Series: Oxford #2
on February 2nd, 2016
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Perfect for fans of Alice Clayton and Emma Chase, Lauren Layne’s Oxford series heats up in this story of forbidden desire as a brooding jock hoping for a comeback falls for a woman who’s strictly off-limits.
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.
Jackson pointed at a barstool. “Sit. Relax. Want a beer?”
“No, I still need to unpack,” she muttered, reluctantly plopping onto the stool.
“Have a beer, Molls. Unpacking your nightstand contents isn’t like operating heavy machinery,” he said, going to the fridge and pulling out two beers.
“Clearly you don’t know what’s in my nightstand.”
Jackson lifted his eyebrows. “Exactly how big is your vibrator?”
“I meant I have like a zillion books.”
“Which are not breakable,” he said, handing her a beer. “And is that a no on the vibrator?”
She gave him a look as she took the bottle from his hand. “I just want to state for the record that I have moved several times, on my own, without the help of movers, and I could have done it again.”
“Moving yourself is for college kids. You’re an adult. Hire movers.”
“No, moving yourself is for people without extra income,” she said. “Snob.”
“So what was the plan?” he asked, tipping the bottle to his lips. “You were just going to maneuver all those big-ass boxes around with those skinny sticks you call arms?”
“Don’t be silly. I was going to hire some big beefy dudes from campus to help me. Perk of working at a university.”
Jackson was about to set his bottle on the counter but his hand froze, just for a second, and Mollie felt a sting of regret as she realized she’d inadvertently hit a nerve. Not so long ago, Jackson Burke had been absolutely the type of muscled guy friend who’d’ve been really helpful to have around on moving day. Her eyes flitted to his shoulder. Now he was the guy who wouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting for a long time. Maybe ever.
She looked away, her brain scrambling to come up with a quick subject change.
Only maybe that wasn’t what he needed—for people to dance around his injury like it was the elephant in the room. Physically, he was on the road to recovery. He needed to get there mentally as well.
“You said the other night that it didn’t hurt,” she said. “Was that a big macho man moment?”
He stared at the counter. “I’ve told you. It’s fine.”
She rolled her eyes. “Please. Be a little more vague and manly.”
“Well, what do you want me to say, Molls?” he ground out. “That the pain wakes me up at night? That any motion more vigorous than brushing my teeth hurts like hell?”
“Are you going to physical therapy?” she asked, purposely ignoring the wounded-bear routine. That might scare off other people, but she was made of stronger stuff. Knew him better.
He looked away.
He shrugged. “What does it even matter? All the PT in the world isn’t going to help me play football again.”
“Well, gosh,” she said dramatically, “you may as well be dead.”
Jackson was in the process of taking a sip of beer and choked. “Jesus. You are such a smart-ass.”
“I’m just saying, you have a lot going for you,” she said, gentling her tone. “You don’t need a football in your hand or to help a girl move to be an amazing guy.”
“Yeah?” he said as he leaned on his forearms across the counter. “Want to tell me more about how I’m an amazing guy?”
If I did, I might never stop.
Lauren Layne is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen romantic comedies. She lives in New York City with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart–cute, right?!) and plus-sized Pomeranian.
In 2011, she ditched her corporate career in Seattle to pursue a full-time writing career in Manhattan, and never looked back.
In her ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books.
For a list of all her works, please be sure to check out her official website!