Author:Emma Chase

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.


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