Overruled (The Legal Briefs, #1)

Written By: Emma Chase

Overruled (The Legal Briefs, #1) by Emma Chase




To my Mom and Dad, for showing me how this parenting thing is done.





Acknowledgments

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.





1

Senior year high school, October

Sunshine, Mississippi

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.

“It’s positive.”

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.

It doesn’t.

“Sonofabitch.”

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.