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.
Jackson took a sip. Perfection. Although what did it mean that Jackson’s life had turned into one where the highlight of his day was a well-made cocktail?
It wasn’t that Jackson the booze. He enjoyed it, certainly. Had relied on it more than he probably should have in those first few days when he’d gotten out of the hospital and come home to a whole lot of nothingness.
But these days he could take it or leave it.
Tonight, however, he was taking it. Sobriety had no place when you had to sit across from the most off-limits woman on the planet.
Knowing that didn’t stop the anticipation, however. He hadn’t seen her since she’d shown up in his hospital room to deliver a bag of Gatlin’s BBQ and . . .
His divorce papers.
That had been eight months ago.
He’d avoided her ever since, and he couldn’t even say except that he’d avoided pretty much everyone. Jackson still spoke with his parents every Sunday, but everyone else—all the old teammates, the old neighbors—had eventually stopped calling.
Mollie hadn’t, though. Mollie had never given up on him. Until today, he hadn’t responded to a single text, a single email, and yet she hadn’t stopped sending them. That was Mollie for you. Fiercely loyal to both him Madison, even when things had started to go to hell.
Mollie had been accepted to Columbia just about the time that he and Madison started coming apart at the seams. In hindsight, he was grateful that Mollie had been in New York when things started to go to hell in his marriage. That she hadn’t seen him at his worst.
At the time, however, he’d been hit with an unfair sense of abandonment. He hadn’t realized how much he’d come to rely on the much younger Mollie to mediate things between him and the volatile Madison until she was in a different time zone.
Even now, more than a decade since first meeting Mollie, he struggled to reconcile the fact that she and Madison had come from the same parents. Madison was perfectly coiffed, charming only when she was in the mood, and manipulative as all hell. Mollie, on the other hand, was adorably awkward—a brainy research assistant who cared a hell of a lot more about her scientific journals than her manicure.
But somewhere along the line, Mollie Carrington had ceased to be that awkward kid who talked about bugs at inopportune times. Somewhere along the line, she’d become his rock. The one person in the world, save for perhaps his parents, who always knew the exact right thing to say to make him feel like a human whenever he’d started to feel like a caricature of himself.
For years he’d tried to tell himself that it was just sibling affection—that he cared about her the way he would a sister. But then things had gotten worse with Madison—way worse. And Jackson had been hit upside the head with the truth: that maybe he’d married the wrong sister. That he didn’t want to spend the rest of his days married to the beautiful, brittle Madison.
He wanted someone who made him laugh. Who listened. Someone who cared more about people than she did about hair appointments.
Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to NYC to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.
Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).