I Wish You Were Mine

An Oxford Novel

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USA TODAY BESTSELLER • In this charming Oxford Novel, hailed by Keri Ford as “a sizzling-loud friends-to-lovers story,” Lauren Layne poses a provocative question: What do you do when you fall in love with your sister’s ex?

A year ago, Jackson Burke was married to the love of his life and playing quarterback for the Texas Redhawks. Now he’s retired, courtesy of the car accident that ruined his career—and single, after a nasty scandal torpedoed his marriage. Just as he’s starting to get used to his new life as a health and fitness columnist for Oxford magazine, his unpredictable ex shows up on his doorstep in Manhattan. Jackson should be thrilled. But he can’t stop thinking about the one person who’s always been there for him, the one girl he could never have: her younger sister.

Mollie Carrington can’t say no to Madison. After all, her older sister practically raised her. So when Madison begs for help in winning her ex-husband back, Mollie’s just glad she got over her own crush on Jackson ages ago—or so she thought. Because as Mollie reconnects with Jackson, she quickly forgets all her reasons to stay loyal to her sister. Tempted by Jackson’s mellow drawl and cowboy good looks, Mollie is sick and tired of coming in second place. But she can’t win if she doesn’t play the game.

Praise for I Wish You Were Mine

“A smart, sexy, and absolutely irresistible read!”USA Today bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly

I Wish You Were Mine is a sizzling-loud friends-to-lovers story with a unique twist of my-sister’s-ex-husband. A hot and sexy read with a strong bond of friendship make this a book you don’t want to miss.”—Keri Ford, author of the Turtle Pine series

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 I Wish You Were Mine

Chapter 1

There was a perky knock at the door, and Jackson stifled a groan as he realized that it was that time.
Lunchtime.

“Yeah?”

His office door opened a crack, and the familiar face of his petite brunette coworker appeared with big brown eyes and a wide smile. Penelope Pope was always smiling.

“Hey, Jackson!”

He jerked his chin. “Hey.”

“A bunch of us are headed to Roundy’s to grab a quick lunch before the one o’clock brainstorming meeting. Come with?”

His smile was automatic and forced. “Sorry. Just ate.”

Penelope pushed the door wider, leaning a shoulder against the door jamb as she crossed her skinny arms. The woman couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, but what she lacked in stature she made up for in personality. Bubbly, friendly, and unabashed, Penelope was as likable as she was exhausting.

His coworker’s eyes narrowed as she scanned the office as though looking for proof that he’d just wolfed down a turkey sandwich.

She wouldn’t find it. Because he hadn’t eaten yet.

Penelope didn’t accuse him of lying, but it was impossible to miss the disappointment in her eyes. At her small sigh, Jackson was about thirty seconds away from squirming under the scrutiny of his pint-sized colleague.
“I’m not going to stop asking,” Penelope said, lifting her eyebrows in challenge.

“Not going to stop asking what?” said a tall blond man who appeared at Penelope’s side, tossing a baseball from palm to palm.

Great. Now both of the sports editors were going to bust his balls.

Penelope Pope and Cole Sharpe were Oxford magazine’s latest power couple. Not that Jackson had made it his business to figure out their story, but best he could tell, the two of them had competed for the sports editor position a few months back and ended up having to share it as co-editors. And based on how often Penelope’s hair was mussed coming out of Cole’s office, they’d expanded their partnership beyond the workplace, and were darn happy about it.

Just wait, kids. That crap doesn’t last.

Penelope nodded toward Jackson. “I asked him to lunch.”

“Yeah? He fall all over himself saying yes like he always does?”

Jackson resisted the urge to give the other man the finger. Cole Sharpe was every bit the pain in the ass that Penelope was, except not as cute.

But flipping Cole the bird would convey the exact breed of familiarity with these people that Jackson had been striving for the better part of a month to avoid.

That was unfair. It wasn’t that Jackson didn’t like them. They were good people. It was just . . .

Jackson’s hand lifted to his shirt collar, a finger slipping into the neck of the white dress shirt as he tugged at it.
He didn’t belong.

For three weeks—three long-ass, bullshit weeks—he’d been trying to pretend that he, Jackson Burke, former quarterback of the Texas Redhawks, could change. That he could now be Jackson Burke, fitness editor for Oxford magazine.

It wasn’t working. He hated New York. Hated the suits. Hated the change.

“I already ate,” he grumbled for the second time, avoiding the knowing look his coworkers were giving him.

“Huh,” Cole said. “Heads up.”

Before Jackson fully registered Cole’s intentions, the other man’s wrist flicked, tossing the baseball toward Jackson.

The ball came to Jackson’s right side, but it was his left hand that crossed his body to catch it.

He felt a flash of rage, wondering if Cole had done that on purpose to test him—wanting to see for himself if the rumors about Jackson’s injury were exaggerated.

Believe it, Sharpe. The right shoulder’s every bit as useless as everyone thinks.

But Cole wasn’t paying attention to whether or not Jackson had caught the damn baseball. He was too busy shooting the shit with Lincoln Mathis—another Oxford staffer, and one who didn’t feel the need to lie about already having had lunch. Lincoln had that sort of easy confidence that he belonged here. They all did.

But then they hadn’t had their entire life turned upside down the moment a multitasking businessman had thought he was the exception to all the don’t-text-and-drive statistics. They hadn’t gone from NFL superstar to international douchebag. Although the douchebag part he couldn’t blame on Mr. Text-and-Drive. Jackson’s reputation was a gift from his toxic ex-wife.

As he lifted his finger to his too-tight shirt collar once again, it occurred to Jackson that maybe it wasn’t the shirt that threatened to choke him. Maybe it was the anger.

Anger that not so long ago his biggest worry had been Tirone Alberts’s occasional butterfingers in the end zone. Now the closest he’d be getting to any end zone was through the seventy-five-inch flat-screen in his living room.

“Hey, Burke!” Lincoln Mathis said, seeming to realize for the first time that they were standing in the doorway of Jackson’s office. “You coming to lunch?”

Even Jackson Burke could admit that Lincoln was one good-looking dude. Black hair, blue eyes, shoulders that knew their way around a gym.

And just like Penelope and Cole, Lincoln had no respect for the fact that Jackson had zero interest in joining their little clique.

“No. Not coming to lunch.” Jackson cleared his throat when he realized how terse his response sounded. “I have a couple things to work on here, otherwise I would.”

Penelope tilted her head, her long brown ponytail swinging to the side. “I thought you said it was because you already ate.”

Jackson lifted a hand to his forehead, relieved not to feel any dampness. Good Christ, were these people out to kill him?

Jackson had jumped at the job offer from Oxford magazine’s editor in chief with an odd mixture of reluctance and desperation. Reluctance to relocate to New York, to cease being an athlete and start being a journalist.

Desperation to escape Houston. Desperation to get to—

“So that’s a no, then?” Cole asked, interrupting Jackson’s dark thoughts.

He gave a curt shake of his head. “Maybe next time.”

Someone snorted at that. He wasn’t sure who.

“Yeah,” Penelope said quietly. “Maybe next time.”

One of them closed his office door with a quiet click, and Jackson shut his eyes in gratitude for the silence even as he felt a stab of regret.

How many times would he have to say no until they quit asking?

How many times until he wanted to say yes? Until he wanted to be one of them, going to the casual lunches, the after-work happy hours, and the weekend whatevers.

But something held him back. No, everything held him back. Accepting a job offer with Oxford magazine had been foolish. Worse than the time he’d thrown an interception at his first Super Bowl. Worse than the time he’d had an affair with his professor in college. Worse than the time he’d blown his entire first year’s salary on a Houston mansion he hadn’t yet been able to afford.

Worse, even, than marrying the woman who’d nearly destroyed him.

But none of that—not the interceptions or the affairs or the money mistakes or Madison—quite measured up to the acute stab of foolishness that had Jackson staring rather desperately around his barren office wondering what the heck he was doing.

For the first time in . . . well, ever, Jackson Burke was the outsider. The one who didn’t know how to fit in among the high-rises and the pinstripes and the stupid lunch meetings.

Jackson ran both hands over his face slowly until his fingertips dug into his jaw, hard, as though trying to wake himself up from this new life. With a muttered oath he turned back to his computer.

But not to the article he was writing, “Shortcut to an Eight-Pack,” which was due tomorrow. Instead, Jackson’s big hand closed over his computer mouse and navigated to his Gmail account.

There was the usual crap. Spam. Propositions from dedicated groupies. A handful of curt but well-meaning messages from his former teammates. One from his mother, whom he’d catch hell from if he didn’t respond soon.
But not the email he was looking for. No email from the head coach of the Texas Redhawks.

Jackson’s other hand reached for his phone. He could text Jerry. It would be so easy to text his former coach, ask if Jerry had considered his proposal. But it was bad enough that Jackson was going around his agent. Texting crossed a line that would send his agent over the edge.

Plus it smacked of desperation, and Jackson wasn’t there.

Not yet.

He was just about ready to close the Internet browser and get back to his godforsaken day job when a new email came through.

Not from Jerry. But this email was as good. No, it was better.

See, the whole darn world thought Jackson had hightailed it out of Houston because of a Carrington sister. They were right.

Where they were wrong was that it wasn’t Madison Carrington who’d inspired Jackson’s move to New York, although getting away from his ex had been a pleasant bonus. But Jackson’s new Manhattan address didn’t have anything to do with Madison. Or even Oxford.

No, Jackson’s presence in New York had everything to do with the other Carrington sister.

He’d been keeping his distance. He’d had to. But today he didn’t want to. He wanted to see her. Needed to see her.

He needed Mollie.

 
 

- About the author -

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.

More from Lauren Layne

I Wish You Were Mine

An Oxford Novel

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I Wish You Were Mine

— Published by Loveswept —