Stanton is leaving. Going to Mississippi to fight for “his girl.” There was no uncertainty—letting Jenny Monroe marry someone else was never a consideration. He was adamant, bold, determined as I’ve ever seen him. And I have no doubt he’ll march down there and remind her of everything she’s obviously forgotten.
I imagine him bursting through her door, lifting her with those strong, sculpted arms—like Tarzan claiming his Jane—and convincing her, with his irresistible smile and shrewd charm, to give him another chance.
And when she does—and I’m sure she will—my arrangement with Stanton will be over.
I close my eyes. Because my stomach is tight and there’s a heaviness on my chest—like the feeling you get after swimming in a pool for too long.
This isn’t my first trip around the block. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old single woman. I’ve had several one-night stands. In law school they’re about all you have time for. They fill a need, leave you in a good mood, and help you focus.
One hand literally helping the other.
That’s why I said what I did this afternoon—snapped him out of his shocked funk. Got him on the right track. Because before anything else, Stanton is my friend. I wouldn’t say I’m self-sacrificing—but I’m loyal. And that’s what good friends do. They help each other.
What we have—what he and I do together—is fun. Physical and convenient. And above all else, it was supposed to be simple.
But the sick feeling in my stomach, the tinge of sour jealousy on my tongue—there’s nothing simple about that.
I shake my head at myself, determined to shake off this melancholy right along with it. I’m not one of those girls, the kind ruled by emotions. I’ll just put it aside, like last season’s handbag. Maybe Stanton going away for awhile is the best thing. It’ll give me the space I need to clear my head. Because falling for your “friend with benefits” would be a dumb move, and I’m no dummy.
Sherman lifts his head a moment before there’s a brisk knock on the door. He gets to his feet, but stays silent like the good watchdog he is, as I cross the room. I open the door, and there—his saturated arms braced on the frame—stands a panting, dripping Stanton Shaw. Raindrops cling to his thick lashes as he looks up at me, bent at the waist. A translucent white T-shirt sticks to his torso, outlining ridges of solid muscle and the path of hair that leads lower beneath his drenched running shorts, leaving little to the imagination of what he’s packing beneath. His golden locks lay flat on his forehead, dark and wet.
There’s a Latin phrase—omne trium perfectum—that means everything that comes in threes is perfect. This stands in direct contrast to the commonly held belief that deaths and catastrophes also comes in threes.
It seems only fitting that Stanton utters three words. He’s said those same words to me before in a raspy plea, as a harsh order—each time with his hands grasping my slick body and the air between us heavy with desire.
And in this moment, just as all the ones before it, they’re my undoing.
“Come with me.”
• • •
Dripping in the middle of my living room, Stanton takes my offered towel, rubbing it over his head and down his tan arms.
“Explain it to me again?” I ask, because I just can’t wrap my head around his plan.
“I want you to come with me to Mississippi. I’ve got one shot at this—I can’t afford to screw it up. If I go off like a rocket on Jenn like I did this afternoon, she’ll shut down. That girl’s as stubborn as a whole pack of mules. You can help keep me calm—focused—just like we do in court. Plus, you can give me pointers on how to show her she’s making the biggest mistake of her life.”
“I don’t even know Jenny.”
He shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter—you’re a woman. You know how they think. She’s obviously not satisfied with our relationship, so I need to pull out all the stops. Big romantic gestures. You can be my resource—my wingman.”
His wingman—great. Like Goose in Top Gun. The less-than-attractive sidekick. The little buddy. The Expendable.
His shirt makes a wet, sloshing sound as he peels it from his body. I soak in the sight of his deliciously wet, warm skin that tastes like salty heaven on my tongue.
That’s just not fair.
I close my eyes—he’s not the only one who needs to work on his focus.
“Stanton,” I begin with a sigh. “Don’t you think it’ll be weird bringing me home with you while you’re trying to win back your ex?”