Blake was clearly avoiding Jax’s gaze. And the wave of heat that had already crept up her neck now spread across her face. Jax dropped her eyes to her plate of food, pushing her fork through her mashed potatoes as nonchalantly as she could.
Nikki was too busy poking fun at her brother to notice. But, as their mother’s gaze shifted from her son to Jax, the comprehension in Abigail’s expression was impossible to miss. Jax’s heart sank at the perceptive look. Because now his curious mother would probably be showing up more frequently than usual. Bringing more baked goods with her, too.
Jax forced back the sigh as she slumped in her seat. Being under Abigail’s sharply amused, watchful eye as she and Blake worked their way through this tentative relationship made things uncomfortable enough.
Suffering through it with an endless succession of weird pastries was asking too much.
* * *
One week and several delicious nights later, the pop of the champagne bottle was loud. His mom let out a celebratory woo-hoo that was even louder. But Blake wasn’t sure if his mother’s excitement was more of a reflection of his momentous day and the guilty verdict he’d won in the trial, or in anticipation of partaking of the pricey bubbly.
He was fairly certain it was in equal measure of both.
But after two years of dedicating his life to the case, Blake couldn’t pin down exactly how he felt. Wrestling with the churning emotions, Blake gripped his glass as his mother filled his champagne flute, followed by Jax’s, Nikki’s and then her own.
His mother lifted her glass. “A toast to my son’s accomplishments.”
Jax was looking especially beautiful in her Carrie Underwood T-shirt and jeans that did heart-stopping things to her figure. She murmured a “Hear! Hear!” while Nikki shot him a teasing look.
“Your résumé is getting pretty impressive, big brother,” Nikki said.
And it had the potential to get even more impressive, although he hadn’t shared that bit of news with his family yet. But if he didn’t tell them soon, they’d hear it from someone else.
Inhaling a deep breath, Blake took the plunge. “I was offered the promotion to chief of my division today.”
There was a moment of stunned silence, and then his mother set the bottle and her glass down before enveloping him in a huge hug.
“That’s fantastic, Blake,” she said. She pulled back to look up at him, her expression, for once, serious. Her eyes almost...weepy. “Your father would have been so proud.”
The restless, antsy feeling returned, and the sincerity in her tone only made him feel more on edge. Of course his father would have been proud. Blake was proud. But the real question was...why wasn’t he happy?
He could touch Jax whenever he wanted. He’d engaged in a hard-fought, satisfying battle in court and won. And he’d just achieved his goal of a promotion. The first step on a path that could take him all the way to the head of the department. He should feel happy. But all he felt was this lingering ambivalence.
What the hell was wrong with him?
His mother interrupted his thoughts. “In celebration of your courtroom victory, I made a delicious batch of chocolate scones,” his mother said, and Blake’s heart groaned even as he bit back the grin, taking in the now forced smiles on Jax’s and Nikki’s faces.
“Nikki, come to the kitchen and help me with the plates,” his mom said.
Blake’s smile grew harder to restrain as he watched his mother lead Nikki away, champagne glass in hand again as she shared the supersecret ingredient that would ensure that this batch of scones would be better than the flop she’d served them last.
When the two were gone, Jax turned to Blake. “You’re on fire, Suit,” she said sincerely. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” he said, sorry the celebratory moment didn’t quite reach his heart. He took a sip of his bubbly champagne. “Actually, I have more good news.”
Jax lifted a brow. “Better than a guilty verdict, a promotion and the promise of your mother’s scones?”
Blake’s brow bunched in humor at her teasing tone. “This weekend my mother is taking Nikki away for an overnight trip to a spa in West Palm Beach. She told Nikki it’s their first annual mother-daughter retreat.” He sent Jax a small grin. “She told me she’s getting Nikki out of the house so we can be alone.”