I dug my fingers into his forearms, but he didn’t even flinch.
I tried to grab a breath, but it felt like sucking in air through a straw.
“If you don’t?” He said, his eyes flaring with rage. “It won’t be you that suffers, but Padilla. I’ll pull a block at the right time. I did it once, and I can do it again. The brain can only survive so many bad hits.”
I stopped clawing at his skin, my muscles weakening. I tried to channel Drew’s voice…how the hell did I get out of a forward assault? My mind was fuzzy as I tried and failed to remember the move, and my arms dropped, suddenly heavy. My knuckles grazed the edge of the stove, catching on the cast iron skillet I’d left out.
“Show me you understand!” He yelled.
I nodded to buy myself a few precious seconds, black spots sparkling at the edge of my vision. I gripped the handle of the cast iron and drew it up in one fast motion with a last burst of strength. A thunk sound snapped as it connected with the side of his head, and Rick instantly released me, dropping to his knees as he cradled his head.
“Stupid bitch!” He screamed.
“Teagan!” Roman yelled from my doorway, nothing but undiluted rage on his face as he all but sprinted toward Rick.
“Don’t!” I darted into his path, my voice breathless as I sucked in lungfuls of air. “Don’t touch him.”
Sirens blared from the door Roman had left open, and I sagged against his chest as his arms encircled me.
“Teagan,” he said, his fingers trembling as he took in my face. “Oh my god.” His voice was ice as he saw my bloody cheek and the no-doubt red rings around my throat.
I shook my head, trying like hell to stay grounded as I looked down at Rick. “Cops are on their way,” I said. “They’ll deal with you.”
“Good!” Rick said, hauling to his feet. He pointed at me. “They can take care of you, you crazy bitch! You tried to kill me with a frying pan!” He shook his head. “All I tried to do was return your things!”
“Oh yeah?” I snapped and reached for the iPad on my countertop. I turned it toward him, revealing the live feed I’d clicked open when he’d entered my home uninvited. “I knew the second you stepped onto my property,” I said. “I have cameras all over this place, but this here?” I pointed to my Instagram feed. “One-hundred thousand people just saw who you really are, Rick Baker. A fucking monster.”
Rick’s skin turned a sickly shade, his fists curling again.
Roman stepped in front of me, tilting his head in a challenge.
“Everyone,” a masculine voice hollered from the doorway. “Hands up!”
Two police officers entered, and Roman and I instantly put our hands up. Rick was slow to follow, shouting accusations of being attacked.
One cop checked out my cheek, then eyed my neck. “He do that to you?”
I nodded, the floor feeling like it was on a tilt beneath my feet.
“I hit him with the pan,” I admitted. “I couldn’t breathe.” I rubbed at the raw spots on my neck.
The police officer nodded, and the one near Rick cuffed him and recited him his rights. He hauled him out the door, Rick yelling about calling his lawyer the whole way out.
I sagged against Roman, my head spinning.
“We need to get you to the hospital,” he said, his arms holding most of my weight.
“We can take her statement there,” the remaining officer said.
Roman nodded, telling the officer which hospital we’d be at.
The last thing I remembered was him securing me in the passenger seat of his car, then everything swirled to black.
“I swear to God if you don’t let me back there—” My voice rose with each word, drawing the attention of everyone in the emergency department’s waiting room.
“Sir, I’m going to need you to calm down,” the nurse responded patiently, giving me a glare that might have gotten through my head if it wasn’t Teagan back there.
Teagan. Teagan, whom I’d brought in unconscious. With a police escort. And bruises around her throat. And a very likeable Rick Baker shouting that I’d been the one to assault her after she’d passed out in my front seat. That she’d been scared of me, which was why she’d said it was him.
I’d been put in handcuffs the minute Teagan had disappeared behind those swinging doors. The cops had apologized at least a dozen times after watching Teagan’s video and letting me go, but I hadn’t been allowed back there while she was giving her statement.
“This is as calm as I’m going to get!” My blood pressure was through the roof, and my hands were itching to hit something—anything. I was ready to claw my way out of my own skin if it got me to her. “How many times do I have to tell you that I didn’t exactly grab my wallet when she called in the middle of an assault?”