“I have a man coming to escort you both to the beach house,” Savage announces.

“I’m not leaving until we find her,” I say, twisting around to face him again. “I need to stay here and help find the person who left me that note. Maybe I’ll see something that won’t mean anything to your men.” I try to walk around him.

Jax catches my arm, pulling me in profile to him and Savage. “They’ll find her,” he says softly.

“He’s right,” Savage agrees. “When I find him or her, you’ll know. And I say him or her because you’ve told me nothing to convince me this is a woman. In fact, I know about as much as a guy trying to guess the gender of a baby in a woman’s belly that he didn’t put there. That’s right. It’s a 50/50 shot for me. Do you not see what a problem this is, Emma?”

He’s right. I’m not giving him enough to go on here, but Jax isn’t speaking up either. He doesn’t want me to bring up his mother, and I think I should. But I don’t. I need to talk to Jax right here and now. “Step away and let us talk, Savage.”

Footsteps sound, and my gaze jerks to the tall, sandy brown-haired man stepping to Savage’s side. “This is Smith,” Savage says, without looking at him. “He’s not a pussy. That’s a good thing when protecting you, in case you didn’t know.”

Jax turns me to face him, his hands coming down on my arms. “Let them do their jobs. Let’s go home where we can talk.”

Home.

That word again.

That place we might have shared, that I was really considering sharing with this man, but this secret all but ensures I will not. “The reality here is that the person who left me that DNA test and the note expects a response. They want something. Justice? Revenge? I don’t know that answer, I can’t know that answer, but all options feel dangerous.” I need to tell him about the DNA test and it hits me that his reaction might not be good. I owe him privacy when I do this and I need that to be now. And suddenly it feels smart to get us out of the line of fire until we decide if we’re targets.

If he’s a target.

“Yes,” I say. “Let’s go now.”

CHAPTER THREE

Emma

By the time Jax laces the fingers of one of my hands with his and we start walking, Smith is by my other side. The idea that a big man with a gun is escorting us to the beach house shouldn’t comfort me, considering it means that we need someone with a gun to escort us to the beach house. It is, however, better to need a big man with a gun and have a big man with a gun than the opposite.

“You sure you don’t have anything to tell me, little girl?” Savage calls after me.

“Not unless you have a big boy I can talk to,” I call over my shoulder, because hey, I might be under duress, but I have a brother. I know how to give what I get.

“That would, by an astonishingly high margin of votes, be considered me,” Smith murmurs.

I’m not sure that’s a joke, and he doesn’t laugh. Neither do I. I’m focused on one person, and that person is Jax. I have to tell him everything, and I have to do it knowing that everything might be too much for us to survive. That’s my fear—that this is it for us. The truth is that I haven’t even fully had time to digest any of this, and Lord help me, where are my shoes? I left them behind with Savage. Because it’s not enough to have a big man with a gun next to us. I am now making the other big man with a gun, the one with an attitude, retrieve my high heels. But really, truly, at this point, I couldn’t care less if my shoes become the center of a sandcastle for one of the guests.

I just need to think.

Hunter was my half-brother. It can’t be true, and yet, I saw the proof.

Jax folds our arms at the elbows and pulls me closer, holding onto me a bit too tightly, like he’s afraid I’m about to be yanked right out of the sand from beside him. But I don’t mind. I want him to keep holding on tightly. I don’t want him to let me go, but the sense of us losing each other is in the air.

Forever it seems, the three of us walk. There is just me and Jax and a stranger named Smith, the sounds of the ocean crashing against the shoreline is fitting for the way my world feels as if it’s crashing around me. Jax’s world is about to crash down around him, while he’s still bleeding for his brother. My brother, I remind myself. My God. Hunter might have been my brother, too, and I struggle to remember meeting him. I struggle to remember a man who may well have been blood and brother to me. How did I not feel a bond with him? How did I not recognize any similarities?


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