“Emma didn’t take Hunter.”
“I know. I know, and I almost hurt her.”
“You almost killed her,” I bite back.
Emma is sobbing now, I realize, tugging on my arm. “Please, Jax. Please. Let him go. Let him go.”
“You need to leave, Brody.” I let go of him and back up.
Emma wraps herself around me. “There’s more,” Brody says, and he’s crying again, tears streaming down his face. “Hunter was trying to sell us out to the North’s. He was selling us out.”
“He was being blackmailed,” I say. “He was a victim, not a monster.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is true,” I say.
“Jax, let this go.” Emma pleads. “You two are too hot-headed right now. Do this later.”
Brody walks away, and before I realize his intent, he steps onto the ledge Hunter fell from. “He said that he had no choice, but he could have come to us.”
Emma releases me. “Brody, come down!” she yells. “Please. I’m okay. You were protecting me.”
“She’s right,” I say, because my brother is clearly not okay. “You protected her. Come down.”
“We fought,” Brody says.
“Who?” I ask cautiously.
“Brody, come down,” Emma pleads again, her voice trembling. “Please.”
“Hunter was here praying,” he says, and suddenly, my world is spinning.
“When?” I ask, but I know. I know it was that night.
“Praying when he was the devil, stealing from his family.”
“Oh God,” Emma murmurs.
Ice slides through me. “What did you do?”
“We got into a fist fight,” he says and then he screams at the top of his lungs and grabs his hair. “It was bad. I don’t know how we ended up on the ledge. We just—did.”
I step toward him. “Don’t or I’ll take you with me.”
“Don’t even think about jumping, Brody. It was an accident.”
“Come down, Brody.”
“I can’t live with it, Jax,” Brody says and motions to Emma. “I almost killed her. I’m not okay. I will never be okay. I loved him. I loved him, and it was a fight. It wasn’t supposed to end like that.”
Thunder erupts loud and hard, and Brody moves toward the edge of the wall. That’s it. I launch myself in that direction, but it’s too late. He jumps. He jumps, and it’s like a knife shoves itself into my heart. I fall to my knees and roar at the top of my lungs. The only thing that keeps me sane, in that moment, is Emma’s arms wrapped around me.
The day of the funeral is miserably cold and rainy, just like the night Brody left us. I will never forget the moment Brody jumped to his death for the rest of my life. Or the days that followed and how much Jax suffered. All I could do was hold him and be there in any way he needed me. He wanted to be naked, we were naked. He wanted to run, we ran. He wanted to sit in the shower and cry. We sat in the shower and cried. The service is packed and Jax stands in front of the crowd in his black suit, speaking from his heart. Jill sits next to me and grabs my hand, tears streaming down her face, her grief, like Jax’s a complicated thing. They lost Brody but they now know that Brody killed Hunter. I’m not sure it was really an accident, and neither is Jax but I’ll never say that to Jill or anyone else.
After the main service, Savage offers us a ride to the cemetery, but Jax refuses, opting for his own BMW. He seems to need to feel in control, behind the wheel. The rain thankfully stops by the time we park but the cold is as brutal, my black tights and boots are all that keep my legs from freezing. Jax, on the other hand, wears nothing but his suit jacket, but he holds onto me the entire service. After it’s over, we stay long after everyone else leaves. Jax’s head is bowed over the casket when an awareness comes over me. My gaze lifts and scans, then shoots over my shoulder behind me. That’s where I find a woman in red standing by our car. Only she’s not alone. Echo stands next to her. “Jax,” I whisper. “Jax.”
He looks up, his eyes bloodshot and tormented. “What, baby?”
I pull him around to face the other direction. “What the hell?” he hisses. “This can’t be fucking happening.”
“Yes. That’s my bitch of a mother.” His voice is ice. He takes my hand which turns out to be a decisive action. “We’re leaving. Ignore her.”
He starts walking and I quickly keep pace. I want to scream at his mother for even putting him through this. I want to punch Echo for his role in making it happen. Jax stops in front of them because they’re in front of the passenger door. “Move.”
“Her father threatened me,” his mother says, casting me in a quelling look. “He was obsessed,” she adds. “I had to leave. He would have taken Hunter just to spite me.”