Songbird(4)

By: Maya Banks


Why now? Why were they changing their approach with her? Now, when it was too late. Four years ago she would have given her soul for them to understand, for them to accept her love—for all of them. Sean had understood. Why hadn’t Taggert and Greer?

Her anger surprised her, sudden like a flashflood. For so long she’d felt nothing but overwhelming sorrow and regret, and now the red-hot glow of rage simmered within.

“We never meant to hurt you, Emmy,” Greer whispered close to her ear.

Had he felt her anger? Could he sense it boiling?

Not now. Not here. Maybe never, but definitely not here, trapped with all these people.

“Rest,” Taggert ordered. “Lay off, Greer. There’ll be plenty of time to hash it out when we get home.”

Instead of being irritated at his dictate, she sighed in relief and closed her eyes against Greer’s chest. She willed herself to go to sleep, if for no other reason than to avoid meaningless chitchat, or worse, a conversation that had the potential to reopen old wounds.

She slept deep and dreamlessly, and when she woke to Taggert’s gentle shaking, she had to orient herself to her surroundings. The plane was nearly empty, and Taggert pulled himself out of his seat and into the aisle before reaching a hand back for her.

Still fighting the heavy veil of sleep, she allowed him to pull her from her seat. She stumbled a little, and Tagg caught her with a firm hand to her elbow.

“Easy,” he murmured. “Don’t try to take it too fast.”

She hadn’t slept that hard in a year, and she wondered why now, on an uncomfortable flight? She didn’t have to look too hard for her answer. Taggert and Greer made her feel safe. They always had. Maybe they were right to make her come home, even if it would be the most difficult thing she’d ever done.

Barely aware of her surroundings, she managed to walk dazedly off the plane. She stood at the gate, confused by where to go next. Greer slipped an arm around her waist and urged her forward.

There were no suitcases to collect. Everything she’d taken was shoved into a small overnight bag. She’d opted to just walk away, and maybe that’s what she did best. Run. Tagg and Greer had said they’d take care of her apartment and her belongings, and she let them, too emotionally wrung out to focus on anything more than taking her next breath.

She accepted long ago that she was weak. A strong person would never have existed as she had for the last year. She was a coward who took the path of least resistance, but she recognized her limitations and knew that even if she wanted to be more resilient, she’d fail. She’d died with Sean, only her body was too stupid to realize it.

Greer and Taggert herded her toward the parking area and into a new-looking blue SUV.

“Where’s the Dooley?” she asked faintly. The red, extended cab diesel truck was as much a fixture of the MPR as the Donovan brothers.

Tagg threw the luggage in the back while Greer opened the passenger door for Emily.

“It’s still there. Relegated to the work truck now. She’s seen better days.”

He waited patiently for her to climb in, and then he reached for a pillow lying on the floor behind the driver’s seat. He plumped it and tossed it on the seat.

“Lay down, sweet pea. Get some sleep. You look like you’re in another world. I’ll wake you up when we get home.”

Her eyes were so heavy, she wasn’t sure she could keep them open if she tried, so she settled down on the seat, snuggling her face into the soft pillow.

She dimly registered doors shutting, the engine starting and the SUV rocking into motion. Tagg’s and Greer’s low voices buzzed warmly in her ears, but she couldn’t decipher what they were saying.

Home.

She was going home.

It terrified her and offered her sweet comfort all at the same time.

“I hope we’re doing the right thing,” Greer murmured as he turned to look over his shoulder at a sleeping Emily.

“We are,” Taggert said grimly. “You saw her. Hell, Greer, how much longer was she going to last like that? Did you see the locks she had on the door?”

“Well at least she was smart about her safety,” Greer said.

Taggert scowled. “She should have damn well come home a long time ago. She should have never left.”

“You and I both know why she did,” Greer muttered.

Taggert glanced away, his fingers tight around the steering wheel. Yeah, he knew why she’d left. Why she couldn’t stay. Why she and Sean made a life away from the ranch. Why she’d ended up Sean’s wife in the first place.

He’d made mistakes. No question. But that didn’t mean Emily was going to keep paying for them. Four years was a long time. The last year had been hell on all of them, but especially Emily. Sweet, delicate Emily with the voice of an angel and a heart to match.

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