She doesn’t believe her brother killed Hunter, but she’s fretting over his threats against me. Some part of Emma doubts Chance more than she wants to admit, but I don’t say that. I don’t think she’s ready to hear that right now.

“Unless he did,” Savage says, going a whole different direction with this. “What if Randall killed Hunter to protect Chance? A self-serving act, of course, because protecting Chance protects his own future.”

Emma grabs her mug and holds onto it, her grip a vise, like she just needs to hold onto something or she’ll fall. “I cannot believe we’re talking about Randall killing Hunter.”

“He and Jill were whispering off in a corner tonight, too,” Savage says, snatching up another pastry. “Interesting to think about those two together, isn’t it? They’re both riding the North and Knight coattails. What if they’ve decided they want a piece of the pie for themselves and have a plan to get it?”

“I’m not saying that Randall isn’t money-hungry,” Emma replies. “I’m not even saying he wouldn’t street fight for his future, but I guess I’m more of a romantic than you men are where Jill comes into play. Assuming she loved Hunter, what if Jill left me the note? Maybe she really is afraid for my safety?” Her brows furrow. “Although she is a bitch to me.”

Savage snorts. “Randall left that note.”

Emma scowls. “You want me to believe that he accused my brother, his best friend, his ticket to money and success, of killing Hunter?”

“That’s what guilty people do,” he explains. “They point the finger at themselves because they feel like that makes them look less guilty. It’s all about getting it out there, weathering the storm of attention, and the waiting for everyone to move on, to someone else. As a bonus, he probably thought he’d scare you away from Jax and push you closer to Chance, who you’d suddenly need to protect. Sisterly love and all.”

Emma considers him a moment and then looks at me. “I don’t know, Jax. It doesn’t feel right. Why not just tell me about the DNA test and accuse you directly?”

“Randall has something to gain in all of this that we don’t know about,” I say.

“Or something to lose,” Savage adds. “Like his freedom when we prove he killed Hunter.” He picks up his coffee cup. “My money is on Randall. He killed Hunter. Now, did your brother know about it, Emma? I don’t know. Is Jill in on it, too? I don’t know. But I’m going to take all of this speculation and get my team turning it into facts.”

Emma frowns, sets down her mug, and rounds the island, walking toward the living room with purpose in her steps. “Where are you going and what are you doing?” Savage asks.

She ignores him.

“Emma,” I call after her.

She ignores me.

I set my own mug down, and in a few quick steps, I catch her arm and turn her to face me. “What are you doing?”

“What I should have already done. I need my phone. And I need to call my brother.”

“And say what?” I challenge.

“I told you. Randall doesn’t operate without my brother’s approval. I need to know if my brother threatened us through him tonight. If that’s where we’re at, if we’re so deep in this that my own brother is sending his second-in-command to threaten me, I need to know. I need to know.”

“And if he did, Emma? Then what?”

“Then I’d say Randall’s statement is true. You might not know it, but you have the ability to destroy my family, and he believes you’ll do it. That’s a game-changer.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you. You know that.”

“It’s one thing to say that now,” she says, “it’s quite another to look the person in the eyes who took someone you love. You don’t know how you’ll react the day that happens. And it will. That day is coming, sooner than later.”

CHAPTER EIGHT

Emma

Jax and I stand there in the kitchen with Savage at his back, the room shrinking around us, the floor all but falling from beneath our feet. “I need to call Chance, Jax,” I repeat. “I need to hear his voice.”

“Wait,” he urges.

I shake my head in rejection. “No,” I say. “Not this time.”

His hands settle on my waist, possessive and firm, and he walks me backward, into the center bar area, walls encasing us, shielding us from Savage’s view. “I’m trying to protect you,” he says, his voice low, rough, his face close, like his body. “I’m trying to protect us.”

Us.

That word gets me like no other.

I’ve never been an “us,” not the way I am with Jax. I was never connected to York, never a part of him, and him me, the way Jax and I are connected to each other.

“I know you are,” I say, catching his shirt and holding on tightly, the way I feel like I’m holding on to him and Chance, but, somehow, I know it won’t be enough. I’m going to lose one of them, maybe both of them, and the very idea claws at me. “I’m doing the same. Think about it, Jax. This conversation started with you declaring it time to play the game, not get played. To do that, I need to hear my brother’s voice. I need to know what is really going on here. We need to know.”


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