Jax relaxes instantly, his hands coming down on my shoulder. “I know, baby. And yes, I did. I want the same.”

“Why?” Savage demands, responding to my question as if Jax hasn’t spoken. “Because that asshole York made a few more calls, too. He met with your brother, Emma. And then he called every person on the list of people your father had investigated.”

Jax curses and turns away from me, scrubbing his jaw before he faces us again. “Not one of those people is coming to the festival. That means that whatever your father started, Emma, your brother has continued, and apparently, he’s using York to his aid. Does he know what York did to you?”

The blood runs from my face. “Please don’t go there, Jax. I don’t—I just—I’ll call my brother. No. I need to just go back and deal with my brother.” I start for the door, and Savage steps in front of me.

“We don’t even know what they’re up to right now. We don’t want them to pull back before we find out.”

“It’s obvious what they’re up to,” I snap back. “They want the castle. They’re going to burn Jax until they get it.”

Jax catches me from behind and turns me to face him. “But we don’t know why, baby. We need to know their motivation. There is too much we don’t know.”

“And Savage’s team isn’t finding out fast enough.”

“We were hired a few days ago,” Savage argues. “And what the hell is in this for York, Emma?”

I don’t turn to face him. “I don’t know, Jax. I don’t understand what’s going on right now. None of this makes sense. I need to end this. I’m the one who can get to my brother.”

“Not yet, baby. We need to take a step back and figure out what this is. My brother is dead. I won’t let you end up dead, too.”

“I’m not afraid of my brother. He won’t kill me. He won’t.” I press my hand to my stomach, feeling sick. “He’s not that man.”

“He’s not alone in this now,” Jax says. “York’s involved. I will not let you leave until I know you’re safe.”

“I need—”

“Damn it, woman, if that makes this the right time to tie you up and keep you here, I damn sure will do it.”

“Are you really saying that to me right now, Jax North?”

“Damn straight, baby. So make a move. And then I’ll make mine.”

I want to shake him, but a realization comes over me. “He might have left me a message.” I dart around Jax and run to the kitchen, grabbing my phone from the island.

Footsteps sound behind me, and I turn to find Jax and Savage standing there, even as I tab through the messages. “There’s a message,” I say as I put the voicemail on speaker. “Last chance, Sugar. You have an hour to call me back or else. And we both know you both love and hate it when I say ‘or else.’”

I breathe out a shaky breath, my hand trembling with a memory I don’t want to live with Savage standing here. I won’t live it with Savage standing here, so I forcefully shove it aside. My eyes meet Jax’s, and I say the only thing that matters. “He never makes idol threats, and the hour has passed.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Emma…

Jax and Savage stare at me, waiting for me to say more, but I block them out.

The words “or else” consume me. I know what that means. I know what that means all too well. Punishment. Pain. More pain.

Needing support, needing to think, I give them my back and grab the counter, my mind creating the many ways “or else” could take shape. In all of them, I’m destroyed, but I’m not concerned about me. I’m concerned about the Knight brand. I’m concerned about Jax.

I glance down at my phone, and I know I have to stop this now before it can’t be stopped. I start to dial York’s number. Jax is with me in an instant, turning me to face him, and taking my phone. “What are you doing?”

“I need to call him. I need to stop him.”

“Stop him from doing what?” Jax asks. “What does ‘or else’ mean?”

“I need to call him now, Jax,” I say, my voice remarkably calm, considering the panic inside me.

“What does ‘or else’ mean to you, Emma?” Jax presses, and when his hand comes down on my waist, I’m right in a way no other human could make me right, not now or ever. But that’s exactly why I can’t be here right now. No. Ever. I can’t be here ever again.

“I need to call York,” I repeat. “I need to call him now.” I try to step around Jax, but he catches my arm.

“Without me, Emma?”

I can feel myself trembling, a mix of anger and panic, along with fear. I’m terrified about what comes next. I’m terrified for him and my brother. “Yes. Alone. I need to handle this alone.”


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