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I can taste the blood.

I begin to sob as soon as he begins unbuttoning his own jeans.

This isn’t happening.

“She said stop.”

It’s not my voice, and it isn’t Trey’s, but the words force him to stop. I glance up to find Emory standing in the doorway, pointing a gun in our direction. Trey slowly turns to face the door. When he sees her, he carefully rolls onto his back with his palms face out.

“You do realize you’re pointing a gun at a police officer,” Trey says calmly.

Emory laughs. “You do realize I’m stopping an assault, don’t you?”

He sits up, slowly, and she raises the gun even higher, keeping it trained on him.

“I don’t know what you think is going on here, but if you don’t hand me that gun, you’ll be in a shitload of trouble.”

Emory looks at me but keeps the gun aimed at Trey. “Who do you think will be in trouble, Auburn? The officer who was forcing himself on you or the roommate who shot his dick off?”

Luckily her question was rhetorical, because I’m crying too hard to answer. Trey runs his palm over his mouth and then squeezes his jaw, attempting to figure out how to get out of the mess he’s just put himself in.

Emory focuses her attention back on him. “You’re going to walk out of this apartment and all the way to the end of the hallway. I’ll set your gun and your keys on the hallway floor once you’re out of reach.”

I can feel Trey look at me, but I don’t look at him. I can’t. He runs a gentle hand up my arm. “Auburn, you know I would never hurt you. Tell her she’s confused.” I can feel him reach up to my face, but Emory’s voice stops him.

“Get. The fuck. Out!  ” she yells.

Once again, Trey raises his palms in the air. He stands, slowly, and buttons his jeans. He bends to grab his shoes.

“Leave them. Get out,” Emory says firmly.

She slowly backs out of the doorway as he makes his way toward her. I watch the back of his head as he turns toward the front door and Emory follows him.

“All the way to the end of the hall,” she says.

Several more seconds pass before she says, “Throw me his shoes, Auburn.”

I reach across the bed and grab his shoes from the floor. I walk them to her and watch as she sets his shoes outside of our front door. She keeps a close eye on Trey at the end of the hallway as she lays the gun beside the shoes. As soon as it’s out of her hands, she slams the door shut and dead bolts it, then fastens the chain lock. I’m now standing in the doorway of my bedroom, watching to make sure he’s gone. She turns to face me, wide-eyed.

“I told you I liked the other guy more.”

I somehow laugh between all my tears. Emory steps forward and hugs me, and as strange as she is, I’m more grateful to her than I’ve ever been to anyone in my life.

“Thank you so much for eavesdropping.”

She laughs. “My pleasure.” She pulls back and looks me in the eye. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

I shake my head and pull my hand up to my lip to see if it’s still bleeding. It is, but before I can turn to the kitchen, Emory is already tearing a paper towel off the holder. She turns on the faucet just as a knock lands against the door.

We both turn and look at the door.

“Auburn.” It’s Trey’s voice. “Auburn, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He’s crying. That, or he’s a really good actor.

“We need to talk about this. Please.”

I know Owen is probably on his way over right now after all of his frantic texts, so I just want to get rid of Trey before they come face-to-face. That’s the last thing I need tonight. I walk to the door, but I don’t unlock it.

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow,” I say through the door. “I need space tonight, Trey.”

A few seconds pass and he says, “Okay. Tomorrow.”

CHAPTER TWENTY

Owen

I pull into a parking garage across the street from her apartment so Trey doesn’t see my car.

When I’m out of my car and across the street, I keep running until I’m beating on her front door.

“Auburn!” I keep knocking. “Auburn, let me in!”

I can hear the locks begin to unlatch one by one, and with each lock that opens, I somehow grow more and more nervous. When she finally opens the door, and I see her standing in front of me, every part of me exhales, even my heart.

Remnants of tears line her cheeks, and the two seconds it takes to enter her apartment and pull her to me feel like an hour too long. “Are you okay?”

Her arms wrap around me and I reach back to shut the door. I lock it and then pull her to me just as she nods.

“I’m fine.”

Her voice is anything but fine. She sounds terrified. I push her away from me until she’s at arm’s length, and I take her in.

Her hair is a mess.

Her shirt is torn.

Her lip is bleeding.

Her head is moving back and forth and she’s telling me no. She can see the fury in my eyes, just as I turn around and begin to unlock the door.

He can fuck with me all he wants. I draw the line when it comes to her.

Her hands are on my arms, pulling me away from the door. “Owen, stop.” I swing open the door and step into the hall, but she pushes herself in front of me and puts her hands on my chest. “You’re angry. Calm down first. Please.”

I breathe in and out, attempting to calm myself down. But only because she said please. I hope she never finds out that hearing her say that one word could convince me to do anything she wants. Ever.

She urges me back inside her apartment. I walk to the counter and rest my arms on it, pressing my forehead against them.

I close my eyes, and I contemplate.

I think about what he might do next. I think about where he might go. I think about where she needs to be so that she’s safe from him.

I don’t have answers to any of those thoughts, other than the last one. She needs to be with me. I’m not letting her out of my sight tonight.

I straighten up and turn around to face her. “Get your things. We’re leaving.”

I choose to take her to a hotel for the night because I don’t trust her being at my studio with me. I’m still not sure what happened between the two of them and I don’t know what he’s capable of at this point.

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