Nothing about this evening was going as expected.

Blake ushered her through the glass doors, and, as they passed into the posh lobby full of guests and paintings on display for the silent auction, he tried again. “It’s clearly in the best interest of the baby

if we—”

She turned and laid a hand on his chest, gazing up at him with steady hazel eyes. “Look around you,” Jax said in a reasonable tone as she gestured at the luxurious surroundings, the hardwood floors and stainless-steel accents, giving it more of a luxurious-spa feel than one of a man who made women’s breasts bigger for a living. “Tonight we are going to have a nice time,” she said. “We can talk about this later.”

But for the next hour and forty-five minutes, the worries settled deeper, embedding their way into his every thought. Jax looked beautiful in her gown, wild hair tumbling down her back, but as she chatted easily with the guests, his disturbing feelings grew to monumental proportions. The silent auction of a renowned artist’s work on women’s health issues went on around him, but he felt detached. Distanced. He shot a glance at an oil painting of a woman getting a mammogram—and who would pose for such a thing?—and he wondered if the only way the artist could sell the portrait was to benefit a charity.

“I like this one,” Jax said, studying the oil of women in various stages of pregnancy. She sent him a teasing, tentative grin. “All that’s missing are a few pacing males.”

Blake shot her a wry look and was just about to lay out his argument in favor of marrying sooner rather than later when he was interrupted by a woman’s voice.

“Blake!”

He turned and watched his mother’s friend approach. Gail Taylor was a too-slim blond, fiftysomething socialite who looked as if she’d indulged in the facility’s breast-augmentation offerings. She greeted Blake with a smile, and he introduced her to Jax.

“Oh, yes,” Gail said to Jax, her genuine smile growing bigger. “I saw the news clip with that rap star. The one starting a fund to continue the music program at the club for teens. Congratulations.”

Jax’s face grew more radiant. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting back to work.”

She ignored, of course, that he had to get the charges against her dropped before she could return. But as usual, Jax didn’t seem concerned with the details.

The blonde woman leaned in conspiratorially, her voice an octave lower. “I heard a volunteer at the club got mugged on her way back to her car recently,” Gail said. Blake’s heart thumped harder at the disturbing piece of news, and the woman went on. “It’s hardly the safest of neighborhoods.” Her eyebrows lowered in concern. “You should be careful, Jax.”

“I’ve been working there since I finished college. And I was a volunteer for the three years before that.” Jax sent her a reassuring smile. “I’ve never had any trouble.”

Jax’s expression and the tone in her voice made it clear she was unconcerned. But this was nothing knew, because she rarely concerned herself about anything, even the really important matters. Like pregnancy and marriage.

And ensuring the stability of their baby’s future.

He was careful to keep his tone even, but it was a struggle. “One of the volunteers got mugged?”

“Just this week,” Gail said. “But she’s fine now.”

He turned to Jax and lifted a meaningful brow. “Did you know?”

“No,” she said, her smile a little tight. “But I’m sure it was no big deal.”

“Are you kidding me?” Gail Taylor said, disagreement written all over her face. “She got knocked unconscious. A coworker found her lying on the ground in the parking lot, bleeding from a nasty wound on her head.”

The words rose sharply, creating a vivid image that slammed into Blake’s gut with the power of a sledgehammer.

An image of his father in the wrecked car.

An image of Jax’s pregnant body...sprawled on a parking lot.

Blake’s palms grew damp and his vision narrowed, until all he could see was Jax’s pink lips moving, changing the topic of conversation with Gail back to Jax’s work with the teens. But her face slipped in and out of focus, overlaid by his father’s. Gray. Slack.

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