“Isn’t it? We need to talk.” He motions to a doorway that leads to a portion of the castle with an art display set-up for the evening featuring local artists.
My gaze seeks out Jax who is in deep conversation at the far corner of the event area, still talking to the same man about that stock. “Let’s go,” I say hoping to just get him out of here. I start walking and he falls into step with me but when we enter the art room there are people everywhere.
I indicate a separate door that leads to one of the many castle hallways. Once there he faces me. “You don’t know what you’re stirring up here, Emma.”
“Tell me. Make me understand.”
“The North family is our enemy. They can take everything from us. They can destroy us. Jax is using you.”
“He’s not using me.”
“He is using you, Emma. This is a dangerous game. I don’t want you to end up dead.”
“Dead? Now I’m going to end up dead?”
“There is a bigger story here. One I can’t tell you without putting you at further risk. I’m asking you to listen to me. If you don’t, I’ll have to make pre-emptive strike to protect you. You have seventy-two hours to come home.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means that this family is my family. I protect what is mine. You leave or I’ll hurt him. I’ll hurt him before he hurts you and us.” And with that he turns and leaves.
I press my hands to my face and rush down the hallway toward the bathroom where I ran into Echo, which has me all but running into the tiny room and locking the door. I pull my phone from my purse and try my brother who doesn’t answer. I try again. Still no answer.
I have to tell Jax about Randall and this means war. My fairy tale is now ending in war. I can’t just hide in the bathroom. I should have chased him down. I dial Savage who put his number in my phone a few days back. He answers on the first ring. “Randall is here. He’s my brother’s right-hand. Stop him from leaving. I need to see him again.”
“Too late. He just got in his car.”
“Damn it. Okay. Thanks.” I hang up and decide I just need to tell Jax and I can’t wait. It has to be now. I open the door and freeze. There’s an envelope lying there with my name on it. I grab it and stare down at the writing that looks familiar and I don’t know why. I need to know what this is. I have to know and I enter the bathroom, shut the door again, and open the flap. I pull out a medical test, a DNA test. Hunter’s name is on the test. My stomach knots at the sight of yet another name. And that name is my father’s.
Oh my God.
Hunter wasn’t Jax’s brother. He was mine.
There’s a typed note with the test that reads: He was the real heir to the Knight throne, the eldest son. He would have owned the Knight and North empires when this came out. There are only two people who benefitted from Hunter’s death. Your brother and his brother: Jax North.
My heart is racing, and my knees are weak. I grab the counter, and steady myself. Jax didn’t do this. My brother didn’t do this. No. No. No. I shove the paper back in the envelope, and I yank open the door. I need air. I need to think. I exit to the hallway and cut right where I find a door leading to a garden outside the party. I quickly step into the night, the lights flickering on the trail as if there’s yet another electrical short that I thought was fixed. Or maybe not. We’ve been at the house. It doesn’t matter. I head to the beach and I don’t stop until I’m at the sand. I toss my shoes, walk into the water, and open the envelope again, yanking out the paper; tearing it into pieces. I toss it in the water, letting it drown the way I feel like I’m drowning in the results of that test. I repeat with the note left for me.
I watch the pieces melt into the water and not until every piece is missing do I toss the envelope and walk back to the beach. I’ve just picked up my shoes and started for the gardens when someone steps out of the shadows. It’s a woman in a red dress and it’s not Jill.
THE END…FOR NOW