Your Forever Love (The Bennett Family #3)(8)

By: Layla Hagen



Stepping into the meeting room, I scan the party before announcing my presence. The atmosphere in the room is relaxed, the two dozen employees around the oval table sharing jokes and chattering. Well, that’s about to change. Since I bought the company in a hostile takeover, I don’t imagine they look forward to working with me.

“Good morning,” I say loudly, and the chatter dissolves to whispers. “Let’s start this meeting. We have three months to make Callahan’s Finest run like a well-oiled machine on the West Coast. The clock starts ticking as of this moment.”

The whispers instantly die. I glance around the room at everyone’s stricken expression. Perfect. Mom made a bet with me that the team will call me ‘the shark’ by the end of my stay here. I bet against her—I plan to earn that moniker by the end of the week.





***



Julie and I walk into Bennett Enterprises five hours later. The doorman informs me that the Creative department is on the first floor.

Two things shock me when Julie and I enter the Creative department. One: the mayhem. Two: Pippa Bennett—specifically the way she runs this mayhem, with severity. I wasn’t expecting this from the sweet woman who trusted me to dance wildly with her at the wedding.

There are ten desks in this open-space area, and each of them is cluttered with poster-sized papers with designs and unfinished pieces of jewelry.

Pippa is right in the center of the room, wearing a snug blue dress that highlights her delicious curves. She’s talking to a twenty-something guy who’s a head shorter than she is. He’s biting his nails, glancing at Pippa while she comments on the paper he’s holding in front of her.

“Luke, I love you, but if you ever hand me something this half-assed again, we will have a serious conversation.” Even though her voice is stern, I detect a hint of warmth in it. Interestingly, the poor schmuck she berated doesn’t look terrified, just ashamed. The people I berate usually look like they’re about to pee their pants after I’m done with them. Of course, I don’t soften my criticism with I love you, either.

“I’ll have a new design on your desk in thirty minutes. Sorry.” He mumbles something more before scurrying to one of the desks. Pippa turns to a redhead sitting behind a computer, typing furiously.

“Kathy, how are we doing on the prototypes?”

“I’m on it,” the redhead answers. “Riley’s trying to buy time, but I’m on it.”

“Ride his ass if you have to,” Pippa says briskly. “I need that done today.”

That’s when Pippa sees us. We’re still standing by the door, and it’s a miracle Julie kept quiet this long. One look at her and I solve the mystery—she’s mesmerized by the jewels all around the room.

“I didn’t see you there,” Pippa exclaims. She walks toward us, a large smile on her face. Her long, blonde hair falls in waves over her shoulders, covering her breasts. As she pushes her hair back, I have a moment of weakness, studying the delicate curve of her neck as discreetly as I can. Another moment of weakness follows as I drink in the perfect way her hips sway.

Pippa stops in front of us, directing all her attention to Julie.

“Like them?” Pippa asks her. My daughter’s eyes are glued to the nearest stand of jewels.

“Are these diamonds?” Julie asks. She’s been in a few of our shops, but we don’t have precious stones lying around like this.

“Yes, they are,” Pippa answers. “I also have rubies and sapphires on my desk.”

“Wow,” Julie exclaims.

“Say good-bye to your dad, and we’ll get started. I’ve prepared everything. That’s my desk.” Pippa points with her thumb behind her to the largest desk at the far end of the room. “I brought in a second chair for you.”

Julie gives me a quick good-bye kiss before running off to the desk. Pippa follows her with her gaze, then turns to me, keeping her focus firmly on a point on my shirt. Is she avoiding my eyes?

Not one to beat around the bush, I ask, “Pippa, are you avoiding looking at me?”

“Yes,” she whispers, snapping her gaze up.

“Why?”

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