I sigh, snuggling closer to his chest. And one final thought floats through my brain before oblivion takes me:
I could get used to this.
• • •
The sunlight streaming through Stanton’s bedroom window is what wakes me—bright and warm on my face. The smell of coffee is in the air and there’s an empty space beside me. I don’t sit up right away, but indulge in a few extra minutes of basking—in the softness of his bed, the masculine scent that still clings to the sheets, and the tantalizing memories that dance behind my eyes.
Spending the night is a new development. A spontaneous choice that . . . probably wasn’t my smartest move.
Because, guilty as charged, I liked it.
I liked everything about it. His arms around me, his chest under my cheek, his late-night cock deep inside me. My internal muscles clench with remembrance and I flinch slightly with blessed soreness—the best kind of ache. I wonder if Stanton liked having me here too. He enjoys “having me,” that’s obvious, but I wonder if he’d want—
Out of order.
Cease and desist.
We all know what happens when we play with matches—but I will not get burned. I’m like . . . the hand that passes through the flame of the candle without getting burned.
Because I’m prepared. Voices that sound suspiciously like my brothers’ echo in my ears. Overheard conversations about “friends” who wanted more benefits than they were willing to give. Strategies for disentangling themselves from the needy tentacles of women who’d become too attached. Adjectives to describe those women that started with “cool” “awesome” “casual” but changed into “annoying” “clingy” “awkward.”
Friendships that never recovered.
Because boundaries were breached.
I don’t need that kind of distraction. Don’t want that type of complication. My career is right where it’s supposed to be—the fast track—and come hell or high water, or orgasms that make me forget my social security number, that’s where it’s going to stay.
Now I spring out of bed, purposefully, and start to dress. Until I get to my blouse. I didn’t get a good look at it last night, but it’s in tatters. Ripped at the buttons, with a hole big enough for my hand—or my boob—to fit through. It looks like a red flag that dared to tease a horny bull and took the punishment doled out by his long, thick horn.
Which isn’t too far off the mark, I guess.
Then I notice the T-shirt folded at the end of the bed, placed beside my clothes. Gray with bright yellow writing: Sunshine, Mississippi.
I pick it up and guiltily press the cotton against my face, inhaling deeply. It smells predominantly of fabric softener, but there’s the detectable trace of Stanton hidden in its threads.
I shake my head. Eye on the prize, Sofia. And no matter what my clitoris might believe, the prize is not Stanton Shaw’s glorious, golden penis.
I pull my hair up into a ponytail. I shove my ruined blouse and jacket into my purse, thanking the fashion gods that big bags are in style. Then I give myself the once-over in Stanton’s dresser mirror. Tired eyes, hair that even in a ponytail sticks out like wings on my head, a gray T-shirt that reaches to my hips with a tweed pencil skirt peeking out from beneath it.
This is why they call it the walk of shame.
Steeling myself, I open the door and step down the hall.
He’s at the kitchen table, shirtless in navy-blue sweats, his tousled blond hair annoyingly sexy. He’s Skyping on his laptop. Judging from his almost empty coffee cup, it seems like he’s been Skyping for a while. He meets my eyes with a welcoming smile and points to the pot of coffee on the counter. A silent offering I eagerly accept.
Though the screen is facing away from me, the young girl’s voice that emanates from the speakers tells me exactly whom he’s speaking to.
“. . . and then Ethan Fortenbury said I had man hands.”
Stanton looks at the screen, his brow wrinkled with consternation. “Man hands? Well that wasn’t very nice of Ethan Fortenbury.”
Maybe it’s just because I know who he’s talking to, but his voice sounds lower, smoother—calm and protective. I could listen to him talk like this all day.
I hear the crunch of cereal being chewed, and then she answers, “No, he’s not nice, Daddy. I’d like to call him a jackass, but Momma said that’s impolite, so instead I call him a horse’s anus—because he is.”