As they waited for the orthopedist to show, Nikki paced the room on her crutches, which had the unfortunate effect of making Blake more uptight than usual. And her topic of conservation was far from soothing, as well.

“I still don’t understand why Jax took off so suddenly,” Nikki said, and Blake’s heart took a hard nosedive toward the floor. Crutches swinging, followed by the forward lurch of her fire-breathing embellished cast, Nikki went on, disappointment clearly etched on her face. “She looked so upset. And I thought everything would be fine after she’d secured the funding for the club.”

It would have been, if he hadn’t lost his cool trying to get Jax to see reason. Or if she hadn’t been so stubborn, insisting on measuring his actions through the distorted lens of her past. A distorted view that had apparently continued.

Because right after the benefit, she’d phoned and left him a message at his office, informing him that she didn’t want him handling her case. Every call he’d placed to her cell in turn had gone unanswered. Until, petrified she’d show up in court and try to represent herself, he’d called Sara and hired her to finish the legal proceedings.

And he hated being kept out of the loop, with no control.

He pushed aside his turbulent feelings and the crushing panic that lingered, choosing to concentrate on Nikki instead.

“Jax didn’t leave because of anything you did, Nikki,” Blake said.

“I know,” she said reasonably, as if there was no doubt in her mind. But his sister’s gray eyes were troubled and far too all-seeing for comfort. She came to a stop in front of him and handed him her crutches, as if preparing to sit down. “Y’all had an argument, didn’t you?”

Gripping the handles of the crutches, Blake fought to control his pounding heart and keep the concern from his face. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss his problems with his sister, but she was savvy enough to know that Jax’s leaving was his fault. And every time she questioned him, putting her off got harder and harder to do. Until now she seemed determined to find out the truth.

“What was the fight about?” she said.

Blake lifted his gaze to his sister and the eyes that were identical to his, and to their father’s. Sooner or later he’d have to tell his family anyway.

Waiting wasn’t going to make it any easier.

Bracing for Nikki’s reaction, he set the crutches aside. “Jax is pregnant with my baby.”

Her swift inhalation was sharp, and the delight on her face would have been amusing if Blake hadn’t felt so miserable. “You’re going to have a kid?” she said.

The uncertainty of his future with Jax, his future with his baby, tightened into a massive ball that sat in his stomach like deadweight, making breathing difficult and losing his breakfast in an undignified way a very real possibility.

The look on his face must have communicated his thoughts.

After several seconds, Nikki’s gaze narrowed in suspicion. “What did you do to screw it up, Blake?”

Blake plowed a hand through his hair and let out a weary sigh. “Why does everyone always assume everything is my fault?”

“Because it usually is,” she said calmly, as if the matter had already been decided. “Did you ask her to marry you?”

He winced at the memory. “Sort of.”

Nikki let out a snort. “You don’t ‘sort of’ ask a woman to marry you. Now, tell me exactly what happened, and maybe I can help you fix this.”

“I told her we had to get married.”

Nikki’s light punch on his arm was almost hard enough to hurt. “You big doofus,” she said. “You told her?” Her face incredulous, Nikki let out a groan and sank into the seat beside him. “How unromantic can you get?”

He scrunched up his face with regret. “I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. But when she said we didn’t have to get married, that you and Mom and the baby were all the family she needed, I—” He blew out a breath, trying to finish without making himself look like a jerk. But that didn’t seem possible. “I lost my cool.”

He used to be the rational guy who never got flustered in court. So where had his usual composure gone? The man who was cool under pressure? But he knew the answer. He’d been blinded by the sheer terror

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