Page 73 of Coercion

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“You’re not the only one who can meet smart, beautiful women, Leblanc.”

“Come on.Give me the name.I want to know who managed to impress you enough to go out on a date.”

Christa purses her lips, then mumbles something unintelligible.


“Six dates so far.”

“Jesus, Hong, no need to shout.”

“You asked.”She leans on the seat next to me.“What’s weird is how happyyouare.Is it all because of the job?”

“No.Bristol moved in with me.”

“She was already living with you, wasn’t she?”

“Yeah, but I bought a house.”

Christa takes several steps away and stares at me, shifting her balance on her stilettos so she can peer at every inch of my face from every possible angle.“You bought her ahouse?”

“I boughtusa house.Me.Bristol.Her siblings.”

Two slow blinks.“Where?”

“Next door to my brother.Out on the beach.”

“Your—” Christa steps in, her voice becoming a whisper-shriek.“Yourbrother?You moved next door to your brother?Which brother?”

“Emerson, obviously.Sin doesn’t have a permanent place in the—” Christa reaches out to touch my forehead and I bat her hand away.“Sinclair doesn’t have a permanent place in the city, and are you seriously trying to see if I have a fever?”

“Will.”Christa draws herself up to her full height.“It took you ayearto tell me that you evenhadbrothers.You wouldn’t show me a picture of them fortwoyears.I thought you were…I don’t know.Estranged.”

“We’re not.”

“So it’s that, then.That’s why you’re so happy.You got engaged.”

“I didn’t get engaged to Bristol yet.”

“Right.Yes.Well, moving into what I assume is a giant, expensive beach house is pretty different.”

“The job’s good too.It’s really good.It reminds me of being in the ring.”

A concerned grimace.“As a person who saw the results of those fights in the office the next day—”

“I meant that it’s better.Similar rush, but it doesn’t smell like sweat and Icy Hot.And nobody’s punched me in the face.”

“Is Bristol—” She hesitates, then barrels forward.“Is your family a fan of the change?”

“I haven’t taken a poll or anything, but I get the impression they’re glad I’m not in as much danger of getting a concussion on the job.”

“Always a plus.You sure you don’t miss the warehouse?”

“I—” I’m about to tell her that I do, in fact, miss climbing into the ring and knowing that, if nothing else, I’d get to land a few solid hits.I’d get the kind of contact that I wanted—the kind that hurt because it was supposed to.But since I’ve been letting Bristol reset the way everything else feels, I don’t need that quite so much.“I don’t miss it.Not very much.”

“That’s good.”Christa’s smile wavers.“That’s great, Leblanc.”

I groan out loud.“Do not cry over this.”

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