Page 44 of Coercion

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Mia has her fork poised on her plate between a tiny helping of roasted vegetables and her taco ring.Without asking, Emerson reaches over and retrieves her knife.She lifts her fork just as he slides the knife into its place.

“What’s the obvious one?”She tests the taco ring with the tines of her fork.

“Daphne.That’s one of her paintings.”He gestures to a canvas that takes up quite a bit of the accent walls.

Mia’s eyes get round.“In general, I think nonfiction is boring.”

“In general, I agree.”

“How many mountains have you jumped off of?”Ben demands, eyes locked on Sinclair.“More than ten?”

“Recreationally or for journalistic purposes?”Sin asks, tone serious.

“Um.Both?Do you always have to jump off a mountain, though?For your job?”

“It was the first nice place we ever lived in,” Will continues, covered by Daphne asking Evan where he’s from.“Didn’t make moving any easier.”

“For you, or…?

“Em was so stressed that he’d only eat if he could eat the same things every day, except toward the end there was so little food at Dad’s that he had no idea what he’d even want.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Did you know what you wanted to eat?”

Will huffs.“No.I had no idea.Anyway, taco ring is good, and it was cheap enough to take a risk on.I was just happy Sinclair was making so much food.”He meets my eyes, as serious as Sinclair was with Ben.“Never reveal that to anyone.”

“Or else what?”

Will’s eyes darken.“Or else I might like to see my favorite shade of red on your—”


He laughs, and it’s an easy sound that goes straight to my heart.

* * *

After dinner,we all bring dishes to the kitchen and start cleaning up.Daphne claps her hands.“I have a big art studio upstairs with virtually unlimited paint and canvas, if anyone wants to—”

Mia’s hand shoots up in the air.Ben nods a little too hard.

“Great!Follow me.”

Ben’s asking her questions before they’re out the door.Moments later, there are running footsteps on the stairs.

Evan leans against one of the countertops near where Emerson and Sinclair are loading the dishwasher.“I assume it’s time for the discussion.”

Will looks up from where he’s putting leftovers in glass containers.“Did you find him yet?”

Evan shakes his head.“There were lots of people in the warehouse.My team is working on getting names.None ofyoushould be conducting any solo searches.”

Sinclair gets very focused on arranging plates in the bottom rack.“You’re never really alone in the city.”

“I mean it.NoThree Musketeersshit.These guys are dangerous.”

“We’re dangerous,” Emerson says.