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 her 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 trouble—and fixing the mess when she did—were 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 after 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.

* * *

At midnight, Jax finally heaved out a breath and flopped onto the leather couch in the guest cottage, hot tea in hand. The luxurious accommodations consisted of a sitting area, kitchen, bedroom and a beautiful marble bathroom. The living room allowed her plenty of room to pace as she pondered the problem of bringing the public’s attention to the club, but her mind refused to focus.

Because Blake surely hadn’t acted like a man addicted to her company.

Jax sighed and leaned her head back. Lunch with Blake’s family had included a discussion about Jax’s first court appearance tomorrow afternoon. Hardly a reassuring topic. And then, once the meal was over, Blake had gone back to work and hadn’t come home for dinner. How was that for a man supposedly craving her presence? So Jax had watched a bit of TV, alone, and the eleven-o’clock news included a piece on the Menendez drug-cartel case, with a brief clip of a reporter interviewing the lead prosecuting attorney...Blake Bennington.

The sight of the coolly collected man had just about sent her body into a tizzy. The oh-so smoothly articulate Blake, looking GQ fine in his suit and coverworthy handsome face, answered the reporter’s questions with an authority that few would dare question. If he handled himself in the courtroom half as well as he’d handled the interview, her legal problems would be well taken care of.

Which meant, hopefully, her return to her old life would work out. If she could secure the money to get the music program up and running again, of course.