Home > Third Debt (Indebted #4)(12)

Third Debt (Indebted #4)(12)
Author: Pepper Winters

Everyone had a hypothesis.

Everyone was wrong.

But they all had something in common.

They wanted our blood.

It was Vaughn who put me back into the icy blizzard I’d escaped from. His twin had thawed me, but he froze me all over again.

He’d gone to every journalist and reporter imaginable. He’d divulged ancient tales of filthy deeds and contracts and debts. He spilled our private affairs to the fucking world.

Every day the phone rang for interviews. Our sources with buyers on the black market grew wary—not enjoying the slander our family suffered—in case it smeared them, too. Our staff began whispering. Our fucking lives started to unravel.

We had money. We controlled police, Customs, and made a livelihood of manipulating those in power for our own means, but we had no clout when it came to strangers on the internet.

Vaughn Weaver harnessed this new age influence and brought a mob to our door, and in doing so, he made my family rally together. Hawk against Weaver. Just like before.

He proved we weren’t untouchable, after all. Cut didn’t deal with the knowledge well. He fucking raged at how little he could do to stop this storm of antagonisers. He never had to worry about social media when he had Emma Weaver—but in today’s society, it was a bigger beast than we ever anticipated.

Our empire was built on greased palms and ancient ‘blind-eye’ agreements. We all knew whatever contract we had giving us ownership of the Weavers was bullshit.

Nobody could own another.

Only imbeciles believed such a thing.

But I did believe in our power. Our wealth. Our status.

The tales of our rise from rags to riches had been told so many times, they’d reached phenomenon status within our family—spoon-fed the same crap since birth and believing in the power of a binding parchment that gave us carte blanche to do what we pleased. Not because it granted us immunity, but because it showed just how many people obeyed us now that we had control.

But what good was control when it unthreaded with a fucking rumour?

All of this was a game. Only Vaughn had changed the rules by bringing in spectators demanding answers.

I’d kill Vaughn for that.

He was already dead—just a nail in my rapidly freezing coffin as I popped pill after pill.

Hour after hour, I slowly gave in.

Day after day, I slowly felt nothing.

I was done being the man everyone thought was weak. I lived with a disease, but I wasn’t a cripple.

I didn’t need snow anymore. Or ice. Or pain.

I had drugs.

I was stone.

I’D LIKE TO say life returned to normal.

But I’d be lying.

I’d like to say I slipped back into my previous existence as entrepreneur, seamstress, and daughter.

But I’d be bullshitting to the highest degree.

Every day was worse than the one before it.

I was lost.

Alone.

Unwanted.

Life was a death sentence.

The press hounded me for interviews on my disappearance. My assistants pestered me with hundreds of new designs and orders. My father tried to talk to me about what happened. And my brother suffocated me with love.

It was all too much.

It drove me to boiling point.

In the beginning¸ I suffered physical healing from the Second Debt payment. I coughed often, doctors checked me for pneumonia, and the bruises on my chest took forever to fade. I used the pain as a calendar, slowly ticking off the hours Jethro left me all alone and unresponsive. I waited for a message from Kite007. I became obsessed with daydreams of him swooping in and taking me away from the mess of the press and envy of misguided people.

At night, I lay in a room that’d been mine since I was born. The purple walls hadn’t changed. My unfinished designs draped on headless mannequins hadn’t vanished, yet nothing was home anymore.

I felt like a stranger. An imposter. And the sensation only grew worse.

The strength and power I’d found on my own dissolved. My joy at suffering fewer vertigo attacks disappeared as I went from managing the incurable disease to suffering the worst I’d ever had.

Yesterday, I’d suffered nine.

The day before, I’d had seven.

I had more bruises on my knees, elbows, and spine in just a week of being a true Weaver again than I ever endured at Jethro’s hands.

Every second the same questions hounded me.

How was I supposed to return to my old life?

How was I supposed to forget about Jethro?

How was I supposed to give up my strength in order for my brother to adore me?

And how was I supposed to forgive my father and be grateful to him for rescuing me?

How.

How.

How?

The answer…

I couldn’t.

For a week, I tried. I slipped seamlessly into my previous world. I toiled in our Weaver headquarters, answered emails, and agreed to fashion shows two years from now. I painted on a mask and lied through my teeth.

I became a master at ignoring what my body told me. Throwing up was a bi-weekly occurrence and my dreams were full of accusations. Memories of Jethro coming inside me played on repeat—hinting at one thing:

Am I pregnant?

Or had I just escalated to vertigo-cripple?

Everywhere I turned there were magazine articles, newspaper speculations, billboards, and BBC broadcasts. I had to face banners of my dead mother and grandmother in Piccadilly Circus. I had to close my eyes as buses drove past with the Hawk family crest painted on their sides. And I had to swallow back bile as advertising for the latest ‘must-have’ accessory plastered park benches and taxi stands.

   
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