Her tone was unconcerned. But then again, it wasn’t her car. Or maybe the many dents in her old Beetle were from a tire iron, as well.
His lips twisted wryly. “Thanks for the warning,” he said, following her inside.
They headed deeper into the building, passing clusters of kids of various ages and ethnicities. Although they eyed Blake with suspicion, each group was clearly excited to see Jax, some of the preteens rushing to give her a hug. The older ones were too cool for outward displays of affection, but beneath their ribbing and sarcastic comments lay a fondness that was impossible to miss.
And with each acknowledgment, Jax grew more relaxed, her previous tension evaporating as she ruffled heads and dispensed smiles, heading for the stairwell on the far side of the gym. They passed a contentious game of basketball involving a dozen lanky male adolescents, and several called out in greeting to Jax, joking about her arrest. She waved in reply and returned each verbal jab with a quip of her own, obviously knowing each kid’s history, leaving the players laughing as she started up the narrow stairway to the second floor.
“I’ll just swing by the office and check my mail,” she said to Blake. “I also need to get my guitar from my locker.”
“A guitar?” He wasn’t particularly surprised by her choice of instrument, and he tried hard to ignore the delicious curve of her backside, the seductive sway of hips just several steps in front of him as their footsteps echoed in the small, shabby stairwell. “Do you take requests?”
She kept her back to him. “I doubt I know anything you’d like to hear.”
“How about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’?”
Surprise brought her head around with a jerk. “‘Free Bird’?” Her eyebrows lowered in doubt, and her footsteps slowed. “I never would have pegged you for an old Southern rock fan.”
“I’m not,” he said, suppressed humor bunching his brow. “But anyone who’s been bailed out of jail should have ‘Free Bird’ as their theme song.”
Her eyes slowly narrowed as she stopped and faced him, raising his heart rate. Her location on the stairs brought them eye to eye, her mouth level with his.
The perfect position for capturing those lips.
“Your ability to deliver a subtle slap on the wrist is extraordinary, Suit,” she said silkily. “It takes real talent to chastise someone in the same breath as a musical request.” Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes, but the awareness did. “But I have my own ideas for a personal theme song.”
Voice huskier than usual, he said, “So what song would be most appropriate?”
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, as a small, purely female smile crept up her face. “Let’s see.” Mouth pursed, she pretended to give the question careful consideration, and he couldn’t get past the image of her puckered lips. “I was thrown in jail for defending an institution that I believe in,” she said, sending him a pointed look. “And then promptly chastised for my reckless behavior by a man who thinks he’s living life on the edge when he ignores the do-not-remove-by-penalty-of-law tag on his mattress.”
He barely managed to repress the image of her on his mattress. “I would never do that.”
“Of course not. How about make a right on red when it’s posted not to?”
“It’s against the law,” he said lightly.
Her hazel eyes flickered with heat. “Briefly park your car in the drop-off lane at the airport?”
“Illegal.” He struggled to keep the sizzle from his gaze. “Not to mention inconsiderate.”
Jax bit her delectable lip, clearly suppressing the grin as she turned and continued up, reaching the second floor and moving down an empty hallway. “So my willingness to risk an arrest for my cause is being questioned by a man who thinks I’m reckless for leaving home without an umbrella when there’s a ten percent chance of rain. I’m thinking the most appropriate song for me is ‘It’s My Life’ by Bon Jovi.” She entered a small, cramped office with two desks and stopped, turning to face him again. “But that’s only because I’m not aware of any songs entitled—” Jax leaned in, bringing her arousing, obstinate gaze closer “—‘My Choices Are None of Your Damn Business.’”