“Are you shittin’ me?”
“I told him no.”
The fury cools a notch—but only just barely. My fist is still gonna have a nice long chat with Dallas fucking Henry before I leave.
“Why didn’t you say no, Stanton?” she accuses quietly.
Her question brings the guilt back full force. Defensively, I get to my feet—pacing and tense. “I did say no! Plenty of times. Shit, Jenn . . . I thought . . . it wasn’t cheatin’! You can’t be mad at me for this. For doin’ what you said you wanted. That’s not fair.”
Every muscle in my body strains—waiting for her response. After what feels like forever, she nods. “You’re right.”
Her blue eyes look up at me and the sadness in them cuts me to the bone. “I just . . . I hate picturing what you did with her in my head. I wish I could go back to when . . . when I didn’t know. And I could pretend that it’s only ever been me.” She hiccups. “Is that . . . is that pathetic?”
“No,” I groan. “It’s not.” I drop to my knees in front of her—aware that I’m begging, but not having the will to care. “It has only ever been you—in every way that matters. What happens when we’re apart, only means somethin’ if we let it mean somethin’.”
My hands drift up her thighs, needing to touch her—to wipe this from her mind—wanting so badly for us to be us again.
“I’m home for the summer. Two and half months and all I want to do for every second of that time is love you. Can I, darlin’? Please just let me love you.”
Her lips are warm and puffy from crying. I brush at them gently at first, asking permission. Then firmer, spearing her mouth with my tongue, demanding compliance. It takes a moment, but then she’s kissing me back. Her small hands fist my shirt, gripping tight, pulling me to her.
Owning me. The way she always has.
Jenny falls back on the bed, taking me with her. I hover over her as her chest rises and falls—panting. “I don’t want to know ever again, Stanton. We don’t ask, we don’t tell—promise me.”
“I promise,” I rasp, willing to agree to just about anything at this moment.
“I start school in the fall,” she presses. “I’m gonna meet people too. I’m gonna go out—and you can’t get angry. Or jealous.”
I shake my head. “I won’t. I don’t want to fight. I don’t . . . I don’t want to hold you back.”
And that’s the crazy truth of it.
There’s a part of me that wants to keep Jenny all to myself, lock her away in this house, and know she’s doing nothing else but waiting for me to come back. But stronger than that is the dread that we’ll burn out, end up hating each other—blaming each other—for all the living we missed out on. For all the things we never got to do.
More than anything, I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and realize the reason my girl hates her life . . . is because of me.
So if that means sharing her for a little while, then I’ll suck it up—I swear I will.
My eyes burn into hers. “But when I’m home, you’re mine. Not Dallas fucking Henry’s—no one else’s but mine.”
Her fingers trace my jaw. “Yes, yours. I’ll be who you come home to. They don’t get to keep you, Stanton. No other girl . . . gets to be who I am.”
I kiss her with rough possession—sealing the words. My lips move down her neck as my hand slides up her stomach. But she grasps my wrist. “My parents are downstairs.”
My eyes squeeze closed and I breathe deep. “Come to the river with me tonight? We’ll drive around until Presley falls asleep in the back.”
Jenny smiles. “A truck ride knocks her out every time.”
I kiss her forehead. “Perfect.”
I lie beside her and she curls into me, playing with the collar of my shirt. “It won’t be like this forever. One day, you’ll be done with school and things will go back to normal.”
One day . . .
Ten years later
The work of a criminal defense attorney isn’t as exciting as you probably imagine. It’s not even as exciting as law students imagine. There’s a lot of research, case law referencing to back up every argument in pages and pages of legal briefs that are filled with enough semantics to give a layman a migraine. If you’re part of a firm, when you’re eventually entrusted to represent your clients at trial, there are rarely any dramatic cross-examination revelations, no big Law & Order moments.