Page 10 of Coercion

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“This time it’s too far.For all I know, you gave them the idea for this plan.You told them about the twins yourself.I don’t know.But so help me God, if you don’t do everything in your power to get the twins out of this safely, I’ll go to the FBI.”

“No, Bristol—”

“Yes,Dad.I will go to the FBI.I will turn over every detail of every con you’ve ever run.And more importantly, I will hate you forever.“

That’s what would do it.If the twins get hurt, I’ll hate him.They’ve already been hurt.Their own father helped get them kidnapped.But if he allows them to be injured, if he keeps hurting them, if he doesn’ttry—I’ll hate him.

You’re just not like that,a voice whispers in the back of my mind.It reminds me of a sunny day at the beach and a cheap hotel that’s nice enough.It sounds like swimming all morning and napping all afternoon underneath a cabana, or at least a beach umbrella.It sounds like making the best of bad days, becausesomeday we’ll have everything.It sounds likewe already have everything.

It sounds like my mom.

Will got his mom back, and he sent her away.

I can’t think about that now.

“But more than that, Dad, most important of all, Mom would hate you.”

She never did, when she was alive.Not as far as I knew.My mom stuck with him, with all of us, until she couldn’t.

My dad sighs.It’s an exhausted, defeated sigh.The hairs on the back of my neck stand up.My dad doesn’t get defeated.He moves on to the next thing.

“Yeah.You’re right.”He clears his throat.“I did love your mom.She always kept me in line.Not that I made it easy for her.The twins have had it rough since she died, and…so have you.”

“Yes, I have.”

So has he.

I wish I couldn’t see that about my dad.I wish I couldn’t understand how losing her and being left behind with newborn twins and two grieving children could drive a person to do terrible things.To screw up again and again and again.

“I’ll text you where we are.”

“Do it now, while I’m on the phone.”

“Okay.Let me—”

There’s a pause, and a rustle, and then my phone vibrates.I check the text for a full address.Will’s phone is already out.He puts it into the map to make sure it’s a real place.The pin lands on a building.He catches my eye.The warehouses,he mouths.

“Dad.”I look down at Will’s phone.That pin is where my siblings are.“We’re coming to get the twins.”

“I’m not kidding about these guys, Bristol.”No hope in his voice now.No angle.“They’re violent people.They won’t hesitate to shoot.”



I can’t standthis motherfucker.

Bristol looks down at her phone.“I understand.We’ll be there soon.”

She ends the call, and all I want is to crush her to my chest and keep her there forever.Even if she doesn’t want me to.It’s not safer with me.I’m just as dangerous as any of the people her father decided to work with.More dangerous.But I’d rather get shot myself than let them shoot her.

Bristol turns into my chest, her back straight and her chin up.“I can’t believe him.”

I run a hand up and down her back.“My dad was garbage, too, but at least he never pretended to be anything else.”

“Yeah.”A strained laugh.“My dad is always ready to put on a show if it gets him his way.”

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