“I’m in the foyer off my garage. I haven’t taken it upstairs.” There’s a knock on the door.
“That’s me, asshole. Open up.”
I disconnect and open the door to find Savage standing there, still in the jeans and Walker T-shirt I remember him wearing last night, his jaw heavily stubbled, his eyes bloodshot. “Asshole?” I challenge.
“I stayed up all night trying to keep you safe, and you just risked your life,” he snaps, “so, yes, asshole.” He reaches in the bag at his hip and pulls out a plastic bag he holds open. “Stick it in there. It needs to be tested for toxins and prints.”
“It doesn’t have toxins.”
“And your brother wasn’t murdered?”
I curse and drop the envelope inside the bag. “Don’t open it,” I order.
He gives me a belligerent look. “I have to know if it’s a threat. I have a job to do and that’s to keep you alive.”
“Then clear the damn toxins and come back here before you open it.”
He arches an arrogant brow. “You sure about that?”
“I have nothing to hide,” I say. “I’ve been painfully honest with Emma.”
“Has she been honest with you?” he challenges.
“You know her now. Do you really think that’s who or what this is?”
“She seems like she’s a cool chick, on the up and up and all that shit, but my job isn’t to trust her. It’s to protect you.”
My jaw clenches. “It’s to protect her above me,” I insist. “Consider that a financial directive.”
His eyes narrow on me. “This won’t take long. I’ll be back.” His lips thin. “We all need to know what kind of love note this is. Wash your damn hands. Use soap.” He starts to turn and then pauses. “You have an hour to come to your senses and let me read the message first.”
“I’m not keeping this from Emma.”
“One hour,” he repeats, and with that, he walks away.
He really is a damn bastard, but I also have a strong sense that he’s good at his job. I shut the door and press my hands to it, lowering my head. I want to listen to him. I don’t want Emma upset any more than she already is. My brother has to be behind that envelope, somehow, someway. After what he did last night, I don’t even want to know what he put in that envelope. I scrub my jaw and push off the door. I don’t want Emma to run. I don’t want her alone in San Francisco either. I’ve hired an army of protection that will be here today. I need to think. I need to wash my damn hands.
I head up the stairs and walk into the kitchen to find Emma standing on the opposite side of the island, her hair sexy and wild, mascara smudged under her eyes. All the bad between our families fades at that moment and how can it not? What I feel seeing her here, in this castle, in my home, is inexplicably right. Right in a way I didn’t think I’d ever feel with a woman. I need to protect her. I need to consider Savage’s advice.
And then, Emma asks, “What aren’t you going to keep from me, Jax?”
Jax doesn’t answer my question. He doesn’t tell me what Savage wanted him to cover up, to hide from me. It’s not the response I expect from him.
He stands there, just inside the kitchen, more the stone of the castle than the man who owns the manor. He’s unreadable, his jaw set hard, the air between us and around him crackling with tension. His fingers flex and then curl into his palms, a man of control who seems to be battling to maintain it. He doesn’t want to tell me what’s going on. He told Savage he had to tell me, but it seems that he said one thing to Savage and when he walked up the stairs, he intended to do another. Considering how upfront he’s been about his intentions, I’m not sure what to do with that information. What pulls him back now and not previously?
A million possibilities burn a path through my mind, taunting me, and I focus on his brother’s death and my family’s potential involvement. “Jax,” I prod, going crazy in my own head right now.
As if my voice snapped him back to the present, as if he was locked in his own mental hell, he takes a deep breath. But still, he doesn’t speak. His spine straightens, and he starts walking, deceptively casual, slow steps that I think will lead him to me, but he cuts toward the sink, steps to it and turns on the water. I blanch, confused at this response. He’s literally washing his hands and even his forearms, his shoulders bunched, instead of speaking to me. Jax isn’t someone to do such a random thing. No. No, that is something I’ve admired about him. He knows who he is and what he wants. He dares to be who he is, to own his place and his actions.