The moon glows with white light and hangs low and round over the nearby ocean darkened by night as if it, like the hundreds of guests in the garden of one of the San Francisco Knight hotels, is watching the beautiful brunette and star of the night. Emma Knight, the twenty-eight-year-old heiress to the hotel chain’s worldwide empire, and who, in fact, lost her father one month ago. Now, her brother Chance rules their hotel empire and her mother has fled to Europe for reasons few, I suspect Emma included, knows.
But I know.
She stands next to Randall Montgomery, her brother’s right-hand and confidant, a man who might be fit enough and decent enough looking if he didn’t act like he has a stick up his ass. A man on my radar for reasons he’ll soon regret. He wants Emma and her money. She is the furthest down the food chain of them all, and based on her history with her father, even further down than would be expected. No doubt, she inherited with her father’s death, but I wouldn’t be shocked to discover she was given a token instead of a goldmine.
The announcer stands at a podium and begins lavishly speaking of Emma’s father with purpose. Tonight, with women in fancy gowns and men in tuxedos, ice carved into sculptures and champagne poured in glasses, Emma is here to accept a philanthropy award on his behalf while her brother is curiously absent. If he were here, I wouldn’t be here. Neither I nor any of the North family could stand her father, not that I find her brother any more palatable. Her father is gone, though, and now Emma is the proverbial queen of the hour. And the queen, unaware that she is, has had my attention for quite some time.
There’s irony in the fact that I, Jax North, the eldest now of the living North family offspring is, in fact, the man who watches her. An irony she’ll understand soon, but not too soon. For now, I stand at one of the rows of white-clothed tables, deep enough beyond in the crowd of people to be as good as in the shadows, a man whose family has done business with her family for decades, though l have been in the shadows in those endeavors just as I am here now. Present but unseen.
Emma steps to the podium, but not before I catch a glimpse of her pale pink floor-length dress that is elegant in its simplicity, in the way it highlights her slender but womanly figure. Her hands grip the sides of the podium and for a long moment, a full minute at least, she simply looks out across the crowd but doesn’t speak. There’s a charge of expectation in the room, a sense of the crowd pushing her to speak and when finally, her pink-painted lips part, the microphone crackles and squeaks. This seems to jolt her and she laughs nervously, a soft sweet laugh to match her sweet little ass. Perhaps the only sweet things about the Knight family.
“Thank you all for being here,” she finally says, and her voice is strained but suitably strong. “It’s emotional to be here tonight, among those honored who are living while my father is no longer with us. To be here at a hotel that was the center of the world for him.” She cuts her stare and I can almost feel her struggling for composure, the way I struggle when I speak of my older brother.
“I loved my father so very much,” Emma adds, and the pain in her voice is it for me. I run a hand over the silk of my light blue tie, barely contained impatience in the action, but tonight isn’t the time; it’s not when I’m meant to find Emma and Emma me. It’s a thought that has me turning away and disappearing into the gardens, entering the hotel by a side door. I’m here in this hotel for one reason: Emma. She’s here and it’s long past due that we meet. It’s long past due that she learns about the connection between her family and mine. I stroll a carpeted hallway with elegant chandeliers dipping low at strategic locations, about to turn into the bar when I come face to face with Eric Mitchell, a man who is quite literally a genius. He’s also vice president in one of the largest corporations in the world.
“Long time, man,” he greets, offering me his hand. It’s a strong hand, and when I look into his blue eyes, I see the man born a savant, the man who sees numbers more than words. I see the man who helped Bennett Enterprises reach beyond a legal powerhouse to a conglomerate, even before acquiring an NFL team.
“Doesn’t Bennett own hotels, which would make you the Knights’ competition?”