Pulse (Collide, #2)(4)

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 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-seeded 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 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 placed the soap down, 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. Taking hold, sudden anxiety it was Dillon and possible hope it could be from Gavin rushed through her mind. 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 f*ck 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 f*ck 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 f*cked 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 f*ck!” 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 f*ck 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 f*cked 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 over her flesh. A gasp tore past her lips as warm, thick blood trickled along her temple, snaking down her cheekbone.

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