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.
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.
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.
And my task…
“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 overprotective 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.