So, I have to tell him I’ve changed my mind, and I just swore to him a few nights ago I’d never leave him.

I’m not just between a rock and a hard place; I’m stuck between two dangerous men, each capable of murder.

“This is my home. I know what Mateo told you, but that’s because I wanted it. It wasn’t supposed to be—”

“Ye can go out to the car and I can take ye back home, or I can call Mateo and tell him about yer change of heart. He can tell me to leave, if that’s yer wish.”

This makes my stomach sink, too. I feel like I’m being torn in every direction and they’re going to rip me apart—again. I can’t believe I feel like this again. I can’t believe I had Mateo in my arms, and I’m in this godforsaken position.

I wish I didn’t believe Vince. I wish I could imagine he’s just trying to scare me, that he wouldn’t try to kill Mateo. But he would. He despises Mateo. He’s not even wrong to despise Mateo. The memory of him sitting in Mateo’s dinner chair pops back up and makes me violently nauseous.

I don’t know how I get out of this. I lose either way. I sacrifice Vince or I risk Mateo—again. I can’t win, and I’m so tired of this fight.

“Please just leave, Colin.”

Sparing Vince an unkind look as he moves beside me, unwilling to hide behind me, Colin asks, “Did he threaten ye?”

I hold an arm out toward Vince protectively, wishing he would’ve just stayed behind me. No one’s going to shoot through me to get to him. “No. I told you, Vince isn’t violent.”

“Then why send ye with a bodyguard to dump him?” he asks, smoothly. “No one enjoys gettin’ dumped, but most people don’t require armed back-up to get the job done, do they?”

“I really just changed my mind,” I tell him, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. I know… I know Mateo won’t be thrilled, but that’s my problem, not yours. I just can’t do this.”

Colin sighs, and I’m pretty sure he firmly doesn’t like me by now. He mutters something I don’t understand, then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a cell phone.

I know he’s going to call Mateo, and it makes me want to die. I don’t know how Mateo’s going to take this. Obviously he has Meg and he’ll be fine, but I can’t get that first night out of my head. I can’t stop seeing his face when he finally apologized for hurting me. Hearing his voice in my ear when he had me wrapped in his arms, giving me his tenderness. He told me he loved me, and now I’m telling him I can’t leave Vince. I finally had a taste of life with Mateo, and now I’m going to lose it.

These two psychos keep playing tug-of-war with me, and I’m the one who ends up thrown in the mud each time.

Colin is on the phone now. “Yeah, we have a problem.”

I turn back to Vince, my eyes faintly accusing. “This isn’t going to make him happy.”

“Let me count all the fucks I give about Mateo’s happiness,” he mutters back. “I’ll get back to you later with an exact number.”

“Yer new bird’s tryin’ to fly away,” Colin says into the phone. He listens for a minute, then he holds the phone out to me.

I shake my head, looking at it like it’ll bite me. “I can’t.”

Putting it back to his ear, he says, “Apparently she doesn’t want to talk to ya. Want me to put her over me shoulder and drag her home?” He pauses again, then holds the phone out to me again.

I finally take it, but I’ve never dreaded a phone call more in my life—not even when Mark had me at the hotel room. “I’m sorry,” I say, in lieu of a greeting. “I’m so sorry, Mateo. I just couldn’t do it.”

“Mia, what the hell is going on? Did he threaten you?”

I know I have to deny this. I know that no matter how much the sound of his voice hurts my heart, I can’t tell him that Vince threatened me, because I know he will kill him if I do. Vince has been such a headache to Mateo, it’s a miracle he’s not dead already. Threatening him, threatening all of us, that would be the final straw.

“He didn’t threaten me,” I say, the lie heavy on my tongue. “He… he hugged me.” That hurts even more, because it’s true. “And he comforted me. And he finally forgave me.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Mia,” Mateo says. I can almost see him pinching the bridge of his nose, losing his patience with my heart. “He hugged you? Seriously? No. Bullshit. You’re not that wishy-washy. You tell me what is going on or I’ll come there and find out for myself.”

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