“It does. And yes, I’m sure that’s how he met my mother.”

“I wonder how well they all knew each other,” I say, thinking of the hourglass from one of our shops that I’d found in his father’s old office. “I’m going to call my mother and ask, but maybe we can just go see her in Europe. I think I might get more out of her that way.”

“She might not want to talk if I’m present,” he says, and then points at a cute little cottage with a blue shingled roof just off the water. “We’re here. This is where Echo lives.”

“It’s adorable. Does he own it?”

“My father gifted it to him years ago.”

“That’s a generous gift,” I say. “A property on the water like this one would likely be a million dollars or more.”

“My father was a generous man.” He glances over at me. “And a forgiving man. Something I almost forgot to be myself.” He catches my hand. “Come on. Let’s go take a look.”

We start a climb up a long set of wooden steps that travel a path over rocks, and I swear that clawing, foreboding feeling is back. It feels like I’m about to enter a dead man’s house.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Emma

The climb up the stairs leading to Echo’s house is rather steep and high, the wind chilly, but we eventually reach the house and a porch, much like the one at Jax’s place, but smaller and less grand. It’s crazy but all kind of nerves attack my belly as we walk up yet another set of steps to the porch, and then cross to the front door. Jax rings the bell, and while he is as always, cool and calm, a man in control, I sense the urgency now beneath his surface. He’s worried and not just a little bit either. This knowledge accelerates my heartbeat as does Jax knocking on the door with a heavy, firm rap.

We wait for an answer that doesn’t come.

Jax knocks again and then scrubs his hand through his hair. “Why am I knocking? Walker Security would have told me if he was home.”

Not so cool and calm on the outside now, and the fact that he lets me see this when I don’t believe he would someone else, matters to me. It’s trust. It’s a part of our bond, our connection. “How did Walker get inside?” I ask.

He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a key. “Same way we’re about to get in.”

I don’t ask how he has a key. People leave backup keys in safe places. The castle would certainly be Echo’s second home and safe place. I hug myself and watch Jax reach for the lock only to catch his hand with a thought. “The Walker team is shadowing us right now, right?”

“Yes. And they’re watching the house. I told Savage we were headed over here.”

Relief washes over me, and I let go of his hand. He leans over and kisses me. “Relax, baby. We aren’t going to find Echo or anything dangerous inside. Walker has been here. I’m just hoping I find a clue to tell us where he went that they wouldn’t understand.”

I nod and he unlocks the door, pushing it open. “I’ll go in first,” he says, stepping inside to look around. All must appear well, because about thirty seconds later, he leans out of the door, catches my hand and pulls me inside. Jax shuts the door behind us and I find myself scanning a basic room with white tile, and furnished with brown couches. The kitchen is to my left, with nothing but a white tile island separating the two rooms.

“I’m going to walk around and see what I can find,” Jax announces.

I nod, and he heads down a hallway. I stay put and walk the living area and kitchen, checking empty drawers for travel plans but for the most part, they’re empty. There really isn’t much to see. The one thing that catches my attention is an antique grandfather clock that is rather out of place with the décor, it’s ticking a sharp, hard bite through the near silence that creeps me out. Shivering, I quickly follow Jax down the hallway. I catch a glimpse of him exiting one room and disappearing into another and when I would join him, I glance left to find an office. I step inside and literally gasp at a giant portrait of a woman in red behind the desk, her back to the viewer, the dress blowing in the wind with the castle in the background.

Jax, obviously responding to my reaction, rushes into the room. “What happened?”

I motion to the painting. “That.”

“That was done by my father decades ago, before I was even born. At the time, the staff was buzzing with sightings of the woman in red and much like my mother and her red dress, he embraced her as part of the castle. There are several in random places in the castle. He contracted an artist to do them.”


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