Debt Inheritance Page 2

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.

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