Photographer Credit: Eric David Battershell.
Cover Artist: Sybil, PopKitty Design.
Dying to experience life, I cross an ocean to get away from my fears. I find my safe haven in the form of Detective Aiden Holden. He shows me what love is, but then our lives collide. Our little world shatters, and I’m caught in the crossfire.
I’m forced to return home, to let go of the only person who has made me feel like I could be more.
How do you return to a cage once you’ve tasted freedom?
My only hope is that Aiden will cross an ocean for me.
When I open the front door, Emma forces a smile to her lips, but I can see it doesn’t reach her eyes.
It feels like I’ve lost her, and my heart clenches painfully.
Emma steps inside, her body tense as she glances around the foyer, and up at the stairs.
I hate that she’s uncomfortable in my home.
Having little to no strength left after the nightmare of a week, it feels like I’m about to break.
“Emma.” I close the door and take a step closer to her. “Tell me what happened. What you’re feelin’ and thinkin’? Let me help you.”
My eyes get stuck on the purple discoloration around her neck.
I know from experience what causes marks like that. Emma was choked. It explains why her voice is practically gone.
Rage makes me bite the words out, “What happened to your neck?”
When she presses her lips firmly together, refusing to talk, I take a step closer to her. Her body instantly goes tense, and she clenches her hands.
Fuck, not that.
“Emma, what did they do to you?” My voice is low with fear.
“Nothing,” she whispers.
I can’t stand the distance between us and I take the few steps separating us. I take hold of Emma’s clenched hands and pin them to my chest. She won’t open them or look at me.
“Please, Em. Let me share the pain. Let me help you through this.” She shakes her head, her breath catching in her throat. I brush my fingers over her cheek and lean closer. “Who hit you?”
She opens her mouth, and at first, only a rasp of air comes out.
It hurts like hell to see her like this.
Then she presses her forehead against my chest and finally whispers, “Colton.”
Fucking bastard. I wish I’d killed him when I had the chance.
I wrap my arms around her, wishing I could give her all of the strength I have left. I’m used to being in control, to being able to handle everything, but all my power has been stripped away from me.
Pressing a kiss to her temple, I softly say, “Tell me what they did so I can make them pay.”
She pushes against my chest, and I take a step back.
Her face is tight with anger. “You think you can actually do something about it?”
I frame her face and make her look at me. “Emma, I can. I’m not your dad. I’ll prosecute them with everything I have.”
“This is not about my fucking dad,” she screams, her voice breaking over the words. “You can’t do anything about it, Aiden. It fucking happened. It’s done. Nothing you do will change that.”
Her arms wrap around her waist, and hunching over, a broken cry tears from her. My heart shatters at the sight of her crumbling right before my eyes.
I move forward, but she sags to the floor, whimpering, “Don’t touch me.”
Feeling helpless as fuck, I watch the woman I love with every single beat of my heart, fall apart.
I sit down beside her, needing to let her know I’m not going anywhere.