But I can’t stay.
Because there is one certainty I know, one that I feel to my soul. Once I get involved with that man, there is no turning back. And there is no question, there’s no coming back from where he takes me. There’s no recovery from what Jax North would do to me. I get into my Uber and shut the door. “Drive, please,” I say, but I don’t breathe easier when we begin to pull away. I barely breathe at all.
I was right.
Now is not our time. It was never supposed to be our time. That meeting with Eric Mitchell comes first. I watch her drive away, the woman I came here for and I let her go. I let her go and with good reason: I want her too much. That wasn’t a part of the plan. I stood there with her by that bathroom and I willed her to be anyone but a Knight. I convinced myself that she wasn’t one of them, and that she needed to be saved from the Knight family curse. A curse I plan to create. Then it happened. Randall brought up my dead family in front of her and I knew I had to be wrong.
She is one of them.
And yet, I stand here, the cool air off the ocean washing over the heat radiating off of me; one part anger, one part desire for a woman who denies knowing my brother when I know she knew him, but at least I now understand how the Knights took him down. They, or rather Emma Knight, is a bit like a drug that you want to taste even before she touches your tongue. She could lure a man to hell and he’d never want to come back, but I won’t be following Emma or pursuing her at all. I won’t have to.
Tonight I set the trap.
Tonight I ensured that she will come to me.
And my castle awaits.
The Uber ride is silent but for the hum of the engine, streetlights splintering the darkness in bursts that fade quickly only to return, refusing to allow me to disappear. The way my father’s secrets refuse to allow him to rest in peace, or perhaps it’s me that can’t find peace. Tonight I stood in a crowd and pretended I was the same person I was a month ago, when I can never be that person again. The question though becomes, who am I now?
The car halts in front of the Folsom Street tower, a high-end property partially owned by the Knight corporation, and used for rental income and personal use. In various locations, this thirty-floor building is home to me, my brother, and my parents, or rather, my mother. Exiting the car, the cool night air, made cold by the wind off the nearby ocean, lifts my hair off my neck and drives me into a hurried pace, though the truth is, I feel like there’s more than wind at my back. The relief I feel when I enter the lobby—a compact but modern design with low hanging lights that screams of a luxury hotel the kind that suits the Knight brand—is momentary. I fear I would seem spoiled to anyone who didn’t really know better, but luxury is suffocating me. It’s a façade, like my bank account and status in this family.
I enter the elevator and punch in my code, but I don’t head to my one-bedroom apartment I’ve leased the past six years. Nor do I travel to the twenty-ninth floor where Chance lives. He’s hiding out in nearby Sonoma anyway, under the guise of business, but I know better. He simply didn’t want to accept that award tonight for our father, almost to the point of odd, and I wonder how much he knows about dad that I never knew. I shove that thought aside because I can’t lose my brother now too, and Chance—Chance isn’t my father.
The elevator dings my arrival at the penthouse level, to my parents’ floor, my mother’s home now that I’m to look after while she’s gone. Right now, I’m not sure she’s coming back, but then, the blow of learning about Marion after my father died crushed her. That’s why I’m here now. I don’t know what else she might know, but if she knows what I know, I’m not sure she’d survive the blow. I’m not sure what I should do with what I know, but I have to make sure that she doesn’t get the chance to feel that pain.
The doors open directly into my parents’ home—I can’t seem to think of it any other way—and I step inside, lights automatically flickering on in the foyer and illuminating the half-moon shaped hallway before me. An odd prickling on my neck has me hugging myself and turning to ensure that the elevator seals shut. Without the code, no one can get inside, but in today’s technology-driven world, that elevator has always made me nervous. It is what it is though, and I accept it, but not lamely. I turn on the security system and then hurry down around the corner, dark hardwood absorbing my heavy steps.