She closed the locker door firmly, the noise echoing down the empty hallway.

Her hazel eyes were steady on his, and her words left him uneasy. “I have an excellent lawyer, so I’m not concerned.”

* * *

The next afternoon, teak oil and supplies in hand, Blake headed through the shelf-lined utility room of his home, looking forward to a few moments of peace and relaxation as he applied the oil to the railing on his boat. Tinkering with his catamaran was the perfect antidote to stress. He always started his Sundays—the only day he took off—by unwinding with the mindless activity. But today he’d spent the morning working on Jax’s case.

And any time spent thinking about Jax was always disturbing.

For the hundredth time that day, his mind drifted back to yesterday and the feel of her fingers on his mouth. Unfortunately, even sleep hadn’t provided him with an escape. Because last night he’d been tortured by dreams. Erotic, scorching dreams that would make facing her and keeping his thoughts to himself much more difficult. Desperate to free his mind of the perplexing woman, if only for a moment, Blake headed out the door and onto the pool deck...and then came to an abrupt halt.

His usually peacefully quiet pool was now inhabited by five females—his mother, Nikki and Jax, along with two adolescents he’d never met. Blake let out a frustrated groan.

He missed the days when retreat was possible.

He missed the days when Nikki was at college, worrying him from afar instead of from under his nose.

And he missed the days when his self-control wasn’t subjected to repeated blows, the sight of Jax in shorts and a tank top, guitar in hand, revving up his heart in a manner that couldn’t be good for his blood pressure.

Nikki and his mother sat in two chaise longues next to the poolside waterfall. Jax and the two unknown teens were engaged in what appeared to be a guitar lesson at the patio table, an open bag of caramels and candy wrappers scattered on top. The two adolescents were wearing baggy cargo pants, T-shirts and piercings that looked painful. On the basis of their age, he suspected they were attendees of her club.

“Blake!” his mother called, her salt-and-pepper hair sporting a pixie cut that flattered her lined face. “It’s Sunday. Put that stuff down and do something that involves relaxation, for once.”

His sister didn’t give him a chance to respond.

“He can’t, Mom. He’s incapable of relaxation.” Nikki, her black hair pulled into a ponytail, her gray eyes with a loaded look aimed in his direction, added an overly sweet smile to her barbs. “You know, most men spend their Sundays playing golf or watching football with a beer and a bucket of chicken wings.”

Inwardly he braced for the conflict. Keeping his cool as Nikki needled him required Herculean effort.

“And most first-year law students spend their summers interning at a firm to gain work experience,” he said drily. “Not encased in plaster from hip to toe from a zip-line accident.”

A silly prank that had almost gotten her killed. Receiving the call from the E.R. about Nikki’s accident had shaved several years off his life. He’d lived in dread of such a day, but had always suspected it would be due to a car accident. Nikki had spent her childhood champing at the bit, trying to grow up too fast. Now she drove too fast.

She lived too fast.

Leaving work and heading upstate to the hospital had put a massive strain on his workweek. But nothing compared to the gut-clenching memory of his little sister, pale and laid up in a hospital room with a concussion and a complicated fracture. And the fear of losing her, combined with the horrific memories of his father’s accident, had scared him senseless. According to the doctor, she was lucky she hadn’t been killed.

And it was good to know her mouth hadn’t been injured in the process, either.

Nikki addressed their mother. “I told you he’d sneak in another jab about my mishap.” She turned her attention back to Blake, narrowing her eyes. “You’re still angry about the Times Square incident, aren’t you?”

“No,” he said. “I’ve moved on from your participation in a prank that involved a near brush with the police.” Another incident that had required his efforts to smooth out—an incident that had been, as usual, dismissed as a kids-will-be-kids moment by his mother. “The next time you might actually get charged with something, which wouldn’t bode well for your future as a lawyer, by the way,” he finished drily.

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