Eric eyes me over the rim of his cup. “You were defending your family. I like that in a person.” He sips and adds, “If the family deserves it.”
If he hopes to stir defensiveness in me, he’s likely disappointed because my reply is, “They definitely need to deserve it.”
Jax pours cream in my coffee, and then his, that intimate understanding of each other’s ways represents stirring a sense of belonging with him in me that I find equals happiness. He makes me happy. “We met with Chance last night,” Jax offers. “It was not what I expected, but in a good way.”
“He turned down the deal Eric offered him,” Grayson comments.
Jax sips his coffee. “He knew I was behind it, which I suppose we all should have expected. He’s sharper than I realized.”
I elbow him. “He’s a smart man.”
Jax laughs. “I know that, baby.”
Grayson seizes the door I’ve just opened and asks, “But is he honest?”
Despite my text threat to Chance, I don’t even hesitate in my reply. “Yes. In fact, he wants to merge with your brand because of you, Grayson. Because he wants that moral high ground. He wants to be a part of something bigger and better.”
Eric arches a brow and looks at Jax. “How do you feel about that claim?” he asks.
“After last night,” Jax says, “I believe him.”
“I do, too,” I say, “but he’s inherited a lot of my father’s bad business. He promised me that he’d talk to you about that problem with full disclosure. If he doesn’t—”
“He did,” Eric says, quickly thanking the waitress for a coffee refill, before he adds, “Or he plans to. He called me this morning and we spoke briefly. We’re meeting before I leave town, but he made it clear that was the hot topic on the agenda.”
Relief, that I hate that I feel, washes over me. My reaction and my text this morning tell a story. Some part of me still doesn’t fully trust Chance, but he’s done much to deserve my mistrust.
“Where do you see yourself in the merger, Emma?” Grayson asks.
My gaze catches Jax’s, that same question burning in his stare. My lips curve with a smile as I say, “In Maine,” and then with a small laugh I add, “Trying to learn how to finish a glass of whiskey and still stand up straight.”
The table erupts in laughter while Jax’s fingers lace with mine, intimate and right in every way; his silent approval for my answer is all that matters. I’m going home. With him.
We leave the restaurant to find Savage, once again, leaning on the SUV, waiting for our return. I hand Savage a bag filled with muffins. “Enjoy, big boy,” I say, climbing into the back seat, with Jax following right behind me.
A few minutes later, we pull up to the Knight offices and the impact of our arrival for me is surreal. This is it, I realize. Nothing will ever be the same after today. My brother is going to go through with this merger. I’m moving to Maine. I may never work another day in this building. This place has been my life: the good, bad, and in between.
“You okay?” Jax asks, squeezing my leg.
I give a small nod. “Yeah. Just leaving this place behind is strange.” I shrug and look at him. “But it’s not going to be the same here anyway, and I’m not sure why I’d want it to be.”
“We can get an apartment here, Emma.”
His offer slides from his lips with such ease and sincerity that it’s as if he cares little of the consequences to himself and his business. But I do. “No,” I say firmly. “You have an empire to run. And I can’t watch how you do it from here.” Savage opens my door, and I place a peck on Jax’s freshly shaven, baby butt smooth cheek. “Let’s go do this. We’ll close a chapter and then start a whole new book.”
His blue eyes warm with appreciation, amber flecks of sunshine from the open door, catching in their depth. “That sounds like an excellent plan, baby.”
It is an excellent plan, but that does nothing to dissolve my nerves over this contract signing. I pray my brother does right by us all. I exit to the street and Jax is quick to join me. His big strong hand settles possessively on my back, his touch somehow bringing me down a notch. Okay, half a notch.
“Should I join you?” Savage asks. “I have yet to hang that toad, Randall, up by his toes. This could be the day.”
Laughter bubbles from my throat. “Thank you for that visual that I will cherish the entire time I’m in this building.”
Jax slides his arm around me. “Eat your muffins, Savage. We got this.” Jax rotates us, and we start walking, only to have Savage call out, “I inhaled them. Blueberry rocks my world.”