Authors: Aimee Carson
Blake ran his finger up one line of puckered skin and back down the other, leaving her body aching with need, her breath frozen in her throat as he finally went on. “But you hardly impress me as the virginal type,” he said.
Imagine if he were privy to the unholy thoughts racing through her mind now?
The secret urges ramped her heart rate higher. “So tell me, Suit,” she said as lightly as she could. “What exactly is a virgin supposed to act like? An innocent, frightened and confused by the feelings a man stirs when he's near?” She almost rolled her eyes at the ridiculously old-fashioned notion before lifting her brow higher, ignoring her thrumming body. “Or should I be outraged that you have the audacity to touch my chaste skin?” she asked with a wry tone.
She might be a virgin, but she refused to let the technicality define her. She wasn't afraid or confused. And she certainly wasn't outraged.
As if he didn't quite believe her claim, a slow smile of entertainment lifted his lips. “Let's put it this way,” he said as his thumb continued to stroke her skin. “The first time we met, you performed a provocative dance to a hip-hop song on the courthouse lawn. The second time we met, you were behind bars.” He pursed his lips, his eyes growing dark. “So it's safe to say you haven't exactly been giving off many virginal vibes.”
She held his heated gaze, refusing to acknowledge the heady feel of his thumb against her wrist, the wild longing to return the caress. But the slight part of her mouth as she fought for air must have given her away.
Because his words came out rough. “And you're definitely not giving off virginal vibes now.”
His gaze briefly moved down to the rapid rise and fall of her breasts, and then back to her face, gray eyes radiating an intensity that had had her on edge from the moment they'd met. She could read everything. The hesitation. The hint of wariness. But, most important, the frank desire. And then his gaze settled on her lips, weakening her resolve not to touch him.
The heat from the hand that cupped her arm spread to every corner of her body, concentrating in her most sensitized parts. Leaving her feeling soft. Compliant. And damp.
Melting her resolve to thank him and bolt,
she did something stupid.
“I can see you're thinking about kissing meâ” Jax said, the words breaking at a slight catch in her voice. “But I know you well enough by now to realize you won't go through with it.”
“What makes you think I won't?” he said.
“Because you're far too disciplined to let your lust run away with your emotions.”
Although the heat in his eyes seared her to the soul, he said, “Agreed.”
The flash of disappointment slashed deep. “Too bad.”
And while his agreement wasn't a surprise, that didn't make the words any easier to hear. She had wants.
Like the overwhelming desire to drive a man to distraction, despite the marks on her body, the visual reminders of her past. The hope that someone, someday, would lose his head over Jacqueline Lee, scars and all. Instituting a temporary embargo on men hadn't been easy, even after Jack's defection. But she'd never met anyone quite like Blake.
And if making love to him out, then she at least deserved a kiss.
Finally abandoning the vow to keep her hands to herselfâa hopeless goal, in retrospectâshe reached up with her free arm and clutched his shirt, knuckles pressed against his hard chest. Blake allowed her to pull him closer. Which was a good thing, because with their height difference, without that little bit of cooperation she'd never reach his mouth.
And if one kiss was all she was gonna get, then she intended to make damn sure it was a good one....
* * *
The attraction that had slammed into him the day they'd met, the fierce need that repeatedly brought him to his figurative knees, returned with a vigor that stunned Blake with its intensity. The moment Jax's hand had landed on his chest, time had contracted, becoming more vivid and defined, his world reduced to the sensory input of the beautiful woman. He was mesmerized by her wild tawny hair and the seductive hazel eyes. Captivated by the insistent hand against his chest and the soft skin of her arm beneath his fingers.
Troubled by the raised scars beneath his thumb.
Heart thumping, he absently traced the well-healed marks, fighting his overworked libido as his mind furiously grappled with the physical proof that, at one time, Jax hadn't been the strong, to-hell-with-the-world woman that stood before him now. In light of her history, he wasn't surprised her adolescent years had been fraught with the occasional destructive behavior. But it was a true testament to her amazing resilience that the self-harming had been limited to the two scarsâthe rest of her arms and legs were silky smooth and scar-free. No wonder she cultivated a carpe diem attitude and longed to feel like a virgin again, untouched. Innocent. And free from the weight of her past. He'd never met such a complicated woman.
And those complexities made her all that more attractive.
Heat coursed through his body as her gaze radiated a come-hither look mixed with an emotional honesty that had enchanted him from the moment they'd met. Knowing his arguments were growing weaker by the minute, he mentally listed them anyway. She wasn't his type. She didn't fit with his life, because, between the Menendez case and his sister, life was too full already. And Jax was pure trouble, the hellion on heels a walking, talking disaster on the move. Which didn't mean he couldn't sleep with her, but it absolutely meant that he
But, try as he might, Blake couldn't pull his gaze from the delicate part of her lips or stop his thumb from tracing her scars. But he'd be damned before he'd let his fascination with the woman seduce him, or let his lust dictate whom he slept withâ
Jax rose up on her toes and placed her mouth on his lips.
Paralyzed, Blake fought the need to crush her supple body against his, concentrating on the taste of caramel. The smell of citrus from her hair. The soft skin now gripped firmly in his hand, covering the tattoo that was wholly inappropriate.
Because there was nothing virginal about the way Jax was kissing him. It was the kiss of a woman who knew what she was doing. And knew what she wanted, as well.
His heart pounded harder as she moved her mouth with a purpose, parting her lips just enough to tease him with the promise of more heat. The teasing hint of her tongue. Kisses that were warm and moist and soft and steeped in the unique flavor of Jax. His body craved more, and he slanted his head a bit, allowing her slightly better access.
Jax melted against him, full breasts plastered against his chest as her tongue took a bolder taste of his, demanding he reciprocate.
Pulse throbbing, he grew hard, making restraint difficult to maintain as he indulged in a mind-boggling erotic fantasy. Blake's brain swirled with images of him walking her backward into the cabin of his boat, stripping her out of her clothes, pinning her tattoo-adorned arm over her head and burying himself between those toned, tanned legs. Consuming her in every way imaginable.
She wouldn't say no, but would embrace the act of making love just like she embraced everything else about life. Wholeheartedly. Without reservation. And with a passion that would be impossible to forget.
Her lips moved against his in an act that grew more insistent, more impossible to resist as time wore on, calling to him. Weakening his good sense. Until he knew if he didn't put an end to the kiss, he
make love to her. Right here.
And right now...
With a silent curse and a loud protest from his raging libido, Blake gripped Jax's shoulders and gently but firmly set her back.
Whoops and cheers and a shout of “Go, Ms. Lee” came from the distance, and Blake glanced up to see the two guitar students watching them from the pool deck, clearly delighted by the scene.
Chest still heaving, Jax stared up at him, gaze hot, and said, “Did I scare you, Suit?”
Her sassy words shoved him closer to the edge.
“No,” he said, his voice disconcertingly gruff.
If he were smart, he'd be afraid. But fear wasn't the reason for the adrenaline careening through his veins. No, the current wild surge of blood was in response to a need that threatened to be his undoing. And despite the desire that still raged, his brow crinkled in resigned amusement.
“But I hope that demonstration wasn't another one of those life lessons for your students,” he said, and she narrowed her eyes at him.
Lips pressed in a determined line, fighting both a smile and the urge to take her feisty, luscious mouth again, Blake turned back to the rail and picked up his brush.
* * *
She'd kissed him.
A week later and her mind still churned from the interlude, so Jax leaned back against the chaise longue and tried to relax. The turquoise waters of the pool stretched out at her feet, the waterfall gurgling nearby. And beyond the deck on the far side, the surface of the bay sparkled in the sun. Nikki was sitting at a patio table reading while her mother fixed sandwiches for lunch and prepared a homemade apple pieâa new recipe Abigail Bennington wanted to try after her week away at a cooking institute. The smell was unusual. Nikki had warned Jax to insist on a small slice, and Abigail had feigned outrage at the indirect insult. Jax found the two women endearing.
So she should feel at ease and relaxed. But she wasn't. Because she'd kissed Blake and he hadn't kissed her back. Okay, so he hadn't pushed her away exactly, but his participation had been minimal. And if that wasn't enough of an ego thrasher, he'd been avoiding her ever since.
In the past week, only twice had he made it home from the office in time for dinner.
Jax had stayed busy with Nikki, the brunette helping her kick-start a phone campaign searching for donors for the club. They'd also managed a short shopping excursion and an afternoon at the beach, Nikki's red bikini matching her dragon cast tattoo. Today Jax had driven Nikki to the doctor, who'd declared she had at least three more weeks in the cast. But even one more day spent being avoided by Blake felt like torture.
All thanks to the constant flame burning in her body since The Kiss.
A spark that refused to die.
Considering she'd made a vow to be strong until she found someone who was right for herâsomeone who didn't consider Jacqueline Lee a
loonâshe should be grateful Blake had the ability to control what she couldn't.
From behind her, Nikki called out in greeting. “Blake, my long-lost big bro.”
Jax's heart surged, but she refused to turn and watch him approach, dreading seeing him again. Disgusted with the cowardly thoughts, Jax flopped over onto her stomach and buried her head in her crossed arms.
Right now, she wasn't sure what annoyed her more, her ambivalent feelings about his appearance, or his cool control. Was he here simply to torture her? To rub her face in the knowledge that she had made a pass at him and he'd pushed her away? On edge, and unable to lie still now that he was present, Jax rose and dived into the pool.
A jolt of cool water closed around her overheated body, giving her the shock she needed, clearing her head. She set off across the pool, freestyle.
Of course he hadn't come to see her. He was here to eat lunch with his mother and sister, to check up on his family because he was a no-nonsense kinda guy who believed in responsibility. Duties. Sane, rational decisions. And since Mr. Self-Control's will was so strong, she should use that in her favor. After several laps, her muscles fatigued from the work, she'd finally calmed a bit. Maybe she was ready to face him now?
But Blake saved her the trouble of deciding.
On her last lap, she broke the surface of the water and looked up to find him staring down at her, suit coat unbuttoned to reveal a blue dress shirt and lean hips, her beach towel in his hand.
“Enjoying the water?” he said from above.
“I was,” she said, with meaningful emphasis on the second word. She dropped her gaze and crossed her arms on the pool edge, taking comfort in the warm tile and the less disturbing sight of his expensive-looking black leather shoes.
His knees came into view as he squatted down, the muscles in his legs bunching, stretching the crease in those perfectly pressed trousers.
Everything about the man was perfectly pressed, including his libido.
Irritation surged. “Aren't you afraid you'll ruin your suit so close to the pool?”
“Not at all.” A small lift of his broad shoulders came and went. “It's just a suit.”
“If you can afford to pay too much for your clothes, only to treat them so cavalierly, surely you can afford your own towel.” She nodded her head toward his hand closed around the fabric. “That one's mine.”
He glanced at the cloth he clutched. “I'm aware of that. The picture of The Doors was a dead giveaway.” Holding it out, he hiked an eyebrow expectantly. “I'm bringing it to you.”
Her brain buzzed at his proximity and the sensual awareness in his eyes. She bit her lip, wishing she hadn't chosen the one-piece swimsuit that showed off her cleavage. “How kind,” she said, not meaning the words. “But it's arrogant of you to assume I'm finished with my swim.”
Lips twitching, he steadily held her gaze and didn't move. “Lunch is ready.”
Obviously, he wanted her to get out of the pool.
Frowning, her stomach in turmoil, she pressed her lips flat. The swim had been a waste. An eternity wouldn't be long enough to face Blake across the table in a bathing suit.
“I'm not hungry yet,” she said.
“Trust me,” he said drily. “Eating my mother's food has little to do with hunger. In my house, it's a duty.”
“Well, then,” she said, sending a forced, brilliantly false smile up at him. “I know you are a very busy and very important man. With so many criminals to lock up and all. So please, feel free to get started without me.”
His head dipped a fraction to the right. Was that a challenge she saw in his eyes? The tone of his voice affirmed the answer to the question.
“You wouldn't want your food to get cold,” he said, his eyes intense.
With the way he was looking at her, even the coming of a second ice age would prevent her food from getting cold. And how could he gaze at her like that? As if he wanted her but still had the power to control it. To walk away.
Damn it. A week ago he
“It's chicken salad,” she said. “It's supposed to be cold.”
A ghost of a grin came and went on those sexy lips, leaving her heart knocking harder in her chest. Shoot. Why was she so susceptible to the rare sighting of one of his smiles?
Perhaps because they did beautiful things to his handsome face.
He glanced up at the cloudless sky, the powder-blue brilliant in the midday sun. “Very well,” he said with a patient tone. The kind that communicated a steely reserve that brooked no concession of wills. “You wouldn't want your chicken salad to get hot.”
The jumble of nerves knotted in her stomach pulled tighter, and Jax swallowed hard, her mouth set. “You're not going to go away until I get out of this pool, are you?”
The gray eyes assessing hers from above sparked like flint on steel, and glowed, rivaling the sun. “No,” he said as he stood, lowering his free hand toward her. “I'm not.”
The knocking in her chest grew more insistent as Jax clutched the pool ledge. Gripping her lower lip between her teeth, she placed her palm in his. The strong hand around hers left her lungs hungry for breath, her body wanting more of his touch. She braced her foot on the pool wall, and Blake lifted her effortlessly.
Standing beside him, water rushed down her skin and pooled at her feet. Her one-piece gently cupped her breasts, emphasizing the curves. And even though the cut was relatively modest by today's standards, his perusal made her feel naked. Exposed. And the last time she'd stood exposed in front of man, her body completely bared before Jack, he'd looked at her in horror.
She laid a soothing hand on her belly and bit back the awful memory that killed her libido.
But Blake's colorless eyes swept down her body and back, resurrecting the thrill. His expression was neutral, but his eyes burned brighter than ever. “Nice suit.”
She pulled her towel from his hand. “There's no need to check up on me,” she said. She swiped the towel down her trunk, annoyed that she felt flustered. “I'd hate to put a crimp in your schedule.”
Forehead lined with a mixture of amusement and feigned surprise, Blake said, “You seemed fairly eager for my company last week.”
“I'll plead the Fifth Amendment.”
“I think an insanity plea might be more fitting.”
“For my actions? Or for yours?”
“Both, I suspect.” Though simmering with a latent heat, his intense eyes were extraordinarily steady as he studied her. “Regardless, why are you in such a big hurry to get rid of me today?”
Because she wanted him with an intensity that was embarrassing.
“Unexpected change of heart.” Fingers fumbling with nerves, it took several attempts to successfully knot the towel at her waist. “It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind. So...” She waved a hand in the air, as if he were a stray cat she could shoo away. “You can get back to your work now.” Parking the hand on her hip, she added, “No need to stay.”
His lips quirked in humor. “But I'm hungry. I worked up an appetite formulating my defense strategy to keep you from getting locked away.”
He turned and placed a hand on her arm, eliciting a zing of sultry sensations as he propelled her toward the table. Steam had to be rising from her skin.
“Besides, Ms. Lee,” he said smoothly, “there's a rather significant problem with your change of heart.”
If he hadn't been steadying her, Jax would have tripped when he said, “Apparently I've grown addicted to your company.”
* * *
At a quarter to midnight, Blake upped the speed on the treadmill in his exercise room, his feet pounding out his frustration and the pent-up sexual energy. Sweat clung to his body as he deliberately ignored the knowledge that Jax slept in his guest cottage.
Despite being five miles beyond his usual goal, he wasn't near ready to end his punishing run. The memory of her lovely hips in a bathing suit drove his relentless pace. The remembered sight of her breasts so seductively displayed pushed him harder. But it was her heated gaze in response to his addiction confession that compelled him to keep going.
Lips set grimly, he turned up the speed and stretched his legs farther, eating up more of the nonexistent miles as he pushed himself, his muscles howling in protest. In truth, he had no one to blame but himself, since today he'd been the one to seek
out...all because the grueling pace of his life was starting to wear him down.
The stifling fist of responsibility tightened its grip in his chest.
The pace he'd set for himself at work and keeping Nikki out of troubleâand fixing the mess when she
âwere taking a toll, sapping all hope for relaxation. So far, Jax had been the busiest, most delicious complication precipitated by his little sister to date. But he'd made the rare appearance at lunch today because he'd suddenly felt the need for a little levity. The kind of lightness and good humor that Jax always provided.
Even when she was being a total pain.
But the double-edged sword cut deep, her presence reminding him of how she'd taken him with her eyes and her mouth on his boat, triggering fantasies of her in his bed. He hadn't been able to banish the treacherous visions since they'd first arrived, threatening his sanity.
Visions of Jax opening beneath him.
Visions of her body arching to accept his.
Burning with frustration, he stabbed the off button on the treadmill and hopped off, heading down the hall and into his bedroom, not bothering to turn on the light. Maybe a cold shower would ease the fiery need. But when he paused at the window, the lights from the guest cottage reached out to him in the dark night.
Jax wasn't asleep. She was awake.
Hand fisted tight, he braced his arm against the window, the war being waged within growing fierce. The battle bloody. He could no more deny his need for Jax than he could change all the circumstances that made a relationship with her a massive mistake. Which meant it was time to admit what he'd been fighting all along: sex with Jax was unavoidable.
A frown crossed his face. Sleeping with her might be a given, but the event would have to wait until
he was done with the Menendez case. He couldn't afford any distractions. Too much was riding on his success.
Sweat trickled down his back, cooling his body in the air-conditioning, but the fire that burned for Jax refused to die. And waiting even five more minutes to taste the reckless woman seemed too much to ask.
A shadow passed by a window in the cottage, and Blake's heart pumped faster.
Chest heaving, he hated that even a vague sighting of her left him champing at the bit, his body straining and growing hard. Insisting on satisfaction.
Burning for release.
With a muttered curse, Blake closed his eyes and gave in, his hand sliding beneath the waistband of his shorts, closing around the part of him that would not be denied. And, picturing Jax's smoky gaze and that bold, sassy mouth, Blake gave in to the need.