Your Tempting Love (The Bennett Family)(4)

By: Layla Hagen

Social services almost took the kids away. They stepped in after my parents died to make sure I’m a fit guardian. In the beginning, I thought it was because Lucas and Chloe were adopted, but then I found out social services often assist when parents of minors pass away. The problem is they were not convinced that I’m a fit guardian. I fought tooth and nail so we'd all stay together, but social services is keeping a close eye on our case, checking in with us monthly.

Stepping inside the living room, I smile widely at the sight of the gigantic hat sitting on the coffee table, still waiting to be “glittered up.” Chloe’s preschool is organizing a costumed picnic in October. Though it’s only September, I started working on her costume to make sure it'll be ready in time. Chloe is going as the Mad Hatter, the glittery version. Kneeling beside the coffee table in front of the couch, I eye my phone, my palm itching to check my e-mails again, but I decide to ignore the urge and finish the hat.

Tonight I'm all tied up, waiting for Christopher Bennett to reply. I received a message from him with the plan for his apartment after leaving his office, and I sent him the pitch two hours later. I haven't heard from him since, which is normal. It can take days for a potential client to get back to me, but my stomach is in knots. I really need to sign him on as a client to replace the one who unexpectedly ditched me last week. And if I'm honest, Christopher Bennett intrigues me. From the sweet way he talked to Chloe to the borderline shameless way in which he joked with me, everything about him is refreshing and fun. I have a feeling it'd be a blast to work for him.

Because I'm not a hypocrite, I also can't deny that the man is a sight to behold: broad shoulders, strong build, eyes I could lose myself in—which is out of the question, of course. Taking a break from glittering up the hat, I can't resist the temptation of scrolling through my e-mails for the hundredth time. To my surprise, there’s one from Christopher in my inbox.

I like your ideas and definitely want to work together. When are you available for a call to talk about the next steps?

I type the response back so fast I nearly break a nail.

I'm available now if you want to talk. Seeing his number below his signature in the message, I add, I can call you, or you can call me.

I type my number, even though he has my business card. As I press Send, I do a small happy dance around my living room, shaking my hips to the memory of a catchy tune I heard while driving this morning. My phone beeps with an incoming call seconds later. I recognize his number and immediately answer.

"Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, Mr. Bennett."

"I think we can drop the formalities, Victoria."

The way he says my name, in a low baritone… damn. I can practically hear the smile in his voice, and my mind immediately conjures up the way his almost-sinful lips curl up to form a smile, revealing dimples at both corners of his mouth. Jeez, I can't believe I memorized that. In my defense, it's a great smile, and those dimples would turn even the strongest woman to mush.

"Thank you for calling me back so quickly, Christopher."

"That's more like it. So, what are the next steps?"

"First of all, I fell in love with your apartment already. I'd love to be able to turn it into a home for you." His apartment, a huge condo at the top of a high-rise, would be a dream to decorate. Since Christopher bought it while still in construction, he had some structural changes made, turning it from a five- to a two-bedroom apartment. This has resulted in delightful and spacious rooms.

"Thanks. Before going into more detail, I have one question. Why did you leave the company you worked at?"

Oh, damn. I was hoping this wouldn't come up. I have an answer ready, of course, but I prefer to avoid the topic. I worked at that company for eight years, putting in long hours and a lot of dedication. When my parents died, things changed. My siblings became my priority. My boss, a woman I had respected almost to the point of worship, decided I wasn't a “good fit” for the company anymore, and fired me. Losing my job was one of the reasons social services didn't think I was a fit guardian. At twenty-nine, I started my own business, which has been exciting and nerve-racking.