Welcome to Whynot, North Carolina, population 3,872. It has one stoplight, one bar, and the one-and-only Trixie Mancinkus.
Eleven years ago, Trixie graduated Harvard Law, turned down a job offer from one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston, and headed home to Whynot to open her own firm. Not only did she leave behind the big city, but she also left her boyfriend of three years. And just so we’re clear… that would be me.
So what am I doing in Whynot at this very moment? It seems Trixie needs help with a legal case and for some insane reason, she called on me for assistance. I’ve been in town for five minutes, and I’m every bit as out of place as I feel. Trixie is all sweet, southern curves to my tailored suits and high-priced haircuts. It’s a culture clash of north versus south and about the only thing we have in common is our physical attraction to each other.
But I have a new motto since coming to Whynot: When life hands you lemons, all you need is a little sex and sweet tea to make things better.
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Over lettuce wraps, I let her vent more about her brother but I only let this go on during the appetizer. Once our entrees arrive, I insist we change the subject. She’s not calming down, only getting more worked up, and diversion has always worked best with Trixie.
“Raleigh seems to be a nice town,” I say conversationally in an effort to get her relaxed.
She rolls her eyes at me because as much as I know how to “handle” her when her temper is spiked, she recognizes the fact that I am indeed handling her. Apparently, she finds it adorable. She cuts a piece of her orange chicken and gives in to my attempt to switch the conversation. “It really is. It’s spread out so you don’t have that overwhelming big-city feel, but you have all the luxuries a big city affords like museums, professional sports, fine dining, etcetera.”
“Overwhelming is an interesting choice of words,” I observe. “You didn’t feel that way in Boston, did you?”
I’m surprised when her cheeks turn a bit red. Her voice is reluctant when she admits, “Yeah… it was a bit too much for me.”
My mouth hangs open as I stare at her. How could I not know that? We had made plans to live in Boston, and there was a time when she was completely on board.
“I’m sorry,” she blurts out. “I know what you’re thinking… Why would I have even considered all those plans we’d made if I felt that way?”
“Got to admit… this is a bit surprising to hear.”
Trixie puts her fork down and levels her gaze on me. “Ry… I loved you. And I loved Cambridge. It was small and well… comfortable. It wasn’t small like Whynot, but it reminded me of home a bit. But honestly, I was only considering staying there in Boston because of you. I didn’t like it at all. Too many people. Too much concrete and glass. Too much noise. It’s just not me.”
“You should have said something a lot earlier than you did,” I reprimand her quietly. I can’t help feeling a bit angry over this revelation, because who knows what would have happened had we had some honest discussions about where we wanted to go that could suit both of us.
“Would it have changed anything?” she asks me bluntly. “You were set on Boston. You wanted that job at Hayes Lockamy. You worked your ass off at Harvard and the clerkships to get that job offer. It was everything to you.”
“It wasn’t everything,” I tell her sharply.
“Maybe not,” she retorts. “But it clearly meant more than me. As I recall, I asked you to come to Whynot to practice, and I got a resounding ‘no’ to that offer.”
“You sprung that on me at literally the last minute, Trixie,” I say angrily. “After I’d accepted the job offer at Hayes Lockamy. You didn’t give me any time to process any of it.”
“And you didn’t bother to try to talk me into staying,” she snaps.
“Seriously, Trix,” I say in exasperation. “I’ve been here two days, and I’ve watched you in your element. You were born to live here. This is where you’re supposed to be. Being a small-town lawyer in Whynot surrounded by your close-knit, if not nutty, family is what brings you joy. Are you seriously trying to infer that you would have left all of this to stay in Boston with me if I’d just tried to talk you into staying?”
“No, what I’m saying,” she sneers at me as she leans across the table but I don’t miss the light sheen of tears in her eyes, “is that you and I clearly weren’t meant to be, and we’re both better off for making the choices we did.”
Now that hits me hard, right in the middle of my chest, and I have to resist the urge to rub my knuckles over my breastbone to ease the pain.
Trixie merely pushes up from her chair, grabs her purse, and practically runs out of the restaurant.
“Shit,” I mutter as I stand up. I grab my wallet, take out enough money to cover the meal and tip, and toss it down on the table.
I jet out of the restaurant, scan the area, and see Trixie walking quickly toward her car. I wouldn’t put it past her to jump in it and drive off without me, so I break into a fast trot to catch up with her. My hand latches onto her elbow just as she reaches her car, and I spin her to face me.
“What the hell, Trix?” I ask her with frustration, anger, and a little bit of self-loathing that I let the conversation get so out of hand. I’ve always been the mild-mannered one between the two of us, knowing how to deftly control and sidestep her temper so it doesn’t get the better of her.
I brace, expect her to rail and rant some more. Instead, she launches herself right at me, making a tiny hop to throw her arms around my neck. Her mouth comes to mine hard as one of her hands grips into my hair, fisting it tight.
Jesus Christ… stars wink in my vision at the feel of her mouth on mine, so long forgotten and yet completely familiar all at once. I don’t think—just act. My arms band around her tight, hauling her body to mine. I push her back into the side of her car, tilt my head, and I kiss her back with every bit of longing and regret that she seems to be mutually feeling in this moment.
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Juliette Poe is the sweet and swoony alter ego of New York Times Best Selling author, Sawyer Bennett.
A fun-loving southern girl, Juliette knows the allure of sweet tea, small towns, and long summer nights, that some of the best dates end sitting on the front porch swing, and that family is top priority. She brings love in the south to life in her debut series, Sex & Sweet Tea.
When Juliette isn’t delivering the sweetest kind of romance, she’s teaching her southern belle daughter the fine art of fishing, the importance of wearing Chucks, and the endless possibilities of a vivid imagination.