Page 6 of Coercion

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No.Emerson’s voice.She wouldn’t.

This version of him isn’t real, but he’s right.She wouldn’t hatch some plan with my father, no matter how I feel about the way that she abandoned us.

Bristol leans closer, her elbow brushing against mine.

“Leave her alone.She didn’t have anything to do with this.Is there any other reason we’re still here?”

“No.”One more text, and Evan bounds down the stairs and throws open the back door of the SUV.Another one is parked at the end of the drive.One of Evan’s guys is headed up the driveway of the property across the street.

The second the door’s shut, Evan guns it.His phone connects to the SUV’s navigation system and the route pops up on the screen.

Bristol takes her phone out of her purse.Dadflashes there, just briefly, and she dials.

Three rings.Voicemail.

She sends a text.

I know better than to hope the twins will still be at…wherever this place is.Bristol’s father is a fool, but he has enough experience at being a con man to know he has to keep moving.He only stopped heading east because he ran out of country.

Evan’s phone rings, and he answers it on speaker.I can’t keep track of the conversation.The ritzy street we were staying on in Bishop’s Landing peters out into smaller mansions, closer together, and then we’re on the highway.Wherever he told the twins to meet, it’s not going to be in a good part of the city.

Bristol slips her hand into mine and squeezes.“What are you thinking about?”

Fuck me.As if I’m the one who needs comforting.“Nothing.”

“Will.”I meet her eyes, ready to insist that the last thing we need to talk about is me.It’s not pity I find on her face.It’s full-blown worry.She’s afraid for the twins, and there’s nothing we can do until this SUV arrives at the address and lets us out.Talking about what might have happened to them won’t help.“Please.”

Please,and it’s hopeless.I can’t say no.

“I was thinking about moving.”It hurts to have her hand in mine and say the words out loud.It hurts to remember.I’d rather think about this than my mother’s face when I told her I didn’t want to see her.Somehow,thisis a better topic of conversation than how Evan Donovan knew she was dead.Knew she wassupposedto be dead.“That night we went to dinner with Mitchell and Greg, you said you told your dad you couldn’t keep moving, because you’d end up in the ocean.”

The corner of her mouth turns up, just a little.“I did, yeah.We made a lot of long-distance moves.”

“It was never like that with us.With my dad.”Isn’t it funny that he’ll never have to move again?He’ll always just be in prison.“The first address I can remember was in Jersey.That’s where we learned to surf, but I have no idea how we got boards.They were cheap pieces of shit, like the house.Maybe they got left there.”

“You lived near the ocean, though.”A wobble in Bristol’s voice gives away how hard she’s concentrating on the conversation instead of the miles ticking away on the GPS.“Those places are expensive.”

“Poor people have to live somewhere.It was close enough to the shore that Dad—” It wouldn’t have been him, though.I have memories of dark hair, out on the water.“Or Sin.Must’ve been Sin who figured it out and taught us.”

“Where did you go after that?”

“Anywhere that would have us.A few miles at a time until we got closer to the city.Then we circled around the outer boroughs.He’d get a job, and we’d move.He’d lose it, we’d move again.”

Bristol’s quiet for a minute, her eyes on the window.“I always dreaded packing.It never seemed like we had anything until it was time to fit it all in some truck that was on its last legs.”

“I dreaded the days we’d have to leave.”

Another pause.This one’s tentative.“Because it hurt Emerson.”

She’s not asking.Bristol already knows.It’s impossible to say whether it’s relief or regret pushing at my ribs.Either way, it’s fucking painful.“Yeah.I was always fine.He wasn’t.”

He was a wreck, every time.I thought it would be better when Dad got arrested because Sin had already smiled his way into enough money to afford a three-bedroom that was safer and cleaner than anywhere we’d ever lived.I was laughably wrong.

With her free hand, Bristol tries to call her dad again.Nothing.She sends another text.

“You know…” Bristol rubs her thumb over the ridge of mine.“I won’t think less of you if you admit that you weren’t fine.”

“Except I was.”

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