“You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! That’s not what they’re doing!”
“You can’t do this, Rey,” Drew said.
“It’s already done!” she told them. She took a step back. They weren’t making her budge on this. She had already weighed the pros against the cons. There was nothing they could say to change her mind. “I’m living in the city now. I’m staying with my Sponsor. He gave me all these new clothes and access to a driver. I can’t leave.”
“He bought you. Like a slave,” Brian said softly. “Our little sister is enslaved to a vampire.”
“Oh my God, I am not enslaved!”
“He gives you money, buys you new clothes so that you’re completely unrecognizable, and lets you stay in his place. He is making you completely indebted to him. So when he takes your blood, you feel like you owe it to him. You feel like your place is beside a monster, when your place is here.” Brian grabbed her hands in his. “With us, Reyna.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Drew said. “Come back. Let us take care of you. We were doing fine.”
She pulled her hands away from her brothers. “Fine? This is your idea of fine?” She shook her head. “We deserve better than a shitty apartment. We deserve better than a moldy, drafty bedroom that makes us sick. We deserve a job that pays us fairly and that doesn’t work us to death. We deserve real food, a livable wage, access to healthcare and so much more! You can’t sit here and tell me that we’re fine. Because we are far from fine.”
Her brothers looked away from her. They couldn’t deny the things that she had said. They really needed the money.
“This is my choice. You guys took care of me my whole life. Let me take care of you now. I’m going to send back the money to you so you can start living better.”
“Rey, please,” Drew said.
“We can’t let you end up like this,” Brian said. “After everything we did to raise you…”
“I love you guys, but I couldn’t ask for a better position. I’m not changing my mind.”
Drew came over to her first. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in for a big hug. As solid as she had been when she had told them about her situation, she was still so frightened. She couldn’t even tell them about Beckham. They would freak out if they knew what he was really like.
“Get over here,” Drew said.
And then Brian’s arms fell around them both. She tried not to get choked up, but the truth was she didn’t know when she would be seeing them again.
If she would be seeing them again…
“Oh my God, what is the time?”
Brian pulled out their dad’s old pocket watch. “Quarter to five. Did you want to get dinner?”
Reyna jumped to her feet. “Quarter to five! I need to leave. I have to be back in the city. How did it get so late?”
When she had lived here, she had rarely had time to hang out with her brothers. They were always exhausted from working fourteen-hour days. Time had just slipped away from them. She had only meant to stay a short while and be back before Beckham even noticed. Now she was worried that she was going to be massively late, and they were supposed to talk tonight.
She reached for her purse and pulled out her cellphone. She hadn’t checked the thing all day. In fact, she had completely forgotten about it after she had sent Beckham that text message this morning.
“Is that a cellphone?” Drew asked in awe.
“Yeah. Beckham gave it to me.”
“He gave you a cellphone?” Brian asked. He was clearly displeased with how much wealth the man was displaying, but there was really nothing he could do about it at the moment.
She fiddled with the display until it lit up and then her heart plummeted. Two missed calls and two text messages from Beckham. Also one voice mail, which she didn’t know how to access. She clicked on the first text message.
Leaving early from work so we can talk. Have you eaten?
Her breath caught in her throat. He was inquiring about her eating? Did that mean he wanted to make sure she had eaten so he could eat? Or was he simply curious about her eating habits? Or did he want to take her out to eat in one of those ridiculous outfits?
She remembered the second message and returned to the screen to open the second.
Where are you? I’m home. I’ve tried to reach you. I told you to have your phone on you at all times. Call me immediately upon receipt of this message.
“What’s wrong?” Brian asked. “You’re white as a ghost.”
“I…I should have been back already. He needs me to leave.”