The return of those sexy cowboy boots wasn’t helping, either.

And when the verdict came to drop all the charges against Jax, Blake let out a long, slow, satisfied breath. Jax turned to him, her eyes bright, her lovely face glowing, and it took every ounce of self-control he had not to claim her delectable mouth in a kiss. To ease the gnawing ache her absence had brought.

Because he needed this bold, courageous woman in his life.

“Now, Ms. Lee,” Judge Connor said, his demeanor, as always, staid, “let’s see that you steer clear of even the appearance of trouble from here on out. And as for your opinion of the Ramones...” The older man’s eyes twinkled as he nodded in the direction of Jax’s tote on the table, the band’s logo clearly displayed on the side. “You’re wrong. The Clash and the Sex Pistols were much more influential.”

Spying Jax’s suspiciously innocuous expression, Blake tensed.

But her smile was surprisingly submissive. “Yes, sir.”

He exhaled in a quiet whoosh, and, as the courtroom began to disband, Jax shot Blake a defiantly innocent look.

“What?” she said, as if she’d seen his concern. “Did you think I was going to argue with the judge?”

“Not in the slightest,” he lied, biting back a smile.

He loved how Jax rushed in where practical people feared to tread. Because it was her courage and her heart and her zest for life that he needed the most. And one thing was for certain—a life with Jacqueline Lee would always be exciting.

That was, of course, if he could get her to agree to marry him.

His gut churned with an anxiety that had been eating at him since he’d blown his first proposal. Forging ahead with the proceeding with the woman he loved beside him—still not knowing whether she’d marry him or not—was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. And if he didn’t hear an answer to his proposal soon, he was going to crack under the pressure.

Which meant he needed to get her alone.

Blake grabbed his briefcase and took Jax’s elbow, steering her toward the exit, hoping to slip out

the door unnoticed. “Jax,” he began, his pulse pounding, “I—”

“I told you Blake was a brilliant lawyer,” a castless Nikki said as she appeared in front of them. Blake tamped down the disappointment and waited patiently as his grinning sister gave Jax a brief hug. And then Nikki turned to Blake with a huge smile. “You were awesome, big brother,” she said with a hug for him, too, infusing a warm feeling through his limbs.

But Blake hoped to hurry this process along. “Thank y—”

“Almost as awesome as his mother,” his mom said as she emerged to envelope Jax in a tight embrace, looking as if she’d never let her go.

And with the irksome upgrade of their three’s-a-crowd status to four, Blake met Jax’s amused eyes over his mother’s shoulders. Clearly, she could sense his frustration. Or maybe she was just relieved because she wanted to put off his proposal again. Maybe she could never forgive him for his cowardly behavior.

His apprehension climbed to seriously uncomfortable levels, and, desperate to get an answer, he ushered the band of females toward the exit.

Nikki leaned in close and whispered, “Did she say yes?”

Lungs tight with fear, he whispered back, “I can’t get her alone long enough to find out.”

Unfortunately, the situation got worse when they entered the hallway, and Blake’s heart sank. The waiting crowd was large, Jax’s colleagues and a quite a few teens from the club swarming around her. Obviously excited, Jax stopped to hug each one in turn as Blake fought to keep his dismay from showing.

He shot his sister a desperate look, and she smiled slyly in understanding.

When an empty elevator opened before them, Blake firmly took Jax’s arm and led her inside. And Nikki turned and blocked anyone else from entering.

Man, there was nothing better than being blessed with a wonderfully reckless sister.

“Listen up, everybody,” Nikki said with an authority that did him proud. “I’m moving this celebratory party to my brother’s house.” Blake ignored the concern her words brought as she went on. “But right now Blake needs to discuss a few lingering legal issues with Jax.”