Your Forever Love (The Bennett Family #3)(11)

By: Layla Hagen

There’s a finality in his tone that clues me in not to question him further. The silence stretches for a few seconds, and then he points at the designs in front of me, asking, “Are those yours?”


Rounding the corner of my desk, he stands next to me, looking at my sketches.

“I drew them this afternoon between giving Julie instructions,” I explain. “We won’t be using them for the current collection because they don’t match the direction, but I like to play around, and I can always keep them and see if they’ll fit in future collections.”

“They’re very….” He pauses as if searching for the right word. “Happy, optimistic.”

I nod. “My drawings and my mood go hand in hand.”

“This means you were happy today.” He rests a hand on my shoulder, and the touch warms me. In fact, it more than warms me. It sends tendrils of heat along my nerve endings.

“Yes. I had a lot of fun with Julie. I’m happy you allowed her to come here.”

Since my divorce, I’ve been careful around men—deeming any man who doesn’t share my last name as distrustful even before he opens his mouth. But something about Eric completely disarms me. I feel at ease around him, and that scares the living shit out of me. Probably because I have a hard time believing that a man who has no qualms putting his ego aside for his daughter, dressing up as Belle, deserves to be mistrusted. Or maybe the reason is simpler—I haven’t learned my lesson yet.

“Dad, we’re done,” Julie announces.

“All right, let’s go.”

The pad of his thumb connects with my shoulder and the touch feels loaded with tension, almost intimate. When he retracts his hand, cold grips me. I walk them both to the elevator, and as the doors open, Eric says, “See you tomorrow.”

The fact that I’ll see him every day for the next two weeks sinks in. Something in his gaze tells me he’s thinking the exact same thing. The air between us is instantly charged, and I avert my gaze as Julie bids me good-bye, and they disappear in the elevator.

What have I gotten myself into?

Chapter Three


“Hey, sis,” Alice says into the phone as I enter my apartment later.

“Hey. Do you want to drop by?”

“Are you out of food again?” Alice asks, her voice both stern and amused.

“No. Do I need a reason to invite my sister over?”

The last couple of times I asked Alice to come over, I was out of food and asked her to bring something from the restaurant she owns. I love cooking. As a kid, I helped my mother in the kitchen. Cooking daily for eleven people was a true team effort, but a lot of fun. Cooking for myself is no fun, hence why I’ve rarely done it over the past months. It makes my loneliness almost palpable.

“I guess not. So, how was the meeting with Mr. Sexy Pants today?”

“Stop calling him that,” I answer. Kicking off my heels, I open my fridge and discover I have some leftover pizza from yesterday. It’ll have to do.

“Why? You have a better name?”

“Mr. Sexy Ass, Sexy Lips?” I suggest.

“I see you’ve given this some thought.”

“Yeah, but I’m still not ready for a relationship, and neither is he.” I press the phone to my ear with one shoulder as I walk to my living room, a plate with pizza in one hand, a glass of soda in the other.

I moved into this one-bedroom apartment after my divorce. The spacious living room is decorated in warm shades of brown and cream. The L-shaped couch and the library dominate the space, and the two things are probably a reflection of me. I love few things more than curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and a steamy romance novel.

On the wall opposite the couch hangs a painting by Summer, the younger of my two sisters. The vibrant turquoise on the canvas contrasts beautifully with the rest of the room.

I love the place, but I wasn’t cut out to live by myself. I can’t get used to the quiet after growing up with eight siblings. However, moving in with one of my sisters at my age would be ridiculous.

“Who said anything about a relationship?” Alice asks. “Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am.”