Page 79 of Coercion

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“It wouldn’t have been an accident.”Bristol breathes a laugh into my shirt.“But I was also thinking that I don’t need them anymore.The fights, I mean.”

She tilts her chin and looks into my eyes.“Really?I thought you’d always want to come back here.I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”

“I came here because I was empty.My life was just a shell.It was just a way to pretend it felt so awful because I’d been punched, not because the important things were missing.Now you’re here.”Bristol hugs me tighter.“You and the twins and my brothers.”

“You’re here, too.”Bristol’s voice wobbles.“I hope you can see it now.”

“See what?”

“That you didn’t ruin anything for anybody.You didn’t break your family.It’s whole because you’re in it, no matter what else happens.”

“This family stuff is everywhere.”I say it mainly so I don’t start crying, which would be intolerable at this moment.“At home.At work.Even my mom came back.There’s no escape.”

“Do you want an escape?”

“Fuck no.”

Emerson lifts his head and ambles over to us, his hands in his pockets.“Are you sure you’re both okay?”I stare at him in the rudest possible way.I can’t even be sure what I’m looking for.He meets my eyes with a placid expression.“What?”

“You broke Mountain Man’s arm.”

A shrug.“Maybe.I’d guess it’s only a severe sprain.He won’t be punching anyone with it for a while either way.”

“You’vedonethat before.”It’s not a question.He had absolute confidence.

Em arches an eyebrow.“Yes.”

“That’s…” Nothing like the Emerson I know.“That was pretty intense.”

He glances over my face.“What did you think I was like?”

Sure, there have been some instances in our lives where I’ve been surprised by Emerson, but laser-focused violence is a new development.“I thought you’d have a tough time in a situation like this.But you’re jumping into the ring like you’ve been here before and—Jesus.Breaking people’s arms.”

“I told you it’s probably a severe strain.I didn’t feel any bones crack.”

“What the fuck.How do you even know what that feels like?How often do you do this?”

“Not that often.”


Emerson blinks, the corner of his mouth curving in a hint of an amused smile.“Once this year.Once last year.Not that often.If it helps, I don’t think I’ll have to do it again next year unless someone fucks with Sinclair and I’m close enough to step in.”

“Jesus Christ.You’redangerous.You’re a dangerous motherfucker, and you let everybody think you’re a mild-mannered art collector.”

“I can be two things.”

Sin looks over his shoulder.“Em.Cops are almost here.Go outside and tell them what they’re dealing with in here.”

“Okay.”Emerson looks at Bristol.“I wouldn’t let go of him, if I were you.He seems like he’s in shock.”

“I’m not in shock, asshole.”

“I absolutely believe you.”

Emerson hops over the ring, then jumps down to the warehouse floor.No.Idoknow what I’m talking about.He didn’t come up with these skills out of nowhere.


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