Stanton seems satisfied with that. A few minutes later, we grab our bags from the car and head out to Stanton’s old room. “Out” because his room is in one of the outbuildings, the top floor of the barn. Heated, sharing a bathroom with the identical bedroom on the other side, wood paneling, hardwood floor, posters and trophies galore—it’s a teenage boy’s dream.
“My brother Carter and I built these rooms one summer,” Stanton tells me, eyes dancing around the room. “My father told us if we finished them right, we could move out here—so we did.”
It’s then that I notice the pictures on the nightstand—a dashingly young Stanton in a football uniform, with his arm around a tiny Jenny in a cheerleader uniform, and a school portrait of his daughter, wearing a red sweater over a white-collared blouse, her two front teeth endearingly missing.
“Why didn’t Marshall and Mary move out here when you and your brother moved out?”
He nods, anticipating the question. “After Jenny got pregnant, my mother wouldn’t let either of them. She thought Presley was conceived here and she didn’t want any more early grandkids.”
With a chuckle, I ask, “Was she conceived here?”
• • •
About a half hour later, I’m unpacked and ready to get some work done on Stanton’s queen-sized bed. Since we crossed the Mississippi state line and entered the “friends without benefits” zone, Stanton offered to stay in his brother’s old room. He walks out of the bathroom and he’s changed his clothes. He’s now wearing a pair of jeans, leather boots, a white T-shirt, and a brown cowboy hat. The shirt hugs his arms perfectly, accenting the tight ridges of his biceps. And his jeans mold his ass, his flat stomach, and best of all those strong thighs, in a way that has my mouth watering.
I close my mouth, but he catches me staring. “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”
I smirk. “Don’t need to, I can just tear an advertisement with the Marlboro Man out of a magazine—you look just like him.”
He throws his head back and laughs. I watch the bob of his Adam’s apple—something so sexy, manly about it—making me want to pull that T-shirt off, push the jeans down, and let him fuck me with his boots on.
“You’ll be okay here for a few hours?”
I throw my hair up in a ponytail while he watches my every move. “Of course. I have emails to return. Oh, I just need the Wi-Fi password.”
He looks concerned. “We don’t have Wi-Fi, Sofia.”
“What? What do you mean, you don’t have Wi-Fi? How can you not have Wi-Fi!”
“We’ve got radar—to track the weather.”
“Radar?” I scream. Then I pick up my laptop and hold it above my head, walking around the room, searching for a signal. How am I supposed to research? Read my emails? I feel so primitive—so cut off.
Like Sigourney Weaver in outer space—no one can hear me scream.
“I’m in hell! You’ve brought me to dead-zone hell! How could you do this to me? What kind of—”
“Sofia.” He says it gently, like a breeze, but it catches my attention and cuts off my rant.
He holds up a small black rectangle, then tosses it to me. I catch it in one hand.
He winks. Then glances at my feet—still in patent leather high heels. “You didn’t happen to bring boots with you, did you?”
“Of course I brought boots.” I open his closet and take out a pair of Gucci knee-high black leather boots with three-inch heels.
He lets out a long, disappointed sigh. “All right, here’s what we’ll do. After I get back, we’ll go into town to the co-op and get you a pair of decent boots.”
And I just can’t resist.
“Really, you just said that? Into town? Can Half-Pint and Mary come too, Pa?” I dissolve into a fit of giggles.
“Keep laughin’, smartass. Let’s see how funny it is when your designer shoes are covered in horseshit and mud.”
I rub my lips together, sobering. “That wouldn’t be funny.”
“It’d be a little funny.” With a smile he reaches out and traces my cheek with his thumb, then across my lower lip.
And the action is so intimate—sweet—I almost forget why I’m here.
But then I remember.
I’m Goose. The sidekick. Santa’s little helper.
I clap my hands together. “So, last minute advice: Talk to her, not at her—no woman likes getting yelled at. Ask her how things went wrong, what she thinks she can get from James Dean that she’s not getting from you. Then, tell her how you’ll make whatever changes you have to, to give her what she needs.”