Overruled, p.3
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       Overruled, p.3

         Part #1 of The Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase
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  She finishes the pink drink in her hand. Even though I’m not twenty-one and don’t have an ID that says I am, I hook my thumb toward the bar. “You want me to get you another round?”

  Before she can answer, Drew intercedes. “Or we could get out of here? Go back to your place?” He makes eye contact with the blonde. “You can show me your . . . art. I bet you’re extremely talented.”

  The girls agree, I down the rest of my bourbon, and as easy as that, the four of us head out the door.

  • • •

  Turns out the girls are roommates. I’m quiet as we walk the three blocks to their apartment—distracted by the uneasy feeling churning in my stomach like butter gone bad. It’s a mixture of nervousness and guilt. I imagine Jenny’s face in my head, smiling and sweet. I picture her holding our daughter in the rocking chair my Aunt Sylvia gave us when Presley was born. And I wonder if what I’m doing—what I’m about to do—is the right thing.

  Their apartment is a lot nicer than what two college girls could afford alone. A doorman, third floor, a spacious living room with unstained beige couches and gleaming hardwood floors covered by an Oriental rug. A full-size kitchen with oak cabinets and granite countertops is visible from the living room, separated by a breakfast bar and three white bar stools.

  “Make yourselves at home,” the dark-haired girl says with a smile. “We’re just going to go freshen up.”

  After they disappear down the hallway, Drew’s head whips to me. “You look like a virgin on prom night. What’s the matter?”

  I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. “I don’t know if this is a good idea.”

  “Did you not see the brunette’s tits? Getting a closer look at those bad boys could never be anything but a good idea.”

  My lips tighten with indecision, then . . . I spill my guts. “The thing is . . . I’ve never had sex with anyone except Jenny.”

  He rubs his forehead. “Oh Jesus.”

  With a sigh he drops his hand and asks, “But she’s good with you hooking up with other people? I mean, she agreed?”

  I lift my shoulder and explain, “Well yeah—she’s the one who suggested it in the first place.”

  Evans nods. “Sounds like my kind of girl. So what’s the problem?”

  I rub the back of my neck, trying to relieve some of the tension that’s taken up residence there. “Even though we talked about it . . . I’m not sure . . . this doesn’t feel . . . I want to do right by her.”

  Drew’s voice loses its edge of irritation. “I admire that, Shaw. You’re a stand-up guy. Loyal. I like that about you.” He points at me. “Which is why I think you owe it to yourself, and your Jenny chick, to have hours of dirty, sweaty sex with this woman.”

  Not for the first time, I wonder if Drew Evans is the devil—or a close relation. I can picture him offering the fasting Christ a loaf of bread and making it sound completely acceptable for him to take a big ole bite out of it.

  “Do you actually believe the horseshit that comes out of your mouth?”

  Drew waves me off. “Pay attention, you’re about to learn something. What’s your favorite ice cream?”

  “What the hell does that have to do—”

  “Just answer the fucking question. What is your favorite ice cream?”

  “Butter pecan,” I sigh.

  His eyebrows rise sardonically. “Butter pecan? I didn’t think anyone under seventy liked butter pecan.” He shakes his head. “Anyway. How do you know butter pecan is your favorite?”

  “Because it is.”

  “But how do you know?” he presses.

  “Because I like it more than—”

  I stop midsentence. Understanding.

  “More than any other flavor you’ve tried?” Drew finishes. “Better than vanilla, strawberry, or mint chocolate chip?”

  “Yeah,” I admit softly.

  “And how would you have known that butter pecan was the flavor for you—not just your default choice—if you were too afraid to ever taste anything else?”

  “I wouldn’t have.”

  He waves his hand, like a magician. “Exactly.”

  See what I mean? The devil.

  Still . . . it’s similar to what Jenny said, the questions she raised. Can we really mean it when say we love one another if all we’ve known is each other? Are we strong enough to pass that kind of test? And if we’re not, what kind of future do we have together anyway?

  A slap to the arm snaps me from my introspection. “Look, Shaw, this is supposed to be fun. If you’re not having a good time, if you’d rather take off, I won’t think any less of you.”

  I snort. “Sure you will.”

  The corner of his mouth twitches. “Yeah, you’re right, I will. But . . . I won’t tell the guys you pussed out. It’ll stay between you and me.”

  Before I can answer him the girls walk back into the room. They’ve changed into loose-fitting, strappy pajamas, shiny in satin. I can smell the mint on her freshly brushed teeth when the blonde leans over and says to Drew, “Come on, there’s something in my room I want to show you.”

  He stands smoothly. “Then there’s something in your room I want to see.” Before they advance to the hallway, he glances my way. “You good, man?”

  Am I good?

  The curly haired brunette stares at me expectantly—waiting for me to make my move. And the realization finally sets in that . . . there’s not any reason to say no.

  “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”

  Drew takes the blonde’s hand and she leads them into the room at the end of the hall.

  Left alone with my dark-haired companion, I take a minute to look at her—really look at her. She has breasts larger than I’m used to, a tiny waist, and a firm bubble bottom that balances out the whole package nicely. The kind of ass a man could hold on to, knead with his fingers and guide forward and back, up and down. Her legs are smooth and toned, her skin flawless and tanned.

  For the first time tonight, genuine attraction unfolds low in my gut, stirring my poorly underused dick from his five-month hibernation.

  I don’t ask her name and she hasn’t requested mine. There’s a thrill in anonymity, a freedom. I’ll never have to see this girl again—what we do and say tonight won’t leave this apartment, won’t come back to haunt me, won’t find its way to judgmental ears in a small town far, far away. A thousand fantasies, each more deviant than the last, flit through my brain like smoke coming off a campfire. Acts I’d never dream of asking Jenny to perform—things she’d probably smack me for even suggesting.

  But a beautiful, nameless stranger . . . why the fuck not?

  “You want to see my room?” she asks.

  My voice is deep, rough like my thoughts. “Okay.”

  Her room is a swirl of dark reds, browns, and burnt orange, not overly feminine. I sit on the edge of her bed, feet on the floor, knees spread.

  Any trace of indecision has left the building.

  As she closes the door she questions, “What’s your major? I meant to ask earlier.”


  She moves in front of me, standing an arm’s length away, regarding me with an angled head and hooded eyes. “Why do you want to be a lawyer?”

  I smile. “I like to argue. I like . . . provin’ people wrong.”

  Taking a step closer, she picks up my hand. Then she turns it over and traces my palm with her fingertip. It tickles in a stimulating kind of way that gets my pulse hammering.

  “You have strong hands.”

  There are no soft hands on a farm. Tools, rope, fences, saddles, lifting and digging makes for tough palms and hard muscles.

  “You know what I like best about sculpting?” she asks on a breathy sigh.


  She drops my hand then lifts a dark, daring gaze to mine. “I don’t think at all while I’m doing it. I don’t plan, I let my hands . . . do whatever they want. Whatever feels good.”

  She grasps the bottom of her top and slides it over he
r head. Her breasts are pale and ripe and gloriously new to my eyes. She stands just inches away, bare and proud. “You wanna give it a try?”

  She puts her hands over mine, skimming them up the warm velvet of her rib cage. When she places my callused palms on her breasts, I take over. Cupping their weight, massaging gently, brushing my thumbs across the peaks of her nipples. They tighten and darken from pink to dusty rose and I scrape my lip with my teeth to stave off the immediate urge to latch on, lick, and bite.

  My last coherent thought is six quick words:

  I could get used to this.

  • • •

  Three weeks later

  “You lying, cheating sonofabitch!”

  Jenny’s hands fly out, wild and whipping, striking my face, shoulders, and anywhere she can reach.


  Slap, slap.


  “Jenny, stop!” Finally I get a grip on her forearms, holding her still. “Fuckin’ stop!”

  Hot, angry tears cover her cheeks and her eyes are puffy with betrayal. “I hate you! You make me sick! I hate you!”

  She pulls out of my grasp and runs up the porch, slamming the screen door behind her as she disappears into the house. I’m left standing on the lawn—shredded. Feeling like I’ve been flayed open, my heart not just broken but ripped out. And there’s something else—more than regret—there’s fear. It makes my palms sweat and skin prickle. Fear that I’ve messed up, terror that I just lost the best thing that will ever happen to me.

  I push a hand through my hair, trying to keep it together. Then I sit on the porch steps and brace my elbows on my knees. I keep an eye on Presley, on the blanket twenty feet away where she plays with her cousins near the swing set. Her white-blond curls bounce as she giggles, thankfully, completely unaware.

  Out of nowhere, Ruby, Jenny’s older sister, appears on the steps next to me. She smooths her denim miniskirt then pushes her wavy red locks off her shoulders.

  “You certainly got yourself locked in the shithouse this time, Stanton.”

  Normally I wouldn’t go to Ruby for any kind of advice—least of all about relationships. But she’s here.

  “I . . . I don’t know what happened.”

  Ruby snorts. “You told my sister you fucked another girl, that’s what happened. No woman wants to hear that.”

  “Then why did she ask?”

  She shakes her head, like the answer is obvious. “’Cause she wanted to hear you say no.”

  “We agreed to see other people,” I argue. “We said we’d be honest with each other. Mature.”

  “Sayin’ and feelin’ are two different things, lover boy.” She picks at her manicure. “Look, you and Jenny are eighteen, y’all are babies . . . this was bound to happen. Only a matter of when.”

  I can barely get the words past my constricted throat. “But . . . I love her.”

  “And she loves you. That’s why it hurts so bad.”

  There’s no way I’m giving up, no way I’m goin down—not like this. It’s the fear that pushes me to do something, say anything. To hold on like a man clinging to a boulder in a current.

  I walk up the oak staircase to the room Jenn shares with our daughter and through the closed door that tells me I’m not welcome.

  She’s on the bed, shoulders shaking, crying into her pillow. And the knife sinks deeper in my gut. I sit on the bed and touch her arm. Jenny has the smoothest skin—rose-petal soft. And I refuse for this to be the last time I get to touch her.

  “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Don’t cry. Please don’t . . . hate me.”

  She sits up and doesn’t bother to wipe the evidence of heartache off her face. “Do you love her?”

  “No,” I tell her firmly. “No, it was one night. It didn’t mean anythin’.”

  “Was she pretty?”

  I answer like the lawyer I’m trying to become. “Not as pretty as you.”

  “Dallas Henry asked me to go to the movies with him,” Jenny tells me quietly.

  Any remorse I feel goes up in smoke and is replaced with blue flaming anger. Dallas Henry was a receiver on my high school football team—he was always a raging asshole. The kind of guy who made a play for the drunkest girls at the party—the kind who would’ve slipped something into their drinks to get them drunk faster.

  “Are you shittin’ me?”

  “I told him no.”

  The fury cools a notch—but only just barely. My fist is still gonna have a nice long chat with Dallas fucking Henry before I leave.

  “Why didn’t you say no, Stanton?” she accuses quietly.

  Her question brings the guilt back full force. Defensively, I get to my feet—pacing and tense. “I did say no! Plenty of times. Shit, Jenn . . . I thought . . . it wasn’t cheatin’! You can’t be mad at me for this. For doin’ what you said you wanted. That’s not fair.”

  Every muscle in my body strains—waiting for her response. After what feels like forever, she nods. “You’re right.”

  Her blue eyes look up at me and the sadness in them cuts me to the bone. “I just . . . I hate picturing what you did with her in my head. I wish I could go back to when . . . when I didn’t know. And I could pretend that it’s only ever been me.” She hiccups. “Is that . . . is that pathetic?”

  “No,” I groan. “It’s not.” I drop to my knees in front of her—aware that I’m begging, but not having the will to care. “It has only ever been you—in every way that matters. What happens when we’re apart, only means somethin’ if we let it mean somethin’.”

  My hands drift up her thighs, needing to touch her—to wipe this from her mind—wanting so badly for us to be us again.

  “I’m home for the summer. Two and half months and all I want to do for every second of that time is love you. Can I, darlin’? Please just let me love you.”

  Her lips are warm and puffy from crying. I brush at them gently at first, asking permission. Then firmer, spearing her mouth with my tongue, demanding compliance. It takes a moment, but then she’s kissing me back. Her small hands fist my shirt, gripping tight, pulling me to her.

  Owning me. The way she always has.

  Jenny falls back on the bed, taking me with her. I hover over her as her chest rises and falls—panting. “I don’t want to know ever again, Stanton. We don’t ask, we don’t tell—promise me.”

  “I promise,” I rasp, willing to agree to just about anything at this moment.

  “I start school in the fall,” she presses. “I’m gonna meet people too. I’m gonna go out—and you can’t get angry. Or jealous.”

  I shake my head. “I won’t. I don’t want to fight. I don’t . . . I don’t want to hold you back.”

  And that’s the crazy truth of it.

  There’s a part of me that wants to keep Jenny all to myself, lock her away in this house, and know she’s doing nothing else but waiting for me to come back. But stronger than that is the dread that we’ll burn out, end up hating each other—blaming each other—for all the living we missed out on. For all the things we never got to do.

  More than anything, I don’t want to wake up ten years from now and realize the reason my girl hates her life . . . is because of me.

  So if that means sharing her for a little while, then I’ll suck it up—I swear I will.

  My eyes burn into hers. “But when I’m home, you’re mine. Not Dallas fucking Henry’s—no one else’s but mine.”

  Her fingers trace my jaw. “Yes, yours. I’ll be who you come home to. They don’t get to keep you, Stanton. No other girl . . . gets to be who I am.”

  I kiss her with rough possession—sealing the words. My lips move down her neck as my hand slides up her stomach. But she grasps my wrist. “My parents are downstairs.”

  My eyes squeeze closed and I breathe deep. “Come to the river with me tonight? We’ll drive around until Presley falls asleep in the back.”

  Jenny smiles. “A truck ride knocks her out every time.”

  I kiss her forehead
. “Perfect.”

  I lie beside her and she curls into me, playing with the collar of my shirt. “It won’t be like this forever. One day, you’ll be done with school and things will go back to normal.”


  One day . . .


  Ten years later

  Washington, DC

  The work of a criminal defense attorney isn’t as exciting as you probably imagine. It’s not even as exciting as law students imagine. There’s a lot of research, case law referencing to back up every argument in pages and pages of legal briefs that are filled with enough semantics to give a layman a migraine. If you’re part of a firm, when you’re eventually entrusted to represent your clients at trial, there are rarely any dramatic cross-examination revelations, no big Law & Order moments.

  Mostly it’s just laying out the facts for the jury, piece by piece. One of the first rules you learn in law school is: never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.

  Sorry to piss on your parade, but it really doesn’t get less exciting than that.

  In the United States of America, defendants get to pick who’ll decide their fate: a judge or a jury of their peers. I always advise my clients to go with the jury—it’s a miracle to get twelve people to agree on where they’re having lunch, let alone the guilt or innocence of a defendant. And a mistrial, which is what happens when they can’t agree, is a win for the defense.

  Have you ever heard that old joke about juries? Do you really want to be judged by twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty? Yes—that’s exactly who you want judging you. Because juries are people unfamiliar with the letter of the law. And those are people who can be swayed—by lots of elements that have absolutely nothing to do with facts.

  If a jury likes a defendant, they’ll have a harder time convicting them of a charge that could keep their ass in a prison cell for the next ten to twenty years. It’s why an accused thief shows up to court in a nicely pressed suit—not prisoner oranges. It’s precisely why Casey Anthony’s wardrobe and hairstyle were carefully chosen to appear sweetly demure. Sure, juries are supposed to be impartial, they’re supposed to base their judgment on the evidence presented and nothing else.

  But human nature doesn’t quite work that way.

  Likeability of the defendant’s legal counsel also carries weight. If an attorney is sloppy, grumpy, or boring, the jury is less inclined to believe their version of the case. On the other hand, if the defending lawyer appears to have their shit together, if they’re well spoken—and yes—good looking, studies show juries are more likely to trust that lawyer. To believe them—and by extension, believe their client.

  It’s important not to look like you’re trying too hard. Not to appear shifty or sneaky—the last thing you want is to give off a “used car salesman” vibe. People know when they’re being lied to.

  But, here’s the most important thing: whenever possible, you want to show them a good time. Give them something to watch. They’re expecting objections and out-of-orders, the pounding of tables and banging of the gavel. They’re hoping for a live reenactment of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. The system may be boring, but you don’t have to be. You can be entertaining. Show them you’ve got a big swinging dick and you’re not afraid to use it.

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