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“Go and fix your makeup. I see the Bentley. Jax is waiting.” He leans over me to stare out the window.

“Brance?” I grab his arm and drag him away from Lilly and Luke.

“I have a bad feeling. Like I know this is going to be horrific!” I’m in a full panic.

He grabs me by the shoulders. “Not now. Not in front of them.” He motions to the twins with his eyes. I look over at them. Luke is still blissfully playing while Lilly watches us, too smart for her own good. Her green eyes look away and I snarl at Brance, “Do not take your eyes off them.”

“Tess, he is not going to kidnap them. It’s his grandfather’s funeral.”

“You don’t know that. We have no idea what he is capable of, remember?” I hiss.

He sighs, rubbing the back of his neck.

“You two ready? The doors are opening.” We both glance over at Jay. He gives me a nod.

Don’t show him weakness. Jay’s words replay in my head.

Squaring my shoulders back, I grab my bag. Not even bothering with a mirror, I slather on some lip gloss. “I’m ready.”

But I’m not ready. I’ll never be ready. “Wait.” I look at my children. “Do you need to use the potty?” Lilly has been potty trained since two. Luke got the hang of it last month.

“Nope, I just went,” Lilly says as she tries to wiggle her hand in my purse. She pulls out some lip gloss.

“Honey, not today. No lip gloss.” She pouts as I take it away. I look at Brance, who is staring at her like she is a genius. “Can you help?”

He chuckles. “Come on, princess. I think I saw Uncle Jax.” He takes her hand, helping her put on her glittery unicorn backpack.

“What if he tries to take them away?” I try to breathe as I put on Luke’s backpack.

His angry gaze swings to mine. “We can afford lawyers who are at least as good as his. Let him try,” he whispers.

The doors open with a smooth swish. Jay exits first, then Brance and Lilly.

Looking down at Luke, I smile reassuringly. “Ready?”

“I have to go pee-pee.” He jumps from one foot to the other.

I almost cry; my nerves are completely shot. “Such a good boy, Luke. Let’s hurry, though. Your sister is already outside.” I quickly pull him into the bathroom, almost unable to pull his pants down fast enough. My mind is in a frenzy. Lilly is with Brance. He would kill for her. She’s safe.

“Come on, baby, it’s time.” Quickly helping him wash his hands, I don’t even bother to take time to put his backpack on. I swing it over my shoulder along with my purse and drag Luke down the stairs, needing to get to my daughter.

“Mommy, your face is wet,” Luke tells me.

“Mommy’s a little tired. We’ll get some food when we get to the hotel.” I smile.

“Good, I’m hungwy.” His dimples peek at me. Glancing away, I focus on finding Lilly.

Jax has her in his arms. Brance is standing next to him, watching.

I sigh with relief. Brance is right—I do have to pull myself together. Taking the last step, I let go of Luke’s hand and let him run to his uncle.

Slowly I make my way to them. Jax has both of them in his arms and kneels down so that he is on their level. Lilly is talking nonstop and Luke is crawling on his back.

“Hey, Jax.” I give a him a sad smile when he looks up at me. His turquoise eyes look tired.

“Tess.” He stands, taking Luke with him on his back and picking up Lilly. She squeals with delight, happily wrapping her arms around his neck. He looks away from me, focusing on Lilly and Luke.

“So…” Brance yells over an airplane taking off. Luke looks up at the plane, his eyes so alive with knowledge.

“Tess and I are going to take Luke and Lilly to the hotel and get checked in,” he informs Jax, who ignores him and continues to play with the twins.

Frowning, I say, “Jax?”

And then I know. Dread like a deadly snake slithers up my spine.

Jay opens the back door of the Bentley. Fear takes over my body. I’m frozen. This can’t be happening. I’m not ready.

I know why Jax is ignoring me, concentrating only on his niece and nephew.

I don’t have to look over to see him. I can feel him. That pull, like a magical string that never fully snapped. My eyes swing to Jax’s, my mind still trying to absorb that he is going to know. Frantically I snatch Lilly out of his traitorous arms. But Luke is still on Jax’s back.

“Tess… I warned you. Tried to reason with you.”

I want to scream. Instead I snarl, “Give me my son, Jax.”

“He’s fine, Tess. Relax.” His voice is completely calm.

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