Your Tempting Love (The Bennett Family)(2)

By: Layla Hagen


"Do you think the other kids will like my toys?" Chloe asks Victoria.

Victoria smiles down at her sister, and I'll be damned if it's not the sweetest smile I've ever seen. "Of course they will."

Apparently, Victoria's smile only affects me, because Chloe puffs her cheeks, not convinced.

"You've got so many toys," I say, patting her backpack, "I'm sure they'll find something they like. It’s really nice of you to want to share toys. When I was your age, anyone touching my stuff was an enemy. You're cool."

Her puffy cheeks give way to a grin again. Mission accomplished.

Victoria frees her hand from Chloe's grip, and as I shake it, she inspects the damage to my shirt. I bet she's calculating the odds of gaining me as her client after this mishap.

I'll have to turn on the charm to full power in my office, just to put her mind at ease, of course.

***

Victoria



Way to make a first impression, Victoria! After dropping off Chloe, I chastise myself all the way to Christopher’s office, looking forward to proving myself to him. His sisters might have recommended me, but that doesn't mean he'll go with me if I don't convince him.

The moment I step inside his office, some of the tension bleeds from my shoulders, as Christopher offers me a friendly smile. I inspect his eyes to check whether the smile is perfunctory, but the warmth in them tells me he is genuine. Christopher Bennett is a damn fine sight to behold. Handsome face with a perfectly groomed three-day beard, broad shoulders, solid six feet of muscles—he's the type of man who can dominate a room with his presence without even trying.

When I stop in front of his desk, I can't help ogling his shirt. What a mess I made of it. He catches me inspecting the stains, and his smile deepens. He points to the chair in front of his desk. "Take a seat."

I do just that, crossing my legs and brainstorming for the best way to start with a clean slate.

"Everything worked out with Chloe?" Christopher asks.

"Yeah."

"How many siblings do you have? Pippa must have told me, but I forgot."

Usually, I don't go into details about my personal life with clients, but Christopher's interest seems genuine.

"Three. Chloe, Lucas, who is nine, and Sienna. She's seventeen."

Christopher nods thoughtfully. "That sounds like a full house."

"It is." I can't help smiling. "It gets crazy sometimes."

"I know what you mean."

"True. Your sister Pippa said you are nine siblings. That must’ve been something while growing up."

"Yeah. To be honest, I think my parents might know what you mean more than I do. I was causing all that craziness. At least part of it."

His easygoing nature surprises me. I've worked with men in powerful positions before, and most were cold, even stuck-up. But Christopher doesn't take himself too seriously, even if he has a corner office with a brilliant view of San Francisco.

We're interrupted by a knock on the door, and his assistant steps inside. "Christopher, your next appointment is here early."

Shoot.

"Half an hour early?" he asks skeptically. His mouth sets in a thin line, his eyes losing some of their spark. Ah, I bet he’s a shark in business meetings.

His assistant shrugs. "I can tell them to wait."

"No one likes to wait. We'll wrap up here quickly," he tells her, spurring me into a panic. Nodding, his assistant leaves the room again.

"Sorry for cutting this short, but those are partners with whom we're renegotiating some contracts. Nothing's worse in a negotiation than a partner pissed off he had to wait, even if it's their fault they arrived early."

"I understand."

"I'll be honest, Victoria. I saw the pictures with your portfolio, and Alice and Pippa spoke highly of you. I've seen what you did for them, and I think you can make any place look like home. I'm great at my job and have a number of other talents.” A smile tugs at his lips. “But decorating is pig latin to me."

And there he goes with that self-deprecating humor again, mixed in with an unexpected dose of cockiness. But something in the way he delivered the line about “a number of other talents” makes me want to know more instead of having me roll my eyes.