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Jax groaned. “You want to punish me.”

“Yep,” I agreed. “That, too.”

* * *

NICO SHOT ME a knowing look when Jax and I returned to Rossi’s. I stuck my tongue out at him.

We grabbed a table and ordered shiraz. I went with lasagna, Jax went with pollo alla cacciatora. While we waited for our food, I studied him, admiring the way the small candle on the table between us gilded him. He looked softer, more relaxed, his face impossibly more handsome.

He had the look of a well-fucked man, one who was sated and yet anticipating further pleasures ahead. I loved that I put that look on him, but I hated it, too. Because I wasn’t in danger just from the things he said; it was everything about him that made me vulnerable. The effect he had on me was in large part due to the effect I had on him.

I made him happy. Content. And it was difficult not to feel as if that made me special, even though I knew better.

“So Regina is your stepmom, right?” I asked, giving my mind something else to think about.

“Yeah.” He looked into his wineglass.

“How did that happen?” Would he mention Ian and open that door...?

“My mom died ten years ago.”

“Oh.” Seeing how he closed up alerted me—I’d touched on a painful subject. “I’m sorry to hear that, Jax.”

“Not as sorry as I was,” he muttered before gulping down his near-full glass in three swallows. He refilled, then looked at me. “Your mom looks great.”

I nodded. “She’s happy. Her kids are doing all right, business is good and she’s about to be a grandmother.”

“How’s Angelo dealing with impending fatherhood?”

“Good. It threw off his plans to open another Rossi’s, but that’s probably for the best. Denise—his wife—has a new business of her own, so I think it would’ve been a strain for them if they’d tried juggling two startups and a new marriage.”

“Do you like her?” he asked, his fingertips stroking up and down the stem of his glass.

“A lot. She’s great.” I looked at the party next to us, a family of four enthusiastically discussing how good their food was. “I thought I saw Allison at the fund-raiser last night. How are she and Ted doing?”

Honestly, I couldn’t care less about Jax’s cousin and his bitchy wife, but talking about Jax’s mom made me realize that he knew more about me than I did about him. Aside from his family members who made news because they were in office, I only knew Allison.

“They’re solid.” He took another drink. “She’s what he needs to run for mayor in the next election.”

“It’s good that she’s there for him.”

He snorted. “They barely talk to each other. But she knows how to work the press and she’s very active in his campaign planning. He made a good choice with her. She fits him the way Regina fits my dad.”

“I thought the political marriage/business partnership was a Hollywood stereotype.”

“No.” Jax reached over and lightly brushed the back of my hand. “You’ve got to be pragmatic about relationships. Marrying for love never works out well. My mom and dad were a love match and they made each other miserable. Now, Regina and Dad... They’ll do just fine. She knows how to play the game.”

“He seems like he genuinely cares for her.”

“After what he went through with my mom, she’s got to seem like a gift.” He took another drink, then leaned back as our food was served.

His change in mood was another warning. Talking about his mother didn’t seem to sit well with him. I’d have to be careful about approaching the topic. “Ian introduced them, right?”

“Which turned out to be really lucky for him, didn’t it?” he said with an edge in his voice.

“Because he called in the favor and got you? You can’t save him, Jax.”

“I wasn’t asked to.” He shrugged, his gaze hard. “I’m just supposed to keep Lei Yeung at bay. I can do that.”

Nico walked over with a steaming plate of pasta in hand. “Mind if I join you two?”

Jax pushed out the chair opposite him with his foot. “The more Rossis the merrier.”

Sadly, the more Rutledges the scarier. And that had shaped Jax into the man he was.

I played with that in my thoughts as Jax and Nico settled into the easy banter of men, reminding me of how effortlessly Jax fit into my life...and how uncomfortable I was with his.

Chapter 8

AFTER DINNER, JAX and I headed out to his rental. I paused before I slid into the passenger seat. “If I go back to the hotel with you, I’ll need you to take me back to Nico’s when he gets off work.”

Jax rested his arm on the open car door. “You won’t stay the night with me? I’d like you to.”

I did want to. And once, back in the day, I had dropped everything in my life for his visits and ended up resenting him for that. I may not have learned to stay away from him, but I’d still picked up a thing or two about having a healthier relationship. “I came here to spend time with my brother.”

His chest lifted and fell on a deep breath. “Fair enough. Can I schedule time for you to spend with me?”

We stood so close to each other, pressed into the space between the car and the door, but there was a gulf between us. I’d created it, but I still wished it didn’t have to be there. “When are you thinking?”

“Any night this week and next weekend for sure.”

I nodded, then got in the car. He shut the door and rounded the trunk, giving me time to think about how the rest of the night could go. More sex. More Jax. I craved both, but it would’ve been nice not have so many doubts and reservations. I missed how carefree we used to be. But then, I guess it was only that way for me. He’d been counting down the minutes all the while.

He got in and closed the door, but didn’t start the engine right away.

“Listen,” he began, “you should know this is hard for me, too.”

“But you understand what’s going on,” I argued softly. “I’m clueless.”

Jax twisted in his seat and reached for me, catching me by the nape and pulling me in. I closed my eyes, anticipating the moment when his parted lips would touch mine. His tongue caressed the curve of my mouth, a slow sweep that had me leaning closer for more.

“So sweet,” he murmured. “I’m going to spread you across my bed and lick you from head to toe.”

“You’re good at that,” I said breathlessly, a shiver of eagerness moving through me.

He pulled back, as if to start the car, then surged forward again, catching my lips in a heated, wet, ravenous kiss. His mouth ate at mine, his tongue stroking deep and fast. I was just as greedy for him, my hand sliding into his hair, holding him by the roots while I frantically tasted him. He cupped my breast in his hand, plumping it, his thumb and forefinger surrounding my aching nipple and tugging rhythmically. I moaned, turned on and needy.

“God,” he groaned, releasing me and falling back heavily against the seat. “I want you. Right here. Now.”

I was more than tempted by the thought. If we had been anywhere but right outside Rossi’s, I might have climbed over the gearshift and gone for it.

“Drive fast,” I told him.

He laughed hoarsely and turned his head against the headrest to look at me. “Fine. But when we get to bed, I’m taking it real slow.”

* * *

“JAX!” CLAWING AT the sheets, my body arching away from the torture of his mouth, even as I craved more. I’d forgotten what he could do to me, how he could strip away my skin to get into the very heart of me, how his complete command of my body made me willing to do or say anything for the pleasure he could give.

He held me pinned at the thighs, his mouth on my throbbing sex, his tongue licking leisurely. The velvety strokes over my clit had me gasping, the need for an orgasm so fierce I was drenched in sweat, my legs vibrating from the strain.

“Please,” I begged hoarsely, squeezing my heavy breasts, the tips swollen and tender from the long minutes he’d spent drawing on them with slow, measured pulls of his mouth.

His silky hair brushed over my skin. He lifted his head. “Please what, baby?”

“Ah, God... Make me come.”

“Just a little more.”

“Please!” I pushed my hand between my legs, desperate to bring myself off.

He nipped at my fingers and I cried out, panting.

His head lowered, his tongue tracing the swollen folds. He circled my clit, then rimmed the trembling opening below.

I grabbed his head, holding him to me, struggling to lift my hips to his mouth. Jax was too strong, restraining me easily, his breath hot against my sensitive flesh. He suckled gently, moving slowly along the length of my cleft, giving me just enough pressure to drive me insane.

“Let me turn around,” I gasped. “Let me suck you.”

His chuckle was filled with such wicked amusement it sent goose bumps racing across my skin.

And then he thrust his tongue inside me.


He cupped my butt and lifted me, angling me into his working mouth. His tongue fucked me swiftly, the shallow plunges into my trembling sex driving me hard toward orgasm. His growl vibrated against my clit, his pleasure feeding my own.

I clutched at his hair, moaning, digging my heels into the mattress to rock against his lips.

“Don’t stop,” I sobbed, so close, my entire body tingling.

Jax surged onto his knees, elevating me. My legs spread wide, giving him limitless access. He devoured me, so hungry and greedy. I couldn’t breathe for the pleasure. The frenzied licking against sensitive tissues overloaded my senses. I watched him, as he’d meant for me to. The sight of his dark head between my thighs, the rapid-fire flickering of his tongue, the beauty of his biceps hardened from supporting my weight...unbearably erotic.

He was gorgeous. Everything I’d ever wanted. And the fierce need that etched his face warned that his demands would take me to the edge before he was through with me.

Another low moan broke from my dry throat. “Oh, Jax...I’m going to come.”

“Wait,” he ordered. “I want you milking my dick when you lose it.”

I gave a clenched-teeth scream of frustration as he lowered me to the bed and reared, snatching up a condom and ripping it open. He was sheathed and coming over me a heartbeat later, but it was too long. I had no patience. I caught him in the cage of my arms and legs, pulling him to me, lifting to him.

He allowed me to drag him down, his palms flat on the bed by my shoulders, his biceps thick and hard. He reached between us with one hand, fisting his penis and stroking the wide crest through my slickness. I gasped and his eyes darkened, his cheeks flushing as he notched into the grasping opening to my sex.

“Jax,” I growled in warning.

He thrust hard, sinking deep in one lunge, wrenching a cry from me as I fell hard into orgasm. Neck arched and eyes squeezed shut, I lay taut as the pleasure pulsed through me, my core tightening on the powerfully thick cock inside me.

“Fuck, yeah,” he groaned, grabbing fistfuls of the sheets and pumping that long, rigid column of flesh into my quaking body. The climax grew, spurred by the rhythmic blows of his pelvis into my clit...the feel of his erection plunging relentlessly.

I writhed, helpless, lost to him, struggling to hang on to the part of my soul that wanted to surrender.

“That’s it, baby.” Jax’s lips were at my ear, his breath hot and quick. “Dig those claws into me.”

My nails were grasping at his sweat-slicked back, feeling the muscles flex as his body worked to service mine. His buttocks tensed and released beneath my calves, his thighs bunching and powering the drives of his hips.

His teeth sank into my earlobe and he groaned, his rock-hard abs contracting against my stomach, his sweat and mine sealing us together.

“Those noises you make,” he gasped. “God...they make me so hard.”

And he was. Like stone.

“So g-good.” I swallowed past a dry throat. “’s so good.”

“You were made for me,” he said fiercely. “No one else, Gia. You’re mine.”

He drove the point home with every plunge, fucking me so thoroughly I couldn’t think beyond the need to come again.

My body was no longer my own.

Jax was the only one who could do this to me...make me animal. I wasn’t me when I was in bed with him; I was his. Willing and ready to do whatever he wanted, to take whatever he chose to give me, knowing he would make me come again and again...

I whimpered, feeling his grip tighten, his muscles gathering as his own pleasure grew.

He nuzzled his damp face against me. “So tight and hot...Gia.”

I realized then that he was clinging to me as desperately as I was to him, that urgency laced every breath, every touch. He was screwing me as if he’d die if he stopped, as if it were possible to fuck me hard enough to delve even deeper beneath my skin.

My eyes stung with tears when the orgasm hit, stealing my breath and causing spots to blur my vision. A low noise poured out of me, unrecognizable as mine.

“Ah, sweetheart.” He kissed me, absorbing the sound, slowing until he was just circling his hips, stirring his raging erection inside me. “I love that sound you make when you come. It tells me how good you feel, how much you love my hands.”

How much I loved him.

I was sprawled beneath him, wide open and possessed, while he felt like a dream. Something I’d conjured.

“Feel me,” he breathed, pushing up to look down at me. His eyes were so dark, his face flushed, the skin stretched tight with lust over the sculpted angles of his face. “Inside you—” he rolled his hips, then caught my hand, lifting it to his slick chest “—and you inside me.”