Home > If You Were Mine

If You Were Mine
Author: Jennifer Sucevic

Chapter One



Narrowing my eyes, I watch him from my covert position inside the house. Even when we’re nowhere near each other, the man is still able to burrow his way deep under my skin. Like an itch I just can’t scratch. It’s irritating as hell.

No… he’s irritating as hell.

Someone needs to explain to me why he even bothered showing up today.

This is hardly his scene.

At this very moment, he’s lounging on the patio in a pair of vibrantly colored board shorts. His long, thickly muscled legs are stretched out lazily in front of him. Even though there’s a small smile curving his lips upwards, he can’t possibly be enjoying himself. He’s probably bored out of his ever-loving mind. This is, after all, some G-rated, Disney-esque family barbecue. This is hardly some wild, drunken orgy where women are going to be abandoning their bikinis in an hour or two because they’re so liquored up.

Just in case you were wondering- JT Higgins is more of a drunken orgy kind of guy. Trust me, my conclusions haven’t been drawn from a few questionable lapses in judgment on his part. Oh no. It’s taken years for him to cultivate this kind of reputation. He was already making a name for himself at whatever Big Ten university he attended before being drafted by Green Bay three years ago. He may play professional football, but he’s even more notorious for his alcohol induced antics, bar brawls, and of course, the females who flock to him in droves.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why any self-respecting woman would actually want to be with him. Let alone broadcast it to the world at large. It’s a well-known fact that the guy dips his wick in anything that moves. Gross. The only possible upside I can see to all his activity is that he’s probably keeping some clinic in business with penicillin and swab tests.

And it’s not just groupies who lose their minds over him either. He’s been linked with his fair share of actresses and models as well. I think he was even seeing two chicks from the US Women’s National Soccer Team last year.

At the same time.

From what I read online, it didn’t end well.

“Why is who here?”

Not realizing that I must have muttered those words out loud, my brother’s wife, Gia, steps beside me before slowly scanning the backyard as if she can pick out who I’m talking about. Gently she bounces four-month-old baby Max in her arms.

Yanked right out of my thoughts, I try covering my slip up. “Hmmm? What? Did I say something?”

Since her arms are full of baby, she nods towards the patio where about seventy people are enjoying the early September sunshine. It’s definitely a loud, boisterous group. All football players and their wives or girlfriends and offspring. People are lounging in the pool or playing bocce ball in the sand pit. A volleyball net has also been set up on the wide, expansive back lawn. Others are just hanging out at the many tables that have been scattered around the brick paver patio.

This is the fifth year that my brother, Liam, has hosted a Labor Day party at his place. Everyone from the team is invited. Since it’s always more or less of an open house, friends and teammates will drop by throughout the day. The party starts around two, lasting well into the night before ending with a professional firework display.

This is my fourth year attending. It’s something I look forward to all summer long. Everyone always has a good time. Liam and Gia are gracious hosts and go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and included. Plus, there’s plenty of food and drinks being served. If you walk away hungry at the end of this party, it’s your own fault.

Gia gives me a knowing look before asking again, “Who were you talking about?”

A slight blush creeps its way up my cheeks as the fib slides right off my lips. “No one. Just mumbling to myself.”

Narrowing her blue eyes, she gives me one of those deep speculative stares that under normal circumstances would leave me squirming on the spot. Thankfully she doesn’t push the issue.

As far as I’m concerned, JT is a complete ass. He’s definitely not worth wasting my breath on. Especially when there’s a party in full swing. I’m just going to ignore him. Should be simple enough. It’s not like I haven’t had lots of practice.

Out of all the players on the team, why did my brother have to take an interest in JT Higgins? It was bad enough having to run into him every so often at team events and functions, but now he seems to be hanging around all the time. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if he weren’t always trying to strike up a conversation.

But that’s exactly what he does.

Even though he knows perfectly well that I don’t care for him.

This is JT’s fourth season with Green Bay. Fingers crossed, it might just be his last. It seems as though the powers that be of the organization have finally had enough of his shenanigans.

JT was told at the end of last season to either shape up, or he was getting traded. That’s unfortunately when my brother decided to step in. I think the GM and coaches see my older brother as being settled and mature even though he’s only twenty-seven. Liam has been married for almost six years now and has three small kids. Ty who is five, Charlotte who is three, and baby Max. I think the higher ups were hoping that Liam would miraculously rub off on the younger man.

I narrow my eyes again.

Because it’s entirely possible that he has.

It’s been at least eight months since JT was involved in any kind of fight. He’s still photographed with women, but it doesn’t seem to be at the crazy extent it once was. And it’s never with the same woman twice. There’s a revolving door of them as if he just can’t choose one.

He even bought a house in the same gated community as my brother about six months ago. Which means that he is forever dropping by unannounced. Thankfully I don’t live here, so I miss a lot of that. But I usually have dinner with Liam, Gia, and the kids every Thursday night. It’s a family thing we’ve been doing ever since I moved out here to attend college three years ago. I’m all too aware that at the end of the day, family is all you have.

When I was ten years old, my mother just disappeared from our lives. One day we came home from school to find a note propped up on the kitchen table. My father couldn’t deal with her leaving and spiraled into his own abyss. Drinking. Job loss. Gambling. Eventually, we lost our house. My dad’s unreliability forced Liam to grow up fast and take responsibility for everything.

My other brother, Cullum, who is two years older than me, took her leaving the hardest. He also got the shortest end of the stick. To keep us financially afloat, Cullum ended up quitting wrestling and football so he could get a job and help financially support the family.

So yeah… I don’t take family lightly. I know exactly how important we are to one another. And Gia is now part of that family, too. She’s the sister I never had, but always wanted.

So getting together for family dinners on Thursday night is kind of our thing. Except for Cullum, who doesn’t live here, it’s a chance for us to all be in one place at the same time and talk about everything that’s going on in our lives. Even though school can get pretty busy, I make a point to never miss them.

What doesn’t make sense is that JT has started showing up to our Thursday night dinners. The first time, I thought it was merely a fluke. But then it happened the following week and the week after that. I have a difficult time even being civil to the guy. I’d prefer for our worlds to not collide, but apparently my wishes don’t matter because I swear he’s around more than ever before. So I do the only thing I can and grit my teeth all the while pretending he doesn’t exist.

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