He shook his head again. “It doesn’t have anything to do with trust. I just . . . I can’t. It messes with my head.”

“All right, all right,” I said, sliding away from him, over the console, and into the passenger seat.

Trenton opened the door and hopped in, rubbing his hands together. “Shit on a stick, it’s cold! Let’s move to California!” As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them, staring at me with both shock and remorse in his eyes.

I wanted to tell him it was okay, but I was too busy handling the guilt and shame that washed over me in huge, suffocating waves. T.J. hadn’t contacted me in weeks, but besides a respectful amount of time to wait between relationships, this was particularly insulting—to T.J. and to Trenton.

I pulled two cigarettes from my pack and put them both in my mouth, lighting them simultaneously. Trenton pulled one out of my mouth and took a drag. When he pulled into my parking spot in front of my apartment, he turned to me. “I didn’t mean . . .”

“I know,” I said. “It’s really okay. Let’s just forget about it.”

Trenton nodded, clearly relieved that I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. He didn’t want to acknowledge whatever I had left with T.J. any more than I did. Pretending to be oblivious was much more comfortable.

“Can I ask you for a favor, though?” Trenton nodded, waiting for my request. “Don’t say anything to your brothers about us just yet. I know Thomas, Taylor, and Tyler aren’t in town much, but I’m not really ready to have the talk with Travis the next time he comes in to the Red. He knows about T.J. It’s just . . .”

“No, I get it. As far as Travis will know, everything is still the same. But he’s going to know something’s up.”

I smiled. “If you tell him you’re working on me, he won’t be so surprised later.”

We both ran to the door of my apartment, and I shoved the key in the lock. When it clicked, I pushed through, and Trenton shut it behind him. I turned up the temperature on the thermostat, and then started to walk toward my bedroom, but there was a knock on the door. I froze, and turned slowly on my heels. Trenton watched me for some sign of who it might be. I shrugged.

Before either of us could make it to the door, the person on the other side pounded violently with the side of their fist. I winced, my shoulders shooting up to my ears. When it was quiet again, I looked out the peephole.

“Fuck!” I whispered, looking around. “It’s my dad.”

“Camille! You open this goddamn door!” he yelled. He slurred his words together. He’d been drinking.

I turned the knob, but before I could pull, Dad was pushing through, charging straight at me. I trotted backward, stopping when my back slammed into the doorjamb leading to the hallway.

“I am sick of your shit, Camille! You think I don’t know what you’re up to? You think I don’t see the disrespect?”

Trenton was immediately next to me, his arm between my dad and me, his hand on Dad’s chest. “Mr. Camlin, you need to step away. Right now.” His voice was calm, but firm.

Surprised to see someone else inside the apartment, Dad backed away for just a moment before leaning into Trenton’s face. “Who the hell do you think you are? This is personal business, so you can get the f**k out!” he said, jerking his head toward the door.

I shook my head, pleading with my eyes for Trenton not to leave me alone. My father had spanked me when I was a child, and backhanded me a time or two, but my mother had always been there to distract him, and even redirect his anger. This was the first time I’d seen him physically violent since middle school, because Mom finally stood up for herself and told him that the next time he drank would be the last time—and he knew she meant it.

Trenton frowned and lowered his chin, with the same look in his eyes he had right before he attacked an enemy. “I don’t want to fight you, sir, but if you don’t leave, right now, I’m going to make you leave.”

Dad lunged at Trenton, and they crashed into the end table next to the couch. The lamp crashed to the floor with them. My father’s fist was flying, but Trenton dodged it, and moved to restrain him.

“No! Stop it! Dad! Stop it!” I screamed. My hands covered my mouth as they fought.

Dad pushed away from Trenton and stood up, stomping toward me. Trenton scrambled to his feet and grabbed him, pulling him back, but Dad continued to reach for me. The look in my father’s eyes was monstrous, and for the first time I realized exactly what my mother had gone through. Being on the wrong end of that kind of rage was terrifying.

Trenton slung Dad to the ground and pointed down as he stood over him. “Stay! The f**k! Down!”

Dad was breathing hard, but he stumbled to his feet, obstinate. His body weaved when he spoke. “I’m going to f**kin’ kill you. And then I’m going to teach her what happens when she disrespects me.”

So quick I nearly missed it, Trenton reared back and sent his fist into my father’s nose. Blood exploded as Dad stumbled back, and then fell forward, hitting the ground so hard he bounced. It was quiet and very still for several seconds. Dad didn’t move, he just lay there, facedown.

“Oh, Jesus!” I said, rushing over to him. I was afraid he was dead, not because I’d miss him, but for the trouble Trenton would be in if he’d killed him. I tugged on my father’s shoulder until he rolled over. Blood was streaming from a gash across the bridge of his nose. His head fell to the side. He was unconscious.

“Oh, thank God. He’s alive,” I said. I covered my mouth again, and looked to Trenton. “I’m so sorry. I am so sorry.”

He sat back on his knees in a state of disbelief. “What the f**k just happened?”

I shook my head, and closed my eyes. When my brothers found out about this, it would be war.

OH MY GOD!” MOM SAID WHEN SHE OPENED THE DOOR. “What did you do, Felix? What happened?”

She helped us carry him to the couch, and then covered her mouth. She ran to get a pillow and blanket, and then made him comfortable. She hugged me.

She pulled away from me, and tried to play off the news with a worried smile. “He doesn’t drink anymore. You know that.”

She looked down at her husband, and touched her mouth with trembling fingers.

“He came to my apartment. He attacked me.” She jerked her head to look at me with wide eyes. “If Trent hadn’t been there, Mom . . . he was set on beating the hell out of me. Trent had to hold him back, and he still came at me.”

Mom looked down at Dad again. “He was angry you didn’t come for lunch. And then Chase started in. Oh, God. This family is falling apart.” She reached down and yanked the pillow out from under Dad’s head. His skull cracked against the arm. She hit him once with the pillow, and then again. “Goddamn you!” she yelled.

I held her arms, and then she dropped the pillow and began to cry.

“Mom? If the boys find out that Trent did this . . . I’m afraid they’ll come after him.”

“I can handle it, babe. Don’t worry about me,” Trenton said, reaching out for me.

I shrugged away from him. “Mom?”