In other words, he will destroy me and my family if I cross him and his family. Marion must have sensed that I knew about the affair. She wasn’t willing to risk me telling and her losing the husband that gave her Breeze Airlines. Or there is more to this. Something else they think I know, but I don’t know at all. The something else, combined with things I read in my father’s journals, is the only reason I rein myself in when I want to back him up in every possible way.
At Jax’s voice, I jolt, and instinctively rotate to find him standing just inside the patio, while York does the same.
“Jax North,” York says. “How the hell have you been?” It’s a familiar greeting that gives me pause and reminds me of the similarities of my conversations with each man, the reference to me running. Are they friends? Is this all just one of York’s head games?
Any second, I expect Jax will join us. They will crowd me. They will play the game of power and submission, but that’s not what happens. York crosses to greet Jax, but any relief I feel by the distance quickly fades with the familiar way these two interact. Maybe this isn’t a game, but if these two are friends, I know more about Jax than I ever wanted to know.
The two men shake hands and I tell myself this formal greeting defies true friendship, but I’m too soon off my father’s death, too clear on his sins, thanks to that journal, to risk being cornered. A cluster of a good six people joins us outside and I embrace the opportunity this presents. In a rush of fancy dresses and tuxedos, I find easy passage, slipping back inside the yacht. Once there, with sure footing, I cut through the crowd and make my way to the top deck. Scanning the crowd for Chance, hoping to avoid him so as not to give York a chance to use my brother against me, I fail.
Chance steps in front of me. “There you are. How’d it go?”
“York is here,” I say, a detail that he’ll understand is awkward for me, despite the fact that the two of them are old college buddies and still golf on occasion. They wouldn’t if Chance knew what I know about York, but I can’t tell him without exposing a piece of me that I don’t want exposed. “Between him tonight and Randall last night, I need that timeout, Chance. I’m going to catch an Uber.”
“Stay. I’ll run cover for you.”
I squeeze his arm. “Why don’t we both just leave?”
“The President of Nations Bank is here. He wants to talk. Right after—”
“Chance,” I plead softly, desperate to escape before York somehow uses Chance to pull me into the damn belly of his sins. “You took a timeout last night,” I add. “I need one now.”
The blonde, whose name I suddenly can’t remember, joins us again. “Chance, I was hoping to ask you one more question.”
His eyes warm with the prospect and I squeeze his arm again. “I’ll see you Monday at the office.”
“You’re sure?” he asks, concern in his eyes.
“Positive,” I assure him, offering him a hug before I rotate away from him and disappear into the crowd.
Somehow, I manage to navigate the deck and make it to the exit without being stopped. Once I’m street-side, I walk a block to the main pier and sit down on a bench where I order an Uber. It’s going to be a twenty-five minute wait, which means there must be a cluster of conventions in town. Huddling into my jacket, the cold wind off the ocean is nothing compared to the cold chill of seeing York again. I start replaying everything that happened and rather than focusing on York, it’s Jax that consumes me. Jax whose lips on my glass have me thinking about his lips on my lips. Jax who I would have been a fool for and willingly too, I do believe.
Minutes pass by and my Uber doesn’t arrive. It’s been twenty-five minutes. I need to walk. Forget the Uber. I take off toward the corner when I suddenly hear, “Emma,” in a deep, masculine, and now familiar voice.
I turn to my left and find Jax’s long, lean, muscular body stepping out of the rear of an SUV, the kind of SUV car services use. His jacket is gone. His tie loose. His sleeves rolled up to the elbows, exposing muscular forearms, and a tattoo on his right forearm that I can’t begin to make out. All I know right now is that he’s here. He’s not on the yacht with York, colluding with the enemy. Despite how much I want this to matter, it means nothing really. This could all be part of a bigger plan and I’m suddenly angry, played with, and emotional. I learned a long time ago that emotions are bad. Emotions cut you more than the person who created them.