“It was shut when I left. She could be outside exploring. Her coat’s missing. I’m going to look for her.”
He moves with me and speaks into his walkie-talkie. “I need eyes on Emma Knight now. Find her. Report. Confirm her safety. Now.”
Confirm her safety. Those words slice my heart all over again.
The castle trails are well covered with trees, bushes, flowers, and various sculptures. They’re also not as easy to navigate as they’d first seemed. Time ticks by with my attempts to get back to where I started, but my fears over someone else being here in the gardens with me fades slowly into the chilly wind. I’m letting the idea of murder gain traction and that traction is affecting my state of mind. Of course, I’m not alone. The property is swimming with staff and cameras. I’m probably being watched by a security person as I walk. I’m about ready to start calling for one of those staff members to guide me when I spy a row of flowers that looks familiar. I’m almost back to Jax’s tower. Eager to just make it so, I all but run forward and cut right, gasping when I run smack into a hard body. Sucking in air, my gaze lifts, and I find myself looking into a man’s weathered and aged face, while ice-blue piercing eyes stare down at me. He’s also gripping my wrists.
“It’s you,” he says, accusation in his tone.
“You,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s you.”
He can’t believe it’s me.
The man with the brutally cold blue eyes is still holding onto my wrists, but I don’t pull away. I need to know what he means. I have to know. “What does that mean, you can’t believe it’s me? What does that mean? Who do you think I am?”
“I know who you are,” he says, and I swear the ice in his eyes is downright brittle with those words.
At the sound of Savage’s voice, the man’s grip on my wrists loosens and then falls away. “What do you mean?” I demand, but it’s too late for answers. Without a word, he walks in the opposite direction and disappears down the stairs. I blink, and he’s gone, leaving me wondering if he was really here. Savage steps to my side, and I shiver, hugging myself, haunted by the man and his words. You. I can’t believe it’s you.
“Why do you look like you just saw a ghost?” Savage demands.
Jax’s voice lifts in the air. “Savage!”
“I found her!” Savage calls out over his shoulder, but his eyes are homed in on me. “Emma, answer me,” he orders.
“Emma!” Jax shouts, and by the time I’ve rotated toward his voice, he’s in front of me, and I’m being pulled into his arms. “Thank God,” he breathes out, cupping my face. “You scared the shit out of me all over again,” he declares, and this panic in him freaks me out.
“Who was that man?” I ask urgently, grabbing the lapels of Jax’s suit jacket. “Who was he?”
“What man?” Jax and Savage ask at the same moment.
“What man?” I ask incredulously as I twist in Jax’s arms to look at them both. “Didn’t you see the man? Isn’t that why you’re freaked out?”
“What man?” they both demand again.
My stomach knots with the certainty more is going on than I know right now. “Piercing blue eyes,” I say. “Fifties maybe, I think. He was here and—”
“Where did he go?” Savage demands, stepping to our side.
“He’s the groundskeeper, Savage,” Jax replies, flicking him a look and facing me, his hands settling on my shoulders. “His name is Echo Woods. He’s been here since I was a young boy. He’s a good man.”
My brow furrows. What would the groundskeeper know about me or my family? “No. No, that makes no sense. We can’t be talking about the same person.”
“No one but Echo has those eyes,” Jax says. “Did he say something to you?”
“She doesn’t seem like she thinks he’s a good man,” Savage interjects. “And I’ve known a lot of really shitty men who pretended to be Mary fucking Poppins. What the hell happened, Emma?”
I rotate to face both men, once again, and I don’t miss the way they angle toward me, the way they stay so close that I can’t breathe. “Why are you both suffocating me? Why were you running around looking for me?”
“You damn near got pushed off the castle ledge last night,” Savage snaps. “Then you disappeared with the patio doors open.”
“I took a walk, which shouldn’t be a crime. And I shut those doors. Why is this such an issue?” I frown. “I shut the doors.”
“Uh huh,” Savage says. “Well, the doors were open, and I, for one, wanted to make sure I wasn’t scraping you off the rocks.”
“Holy fuck, Savage,” Jax curses. “Do you have any version of a filter?”