“Good.” His eyes warm. “Enjoy it. I want you to like it here.” He starts to turn away.
I catch his arm. “I already do. You know that, right?”
“You aren’t sold yet, but I’m not afraid to work for it.” He winks and fills his coffee cup.
I leave the room with my own cup and a smile on my lips. A smile, after what I just went through with York. That’s the power of Jax North and it’s so different from that of York.
I step outside onto the sprawling porch, into chilly air, my jacket missed, but I don’t go back inside to hunt it down. I step to the railing and let the cool ocean air wash over me. It’s beautiful here, the ocean right here with us, not far in the distance. I wouldn’t lose that ocean view I have in San Francisco, and here, I’m with Jax. It’s crazy to be going down this path so soon, but I’ve taken few real risks in my life. Jax feels like a reason to take one now.
I eye the swing and sit down, tapping my mother’s auto-dial. She surprises me by answering on the first ring. “You talked to your brother.”
“I did,” I say, “but I knew.”
“Yes. Not until he was gone. I’ve learned a lot about dad since he died. Why’d you stay?”
“I loved him.” Her voice cracks. “I always thought I was the real love of his life. He needed his distractions. He’s a man and all.”
“Being a man isn’t an excuse to be an asshole, mom.”
“One day, you’ll understand.”
“I hope not,” I say, feeling prickly. “And I’d like to think that you don’t wish that for me either.”
“See this is why I can’t talk to you about matters of the heart. You’re too fairy tale princess. That’s not real life. I don’t know how you started down that rabbit hole. It certainly wasn’t because I led you there.”
A million little pieces of my childhood and my mother’s lessons on a woman’s place in life come back to me and not in a good way. If I tell Chance about my rape, she’d blame me for burdening him. I skip right past her statement and take this conversation back to her. “How are you?”
“I’m struggling.” Her voice cracks again.
“Then come back,” I argue.
“You’re leaving anyway.”
Which she must know through Chance. She sure hasn’t been talking to me. “Come to Germany with me,” I urge. “Or, are you there now? I don’t even know where you are.”
“Italy. I told you I was in Italy.”
“No,” I say tightly. “No, you didn’t.”
“I need to stay here right now. I have a friend here who’s really helping.”
“Maybe I’ll come to you,” I suggest.
“Take care of the business,” she orders. “Your brother is alone now without you. You need to do what he needs you to do.”
A knife slices through me with these words. She’s worried about Chance. She wants me to do my duty and serve him as I did my father. “Right,” I say reading between the lines even further. She wants me to stay away.
“I have dinner reservations, honey. I need to go.”
“Wait,” I say, and I go in. “Why did dad want the North Castle?”
To my shock, she bites out. “What the hell are you doing, Emma?”
“Stay away from this. If I ever hear you bring up that castle again, I swear—Just don’t go there. I need to go. And you need to stay at your place.” She hangs up.
I pant out a breath. Oh, God. Dad killed Hunter. He had to have killed him. I stand up and I throw my phone as hard as I can throw it, shoving fingers into my hair. This can’t be real. It can’t be real. I reach for my phone to call my brother, but it’s gone. I threw the damn thing when I don’t do stupid things like that. Ever.
“Damn it,” I murmur, and rush down the stairs, intending to find it, but my gaze sweeps wide, and I halt, my heart thundering in my chest.
The blue-eyed man is standing on the beach staring at me. Just standing there. Now I’m staring at him and his attention jabs at me. It’s sharp, hard, uncomfortable. He hates me. I feel the hate. It swims in the ocean air, threatening to drown me. And then he starts walking toward me. I turn and run up the stairs. “Jax! Jax!”
I make it to the porch and rush toward the door. Jax opens the door and grabs me, pulling me close. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“The man. The man again.” I twist in his arms and stare at the spot where I’d seen him but he’s gone. He’s a ghost again. A ghost that hates me.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Jax asks again, and I turn to face him, my hands landing on the solid wall of his chest, over his heart, but it’s my heart that’s about to explode right now.