And Jake walks into the kitchen, dressed for the day, wearing jeans and a blue button-down shirt. He passes behind Stanton’s chair, glancing into the screen.
“Hey, Jake!” the happy voice squeals.
He gives her a rare grin. “Good morning, Sunshine.” Stanton says Jake calls Presley Sunshine because that’s where she’s from . . . and because that’s what she is.
Jake joins me at the counter, pouring himself a cup of black coffee and looking me up and down. “Nice outfit.”
I stick my tongue out at him.
A lithe, leggy blonde comes striding out of Jake’s room, looking better in a camel-colored dress and matching shoes than any woman has the right to after a late night of drinking and sex.
She barely glances Jake’s way as she heads for the door. “Bye.”
Jake appears equally invested. “See ya around.”
I take another sip of my dark morning drug. “She seems pleasant.”
He chuckles. “She showed herself out. Definitely pleasant in my book—I might even see her again.”
With that, Jake takes his coffee mug and retreats back from whence he came.
“So what happened next with Ethan Fortenbury?” Stanton asks his daughter.
“Oh! I told him if he didn’t stop pickin’ on me, I was gonna wrap my man hands around his throat. He hasn’t bothered me since.”
The rumble of laughter from Stanton is low and smooth and brimming with pride. “That’s my girl.”
“I gotta go find my sneakers for practice, Daddy. Here’s Momma. Mwah! I love you!”
Stanton blows a kiss to the screen. “I love you too, baby girl.”
And it’s possible my panties just disintegrated. A not-unpleasant ache throbs in my womb—a sudden, passionate desire to procreate with this man. It’s purely instinctual, evolutionary, and thankfully I think with my brain, not my ovaries. But I have to admit . . . it’s not easy.
I sip my coffee as the voice from the speakers changes—more mature but still heavily accented. “Mornin’, Stanton.”
“Mornin’, darlin’. ”
“So . . . there’s somethin’ . . .” There’s a nervous-sounding pause, and then she begins again. “Somethin’ I’ve been meanin’ to talk to you about . . .”
With my thumb over my shoulder, I gesture to Stanton that I’m going to catch a cab home.
He holds up a pausing finger. “Jenny, could you hold on for one second?”
He closes the laptop. “Don’t take a taxi home, Soph, I’ll drive you.”
I brush him off with the wave of my hand. “No, you’re busy—it’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a big deal to me. Just wait—I’ll be done in two minutes.”
Then he returns to Jenny. “Sorry. What were you saying?”
She hesitates. “Is now a bad time, Stanton?”
“No,” he reassures her. “Now’s fine—a friend just needs a ride home. Go ahead and tell me your news.”
He waits. And I swear I hear her take a big breath . . . right before she chickens out.
“You know what? It can wait . . . you have company . . . I have to get Presley to practice.”
“Yeah, it’s all right,” she insists. “I’ll . . . um . . . I’ll call you later. It’s not . . . it’s nothin’ urgent.”
His eyes darken with uncertainty. But he still replies, “All right. Have a good day, then.”
With a few taps of the keys he disconnects. And that devastating smile falls on me.
Stanton and I have never done a morning-after. It doesn’t feel awkward, just . . . new. Different.
I raise my cup of coffee in salute. “Morning.”
“I’ll just grab a shirt and my keys and then I’ll get you home.”
• • •
We pull up outside my townhouse and Stanton leaves the car running—apparently not planning on coming in. Which suits me fine. I push a loose strand of hair out of my face.
“Thanks for the ride.”
He nods. “Sure. And you too—thanks for the ride.” He winks. “Last night.”
I chuckle. “Ass.”
As I exit the car and close the door behind me, he says, “Hey, don’t forget. Our game’s at three. At the Turkey Thickett Field on Michigan.”
Almost every firm has a team in the DC Lawyers Coed Softball League, and ours has a shot at the championship this year. I’m good at sports—my brothers made sure I was—but I also work at it, because sports like golf, tennis, and racquetball can open career doors that might otherwise be closed. It’s all about the networking.