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“Country, I can keep an eye on your tables while you talk to my forgetful boyfriend.” After shooting Trevor a look, Fallon slung her arm over Emily’s shoulder. “I’ll take care of your side work, and I’ll even make sure the monkey at table twelve gets dessert.”

Trevor scratched his chin, his brows drawn together. “Monkey?”

“Yeah. A monkey.” Fallon slapped Trevor’s back and aimed a wink in Emily’s direction. Trevor shrugged. “Go ahead. Talk to him, and I’ll call you later.”

“Are you sure?” Emily asked, pulling her hair out of its ponytail.

“Yep. I’ll call you tonight.” Fallon placed a chaste kiss on Trevor’s cheek and walked away.

Trevor looked at Emily. “Want to go sit in a booth?”

“Sure.” Emily untied her apron and made her way behind the bar. “Do you want something to drink?”

“No, I’m cool. Thanks.”

After making herself a double espresso, she led Trevor to a booth tucked in the back of the restaurant. Emily slid into the seat and sipped the hot liquid. With sleep coming close to non-existent the past several days, she hoped the double shot of caffeine would shock her zombie-like system back to life.

Trevor gazed at Emily, his eyes shimmering with remorse. “First, I want to say I feel like an asshole about this whole thing with Dillon.”

Emily shifted, taken aback from his sudden declaration. “Come on, Trevor, none of this is your fault.”

“No, Emily, really. I need you to hear me out, all right?”

Reluctantly, Emily nodded.

“I’m sorry this is the first time I’ve come to see you since all this shit went down. Part of me wanted to show up the day it happened, but I couldn’t. Over the past year, I watched, without saying a fucking word, as he tore you down.” Trevor paused, his fingers nervously tugging at the white linen tablecloth. “I remember how vibrant you were when you two started dating, and piece by piece, he dismantled everything about you. Don’t get me wrong, I think I knew things were starting to get bad, but I guess I didn’t realize how bad.”

Pausing again, Trevor leaned back and shook his head. “You know what? Fuck that. I need to claim responsibility here. I saw it. I saw it with my own eyes, and I should’ve stopped it. I could’ve stopped it. I had a goddamn argument with Gavin about him vilifying Dillon because he was falling in love with you.” Trevor plowed both hands through his hair and let out a breath, his voice lowering to a whisper. “For fuck’s sake, Gavin’s been my best friend since we were kids, and I didn’t take his side during any of this. I watched Dillon hit him at your rehearsal dinner and didn’t do a fucking thing. Not a fucking thing.”

“Trevor, please. You’re not—”

“No, wait. Let me finish, Emily.”

Once again, Emily nodded.

“Olivia and I were raised by a father who would’ve never talked to my mother the way Dillon talked to you.” Trevor’s gaze fell on Fallon, preparing a fresh urn of coffee behind the bar. “Damn, I love her, and I could never imagine anyone treating her the way Dillon treated you. End of story, I tucked my tail between my legs, and I can only hope you and Gavin can forgive me for being such a pussy. But what’s done is done. All I can do now is try to make this right. I left Morgan and Buckingham. I didn’t see the asshole when I cleared out my things, but I’m done with him and his bullshit. When I said I considered you my second sister, I meant it. A brother would never allow his sister to be treated that way.” Trevor reached for Emily’s hand. “I just need to know you forgive me.”

With tears slipping from her eyes, Emily clenched Trevor’s hand, her thoughts scattered. “I can’t forgive you because I never blamed you or anyone else for this. I played the biggest part in allowing him to do this to me, so I don’t want you feeling responsible.”

“Well, I do feel responsible.”

“No, Trevor. I let him to do this to me.” Emily released Trevor’s hand and pointed at her chest. “Me, not you.”

“But after everything you saw growing up? Olivia told me your mom bounced from one asshole to the next. I’m thinking that has something to do with it. Me, I have no excuse.”

As the memory of her mother’s destructive relationships soured her mouth, Emily tore her attention from Trevor. Her gaze landed on a couple walking into the restaurant. Their laughter echoed as Fallon saw them to a table.

“Right, she did. But I should’ve known better than to follow in her footsteps…” Emily’s voice trailed as she fought hard to regain her composure. She brought her eyes back to Trevor’s.

“Well, you’ve taken the first step, Em, and I’m proud of you for pressing charges and getting an order of protection against him. With Gavin gone, you need to call me if the asshole tries to get in touch with you, okay?”

Emily brushed her fingertips along the healing wound above her brow. “I will. Thank you.” She hesitated a moment and cleared her throat. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“You’ve called Gavin and left him messages, right?”

“Yeah.” Trevor nodded.

Emily drew in a long breath, her hands twisting in her lap. “Please tell me you didn’t let him know what Dillon did to me.”

“No, I figured telling him in a message wasn’t the right thing to do. But when he gets back, I plan on talking to him about it.”

“Please, listen to me. I don’t want him to know what happened. He’ll… I don’t know. Just please, can you not say anything to him?”

Trevor angled his head to the side, a current of confusion lacing his voice. “Are you asking me to hide it from him?”

A pang of apprehension pooled in Emily’s stomach as she swallowed. “I am. He’s been hurt enough through all of this, Trevor. If he knows about it, he’ll go after Dillon.”

“Why are you trying to protect Dillon?” Palpable shock sobered his features.

“God, Trevor, I’m not trying to protect him. I’m trying to protect Gavin. He’s been gutted by all this. If he finds out, there’s no way he wouldn’t go after Dillon. God forbid he really hurts him and winds up in jail. Jesus, Dillon could hurt him. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I’ve already caused Gavin enough bullshit.” Looking at the table, Emily swiped away tears gathering in her eyes. “Please,” she whispered, “just don’t say anything.”

Trevor ran a hand through his hair and down the back of his neck. “Look, I won’t bring it up, but Gavin knows Dillon. He knows he wouldn’t let you walk away easily. But I have to be honest, Em, if he asks if anything happened, I’m not gonna lie.”

Emily pressed her fingers to her temples. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ask you to lie for me.”

Releasing a weighty breath, Trevor blinked a few times and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Don’t apologize. The whole thing’s fucked up. Just promise me you’ll tell him if you two work things out.”

“Yeah. Sure,” Emily scoffed. “He hasn’t even returned my calls.” Returning her gaze to the couple seated across the restaurant, she tried to ignore the heaviness in the pit of her stomach. “He’s finished with me.”


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