Your Tempting Love (The Bennett Family)(3)By: Layla Hagen
"What are you looking for?" I ask.
"Thing is, I have no idea." He leans back in his chair, lacing his fingers on top of his head.
"I can work with that," I assure him.
"You can? You're magic, then."
"Close to it. I've been in this business for eight years. I've worked with people who had a wide array of tastes. Why don't you show me the plan for your apartment, and I can run some ideas by you right away?"
"No time right now. Besides, I don't want to hurry this. I receive the keys to my apartment in six weeks, so we have time."
"Then e-mail me the plan and any pictures you might have, and I'll pitch you a few ideas in a reply. You have my contact information."
We rise from our chairs in unison, and as he walks me to the door, I say, "Let me pay for the dry cleaning of your shirt. I'm really uncomfortable."
"Would you be more comfortable if I got rid of my shirt?" His voice is laced with boyish playfulness and the hint of a dare. I open my mouth, fully intending to blatantly ignore his question, but other words slip out instead.
"Do you often offer to strip for women you just met?"
Hell no! I can give good banter when it's required, but he's a potential client. Banter has no business here. His dark brown eyes widen. Clearly, he wasn't expecting this.
"Do you often spill hot chocolate on men you just met?"
"For your own peace of mind, I keep spare shirts in my office. I just didn't have time to change into it because you arrived early. And so is the next meeting, but I'll change the second you leave. Unless you want to watch?" He winks, and my mind spins.
"Send me that floor plan," I say, proud of keeping it professional.
"Will do." Wiggling his eyebrows, he adds, "While changing my shirt. Multi-tasking is one of my talents."
"I never asked what those talents were."
"One of my many faults is that I volunteer too much information. But you never know when it might come in handy."
Shaking my head, I can't hold back a grin. "Pippa said you used to be a big troublemaker as a kid."
"That’s still true. The only difference from then is now I’m trouble with a capital T."
"Good night, Victoria," Chloe says, hugging her teddy bear, her wavy brown hair splayed on her pillow, her eyes heavy with sleep.
I kiss her forehead lightly before whispering, "Good night."
"Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?"
"Sure thing, sweetie."
Placing the book I was reading to her on the nightstand, I turn off the light and slide in beside her. Chloe nestles her small body against mine. Keeping my gaze trained on the moon visible through the window, I listen as her breathing pattern becomes increasingly calmer. Mom used to read to her sometimes before bed, and now I do. It's our way of keeping Mom's memory alive.
Once I'm one hundred percent sure Chloe is asleep, I silently leave. Lucas’s and Sienna's rooms are on the other side of the hall, and they are blissfully quiet. I tiptoe down the corridor on my way to the staircase, but the boards creak beneath my feet anyway. Damn. The floors at our old house used to creak too, but those were of the cute "parent-approaching-alert" variety, whereas these are of the "earthquake-alert" variety.
The death of my parents brought many changes. One of them was that two months after burying them, we had to let go of the only place where we could still feel their presence: the old house. Our new home is smaller and farther away from the children’s school than I wanted, but we live in San Francisco, and housing is exorbitant. This was the best we could afford. We're still learning to call this our home. All our furniture and most of the decorations are from the old house, but it takes more than that to make a place home. We'll get there eventually though.
With a sigh, I shake my head, trying to push the thoughts away. Thinking about my parents always brings on a wave of sadness, and I don't want to let in the pain tonight. I have so much to be thankful for—most of all, that the kids weren't on the boat with my parents the night of the accident. Losing them all… I shudder at the thought.