It was raining. Jax choked back a laugh as he thought of how cliché it was for Mother Nature to let it rain during Vivian's funeral.
"Even the sky is weeping for her," a male voice whispered to Jax.
He turned to see his brother, Carter, dressed in a black and gray suit, his shaggy blonde curls almost covering his cerulean eyes.
"I'd believe that before I believe the folks downstairs were crying for her," Jax said. "I'm not sure Vivian even knew half the people down there." He looked towards the sea of darkly clad guests, each making their way around the room...networking.
"Bastards," Jax muttered. "Not every social gathering should be an opportunity."
"You'll be a lawyer someday. You'll know the importance of making the most of every moment as well. It's what people like us do. They're probably friends of her parents," Carter shrugged. "Why are you hiding upstairs?"
"Who said I'm hiding?" Jax avoided his brother's pensive stare. "Stop looking at me like that."
"Like I'm about to break into a million pieces. I'm not some Faberge egg. I'm not fragile."
A slight grin tugged at the corner of Carter's mouth, "What a shame. I was really hoping to see it."
"To see what?"
"My great big brother cracking a bit," Carter turned his glance back towards Vivian's parents. They were still shocked at the news of their daughter being murdered. The murderer was still on the loose. The police had told them that she was probably murdered for her engagement ring as it was missing.
"Cracking? Why would you want to see that?" Jax took a deep breath and reminded himself where he was at. He loved his brother, but Carter's specialty had always been riling him up.
"Oh, I don't know. Everyone's saying that if you hadn't proposed to her, she'd still be alive. You must have bad luck, Jax. You asked a woman to marry you in the morning and by evening...well you know. It's not something most people could deal with. I guess I just wanted to see that my brother was a human after all. Sometimes I'm convinced that you're some kind of Superman. Or maybe Batman. He was rich, right?"
"Stop with the fake compliments. You know you're smarter than me."
"Am I?" Carter mused, slightly loosening his dark tie. "You were the one that got all the girls."
"Only because you were too busy studying. Vivian used to come over every day to tutor you," Jax smiled at the memory.
"I wasn't being studious."
"No? Then why need a tutor every day? Most teenage boys want to date not study."
"Maybe I was trying to do both," Carter said softly.
Jax turned his head towards his younger brother, the realization of what he was saying a surprise, "Carter...did you-"
"I saw her first, you know."
Jax didn't know. He stepped closer to his brother who was leaning against the heavy wooden banister of the stairs, "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I didn't realize my older brother was making a move on my tutor until it was too late. I guess it's for the best though...considering what happened. At least now I won't have to look at the two of you anymore."
"I know I shouldn't be saying this now that Vivian's gone, but sometimes I wonder if things would be different if she had liked me instead of you."
Jax couldn't speak. He was still shocked by his brother's admission. He wiped a hand over his already grief-worn face. His emotions were overwhelming him.
"Who would've thought we had the same taste in women?" Carter gave a ghost of a grin.
"I didn't," Jax managed to answer.
"You, me, and her murderer...all had the same taste in women."
Jax's eyes widened at his brother's statement, "What did you just say?"
"How does it feel Jax? To propose to a woman in the morning and find out she died in the evening? Why weren't you with her big brother? You're the reason she's gone."
Fury rose up in Jax like a tidal wave and he grabbed his younger brother's collar before turning him and shoving him against a wall, "Shut the Hell up. You don't know what you're talking about."
His brother chuckled, "Don't I? You got the girl but you didn't keep her safe, Jax. I guess we'll have to wait until the police find her engagement ring to know who killed her. The engagement ring you gave her."
"If you liked her, then you should've asked her out before I did. Don't cry over it now that she's gone. That's pathetic, Carter."
"Pathetic? Yes, I suppose it is. Do you mind letting me go now?" Carter asked as he looked down at Jax's hands.
Jax shoved his brother's body against the wall one more time, "Watch what you say, Carter."
As soon as his brother let go of him, Carter straightened his clothing, "You always were a tough guy."
"I'm not sure why you're bringing up your old crush on Vivian now, but it's not the time," Jax ran a hand through his frazzled hair.
"Don't worry. I just had to get that out of my system. You should try it sometime," Carter stepped closer to his brother. "It'll make you feel better. I promise."
"Getting rid of whatever's upsetting you. Once the problem is gone, you'll feel so much better."
Jax frowned, "What are you talking about? Are you saying you're upset with me because I dated Vivian?"
Carter straightened his brother's tie, "You're my brother. I love you. I forgave you years ago when it came to her. You'd do the same for me, wouldn't you?"
"Are you okay, Carter?"
"Wouldn't you, Jax?" his brother asked again.
"Of course I would. We're family," Jax felt his brother's hands leave his necktie.
"That's right. We're family. We have to forgive each other no matter what we do, don't we?" Carter didn't wait for an answer, but walked away, leaving Jax alone to wonder what the Hell his brother had been talking about and why he had hidden his feelings for Vivian for so long.
After squashing his suspicious thoughts about his brother and deciding that Carter was just acting strangely because of his grief, Jax decided to visit Vivian's room. As he approached the door, he heard someone humming. It was a happy tune which sent a chill down his spine. The door was slightly ajar and Jax silently pushed it open.
Next to Vivian's dresser was the figure of a man rummaging through her clothing. Jax watched the man lift one of her shirts and bring it up to his face before inhaling deeply. His back was towards Jax but Jax recognized the black and gray suit.
His brother turned; the shirt still in his hands and smiled.
Jax cringed. His brother's smile was eerie, almost maniacal. "Carter what are you doing in here?"
Jax watched as his brother gently laid the shirt back in its place before walking towards him. He grabbed Jax's hand, placed something in it, and leaned forward, "She was a lot of fun. Tell mom and dad goodbye for me."
Before Jax could speak, his brother had left him. Jax looked down at his open palm to see what his brother had given him. In his hand was Vivian's engagement ring.
Thank you for reading! Please go check out my paranormal thriller Uninvited. It's got ghosts, a murder mystery, and maybe even some romance. ;) ❤
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DreamscapeMystery / Thriller
(BOOK II IN THE DREAM SERIES) All her life, Dani Deleon has been plagued by other people's nightmares. When she starts to see the nightmares of a woman that's gone missing, she enlists the help of Detective Jax Michaels. Together, the two end up at...