Rival Page 92

He took the payoff check off the table, shoved it into her chest, and stood up. “Leave.”

Clutching the envelope, she didn’t even look back at me as she walked out of the ballroom. I felt Madoc squeeze my left hand, and my father took my right.

My husband.

My home.

And I looked around the table . . . my family.

My chest shook with silent hysterical laughter.

“This is so surreal.” Jason wiped his hand over his face as the waiters started clearing the bowls. “I’m not sure how I should feel about all of this,” he mumbled as he stood back up and held out his hand. “Jaxon, thank you. I don’t know what to . . .”

Jax swung and clocked Madoc’s dad right across the jaw, sending him reeling to the ground as everyone straightened in their chair and Katherine yelped.

Silverware clattered and all conversation in the room stopped. Everyone that hadn’t realized what was happening at our table saw us now.

Jason lay on his back, head up off the ground and holding his jaw.

“Jaxon!” Katherine screeched, jumping out of her chair along with Jared and Madoc.

Jax stood by her side, looking down on Madoc’s dad. “You should’ve married her years ago,” he scolded.

He gave Katherine a peck on the cheek and turned, walking away.

Jared, Tate, Madoc, and I took no time leaving the table and running after him. Katherine was getting Jason seated back at the table, and the room was still filled with broken conversation.

“Jax, stop!” Jared yelled.

He pulled to a stop in the foyer, turning around to face us. But I wasn’t going to let Jared yell at him.

“Jax, thank you.” I stepped in. “You shouldn’t have put yourself in that situation for us.” I held the deed with both hands to my chest.

“Don’t sweat it.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, looking very much like the boy I knew and not the threatening presence he had proven himself to be.

I shook my head, tears welling. “I would never want you to . . .”

“It’s fine, Fallon,” he cut me off. “You’re happy, Katherine is happy, and that makes me happy.” He took a deep breath and slapped Madoc on the arm. “See you tomorrow night for the race.”

I saw him jerk his chin at Jared, and he and Tate followed Jax out of the room.

Madoc wrapped his big arms around me, and I looked up him through blurry eyes.

“We’re free,” I whispered.

He took my ass in his hands and lifted me off the ground, slipping his tongue past my lips and kissing me so hard that I had to hold on to his neck.

“No one stops us,” he breathed huskily into my mouth.

No one.

A throat cleared, and I snapped my eyes open as Madoc set me back on the ground.

My father stood there, probably wishing he hadn’t just seen that.

“I’m heading out,” he told me.

Madoc let me go and cleared his throat. “I’ll go check on my dad.”

I smiled to myself and watched him walk away, giving my father and me some space.

I took my father in a hug, instantly cozy and reveling in the smell of leather and Ralph Lauren.

“I’m going to Shelburne Falls for the weekend, but I’ll be back Monday. Will you be in Chicago?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’ll call you for lunch. Both of you,” he added.

I gave him a grateful smile as he started to walk away but then stopped. “Fallon?” He turned back around. “Who is that kid exactly?” He gestured to Jax talking to Jared and Tate just outside the doors.

“Jaxon Trent. He’s Madoc’s friend.”

“What do you know about him?” he asked, still watching Jax.

Not much, unfortunately.

“Um, well, he lives with his half brother’s mother. Dad’s in jail, and his real mom split a long time ago. He’s in his last year of high school. Why?”

He spoke low as if thinking out loud. “He’s a very impressive young man.”

CHAPTER 33

MADOC

“So what is the Loop exactly?” Fallon pulled her baseball cap down over her eyes and lay her head back on the headrest.

“Tate didn’t tell you?”

“I know it’s a race,” she yawned. “But is it a real track or what?”

“You didn’t have to come tonight. I know you’re beat.” I leaned over and rubbed her leg.

“I’m okay.” She tried to sound peppy, even with her eyes closed.

She certainly hadn’t had it easy this week. Aside from the nonstop fun last night of dealing with her mother, her father, and then Jax showing up, she’d gotten married this week and between studying and me keeping her up half the night, her body was crashing. Hard.

We hadn’t gotten to bed until three this morning, and then we woke up early to look at an apartment before driving back to Shelburne Falls. When we got here, we started reorganizing my bedroom to make space for her and her things here.

Even though we liked Chicago, we loved it here more. This is where we’d raise our kids.

Not that I’d talked to her about that yet, but she was getting knocked up as soon as college was over.

She’d agree, of course. No one could say no to me.

“We’re here,” I announced, pulling to the end of the driveway that came up on the Loop. The rounded-square track split to the left and right ahead of us, and I turned off to the right, pulling off the side and backing into a space in the grass.

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