peacock-blue dress to its advantage. “No one will buy it if they can’t see the potential of the design.”

Vaughn sighed. “You worry too much. It’s stunning. Anyone can see that.” His dark eyes landed on mine. “Allow a thrill of pride—just once, Threads. It’s going perfectly, and I couldn’t be prouder of you.” My twin brother draped his arm over my shoulders, tucking me against him. Considering the word ‘twin’ meant mirror image, Vaughn was taller, better looking, and overall more vibrant than me. He made others envious with his natural beauty, while I made others feel beautiful with dresses sewn with twenty-four carat gold and dyed with exclusive inks costing a small fortune.

I supposed that was my talent: making others feel worthy while he sold products thanks to his allure. Mirror image alright—the direct opposite.

“You’re a model. Why aren’t you showcasing my clothes?”

Vaughn laughed. “My figure doesn’t look good squashed into some sequinned frock. Create some decent clothes for males, then I might stoop and be your headline act.”

I thumped his arm. “You know I don’t have the drive to stitch suits and boxer-shorts. I keep telling you to go into business with me and create a men’s line. There’d be no stopping—”

Vaughn rolled his eyes. “Can’t afford me.”

I scowled. “Afford you? I’ve heard a perky pair of boobs and sex will buy your attention for at least a weekend.”

He pointed at my small chest with a glint in his eye. “I see no perky pair and…gross, Nila. You’re my sister. Why the hell are we talking about sex? You know we were raised better than that.”

I didn’t want to laugh. I didn’t want to lose the wound-up tension from my collection, but Vaughn never failed to earn a lip-twitch.

I sighed, shaking my head. “Sex, shmex. You’d be lucky if I hired your scrawny ass.”

He smirked. “Who’re you calling scrawny?” He waved at his tall frame. “My skills are on the other end of the camera. As my track record states.” His perfectly straight teeth flashed—daring anyone to deny the truth.

I used to be jealous of his deliciously good looks. My brother was rich brocade while I was boring calico. But now, I was proud. I might be graced with a body requiring embellishment by other means than fate, but I knew the secrets of illusion. I’d spun magic with a sewing machine since I was a little girl, stepping from the shadow of my family’s name, carving a small slice of greatness for myself.

“Well if the show tonight flops, at least you can bail me out with all that cash you’ve earned thanks to your god-like looks.”

A laugh barrelled from his mouth, loud but still hidden by the sultry fashion show music. The dark room hid the large crowd but couldn’t disguise the heavy press and body heat of numerous buyers, shoppers, and catalogue procurers.

Vaughn squeezed me tighter. “Nila, I’m warning you. I want a smile. You’ve worked on this for months. Stop being so damn pessimistic and celebrate.”

“I can’t celebrate until the last model has shown their garment and not tripped over their arse in a seven thousand dollar dress.”

My phone buzzed again.

I froze, cursing my twisting stomach and the fire-bolt to my core. Kite007. The nameless teasing male who had more power over me than any other man. A stupid secret crush. With a stranger no less.

It’s a sad day when I’m emotionally invested in a fantasy. I should never have replied to the incorrectly sent message a month ago. Then I might’ve directed the small energy I had left after working so hard and find a real man. One I could kiss and flirt with in person.

The jagged pain lashed again. Rejection. I’d asked Kite, after a late night volley of messages, if he’d be interested in meeting.

Needle&Thread: So…I was wondering…I’m sitting here drinking a glass of wine and thought you might like to do that sometime? Go out for a drink, in person, together?

I’d pressed send on the jumbled, awkward sentence before I lost my nerve. I’d never asked anyone on a date before—it nearly gave me a heart attack.

He’d never replied. Silence was his usual reaction to dealing with something he didn’t want to discuss—only to message a few days later on a completely different subject.

Where sexual innuendoes were hard for me, Kite007 was a master. He used it as a weapon, making me forget we had no depth to our conversations…not that they were conversations.

When he did reply, it’d been a clever mix of teasing and emptiness—reminding me not to read into this shallow form of communication.

Kite007: I’m in a meeting and all I can think about is your nun outfit. You wearing underwear today?

Yep. That stopped my wishful thinking of meeting him in person.

Untangling myself from Vaughn, I pretended to scrutinize the remaining models while I indulged in the very first text I received. The one that began it all.

Kite007: Tonight won’t work for me, but waiting will only make you wetter. Be a good girl and don’t argue. I’ll make sure to reward your patience.

A shiver worked its way under my expensive gown. I’d never received a message like that. Ever. And it wasn’t meant for me. I imagined some lucky woman looking forward to her reward. I tried to delete the message—I really did. But after twenty-four years of being hidden away from boys, I couldn’t help myself.

My reply was utterly ridiculous.

Needle&Thread: I’m afraid you’re talking to a nun who understands nothing of sexual hints and not-so-subtle suggestions. Patience to me is payment after waiting for a microwaved chocolate pudding. Wet to me is the brief enjoyment of a shower before the slave labour of my job. If your intention was to make me (an unknown stranger who could be your mother-in-law or an arthritic eighty-year-old) wet and patient, perhaps you could bribe me with sugar, a hot bath, and a night off from work—then perhaps I’ll obey and ‘deserve’ your veiled insinuation of pleasure. (By the way…if you haven’t guessed, wrong number.)

And so began a mistake that I had no intention of stopping.

I groaned under my breath, never failing to suffer a wash of embarrassment. I had no idea where the flippancy came from. I wasn’t a nun—but I wasn’t far off. Thanks to the two permanent men in my life, dating was a rare event.

A curvy model coasted down the runway in my favourite creation of cream lace, Victorian collar, and external bustle. I intended to head the trend of a historical fashion comeback.

“That would look better on you.” Vaughn’s husky voice cut through the graceful music.

I shook my head. “No chance.” Looking down at my small cup size and overly trim frame, thanks to my obsessive running, I added, “You need femininity to pull off a corset like that. I’m a rake.”

“Only because you exercise too damn much.”

Only because I have you and father stopping me from getting exercise in sexual form. I didn’t believe in self-pleasuring…running was my only hope at a release.

The model spun in place, swirling her train before disappearing up the catwalk. I suffered a moment of envy. It would be nice to have boobs and hips.

Vaughn’s strong fingers caught my chin, breaking the unlockable stare I had on the strutting model, guiding my non-descript hazel eyes to his vibrant chocolate ones. “We’re going out tonight. Hitting the Milan night clubs.” The low lights around the runway made his skin glow with a natural dusky tan. His blue-black hair was the one beautiful thing I shared. Thick, dead straight, and so glossy people said it was like looking into black glass.

My one saving grace.

Oh, and my ability to sew.

And flirt with a stranger on an impersonal device.

My phone buzzed—a reminder my inbox had something delicious for me to read. And it would be delicious.

Dammit. The urge to look almost broke my self-control. What the hell was he doing messaging me? We knew nothing about each other. We shared nothing but dirty fantasies. My mind once again jumped back to the first relay of texts.

Kite007: Shit, you’re a nun? Sorry…what’s the correct term of address…sister? I apologise for the incorrectly sent message. Despite your Godly perfection and sheltering, you deduced correctly. It was in fact very sexual. The woman in mind would never be welcomed into a sanctity such as yours.

I’d had no reply to that, but he’d sent another twenty minutes later.

Kite007: Sister…I need absolution. I find myself consumed with the image of a sexy nun stripping and sliding into a hot bath with chocolate sauce on her lips. Does that make me the devil, or are you for making me lust for someone I shouldn’t?

Next