Page 24 of Coercion

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And then I hover in the hall, waiting for the sound of Mia crying, or of Ben calling me back.

Nothing happens.It’s quiet.

All things considered, it’s a success if they went peacefully to sleep without worrying anymore, but I’m not sure that’s what happened.

I’m not sure what else I could have said to get the message across.Maybe I should have said more.Maybe I should have said it again.

Maybe I should go back in.

No.They’re sleeping.We can talk about it in the morning if they want.

Tonight, I’ll have to settle forjust okay,because there’s still something off.I don’t think the twins will go to my dad without saying something.

It’s their faces.That’s what it is.I’ve never seen them so scared before, from the warehouse to the hospital to now.I put a hand to my chest and hold it there, breathing deep.

They doubted that they were safe.Doubted that I’d keep them with me.It hurts to think they spent any time at all imagining the day I’d send them off to live with someone else.

It’s not something I can fix in a night, or even a week.This is probably going to be the biggest project of my entire life.

I can’t let them down.I won’t.



My phone ringson the way through the living room to who the hell knows where.I’m giving Bristol some space to talk to Mia and Ben, and give myself some time to make the shocked as hell face I wanted to make when Mia brought up marriage and kids.

Jesus.A wedding.Babies.With Bristol.Withme.

Apparently, they’ve thought about it enough to be upset.

I should be upset, too.

I am upset, probably.

Good thing it’s my lawyer, which is sure to take my mind off of the wedding bells keeping Mia and Ben awake.

“Will Leblanc.”

“Hey, Will.How was your weekend?”Emily Thompson, my lead lawyer, asks this question the same way she always has, and thank God.To her, it’s a meaningless social nicety.Until very recently, my weekends were just additional days in the office.

“It was fine.”Friday was terrible, then amazing.Saturday morning was amazing, and then it sucker-punched me.Today’s been a shitshow on par with my childhood.It feels like a thousand years since I sent an email to Emily on Friday.“Yours?”

“Great.Let’s talk about the situation with Hughes.All the drama with Senior is the perfect loophole.”I’m going soft, because calling itdramamakes me flinch.What happened at the retirement party wasn’t drama.I step into my office, then turn around and go out, toward my bedroom.“The more things implode for Junior—”


“Yes, Finn Hughes.The more things crash with Finn and Hughes Industries, the more likely we are to be able to walk.Now, the contract itself is pretty tight.Technically speaking, it’s almost impossible to get out of it.The trick here is that—”


“Poor choice of words.According to the terms of the contract, there are vanishingly few scenarios that would release you from the deal.However, Hughes is on the defensive.They’ll want to avoid a nasty public trial with a drawn-out discovery process.With that in mind, they’ll probably capitulate.I’m ready to send initial paperwork to legal at Hughes.Should I go ahead?”

Bristol pads into the kitchen.Her footsteps are soft enough that I shouldn’t notice.It’s not like I bought an apartment with a floor old enough to creak.I got the kind of place a non-fucked-up guy in finance would have.I didn’t think anyone would stay here the way Bristol does.

Iwantto hear her in the kitchen.I’m tired of listening to emptiness.

Her footsteps cross, then cross again.It’s a nervous pace, and what am I supposed to do about that?Tell her that it’s fine, really, if we get married?That I’ll ruin it, since that’s been my track record so far, but I said I wouldn’t leave?

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