Your Forever Love (The Bennett Family #3)(17)


by Layla Hagen

As the years went by, Max and Christopher joined us. Alice and Summer opted to do something else, which only left the other set of twins. I know that Logan and Sebastian are as proud as I am that Blake will be joining us at the company.

The sound of the door opening snaps me out of my melancholy. Ava and Nadine slip inside the room, big smiles on their faces.

“Well, hello, handsome Bennetts,” Nadine says.

Logan’s face lightens up instantly, as does Sebastian’s. He takes his wife’s hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing it gently.

“We already talked about Blake’s first placement,” Sebastian tells Ava.

“Aaaand that’s my cue to leave before I become a sixth wheel,” Blake says, before slipping out.

I’m about to follow, having no wish to become the fifth wheel, when Nadine suddenly asks, “How was lunch at the office the other day?”

I chew the inside of my cheek, wondering for a brief moment why she’s bringing this up in front of my brothers. Surely they’re going to throw a fit and flex their protective muscles. But they both look at me curiously. That’s when it hits me.

“Wait a minute. You’re all in on this, aren’t you? Trying to bring me and Eric together?”

“Well,” Logan says patiently, “I wouldn’t say Sebastian and I are in on this, but the girls are scheming, and we didn’t… disapprove.”

I snort despite myself. “As if they need your approval. They’re both badasses.”

“Why, thank you,” Nadine says.

The sound of the door opening startles the four of us, and Alice peeks inside. “Nadine, Ava, I need both of you out here.”

The girls hesitate but join my sister outside, leaving me in the room with only Sebastian and Logan.

“Pippa,” Sebastian says in his most gentle tone, “if you’re uncomfortable about this, we can ask the girls to back off.”

“Rest assured, we can convince them,” Logan adds.

“I’m not….” I take a deep breath. “I like Eric. We hit it off at the wedding, and every time I’m with him, I’m happy.”

“That’s good,” Sebastian says gently. “You haven’t been happy in a long time, and you deserve to be.”

“I’m afraid,” I answer. “And he’s only here until Julie’s school starts again in the fall.”

“You don’t have to go into every relationship thinking it must lead to marriage,” Sebastian continues.

“You have to give yourself a chance, get back in the game,” Logan adds. I can’t help but smile at this. About six months ago, I made an attempt to date someone. Midway through the date, I panicked and asked Logan to come pick me up. I usually like to lick my wounds on my own, but I felt like such a failure for not being able to make it through a date that I couldn’t stand being alone.

“All we’re saying,” Sebastian concludes, “is that you shouldn’t close yourself off to anything.”

“Wow,” I exclaim. “I never thought I’d talk to you about this without you threatening to harass whoever I plan to date.”

Sebastian shrugs. “Things change. Maybe we did too.”

“And he seems like a decent guy,” Logan adds. “We checked him out.”

I giggle. “Of course you did.”

“We’re doing business with him, so he probably checked us too,” Logan says.

For the hundredth time, the door bursts open, and Christopher sticks his head in. “Okay, freaky family council over. We need all of you out here to start this party properly.”

Recognizing defeat, the three of us leave the room. Max waits beside Christopher. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I wiggle myself between the twins and take each one by the arm.

“What are your plans for the next few weeks?” I ask them.

“We have quite a bit of work, but we’re planning to spend some time with Mom and Dad at the ranch,” Christopher answers. My parents decided to turn the ranch Sebastian gifted them into a B&B and are now busy overseeing renovations there. The ranch is about an hour away from where they currently live, so they commute every day.

“Make sure Dad isn’t overworking himself, thinking he’s still in his twenties,” Max adds.

“That’s a great idea,” I say.

Dad is micromanaging everything, but that’s because he built that ranch with his own hands. “So, Christopher, when can I expect you to follow in Max’s footsteps and return to San Francisco?”

“No idea,” he says.

“We have to talk Christopher into changing his mind,” I tell Max, then drop my voice to a conspiratorial whisper, acting as if Christopher isn’t with us. “What do you think? Simple persuasion techniques or blackmailing?”

“Sentimental or actual blackmail?” Max asks. “I have some dirt on him.”

We launch into a debate on the merits of each tactic until Christopher gets fed up with us and says, “Hey, I’m right here.”

I love my family.

Chapter Six

Eric

Julie woke me up at seven o’clock today, dragging me to the zoo and a shopping mall. We arrive back home shortly after one o’clock. I carry Julie’s shopping bags in her room, which looks as if a hurricane swept through it. Clothes lie everywhere, along with sketches and shoes. It looked like that this morning too, but I hadn’t had enough coffee in my system to admonish her for it.

Before I even open my mouth, Julie dutifully starts picking up her clothes, folding them neatly like I’ve shown her a hundred times.

“What are you doing?” I ask her. Usually, I have to negotiate with her for at least ten minutes to convince her to clean up.

“I want my room to be clean when Pippa sees it. If she likes it, maybe she’ll come again.”

Something catches in my throat. “You want her to come again?”

“Yeah. She’s cool. I can talk to her about stuff like girls do with their moms.”

Her words stab me. “Sweetheart, you can talk to me about anything.”

Julie sighs, peering at me. “Not everything. It doesn’t work like that.” The pseudo lipstick Pippa bought her lies on her desk. My daughter didn’t even contest Pippa’s explanation.

“Okay. Need help?”