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

By: Layla Hagen

Deciding to put her at ease, I hold out my hand to her. “What’s your name? My brother told me you’re an aspiring designer.”


“Hi, Julie.” I shake her little hand, feeling calluses on her fingers. Turning her hand palm up, I inspect the hardened skin—unmistakable signs of having held a pencil for hours at a time. “You have designer’s hands. I have calluses too.”

Julie’s eyes widen as if she can’t quite believe it. “But don’t you have computer programs for designing?” she asks.

“Yeah, but I like sketching by hand better.”

“Love your designs,” Julie whispers to me, as if it’s a great secret. “I am going to take a design course while Dad and I are here.”

“Summer school?” I whip my head in Eric’s direction, and he nods. His blue eyes rest on my face for a beat too long, and my skin heats from the intensity. Holy hell.

“I start in two weeks. It’s a great program—specifically for jewelry design.” Julie smooths her hands down her dress, adding in a small voice, “I hope I’ll be good enough.”

My heart stings as I watch Julie fret over this.

“Are you practicing every day?” I ask her.

“Yes, I have some assignments I have to complete before starting summer school. I hope I’ll do them right.”

“I have an idea. Why don’t you come to my office every day before summer school kicks off, and I can teach you some techniques? That way, you’ll be in top shape when you start the course.”

“That’s not—” Eric begins.

At the same time, Julie exclaims, “I’d love that.”

She claps her hands, grinning from ear to ear, looking up at her father. “Dad, can I go?”

I suspect Eric wants to say no, but I can practically see his determination melt the longer he looks at Julie. If I’m honest, I’m melting too. I’m certain Eric is the kind of man who gets others to do exactly what he wants. Seeing him unable to resist his daughter’s charm is adorable.

“I’ll consider it.”

“You are the best dad in the world. Thank you.”

“Why don’t you go back to our table, and I’ll sort out the details with Pippa?” Eric tells his daughter.

Julie nods, politely shaking my hand again before leaving. Eric follows Julie with his gaze until she’s seated at the table, then turns his attention to me.

“Thank you for offering to help her….”

“I sense a but coming.” I smile, folding my arms over my chest.

Eric returns the smile and shrugs. “No offense, but I don’t allow my daughter to spend time with people I don’t know.”

“Of course you don’t, but you’ve met my brothers. You know me by extension. As to me, what you see is what you get.”

“Who knows what you might be hiding under that pretty smile and elegant dress.”

His gaze travels down my body with amusement, as if looking for any secrets. Yet somewhere along the way, the amusement turns to heat. He zeroes in on my hips, and I swear his nostrils flare. When he looks back up, surprise flickers in his eyes as if he’s taken aback by his own reaction to me.

“It’ll boost her confidence if I show her a few tricks,” I say.

“Are you sure it’s okay if Julie comes to your office?” he asks.

Is it my imagination, or is his voice a notch huskier? Imagination or not, it sends tendrils of warmth down my spine.

“It’ll be my pleasure. I love children. I can’t wait for Sebastian and Ava to give me some nieces and nephews. I will spoil them rotten.”

He laughs softly at my words. The sound fills me with joy. “You are the first person to find it perfectly acceptable to spoil kids. Everyone else is up my ass for doing so with Julie.” He accompanies the last word with a wink. “I can’t help spoiling her.”

“As you should. You’ll bring her to my office, then. It’s settled. She said she has two weeks until summer school starts. I can teach her a lot in that time.”

“You’re stubborn,” he remarks. There is a spark of a challenge in his tone, which riles me up.