Emma Chase, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who created the “hot, hilarious, and passionate” (Katy Evans) novels in the Tangled series, turns her award-winning talents to the erotic escapades of lawyers in love, lust, and compromising positions . . . the Legal Briefs series!
Raves for Emma Chase and her sexy bestsellers
One of PopSugar’s Best Books for Women 2014
“Sublimely irreverent, massively sexy, and so frigging perfect, readers will be bursting with giddy smiles. This, praise Emma, is the ending we all wanted.”
—Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Secret
One of PopSugar’s Best Books for Women 2014
“Witty, endearing, laugh-out-loud funny. Emma Chase doesn’t disappoint.”
—K. Bromberg, bestselling author of Driven
“A great escape.”
—Katy Evans, New York Times bestselling author of Real and Ripped
“A delicious treat . . . funny, witty, and very sexy.”
—The Book Bella
“I laughed. I cried. I yelled. I wanted to stop reading, but I couldn’t…Emma Chase really knows how to evoke emotion from her readers!”
“Emma Chase grabbed me from page one and put me through the wringer.”
—Caffeinated Book Reviewer
“A yummy read . . . interesting, intense, sexy, and challenging.”
“Is emotional whiplash considered a sickness? I am more in love with this series than I was before, my heart just took a severe beating along the way.”
—The Geekery Book Review
Emma Chase was chosen as the Debut Goodreads Author in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2013
for her sensational novel
Also a Goodreads Best Book of 2013!
“Well-written, clever, and charming.”
—Maryse’s Book Blog
“Total stop, drop, and roll reading. . . . Oh, and the sex . . . completely and utterly scandalicious.”
—Scandalicious Book Reviews
“Addictively entertaining. If you’re looking for a witty, laugh-out-loud insight into the male psyche look no further: it’s Tangled.”
—Miss Ivy’s Book Nook
“If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud, can’t-put-it-down, quick read, you won’t be disappointed.”
“I give Tangled . . . Five Spectacular, Swoony, Fun, Laugh-Out-Loud Stars!”
—A Bookish Escape
“I seriously enjoyed this book; any erotic romance that you can laugh out loud while reading and then be turned on in the next paragraph is an exhilarating book to read.”
—Schmexy Girl Book Blog
“A perfect romantic comedy told through the eyes of a very cocky and sexy man.”
—Literati Book Reviews
“So, not only is it funny, it’s deliciously hot too! The sex scenes are great. Laced with humor and Drew’s honest, frank way of thinking, they’re just another stroke of genius that make this book such a must-read.”
—Smitten’s Book Blog
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To my Mom and Dad, for showing me how this parenting thing is done.
Beginning a new series has been both thrilling and terrifying. Thrilling, because there are new characters to explore, new places to discover, new storylines to lose myself in. The possibilities of “Chapter 1” are exhilaratingly infinite. And terrifying, because . . . well . . . one word: new. It’s something different, a change. A quieting of the characters I already know and love, who have become my sweetest, dearest friends.
Many writers regard their books as their babies—their offspring. But I didn’t really understand that comparison until I began writing Overruled. Child #1 was my everything—easily the most magnificent thing I’d ever done. Would I feel the same way when Child #2 arrived? Was it really possible to love another as completely as I already loved Child #1?
The answer, of course, was yes. It was not only possible but a wonderful, absolute certainty.
As pages turned into chapters, I came to know the characters of the Legal Briefs series—their histories, their voices, their quirks and strengths. And now I can say, without a doubt, that I adore them every bit as much as the characters of the Tangled series. In different ways, for different reasons—but certainly no less.
I’m so grateful to so many who have helped bring this new story to bookshelves and new characters to life. Most of you know who you are, but it’s an honor to acknowledge you here in black and white.
My super agent Amy Tannenbaum, and everyone at the Jane Rotrosen Agency—I’d be lost without you! Really, really lost.
My publicists, Nina Bocci and Kristin Dwyer—I’m so lucky to have you in my corner!
My editor, Micki Nuding—it’s such a privilege to work with you. Thank you for understanding exactly where I want to take my characters and for knowing just what to say to help me get them there.
My assistant, Juliet Fowler—your innovation and organization are invaluable! Thank you for staying on top of everything so I can stay buried in the writing cave.
Kim Jones, author of Saving Dallas—thank you for taking the time to talk and text with me about all things Mississippi! Stanton is a better man—a better Southern man—because of you.
My publishers at Gallery Books, Jennifer Bergstrom and Louis Burke—I still pinch myself to make sure working with you isn’t just a dream! Thank you for believing in me and for your continued support.
To all of my talented, warm, and hilarious author friends—you are my idols and a fantastic source of encouragement.
To all my blogger friends—thank you for your tireless work, your humbling support, and for doing all that you do so very well.
My dearest husband and two children—I’d never be able to write about the joys in my characters’ lives if you were not the joys in mine.
Finally, to my amazing readers—I think of you all while I write, always with the hope of entertaining you, making you laugh, gasp, swoon, and smile. Thank you for taking this journey with me and I hope you fall for these new characters as completely as I have.
Senior year high school, October
Most stories start at the beginning. But not this one. This one starts at the end. Or, at least, what I thought was the end—of my life, my dreams, my future. I thought it was all over because of two words.
Two words. Two little blue lines.
My stomach free falls and my knees lose their will. My green Sunshine High School football jersey clings to my torso, stained with dark sweat spots under the pits—and it’s got nothing to do with the Mississippi sun. I take the stick from Jenny’s hand and shake it, hoping one blue line will disappear.
But even at seventeen, my debate skills are sharp. I offer a counterargument—an explanation. Reasonable doubt.
“Maybe you did it wrong? Or maybe it’s defective? We should get another one.”
Jenny sniffs as tears gather in her baby blues. “I’ve been gettin’ sick every mornin’ for the last week, Stanton. I haven’t had my period in two months. It’s positive.” She wipes at her cheeks and raises her chin. “I’m not stealin’ another test from Mr. Hawkin’s store to tell us what we already know.”
When you live in a small town—particularly a small southern town—everybody knows everybody. They know your granddaddy, your momma, your wild big brother and sweet baby sister; they know all about your uncle who got locked up in the federal penitentiary and the cousin who was never quite right after that unfortunate tractor incident. Small towns make it too awkward to get condoms, too hard to go on birth control pills, and impossible to buy a pregnancy test.
Unless you want your parents to hear all about it before your girl even has time to piss on the stick.
Jenny wraps her arms around her waist with trembling hands. As scared shitless as I am, I know it’s nothing compared to what she’s feeling. And that’s on me. I did this—my eagerness, my horniness. Fucking stupidity.
People can say what they want about feminism and equality and that’s all fine and good. But I was raised on the idea that men are protectors. Where the buck stops. The ones who go down with the ship. So the fact that my girl is “in trouble” is no one’s fault but mine.
“Hey, c’mere.” I pull her small body against my chest, holding her tight. “It’s gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be all right.”
Her shoulders shake as she weeps. “I’m so sorry, Stanton.”
I met Jenny Monroe in the first grade. I put a toad in her backpack because my brother dared me to. For two months she shot spitballs at the back of my head in retribution. In third grade I thought I was in love with her—by sixth grade I was sure of it. She was beautiful, funny, and she could throw a football better than any girl—and half the boys—I knew. We broke up in eighth grade when Tara-Mae Forrester offered to let me touch her boobs.
And I did.
We got back together that next summer, when I won her a bear at the county fair.
She’s more than just my first kiss—my first everything. Jenny’s my best friend. And I’m hers.
I rear back so I can look into her eyes. I touch her face and stroke her silky blond hair. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for. You didn’t do this by yourself.” I wiggle my eyebrows and grin. “I was there too, remember?”
That makes her laugh. She swipes a finger under both eyes. “Yeah, it was a good night.”
I cup her cheek. “Sure was.”
It wasn’t our first time—or our tenth—but it was one of the best. The kind of night you never forget—a full moon and a flannel blanket. Just a few feet from where we are right now—next to the river with a six-pack of beer kicked and music floating out of the open windows of my pickup. It was all soft kisses, hot whispers, sweaty bodies, and grasping hands. Joined so deep I couldn’t tell where I ended and she began. Pleasure so intense I wanted it to last forever—and prayed out loud that it would.
We would’ve thought about it—tried to relive it—years from now, even if we weren’t having a baby to commemorate it.
Fuck me. As the reality truly starts to set in, my stomach drops all the way to China.
Like a mind reader, Jenny asks, “What are we gonna do?”
My father always told me being scared was nothing to be ashamed of. It was how you reacted to that fear that mattered. Cowards run. Men step up.
And I’m no coward.
I swallow roughly, and all my aspirations, hopes, and plans for leaving this town get swallowed too. I look out over the river, watching the sun sparkle off the water, and make the only choice I can.
“We’re gettin’ married. We’ll stay with my parents at first. I’ll work on the farm, go to night school—we’ll save up. You’ll have to put off nursin’ school for a little while. Eventually we’ll get our own place. I’ll take care of you.” I put my hand on her still-flat stomach. “Both of you.”
Her reaction isn’t what I imagine.
Jenny steps back out of my arms, eyes wide and head shaking. “What? No! No, you’re supposed to leave for New York right after graduation.”
“You gave up your Ole Miss football scholarship to go to Columbia. It’s Ivy League.”
I shake my head. And lie.
“Jenn, none of that matters now.”
There’s not a single guy in this town who wouldn’t give his eye teeth to play ball at Ole Miss . . . but not me. I’ve always wanted different—bigger, brighter, farther.
Jenny’s flip-flopped feet kick up sand as she paces on the riverbank. Her white sundress flares as she turns a final time to me, finger pointing. “You’re goin’ and that’s all there is to it. Just like we planned. Nothin’s changed.”
My voice rails with resentment she doesn’t deserve. “What are you talkin’ about—everything’s changed! You can’t come visit me once a month with a baby! We can’t bring a baby to a dorm room.”
Resigned, she whispers, “I know.”
I take my own step back. “You expect me to leave you here? That was gonna be hard enough before, but now . . . I’m not gonna fucking walk away when you’re pregnant. What kinda man do you think I am?”
She grasps my hands and gives me a speech that rivals “win one for the Gipper.” “You’re the kind of man who’s gonna go to Columbia University and graduate with honors. A man who’s gonna be able to name his salary when he does. You’re not walkin’ away, you’re doin’ what’s best for us. For our family, our future.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
“Oh yes you are.”
“And what about your future?”
“I’ll stay with my parents—they’ll help me with the baby. They’re practically raising the twins anyway.”
Jenny’s older sister, Ruby, is the proud mother of twins, with baby number three on the way. She attracts losers like cow shit attracts flies. The unemployed, the alcoholic, the lazy—she can’t get enough of them.
“Between them and your parents, I’ll still be able to go to nursin’ school.” Jenny wraps her slender arms around my neck.
And, God, she’s pretty.
“I don’t want to leave you,” I murmur.
But my girl’s mind is made up. “You’ll go and come home when you can. And when you can, it’ll get us through until the next time.”
I kiss her lips—they’re soft and full and taste like cherry. “I love you. I’ll never love anyone the way I love you.”
She smiles. “And I love you, Stanton Shaw—there’s only ever gonna be you.”
Young love is strong. First love is powerful. But what you don’t know when you’re young—what you can’t know—is how long life actually is. And the only dependable thing about it, besides death and taxes, is change.
Jenny and I had a whole lot of change headed our way.
She takes my hand and we walk to my truck. I open the door for her and she asks, “Who are we gonna tell first? Yours or mine?”
I blow out a breath. “Yours. Get the crazy side over with first.”
She’s not offended. “Let’s just hope Nana never finds the shells to that shotgun.”
• • •
Seven months later
This can’t be normal. Dr. Higgens keeps saying it is, but there’s no way.
I grew up on a farm. I’ve seen all types of births—cows, horses, sheep. None of them sounded like this.
This? This is like a horror movie. Like Saw . . . a massacre.
If this is what women go through to have a baby, why would they ever risk having sex at all?
I’m not sure I want to risk having sex again. Jerking off looks a lot better now than it did yesterday.
Jenny screams so loud my ears ring. And I groan as her grip tightens on my already tender hand. The air is thick with sweat—and panic. But Dr. Higgens just sits there on a stool adjusting his glasses. Then he braces his hands on his knees and peers between Jenny’s spread, stirrupped legs—the way my mother squints into the oven on Thanksgiving, trying to decide if the turkey’s done.
Gasping, Jenny collapses back against the pillows and moans, “I’m dyin’, Stanton! Promise me you’ll take care of the baby when I’m gone. Don’t let it grow up to be an idiot like your brother, or a slut like my sister.”
Her blond bangs are dark with sweat. I push them back from her forehead. “Oh, I don’t know. Idiots are funny and sluts have their good points.”
“Don’t patronize me, dammit! I’m dyin’!”
Fear and exhaustion put an extra snap in my voice. “Listen up—there is no way in hell you’re leavin’ me to do this on my own. You’re not dying.”
Then I turn to Dr. Higgens. “Isn’t there somethin’ you can do? Drugs you can give her?”