Page 5 of Coercion

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I’ll make you wish you were dead,my dad’s voice whispers in my ear.Fuck him.This isn’t a fight, or a dark closet.It’s just an angry, frightened Bristol standing in the living room of a fancy-ass mansion, trying to get herself hurt.

“Listen.”The heat rushes up into my face, and I hate it.I’d be just as screwed with my hands behind my back.That’s what it feels like.“I don’t want to say this to you.I don’t want to admit this to you.”The urge to turn my back on her and get out of here has never been stronger, but no.I don’t ask for mercy during fights at the warehouse, and I won’t ask now.Bristol’s eyes get wider.Jesus, she’s beautiful.“But…I would not be okay if anything happened to you.That’s why you can’t come.”

Her expression softens.A light, pretty pink skates over her cheeks.I can’t fucking breathe.

“That’s sweet.”I don’t know whether to be delighted or offended that she sounds so surprised to hear it from me.Bristol clears her throat.“That’s…really sweet, Will.I’m going anyway.You would go foryourbrothers, wouldn’t you?”

“Jesus.My brothers are—”

“Yes, you would.And you did.You went to Emerson’s house in the middle of the night.”

“That was—”

“It doesn’t matter.”Bristol’s chin comes up.I wish this wasn’t the worst day, because I’d love to have a picture of her like this.A painting, even.“You don’t have to tell me why you went, or what happened that night.”


“You just have to accept that I’m going to be there for Mia and Ben, just likeyouwere there for—”

“Fine, Bristol, you can come.”

She takes a deep breath, like she had a much longer speech prepared.“I don’t need your permission, but I’m glad you’ve come around to the right opinion.”

There’s a loud knock at the front door.Evan’s here.“What the hell’s happening, Leblanc?You said you’d be out there.”

Bristol and I both go for the door at the same time.

If this were some romantic comedy, we’d trip over each other, and she’d laugh and blush, and I’d say some flirty bullshit about the beach, then ask for her number.

But this isn’t a romantic comedy.Nothing about my life has been romantic, and if anything funny happened it was in spite of a bunch of all the horrifying things that went on.

We don’t trip over each other.

Bristol slides her hand through the crook of my elbow and comes with me.She steps into her shoes.I throw the door open and put my hand to the small of her back.

“Ma’am.”Evan gives her a professional nod.“Leblanc.”

“If he can beLeblanc,I can be Bristol.You’re not parked outside my apartment pretending to casually hang out in your car all day.Also, we have an address.”

I text it to Evan.“Their father asked Ben and Mia to meet him.”

“Got it.”Evan sends a couple of messages.“I’m having a team canvas the neighborhood for security footage in case anybody approached the house.If they did, they might have been involved, in which case we’ll—”

“Someone did approach the house.”Bristol cuts a glance at me, and my stomach sinks.“Yesterday morning.”

“Did you speak to them?”Evan’s thumbs hover above his screen, ready to send out his next orders.

This has to end, and it has to end right now.The sick, disoriented feeling I had when I saw her face is coming back, and I can’t afford to be sick and disoriented.

“It was my mother.”

Evan’s brow furrows.“Thought she’d passed on.”

“Who told you that?”It wasn’t me.I don’t talk about her.

He shakes his head.“If there’s any chance—”

“There’s not.Don’t—”Don’t bother her,I’m about to say, and for what?Maybe shewasinvolved.Maybe she and my father planned this.Maybe she was only here to find out if the twins were with us.