By: Maya Banks

“I told Frank I couldn’t do it anymore,” she cracked out. “He knows. I told him not to look for me. I can’t—won’t—sing.”

“You think that’s all he cares about?” Taggert asked. “He’s your manager, but that doesn’t mean he’s a complete mercenary asshole. He’s worried sick over you. We all are.”

“Tagg, enough,” Greer warned.

Taggert threw up one hand and turned away, his entire body simmering with frustration. Then he turned back around and pinned her with the force of his stare. Warm, liquid chocolate. She’d always loved his eyes. They made his already dark looks even darker, but she’d never been afraid of him. He’d always been her Tagg, and she’d always loved him.

“Come here, damn it,” he said gruffly.

She only hesitated a moment before she walked into his arms. He hugged her fiercely, stealing her breath with the force of his grip. But God, for the first time in a year, she felt safe.

His breath whispered roughly over her hair, her only signal of the turmoil that rolled beneath his tough exterior.

“Goddamn it, Emmy, what were you thinking?”

She couldn’t answer. The words were lodged in her throat, so thick and swollen she feared choking. She concentrated on breathing, taking in his solid strength and the crisp, clean smell of his shirt. He still used the same detergent, the same plain deodorant. No frills, no aftershave, no cologne.

He pried her away from him, holding her shoulders as he stared down at her.

“You’re coming home with us.”

She opened her mouth, to say what, she wasn’t sure, but he silenced her with one hard stare.

“No arguments. Greer and I aren’t taking no for an answer. You belong at home. Sean would want you there. Not locked away here in some strange city, afraid to leave your apartment. You aren’t living. You’re barely existing.”

Oh no, she wouldn’t lose her composure now. Would not give in to the grief slicing her insides up. It had been a year. She could hear Sean’s name without reacting as though she’d been slapped.

“He’s right, Songbird,” Greer said in a soft, soothing voice.

He couldn’t know how much the endearment hurt. It, more than Sean’s name, sent splinters of agony washing through her body.

She closed her eyes and swayed in Taggert’s grip, biting her lip, welcoming the pain as a distraction.

“Don’t call me that,” she rasped. “Never again.”

Taggert caught her chin in his fingers and feathered his thumb across her jaw. “You will sing again, Emmy. In time. When you’re ready.”

She shook her head mutely, but he just held firm and stared back at her as if infusing her with his will.

“Yes, you will. You’re coming home. You’ll heal. You’ll live again. You’ll sing.”

Chapter Two

“We should have driven,” Taggert muttered. He sank lower in his seat as the plane began its taxi.

“Why didn’t you?” Emily asked curiously as she glanced over at him. Taggert’s dislike of flying was hardly secret. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time he’d willingly got on a plane.

“We were in a hurry to get to you,” Greer said.

She looked down at her hands, surprised at how numb she still was even after being dragged out of her apartment by the two brothers. It was all a little surreal, and at any moment she expected to wake up staring at her plain white ceiling just like every other day.

Taggert reached over and folded his hand over hers, his thumb rubbing over the side of her wrist.

“You had to know we’d come, Emmy.”

She swallowed but couldn’t say anything. She hadn’t known they’d come. They’d made their feelings and wishes perfectly clear four years ago. They couldn’t have been any clearer.

Greer sighed and shifted uncomfortably, his knees pressing into the seat in front of him.

“Lean over on me and get some sleep,” he directed. “You look like you could use some rest, and it’s a long-ass flight.”

With the armrests up on either side of her, leaning into either man was easy. Greer shifted his arm up and over her, and she nestled into the crook of his shoulder.

Taggert kept hold of her hand, and it struck her that this was the only time in years either man had allowed himself to touch her. Oh, there’d been casual, quick hugs. Perfunctory kisses on the cheek when she and Sean made the trip back, but the trips became fewer when she could no longer bear the strain and Sean couldn’t bear to see her unhappy.

Because of her, he’d left the only place he’d ever called home, and he’d never gotten the chance to go back until they brought him to Mountain Pass in a casket.

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