“That has nothing to do with you and me.”
“Because we’re just fucking. Right. I know. I—”
“Is that what this is to you, Emma? Just fucking?”
“You’re leaving. We just had this conversation. North Whiskey. The castle in Maine. You remember that, right?”
“It’s not that simple and we both know it. Otherwise, I’d be gone right now. Well fucked and back in my own hotel room. If you were anyone else, I would be back in my hotel room right now.”
“You live in Maine, Jax.”
“And yet I’m right here, now, with you, and if I remember correctly, you told me that’s where you want me. Has that changed?”
I could end this. I could send him way. I should send him away, but I’m not going to do that. He knows it. I know it. “I don’t want you to leave. Not yet.”
“Then I won’t leave, yet.” He reaches down and lifts my hand that holds the journal. “What is this and why are you holding onto it for dear life?”
I like Jax. I might even be able to fall for Jax if we lived closer, but this moment reminds me I’m in dangerous territory. I’m holding the secrets my father kept in my hand, and Jax hated my father.
The doorbell rings and I’m saved from explaining away the journal or I think I am. Jax doesn’t quite let it go so easily. “I’ll get the ice cream,” he says, and then he lifts my hand, the one holding the journal, to his mouth and kisses it. It feels like there’s a point, like he somehow knows what the journal is to me, and my father, but that’s impossible. He can’t know.
He heads for the door, and I watch him walk away, exiting the bedroom. My gaze drops to the journal. The things inside it are horrible. And the truth is, I don’t know how Chance, who worked with our father every single day of his life, while I was kept at a distance, wouldn’t know. I love my brother but I question him now. I hate my father for giving me that thought.
Padding across the hardwood floor, my stocking feet slip on the slick surface, the way I feel like I’m slipping in every part of my life. And suddenly, I’m cold. Really cold. I flip on the fireplace and sit down on the lounger in front of it, tossing the damn journal to the side of my bed. I want it gone, out of sight, out of any conversation.
Jax re-appears in the doorway, all that hard muscle even harder now than a few minutes ago, which of course isn’t true, but every time he enters a room, he gets better. He’s fire to the ice that protected me when I left York, melting it away, and far too quickly for comfort. He indicates the bag in his hand. “You’re going to love this place.”
“I’m eager to try it.”
He sits down next to me and pulls out a half pint and then another, and another, for a total of six. I laugh. “My God, Jax. You got so much.”
“I don’t know you yet, Emma. I didn’t know what to order.” He hands me a spoon. “But I’m about to know a little more.”
There is warmth in his eyes and his voice, the kind of warmth that I could bask in forever I think. The kind of warmth every girl wants to feel when a man like Jax North looks at her.
“I picked six of my favorites,” he adds.
I laugh. “You have six favorites?”
“You betcha, baby, and the butter pecan is so good, I might kill for it.”
I arch a brow. “Kill for it? That’s some serious love.”
“You have no idea what I would do for what I love.” There’s a hint of something in his voice, in his eyes, that’s there and gone before I can name it. Like he’s not talking about ice cream, but then, I get the feeling most everything with Jax is layered and complex.
“Good thing I love butter pecan.”
He removes the lid and holds it out to me. I dig in and take a big bite, moaning with the delight of the sweet treat. “Hmmm. Wow. That so good it should be outlawed to protect all those who want to retain their waistline.”
“Truth,” he says, “and I only survived it while interning because I ran five miles a day and never slept. This ice cream is the only good thing my ex ever gave me.”
“Wait. We’re eating the ice cream your ex loved?”
“She was more of a fuck buddy, though she’d have happily married me for the North name and bank account.”
This is just another thing that we have in common, the way people want us for nothing but a name and a bank account but that hurts. I know it hurts. “Did you love her?”