Page 48 of Coercion

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Emerson:Bristol’s ready to see the house.Put your shoes on.

“Shoes.Shoes,Sinclair.”I’ve interrupted him mid-sentence.

He raises his eyebrows.“Excuse me?”

“Get your shoes on.You too, Evan.Bristol wants to see the house.”

The three of us are in the foyer when the twins race down the stairs at a breakneck speed, Emerson and Daphne following.

Bristol’s last.

I can’t take my eyes off her.She’s in leggings and a soft sweater, her dark hair in a bun on the top of her head, and there’s nobody in the world I’ve ever wanted more.There’s also nobody in the world I’ve acted like more of a prick to.The twins’ guesses about what we’re going to see while they put their shoes on fade to nothing.

I should give her space.I should just keep my fucking mouth shut.I’m going to do both those things, except I don’t.I brush past Evan and go to meet her.

She pauses on the bottom step, bringing her almost eye-level with me.Her eyes are a little red, which makes the green look brighter.

I’m sorry.That’s what I’m supposed to say.“I can buy you another house.Any house.”

Bristol wrinkles her nose.“I want the one next door.”

“I don’t have to live in it.”

She narrows her eyes.“Yes you do, Mr.Leblanc.I won’t agree to the offer otherwise.”

Weight lifts off my shoulders.“You’re funny, Ms.Anderson.Negotiation happensbeforeyour signature goes on the paperwork.”

“I guess I should read over what I signed.Did you sneak in a line that says I’m your permanent corporate whore?”

“The housedoeshave an office.”

“I’m in trouble, then.”

I want to keep playing with her.Teasing her.Joking with her.Even if it hurts as much as it feels good.

I can’t.

I put my hands on her waist.“No.Not in trouble.”

“Good.”Bristol leans in, puts her hands carefully on my chest, and kisses me.It’s a soft, sweet kiss.“Neither are you.Can I see the house now?”

I take her to see the house.

On the front porch, I tell the twins that it’s theirs, and Bristol’s, and mine.Mia’s eyes get so wide they take up most of her face.Ben clutches her arm.“What?What?What?”

Nothing—no business deal, no boxing match—could ever compare to the way Bristol’s face lights up when we go through the front door.

I had the last cleaning service turn on lamps all through the house, so the first thing she sees beyond the foyer is the huge living room it opens into, and out the glassed-in doors—

Mia and Ben go into the living room holding hands, like they’re walking into Narnia.They stop when their faces are an inch from the glass on the doors.

“Is that—” Ben whispers.“Is that a pool?”

“It is, yeah.”I feel weirdly proud of the pool.The ocean’s right there, but they have options.

He whips around to face me.“When are the people going to come and get all their stuff?”

“You mean the furniture?”

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