The Edge of Heaven
said, his voice perfectly steady. He wasn't afraid. Thank goodness he wasn't.
    "I don't want to talk to you, Mark," she said in a mousy, breathless voice she despised.
    "She doesn't want to have to tell you that again. Neither do I."
    "Emma, this is crazy," Mark said. "A big misunderstanding that's gotten all blown out of proportion. If we could just talk."
    "She is talking," Rye said. "The problem is that you aren't listening."
    "What are you doing here, Mark?" she asked, holding on to Rye's shoulders and peeking from behind them now and then, like she might at a bloody scene from a horror flick. "What do you want?"
    "You wouldn't talk to me on the phone. I had to come."
    "Again, she is talking. What part of this do you not understand?" Rye asked, towering between her and Mark. "She doesn't want to talk to you. That's her right. She doesn't want to see you. Also, her right. And if you ever lay your hands on her again, I will make you sorry for it."
    "Emma?"
    "He's right, Mark. I don't want you calling me. I don't want you here."
    "Emma, we can fix this. You love me. You know you do."
    "No. I don't." There'd been a time when she thought they might be headed in that direction, but obviously she was wrong. So horribly wrong. "I don't ever want to see you again."
    "Want me to repeat that part?" Rye asked.
    "Who the hell are you, anyway?" Mark yelled, coming closer.
    "Emma, go inside." Rye gave her a little push in that direction.
    "I..." She wanted to. She wanted to run, but she wasn't sure she could even move. Surely she could still move.
    "Go," Rye said.
    "She doesn't want to go," Mark said.
    He'd gotten close enough to try to reach around Rye to her.
    The next thing she knew, Rye grabbed him, swung him around, and slammed him up against the side of the house. She heard his head crack against the wood.
    Rye got right up in his face. "Don't you dare touch her again."
    His forearm was pressed against Mark's throat. Mark gagged a bit and pulled at Rye's arm.
    "Not a lot of fun to be on the receiving end of something like this, is it?" Rye asked. "Having someone who's bigger than you and stronger than you shoving you around."
    "Come on," Mark choked out, still pulling at Rye's arm.
    Rye merely pressed harder with the arm. "If you touch her again, you will answer to me. Do you understand?"
    Mark nodded. Rye let him go. Mark slid down the side of the house until he collapsed in a heap on the porch. He was coughing and clutching his throat.
    "Emma go inside, now."
    "But—"
    "Don't worry. I'm not going to kill him. Not this time."
    Mark's head came up at that. She thought she saw both fear and fury in his eyes. "I'll get you for this."
    Rye loomed over him. "Please, try it."
    Mark got to his feet and turned back to Emma. "And you..."
    "Come on," Rye said. "Give me an excuse."
    They glared at each other for a long moment. Mark finally headed down the porch steps. He was halfway across the yard before he turned around once again.
    "This is what you've been doing here behind my back?" he screamed. "Fooling around with him? This is how you treat me?"
    Emma slid back behind Rye, closing her eyes and wishing she could block out the words as well as the sight of him. It was so humiliating. She'd welcomed this man into her life, trusted him.
    "It's not over, Emma. I'm not done with you, you little slut."
    Rye practically growled, the sound coming from deep within him. She thought for a minute he was going to go after Mark. It seemed every muscle in his body was hard as a rock right then.
    "Let him go," she said. "Please. I just want him to go."
    Rye turned halfway around. She slipped in under his arm and anchored herself to him. He felt like a mountain right then, strong and every bit as unyielding. She tucked her face against his chest. Mark kept yelling foul things, and Rye put his hand over her head, her ears, trying to muffle the sound.
    Finally, the commotion ceased. She heard a car door open and close. Heard the engine start, the car

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