Your Forever Love (The Bennett Family #3)(13)

By: Layla Hagen


Not taking his eyes off me, Eric lowers his voice. “We wouldn’t want that, would we?”

***





Eric




“Let’s take a break,” Max says, punching the pause button on his treadmill. We’re at a gym downtown, letting off steam. Working out is my number one choice for putting a stressful day behind me. I keep running for fifteen more seconds before pressing pause.

“You’re not as fit as you used to be Bennett,” I tell him after I step off the treadmill. “You kicked my ass every time when we were doing laps in college.”

“I was on the polo team back then. It’s hard to keep that level of fitness.”

I met Max when I was doing my MBA. He was a junior in college, while I was a married man with a kid. Our friendship started with me giving him shit over his weird beard phase, and him calling me old man, despite the fact that I’m only a few years older.

“Let’s hit the bench press. I don’t have much time.”

“Why are you in such a hurry?” He drinks with large gulps from his water bottle as we walk to the nearest free machines.

“I’m picking up Julie in half an hour.”

“She’s with Pippa, right?”

“Yeah. Your sister’s been great, helping Julie.”

“Cut the crap. I saw the two of you at the wedding. She’s been through enough, so don’t mess with her.”

“I’m not planning to.”

We don’t say anything more as we start with the bench press, but his warning pisses me off. The last thing I want is to mess with Pippa. I only met this woman a week ago, yet her well-being is surprisingly important for me. Maybe it’s because she’s shown so much kindness to my daughter, but she’s gotten under my skin, and I like how it feels. Against my better judgment, I find myself looking for a reason to keep seeing her after Julie’s time with her is over.

Once we’re done with the bench press, we proceed to do sit-ups. I want to close off the training session with another round on the treadmill.

“I’m gonna run another fifteen, and then I’m leaving,” I tell Max.

He shakes his head. “No more running for me today.”

“Who’s the old man now?” I toss at him.

“The birth certificate would indicate it’s still you. Afraid you can’t change that. Don’t forget what I said about my sister.”

“I would’ve expected this from your brothers, not you.” I break into a light jog on the treadmill, increasing the speed with the buttons. “You’re my friend.”

“Pippa’s my sister. Family trumps friends, sorry.” Max is grinning now. I give him a thumbs-up, concentrating on my sprint. Yeah, I know about the Bennetts’ unspoken rule. Family comes first.

It sums up my view about life, which is probably why Max and I became friends in the first place.

I leave the gym shortly after, heading straight to Bennett Enterprises. With Max’s warning in mind, and Pippa’s earlier hesitation, I walk inside her office determined to simply pick up my daughter and head back out. Then I see Pippa and Julie dancing in the center of the room, and my determination flies out the window. Julie loves dancing, but because of her leg problem, she’s shy when other people are present, and the office is full.

“What’s going on?” I ask when I reach them.

“We’re celebrating,” Pippa answers, not stopping the dance moves to whatever imaginary music she’s dancing to.

“Ms. Watson wrote that she saw a great improvement in my design.” My daughter’s grin is contagious. Ms. Watson is the program director of the design course she’ll be attending starting next week, and Julie has to send in designs periodically. “I’m going to get my things now so we can leave.”

Pippa stops swinging her hips after Julie turns her attention to packing.

“This is a miracle,” I whisper to her. “My daughter never dances in front of strangers.”

“Have you ever danced with her?”

“No,” I admit.

“See, that’s the secret. If you make a fool of yourself, she won’t feel like the spotlight’s on her.”

I have to admit it makes sense.

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