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.
"Sports themed? Romance? Opposites attract? Lauren Layne? Where do I sign up. Yes, readers I'm officially in sweet, fluffy cloud heaven and there was hardly a moment of this book that didn't have me giddy girl crazy with excitement." - Lisa Jayne, reviewer
"An unputdownable, irresistibly charming, sweet and sassylicious romance. A heartfelt story I ate up while it gave me smile after smile." - Dali, TJLovestoRead
"So fantastic. Funny. Smart. Sexy. I was torn wanting to race through it, but also wanting to slowly savor. Such a great book!" - USA Today bestselling author Christi Barth
"The two of them together were marvelous. I loved the playful moments they shared just as much as the sizzling chemistry that sparks every time they are together. Perfection!" - Crystal Blogs Books
"Lauren Layne had made her way onto my "must read" list. I have loved every book I've read of hers and Irresistibly Yours was no different. From the moment I was finished with the first page that I knew I would not be able to put it down." - Crystal Blogs Books
"This book was utterly delightful from beginning to end." - Geri Reads
"If you're looking for a light, sexy, and witty romance, you can never go wrong with Lauren Layne." - Lana, Dirty Girl Romance
"The chemistry between Cole and Penelope was utter perfection." - Lana, Dirty Girl Romance
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.
And that smile . . . Cole Sharpe’s smile was a hell of a thing, slow and sexy, and she was pretty sure it had robbed more than one woman of her ability to think about anything other than getting him naked.
“What will you wear?”
“Your stained monstrosity, of course.”
Penelope balked. “I can’t let you do that.”
“It’s not for all day,” Julie said in a soothing voice. “I just need to wear it across town to Bloomingdale’s. Right, girls?”
“Can we stop and get a burrito?” Riley asked of nobody in particular.
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re teasing me.”
Cole laughed. “Actually, I thought I was flirting.”
“Oh. Well. Maybe you were,” she said. “I’ve never been good at picking up on that.”
She pursed her lips and tilted her head to study him.
Cole laughed. “Why do I feel like I should be giving you my good side? To see if I pass muster?”
“Oh, don’t fret, this is quite nice,” she said, lifting her hand to gesture over his face.
She shifted in her bar stool to face him. “Take it all in. Are you feeling light-headed? Dazzled by my feminine charms?”
“Exactly,” she said, looking strangely satisfied with his nonreaction. “You’re out of my league, Sharpe.”
“Oh no,” Cole said.
She glanced at him. “What?”
“That smile,” he said, taking another bite of apple. “It’s dangerous.”
“How can a smile possibly be dangerous?”
He shook his head. “You’re so cute and clueless.”
She lifted up her leg so she could see her black ballet flat.
“Sensible,” he said, barely glancing at it. “But tell me honestly, Pope. How badly do you wish you were wearing a tennis shoe right now?”
She sighed and dropped into her own guest chair. “So badly.”
He smiled knowingly.
Penelope watched as he shot the apple core across the room toward the garbage can. The quick swoosh followed by the clank indicated that he’d nailed it.
“You know there’s a garbage can right under my desk, right? That was completely unnecessary.”
“Please. Manly displays of prowess are never unnecessary.”
“Sometimes I’m in the mood to feel pretty.”
Her voice was quiet when she said it, and damn if his heart didn’t break just a little for her.
He had the strangest urge to pull her toward him. To tell her that she was pretty. Maybe to run his hands up her back, show her one of those kissing techniques that Lincoln had mentioned—
He whirled around to face away from her, but not before he’d gotten an eyeful of Penelope Pope in a strapless bra and panties.
“Oh, stop,” she said. “It’s not like there’s a whole lot going on here.”
He sucked in a breath. His raging hard-on said otherwise.
“When was the last time you’ve been decently kissed, Penelope?”
She licked her lips. The gesture was more nervous than it was seductive, but damn if Cole wasn’t seduced all the time.
Cole didn’t have a temper—wasn’t prone to bursts of anger. But he was good and pissed. Pissed at whomever had taught her that she didn’t deserve a hot good-night kiss on a New York City sidewalk.
Cole tugged off his glove, then slipped his hand around the back of her neck, his thumb running along her jawline, as he slid his other arm around her back, the bulk of her puffy winter coat doing nothing to disguise how small she was.
He bent his knees slightly as he used his thumb to hook under her chin, tilting her face up to his. He paused for the briefest of moments—giving her the opportunity to pull away . . . to protest if she didn’t want this.
She didn’t protest.
He kissed her.
He kissed Penelope Pope in the snow like his life depended on it.
His lips moving against hers insistently, swallowing the sweet breathy noises she made, his arm bringing them even more firmly together.
He thought only of her. Of them. His tongue nudged her lips apart, and she surprised him by slipping her own tongue into his mouth, tangling with his in teasing yet urgent strokes.
Cole knew one thing for sure. Penelope Pope would never find out just how much that kiss had rocked him.
Or how much that rejection had burned.
She studied him, wondering, not for the first time, if there were hidden depths to Cole Sharpe that he kept carefully hidden from the world.
Sure, it was common knowledge that he was nice. Friendly. Charming.
But did people see beneath that to the kindness?
“Quit looking me like that, Tiny,” he said, not glancing up from his phone.
“Like I just threw myself in front of a truck to save a toddler. They’re onion rings, not flowers.”
“I don’t like flowers.”
He glanced up at that. “What do you mean, you don’t like flowers?”
She shrugged and dunked another onion ring into the spicy mayo that came in a little side container. “I mean, I like flowers. But I don’t like to receive them.”
Not that she’d been on the receiving end of a lot of flowers.
“What do you have against a bunch of nice roses?”
“Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful,” she said, polishing off the onion ring and looking at dismay at her now completely greasy fingers.
Cole shifted his weight and reached into his pocket, pulling out a bunch of napkins.
It was her time to lift her eyebrows, and he just shrugged. “Figured you’d need them. But back to the flowers thing, how can you both think they’re beautiful and not like them?”
“I don’t like that they’re cut,” she explained, wiping her fingers on the napkin. “I like flowers in their natural habitat. They belong in nature, not hacked up and sentenced to die in a vase somewhere.”
“I never said I hated that kiss,” she interrupted.
He broke off, and then his smile was slow and sexy.
“Is that so?” he said, in a low voice.
He continued moving toward her and Penelope’s butt hit the desk, completely out of room to back away.
Cole paused when there were just inches between them.
“That’s not an answer. Do you want me to do it again? Have you been thinking about me? Kissing you? Touching you?”
He held fast, refusing to move. “The thing is, Tiny . . . When it comes to you, I don’t have to decide. I don’t have to stop and think about if I want to kiss you. I know. I know every damn day when I see you put on mascara in the reflection of your computer monitor because you forgot to do it at home. I know when we go get coffee together and you can recite every single thing that happened on ESPN the night before. I know when I share my French fries with you at lunch and you eat all of them. I know—”
Penelope placed her lips against his.
His response was immediate, his lips fighting with hers to get control of the kiss, and yet his hands never moved. He used nothing but lips and body heat to seduce her.
But Penelope used her hands. His tongue slipped into her mouth and she made a little sighing noise as her hands lifted to tug at his collar and hold his lips to hers.
He tilted his head, deepened the kiss, and if Penelope thought the kiss in the snow had been out of this world, this kiss was in an entire different universe. A universe where gorgeous men wanted to kiss tomboys.
He watched as she tugged a piece of pepperoni off the slice and ate it in little nibbles. It was both weird and cute.
He wanted her.
Don’t do it, Sharpe.
He did it.
He sat up and quietly plucked her beer and pizza out of her hand, setting them both on the coffee table.
She looked at him in surprise at the same moment his thumb and forefinger found her chin and tilted her face to hers.
And then he kissed her.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her around to face him. “Is that why you’ve got a crush on me?”
“Ah—” She tilted her head down, her hat hiding her face, and he pulled her closer.
“Pen,” he kept his voice light, teasing, but he was oddly eager to have her confirm that what she’d told his brother was true.
She tilted her face up to look at him. “You know you’re ridiculously charming.”
He grinned. “You sound grumpy about that.”
“Let’s just say I’m not exactly loving the fact that I seem to find myself on the verge of joining the Cole Sharpe fan club.”
“Resistance is futile,” he said. He started to dip down to kiss her, only to realize that kissing in baseball caps on a semi-crowded sidewalk was logistically annoying.
He tilted his head and kissed her, and then lingered. And tried very hard to ignore the sudden, forbidden thought that he wished every day could be exactly like this one.
“How do you feel about fancy cocktails?” Cole asked as he led her south.
“Depends. If they have whiskey in them, I feel favorable.”
Cole laid a hand over his heart. “I do believe my ticker just skipped a beat.”
She smiled. “That’s all it takes, huh? A girl who likes bourbon?”
“I’m not shallow, Pen. The girl has to like baseball and bourbon.”
“Well, then, I’m your girl.”
“Yeah, you are,” he said with a quick grin.
“Do you know that we were standing in this very spot the first time I kissed you?” he said, pulling her around to face him.
She smiled. “Hard to forget a perfect kiss in the gently falling snow.”
He didn’t smile back. “Perfect kiss, huh? That why you kicked me to the curb after?”
Her stomach twisted. “Cole, I—”
He took a step forward, his hand resting against her cheek. “Let’s forget about the way that one ended. I vote for a do-over.”
His mouth melted against hers, and she sighed.
He pulled back slowly, his thumb rubbing against his cheek as he held her gaze. “Those damn eyes of yours,” he said roughly. “They undo me.”
She turned her head then, meeting his eyes, smiling shyly as she linked her fingers with his.
He couldn’t look away, even though he knew this small woman could crack his heart in half.
“The other day you told me that you wanted me to beg for you. Any day of the week.”
He said nothing. He waited.
“This is me. Begging.”
You may not like that I’m here, but that doesn’t change the fact that I came for you, and that I’d do it all over again.”
The way he’d looked at her as though she were everything.
The way he’d wanted her just the way she was. The way he’d seen what nobody else had seen.
He’d seen her.
He’d wanted her.
Let her go, he told himself.
Penelope deserved happiness, and if happiness came in the arms of another man—
“Nope. Not gonna happen.” Cole stood so quickly his chair flipped backward, but he didn’t pause to right it.
He had a woman to win back.
Cole couldn’t help himself from bending his head and pressing his lips to the soft skin just below her jaw. The tip of his tongue flicked out and he felt a surge of triumph when she shivered.
“Tell me you won’t be seeing him again,” he said, kissing her neck, slower this time.
"A few months ago, I made you a promise that I wouldn’t fall in love with you.”
She nodded slowly.
He stepped closer. “I’m going to have to break that promise.
He smiled against her neck. “Let me make this really clear. You’re going to busy all of the nights. Forever. With me.”
She pulled back. “That sounds to me like commitment, Mr. Sharpe.”
He grinned. “It does, doesn’t it?”