Say You Won't Let Go (Page 15)
“I don’t know. Stay here. I’m going to see if I can get some answers and I’ll be right back, okay? You’re safe. No one knows where you are but me, and I’ll tell Wade.”
He runs off and I move to the only place I feel like I belong—center stage.
Just this evening I stood here, feeling like my life was close to perfect. My dreams were coming true and trouble was behind me. I wondered how long Cooper would demand Wade stay around since my stalker was gone.
I was so wrong.
My chest heaves from the run, and I look out at the vacant seats. Vast emptiness is all around me and inside me.
Wade should’ve told me.
Cooper should’ve told me.
Just the thought of his name brings back the images I was trying so hard to forget.
The next photo of me lying on the bed in Cooper’s shirt as I smile with the phone to my ear.
Moments that were mine—stolen.
I grip the phone in my hand, needing to tell him how wrong he was for keeping things from me.
Cooper answers on the first ring. “Em,” he says my name as a sigh.
“You lied to me! You kept the flowers from me, and this guy put a goddamn camera in my bedroom, Cooper! If I’d known this was still happening, I would’ve been vigilant. I thought it was over!” Tears of anger flood my vision as my emotions pour out. “I trusted you! I thought you understood that this was my problem to handle.”
He releases a heavy breath. “I was protecting you. Wade was taking care of things. Why worry you?”
I swipe the tears, but more fall. “I’m not some damsel in distress. You lied to me that everything was fine and I was safe. All the while, this man was lookin’ at me sleep, shower, and live.”
“I know, and I hate myself right now.” His voice breaks, and so does my heart.
“He…he took…” I start to fall apart. “He took everything from me! He saw me when I was raw and vulnerable. He invaded my privacy, Cooper!”
“I’ll be there in two days, Emily. I’m on a plane as soon as I finish my meeting. I’ll get back what he took from you, darlin’. No one is going to hurt you.”
I sink down to the stage and try to slow my breathing. I just got done telling him that I didn’t need him to save me, and as much as I want to call foul on myself and tell him to come, I know he’s dealing with his own mess as well. He can’t just keep dropping things to run to my side. I’m not that girl. “But the farm.”
“The farm isn’t my concern. You are.”
I love this man. I love him so much my heart can’t contain it all, but I’m so angry and confused and…lost. “I don’t know…”
“There’s nothing for you to know other than in forty-eight hours I’ll have you in my arms and no one will get close to you.”
My hand clutches the base of my neck, and I pray that isn’t a lie. I want to see him more than anything. Even in my hurt, I crave him.
I see Wade standing on the side of the stage with his arms crossed over his chest. “I’ll see you soon. Wade has a lot to fill me in on.”
“All right, darlin’. I’ll see you soon.”
I stand and pull myself together, ready to face a very pissed-off big man who could crush me. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, his profile doesn’t scream happy or relieved.
“Em?” Cooper calls out.
“I’m sorry you feel I betrayed you. I’ll never lie to you.”
Guilt wraps around my chest, squeezing tight. “I know you were only doin’ what you thought was right.”
“I love you.” Cooper’s deep rasp is laced with emotion.
“I love you, too.”
Wade moves toward me as I disconnect the call, and I brace myself for whatever he has to fill me in on. God only knows what made those alarms ring or where the hell Luke went.
“Is everything okay now?” I start as I make my way toward him, knowing nothing about this is going to be good news.
“Hello, Emily.” The deep voice that isn’t Wade’s causes my heart to plummet. “Glad I finally got you alone.”
“What do you want?” I take a step back as he moves closer.
“Don’t walk away, sweetheart. I’ve been waiting a long time to have your attention all to myself.” The man keeps himself in the shadows.
I pray that Luke comes back now. I grip my phone, contemplating whether I can get a call out without the man in front of me noticing.
“You and I haven’t had time alone in a while.” He hums with satisfaction. “I’ve missed you.”
I can’t place his voice. It’s familiar, but nothing is ringing a bell.
Every muscle in my body tenses, and I glance to the neon exit sign before deciding the emergency exit just off stage is closer. “You have?” I flip the phone backward to hide the light.
His silhouette shifts to the curtain a little farther back, further shielding his face. “I did, up until the last few weeks.”
My heart is pounding so hard against my chest I swear he can hear it. “What changed?” I ask and try to follow his movements, but he’s staying completely out of the light.
“I think you know, baby.”
His term of endearment makes me sick. “I really don’t.”
His chuckle is menacing. “Maybe you should call Cooper Townsend again,” he suggests.
My breathing accelerates, and I struggle to hold on to control. “Cooper?”
“Don’t play stupid,” he warns. “I know all about your new boyfriend. I was actually just in Tennessee this week…”
I can almost hear the smile in his voice. This guy is completely insane, and I’ve never been more terrified of anyone or anything in my life. “Why were you there?”
“Just checking on things…” He moves again, and I take a step back.
Nothing about what he’s saying makes sense. My hands start to shake, bile burns my throat, and I can feel the band of tightness restricting my lungs. I have to get a call out to someone. I push the button, and the phone brightens the dark space. He makes a low, menacing sound.
“Don’t think about it,” he warns. “If you try to call for help, you’ll push me to do something drastic. Put the phone on the ground.”
My hands hold tighter, wanting to do the opposite of what he’s requesting. Now, I’m the dumb girl on television who you scream at not to listen to the attacker.
“You know, there’s a lot of things in your hometown that I never knew about. Did you know there was some big crime that happened?”
I gasp and know without him telling me that he is the one who cut down Cooper’s fencing. “Why are you doin’ this?” I ask breathlessly.
“To show you the lengths I’ll go to keep us together, baby. I’m the one you’re supposed to be with,” he says with conviction. “I’m fighting for you, Emily. He’s worried about his precious cows, and I’m here for you. He doesn’t deserve you, and I’ll keep showing you his true colors. Now, drop the fucking phone.”
My fingers release the lifeline I had, and I pray he doesn’t hurt anyone. Most of all Cooper. “Please,” I beg. “Please don’t do anything to him. You don’t have to do this.”
The man’s deep sigh filters around me. “All you have to do is see what I’m showing you. Once you get rid of him, you and I can be happy. Otherwise, you’ll piss me off, and I’ll have no choice…”
Tears begin to fall at his threats to hurt Cooper. “I’m sorry,” I say, hoping he’ll stop. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“Stop crying!” he yells, and I stagger back. “You don’t fucking cry for him in front of me.”
“I wasn’t.” The lie comes out in a broken mess of words. It’s clear that Cooper is an issue, so I change the subject to my stalker. “I’m cryin’ because I was stupid not to see what you’re saying is true. I was so stupid, and I’m sorry!”
He moves out from behind the curtain, but not enough for me to see anything other than he’s tall, has dark hair that’s cut close to the skin, and is dressed in all black. “Turn around. Face the audience,” he commands. “We’ll see each other once you’ve earned it.”
I want to scream and run, but I have no idea if he’s armed or if I could even outrun him. I slowly spin, trembling.
Please, God, don’t let me die.
I stand here, without any idea if he’s going to hurt me. He touches my shoulder, and I start to scream, but his hand quickly covers my mouth.
His hot breath is against my ear. “Don’t scream or I’ll have to teach you a lesson.” I don’t even try to stop the tears that burn down my cheeks. “We could be so happy.” His nose moves against my neck, up into my hair. “You can make it all stop, baby. It’s only because you forgot about what we had.”
He pushes his body against mine, and another tear falls.
“Just give us our time back and get rid of the man who isn’t good enough. Do you want me to hurt him? Is that how you want me to get rid of him? Will that be how you finally believe how much I love you, Emily? Do I need to kill him to show it?”