I Wish You Were Mine (Oxford #2)

By: Lauren Layne

Acknowledgments

For a gal who’s never watched a Super Bowl and has no idea when football season starts, I was a little surprised to find that my creative muse was dead set on telling a story about a former football player. I was even more surprised when the muse informed me that this hero fell for his horrible ex-wife’s little sister.

Tricky, much?

The end result, though, is a love story equal parts sexy and sweet, about two people who are absolutely meant for each other in spite of their tricky beginnings.

This, of course, leads me right to the number one person who helped me craft the story from its jumble of words into a cohesive love story: the one and only Sue Grimshaw, who’s become so in tune with my voice over the past couple years that she seems to literally read my mind and nudge me in the right direction.

Thanks as always to the copyediting team, especially Janet Wygal, who should be nominated for sainthood for her patience with the tiniest of details.

And how about a shout-out to Ashleigh Heaton and Erika Seyfried, who are legit wizards at creating buzz on a book.

For the rest of the Loveswept team, I’ll confess to not knowing exactly what you do, but that makes it all the more magical. And appreciated.

Next on my list of shout-outs is my agent, Nicole Resciniti, who never complains when I send her panicked late-night texts about writer’s block, deadline freak-outs, or some manic new story idea that I want to write immediately.

Lisa, my darling assistant, whose excitement for this book inspired me so much.

My parents, who were supremely tolerant about me locking myself in their guest room while finishing edits on this very story.

And lastly, Anth, who no longer bats an eye when the first words out of my mouth in the morning are about fictional men.

To everyone else for your support of me, and for this story, my gratitude.

XOXO,

LL





Prologue


Mollie Carrington was twenty the first time she fell in love.

She’d had crushes before, obviously.

One did not survive high school without at least a handful of those sweaty-palmed, what-if-he-talks-to-me moments. And college, thus far, had even resulted in a couple of short-lived boyfriends.

But it wasn’t until she was twenty, dressed in a blush-colored bridesmaid gown at her sister’s wedding, that she fell really, truly in love.

It was a beautiful evening in late May. Of course it was; the sky wouldn’t dare release a raindrop on Madison Carrington’s wedding day.

The reception was being held at Raven’s Lodge—a sprawling estate with lush green foliage, fragrant flowers, and more twinkle lights than the mall at Christmas.

But while the rest of the wedding guests were gathered under a massive white tent singing along with the band’s rendition of “Oh What a Night,” Mollie had found her way to a quiet bench next to a small fountain where a stone mermaid seemed to be spouting water from her . . . breasts? Was that right?

Mollie was peering closer trying to figure out what the heck was going on with this poor mermaid when a male voice came from behind her.

“A little old to just now be getting curious about the female body, aren’t you?”

Mollie jumped, putting a hand over her thumping chest as she turned and saw him.

She should be used to his good looks by now, but Jackson Burke wasn’t just run-of-the-mill good-looking. No, he was underwear-model, sexiest-man-alive, face-of-the-NFL gorgeous.

At twenty-seven, he had all the cockiness of a star quarterback in his prime but with just enough life experience under his belt to have a quietness to his confidence. As though he was barely aware of his Super Bowl rings or the magazine covers or the modeling contracts.

But Mollie was aware. Heck, all women were aware.

Jackson Burke was six feet three inches of perfect man. His light brown hair was just a little bit long and effortlessly wavy. The hazel eyes were fringed by unfairly long, dark lashes. A strong jaw had just the slightest cleft. And there was the dimple. Just to the left of his mouth, there was a tiny little dimple that flickered when he grinned, hinting at an easygoing sense of humor underneath all the testosterone.

Not that Mollie had been studying him or anything.

And if she’d thought the man was dangerous in a football uniform, he was positively lethal in a tux.

Jackson tilted his head to the side with a little smile, and Mollie winced as she realized she’d been staring.

Sitting back, Mollie pointed at the fountain. “The water’s coming out of her breasts. It makes no sense.”

Her face promptly flooded with heat when she realized what she’d said, but instead of laughing, Jackson merely leaned forward to get a better look.

He stood back and nodded solemnly. “So it is. Maybe the lactation made her mermaid shells uncomfortable, so she got rid of them.”

Mollie let out a surprised laugh that Jackson Burke, starting quarterback for the Texas Redhawks, had just uttered the word “lactation.”

He winked and held out one of the two glasses of champagne he was holding.

She hesitated a moment, and Jackson grinned. “I won’t tell your sister if you won’t tell her I’m providing champagne to a minor.”

“I’ll be twenty-one next month,” she said, accepting the champagne.

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