Home > Third Debt (Indebted #4)(2)

Third Debt (Indebted #4)(2)
Author: Pepper Winters

A terrible churning began inside.

Everything that I’d swallowed and kept deep, deep down flew to the surface. It grew and grew stronger, harder, faster.

My fingers dug like swords into the soft wood.

Even though I wanted to kill the police with my bare hands, I managed to stay in my wing as the engines of the three cars rumbled into gear. They pulled away from the house. The noise of their tyres on gravel didn’t reach my window, but I had no trouble conjuring the sound.

It sounded like glass being crushed beneath grinding stone. It sounded exactly like what was happening inside me: every organ shattering into hell.

I held it together just long enough for the convoy to disappear over the ridge, slithering like a poisonous snake, taking what was mine.

Come back.

Never come back.

I should’ve known this would happen.

I was always destined to this fate.

It was inevitable.

In a way, I was grateful to Vaughn. He’d rescued her when I didn’t have the fucking balls. He’d taken back his sister because he loved her enough to fight for her. She was better off with him, away from me and my fucked-up family.

The last of the convoy disappeared.

With a bone-deep sigh, I gave up. I let the glass inside me splinter and detonate. I permitted myself to do what I could never do. I let down my walls. My many, many walls.

I lost myself.

Bending in half, I rested my forehead on my knuckles as I suffered the worst unravelling I’d ever lived through.

See, Nila.

This is what I meant when I asked you to see me.

She thought she lived in an intense world? It was nothing compared to what I endured. Nothing compared to the condition I’d been cursed to bear.

Grief, terror, and guilt howled and roared with utmost ferocity.

I became hollow, empty—carved out by emotions. It was all too much. All I wanted to do was…fade. Fade away from biting words and gnawing consequences.

“Jethro.”

Shit.

As easily as it’d been to drop my walls, it took a herculean effort to rebuild them. Ice brick after ice brick, I did my best to reconstruct the igloo I’d lived in all my life. But it was no use.

With a face twisted in defiance, I spun to meet my father.

He stood in the doorway, key in one hand and an implement of discipline in the other. We stared at each other. Matching eyes and Hawk blood. How could two men, bound by lineage and family, be so completely different?

“Come along. You can’t run from this. Not anymore.”

Clenching my jaw so hard my teeth almost turned into diamonds, I looked one last time at the emptiness outside my window. Watching her go was absolute torture, but seeing her return would be the worst punishment of all.

Stay away, Nila Weaver. Never come back.

“Jethro,” he snarled. “Your disguises won’t work this time.”

He couldn’t even give me a second to say goodbye. To imprint every last detail of Nila onto my soul so I could carry her with me to the underworld. He couldn’t even give me the courtesy of being myself just once before it was over.

Bastard.

Absolute fucking bastard.

I glared at my father. His face was as sharp as the stones we smuggled.

“What have you done with Jasmine?” My sister was in a state. I hadn’t seen her so emotional in years. “She needs someone to be there with her when you tell her what you’ve done.”

Cut sniffed. “Kestrel is with her. And he’ll stay with her as long as she needs.”

At least Bonnie and Daniel weren’t chosen to console her. The thought of leaving my sister disembowelled me.

Balling my hands, I forced myself to find courage.

Cut moved closer, his arms steadfast by his sides. “I was fair to you, son. I gave you more chances than you deserve.”

So many options flashed before my eyes. I could beg for mercy, threaten him—even commit murder to protect myself.

But Nila had been in my life for two months.

My father had been in it for twenty-nine years.

He’d done his best with me. Through his manipulations and crazy conditioning, we’d both thought I could change. It wasn’t his fault he had to do this.

It’s mine.

I dropped my eyes, keeping my mask resolutely in place. “Send me away. Disown me. Do whatever you want.” I kept staring at the carpet as I pleaded for leniency. “You have my word; I won’t come back.”

I’ll run with her. Take her where you’ll never find us.

Cut chuckled. The sound was like a babbling brook in hell. “I have no intention of doing this half-assed, Jet. This is what has to happen. Don’t prolong it.” Raising his arm, he pointed the gun at my chest.

Everything went into fucking lockdown.

My eyes zeroed in on the weapon; no amount of courage could prevent me from debating the worthiness of my life. Yes, I wasn’t like him. But fuck, I’d tried. Didn’t that mean anything? “I’m still your son.”

He pursed his lips. “Debatable after the past few months.”

“I disappointed you. I proved unworthy, but for Christ’s sake, just let me go. Banish me, cast me away, make me penniless. Do whatever you want. Just don’t kill me.”

The word ‘please’ danced on my tongue, but I swallowed it back.

I’m not weak.

I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of begging.

“You’ve heard the tales. You’ve seen the proof of why we live such strict lives. You know I can’t do that, Jethro. It’s better for everyone this way. You’re firstborn. I cannot legally grant my estate to Kestrel while you’re still alive.”

   
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