It goes on, but I stop there. If Jax sees this, it will gut him. It will hurt him. It will cut him. He will bleed. I’m bleeding for him now. This is not an innocent poem. I swallow the cotton in my throat and try to breathe. Suddenly, I just need to breathe. I need air. I grab the lightweight jacket I brought with me and pull it on, hurrying toward the bedroom. I need to think. I need to figure out what to do now. What do I even say to Jax? I need to think before he gets back. I need to think before he returns.
I rush through the castle, and I hurry down the stairs, desperate to get out of the confinement of these walls. Desperate to escape the place where Hunter died, perhaps at my father’s hand. I’m suffocating in my father’s crimes. I all but trip on my way downstairs to the back door, but once I’m there, I yank open the door and explode into the chilly morning air.
When I’m outside, I find myself in the center of an atrium and right in front of me is a set of concrete steps. I hurry down the stairs and find myself walking toward the ocean, saltwater lifting in the air and falling on my lips and tongue. The same way it had last night on that landing, but I don’t let myself fall down that rabbit hole. I love the ocean, and the way it seems to speak with every crashing wave. I need it to speak to me. I need it to tell me what happened here and how to make this right.
My father wanted this castle. My brother wants this castle. This is where Hunter died. This is where he was murdered because I now believe Jax and Brody are right; I believe Hunter was murdered.
I start replaying the journal entries, looking for answers, and when I look up, I’m at a dead end. I can see the ocean below, but I can’t get to it. A sound behind me jolts me, and heart lurching, I whirl around as a bird flies out of a bush. I let out a breath of momentary relief followed by unease. It feels like I’m not alone anymore.
I wasn’t worried about taking a walk in broad daylight, not when Brody’s been removed from the property and Savage’s team is here. And, of course, my family seems to be the villain of this story, but my brother wouldn’t hurt me. However, there was that list of everyone my father had investigated. I have no idea what my father did to those people. None of us know what’s really going on. This walk was like trusting my father: foolish.
I pull my phone from my pocket to call Jax, but I find no signal. I need to go back to the castle and do so now.
I make the call, and when I hang up, I do so with the certainty that I’ve done what has to be done. I’ve protected my family. I’ve protected Emma. I text Savage: I need to see you. Meet me at my tower. I wait for a reply that doesn’t come, and decide with Savage there’s no telling what he’ll do and when he’ll do it; he may just show up there. Pocketing my phone, exit the library, and head back to the front of the office, where I find the man himself arguing with Jill.
“You can’t just put cameras up wherever you please,” Jill argues. “This is a historic structure.”
“Not much of a history buff there, ma’am,” he says. “I live in the present year of 2019. And in 2019, you don’t have an army to guard this castle. You have me. We’re putting up the cameras.”
It’s then that Jill notices my approach and turns her appeal on me. “He wants to put up cameras.”
“Then let him put up cameras,” I say.
Savage cuts her off. “Will be just fine. We aren’t two-year-olds playing with hammers. We’re men. Real fucking men who know how to get the job done, no matter what that job may be. And you, woman, need to back off and let me be a damn man.”
“Do you know how arrogant and caveman-like that sounds?”
“Ask me if I fucking care.”
Jill looks at me. “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?”
I glance at Savage, a message in my look. He scrubs his jaw. “I’m sorry for cursing, but we’re putting up the fucking cameras. Now.” He grabs a walkie-talkie on his belt. “You have cellphone coverage issues out here, too,” he replies. “Another reason for the cameras, of which we have many this morning alone. Are we a go?”
“Yes,” I say, which draws a scowl and a sound of disgust from Jill.