Page 11 of Coercion

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That…does something to me.“I’m not putting on a show with you.”

Bristol lifts her head and looks at my face.Regret feels like too much light after a long time in the dark.It feels like a fist to the face I have no hope of avoiding.I don’t know why I said that, except her eyes are soft, almost proud.She pats at my chest.“I know.”

There’s a lot I could say to her, and no time to say it.All those words feel like a rock pushing up against my ribs.

“Donovan.We have the location.Let’s go.”

He comes out of the back room with his guys, the pawnshop owner trailing behind.The prick looks smug, like he got away with something.

“Vehicles.”Evan’s halfway to the door.

Bristol goes to follow him, the two men from Evan’s team a step ahead of her.

There’s one thing I have to do before I leave.

At the smudged as hell joke of a glass case I pull a twenty out of my wallet and drop it on the counter.The pawnshop prick looks at it with narrowed eyes.“What’s that for?”

“My girlfriend liked a necklace she found in one of your bins.I wanted to settle up.”

He purses his lips again.The man has no fucking idea how lucky he is that I haven’t laid him out.“I guess twenty’s fine.”

“I guess if either one of those kids has so much as a fucking bruise because you saw some shady asshole outside withtwo goddamn childrenand didn’t do anything about it, I’ll come back here and kill you myself for free.”

“I didn’t—”

“Shut the fuck up.The best you can hope for is that you never see me again.”

Maybe he says something else.Maybe he doesn’t.I don’t care.I leave that hellhole of a pawnshop and get into Evan’s SUV next to Bristol.

“It’s not far.”He already has the address in his GPS.“Ten minutes.Fifteen if we hit red lights.”

Bristol looks up from her phone.“Run the red lights.”

“It’ll take longer if we get pulled over.”Evan passes a car on the left, cutting in front of oncoming traffic to do it.I don’t buy that he’s worried about the cops.

“Bristol.”I need to be touching her, so I put a hand on her leg, just above her knee.What I want is to hold her hand, which is fucking unbelievable.

She takes one look at me and shakes her head.“I’m not staying behind.”

“Then stay in the car.”

“Will.No.Mia and Ben need me to be there.”

“They need you to be alive.”

“What, you’re going to let me get killed?Evanis going to let me get killed?”

Evan rolls through a stop sign with a tap on the brakes that’s more ceremonial than anything.“I have no intention of letting you get shot, ma’am.”

Bristol gazes at the roof of the SUV, then looks me in the eye again.“See?Evan is going to keep us safe, just like you hired him to do.I’m going with you.”

Except I’ll die if she gets hurt in front of me.My heart will stop beating, and then Evan will be dealing with my dead bodyandBristol’s prick fatherandthe dangerous, violent criminals he’s decided to team up with.Plus the twins.I don’t know how to tell her that my chest is already one big ache from everything that’s happened.From the citrus scent of her in the car.From her voice, and her touch, and how much I—

“You’re going to wait in the SUV until we’ve done the first sweep.That’s my condition for bringing you.”


“No.I will stop this car and leave you in—” I haven’t been paying attention to the street we’re on at all.It’s a normal block.The pawnshop isn’t far from a non-dingy café and a secondhand bookstore and a nightclub that’s closed until eight.What I need is on the end of the block.“—thatStarbucks and pay them to keep you there until we have the twins if you don’t agree.I’m not negotiating on this.”

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