Cole (Hunting Her #6) by Eden Summers

1





Anissa





My shrink stares at me over the top of her reading glasses. “I think we need to dive deeper on this. You seem to be fixated on finding a reason for your feelings, and that’s okay. My concern, though, is that you’re focusing on something that doesn’t fit.”

“It does fit,” I grate through clenched teeth.

She doesn’t understand.

I can’t blame her. Since our sessions started I’ve given half-truths and misguided information in a vain attempt to keep the complexity of my time with Cole conniving Torian to myself. But it doesn’t stop me from needing answers.

“Anissa, I know this is hard, and we’re going to work through it together. I just need you to understand that what you feel for this man isn’t Stockholm syndrome—”

“That’s bullshit.”

She clears her throat and straightens in her chair. “Okay. Let me explain again and make things more clear. Stockholm syndrome is a condition where hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors—”

“Which I did. I also felt sympathy for his cause, and negative feelings toward police and authorities, which is literally the textbook definition, is it not?”

“Somewhat. The problem is, you’re leaving out the fact that, even though you were taken against your will, you never truly feared this man.”

“Well, maybe when I initially made that admission I was wrong. Maybe deep down I did feel threatened.”

She quirks a brow and scribbles on her notepad. “So you believe he was going to kill you if you didn’t follow his commands?”

I glare, hating how my insides squeeze in denial.

Cole was never going to kill me. I know that with every breath I take. Yet it doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up on this diagnosis.

“You also said Stockholm could occur when the abuser opens up and shows kindness through the trauma. He did that. He told me things nobody else knew. And the isolation, too.” I push to my feet and pace her light grey rug. “You mentioned Stockholm happens when you’re isolated with your abuser. You don’t get more isolated than an island in the middle of nowhere.”

Now, that part I’m still not sure she believes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she thinks I’m making this whole thing up.

“True.” She scribbles another note. “However, you would’ve needed to feel like there was no escape. And from what you’ve told me, you actually declined the offer to leave. He gave you the option and you decided to stay. Isn’t that right?”

Fuck.

“But couldn’t that have been a symptom of Stockholm itself?” I ask. “If I was already affected by it, and had these uncharacteristic feelings, of course I was going to stay.”

She leans forward in her chair, her pen poised an inch from the notepad teetering on her knee. “Why is this diagnosis so important to you? What will the label achieve?”

I pause, my feet planting an arm’s length from the shrink’s trusty sofa.

My pulse quickens. My fingers twitch at my sides.

I need the label because it would excuse my feelings. It would explain my obsession and justify why I can’t get a bloodthirsty criminal out of my head. Plastering the Stockholm sticker on my chest would help me understand why his world held a semblance of comfort and why my life now feels hollow. It should also dissolve the guilt I feel for my actions. My father would be so ashamed of me.

“Anissa?” She gives a placating smile. “Why do you need this?”

Because it would condone my stupidity. It would absolve me of all these insane thoughts about a man unworthy of my attention.

“It doesn’t matter.” I grab my purse from the sofa and start for the door. “We’re done here.”

“Wait. Our session isn’t over.” She stands, placing her pad and pen on the desk behind her. “We need to work through this.”

No, what I need is a diagnosis she won’t give.

What I need is something to help me understand why I can hate Cole with every breath, yet still tingle with warmth whenever I remember our time together.

Every memory is filtered through a haze of attraction.

Every moment—even those when he drugged, bound, and threatened me—are all relived with a sickening gravitational pull toward admiration. Or worse, lust.

It doesn’t make sense.

It’s not who I am.