“I have been just as upfront with you.”
“You didn’t want to tell me about the envelope.”
“But I did. I would have, even if you hadn’t overheard my talk with Savage.” His hands settle on my neck, just under my hair, and he tilts my gaze to his. “I didn’t want you to be scared in my home. I want you to want to be here.”
“I do. I do want to be here.”
“And I want you to keep wanting to be here. That’s all. I wasn’t hiding anything. I was protecting you.”
“Protect me by being by my side, dealing with all the facts. When I said that I’m used to being alone, that’s true, but what’s also true is my ability to handle shit that gets thrown at me. I can handle whatever is in that envelope.”
“And yet, you tried to run.”
“I’m standing right here now, Jax.” My voice lowers and vibrates, as I add, “I’m standing right here.”
His expression softens. “I know, baby.”
“Do you? Because—”
“I know,” he repeats, and his phone has not only stopped ringing, it’s started all over again. “I better grab the call.”
I nod, and reluctantly, it seems, he steps away from me, snatching up his pants from the side of the tub and removing his phone. Folding my arms in front of me, I hug myself, waiting for where this call might lead us. The truth is that the light in the sea of loss and pain has been Jax. I’ve been living in hell, and he’s pulled me back into the light. I dread the envelope. I dread what someone knows that I don’t know. I suck in a breath, holding it, as I watch Jax answer the call, waiting for what feels like the end.
At the sight of Jill’s number on my caller ID, I’m instantly on edge again, which is why I don’t turn around to face Emma. The timing of this call, right after me finding that envelope, does not sit well. “This is Jax,” I answer.
“Why do you always do that?” she demands. “I know you see the caller ID. I know you know it’s me.”
I rotate to face Emma, who’s kneeling next to her suitcase. Her eyes find mine, a question in their depths that I answer by saying, “It’s early, Jill.” I watch a mix of relief and disappointment flicker across her delicate features. She’s worried about what’s inside the envelope, and she’s both relieved that I don’t have bad news and disappointed to remain in the dark. Her apprehension drives my irritation at Jill, which as of late, has grown exponentially. “What do you need?” I ask.
“Do you know how rude you sound?”
She’s right. I do, and while I’d normally apologize, I can’t shake the feeling that she’s guilty. Of what I don’t know, but she’s pushing my buttons. As if proving that point, she makes a disgusted sound. “I could say a few things to you but I won’t, considering Kent Sawyer’s here.”
At the name certain to cause problems for me and Emma, I rotate and exit the bathroom, removing myself from Emma’s astute inspection. “How the hell does he know that I’m here?” I ask, grabbing the remote by the bed and opening the blinds, an overcast morning limiting the light spilling into the room.
“I have no clue, and if that question assumes that I told him, I didn’t. Maybe Brody did. He’s been off his rocker since he got here yesterday.”
“Brody deals with his retail locations.”
“It’s a small town, and they’re both in town a day earlier than expected. That feels off to me, but you know, you don’t seem to value my opinion these days, so ignore me. He’s presently in the library, sipping the coffee I had delivered to him from the kitchen.”
I scrub my jaw. “Buy me twenty minutes.”
“I already did. I told him you’re at the plant with an inspector. As far as he’s concerned, you might be hours.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” I repeat, and hang up, tossing my phone on the bed. This isn’t an accident. Someone, maybe Jill, knew Emma was here and set me up.
I rotate to find Emma already dressed in black jeans and a black turtleneck sweater, her hair wet and loose at her shoulders. Her bare feet display pink painted toenails that actually have my cock twitching. Toenail paint is turning me on. Considering my present state of undress and the visitor waiting on me, my gaze jerks to Emma’s bare face, and she’s more beautiful than ever. I’m falling in love with her. I can’t deny it. I don’t want to deny it.
I close the space between me and her, catching her fingers with mine. “I have an unexpected visitor, a business meeting. I have to dress and go handle this. Then, there’s a place down the road my father used to take us for breakfast; I’d like to take you there.”