His lips curve. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I went to school with Chance. Good guy.”
Good guy my fucking ass. “We should talk.”
“All things green. How about lunch tomorrow?”
“I can make that happen. “
We set-up the meeting and the ways this little encounter has inspired me are many. I cut right into a dimly lit bar that’s desolate at the moment and thank fuck for it. The damn hotel is filled to the rim for that awards ceremony. Alone suits me just fine right about now and I walk to the back of the bar and sit down in a red leather booth that overlooks a room with couches, cushy chairs, and dangling lights but also provides a curtain for privacy. The Knight name is all about luxury and comfort, but at its core, it’s about greed. At my core right now, I’m about that speech Emma was giving, about the pain at its core. That pain is why I’m here.
A waiter appears and I order whiskey, North Whiskey, my family’s whiskey, which is in every Knight hotel in the country and beyond. I don’t give a fuck if it stays or goes or I wouldn’t be here. “Bring the bottle.”
He’s just filled my glass, and the glass is at my lips when Emma walks into the bar. Alone. She’s done her time on stage and ran for cover. The hotel might be hosting the event, but she isn’t. She’s halfway into the bar when voices sound behind her. She peeks over her shoulder and then with a panicked look, darts in my direction.
To my surprise—and I don’t surprise easily—she slides into the booth with me and pulls the curtain shut. “So sorry,” she says, claiming the seat next to me. “I really need to avoid a conversation and well, breathe a moment or ten. The only way to do that is to be having a private meeting that looks as if it’s just that: private, not to be disturbed.” She takes my glass and downs my whiskey.
Interesting that she didn’t run to Randall for comfort, but in fact ran away from him.
She glances at me, and when her beautiful pale green eyes flecked with amber meet mine, there is a charge between us, an awareness that parts her lips and has her turning away from me. Because she knows who I am?
“I’ll buy that bottle of whiskey for you,” she says, “for letting me intrude.”
A statement that either proves she has no idea who I am or that she’s playing me the way a Knight will play.
It doesn’t really matter. It’s like the sky opened up and delivered her right to me. “Considering I’m a North and that’s North Whiskey,” I say, refilling the glass. “I think I can handle paying for the bottle and helping the lady of the night hide out.”
Her eyes go wide. “You’re Jax North.” She blinks. “Of course you are. You look like the North family, all tall, blond, and handsomely brooding.” She drinks a bit more. “And that’s the whiskey making me overly verbal. My father didn’t approve of me being overly verbal.”
Except she just downed that whiskey and hasn’t been drinking all night. She’s nervous, rambling in a rather charming, vulnerable way that I find attractive, for reasons I don’t try to understand.
“I didn’t know ‘overly verbal’ was a thing.”
“You didn’t know my father well, then. Actually, no one did.” She swallows hard. “Back to you.” It’s a hard push from any question I might have made about that statement “no one did.” “You really do look like your father and brother. I can’t believe I didn’t immediately place you.”
“You mean Hunter, I assume, since my younger brother, Brody, beats to his own drum. A drum that doesn’t include running the core whiskey operation or any involvement with the Knight Hotel brand.”
“Yes, Hunter,” she says, and there’s a flicker in her eyes, an understanding that we’re talking about a brother that is no more with us on this earth than her father. “I met them both, briefly. I ah—”
I narrow my eyes on her waiting for her to finish that sentence, prodding when she does not. “You what?”
“Lost them both, as you did your father,” I supply. “Yes. My father to a ski accident, a year ago next week. Six months ago next month for my brother.” I leave out the cause of death. That isn’t a place either of us wants me to go with the Knight family tonight. “And yes,” I add, “time helps, but anyone who tells you it makes the cut heal is lying. It just stops the bleeding.”
“Thank you for saying that,” she says in a deep breath, “because if one more person tells me time will make it better, I might scream.” She softens her voice. “I’m sad to say that I barely knew your father and brother, and only know you now because of this moment in time, that you neither chose nor invited.”