My eyes go wide. “My God, how early did you run?”
“Six. And speaking of time, I’ll pick you up for the party at seven?” His tone softens. “It’s on a yacht, Emma.”
My mind flashes back to a month earlier, to the shiny black casket sitting on the deck of the yacht, the cold breeze off the ocean, and my trembling body. “Chance,” I breathe out desperately. “Surely people would understand us skipping this.”
“They would,” he says, “but they’d also see us as weak and vulnerable. We need to go. For us and for dad.”
I swallow hard, fighting back the bitterness I feel toward my father right now. Fighting the guilt that follows. “I’m running away to Germany after the party.”
“Not for two weeks.” He winks. “I can give you lots of hell between now and then, Bird Dog.”
I laugh despite everything cutting and biting inside me and Chance is already at the door. “Hey,” I say, “is Randall going to be there?”
“Yes,” he says, “but I’m going to meet him, remember? I’ll pull him back.”
“Thank you, Chance.”
“Anything for you, little sis.”
He opens the door and leaves. He’s gone and I’m alone. I don’t know why that feels significant right now, but then, secrets have a way of making you feel isolated. I also don’t know why this makes me think about Jax North, or why I grab my computer and power it up to google his name. I pull up a photo of his father, two brothers, but there is no shot of his mother. His father died skiing accident, as he told me. His youngest brother owns and operates a series of cigar bars. Jax runs the North Whiskey brand and does so since his brother died at only thirty-six years old, but I can’t find anything that tells me how he died. There is nothing about his mother at all.
That’s odd and I wonder what story there is to tell. I wonder if Jax and his family have secrets. I wonder if they’re in my father’s journal. It’s a silly thought. Of course, they aren’t.
Chance pulls his BMW up to the pier and two paid attendants open our doors. “I’m with you all the way, sis,” Chance promises, giving my arm a squeeze. You just might not know how damn glad I am that you’re with me, too.”
This confession sideswipes me despite our closeness. Chance is strong, too strong at times, dogmatic about everything he’s passionate about and passionate about everything to do with Knight brand, but death can unwind even the strongest of people.
We share a look that says we both know we’re on our own—mom checked out, dad is gone—but we have each other, before we break away and exit the car. I step to the sidewalk and into a cold blast of wind that lifts my hair from my neck, shooting a chill down my spine. I pull my velvet jacket up around the black lace knee-length dress I’m wearing, deciding my thigh-high tights and knee-high boots might not be formal, but they were smart choices. San Francisco is chilly no matter what the time of the year, every inch gusting with ocean waters; but even more so this close to the water that only a month before hosted a goodbye to my father.
Chance joins me, looking handsome as usual in a tuxedo and I swear it’s as if Randall has radar on us. We haven’t even started walking toward the boat when he’s joining us, his eyes on me. “You look lovely, Emma, but then you always do.”
“Spoken like a man trying to make up for being a complete jerk last night,” I say, “but thank you nonetheless.”
Chance laughs. “That puts things into perspective now, doesn’t it? Do you have something more direct to say to her, Randall?”
Randall’s expression tightens. “I’m sorry, Emma.”
“Apology accepted,” I say, “despite it sounding like you’re sucking on a lemon while delivering it. And don’t act like that again.”
“Understood,” he says, with so much ease that I know Chance has been good to his word, as I always know I can expect with him. “And for the record,” he adds. “I’m not holding you hostage the way your father intended his will to hold you hostage. But I can’t change how it’s written.”
“Just how you act,” I comment.
“Agreed,” he concedes. “I’ve been a dick. Correction to my attitude in place.”
I have no idea what my brother said to Randall, but for the first time in a long time, I remember why he’s my brother’s right-hand man. It’s not easy to eat crow and he just did. I give Randall a tiny nod, acceptance there, but I don’t go overboard, for fear that will give him a ticket to overreact again.
Chance seems to approve of my response, offering me his arm and the three of us make our way toward the party, which is in full swing as we step onto the main deck. The boat accommodates what I’d guess to be a thousand guests. Tonight there appears to be about half of that present. We fade into the crowd, pulled into a conversation with one person after another greets us. It’s bearable torture with Chance by my side, amusing, too, as the string of women that try to garner his attention become downright comical. One pretty blonde, the head of the local Muscular Dystrophy Association, who is rather sweet seems to truly interest him and I believe she’s without an agenda beyond her charity.