Because You're Mine (The Gallaghers #3) by Layla Hagen




Chapter One




Ian

My brother’s engagement party was in full swing, and my whole family was attending. Since we were four siblings and had a huge extended family, it turned out to be quite a large event. We liked to celebrate everything in style.

I couldn't believe how much had changed in my family lately. I was happy for my brother and sisters for finding their better halves, but none of this was for me. I was single and happy. Of course they gave me crap, calling me a player and all that, but I owned up to it without any shame.

“Leaving already?” my sister Isabelle asked me as I made my way toward the door. She’d offered to host our brother’s engagement party at the huge house she and her fiancé bought in Tarrytown, just an hour outside of New York.

“Yeah, I promised Henry that I’d pick up Ellie from the airport.” The younger sister of my best friend was moving to the city. Of course, I’d help any of my friends, but I immediately offered to help Ellie settle in. A detail no one needed to know.

"I still think he's hiding something,” my other sister, Josie, noted. Damn, she was good. Being a lawyer, she naturally suspected things. She also liked to poke her nose everywhere.

“Do I smell some guilt?” Isabelle added with a questioning look.

“No, you don't. That's just your overactive imagination," I said.

My brother, Dylan, grabbed my shoulder. "I like that you're sticking to your guns."

I remained silent, but that didn’t deter Isabelle. Did I mention I have a nosy family?

“I still think he has the hots for Ellie.”

“She’s just the younger sister of my best friend; that’s it," I repeated, as much for them as for myself. Yes, Ellie was hot—but she was Henry’s sister, and that was that.

"Yeah. Keep saying that. Maybe you will believe it eventually," Josie said. “Who knows, maybe by the time the next wedding rolls around, you’ll show up with a date named Ellie.”

I shook my head. God, they were brutal. “I already warned Isabelle’s wedding planner that I’m coming alone and that she shouldn’t add anyone to my table, especially not any single ladies. So if you had any matchmaking plans in mind, forget it.”

Isabelle pressed her lips together, holding up her palms. “I don’t have any plans whatsoever. I promise.”

I laughed, leaving them to their machinations, and moved on to bid my parents goodbye. They’d flown to New York for the engagement party. They lived in Montana and only came to the Big Apple for special events. Although, since Josie had given them a granddaughter, they’d been visiting more often. And once Isabelle announced she was pregnant too, I was sure they’d visit even more frequently.

I kissed Mom’s cheek and shook Dad’s hand.

“Ian, we still have to talk about you paying for the flights,” he said sternly. My parents were proud and didn’t like us kids pitching in where we could. But they’d taken care of us all our lives, and so my siblings and I all agreed we’d try to lighten the burden when they retired by helping out with the little things. Besides, they wouldn’t even be in New York if it wasn’t for us kids—so that was another reason why my brother, sisters, and I footed the bill.

“We’ll talk about it later,” I replied, winking. My parents were stubborn, but so was I. I was set on this.

“Don’t think this conversation is over, young man,” Mom said. Her stern tone took me right back to my childhood days, when I got myself (and my siblings) in trouble and Mom knew exactly who was responsible. I hadn’t been able to help myself. I was known as the troublemaker of the small town we grew up in.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I winked at her too before heading out to the driveway. I got in my Tesla and drove directly to JFK. I had about an hour to get there, according to my GPS. And an hour to not think about Ellie.

My sisters were not entirely wrong with their speculations. Henry and I had been best friends since our college days in DC. Ellie was six years younger than us, and at eighteen, that seemed like a huge age difference. And the couple of times I saw her back then, she was a timid girl—and I wasn't even paying that kind of attention to her. She’d been just my best friend’s younger sister. All that changed two years ago. Ellie was twenty-one and I was twenty-seven when we spent three weeks in Lake Tahoe with Henry and a group of friends. She was so damn gorgeous that I couldn’t look away from her.