Page 45 of Coercion

Font Size:  

Evan laughs, but…wasit a joke?“Point is, we don’t know where they are, and I’m not satisfied with the level of protection we’re able to provide at your building, Will.”

“I came to the same conclusion.”He puts the glass containers into the fridge, closes it, then comes to stand at my side.The mood shifts.“It’s not safe for us to stay there much longer.We have to make security a higher priority.”

“Okay…” Sinclair shuts the dishwasher, and then he and Emerson are also leaning against the counter, everyone lookingtoocasual.“What should we do, then?Where should we go?”

The serious, no-bullshit expression on Will’s face cracks wide open, and he can’t get it back.He sets his chin, and I’m light-headed with anticipation and nerves.He tells me more about his life before we met when we’re in a room with his brothers than he does when we’re alone.I think they’re the only people he trusts.And whatever he’s about to say, he’s going to do it while they’re here.

“Since the security is an issue at my apartment, I bought the house next door to Emerson’s.”

My mouth drops open.I didn’t get a good look at the house next door in particular, but this whole street is full of huge, ritzy beach houses.This iswaterfront property.

“We’ll have the same security as Emerson and Daphne, like both houses are one property, so there won’t be any gaps.And Emerson works from home, so there’s almost always someone here.”Will crosses his arms over his chest.“That’s what I think we should do, if you—if you think you’d be happy there.”

I can’t see him anymore.He’s blurred out by hot, surprised tears.“A house?A whole house?”

The corner of his mouth turns up.“I bought the whole thing, yeah.”

“I’ve always wanted a house.”I never,everthought I would own one.Ever.“When—is it—”

“I had some renovations done this week.Everything’s—it’s all new.”Will points out the kitchen window.Lights are on in the windows of the house next door.The house heboughtfor us.“We can stay there tonight, if you want.”

“That’s it?I just have to sayyes?”

“There’s just one other thing.”He takes his phone out of his pocket and swipes at the screen, then hands it to me.“This is the last piece of paperwork to complete the title transfer.If you type your name right there—” He points.“It’ll be yours, too.”Will drops his voice.“You’ll never have to worry about losing it.”

I type in my name.A question floats through my mind.What if we get married?What if I change my name?I don’t ask.My throat is too tight, and the house isnow.All the rest—later.

Will takes his phone, scrolls to the bottom of the screen, and presses a button.“Done.I don’t know how you want to tell Mia and—”

I’m overwhelmed by joy and relief and excitement and adream coming truewhen I didn’t expect it, and my body just moves.I want to be close to him.He’s about to sayBenwhen I get my arms over his shoulders so I can pull him down into a big, tight hug.

Will’s whole body tenses.

I feel the shock in his shoulders first.His balance shifts away.He takes a short, sharp breath.It reminds me of surprise pain.A paper cut, but this seems worse.

The hug was a mistake.I don’t know what to do first.Let go?Apologize?

“What are you—no.” His hands fly to my wrists.He pushes them down and away and takes a step back.“Don’t do that.”

“Will, I—” My stomach drops at the look on his face.He’s horrified, with spots of color high on his cheeks, and I have the awful, rushing sensation that I’ve done something unbelievably rude.Something unforgivable.“I didn’t mean—”


It would be better if the roof caved in on me and pinned me to the ground.I feel like it has, but there are no shingles to hide me from the people in the room.The people who just watched me screw up after Willbought me a house.I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.

At that moment, Mia and Ben burst into the kitchen.“Bristol, you have to see what we’re making.”Ben’s smiling, but his face falls as soon as he sees me.As soon as he sees Will.“Bristol?”

I’m moving before I know it, half-blind with fresh tears, a big, aching bruise at the center of my ribs.“Yes.Show me.”

Behind me, Will curses under his breath.“Bristol.”

I don’t turn around.Mia and Ben drag me toward the stairs, their hands tentative in mine, and I blink away my tears like it’s my job and try to ignore the rock wedged in my throat.They take me upstairs to a wide landing and through a set of doors.

Daphne’s art studio.

It’s bright and airy, with huge windows taking up an entire wall and doors on each side of the space.Classical music plays at an inoffensive volume.No, wait—it’s a pop song I recognize, just with violins and piano.The twins tug me toward three easels set up in the middle of the floor.Daphne stands in front of the one on the left.“Did you find her?”she asks, without turning around.

“This is mine.”Ben points to the one on the right.“And that’s Mia’s.”