She looks over her shoulder the entire way to our room, so I take her hand in mine and try to give her reassurance that she’s safe for the night.
Once we’re inside the hotel room and I shut the door, it feels as though the air is different in here. Like there’s more of it, because she’s finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. I hate that she’s been so worried, and knowing that Trey is a huge part of her life makes me even more concerned for her.
She slips her shoes off and takes a seat on the bed. I sit down beside her and take her hand in mine again.
“Will you tell me what happened?”
She inhales slowly with another nod. “He showed up right before I saw your texts. At first, I didn’t think he was capable of doing something like you were suggesting, but when he walked into my room, I saw it. There was something in the way he looked at me. The first thing he did was ask about Sparkles.”
I don’t want to interrupt her, but I have no idea what Sparkles means.
She shoots me a quick, embarrassed smile. “I told him Owen-Cat was Emory’s, and that her name was Sparkles.”
I shake my head in confusion. “Why would he ask about my cat?” As soon as the question leaves my mouth, the answer becomes clear. “He was in my studio,” I say. “He must have seen her and put two and two together.”
She nods, but she stops talking. I wait for her to continue her story, but she doesn’t.
“What happened next?”
She shrugs. “He just . . .”
She starts crying, quietly, so I give her a minute to continue at her own pace.
“He started talking about AJ and buying a house and . . . then he started kissing me. When I asked him to stop . . .” She pauses again and inhales a quick breath. “He said something about me and you being together in your bed, and that’s when I knew he read my confession. I tried to get away but he held me down. That’s when Emory walked in.”
I should have gotten there faster, but thank God for Emory.
“That’s all that happened, Owen. He stopped, and then he left.”
I lift my hand to her lip and touch the area next to where she’s bleeding. “And here? Did he do this?”
She glances down and nods. I hate seeing the shame in her expression. That should be the last thing she’s feeling right now.
“Did you call the police? Do you want to call them now?” I begin to lift off the bed to get the phone for her, but her eyes widen and she begins shaking her head back and forth.
“No,” she says. “Owen, I can’t report this.”
I pause for a moment, just to make sure I heard her right. I release her and sit up straighter, facing her directly. My head tilts in confusion.
“Trey attacks you in your own apartment, and you aren’t going to report him?”
She looks away, more shame in her expression. “Do you know what would happen if I reported him? Lydia would blame me. She would never let me see AJ.”
“Look at me, Auburn.”
She turns her head and I take her face in my hands. “He attacked you. Lydia may be a bitch, but no one would ever blame you for reporting something like this.”
She pulls away from my hands and shakes her head softly. “He knows I slept with you, Owen. Of course he’s going to be angry after finding out I cheated on him.”
I close my eyes. My heart is beating so hard; I think it needs out of this room. “You’re defending him?”
The silence that follows crushes me. I stand up and walk away from the bed, toward the window.
I try to understand it. I try to make sense of it, but it makes no fucking sense at all.
“You didn’t report him for breaking into your studio. It’s the same thing.”
I immediately spin around and face her. “That’s only because I’ve ruined my credibility, Auburn. It would look like a pathetic act of revenge if I blamed Trey for that. He’d get away with it, and I would only make things worse for myself.
“You, on the other hand—he physically attacked you. There’s absolutely no reason in the world why that shouldn’t be reported. Not reporting it will make him feel like it’s an invitation to do it again.”
Rather than argue with me, she calmly stands and walks toward me. She wraps her arms around my waist and buries her face into my chest. I wrap my arms tightly around her in return. I’m suddenly a lot calmer than I was a few seconds ago.
“Owen,” she says, her words slightly muffled by my shirt, “you aren’t a father, so I can’t expect you to understand my decisions. If I report him, things will only get worse. I have to do whatever I can to keep my relationship with my son intact. If that includes forgiving Trey and having to apologize to him for what happened between you and me . . . then that’s what I have to do. I can’t expect you to understand that, but I need you to support it. You don’t know what it’s like to give up your entire life for someone.”
Not only do her words physically hurt me, they also terrify me. Even after this, she still doesn’t see how dangerous that man is.
“If you love your son, Auburn . . . you will keep him as far away from Trey as possible. Forgiving him is the worst choice you could make.”
She pulls away from my chest and looks up at me. “It’s not a choice, Owen. If it were a choice, that would mean I have other options. I don’t. It’s just what I have to do.”
I close my eyes and take her face in my hands. I press my forehead to hers, and I just stand there with her. I listen to her breathe, and I try to make sense of her words. She’s telling herself that I don’t understand because I’ve never been in her position. She thinks all the mistakes I’ve made in the past were made out of selfishness, rather than complete selflessness.
We’re more alike than she thinks.
“Auburn,” I say quietly, “I understand completely that you want to be with your son, but sometimes in order to save a relationship, you have to sacrifice it first.”
She pulls herself from my grip. She takes several steps away from me before turning around. “What relationship have you ever had to sacrifice?”
I lift my head slowly, looking at her with everything that I have. “Us, Auburn. I’ve had to sacrifice us.”
I’m sitting on the bed with him, trying to absorb everything he’s saying, but it’s hard. “I just . . .” I shake my head. “Why didn’t you just tell me all of this from the beginning? Why didn’t you tell me that Trey knew they weren’t your drugs?”
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