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Meet the men of Oxford magazine! In the first captivating spin-off of Lauren Layne’s Sex, Love & Stiletto series, a not-so-friendly battle of the sexes turns into a scorching office romance.
Hotshot sports editor Cole Sharpe has been freelancing for Oxford for years, so when he hears about a staff position opening up, he figures he’s got the inside track. Then his boss drops a bombshell: Cole has competition. Female competition, in the form of a fresh-faced tomboy who can hang with the dudes—and write circles around them, too. Cole usually likes his women flirty and curvy, but he takes a special interest in his skinny, sassy rival, if only to keep an eye on her. And soon, he can’t take his eyes off her.
Penelope Pope knows all too well that she comes off as just one of the guys. Since she’s learned that wanting more usually leads to disappointment, Penelope’s resigned to sitting on the sidelines when it comes to love. So why does Cole make her want to get back in the game? The man is as arrogant as he is handsome. He probably sees her as nothing more than a barrier to his dream job. But when an unexpected kiss turns into a night of irresistible passion, Penelope has to figure out whether they’re just fooling around—or starting something real.
Praise for Irresistibly Yours
“Irresistibly Yours has it all: fun banter, hot chemistry, and a couple that you just can’t help but want to be together!”—New York Times bestselling author Marquita Valentine
“Lauren Layne had me at baseball, and I stayed up way too late devouring Cole and Penelope’s story. Sassy, sizzling, and sexy (with sports!). This one’s a grand slam!”—Tracy March, author of Should’ve Said No
Lauren Layne’s New York Times bestselling Oxford Novel series can be read in any order: IRRESISTIBLY YOURS I WISH YOU WERE MINE SOMEONE LIKE YOU I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE I THINK I LOVE YOU
Don’t miss any of Lauren Layne’s hot reads:
The Love Unexpectedly series: BLURRED LINES | GOOD GIRL | LOVE STORY | WALK OF SHAME | AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
The Sex, Love & Stiletto series: AFTER THE KISS | LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH | JUST ONE NIGHT | THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE
The Redemption series: ISN’T SHE LOVELY | BROKEN | CRUSHED
The I Do, I Don’t series: READY TO RUN | RUNAWAY GROOM
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Irresistibly Yours
Tonight was about Cole’s professional future.
The key to that future? Oxford magazine.
Oxford was the country’s top selling men’s magazine where Lincoln—and most of Cole’s other closest friends—worked.
But more important, it was also where Cole worked.
Well, sort of.
He would work there. Just as soon as he found the a-hole who was after his job.
Cole wasn’t going to pretend that he didn’t have a competitive streak. It was a prerequisite for someone whose bread and butter came from knowing the nuances of professional sports.
And it was rare that Cole felt a personal investment in a competition. But tonight? Tonight, it was definitely personal. Cole was the competitor.
The title of Senior Sports Editor at Oxford.
The magazine was finally getting a real sports section. Their token two-page spread on fantasy football squeezed in between cologne reviews and the proper way to wear a tie clip was being expanded to a multipage, multitopic sports section.
A section that needed an editor.
Cole was the right man for the job. The only man for the job. Not only had he been writing for Oxford as a freelancer for years, but the editor in chief, Alex Cassidy, was one of his closest friends.
When Cassidy had come to Cole and explained that he wanted to make Oxford a serious contender for the Sports Illustrated readers, Cole had been darn sure that Cassidy was offering him the job.
Heck, Cassidy had been begging him for months to join the team, and Cole was finally ready—ready for a steady paycheck.
Ready to belong to something.
Because, although Cole wasn’t exactly dying to buy a house in the ’burbs and settle down with a nice girl, it wasn’t just about Cole.
It was about Bobby, and the fact that Bobby’s care was getting more and more expensive. His brother needed more than Cole’s occasional freelance checks could provide.
Cole wasn’t just ready for this job. He needed it.
And that’s when Alex Cassidy had dropped his bomb.
The job wasn’t Cole’s for the taking.
So, goodbye to Easygoing Cole. Hello, Gladiator Cole.
Because, really, what the heck?
Cole hadn’t minded that they’d had to publicly post the position. He understood there were HR boxes that had to be checked. But never had Cole thought there’d actually be competition. Not only were the Oxford guys practically his family, but Cole was the best damn sportswriter in the city.
His application should have been a formality. Their request that he update his résumé and submit a portfolio should have been just a matter of documentation.
The position was his, darn it. Cole was the Oxford sports section.
Except he wasn’t. Not yet anyway.
Cassidy had called him yesterday to inform Cole that he was a finalist. A finalist.
Pissing Cole off even further, Cassidy wouldn’t tell him who his competition was. Cole had named every worthwhile sportswriter in the city, but Cassidy wouldn’t so much as grunt in confirmation.
Darn Cassidy and his unshakable professionalism.
His friend hadn’t left him completely in the lurch, though.
Cassidy had pointedly mentioned to Lincoln that the other candidate had been invited to the suite reserved by Berkin’s Hospitality Group for tonight’s Yankees game.
Lincoln had, of course, told Cole.
So here they were, trying to sniff out the competition.
It was the only reason Cole would be caught dead in the luxury suite. Cole hated luxury suites.
This wasn’t what baseball—or any game—was about. Baseball was about the peanuts, the rowdy crowds, the overpriced beer. It was about the sound of a fastball smacking against the catcher’s glove, the satisfying crack of a wooden bat when a rookie pinch hitter really got hold of one.
For Cole, watching baseball was about sitting with his brother in the stands, watching Bobby’s face go positively ecstatic every time they did the wave, and the way his brother never, ever got tired of the seventh-inning stretch. That was baseball.
And Cole wanted nothing more than to be an anonymous part of the rowdy crowd, preferably on the third baseline, watching the Yankees hopefully trounce the Blue Jays.
Instead, he was stuck here with a bunch of fools who wouldn’t recognize a line drive if it hit them in the can. Adding insult to injury, it was all for nothing. There was no sign of his competition. Cole knew every decent sportswriter in the city, and none were here tonight.
It was possible, he supposed, that Cassidy was considering some out-of-town jock for the position, but a quick scan of the room showed only familiar faces, all corporate bigwigs.
“Let’s get out of here,” Cole said to Lincoln, downing the rest of his beer in three gulps.
“You don’t want to wait for Cassidy?”
“Nah, I’ll catch him tomorrow.”
Before Cole turned to leave, he couldn’t resist one last look in the direction where his Tiny Brunette had been sitting.
He paused when he saw that she’d returned and, incredibly, the woman had just become more appealing. Her face was turned to the side slightly, her notebook now on the open seat to her right instead of her lap, and she wrote furiously with her right hand, while her left hand held . . .
A hot dog.
Be still my heart.
Apparently, Miss Glued-to-the-Game had managed to tear herself away long enough to get a good old-fashioned hot dog. Mustard only, from the looks of it. Personally Cole would have added some ketchup, but still . . . a woman who’d so unabashedly eat a hot dog?
He had to talk to this woman.
Cole was beside her before he’d even fully committed to the decision to move, ignoring Lincoln’s snicker behind him.
Up close, she was even smaller than he expected. Narrow shoulders, no chest to speak of, skinny little arms. He had yet to see her face full on, thanks to the cap pulled low on her forehead, and suddenly he wasn’t sure what he was more desperate to see, her face or her notebook.
He cleared his throat. “Hey.”
Not exactly his best opener, but it sufficed to get her attention.
Tiny Brunette’s pen stopped its furious scribbling, and her jaw paused in its steady chewing of the hot dog. Slowly her face lifted to his and Cole had the strangest sensation of the breath catching in his chest as he waited to finally meet this woman’s eyes.
And, wow. What a pair of eyes they were.
If the rest of her was tiny, her eyes were enormous by comparison. Huge and dark brown and friendly.
Damn she was cute.
Not gorgeous. Not beautiful. But she had the girl-next-door, wanna-grab-a-pitcher? kind of appeal.
She also wasn’t Cole’s type. At all. He liked ’em blond and leggy and seductive.
Still, that dang notebook . . .
“Cole Sharpe,” he said, sticking out a hand.
Her eyes widened just slightly, and for a second he thought maybe she’d recognized his name, but then she smiled and it was pure friendly curiosity.
“Hi!” Her voice matched the rest of her. Girlish and guileless.
Cole found himself oddly enchanted. She was so . . . different.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing with his chin toward the seat beside her.
Cole started to reach for her notebook under the guise of making room for himself, but she pulled it onto her lap before he could touch it.
He sat and allowed himself to fully satisfy his curiosity, taking her in now that he could see her face-to-face. The Yankees cap still shielded the top part of her face, but he could clearly make out a pointed chin, small nose, and those big, gorgeous brown eyes. As far as he could tell, she wasn’t wearing a speck of makeup, which allowed a light dusting of freckles to display loud and proud over her nose and the tops of her cheekbones. Cute. Definitely cute.
And already, she was refocused on the game.
Cole’s eyes narrowed slightly as he realized that he’d been the only one doing any staring. Her attention had returned to the field, almost before he’d sat down.
What was this bullshit?
The lack of female appreciation was unusual enough—and uncomfortable enough—to make him slightly peeved. So, instead of doing the decent thing and letting her watch the Yankees’ starter reclaim his spot on the mound, he talked to her.
At her, really. She still wasn’t looking his way. Not even to check him out.
“First game?” he asked.
Brown eyes flicked to him, barely. “What?”
“First baseball game?”
That got her attention. For the first time, she seemed to really look at him. Her eyes drifted over him slowly, before returning to his, her tone just slightly annoyed. “No. Not my first game.”
“Ah,” he said, already mentally maneuvering into a backpedal. “Bad assumption of me. You were just so into the game . . .”
“So you figured I must be trying to figure out how it all worked?” she asked. “That I must be trying to understand why some of the field is green and some is brown, and whatever could those white squares on the dirt be, and why-oh-why are those men running toward the white squares, but only sometimes . . .”
“All right,” Cole said with a laugh. “I’m an idiot. You know baseball.”
Her smile was quick and easy, and he was relieved to see that she wasn’t one of those snippy, hold-it-against-him-forever types. “I know baseball.”
Is that what’s in your notebook? Baseball stuff?
She took a huge bite of her hot dog, completely unabashed at her bulging cheeks, and Cole hid a smile, pretending instead to be fixated on the game.
Heck. When had he ever had to pretend to be fixated on the Yankees?
“You were partially right,” she admitted, after swallowing.
He glanced at her. “Oh yeah?”
She grinned. “This is my first Yankees game.”
“I knew it,” he said, matching her grin full on. “I knew there was something virgin about you. But tell me, how come a baseball fan like you never made it to Yankee Stadium until now?”
“Well . . .” She licked a spot of mustard off her finger, but not in the slow, deliberate way that most women he knew would have done it. “It’s a long way from Chicago . . .”
Cole tore his eyes away from the way her lips closed around her thumb, sucking off that mustard. “You’re from Chicago?”
“From there, yes,” she said. “But let’s just say that as of two weeks ago, I’ll be spending a lot more time here than at Wrigley.”
“Ah. You’re new to New York.”
“How do you like it?”
She hesitated. “It’s . . . intense.”
“Meaning . . . we New Yorkers are scary as hell?”
She smiled. “Well, it’s not as hostile as I’d been warned, but yeah. We Chicagoans are a bit more openly friendly than you New Yorkers.”
“I’m friendly,” he countered.
Tiny Brunette laughed. “No. You’re just incredibly charming. And a smidgen good-looking.”
He gave her his best bedroom look. “Am I?”
She smiled. “You know you are.”
Their eyes held for a moment, and Cole was startled to realize it was the most relaxed—the most himself—he’d felt around a woman in . . . hell . . . he didn’t know.
Mostly he was used to throwing out a couple of witty lines, a few slow smiles, and watching women counter with moves of their own.
There were no moves with this woman. She merely was.
Cole realized he didn’t even know her name.
“So tell me, as a Chicago baseball fan, are you Team Cubs or Team White Sox, Ms. . . .”
“Pope,” she said. “Penelope Pope. And both.”
Cole’s subconscious acknowledged that Penelope Pope was somehow exactly what this woman’s name should be. Perky and alliterative. His consciousness, however, latched on to another fact. “Both?”
It was not a typical answer. Most people had one baseball team, even if you were from a city with two teams, as Penelope was.
She shrugged. “Baseball’s not about who wins. It’s not even about who’s playing. It’s about the game. The consistent flow of it, the smack of the ball against the glove when you’re lucky enough to be sitting along one of the baselines, instead of stuck up here in this stuffy box—”
He stared at her. The words so closely echoed his own thoughts from just moments before that he wanted to kiss her.
She might just be his dream woman.
“That explains the hot dog,” he said.
He nodded his chin at the last bite of hot dog, ignored in her left hand. “The hot dog. You’re in a luxury suite in Yankee Stadium with a whole buffet of gourmet foods, and yet you went and fetched the most basic hot dog you could find.”
She grinned. “Guilty.”
Cole turned his body all the way toward her now. “Tell me, Penelope Pope, what brings a Cubs and White Sox fan all the way to New York where you’ll face a whole new dilemma of choosing between the Yankees and the Mets . . .”
Tiny Brunette never got to answer.
The shadow of someone coming up behind their seats caused them both to turn. It was Alex Cassidy, Oxford’s editor in chief, looking down at them with a half-amused, half-worried expression.
“Cassidy,” Cole said. He lifted an eyebrow and silently added, Nice of you to show up.
“Sorry I’m late,” Cassidy said, not really sounding sorry at all. “I got held up.”
Automatically, Cole’s eyes scanned the luxury suite until he found the pretty woman he knew was likely to be somewhere around here . . .
Yup, there she was.
Emma Sinclair, Cassidy’s long-ago runaway bride, with whom he’d recently reconciled, was surreptitiously wiping smudged lipstick from the corner of her mouth.
His eyes returned to his boss, this time looking closer . . .
“Third button, dude,” Cole said wearily.
The always polished Cassidy glanced down, and without so much as wincing, fixed the misaligned buttons of his shirt.
Cole should have known. A naked Emma Sinclair was the only thing that could throw Alex Cassidy off his rigid timetable.
But Emma and Cassidy’s sex life was where the predictable part of the evening ended, because Cole was absolutely not prepared for Cassidy to reach out a hand to Tiny Brunette, a polite smile on his usually impassive face.
“Alex Cassidy. I’m so sorry I’m late, Ms. Pope.”
Cole glanced between the two of them. They knew each other?
“Not a problem,” she said, turning an easy smile on Cassidy. It was the exact same friendly smile she’d given Cole, and it very much made Cole want to punch his friend in the mouth.
“It’s refreshing to see you two playing so nicely,” Cassidy said with a droll look at Cole.
He narrowed his eyes at his boss, not sure what he was missing, but certain that he was missing something. Cassidy answered Cole’s silent question with his usual professional businessman smile. “Cole, this is Penelope Pope.”
“We’ve met,” Cole said slowly.
“Excellent. So then you know that Penelope is our late-stage applicant for the sports editor role at Oxford?”
Very slowly, Cole turned toward Tiny Brunette. Took in her friendly smile even as he took in the sorry-not-sorry glint in her eyes.
This was his competition. This was the person standing between Cole and the job he so desperately wanted.
“I suppose I should have been more thorough when I introduced myself,” she said sweetly. “Penelope Pope. Sports editor.”
Plus side? At least now Cole knew what was in her damn notebook.
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels. A former e-commerce and Web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated in 2011 to New York City, where she left the corporate world to pursue a full-time writing career.
Her hobbies include maintaining a designer purse addiction and observing cocktail hour. Lauren lives with her high school sweetheart in midtown Manhattan, where she writes romantic comedies with just enough sexy-times to make your mother blush.