“I told her to leave,” Echo interjects. “That Knight asshole was going to ruin your father. He deserved better.”
His mother quickly says, “I disappeared to protect you all.”
A disgusted sound slides from Jax’s lips. “You weren’t even at Hunter’s funeral.”
“His father,” she eyes me, “her father, was still alive. I couldn’t risk coming.”
“I went and got her,” Echo says. “I told her he was dead and that there were complications. I knew Hunter was being blackmailed. I wanted her to convince him to get help.”
“She didn’t even know him,” I snap before I can stop myself. “She couldn’t convince him to do anything.”
“They’re both dead because of you,” Jax says, his voice wound tight, his temper about to snap. I don’t know how it hasn’t already. “Had my father known the truth he would have protected them,” he continues. “I never, and I mean never, want to see you or you Echo, ever again. I’ll buy the house from you, Echo. You are not welcome to return.”
“Please move,” I say. “If you have any love for Jax, this is not the right time for this.”
Jax pulls his keys from his pocket. “Never is the right time.”
“Let him be,” Echo says. “You need to let him be.”
She sobs and buries her face in her hands. Jax looks skyward and then back down at her. “They’re dead. Your tears are too late.”
Echo pulls her out of the reach of the door and Jax opens it, helping me inside. He joins me and turns on the engine. In that moment, the rain begins to crash down on the window, washing away leaves from a tree above, but it can’t wash away his pain.
It’s a good two weeks after the funeral when I finally claw my way out of hell. Because of Emma. Because every second of every day she’s been by my side, clawing out of that hell with me. Jill steps up as well, taking over Brody’s business while Emma takes over Jill’s duties until we can find a real replacement. It’s all a haze of gut-wrenching memories. I can’t stop reliving my decision to shove him against the wall. Maybe it pushed him over the edge quite literally. Guilt consumes me.
Savage steps in and handles Echo and my mother, making sure they exited our lives permanently. Turns out my mother took a new name and a new life, living with some billionaire overseas, where I hope she returns and stays. Savage also delivers news that York’s business is being forced into bankruptcy. I don’t ask details. He’s done. He’s gone and I’m going to make sure Emma has a million happy memories to drown out every moment she ever spent with that monster.
I don’t know the moment it happens, the moment I can see more than my brother jumping off of that ledge, but I wake up and something inside me has shifted. I sneak out of bed, make coffee and wake Emma up to a steaming hot cup.
She blinks awake and sits up, her brown hair a mussy sexy mess that only makes her more adorable. “This is wonderful.” She sips and then touches my cheek. “How are you?”
I cover her hand on the mug and tilt it to my mouth, sipping before I say, “Better today. I’m sure I’ll have bad moments and days, but I’m ready to fight my way out of this. Let’s plan our Thanksgiving feast. The staff needs it and so do we.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive and invite Chance. We need family right now. And to pick a Christmas tree for the castle and one for the house.”
“A tree the size of a house?” she jokes.
“Bigger,” I promise.
The first tree Emma and I ever picked out together is the centerpiece of a room filled with tables where family and friends enjoy a feast. It’s decorated with unique ornaments, each different because Emma asked everyone who works for our operation to pick one to represent them as part of our family. My father would approve.
I sit at the head of the largest of the round tables, with Emma and Chance by my sides. Jill is present as well as many of our long-term employees. The only one who isn’t here is Emma’s mother, who had a commitment. Her mother is too much like my own.
Christmas music plays in the background. The layout of food is magnificent. The smiles and laughter filling the room from a good fifty guests at various tables surrounding us, good for my soul.
“The tree is really the size of a house,” Emma teases next to me.
“You picked it.”
“We picked it,” she says, lowering her voice. “How are you?”
I cover her hand in mine and bringing it to my mouth, kissing her knuckles. “Remarkably well. Thanks to you.”
She smiles and kisses my hand. “It’s almost time for the chocolate cake. You know how you love chocolate cake.”