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I refuse to agree with what he’s saying. He hasn’t done anything wrong. “If I just tell them the truth, you won’t be in trouble, Owen.”

He closes his eyes and exhales, practicing patience in a situation that warrants none. When he opens his eyes again, they’re somehow even more focused. “He’s angry. Trey knows what happened between us, and he wants his payback. And he’s right. They’ll never believe us over him. Not with my history.”

My eyes begin to burn, and I try to remain as calm as he is right now, but it isn’t working. Especially now that Trey is pulling him away from me. Owen puts his hands behind his back and Trey places the cuffs on them. Owen doesn’t even resist, and I’m crying too hard to try to stop it.

I follow them down the stairs, across the studio, and out the front door to Trey’s police car. He shoves Owen in the backseat and then turns to face me. He opens the front passenger door. “Get in, Auburn. I’ll give you a ride home.”

I get in, but only because there is no way in hell I’m allowing Owen to spend another day in jail that he doesn’t deserve.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Owen

I’m quiet. So is she.

I know that neither of us is speaking right now because we’re trying to figure out a way to get out of this. There has to be a way for her to get her son and not have to go through Trey to do it. And there has to be a way for me to get out of the situation Trey has just put me in without it affecting Auburn and her relationship with AJ.

I watch from the backseat as she turns her attention to Trey.

“What do you think is going to happen now?” she asks him. “You think I’m just going to forget the fact that you attacked me? That you destroyed Owen’s studio? That you’re framing him?”

Don’t, Auburn. Don’t make him even angrier.

He turns to face her, and she doesn’t back down, even through his silence.

“I’ll never love you like I loved Adam.”

As soon as the words come out of her mouth, he jerks the car over to the side of the road. He lunges forward across the seat and squeezes her jaw, bringing his face inches from hers.

“I’m not Adam. I’m Trey. And I suggest if you want to continue being the half-assed mother you are to my nephew, you’ll say whatever the fuck I tell you to say.”

A tear slides down her cheek. My fists are clenched, and I want to beat on the barrier in order to get him to release her, but I can’t. My hands are cuffed behind my back and I can’t do a goddamn thing from this backseat to stop him. I bring my feet up and start kicking his seat.

“Get your hands off her!”

Trey doesn’t move. He continues to hold on to her jaw until she gives in and nods. He releases her and slides back to his side of the seat.

She glances at me from her position in the passenger seat, and I’ve never felt more helpless. I see the roll of her throat as she swallows.

She pulls her knees up to her chest, and her tears begin to fall even harder. Her head rests against the back of the seat while her back is pressed against the passenger door. I can see just how much pain she’s in. How scared she is. I scoot closer to her and press my forehead against the glass, trying to get as close to her as I can. I look at her reassuringly, wanting her to know that whatever happens, we’re in this together. She keeps her eyes locked with mine until we pull into the police station.

Trey kills the ignition. “This is what happened. You called me to pick you up at his apartment because the two of you got into a fight,” Trey says. “And when I arrived, he attacked me. That’s when I arrested him. Got it?” He reaches across the seat and takes her hand. “Owen needs to be behind bars where he belongs, and if I don’t make sure that happens, I’ll never forgive myself if you or AJ are hurt. He’s the only reason I’m doing this, Auburn. You want your son to be safe, right?”

She nods, but there’s something in her eyes. Something I know isn’t consent, and that scares me. I don’t want her to go in there and defend me.

“Do what he says, Auburn.”

My door swings open, and I’m pulled out of the car. Right before I look away from her, she makes a fist and holds it against her chest.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Auburn

I didn’t do what Trey asked me to do. In fact, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t answer a single question.

Every question that was fired at me, I pressed my lips together tighter and tighter.

Owen may not want me to tell them the truth, but if Trey thinks for a second that I’m going to lie for him, he’s more delusional than I even imagined.

When they told me I was free to leave, Trey said he would drive me home. I told him no thank you, and I walked right past him. I’m now standing outside of the police station, waiting for the cab I just called to arrive. Trey walks up beside me and stands next to me. His mere presence causes me to rub my hands up my arms to wipe away the chills.

“I’ll give you a couple of days to cool off,” he says. “But then I’m coming over. We need to talk about this.”

I don’t respond to him. I don’t know how he thinks I would ever be willing to forgive him after tonight.

“I know you’re upset, but you have to see things from my perspective. Owen has a criminal record. I don’t know what kind of hold he has over you, but you can’t blame me for thinking about the safety of your son, Auburn. You can’t be upset that I’m trying to do what’s best by getting him out of your life, so that you can focus on AJ.”

It takes everything in me not to respond. I continue to stare straight ahead until he sighs heavily and makes his way back inside the police station.

When the cab pulls up, I climb inside. The driver asks for the address just as I’m pulling my phone out of my pocket. I type “Callahan Gentry home address” into the search engine, and I wait for the results to return.

I don’t know what I expected to find when I appeared at Callahan Gentry’s front door last night, but the man who stood in front of me certainly wasn’t it. He looked so much like Owen. His eyes were kind like Owen’s, but they looked tired. That very well could have been because it was the middle of the night, but I felt like it was something more than that. It reminded me of when Owen said he watched the life seep out of his father’s eyes, and I truly understood what he meant when I saw it firsthand.

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