Your Alluring Love (The Bennett Family)(3)

By: Layla Hagen

“She was just telling me you’re opening a new location together.”

My brother talks about our plans eagerly, and hearing him talk with so much passion makes me smile. Over the years, I’ve opened two restaurants, but this third one is the first I will co-own, and I can’t wait to work side by side with my brother. It’ll be great running the business with someone I trust.

“Would you two like the location to be featured on the Delicious Dining show?” Nate asks.

“I’d give both my nuts for it,” Blake answers.

“Fantastic visual, brother.” Turning to Nate, I add, “It would be an extraordinary promotional opportunity. But they mostly feature celebrity restaurants or those with Michelin stars.”

“It’s not my area, but I can pitch it to the network. You have a good shot. We’ll have to get together a few times to discuss some details, but it’s doable in the three weeks I’m here.”

“Thank you. I really appreciate it,” I reply. My heart sinks at the reminder that he’ll leave so soon. I’ve been carrying a torch for the man forever. In the beginning, he was just my older brother’s friend, but over the years, he became my friend too. I have no idea when the friendship turned into something different, but here we are.

Damn, I’m buzzing with awareness just from being near him. It doesn’t help that he’s glancing up and down my neck and breasts every few minutes. I bet he believes he’s really discreet about it too. I’m surprised Blake hasn’t picked up on it yet, but then again, he is oblivious to these things. My oldest brothers are the ones who always flex their protective muscles.

“How about Alice and I meet you at Blue Moon, the new location, next week?” Blake suggests. “It’s not open for business yet, but you can look around and we can discuss this in more detail.”

“Great idea,” Nate replies. The three of us chitchat for a few more minutes. Then Dad comes over, clearly wanting to talk to Nate, and Blake and I leave them to it.

I head to the opposite part of the room, where my sister Pippa is watching her twin daughters, Mia and Elena, building what looks like a tower from fist-sized Legos. The girls turned two last month, and I love them to bits. Just as I arrive, they start fussing, clearly losing interest in the Legos. Pippa scoops up Elena, and I scoop up Mia. She instantly calms once she’s in my arms and cuddles against my chest. I kiss her hair, inhaling the scent of her sweet shampoo.

“Spill it,” Pippa says, as we walk to the nearest couch with the girls in our arms.

“Spill what?” I ask with fake innocence. My sister is the family’s matchmaker, and she’s very good at it. She also knows about my crush on Nate, because well… she knows everything.

She flashes me a wicked smile.

“A certain family friend here couldn’t keep his eyes off you.”

“He’s also moving to London in three weeks.”

My sister’s hand freezes in the act of rearranging her daughter’s headband. Her smile drops. “Moving? As in permanently?”

“Yep. He’s going to help Blake and me land a spot on his network’s Delicious Dining show while he’s in town, but I’d rather not talk about any of this tonight.”

To my astonishment, Pippa doesn’t insist. As Mia throws her little arms around my neck, clearly looking to cuddle, I happily oblige her, and I’m rewarded with sweet giggles. A few strands of hair fall from my bun. I love family gatherings, but lately, being surrounded by so many happy couples makes me wonder if there’s a lottery out there. Some people find their half, some don’t. With a history of dating running longer than a decade, I also wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong with me, something that makes me unlovable. The thought that I might never have a man I can shower with love, someone to share my life with, carves a hollow in my chest

Mia giggles loudly, grabbing one loose strand in her tiny fist.

“You love me, don’t you?” I ask, rubbing my nose against hers. In response, she tugs at my hair, giggling louder. I decide it means ‘I love you, Aunt Alice.’ But then again, she loves anyone who spoils her.