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A Debt Owed (The Debt Duet #1)
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My enemy’s daughter … offered to me as payment towards a debt.
I wasn’t always cold-hearted and vindictive.
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A few weeks ago, Age 25
I can’t stop staring at the pretty pink-haired rich girl dancing in the picture on page five of the newspaper I’m reading.
“Davis heir celebrating a birthday while father’s business on the verge of bankruptcy.”
My lips curl into a vicious smile when I read that headline. Now this, this is something I can work with. This is how I’ll get inside … how I’ll destroy his multi-million-dollar business and get my hands on the girl.
Charlotte Davis; the daughter of my nemesis and my lifelong obsession.
When we met for the first time at her father’s wedding, I knew right then that she was made for me. It was never a choice, but she thinks it is. She thinks she can decide her destiny, but she’s wrong.
I worked hard for years to build an empire for the sole purpose of destroying Davis Holding and taking Charlotte as my own. And I will get my fucking way.
The newspaper crumples in my hand as I get up and throw it away.
Time to make some calls and get to work.
Present, Age 23
A bird locked in a cage won’t ever be happy. One day, it’ll fly away into oblivion.
This diner where my father waits for me makes me feel like a caged bird. His mere gaze makes me choke on my own breath again.
Nothing has changed.
I shouldn’t have answered his desperate call and come here. But I can’t turn away now. It’s too late; he’s already seen me.
What if he has something important to say? What if he’s sick or dying?
I don’t want to be that jerk who doesn’t show up when it’s the last time you could ever see each other. When it’s the last time a father and daughter could make amends. Everyone desperately wants to love their parents, even the damaged ones. The ones who use and break without a single thought. That’s my father in a nutshell … and for years, I let him.
But not anymore. I’m finally working hard and living on my own without his help, and I’m proud of it.
But no pride reflects in his eyes. Nothing exists except misery and hatred.
“Charlotte,” he mumbles, and I bend over to kiss him on the cheeks. “Sit down, we have to talk,” he says, and he snaps his fingers at the waitress who glares back at him.
Way to get to the point, Father.
“Hello to you too,” I say, chuckling it off.
God, it’s been such a long time ago since we last saw each other, and I’m immediately reminded why.
“How are things … at work?” he asks, clearing his throat while he makes it sound as though he doesn’t believe I actually work.
“It’s fine,” I lie.
The truth is that I quit my job as a daycare provider in order to start my own business to support families in need with supplies and advice. I want to do something more fulfilling, but investors are tough to come by … especially when they don’t trust me and my idea. For now, I’m pulling money from my savings account to pay for my rent, but I’m not about to tell him that. Even though it’s soon run out, I won’t ever ask him for help.
“How’s Elijah doing?” I ask, avoiding the topic.
“Your brother? Oh, he’s … well, he’s busy, as always,” my father says, waving it away. “But enough about that. Do you want some coffee?” Father asks. Before I can answer, he’s already ordered my drink for me. “One cappuccino.” I don’t even like cappuccino, but I’ll take it.
“Thanks,” I mutter. “So how have you been?”
“Awful,” he says, slurping his coffee. “Just like this coffee. Don’t you have anything better?” he snarls at the waitress.
She shrugs. “Sorry, sir. That’s our best blend.”
“Bland indeed,” he says, rolling his eyes.
“Father,” I mutter.
Has he always been like this? Probably. I made him seem better in my mind just to cope.
“No, they should make better coffee,” he growls while the waitress places down my cappuccino in front of me.
“Why did you even wanna meet at this place if you don’t like it here?” I ask.
“Because it’s the only option I had.” He clears his throat. “Considering my budget.”
“Budget?” I frown and lean back in my seat. “Wait, you don’t mean to say—”
“The business is not going well,” he interjects, but it sounds as though he’s grossly understating things. “But you already knew that. I told you a while ago when I asked you for help.”
“Yes,” I say, folding my arms, “and I specifically remember saying no.”
“I know you did, but listen …” He takes in a deep breath and licks his thin lips. “I’m on the brink of losing everything. I did the only thing I could. I got a loan.”
“So? What does that have to do with me?” I ask, not touching my cappuccino. I know where this is going. I’m almost inclined to leave right now, but I don’t wanna jump to conclusions too quickly.