Her eyes widen, and for a second I think she’s going to argue. But then she does as she’s told.
I stand in front of her. “It started at the softball game, with Amsterdam staring at your ass.”
“Stanton, I told you—”
“Quiet,” I snap, pressing a finger against her now-closed lips. “When I wanted to rip his eyeballs out for lookin’ at your ass, that was the first time it felt like . . . more. It wasn’t my place to tell him not to look at you—but I wanted it to be.”
I push a hand through my hair, trying to explain so she’ll understand. “That’s the real reason why I asked you to come with me—even though I didn’t see it at the time. Because I didn’t want to be away from you—didn’t want to risk losin’ you to someone else. And when I saw you there, in my home—with the people who mean the most to me . . . it got more intense. Wantin’ you, needin’ you, feelin’ so fuckin’ grateful to have you. But it was all screwed up—mixed up with Jenny gettin’ married, feelin’ like I needed to do somethin’ to keep from losin’ her.”
She’s leaning forward, hanging on every word, her eyes breaking my heart—filled with hope and fear. “When I got it sorted out in my head, when I finally had the balls to admit to myself how much you meant to me . . . it was already too late. I didn’t know if there was a chance you felt the same way. I didn’t know how to tell you without it lookin’ like you were just the rebound. And I never wanted you to feel that way—not for a minute.
“Jenny will always be my friend, the mother of the little girl who owns my heart, the first girl I loved.” Then my voice goes scratchy, strangled with emotion. “But you, Sofia . . . I swear, if you let me . . . you will be the last.”
There are tears in her beautiful eyes, rolling down her cheeks. I crouch down in front of her, running my hand over her shoulder, holding the back of her neck. “And I’m so fuckin’ pissed off at you. I want to sit down on that bed, strip you down, and spank your ass till it’s as red as that wall downstairs.”
She hiccups. “P . . . pissed at me? Why?”
“Because you let me hurt you. You never said anythin’. When I think about how it must’ve been for you . . . like a thousand paper cuts.”
I hold her face, brush her tears away with my thumb, because I can’t not touch her a second longer.
She blinks up at me, swallowing a breath. “That was one hell of a closing argument, Stanton.”
I gaze into her eyes. “It’s what I do. So . . . what’s the verdict?”
She runs her fingers through my hair, her expression tender and soft. “The verdict is . . . no.”
I knew it. Never doubted my powers of persuasion for a second. I was sure if I just had the chance to explain, she’d . . . wait.
I lean back. “What the hell do you mean, no? You can’t say no!” Moisture breaks out on my brow and my heart protests in my chest.
She shrugs. “I just did.”
My hands tighten reflexively around her jaw. “What the fuck, Soph? Two days ago, you told me you were in love with me! You don’t fall out of love with someone in two goddamn days!”
“Exactly,” she says in a small voice.
“I don’t under—”
“I’ve watched you pine over another woman for the last week. For months, I’ve heard you talk about Jenny this and Jenny that. And now that she’s unavailable, you suddenly realize I’m the one you love?”
“I haven’t been in love with Jenny for a very long time, Soph. I just didn’t know it until now.” I swallow hard. “You don’t . . . you don’t believe me?”
She touches my face, tracing my jaw, watching her fingers’ path with rapt attention. “I want to. I want to believe you so bad.” Then she withdraws her touch. “But . . . I can’t be your rebound. I won’t. That would break me, Stanton. A week ago, I was okay with having any part of you I could—but I’m not okay with that anymore. I want all of you. For real. And forever.”
I lean closer, looking into her eyes. “Darlin’, you have me. By the heart, by the balls, and any other way you want.”
A smile tugs at her lips as she gazes boldly back at me. “Prove it.”
Teeth scrape my bottom lip as I consider all the glorious ways I can demonstrate what she means to me—over and over again. There’s laughter in my voice when I ask, “Is that a challenge?”