Page 47 of Coercion

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“Her ponytail.”

“What about—” Daphne reaches up to her ponytail and twirls it around her index finger.Her eyes move from the canvas to the window to the shelves.“Oh.”

“When our Dad would take Will out of the closet, he’d use Will’s shirt for leverage.”Emerson delivers this in the same, even tone.He taps the shoulder of his own shirt to demonstrate.“He’d drag Will out the same way every time, with his right hand.”


“Will swung with his left.”

Everything Will has ever said about fighting, about the matches at the warehouse, about college—it all comes together.“And then…they’d…”

“And then Dad would beat him.Will would try to protect himself.Sometimes Sin and I could make Dad stop, but not always.”He glances down at the floor, then back to me.“Not always.I have regrets about those times.”

“I’m sure…” I clear my throat and refuse to cry.“I know you did your best.”

Emerson waves this off.“It’s not hugs, Bristol.It’s that the beginning of a hug feels like being pulled out of the closet.And that almost always meant getting hit by somebody who was bigger and stronger and angrier.”

“I was…I was gentle.”

“So was our Dad.He didn’t want to fuck up the shirts, because he didn’t have the money to replace them.”

Daphne puts her paintbrush down, steps back from her canvas, and sips her tea.

What I’m not going to do is cry.What I’m not going to do is let some asshole of a father ruin today.

“My painting’s done,” Mia announces.

Ben studies his canvas.“Mine too.”

“This isn’t your fault.”Emerson’s sincere, and in this moment, his voice is an exact match for Will’s that day in the hospital.This isn’t your fault.“Okay?You didn’t know.And Will’s not angry.He just needs some time to get over his nightmare scenario, which is—”

“Having feelings in front of other people.”

Emerson nods, solemn.“I can’t imagine anything more horrifying.”

It makes me laugh.“I’m sorry this was our first real conversation.”

“I’m not.As far as first conversations go, this one was pretty good.You didn’t even try to stab me.”

“Who tried tostabyou?”

“My brother-in-law.”

This time, my laugh is genuinely surprised.He’s definitely kidding.People from rich families don’t go around trying to stab each other.It works, though.I’m not on the verge of tears.“Could you do something for me?”

Emerson sits up straight.“Name it.”

“Text Will and tell him I’m ready to see the house.”



The slamof a door would make the most sense.A car, speeding away from Emerson’s house.Cold silence.

Instead, Sinclair makes coffee and tells Evan about the prince he rescued from a crevasse.Emerson makes tea and disappears upstairs.I sit at the kitchen island and wish a meteor would fall directly on top of me.

It hasn’t been that long when I get the text.

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