Inked Ever After

Inked Ever After by Elle Aycart Page A

Book: Inked Ever After by Elle Aycart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elle Aycart
“Are you okay,
princess?”
    A couple of seconds ticked by. It seemed like an eternity to
James.
    Her no came in a barely audible thread of voice.
    He glanced at her. She was shaking her head, eyes fast
filling with tears.
    James drove the truck to the shoulder and turned off the
engine. Before he could turn to her, she was already crawling onto his lap.
Wrapping herself around him and sobbing.
    “No, I’m not okay, James. Not okay at all.”
    His heart clenched at her admission. “I know, sweetheart.”
    He hated she was in pain, but at the same time he was
fucking relieved she was not hiding it.
    “She couldn’t get out of the restaurant fast enough, James.
Em used to love being in Rosita’s. She was there every night at closing time,”
she began, but then choked up and couldn’t continue.
    It had also been very difficult for Tate to be in Rosita’s,
surrounded by all the memories and the pictures on the walls. But she’d managed
to carve a space of her own there, and he was damn proud of her because of it.
    He cradled her in his arms, murmuring words of love to her
and stroking her back, until she cried herself dry.
    “Em is such a wonderful person, and Jonah was so taken with
her. I always told her she was going to get married before me. Turns out I was
wrong. She moved to Seattle some weeks after the funeral. She was as broken as
the rest of us. Jonah was a ladies’ man, much like Max, but Emma brought him to
his knees in no time. From the moment he saw her, he was gone. They were
together only for six months before he died, but I have no doubt he would have
married her. If he hadn’t been killed, that is.”
    “She seems lovely.”
    She nodded but didn’t say anything for a while, just played
with the neck of his shirt.
    “Em was pregnant when Jonah died,” she finally said, lifting
her pained gaze to him. “I don’t think anyone knew, not even him. Em told Elle
and me. She was so happy. She was planning to tell him but never got a chance.
Jonah would have been ecstatic.” Tate’s smile faltered. “She lost the baby a
month after he died. The doctor said the stress had probably caused the
miscarriage. She was hysterical, kept saying she’d killed Jonah’s baby.”
    He flinched, totally at a loss for words. Fuck.
    Such devastation. Such sorrow. No wonder his woman was
crumbling.
    “I’m fucking sorry, love.” How he wished he could take this
burden from her.
    “I tried to be there for her, I really tried, but I was hanging
on by my last thread too, and at the end she left town. Back then, right after
the funeral, the pain was horrible, James. You can’t imagine. The thought of Em
and Jonah’s baby was the only light in that tunnel. When that light
disappeared, it became so damn dark. Pitch-black. Elle lost it almost as badly
as Em; she was nowhere to be found for two weeks.”
    Yeah, he could see that. Elle was a runner. She pretended
nothing fazed her, but it was a smoke screen. Things cut her deep.
    “It was a good thing we kept it from Mom. It would have
killed her. She was like a walking zombie then, too sedated to comprehend
anything, so she never found out she lost a grandchild too.”
    “Love, I’m sure you did all you could for Em.” For everyone
actually. Taking care of and being strong for them. Trying to keep them afloat
to the point where she all but drowned.
    Her voice broke. “It wasn’t enough. She left.”
    “Sometimes leaving and putting distance is the only way.”
God knew if something happened to Tate and their unborn baby, he would lose his
mind.
    She shook her head. “I’m sure you would have found the way
to do right by everyone.”
    And there it was, her misplaced sense of failure, like it
was her fault she hadn’t been able to keep everyone together.
    “Baby, you did right by them.”
    He wanted to ask her why she hadn’t told him about Em, or
about the baby, but he knew the answer: it was too painful. For four weeks they
had clung to the baby as their

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