Page 21 of Coercion

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For a second, I can’t speak.

Emerson has never felt this small.It’s only in this moment that I realize he wouldn’t have, even to Sinclair.I always thought of Sinclair as bigger because he was older, but of course he wasn’t.Not really.We were all kids.

But there was nobody for Sin to learn from.He had to figure this out on his own.If he hadn’t, if he hadn’t pretended to be confident and in control, I would be fucked right now.

“It’s fine.”Mia takes a sharp breath, her ribs expanding under my arms.“I’ve got you.It’s safe here.”

I’m pretty sure she’s hesitating.Still waiting for something.I can’t see her face at all, just a sweep of red hair.

“You can’t hurt me.No matter what happens.You don’t have to keep it in.I’ll wait with you, I promise.”

Mia’s first sob sounds beyond tired, beyond frustrated.She puts her fists on my chest and pushes without lifting her head.A question.

I hold her tighter.

It’s the right answer.Some of the tension goes out of her, and she gets heavier.Cries harder.I wait with her until it’s over.Until it’s time to go home.



Will’sapartment seemed nice before.More than nice.It was luxurious compared to apartment 3C.

Now it seems like a palace.A small palace, but cozy and safe.It’s pretty much heaven after the warehouse and the hospital.

Or it would be, if it weren’t so quiet.

Maybe it’s just that all the emotion of the day is catching up with me.My dad got shot, which seems both surreal and still terrifying.


He said all the right things to Mia.He was calm and confident and warm, and I felt like I was falling apart.It’s been a long time since Mia lost it like that.

Maybe that’s why the quiet has me on edge.It’s usually a sign that she’s struggling.She picks at a plate of Eggo waffles at the dinner table.Ben pulls his chair closer and closer to hers while we eat until the chairs touch and he can’tgetcloser.

“So, tomorrow’s Monday.”I aim for a light tone and end up sounding like one of the robots companies use to answer phone calls.Will raises his eyebrows at me.“You’ll be back at the office, won’t you?”


“No?”My fork crashes against my plate.Will made pasta for us instead of Eggo waffles, and mine is half-gone.I don’t remember eating so much of it.I’ve been focused on the twins.“But you have so much—there are things to—with your business.With Hughes.”

That’s the reason we were at the beach house in the first place.After the upheaval at the retirement party, Will wanted to get away, so we went.

“It can wait.”

I stick my fork through two penne noodles.“ButIhave to—”


I look him in the eyes.Maybe I mean for it to be a challenge, or a power move, but the color of Will Leblanc’s eyes makes my heart heat up like it’s sprawled out on the sand at the beach.He has a faint, pink color to his cheeks.

Ben leans over and whispers something to Mia, who whispers back.

I take the opportunity.“Mr.Leblanc, I can’t miss work tomorrow.”

“You absolutely fucking can, Ms.Anderson.”His eyes flick toward the ceiling at my appalled expression.“I let Greg know you won’t be in until Tuesday at the earliest.”

“I’m not sick.I can’t just—justtake a personal day.”

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