Two parallel ones were definitely suspicious.

She fought for a breezy tone, falling just short of the mark. “I didn’t try to kill myself, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“I’m well aware people cut themselves for other reasons,” he said.

And the unspoken knowledge in his gaze, the understanding in his expression, set her pulse pounding harder. There was no denying the look on his face. He knew the wounds had been self-inflicted.

He knew she’d once been a cutter.

Her chest seemed to shrink to half its size, trapping the breath in her lungs. It was one thing to come to thank the man for his help. Baring her history to those probing, all-seeing eyes was another. But now that the tumultuous mindset of her adolescent years had been exposed, she refused to offer up excuses or cower meekly in the corner, pretending he’d misunderstood. She curled her fingers against her palm.

Because, damn it, she’d battled those demons—had waged a war against the crippling insecurities of her youth—and won.

“It was a long time ago, when I was just a teen,” she said simply, hoping he wouldn’t interrogate her further. After the Jack fiasco, she wasn’t ready for that kind of reveal again. “The parallel marks reminded me of part of a musical staff. So a couple of years ago, I had the extra lines tattooed on and added musical notes.”

The lengthy pause was filled with warm sunshine, a salty breeze and the sound of lapping waves and ruffling sails. Jax couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, dying to hear how he would respond to her admission about the origin of her scars.

Until Blake finally said, “Musical notes to which song?”

Stunned, she leaned back and cocked her hip, staring up at him. Of all the questions she’d expected, that one had never crossed her mind. Two years ago Jack’s disappointing reactions to the marks on her body had inspired the tattoo and choice of song. Since then, no one had ever asked her about her choice. Leave it to the astutely observant Blake to suss out that they weren’t just random notes she’d chosen on a whim.

Curious how he’d react to the news, and hugely relieved by the change in topic, she said, “They’re the first phrase to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin.’”

A small grunt escaped his lips, a combination of shocked surprise...and amusement.

“You don’t approve of my choice?” She fought a smile, struggling to maintain the deadpan face as she went on. “Or maybe you think the song doesn’t suit me?”

“I have nothing against Madonna, per se,” he said.

He cast an eye over her short shorts and the tank top displaying the local rap artist Bulldog. Blake’s assessing look was electrifying, prickling the hair at her neck. Her shirt emphasized her breasts in a way that could hardly be described as modest.

Blake hesitated, as if considering the rest of his answer, and then dropped his gaze back to the arm still cradled in his hand. He lightly touched the line of one scar, and a searing bolt of nerves nearly crippled her body. The simple caress was sensual. Seductive.

Hot.

And as scary as hell as he traced the marks that had come to symbolize the fight to achieve peace with her past. Her warrior wounds were a visible reminder of the inner conflict she’d battled. Profoundly disturbed, she resisted the urge to splay her hand on his hard chest and stroke lower....

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.

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