Page 49 of Coercion

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A slow nod from Ben.

“They’re not.It’s our stuff, just to start out with.”

He gasps.“These are really nice couches!”

“You’ll have to let me know if the beds are okay, too.”

Sinclair pounds on the open front door.“Can we come in yet or what?”

“Yes!”shouts Bristol, and for a good twenty minutes it’s the best kind of chaos I’ve ever seen.Daphne compliments everything she sees and somehow manages to sound totally genuine, every time.Mia drags Bristol upstairs.I arrive just in time to see her enormous grin at the sight of her new bedroom.

“Bookshelves,” she says.“It’s bookshelves.”

It looks like a bedroom sprouted up in the middle of a library.Mia walks around, touching everything with her fingertips, obviously in love.

“Don’t worry.”Her head snaps up at the sound of my voice.“We’ll work on your book collection starting tomorrow.”

She’s perfectly still, frozen at the foot of her bed, for a good ten seconds.

Then, light and fast, she crosses the room and throws her arms around my waist, squeezing tight.

“Mia.”Ben’s voice is trembling.“You have to see my room.”

His has a panel built into the wall with lights that look like a data stream from a movie.From the way Ben stares, it’s his version of a dream come true.Mia leans her head on his shoulder, and they watch the lights together until he takes a deep breath and turns his head.

“How long until we can stay here?”

“Oh.”I stick my hands in my pockets.“We can stay now.”


“Yeah.There are clothes in your closets.I can have someone bring the rest of your things tomorrow.’

Bristol puts her hand on the small of my back, leaning close.

“We can just…stay?”Ben’s eyes shine.“You won’t miss your apartment?”

“Nope.Everything I need is here.”

The twins make another loop of the house with all of us in tow, discovering the giant-ass finished basement in the process.At the end, Mia looks out the living-room windows, motionless, while Ben stands next to her.Then, without a word, the two of them head for the stairs.

Ben pokes his head over the second floor balcony railing.“Thanks,” he whispers.

“You’re welcome,” I whisper back.

After a few minutes, Bristol goes up to check on the twins.She comes back not long after, her face flushed.“Asleep on top of the covers.”

“Oh!”Daphne gets up from the chair she’d taken in the living room.“You probably want to be alone.We can—”

“No, stay.”Bristol twists her fingers together.“If you’re not busy.I like the sound of…” Her blush gets deeper.“Of everyone talking.”

“I need to check in with my teams.”Evan’s been included in the house tours.Frankly, he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty.“Security’s been on the property all week, so you should be good for the night.I’ll get back with you tomorrow.”

Bristol sees him to the front door—herfront door—and returns looking both exhausted and excited.

“Your sitting room lookedsocute.Should we go chat?”Daphne asks.It’s a smaller room off the main bedroom.I hoped Bristol would like it.

“Yes.We definitely should.Like, this second.”

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