“What are you going to do, Em? Call the cops?” he yelled, his voice stinging through the air like a hive of angry bees. “I’m more than a hundred feet away from you, and I’m not on the school property.”
Emily didn’t look up, nor did she answer him. She opened her phone, her fingers trembling as she dialed 911. When the dispatcher came on the line, Emily heard Dillon laugh.
“911. What’s the nature of your emergency?” the female asked.
“I need an officer at Hamilton and Stone Avenues,” Emily stammered. Her eyes snapped between Dillon and the half-empty parking lot.
Dillon shook his head, his smile maliciously bemused as he strolled across the street, both hands tucked in his pants pockets.
Unable to move, terror chained Emily to the ground as she watched him step onto the sidewalk. Panic beaded in her stomach. “I’m in the parking lot of Brody Elementary School. I have an order of protection against my ex, and he’s here.”
“What’s your name?” the dispatcher questioned. Her tone was so insanely calm, it scared Emily. Staring at Dillon, Emily swallowed, her words stuck in her throat. She didn’t answer. “Miss? Are you still there? I need your name.”
With each uneven breath Emily took, and memories warning her mind, Dillon’s whispered threats pulsated through her thoughts. “You’ll force me to hurt you both.”
Her natural instinct to run turned into something else. Sliding her phone closed, Emily waded through her dread of him being there as her fear bubbled into anger. She had pure, honest, and good now with Gavin, and she understood the evil in Dillon more so. She had happiness beyond comprehension and loathed the misery she’d once allowed. She had pleasure and no longer endured pain. Though she felt as if she couldn’t breathe and a clamor of nerves danced in her gut, the desire to no longer remain his prisoner, or allow him to hurt Gavin, overtook her. She stepped forward, her shaky legs leading her straight in Dillon’s direction.
Standing just beyond the chain-link fence surrounding the school, Dillon cocked his head to the side. He sent her a shark’s smile, all teeth. “I’ll repeat it for you, so maybe you’ll understand this time. I’m not on the property. I’m on the sidewalk. I may not have measuring tape with me, but I’m good at math. I’m still more than a hundred feet away.”
“The cops are coming, Dillon.” She meant the words to sound strong, but somehow Emily sensed he knew they weren’t.
“I loved you, and you actually made me hate you,” he growled, his eyes liquid poison. “How could you do this to me? I took care of you and you fucking embarrass me the way you did?”
“You think you took care of me?” Shocked, Emily stared at him, her tone sharpening. “You know what? I take that back. For a while, you had me convinced you were taking care of me, but you had me fooled. You knew what I went through as a child. What I saw. You promised you’d never turn into those men, and you did. I just didn’t realize it when it started happening. You used my mother’s death against me. You knew I was vulnerable, and you ate it up. That’s not love. That’s sick and twisted. And just a bit of information for you, Dillon. Love’s not being embarrassed at what happened. Love’s being heartbroken over the way things ended between us.”
“You don’t think I’m fucking hurt?” He went to step forward but stopped.
“No,” Emily answered. “I don’t think you’re hurt. I think your ego’s bruised. You never loved me. Never.”
Fists balled at his sides, he clenched his teeth. “I did love you, but you fucked my friend!” Emily felt that all too familiar fear creeping back in. She fought against it as she continued to stare at the man who’d meant everything to her before he tore them apart. “And just a bit of information for you, I didn’t use your mother’s death against you. You fell the fuck apart, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I did the best I could.”
“Did you think I wasn’t going to fall apart?” Emily choked back a sob. “She was my mother, Dillon! My mother!”
Dillon shrugged, a wicked chuckle flying past his lips. “Your relationship with her was strained. Give me a break.”
Emily eyes went wide, her pulse thudding wildly. “What does that have to do with anything? Strained or not, she was all I knew.” Emily paused, unable to believe the monster he’d hidden beneath a camouflage of good for so long. “You’re a fake. A chameleon. Where, in that shallow heart of yours, did you even conjure up the ability to do what you did for her before she died? Tell me. Because I can’t begin to even understand it.”
“Neither can I.” Another shrug as his darkened eyes stared into hers. “As fucked up as she was, she didn’t deserve my help. No wonder you gave up on her right before she died. Even you knew the mess she was. You couldn’t even help her. Or should I say—didn’t want to help her.”
Even though she knew he was continuing his rampage to hurt her, Emily’s world stopped, anger coiling deep in her veins. “Go to hell,” she hissed. “You’re cut from your mother’s evil flesh. It’s obvious you enjoyed being in jail because you’re about to go back. This time, it’ll be longer than a few days. I only wish they could drag her with you for giving birth to such an asshole.”
“Fuck off, whore,” he growled. “I’m not going to jail. I know my rights and my limits.” He leisurely rocked back on his heels. “Again, I’m on the sidewalk, and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it, Emily. Not one fucking thing.” He looked down the block at a group of teenagers crossing the street and brought his eyes back to hers, the malice in them pinning her like a target. “That is… unless you want to call Gavin and tell him I’m here.” Pausing, he shook his head and laughed. “Now, that would be some fun. I’ll go back to jail—and enjoy every single second—knowing you had to watch me beat his ass to a fucking pulp right here on this very sidewalk. That’d be worth a few nights of my freedom.”
As though he’d turned on a switch in her head, something inside her shifted, something words couldn’t describe. She clenched her canvas bag, her fingers digging into her palm. She made her voice sound unaffected though she felt anything but. “That’s right, Dillon, idle threats. Something you’ve always been good at.” She cocked a brow, feigning disinterest. “You barely draw blood. I, out of anyone, would know that. Right?” She lifted her hand, rubbing the spot on her lip where he’d hit her. “Just so you know, it barely stung. My first graders can throw a better punch.”
“You fucking cunt,” came his retort, the words spewing out of him as if they tasted of acid. Mindful to remain on the sidewalk, he inclined his head and spit at her.
It didn’t reach, but Emily didn’t dodge it either. She stayed as still as stone. Her breath rattled in her throat as she stared at him, her heart thumping. A man’s voice caught her attention. Stepping back, she watched an officer ease from a patrol car, the casualness in his stride unnerving.
Hands on his hips, deep lines gouged his face as he approached. “What’s going on here?”