"You won't believe what Hailie did."
A second later, I snapped out of shock. I made a dive for my bedroom's door, not wanting to hear anything more. He will give me up. And he promised he'd not do that. He will give me up.
I knew I won't escape far away but my room was like my territory where I felt much safer than in the other parts of the house. Unfortunately, I didn't reach it because on my way there I bumped into something. Dylan. He caught my shoulders to help me keep my balance. He didn't even move.
"Hey, slow down." He told me a bit amused.
I was too nervous to force smile at him so I just tried to pass by him agilely but at the same moment, Will's powerful voice sounded from the downstairs.
"Hailie, come here, please."
It motivated me, even more, to run in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, Dylan never gave me a chance to do so. Now, he was holding only one of my arms with a raised eyebrow.
"What's wrong with you, haven't you heard him?" He asked confused, not used to me being disobedient. However, when I looked at him with my wide, scared eyes (something I wasn't able to control because of a surprise), he understood what was going on.
His look hardened, not giving me any hope for help.
"Someone's in trouble, hm?" He muttered, more to himself than to me.
I shook my head, I didn't even know why...
"Hailie!" Will called me, sharply and impatiently.
I shivered and if it wasn't for Dylan, I still wouldn't move. But he immediately pulled me towards the stairs. I felt as if he was going to throw me to the lions.
Will was standing with his arms folded on his chest in the kitchen's entrance. He had a strict expression on his face and looked nothing like the gentle version of him which I loved so much. He tightened his jaw when he saw that I didn't listen to him myself, and had to be dragged here.
He went back to the kitchen and we entered it right behind him. Tony was sitting at the table, looking at me shamelessly with a smirk. Eugenie was hanging around a cooker, heating up some food for him and was doing her best to ignore what was happening.
But, of course, my stomach tied in knots at the sight of Vincent who also sat at the table, just sideways. In front of him, there were laying some papers in neat order. He held one of them in his hand and was reading it. Only after a few seconds, he raised his eyes at us. Firstly, he looked at me, then at Dylan and at the end, at his hand gripped on my shoulder. Then he cleared his throat and put the document away to finally focus completely on my person.
Dylan let go of me, as I had no chance to escape from here anyway. In fact, I preferred when he was holding me because being in the center of the attention of my brothers, I felt groggy.
"Did you take Tony's two cigarettes?" Vince asked me directly.
The brother mentioned by him looked straight into my eyes with some sick amusement. It wasn't funny for me at all. How could he! A moment ago he promised me that he wouldn't say anything.
Dylan frowned. He was the only one who, until now, didn't know what I'd done and he didn't look happy.
I felt hurt and annoyed at the same time. Tony really let me down. But I had to gather my wits quickly. Vince was waiting for my answer and I decided to lie, so I couldn't linger for too long.
"No." I replied, knowing right away that it was a bad idea. Lying to Vince couldn't end up well but my will to get Tony back was stronger.
Vince's expression didn't change but I heard like Tony's snorting and now he was staring at me with an even bigger and meaner smile and raised eyebrows.
"She's lying." He said.
"I don't know what you're talking about." I hissed, folding my arms on my chest. I think I looked quite persuasively...
"About two fucking cigarettes which you tried to snatch today at my car." He said slowly and loudly, leaning towards me a bit.
I felt like inside I was slowly giving up. I couldn't lie well. I couldn't lie at all. Usually, I don't do it. And if I had to lie to my four, intimidating brothers... Well, let's say it wasn't easy.
"Why should I care about your cigarettes?" I asked. My voice started to get higher.
"Little liar." He commented, shaking his head with disbelief. He wasn't smirking anymore.
My word against Tony's.
I almost opened my mouth to say something like that and continue our argument but Vince broke in.
"That's enough." Sights of annoyance could be heard in his voice.
"Hailie, why would Tony tell us something that's not true?" Will asked calmly but still severely.
Breath in, breath out. Don't panic.
"Because he doesn't like me?" I shrugged. I hoped that no one could see how tensed up my shoulders were.
As to confirm my words, Tony's attitude was completely indifferent.
"Why would I lie?" I added and regretted it right away. I should've been quiet, it was less likely I'd say too much.
And from all of my presented brothers, it was Vince who decided to answer me.
"Out of fear of consequences, of course." His voice itself sounded like a promise of those consequences.
I prevented myself from gulping.
"Come to me, Hailie." He demanded and slightly leaned back at his chair.
My legs moved obediently but inside me, everything was screaming and begging to stay in my spot.
Eugenie put a huge portion of hot chili in front of Tony. On the way, she sent me a small smile, kind of a sorry one.
I stopped in a reasonable, for my calculations, distance from Vincent and almost moaned when he gestured his hand at me, showing me to come closer.
As soon as I appeared in reach of his extended arm, it caught me and pulled so now I was standing on the right side of him. There were only inches between us. Rarely I had the chance to be so close to him, almost never. As he was still sitting, I was slightly taller than him and I was looking into his eyes trying my best to play the role of the innocent, little sister, however, I knew that it could be already a lost cause.
Vince's fair and cold eyes were scrutinizing me for a long moment. Long enough for me to feel uncomfortable. Especially with my wrist locked in his outwardly casual grip.
"Did you steal Tony's cigarettes?" He repeated. I wasn't sure what kind of reaction he expected but I knew that he was watching me carefully and he won't miss any of it.
"No." I answered again, trying to sound confident.
Vince was looking at me one more too long (as for my nerves) while.
"So what are you so stressed about?" He asked and his fingers tightened on my wrist. That's when I realized that he's feeling my pulse. It took me totally off-balance and my heart had to start beating even faster. I wanted to come up with another lie but I couldn't think of anything believable enough, so I just stared at him speechless. Instinctively, I tried to let go of his hold but it turned out to be much stronger than I thought.
His other hand caught my chin and forced me to look deep into his icy eyes. I shivered, firstly because of his touch and then I was shivering long, lost in that intensive gaze.
"I'll ask one more time. Did you take Tony's cigarettes?" His voice was low and frightening but the fear wasn't even my biggest problem here. I just wasn't able to lie, especially while looking into someone's eyes. It's just how I was.
"Think twice before you answer." He advised.
That was enough. Barely noticeable, I nodded and felt a huge wave of relief immediately going through my body when I could finally get away from Vince's eyes and drop my head. Oh my, how amazing that was.
In the background, a laugh sounded. At least Tony had fun. I didn't dare to turn around and face Dylan nor Will. Not even Eugenie.
Vince released me. I also heard him sighing.
"All right. Now tell me, where'd you get this idea from?"
He was speaking calmly but I was more than sure that it wasn't all right.
Because I couldn't tell him that I didn't really accept myself because of Jason and Lavinia! I wouldn't even know how to explain this complex dependence. I didn't understand it well enough myself.
As it's already known, Vince didn't take this kind of answers so he started to ask questions and I was answering, avoiding his look. In the end, I confessed almost everything. Starting from finding the first cigarette on the floor in the kitchen during Shane and Tony's fight, through smoking in my ensuite until today's incident. I only changed the last part a little and said that I tried smoking out of curiosity and the two next cigarettes I stole because I wanted to share them with my friends. Luckily, my brothers didn't start asking about which friends exactly I meant.
When Vince got all the needed pieces, he got quiet and I felt him boring into me, wondering what to do now. Dylan came to help.
"Father had quite a good way to disgust cigarettes."
Vince nodded slowly, still thoughtful.
"I wouldn't call it a good way." Will protested. I didn't know what they were talking about but I had the feeling that he just tried to defend me.
"Well, it worked for most of us, didn't it?" Vince pointed out and stood up out of his seat. I was still standing close to him and felt very uncomfortable when his posture started towering over me. He looked down at me and said: "Go to the terrace, Hailie, and wait for me there."
I didn't expect this kind of instruction but gladly welcomed the chance to leave this, suddenly cramped, kitchen. Not wasting any time, I went outside and sat at my favorite vinyl garden seat with cushions. I took a thick blanket which was laying on the same, vinyl bench and muffled up with it. I was breathing deeply, enjoying every moment without Vince's company but at the same time, I was nervous at the thought of what he was planning.
After a few minutes, the terrace doors opened and my oldest brother joined me. Tony dragged himself behind him. He had a cigarette stuck behind his left ear. At the sight of my face, one of his mouth's corners lifted. I couldn't believe that he was still so amused!
"What are you smiling at?" I hissed to him hostilely. I was in trouble anyway, so at least I could partially release my anger.
Vince shot me a surprised look but then moved his eyes to Tony and decided to ignore us, taking his seat on the bench I mentioned earlier. My second brother, however, smirked even wider and caught one of the sunbeds, dragging it closer to us. He didn't bother himself with lifting it, even though it couldn't be that heavy for him. Instead, he pulled it behind him making a lot of noise.
I twisted my face at the awfully irritating sound of shuffling and completely missed the moment when Vince took out his cigar. Only when he threw a packet of cigarettes onto my lap, he got my attention.
I looked at it and then at him, totally confused.
Vince gestured politely to the packet as if he was welcoming me to help myself with it.
I shook my head.
Someone can tell me what is happening?
"Hailie, it's not a treat. It's a punishment. So hurry up, let's get over it." He said.
All tensed up and with trembling hands, I opened the packet and took out one cigarette. My movements were slow. I carefully held it between my fingers. Then Vince leaned towards me with an extended hand, offering me an elegant, silver zippo lighter. Completely different than the one I took from the kitchen.
Reluctantly and hesitatingly, I followed his silent instructions, feeling more and more anxious. I put the cigarette in my mouth and Vince lightened it up in a gentleman's way. I started to cough right away, tasting familiarly horrible tobacco. My hands were shaking even more when I tore my cigarette away from my lips.
"I want to see how you breathe it in." Vince demanded, leaning back at the bench, crossing his legs and lightening up his cigar.
What the heck?
In a moment, all three of us were sitting comfortably at the terrace and each one was occupied with their own poison. I got sick of it very fast and tried to slow down but when I was lingering for too long, Vince was giving me meaningful glances. I was also the only one who coughed from time to time.
They got so angry that I'd smoked that now they were forcing me to do that again? It didn't make sense.
When I finished my first cigarette with relief, Vince commanded me to take the next one, to my terror. That's when I understood what kind of punishment it was.
"I can't Vince, that's disgusting." I groaned, turning away my face from the lighter that he was holding for me again.
"You were curious about its taste, so now you'll know." He replied mercilessly.
Tony smoked his cigarette quickly and after some time he stood up.
"I'm leaving, have fun." He said, peeking meanly at my side.
Vince ignored him but I lost it.
"Snitch." I mumbled venomously, trying not to sound childish.
Tony laughed out loud and stopped, turning away to face me.
"You really thought I'd cover your ass? We are talking here about cigarettes, not some fucking candies. I won't back a little girl smoking."
I got annoyed with the "little girl" thing. When will they actually see that I'm an adult?
"Then why were you pretending that you're on my side?" I spat.
"You're still just a silly child so you don't realize that if I wasn't on your side, only then I'd not give a fuck."
I turned my head away, offended and not allowing myself to believe that Tony could actually care a little. But something moved inside me. Is it possible that this asshole really said something nice to me?
"Then why did you lie that you won't tell anyone?" I restated. I didn't even care that Vince was sitting in front of us, enjoying his cigar and listening to our whole conversation.
Now Tony stopped smiling.
"And why did you snitch on me to him" here he nodded at Vince's side. "about the gun after you'd agreed to keep quiet?"
I stared at him with opened mouth. It was such a long time ago...
Tony's smirk appeared on his lips again.
"Hope you learned your lesson."
After that, he stretched his arms, yawned and came back into the house.
I stayed alone with Vince. I didn't have time to marvel over Tony's vindictiveness because I had to get another cigarette out of the packet.
"I feel sick." I complained. Really, I felt like I was going to throw up. I had enough.
My brother just nodded, acknowledging my comment.
"I can't anymore." I tried again, after the third cigarette.
"Vince, please." I cried after the fourth. I was dizzy after smoking such a big amount of nicotine in so little time.
I was binding and begging until I smoked the seventh one. I couldn't keep going. I was sweating, stinking tobacco and coughing all the time. I even had to spat a few times. Yuk.
"I have to go to the bathroom." I gasped, covering my mouth with my hand.
Vince shot me a look and then he nodded with acquiescence. I almost run into the house, heading to the closest bathroom there. I kneeled in front of the toilet and started to vomit, mainly liquid as I'd not eaten much that day. I was suffering more because of that. When I finished, I sat at the floor and leaned against the cold, tilted wall. I took a deep breath, still feeling awful.
After some time, Vince came to check up on me. He caught my arm and helped me get up. He was surprisingly gentle but I didn't have energy to appreciate it. He led me upstairs, to my bedroom. He helped me to lie in my bed and he put a bottle of water on my night table.
I didn't remember when the last time I felt so bad and there was only one thing I could think about.
Cigarettes are disgusting.