For sports agent extraordinaire Jake Jensen dating means sex, nothing more. That’s why his “relationships” last, on average, two weeks. As long as the women go away quietly and don’t make a scene, he’s fine with that. Finding a new one to take the former’s place is never a problem for a handsome, generous, eligible bachelor.
They both want sex with no attachment—what could possibly go wrong? They could fall in love . . .
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They say you can’t choose your family, but that’s not true. You can’t choose the family you were born into. You can choose the family you marry into. Although you can’t choose the family your family marries into. Not that my family hasn’t tried.
“It’s not too late,” I said, waving the sheaf of paper in front of my sister’s face. “You’re not getting married for another”—I glanced at my watch—“fifty-six hours. That’s plenty of time to get a pre-nup signed.”
Whitney’s normally pale cheeks turned bright pink. “I swear to God, Samantha, if you bring that up one more time, I’m going to disown you.”
“You can’t disown me,” I said as I followed her through the obstacle course of clothes, shoes, and purses she called a bedroom. “You don’t even have a will. Although you should.” An argument we’d had at least a hundred times.
She spun around so fast we almost collided. “Can you stop being a lawyer for one goddamn second?”
A rhetorical question.
“You know how hard this is for me,” she continued, “and instead of helping, you’re making things worse.” I could already see the tears pooling in her bright green eyes. “Can’t you just be happy for me?” she yelled before the first drop escaped. Then she ran into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
I refused to feel guilty. I had nothing to feel guilty for. I was only trying to protect her. This was no different than when Whitney was five years old and I was twelve and Kimberly Koslowski, the brat who moved in down the street from us, told Whitney she couldn’t go to the Father’s Day Picnic because she didn’t have a father. I was the one who punched Kimberly in the stomach, then got sentenced to two weeks of detention. And no different than when our mother died when Whitney was fourteen and I had just turned twenty-one. I was the one who went to court so Whitney could live with me instead of our father, who didn’t really want her anyway.
So of course when Whitney had told me she wanted to marry some guy she’d met at a bar ten days earlier, I’d tried everything I could to stop her, including hiring a private investigator to make sure he wasn’t a con artist, rapist, or felon (he wasn’t), insisting he sign a pre-nup (he agreed, it was my sister who’d refused), and feigning a potentially serious illness in an attempt to slow down the process (my sister was really angry when she found out about that one). So I absolutely refused to feel guilty over inciting a few pre-wedding tears.
Yet somehow I still did.
“Whitney, I’m sorry,” I said through the locked bathroom door. “It’s not that I’m not happy for you.”
She flung the door open, granting me full view of her swollen eyes and tear-stained cheeks. “No, you just think I’m making the biggest mistake of my life,” she yelled before slamming the door shut again. But this time she didn’t lock it.
I pushed the door open and found my sister slumped on the toilet seat, so I sat down on the edge of the tub. “I didn’t say it was the biggest mistake of your life. You’re young. You have plenty of time to make even bigger mistakes.”
Whitney glared at me, but I continued to smile at her and she eventually cracked. She almost always did. Just as I almost always relented when she needled me. The fun was in seeing which one of us would cave first—at least according to my best friend, Jenna.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Whitney said. Her voice was still chilly, but I sensed an impending thaw.
I relaxed my smile into a full-faced grin. “Hey, that’s what sisters are for, right?”
“You mean they’re not to annoy the shit out of you?” she retorted.
“No, they’re for that too.”
Even though it wasn’t funny, we both started laughing anyway, and before long we were gasping for breath. You would’ve thought we were little kids again instead of a twenty-five-year-old actress and a thirty-two-year-old divorce attorney.
When the guffaws receded into giggles, I said, “Whit, you know I just want you to be happy, right?”
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “That’s why I’ve forgiven you for being the worst maid of honor ever.”
“Ever? C’mon, there must be worse maids of honor than me. It’s not like I slept with Michael and tried to steal him away from you.”
“No, you’re too smart for that. You think you can stop me with legal maneuvers.”
I waved the papers in front of her face again. “Hey, if your marriage can’t survive a little pre-nup—”
She threw her arms up and screamed. Then we both heard the banging on the front door. I was the one who ran downstairs to answer it.
“Is there blood?” Jenna asked as she stepped inside. “Should I be dialing nine-one-one?”
“No,” Whitney shouted from the top step. “At least not yet,” she added as she bounded down the staircase, her honey-blonde ponytail bouncing behind her.
“Where are you off to?” Jenna asked, although I thought the boxing gloves draped around my sister’s neck were a dead giveaway.
“The gym,” Whitney said. “I’m going to kick the shit out of a defenseless punching bag. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll be returning with a gun, so you might want to keep nine-one-one on speed dial.”
“Sounds serious,” Jenna said, turning to me.
“It’s not,” I replied. “Whitney’s just being her usual dramatic self.”
Whitney gave me an exaggerated eye roll, merely proving my point. “I’ll try to remember that we’re sisters when I’m pummeling your alter ego.”
“Yeah, I’ll try to do the same when I’m throwing all your crap out onto the street.”
“Love you,” she said and graced me with her best smile, the one that had been making everyone, and especially men, fall in love with her since before she could speak. Then she sailed past me toward the front door.
“Love you too,” I replied as she slammed it shut in my face.
“Seriously,” Jenna said, handing me her shopping bag, which was surprisingly heavy. How many linen samples had she brought with her? I was hosting a rehearsal dinner, not a black-tie gala. “Everything okay? I could hear the two of you from the driveway.”
“We’re fine,” I said, leading her into the kitchen. “Whitney’s diving into the shallow end, and I’m trying to ruin her life.”
She dropped her purse on the counter and hopped up onto a barstool. “So same old, same old?”
“Exactly,” I said and we both laughed. Jenna knew our routine. She’d been listening to it for sixteen years. She also knew how I felt about my sister’s impending marriage.
“Ya know,” Jenna said as I poured two cups of coffee from the still-warm pot, “it’s possible that she really has found true love.”
I snorted. “True love at a nightclub? I don’t think so.”
“It’s love at first sight. What does it matter where that sighting took place?”
I inhaled the rich, dark scent emanating from my mug. My sister was headstrong, impulsive, and a slob, but she made excellent coffee. “Lust is more like it.”
Jenna smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with lust, Sam.”
“I never said there was.” I was a firm believer in lust—in the abstract. It had been almost a year since I’d partaken in any myself, but based on the books all of my friends had been reading lately, lust was alive and well.
“Then maybe you should try it sometime.”
She was goading me. Jenna knew I had no one special in my life. There weren’t even any candidates for the role. “With anyone in particular? Or were you suggesting I place an ad on Craigslist?”
“Not Craigslist,” she said. “But a dating site would work.”
I leaned in. “Never. Going. To. Happen. Eeeever.”
“Are you done with your coffee?” I asked, grabbing the still-half-full cup from her hand.
“No,” she said as I poured it down the drain.
“No, you’re not. You’re just trying to redirect my attention.”
Of course I was. We’d discussed my refusal to use dating websites aka the cheating man’s (and woman’s) best friend many times. No need to re-litigate the issue. “Did it work?”
“No,” she said and glanced at her watch, “but I need to be in Beverly Hills in half an hour, so I don’t have time to fight with you.” Then she reached into her shopping bag and pulled out six linen napkins in various shades of white. “Pick one.”
I pointed to the napkin with the darkest hue thinking that it would show the least amount of dirt.
“Ecru? Seriously? For a rehearsal dinner?”
“What’s wrong with ecru for a rehearsal dinner?”
Jenna shook her head. “I’m ordering you the porcelain with the inlaid floral pattern.”
“If you were just going to choose for me, why did you even bother showing them to me?”
“That’s a good question,” she said as she tossed all six napkins back into the shopping bag, not even bothering to get my opinion on the tablecloths. “I’ll be sure to discuss that with my shrink.”
I laughed. “Don’t waste your money. I can tell you for free. It’s all about your need to control things.”
“Oh, that’s rich coming from you,” she said as she pawed the interior of her giant purse.
“I don’t try to control things.”
She pulled out her car keys and looked up. “Seriously? You don’t think you have control issues?”
But before I could answer, Jenna’s phone rang and she mouthed, “Gotta run,” as she dealt with what sounded like yet another hysterical bride. The conversations always started the same—“Jenna, help! The most important day of my life is about to be ruined!”
I had to laugh. As if someone’s wedding day was the most important day of their life! Didn’t these women realize more than half of all marriages ended in divorce? Whenever I reminded Jenna of that fact, which was often, she just said, “At least they’re in love, not all bitter and angry like your clients.”
Jenna’s characterization. My own characterization of my clients was wise—especially the ones who sought my advice before the wedding. They knew love didn’t last. Of course those clients were usually on their second or third marriages. The ones on their first marriage generally hired me after they’d said their I do’s—when it was too late for me to save them from their foolish choices. Ah, well, it was a living.