Page 40 of Coercion

Font Size:  

Emerson leans back in his chair and drums his fingers on his beer bottle.One, two, three, four, five.“I’m not losing my shit.I’m fine.”

Sinclair’s brow furrows.He cuts his eyes to Emerson, who leans back in his chair.“Yeah, Will.He seems fine.”

“He’s numb with shock, that’s why.He’s just good at hiding his breakdowns.”

Sin turns the full force of his skepticism on me.“No, he’s not.He’s been the worst at it for his entire life.”

NowEmersonlooks skeptical, which makes me feel indignant as fuck.Skeptical and concerned.“Are you sureyou’reokay?”

“Sure as hell doesn’t look okay,” Sin says.

I stare at both of them.“I cannot believe I’m the only one who cares about this.”

Emerson shakes his head.“You’re not the only one who cares.Icare.”

“You’re just sitting there.”

“So are you.Except you want to kill someone.”

“I want to punch someone, Em.There’s a difference.”

“You can punch me if you want.”Sin puts his beer on the coffee table and opens his arms.“I’m the one you’re pissed at.”

“I’m pissed ather.She’s the one who left.”

“Just to be clear.”Emerson raises a hand.“You can’t punch Mom.”

“I don’t want to punch Mom, for fuck’s sake.I just want—” I don’t know.Would surfing help?Would screaming?Somehow, half of my beer is gone, but I don’t remember drinking it.I finish the rest.It doesn’t do anything.It’s not an answer to the questions I have.I’m not even sure what the question is.I only know it hurts.

“Do you think you could find her?”

I’m about to sayno, but Emerson’s not asking me.He’s asking Sin.

“Of course he can.”It comes out bitter and mean.“He can find sources in war zones.His favorite countries are the ones with infrastructure that’s been torn to shit.Finding Mom would be child’s play.”

“Will.”Sin sets his beer on the table.I’m definitely not losing my shit, but I might if he keeps using that voice, like I need to be handled carefully.I don’t.I’ve spent my life being handled exactly the way I deserve.“You can just say it.That would be better than stroking out.”

“If you knew she was alive, why didn’t you look for her before?”The angle of the room changes, and it takes a few minutes to realize I’m on my feet.“You’ve been jumping off mountains for years.Would it have been that hard to get her phone number?”

He’s on his feet, too, and Emerson.Em puts out his hand, palm open.“Do you want to go outside?”

“No, I don’t want to gooutside.Stop looking at me like that.”

“Come over on Friday.”It’s such a bizarre turn to the conversation that it snaps me back into my body.Hands in fists.Lungs working overtime.Face hot.Fuck.Fuck.“We can surf.And we can talk about where you might want to go next.”

“What do you mean,go?”

“With kids, it’s nice to have a yard.A little more space.Don’t you think?”

“I don’t—”Haveany kids, but I can’t finish the sentence.This should not be working, not even slightly, but then I think of Mia and Ben in a treehouse.I think about Bristol in a garden.I don’t even know if she likes gardens, but she can’t have her own garden in my building.

I unclench my fists, but it takes several breaths before I can focus on Emerson.

“I don’t have time for bullshit like house hunting.”

Emerson puts his hands in his pockets and shifts into a relaxed posture that looks borrowed from someone else.“What if you didn’t have to hunt?”

I don’t know what he’s doing with his face.It’s way too casual for the tension of the moment, and—hopeful?“That’s not how real estate works.”