How desperate was Rick to get to me when he knew Roman and hell, Nixon and Hendrix waited not forty-feet from us?
“You’ve had your fun,” he said, and I tilted my head.
“I let you have your little fling, Teagan.” He waved his hands like he was casting off an annoying pest.
“You told Roman you were fine…you’ve moved on.”
He shook his head. “It’s time to come home.”
I gaped at him. “You’re delusional.”
That vein in his neck throbbed, and I stepped back another inch toward the door. “You belong with me,” he said, his voice deadly calm.
Always worse than an outright yell.
“I don’t,” I said, shaking my head. “I never did.”
A devious grin shaped his lips. “Oh yeah?” He asked. “All those times I was inside you?” He took a step closer. “All those times you dug your nails into my back and cried out my name?”
Acid clawed up my throat.
“All those times you told me you loved me,” he said, taking another step closer.
I flexed my palms, my stance ready and waiting.
He paused an arm’s length away. “Was it all a lie?”
Angry tears welled in my eyes. “You were the lie,” I spat. “You never loved me for me, Rick.” I swallowed hard. “You wanted to control me. Turn me into a trophy for your shelf.”
He narrowed his gaze. “I wanted what was best for you,” he argued. “I still do.”
“You have no idea what is best for me. If you did, then you’d know it was never you. It was me. My choices. My passions.”
Rick’s eyes fell to the ring on my left hand. “Take that off.”
“Never,” I said.
“You are mine.”
“You became mine the second you moved in with me. The second you let me claim your body over and over again. The second you told me you loved me. You couldn’t belong to anyone else.”
I rolled my eyes. “I belong to me, you possessive asshole.” I sucked in a sharp breath. “You need help, Rick. Honest-to-God, help. People can’t be owned. That’s not real love—”
“And what do you know of it!” He snapped, and I inched back to the door as he advanced. “I’ll be damned if you marry Padilla!” He drew back his hand.
I raised my palms, drawing power from my core just like I’d been taught. “Do your fucking worst, Rick,” I practically hissed. “I dare you.” I let all of that rage show in my eyes, the strength I’d built over the last few months.
His lips parted, calculation churning behind his eyes. He dropped his hand, tucking them into his pockets.
Cold skated across my skin.
“You want to see my worst, Teagan?” He said, utterly calm again. “My worst is not protecting your stupid BFF on the field. My worst is going to the cops with the dashcam video I have from when he assaulted me.”
Rage sizzled in my blood. “You’re a liar,” I said, but my voice cracked. “You’ve always been a liar.” Like all the times he’d told me he loved me right before he hurt me. All the times he’d told me I was too heavy, too dumb, too wild.
Lie, lie, lie.
Rick pulled his cell from his pocket, pushed a few buttons, and turned the screen toward me.
The video filled the screen, but it didn’t match my memory, didn’t show the whole truth. No, it only showed Roman flying down his front porch steps, cracking Rick’s jaw with a punch and screaming that he hoped he’d fucking broken it.
Ice water dumped over my body as the clip ended, that cold right next to the fire raging inside me. Rick pocketed his phone, a smug, satisfied look on his face. “Come home,” he said. “And we’ll forget this whole mess.”
I shook my head.
“You wouldn’t want him to get hurt, would you? Wouldn’t want this video leaked to the cops and him to lose his spot on the team?” He snorted. “What else can Padilla do for a living? He’s only ever been good at one thing.”
“He’s good at way more things than football,” I said. “Incredible. Mind-blowing, even.”
Rick turned his nose up, his eyes flashing with that monster I’d taken entirely too long to see. “I’m giving you this one chance. If you don’t—”
“Lie,” I cut him off, that cold hate filling my tone. “You’re a coward.” His eyes flared at the word, but I continued. “Cowards beat up on women and have to threaten them to keep them. Cowards emotionally tear others down to make themselves feel big. Cowards manipulate and lie and do whatever they think is necessary to get their way, regardless of who they hurt along the way.” I took a step closer to him, palms still raised, wanting nothing more than to tear him apart. “You won’t show that video to anyone because you don’t want your own image tarnished. And you won’t miss a block for Roman because the only thing you want more than your power over me is a super bowl ring.”