Page 58 of Coercion

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By Sunday, everything with Hughes is nagging at me to the point I can’t ignore it.

Before I met Bristol, I was good at ignoring things.All I needed was a regular hit of adrenaline and a drip-feed of investment challenges at work.For several years, I ignored my brothers.Told myself I’d moved on from all that.

Leave it to fucking Emerson to prove me wrong.

He comes to stand next to me on Sunday afternoon.“What did the new backyard ever do to you?”


“You’ve been scowling at it for fifteen minutes.”

I guess I have been.I don’t remember walking over to the living room window.At some point, I stopped paying attention to the conversation, which has moved into the kitchen.Mia giggles, and Sinclair laughs.

“I could be good at words, too,” Ben insists.“Mia doesn’t want to be a journalist anyway.”

“There’s room for more than one journalist in the world.”Sinclair, sage as hell.

“Who wants to play Skip-Bo?I won’t try very hard.”Out of everyone in the conversation, Daphne’s the least believable.She’s going to wipe the floor with anyone foolish enough to play with her.“Or we could go to my house.I have an idea for a painting we could do together.”

“Together?”No one has ever sounded more skeptical than Mia.“Like, we all paint at the same time?”

There’s a more pressing question, I think.“Tell me you haven’t been watching me for fifteen minutes.”

Emerson gives me a flat look.“You’re not interesting enough to watch for fifteen minutes.Plans are being made, by the way.Sounds like we might go to my house.”

His house, which is all of thirty seconds away from mine at an average pace.Our houses are this close because he casually suggested that I buy it from him, or technically from Leo Morelli’s real estate company, on the grounds that nowhere else would be safer.Emerson’s the person who had the conversations that nobody wanted to have so I didn’t fuck up giving Bristol the house.

“Sometimes, when we were in school, I wished you were more like Sin.”

He blinks.“I know.”

“I was wrong.I think I’d be pretty fucked if you were anybody but you.”

Em studies my face in the careful way that other people think is run-of-the-mill interest but in reality is him trying to decide if someone’s screwing with him.The pause goes on longer than usual.

“You actually mean it.”He narrows his eyes.“Did something happen?A stroke?Bad news you haven’t told us about?”

“None of those things.”I pat my pockets.Phone.Wallet.I just have to get my keys, and I’ll be ready to go.“Keep an eye on the house, will you?”

He laughs, because it’s a joke.There are a ton of agents on our combined properties, all of them keeping an eye on both houses.“When will you be back?”

“Couple hours.I’m going to talk to Hughes.”

I put a hand on his shoulder and move past him.I need to kiss my girlfriend before I leave.Girlfrienddoesn’t seem like enough for what she is, but that’s something we can solve later.

“You mean the lawyers?”Emerson asks.

I turn back to answer him.“No.I meanHughes.I mean Finn.”

* * *

It would probably bewise to call in to the Hughes building and see if he’s there on a Sunday afternoon before I go, but I’m not interested in being wise right now.Besides, if I were him, I’d be at my office, trying to figure out how to un-fuck myself.

The decision to talk to him today feels inevitable.Maybe it always was, and I couldn’t see that because I was used to holding everything at arm’s length.

That kind of distance is impossible now.

I’m done avoiding all the risks I said I’d never take, and I’m done avoiding Finn Hughes.The only way to decide how to move forward is to talk to him directly, not through a bunch of lawyers.