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Home > Billionaire Unbound ~ Chloe (The Billionaire's Obsession #8)(5)

Billionaire Unbound ~ Chloe (The Billionaire's Obsession #8)(5)
Author: J.S. Scott

“It’s the cycle of abuse, Chloe. It’s classic. I’m sure Natalie explained that to you. Do you really want to spend your entire life with this man?” Lara asked bluntly as she jerked a brush roughly through her hair.

“He’s all I’ve ever known,” Chloe replied as she stuffed her brush back into her workout bag. “It’s not like I have much to compare our relationship with.”

Her lack of experience had been one of the reasons it had taken her so long to get her head straight. It was difficult to understand “normal” when she’d never really experienced it before in an intimate relationship.

Lara’s eyes softened. “I know. You have nothing to compare him to. But take my word that your relationship isn’t normal or healthy. You need someone who adores you. You deserve that.”

Since her sister-in-law had gone back for her master’s degree in psychology and gotten heavily involved in the charity for abused women that their family supported, she’d been talking to Chloe every day about the signs of abuse in her relationship with James. In turn, Chloe talked about them with Natalie, trying to make sense out of James’s unnatural behavior.

At first, she had made excuses for James, but she was starting to understand that even doing that was part of the cycle. The truth was, she didn’t want to marry James, and she was getting tired of making excuses. Her continued therapy had been productive in making Chloe believe that James’s behavior wasn’t her fault, but she had other concerns.

“I know,” Chloe conceded sadly. “But I’m worried about the bad press. Blake is up for re-election soon. I don’t want there to be a bunch of gossip.”

“Your brother will survive. He’s heavily favored, and I don’t think his sister’s broken engagement is going to make a damn bit of difference,” Lara answered adamantly. “Ask Blake,” she suggested as she zipped up her bag. “I can guarantee you he’d be in favor of you getting James out of your life.”

He would. Chloe knew that. Family was important to Blake and she was still his little sister, even though she was all grown up. “He’ll want me to do it.” She’d never questioned what her brother’s answer would be. She was more worried about the consequences he might face.

Lara rolled her eyes. “Everybody wants you to do it. I’ve kept your confidences about some of the things happening with James, but I feel guilty keeping things like this from Tate. He’d be livid if he knew about how bad it really is for you, and I’m nervous because you haven’t completely broken it off with him. Tate would want you to be safe, and so do I.”

“I’m sorry,” Chloe responded immediately.

Lara shrugged. “My relationship with Tate will survive. I’m more worried about you.”

Chloe wondered what it would be like to be that confident about the man she married, knowing that he’d love her no matter what happened. She’d put Lara in an awkward situation when she’d shared some of her concerns about her relationship with James, and it wasn’t fair to her.

“I’ll break it off. When Ellie disappeared, I postponed the wedding rather than breaking it off completely because I was worried about her, but James has been pushing recently. I have to tell him.” Chloe knew it would be the biggest relief of her life after she finally broke things off for good, but it would be awkward. They were bound to meet in a small town like Rocky Springs, and she’d learned that James’s temper could be fierce.

The final straw had happened just a few weeks ago, and she hadn’t met with him alone since then.

With Natalie’s help, she’d been working up the courage to break the engagement when Ellie had disappeared. Deep down, Chloe knew she couldn’t marry James, and she’d been planning on breaking off the wedding and her engagement even before her friend had gone missing.

“Any word on her?” Lara asked kindly.

Chloe shook her head, still devastated that Ellie had vanished one day without a trace, just a few weeks before the wedding.

Much to James’s displeasure, Chloe had dropped any thoughts of her wedding, and joined in the intensive search for her best friend. Now it was time to cancel it altogether, especially since she understood abusive relationships much better than she had before, because of Natalie’s patience and counseling. Her “relationship” with James was anything but healthy, and it was time to end it for good.

“I haven’t heard anything. Marcus has a private investigator working on it now, and Zane is actually helping me look for Ellie himself. The case is still open, but the police say there’s every reason to believe she may have just left. There’s no evidence that a crime has been committed. She just…disappeared.” The empty hole in her heart got a little wider as she thought about Ellie, worried that she was out there somewhere, in trouble and unable to communicate. Or even worse…

Chloe didn’t want to think about the worst-case scenario. She still connected with Zane every day, hoping together they could find her best friend.

“Do you really believe that?” Lara queried softly as she picked up her bag.

“No,” Chloe answered instantly. “She wouldn’t do that. Ellie has always been responsible, and she had no reason to leave. We’ve been best friends since grade school. She would have contacted me if she could.” Ellie hadn’t connected with Chloe in any way, a fact that was making her frantic.

“Do you think it has anything to do with James?”

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