Page 13 of Coercion

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“I come prepared.”Donovan looks at me in the rearview mirror.“Ready?”

Three warehouses down, the second SUV pulls into place.A third behind it.Evan swings himself out of the front seat and holds up a hand.Wait.

I go to get out, too, but my shirt pulls.

No—Bristol pulls.She yanks me toward her with a fist in my shirt and kisses me.

I get a taste of her—clean—and a breath of her—citrus—and a too-short impression of her heat, and then she pushes me away.“Do not get shot.”

“Donotget out of the car.Not until we come out and get you.”

Her lips part.It doesn’t look like she’s going to argue.We don’t have time to argue, anyway.“Okay.”She scoots over to my side, where there’s nothing between her and the warehouse but the window of the SUV.“Be careful.”

I shut the door and watch while she leans up and presses the button to lock all the doors.Evan jogs around to meet me.

“They’ll have eyes on her the whole time.”

“From way over there?”

He turns and waves, and a single guy comes down the road, almost at a run.The next group of four guys crosses, getting close to the warehouse.

A third SUV pulls up behind the other two, and more people get out and head toward us.

“No.”Evan checks over his gun one more time.“Not from over there.”

“We can’t go in with a fucking army.They’ll just start shooting.”

“We’re not going in together.You and me first.Rest of the guys will surround the building and wait for my signal.”He glances over his shoulder just as a fourth SUV pulls in.“Now we’re good to go.”

“This is more people than I asked for.”

He gives me a look.“There are kids in there.Are you telling me you didn’t want an army?Because I’d rather get a battalion over here than lose one of them.”

Evan says it in a clipped, professional tone, but his eyes go dark and pained for long enough that I know, Iknow, this is about something else.It’s not just about Mia and Ben.It’s personal.

For both of us.Because I want ten armies.I want to go back in time and have this many people to helpme, for Christ’s sake.Even once.My chest does another weird, pulling thing.

“Anybody else you can call?”

He pulls out his phone and sends another text.“Three more groups en route.Just in case.”

We cross the street and approach the warehouse door.All around us, his guys get into place.There’s nowhere to go.The building is surrounded, corner to corner.

“Stay a step behind me.And keep your gun out.”He leans close to the building, eyes on the door.“We don’t know how many people are in there.”

I’m not staying a step behind him.“Okay.”

“We can’t go for the kids first.We need to neutralize whoever’s in there.Shoot them.Knock them out.Whatever’s fastest.Donotdo anything reckless.”

“You’re such a liar.”Evan looks me in the eye.“Go.”

That’s my cue to open the door, so I do.It’s unlocked, which means this is a setup.Evan heads in first, his gun level in front of him, and I go in behind him.

It’s dark.Can’t see a thing.Evan slaps at the wall, and a big overhead light flickers on, followed by other ceiling lights.

On the other side of the warehouse, four guys stand in a ragged line.

“Drop your weapons.”Evan’s voice echoes off all the metal walls.“We’re here for the kids.”

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