Pulse: Book Two in the Collide Series

Paperback | August 12, 2014

byGail McHugh

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From the New York Times bestselling indie author, the conclusion to the sexy contemporary romance that began in Collide, about a woman torn between her seemingly perfect boyfriend and a dark, mysterious stranger.

“Do you know how scary it is to want something so bad you’re willing to change your whole life for it?”

Emily Cooper is ready to risk everything to be with the man who has consumed her thoughts and dreams since the fateful day they met. Unraveling fast, she can only cling to the hope that Gavin Blake still wants her.

Nursing his wounded heart, Gavin has cut himself off from society and retreated into a self-destructive, mind-numbing world. Emily isn’t used to being the strong one, but she’ll have to find the daring and confidence within to fight for their love and bring Gavin back from the edge—even if it means losing herself to their all-consuming, pulse-pounding passion. A New York Times bestseller, Pulse is the unforgettable conclusion to the story of Emily and Gavin that began with Collide.

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From the Publisher

From the New York Times bestselling indie author, the conclusion to the sexy contemporary romance that began in Collide, about a woman torn between her seemingly perfect boyfriend and a dark, mysterious stranger.“Do you know how scary it is to want something so bad you’re willing to change your whole life for it?” Emily Cooper is ready...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 1.1 inPublished:August 12, 2014Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476765367

ISBN - 13:9781476765365

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pulse Gail McHugh has done it again, a must read, amazing story, the perfect follow up to Collide, love Gavin Blake!!!
Date published: 2015-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pulse book 2 in the collide series I couldn't stop reading the series. Amazing story line, this is the first time I have read anything from this authour all I have to say is amazing. Gavin I fell in love with you
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome book!!! loved both books, great story was hooked from the beginning, couldn't put them down!
Date published: 2014-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pulse Was awesome .... could not put it down, have a new author I love and get to add to my list ....
Date published: 2014-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pulse Words can't describe how much I loved this series!!!
Date published: 2014-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Collide Series- Collide & Pulse Enjoyed both book very much.....
Date published: 2013-11-24

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Pulse Chapter One A Missed Last Encounter Emily leaned her head against the taxi window, watching the city lights of Manhattan with tear-soaked eyes. In a blur, the look on Gavin’s face as he had walked away from her a few hours before rushed through her mind. The closer she got to his building, and the further away she got from her past with Dillon, the more she felt as though her sanity and heart were hanging by a delicate thread. She shifted restlessly and her gaze fell on the glowing green light of the digital clock. It was nearly one o’clock in the morning. A glimmer of hope flooded her body, and she squeezed her eyes shut, praying Gavin would take her back. As the taxi pulled up in front of his high-rise, she reached in her purse and pulled out a wad of cash. After handing the unknown amount to the driver, she swung open the door and stepped onto the sidewalk into the cold, late November air. “Hey!” the Middle Eastern driver called. “You have to close the door, lady!” Emily heard his words but paid him no mind. Her fumbling feet pushed her forward, kept her moving toward what she hoped would be a new start. A new future with the man she knew she couldn’t live without. She pulled open the door and crossed the lobby. Sweat clung like decay across her flesh. With a trembling hand, she pressed the button for the elevator. Her nerves skyrocketed with love and anxiety. Once the elevator doors opened, she stepped inside and leaned against the wall, physically and mentally exhausted. As she tried to stop shaking, tears steadily fell. Unsure of Gavin’s reaction, Emily struggled to pull in a decent breath. She tried to tamp down the wicked emotions curling through her. The doors opened to what would either be a new beginning . . . or an end. Feet glued to the ground, she stood frozen for a moment, her eyes trained on the wall across the hallway. Vaguely aware of the elevator doors gliding closed, she became dizzy as she lifted her hand to hold it open. Slowly, she stepped out. Her vision tunneled as she turned toward Gavin’s penthouse, and her mind spun out of control with every possible scenario. She strained to focus on his words from earlier, allowing her fear to wane as her feet led her closer. Her pace quickened with every step. Once she reached his unit, her fears returned with a vengeance, anchoring heavy in her chest. With trepidation, she knocked on his door, each knock mimicking the fierce pounding of her heart. She wiped away tears as her body trembled from head to toe. The minutes ticked by with no answer, and she knocked again, harder. “Please answer.” She chanted the silent prayer while ringing his doorbell. With tears trickling down her cheeks, she stared at the peephole, envisioning him staring back. The thought of him watching her stung and cut a path through her heart. “Please,” she cried, ringing the doorbell again. “God, Gavin, please. I love you. I’m so sorry.” Nothing. Hands still shaking, she reached in her purse and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed Gavin’s number. Eyes locked on his door, she listened to it ring over and over again. “You’ve reached Gavin Blake. You know what to do.” Emily’s heart clenched, tightened, and dropped into the pit of her stomach when she heard his voice. That sweet voice would forever haunt her if he didn’t take her back. That sweet, pleading voice that had begged her to believe him. She hung up, dialed again, and listened once more. She didn’t speak. She couldn’t. Her frantic breathing would be the only message he would receive. Words . . . she had none. Emily pressed a hand to her mouth as the realization he wasn’t forgiving her set in. For a few painful moments, she was silent. Then grief erupted in her chest. A torrent of tears flew down her cheeks. Her cries echoed throughout the hallway. She retreated and felt her back hit the wall. She stared at his door, the vivid memory of his face ingrained in her head. Searing pain surged and twisted in her gut as she slowly made her way into the elevator, her heart plummeting with its descent. • • • Shoulders slumped and spirit broken, Emily unlocked the door to her apartment. A small light above the stove cast a faint glow across the living room. Quieting her footsteps, so as not to wake Olivia, Emily made her way into her bedroom. Still shaking, a cloak of sadness enveloped her as she padded into her bathroom. She flipped on the light and stared at her reflection. The green eyes, once vivid with hope, held no semblance of life. She ran her fingers over her cheeks, muddied with mascara. Her face looked pale. Even worse, her heart was stricken with loss. She flattened her palms against the cool marble surface of the sink, hung her head, and wept, gulping for air as pain so deep blanketed her soul. Regret in the most brutal form tightened like an unforgiving noose around her neck. She tried to calm down by turning on the hot water and splashing her face. After reaching for a towel, she dried herself and shut off the light. Fatigue slowed her feet as she made her way to her bed, and she curled up on her side. Exhausted, she sank into the mattress, attempting to gain a few hours of sleep. But that wouldn’t come. No. As seconds, minutes, and hours ticked by, Gavin’s pained face and confused blue eyes invaded Emily’s conscience. She drew in a shaky breath, rolled onto her back, and stared at the ceiling. Over the next few hours, swells of gut-wrenching pain rippled across her heart. She’d let him slip through her fingers. • • • Trying to ignore the ear-piercing sound of Blake Industries’ private jet’s engines firing up, Gavin wondered if Emily would remember things he’d never forget. Wondered how this was truly the end. He’d lost her. In less than seven hours, she would be Dillon’s for good. He tugged his suitcase from the back of Colton’s Jeep, his heart sinking further into his stomach as he peered into the clear, cold night sky. Colton stepped onto the tarmac—his expression no more at ease than it’d been when Gavin came to him. “You don’t have to do this, little man,” Colton yelled, tufts of his dark hair whipping around in the engines’ fury. “Bouncing out of the city in the middle of the night won’t bring her back.” Gavin wasn’t sure if leaving would erase the mark Emily had seared into his soul. He also wasn’t sure if he’d ever be free from the ache of needing her. The only emotion he truly fucking owned . . . he knew he had to get out of New York. Get the fuck out, and get far away from the ghost of Emily that would no doubt haunt him. “I told you, I need to get off the grid for a while, Colton,” Gavin argued, roughing a hand over his face. “I can’t be here. Just take care of switching our stocks out of Dillon’s hands.” Colton released a weighty breath and nodded. “I’ll take care of it first thing Monday morning.” He clapped Gavin’s shoulder, his eyes softening. “You have to be good with all of this when you get back. Promise me you’ll put Emily to rest while you’re down there.” Gavin’s chest palpitated at the sound of her name. “Yeah,” he replied, his voice grave. “I’ll try.” After a few moments of staring at each other, Gavin climbed the stairs to the jet. Turning, he watched his brother drive off the property of the small, private airport. Mind-fucked and in the deepest turmoil of his life, Gavin dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his cell phone. Without looking at it, he tossed it onto the runway. It shattered when it hit the ground. Off the grid meant off the grid. No contact with anyone. No one trying to pull him from his pain, and no one trying to convince him his actions were destructive. After handing his bags to the flight attendant, the pilot came out to greet him. “Good evening, Mr. Blake.” The pilot, gray hair spilling over his forehead, firmly shook Gavin’s hand. “Everything you’ve requested has been prepared, and we should arrive in Playa del Carmen in just over four hours, sir.” Gavin gave a weak nod and headed into his private cabin. He closed the door, and his eyes immediately landed on a minibar bottle of bourbon screaming his name. He gazed at it with contempt. Darkness seeped in around him. He peeled off his coat and tossed it onto the bed. Trying to stave off the evil angel invading his thoughts, he strode across the small space and reached for the mind-numbing amber liquid. Deciding to forgo a glass, he twisted off the cap and brought the bottle to his lips. The alcohol burned his throat, offering up not an ounce of reprieve from his pain. It was then that Gavin knew there would never be a time in his life he wouldn’t be aware of Emily’s absence. Drunk or sober, she would riddle his heart and soul until the day he died. He loved her. Breathed her in as if she were the air around him . . . the air he would be deprived of forever. He put down the bottle, ran an exhausted hand through his hair, and attempted to cast visions of Emily’s beautiful eyes staring back at him from his memory. He walked over to the window, peering out at the city below, and knew it didn’t work. Nothing would. Neither soaking his pain in alcohol nor running from her could mend what he was feeling. She was gone. As the twinkling lights faded with the jet’s climbing altitude, Gavin’s heart continued to mourn the woman he’d lost while his mind wondered how long he would be at her funeral. • • • With the morning light sucking the last of the stars from the sky, and without a minute of sleep claimed, Emily sat up and made her way into the kitchen. Nausea filled her stomach. She reached for the refrigerator door, pulled it open, and grabbed a bottle of water. She sank into a seat at the table as Olivia rounded the corner. “Hmm, I see Douchenugget dropped you off early this morning,” Olivia clipped, glancing at Emily. She walked over to one of the cabinets and tugged it open. “How nice of him to allow his bride to actually get ready on her wedding day at her place.” “Olivia, I’m—” “Before you defend Dillmonster, or your delusional thoughts, Emily, I want you to know how upset Gavin was last night.” Olivia slammed the cabinet closed. “I’ve never seen him so hurt.” Emily closed her stinging eyes, her heart constricting at the thought of the pain she’d caused Gavin. She shook her head. “Olivia, please. I’m not—” “I know, Emily. You’re not in the mood to talk about this,” she huffed, yanking open another cabinet. “Or let me guess, you’re not delusional thinking you should marry Dillon because you don’t believe Gavin?” “Olivia,” Emily let out, rising. “You’re not listening to me. I’m not—” Olivia whipped around, her brown eyes narrowed. “I fucking hate saying this, Em, but I can’t be a part of this today. You love Gavin, and Gavin loves you. Done deal. I believe Gavin, and even if you don’t, you’re forcing me to choose.” She placed one hand on her hip and rushed the other through her thick blonde hair. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to the wedding today.” “Good, because neither am I,” Emily whispered, sitting back down. “I’m not marrying Dillon.” Eyes wide with shock, a smile split Olivia’s face. “You’re not?” she gasped, rushing to Emily’s side. Emily shook her head as a fresh round of tears seeped from her eyes. Olivia kneeled beside her and wrapped her arms around Emily’s waist. Her words tumbled out against Emily’s stomach. “Oh my God, oh my God. You’re so not on my shit list anymore. I fucking love you to death right now!” “I hurt Gavin.” Emily nearly choked over her words. “I wanted to believe him, and part of me did, I guess, but I was afraid, and now it’s too late.” Confusion peppered Olivia’s expression as she stood, bringing Emily with her. She cupped Emily’s cheeks. “It’s not too late. As soon as you call him, he’ll forget everything. Gavin loves you. He was pissed last night, but he would die for you. Believe me. That’s all he kept saying.” Trembling, Emily sucked in an unsteady breath. “No. I went to his penthouse last night, and he didn’t open his door.” She backed away from Olivia and tucked herself into a seat at the table. “I called his phone a few times, and he didn’t answer. He’s done with me, and I deserve every bit of pain coming to me.” Emily shook her head, her voice trailing off. “I can’t believe I let this happen.” “He didn’t have me take him home last night.” Olivia dropped to her knees again and grabbed Emily’s hands. “From the rehearsal dinner, he had me bring him by Colton’s house. What happened sobered him up a little, but I’m pretty damn sure homeboy’s still knocked out. Think about how tanked he was. It’s only seven in the morning. He probably didn’t hear his phone. I’ll call him in a little while, but you need to try to calm down, okay?” Emily slowly pulled her hands away and pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes. She reluctantly nodded, swallowing some of the worry coursing through her mind. “Okay, I’ll try to calm down.” A slow smile touched the edge of Olivia’s mouth. “I’m proud of you, Emily.” “Proud of me?” she questioned, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “For what? For hurting Gavin? His face, Olivia. I can’t get his face out of my head.” Eyes softening, Olivia brushed her hand against Emily’s jaw. “I’m proud of you for finally seeing you deserve a better life with a man who honestly loves and cares for you. Again, you may have temporarily hurt Gavin, but the two of you are going to be fine. You’ll see.” Emily stared at Olivia and allowed a flutter of hope to settle through her limbs. She nodded, praying Olivia’s statement would prove true. “All right,” Olivia said, standing and looking at her watch, “your un-wedding day is supposed take place in a little less than four hours. What do you need me to do, other than go get us some coffee because there’s none here? You definitely look like you can use a cup, and I know I can, too.” Olivia walked to the hall closet, pulled out her coat, and slipped it on. “Do you want me to call your sister?” She halted midstride. “Better yet, can I call your ex-future husband and tell him to fuck off?” Emily rose and moved across the kitchen. She grabbed a paper towel and blew her nose. The thought of Dillon waking to find her gone sent chills up her spine. “He doesn’t know yet.” Confusion pinched Olivia’s forehead. “What do you mean? I thought—” “I left after he fell asleep,” Emily interrupted, rushing her hands over her face. “He has no idea. You’re the only one who knows.” Olivia’s jaw dropped open, her eyes wide. “Umm . . . okay. I could be wrong, but shouldn’t the expectant groom know this?” On a sigh, Emily walked past Olivia into her bedroom. She started rummaging through her dresser drawers. Other than Gavin, the only thing she craved was a long, hot shower. “Yes, Olivia. I need to clean myself up, and when I’m done, I’m going to call him.” Olivia leaned against the doorway, concern edging her eyes. “Can you at least wait until I get back from the coffee shop? I’ll shoot Lisa and Michael a call to let them know what’s going on, okay?” Knowing Olivia was worried, Emily slid her drawer closed and gazed at her. “Yes. I’ll wait.” She walked over to Olivia, her eyes soft. “Thank you.” Olivia cupped Emily’s chin, giving it a light shake. “You’re welcome. Go ahead. Get in your shower, and I’ll be back in a few.” Emily nodded and watched her leave. After the front door snapped shut, Emily couldn’t help but feel dread scorching her stomach. Confronting Dillon, with or without Gavin by her side, wouldn’t be easy. She sighed, trying to ignore its festering presence. She made her way into the bathroom, set her sweatpants and sweatshirt on the vanity, and turned on the water. As hot steam curled through the air, she stripped last night’s clothing from her body and slipped into the shower. She reached for the bar of soap and slowly ran it across the aching flesh between her legs as visions of what she’d allowed Dillon to do to her invaded her thoughts. With her head hung low in shame, her drenched auburn hair formed a curtain over her face. Her every muscle felt bruised, but the soreness paled in comparison to her battered and beaten heart. She sank further into the darkest recess of her mind, replaying what he’d done last night over and over. It was nothing short of a nightmare. It was then that she realized the enormity of what she’d allowed him to get away with over the past year. The awareness of how she’d deceived herself into thinking he loved her, cared for her, for them, knocked the air from her. The overwhelming, deep-seated obligation she’d felt toward him for the things he’d helped her with was something she knew brought her to this very moment. Anger at herself swelled, bubbling low in her belly as she scrubbed faster, harder at her flesh, over her arms, face, and legs. She wanted to remove his very existence from her pores. She turned the water on hotter and cringed at the way she had let him manipulate her every action. Her every thought. Crying, she sucked in a deep breath and tried to pull herself back together. Dillon was no more. They were no more. He was gone. Through her daze, Emily rinsed her body of not only bubbles lathering her skin but also the malicious venom he’d poured into her soul. She stepped from the shower, reached for a towel, and pulled it around herself. Standing before the mirror, she glanced at the woman she’d part ways with. Forever. “Never again,” she whispered. She shook her head, smoothed her hands over her cheeks, and pressed her eyes closed. “Never.” After taking a moment to reflect on the insanity the day promised to bring, Emily slipped into her clothing, dried her hair, and made her way back into her bedroom. She jerked to a halt when she heard her phone buzz, the sound alerting her there was a message waiting. Sudden anxiety it was Dillon and possible hope it could be Gavin gripped her. Swallowing, she edged toward the nightstand and, with a trembling hand, reached for her phone. Both her anxiety and hope evaporated upon seeing it was a voice mail from Lisa. Emily gave into the fatigue chasing her, sank onto her bed, and rested her head on a pillow. As she listened to her sister’s concerned voice, Emily heard the front door creaking open. She sat up and took in the last few seconds of Lisa’s message, notifying her that she and Michael were on their way. “Liv?” Emily called as she slid her phone shut. She tossed it onto the bed, ran a palm over her face, and stood to make her way into the other room. “I hope you got something to eat while . . .” She paused in the living room archway, her words trailing off. Startled, she froze, silent and alert, when she found Dillon casually leaning against the counter. His eyes traced over her as he sipped orange juice from a glass. “When I woke up, you were gone, Emily.” After setting down the glass, he sauntered over, a cocky smirk plastered on his face. “That excited to get back here and get all prettied up so you can marry me today, huh?” He brushed his fingers against her cheek. “I figured I’d stop by before I went to Trevor’s to get ready.” “Get away from me, Dillon,” she whispered, her voice shaky. She jerked away, trying to hide the fear rushing through her veins. Dillon blinked, clearing the roughness from his throat. With narrowed eyes, his face filled with confusion. “What?” he asked, stepping closer and grabbing her upper arm. Emily yanked it from his firm grasp, her shoulder slamming against a curio cabinet as she stumbled back. “You heard me. I said get the fuck away from me.” Her words dropped from her mouth in a low hiss. “I’m done, Dillon. This”—she pointed between them—“is over. I’m no longer your willing victim.” Before she knew it, he had her pinned against the wall, one hand gripping her hair as the other clenched her chin. He ran his tongue across his bottom lip and studied her. “You did fuck him, didn’t you?” Though a small cry pressed from Emily’s mouth from the pain searing her skull, her answer dripped out as a sneer. “Yes, I fucked him. Yes, I’m in love with him, and no, I’m not now, nor will I ever marry you.” Even as fear doused Emily’s limbs, a sense of relief and freedom took over, rooting somewhere deep inside. For half a heartbeat, she closed her eyes, allowing visions of Gavin to seep into her thoughts, but a hard crack to her cheek from the back of Dillon’s hand sent her eyes wide open. The sting rippled across her flesh as she thrashed her fists against his chest in an attempt to break free. With one hand still tangled in her hair, Dillon jostled her across the room like a worn out little toy. Landing on all fours against the wooden floor, Emily tried to stand, but Dillon grabbed her hair and forced her down. “You sick fuck!” she screamed, curling her hands around his wrists as he hovered above her. Dillon dropped to his knees and yanked her head back, forcing her to look into his eyes. “After everything I’ve done for you, you turn around and fuck him behind my back?” he snarled, fisting her hair tighter. Pulse thudding and using every bit of her strength, Emily clawed and dug her nails into his skin as she tried to untangle his hands from her hair. “You’ve done nothing for me but break me down!” she cried. When he wouldn’t release her, a jeering smile split her face. Tears slipped down her cheeks. “I wish I could’ve fucked him right in front of you!” Eyes glacial, hollow, and darker than the night sky, Dillon struck her face again. Emily felt the skin above her brow rip open, pain needling her flesh. A gasp tore past her lips as warm, thick blood trickled along her temple, snaking down her cheekbone. Still gripping her hair, Dillon pulled her up and hauled her body against his chest. Daring to meet his eyes, Emily swallowed the fear coating her throat as Dillon pegged her with a look telling her this torture wasn’t over. With a rush of anger and adrenaline slicking through her nerves, she clawed at his face, digging her thumbnails into his eyes. Tiny slivers of blood streaked across Dillon’s lids as a howl of pain scraped from deep within his throat. Somewhere above the twisted havoc raking hard in her mind, Emily registered the sound of the front door swinging open, followed by Lisa’s screams. In a flurry of commotion, Michael rushed up behind Dillon, grabbing him under the arms. Michael’s movements were frantic as he pulled Dillon from Emily. Both men stumbled, their limbs flailing in every direction. Michael landed on his back on the floor. Dillon fell on top of him. The loud thud echoed through the room. Michael tossed Dillon away, rolled to the side, and sprang to his feet. 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’s 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 . . . just 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, who 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.” Body shaking, 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 cry violently. 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 ice pack 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. “Gavin . . . I . . . It’s Emily,” she whispered, trying not to trip over the emotions climbing up her throat. “I don’t expect you to talk to me ever again, but I need to say a few things.” Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, she continued. “Dillon diminished my sense of feeling alive, Gavin. But you . . . you brought that back to me. When Gina opened the door that morning, I . . .” Emily paused, wiping away tears. “I was scared you took her back, but I should’ve let you explain and I didn’t. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that out of any girl in this world you could’ve fallen in love with, you chose me. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when I should’ve, and it was me who broke your heart. I love you, Gavin. I know you’re the one who said you thought you loved me from the moment you saw me, but I know I loved you from the moment I saw you. Something inside me told me I was supposed to be with you, but I fought against it. So many things about you scared me at first, and then you showed me who you really are.” Unable to keep fighting the raw emotion weighing heavy on her heart, Emily broke out into hysterics. “Please forgive me for fighting against us, Gavin. Please forgive me for not fighting for us when I knew we were supposed to be together. Forgive me for being the weak mess I am. But more than anything . . . thank you for loving me. Thank you for your dimpled smile and your bottle caps. I’ll never be able to look at one without thinking of you. Thank you for your stupid Yankees and your wiseass remarks. Thank you for wanting late-night drives and sunset-watching with me. Thank you for wanting the good, the bad, and the in-between.” Emily paused and shook her head, but before she could say another word, the voice mail cut her off, the long beep alerting her that her time was up. “I’m just sorry the only thing you got from me was the bad,” she whispered, staring at the ceiling as she clenched her phone to her chest.