Joy.

Jax pressed her lids closed, fighting the urge to contain the emotion. In an attempt to self-soothe, she placed a hand on her belly, absently rubbing the scars that Blake had traced while making love to her. Somewhere beneath her marked-up skin was her son or daughter. A little imp already bound and determined to make its presence known. Her lips quirked, and Jax could no longer fight the feeling of elation.

Because her only living relative had died the day death had claimed her grandmother. For the first time in what felt like forever, there was someone on this planet who was connected to her, always—in a genetic bond that was unbreakable. She gave a watery sniff, her hand stroking her belly.

Just remember that when you hit those hellacious adolescent years, kid.

She inhaled a breath, her smile winning out over the emotional, overly hormonal state that had her teetering on the edge of tears. She had been petrified of feeling at home with Blake’s family, carefully pushing aside the growing sense of belonging for fear the beautifully realized dream—the one she’d given up on long ago—would be taken away, leaving her to deal with another crippling loss. And now, if nothing else, Nikki and Abigail would be a permanent part of Jax’s life, the baby sealing them as a forever family.

Jax dragged a less-than-steady hand through her hair, drawing strength in the knowledge she finally had support, affection, love...

But what about Blake?

Her heart flip-flopped in her chest. Up until now, she’d been afraid to think beyond next week, because their rocky start and his list of dating requirements had made a permanent relationship unlikely. Concentrating on the present and burying thoughts of a future had been the safest route to take.

But time, and now a baby, had made that impossible. Blake would never walk away from his responsibilities. But could he learn to love her?

Don’t you dare expect too much, Jax.

The surge of apprehension was strong. The clear plastic covering that coated her heart, several layers thick after her years in foster care and Jack’s desertion, was growing weaker by the minute.

When another sting of tears returned, she pushed them aside.

No blubbering like a baby, Jax. It’s warrior time. The little imp needs you to be strong.

Scrubbing her hand across her eyes, impatient with the weepy feelings, she made her plans. First, she’d confirm her condition. No sense in bothering with an over-the-counter test. If it was positive—and she knew in her heart, her gut and every other anatomical part that she was pregnant—then she wanted to see her family-practice doctor ASAP. If the test was negative, then she wanted to get to the bottom of the annoying vomiting anyway.

Either way, the day started with a call to her doctor.

And since she had no intention of spending the evening at some benefit wondering when and how she was going to share the news with her baby’s father, that meant the second call she had to make was to Blake.

Anxiety rolled through her and she held her stomach again, willing the little imp to behave...at least until she’d called its father.

ELEVEN

“I don’t understand how this could have happened.” Looking stunned, Blake paced Dr. Murphy’s small office. A last-minute cancellation had left Jax scrambling to make it to the appointment in time, and Blake had insisted on meeting her here. “We always used a condom,” he said.

Jax hadn’t seen this kind of pacing since Blake had discovered the truth about her virginity, disturbed he’d hurt her in the process of making that particular condition a thing of the past. And, by the expression on Dr. Murphy’s face as she sat on the other side of her walnut desk, the middle-aged redhead looked as if she’d battened down the hatches for a tumultuous encounter.

But his back-and-forth motion was making Jax dizzy. “Would you please just relax and sit down?” Jax said, patting the empty chair beside her.

“But I don’t understand how,” Blake repeated, clearly not referring to the process of sitting.

Instead of answering right away, Dr. Murphy again watched Blake cross her small office—a room that was insufficient for his long legs and the to-and-fro motion. The physician looked prepared to wait for him to work off a little frenetic energy before trying to get him to listen to reason.

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