“Little Sis,” he says. “Is he laying in the bed next to you? Is that where we’re at now?”
“Yes, that’s exactly where we’re at, but I’m alone right now. Why do you want the castle?”
“I told you—”
“A lie,” I bite out, clear anger in my tone. Because I am angry. I’m really damn angry. “Tell me the truth.”
“Chance, damn it. Dad didn’t tell you to buy this castle and not tell you why. I’m not stupid.”
“You’re at the castle?”
“You knew I was coming here with Jax.”
“I did not know that, Emma.”
“Dad didn’t tell you to buy the castle and not give you a reason,” I repeat.
“And yet, he did. I can’t believe this. I was right, and I wanted to be wrong. He’s turning you against us.”
“Dad’s journals, Chance. I have them. Remember? And they are not a pleasant read.”
He’s silent another hard pause. “I need those journals. They’re fucking with your head.”
“And I need answers to the many questions they present,” I counter.
“Do not talk about those journals with Jax. I’m serious about this. I mean why the fuck are you there?”
“He matters to me.”
“He matters to you?” he demands in disbelief, giving off a bark of laughter “Don’t be such a chick, Emma. You just met him.”
“He matters to me, Chance. Which is why I need you to talk to me and help me put this behind us. He’s not the enemy.”
“He is. He hates us. I don’t want you there.”
“He doesn’t hate us,” I say. “Maybe dad, but not us.”
“No. I’m not coming back. In fact, I’m going to leave for Germany from here. You’ll have to wait on the journals, and I suspect you know what’s in them anyway. Damn it, Chance. What are you doing?”
“I didn’t do anything. And I had no control over dad. But protecting us, that’s my job, as a brother and the CEO of this company.”
“Protect me by telling me the truth.”
“Protect us by getting the hell out of there. Take the weekend. Fuck him out of your system and come home. I’m not playing with you. Don’t make me come and get you. I love you, Emma. I will come and get you to protect you and us. I need to go. I have a meeting I’m fucking walking into that I can’t miss.”
“Chance,” I whisper.
“Whatever you think you know, it’s wrong. I promise you.” He hangs up.
Whatever I think I know is wrong. I know my brother. That wasn’t a lie. This is worse than what I assumed it to be and that terrifies me. I think of that list of people dad had investigated, all ones who do business with North. What was that about anyway? What was he trying to do? And God, what is in that envelope that was left for me? What if it proves my family killed Hunter? Jax thinks he can live with that, but we both know he can’t. My mind goes to the journal, and I shove my phone into my pants pocket, dashing for the bedroom.
Once I’m there, my gaze lingers on the bed, on his bed, where we fucked, slept, and even made love, at least in my mind, last night. These memories drive me further on my current mission: to grab that journal and find my answers. I hurry forward and enter the bathroom, dropping to my knees beside the suitcase. I dig through my belongings and search for the accordion file. Once it’s in my hand, I reach inside and locate the journal.
Sinking down on the floor, I lean on the clawfoot tub and flip to a random page, looking for anything I’ve missed. Looking for what my brother fears Jax will read. Page after page, I flip until one passage catches my attention.
In life, there is death. In family, there is power and weakness. I never thought family could be a weakness. I wanted my family to be the ultimate power. Emma, of course, is young and a female; therefore, she will surrender when faced with the kind of challenges we now face. A male heir won’t surrender. It’s instinct. It’s second nature to fight. It’s my role to control the battles, to teach the way of the land.
I swallow hard with the confirmation that he believed me to be weak. I knew. Of course, I knew, but reading it in his own words is a hard pill to swallow. Glutton for punishment, I scan through a few more paragraphs and go cold with another passage. It’s a poem credited to Dan Brown, titled “A Note On Suicide.” I start to read it, my stomach knotting with each word:
It isn’t brave, and it isn’t clever,
to inflict pain on other people forever.
Life isn’t all about you.
Your life isn’t all about you.
That rope hangs your family too,
and those pills kill your friends.