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Page 4

With Lisa’s arm curled tight around her shoulders, Emily shook uncontrollably, crying as she watched Dillon stagger up from the ground.

Michael lunged, swung his fist, and caught Dillon against his mouth. The blow split his lip. “I should’ve done this to you last night, asshole!” Michael spewed.

As Dillon righted himself, he stumbled forward, clenching Michael’s collar. Before he could do anything, Michael’s fist landed in a continuous assault against Dillon’s face, knocking him clear to the floor.

A clatter of voices, including Olivia’s, rang in Emily’s ears as nausea churned in her stomach. She stood frozen, her cries dying in her mouth, as she watched her apartment fill with concerned neighbors and, within a few minutes, a couple of New York City police officers. After a quick explanation from Michael, one of the cops dragged Dillon to his feet and cuffed his hands behind his back.

“You’re a fucking whore!” Dillon wheezed, spitting a mouthful of blood in Emily’s direction. “Nothing but a fucking whore! I hope he fucks you and leaves you like all the rest, you cunt!”

Dillon’s poisonous words pressed into Emily’s head in a violent explosion. She felt as if she were a tiny particle of dust moving in slow motion in the middle of a roaring tornado. Though insanity whirled around her in a room filled with people, she didn’t see anything… but Gavin’s face. Though one of the cops threatened to make Dillon’s overnight stay a memorable one, she couldn’t hear anything… but the thrumming of her broken heart. The only thing she could comprehend was the numbness flooding her veins.

She freed herself from her sister’s hold and made her way toward Dillon, where he stood with a cocky smirk toying at his bloodied lip. Staring into the wicked soul of the man she’d loved for so long, the man she’d given all of herself to, and without a tear in her eye, she smacked him across the face. Unable to stop the pent up anguish from the months of hell she’d allowed him to put her through, pain erupted in her hands, down to their fragile bones, as she continued to beat her fists against his face and chest.

“You did this to me!” she screamed, struggling against one of the officers. The officer pulled Emily back as she glared at Dillon. “I loved you, and you became everything you said you never would! And you want to know something, Dillon?” she asked, her breathing a ragged mess. With the smirk falling from his face, Dillon peered over his shoulder as an officer escorted him out of the apartment. “If Gavin does leave me and never talks to me again, I deserve every second of misery I’ll be in without him.”

After Olivia knocked him in the head, Emily watched Dillon walk out of her life as quickly as he’d walked into it. She wrapped her arms around her stomach, thoughts of Gavin splintering through her heart as she fell to her knees. With her last bit of strength, Emily backed herself against the coffee table, dropped her face into her hands, and began to violently cry. Lisa sat beside her, pulled her into her lap, and cradled her head against her shoulder. As Lisa rocked her back and forth, Emily realized she’d saved herself from becoming another statistic.

Another silent voice.

Surprised she’d let it get so far, visions of her mother accepting the same brutal treatment from not only her father but countless other men flashed through her memory. The haunting images chilled Emily’s bones.

“Shh, Emily,” Lisa whispered, holding her tighter. “It’s over now.”

Olivia knelt beside them, her voice soft. “Are you okay?” She handed Emily an ice pack and opened a first aid kit. Taking out a bandage, Olivia tore it open and placed her hand under Emily’s chin. After securing a piece of gauze with medical tape over the fresh wound above Emily’s brow, Olivia frowned.

Eyes watery, Emily nodded. “Yeah, I’m all right.”

The remaining officer walked over to Emily, his overly round physique making his uniform look ill-fitted. “Miss, I’m gonna need a statement from you. Paramedics should be here soon. They’ll take you to the hospital if you think you need to be seen.”

“No.” Emily brought the icepack up to her swollen cheekbone. She flinched as it made contact with her skin. “I don’t want to go to the hospital.”

“That’s fine,” the officer replied, looking at a clipboard. “You can refuse treatment when they get here, but they still need to show up because it was a domestic violence call.”

Michael sat on the ottoman, his expression piqued in question. “Emily, I think you should go get checked out.”

“I agree,” Lisa said, concern brimming in her eyes.

Emily rose, trying to rein in the discord fucking with her mind. She moved unsteadily across the living room to check if Gavin had called back. Lisa and Olivia scrambled to their feet and followed her into her room.

“Em,” Olivia said. She lightly grabbed Emily’s arm, confusion creasing her forehead. “Why don’t you want to go?”

Emily turned away and pushed her hands through her hair. She reached for her phone, her heart dipping when she saw she didn’t have any missed calls from Gavin. “I said no, Olivia. I don’t need to go to the hospital.” Tears gathered in her eyes as she slumped onto her bed. “I’m fine. I just need some aspirin and sleep.”

Olivia’s lips formed into a hard line. She looked over to Lisa, her expression showing equal worry.

Lisa crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway. “Emily, I swear, you can be so stubborn sometimes.”

“I know,” Emily whispered. “But really, I’m fine.”

Olivia lifted her head and exhaled toward the ceiling. Bringing her attention back to Emily, she placed a hand on her hip. “You want to know the only reason why I’m not going to push this issue further with you, friend?”

Emily pressed her eyes closed and shook her head. “Why, Olivia?”

“Well, that would be because you gave Duckleberry-Finn a pretty decent beat-down before his ass was hauled outta here.”

Emily lay back, rolled to her side, and hugged her knees to her chest. Normally, she would’ve found Olivia’s comment somewhat funny. But not now. She couldn’t. It was all she could do to muster a reply.

“Right,” Emily said, sadness clouding her voice. She brought the ice pack up to her cheek. Eyes steeped in pain from her discomfort, she stared at Olivia. “I guess I did.” Emily inhaled a deep breath, grabbed her blanket, and pulled it over her body. “When the paramedics get here, send them in. But right now, I just need to rest.”

Though concern still showed on their faces, Olivia and Lisa nodded. Without another word, they walked out of the room.

Over the next half hour, Emily filled out the necessary paperwork from the officer and refused treatment when the paramedics eventually showed up. Once the room became quiet and her thoughts finally started to settle, her eyes came to rest on her phone. Picking it up, she stared at it, her face paling when she saw it was void of any messages from Gavin. Tears streamed freely down her cheeks.

Knowing she had to explain the hurt she’d inflicted upon him, she dialed his number. She chewed at the inside of her lip as she listened to it ring. When his voice mail picked up, she went to close her phone but stopped. Worry plagued her, and an ache for him, so deep, tightened in her chest.

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