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Your Fierce Love (The Bennett Family)

By:Layla Hagen

Your Fierce Love (The Bennett Family)
Layla Hagen

       Blake & Clara ~ The Bennett Family, Book 7



"To another Bennett wedding," I exclaim, clinking my glass against my  baby sister's. Summer sips champagne, her gaze scanning the packed  venue. Our sister Alice got married today, and almost three hundred  guests are in attendance. Weddings are big affairs in our family.

"Look at them. They're so happy." Watching Nate and Alice, Summer sighs, a dreamy expression on her face.

"You're daydreaming about your own wedding, aren't you? I bet you already know where you want to do it."

"Don't be silly. I know the theme and type of dress too." She grins,  tapping a finger to her right temple. "Have all the details in my mind. I  just need a groom."

Chuckling, I lace an arm around her shoulders, kissing her forehead.  It's so good to have her back. She's been working at a museum in Rome  for the past few years, and for a while, I feared she'd move there  permanently. "I'm sure a certain member of our family will happily lend  you a hand."

Summer wiggles her eyebrows. By certain, I mean our oldest sister,  Pippa. She's quite the successful matchmaker. Proof: We're nine siblings  in total, and six are married. Single people are a disappearing species  in my family. Summer, my twin brother Daniel, and I are the last  remaining musketeers.

"Let's go mingle with the guests," I say. The party is still young, and  I've yet to greet many members of our very extended family, and close  friends. The dance floor is already full, but given the sheer number of  guests, that still leaves plenty of candidates to rope into a  conversation.

"You're right. Divide and conquer?"


Summer heads straight to one of our cousins, but I stop by the kids'  playground corner first. The best part of having married siblings is  that I've got a whole bunch of nieces and nephews to spoil. At the rate  everyone's shooting out babies, the group is going to reach double  digits soon. As far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier. Not to toot  my own horn, but I have reasonable evidence that I'm everyone's favorite  uncle.

Because of their different ages, things tend to get out of hand when we  group them together. I'm expecting action tonight since the group is  large-many guests brought their kids too. We've hired sitters for the  event, but I want to get a feel for the situation, see if there's a war  brewing. So far, it seems not.

"Uncle Blake, I want more sweets," says my four-year-old niece Mia.

Her identical twin, Elena, drops the doll she was holding at the word "sweets". "Me too."

They press their hands together as if in prayer, looking up at me with  wide, pleading eyes. Now, I know for a fact that Pippa doesn't allow her  daughters to eat sweets this late in the evening, but... eh... I never  can tell these angels no. This weakness is probably why I'm their  favorite uncle.

"Right away, girls."

I cross the enormous ballroom along the edge of the dance floor, which  is getting more crowded by the minute. At the sweets cart, I run into  one of my favorite people: Clara Abernathy. I met her more than two  years ago, around the time Nate and Alice started dating. She's not just  a close friend of Pippa's, but what we affectionately call an adopted  Bennett in my family. Wearing a red wraparound dress, she hovers in  front of the cart, inspecting the offerings.

"Fancy seeing you here, Clara." I grab a plate, trying to guess what Mia and Elena would like.

"You know me. If there's sugar in a room, there's a good bet I'll be  gravitating to it. The hazelnut cake is to die for, by the way."

"Wouldn't be my first choice."

"Excellent. More for me." She grins, loading her plate with cake, then  turns her attention to a plate in the center containing one lonely  cupcake. "Please tell me you don't want that, or I'll have to fight you  for it."

I'm tempted to tease her, but growing up with three sisters taught me  that you don't get between a woman and her sweets unless you're prepared  to suffer the consequences.

"I don't want it. Be my guest."

"My, what a gentleman you are tonight."

"I'm dressed like one, might as well act the part."

"Have to say, for someone who seems allergic to suits, you sure wear one well. Should try it more often."

"Let's not get crazy." I wink at her. Suits and cuff links are not my  usual style. I'm a jeans man through and through. She laughs softly, her  dark brown hair bobbing down her back, a whiff of her flowery and  feminine scent reaching me.                       


"Why aren't you putting anything on your plate?"

"I'm actually on a bounty hunt for Mia and Elena. Not sure what they want. Help?"

"Oooh, but the girls will love the cupcake. And the hazelnut cake." She  glances once at her plate before handing it to me, and taking the empty  one from my hands. "Take this to them."

"You don't even bat an eyelash at giving up the cupcake for my nieces, but you wanted to fight me for it? Good to know."

"I can't resist any of your nieces and nephews, and don't judge me. Since you cater to their every whim, neither do you."


"Know what? I'll eat sweets later. Let's make plates for the rest of the  kids too. Taking sweets to just part of the group is a recipe for war."

It didn't occur to me, but she's right. "Thanks for saving my bacon."

"It's good bacon. Deserves saving."

I can't put my finger on it, but her tone sounds off. As we head over to  the kids' corner carrying loaded plates, a subtle shift in her body  language convinces me that something is definitely awry. She hunches her  shoulders, sighing. Usually, Clara has an energy that lights her up  from within, but that vibrancy is melting away right in front of my  eyes. Time to find out what's bothering her, and either fix it or make  her forget about it-for tonight, at least.



The kids attack the plates the second Blake and I place them on the low  tables. We move a few feet away from the group but watch for any signs  they're about to attack each other.

"What's wrong?" Blake asks, and I wince.

"That visible, huh?"

"Yeah, to anyone who knows you."

Oh snap! I don't want to be a Debbie Downer. I have all the time in the  world to worry about my living situation once the wedding's over. I have  one job tonight, and that is being happy for Alice and Nate.

Before moving to London with Alice, Nate was my boss, and a great mentor  and friend. He also introduced me to the Bennett family, and they've  become a huge part of my life. They're warm and close, and I adore them.  Last year, they threw a surprise birthday party for me, and whenever  I'm sick, someone from the family-usually Blake's mother-brings me food.

Long story short, I owe it to Nate big-time, and the least I can do is  smile and push my current predicament to the back of my mind.

"So, what's wrong?"

"Nothing that can't wait until after the wedding," I say with determination.

Blake lifts a brow. I should've known he wouldn't be satisfied with that  nonanswer. He can be intense when he wants to. Now he definitely wants  to. He leans in a tad too close, pinning me with his dark eyes. I won't  lie, my resolve cracks a little under the weight of his attention. My  flight instinct kicks in because being in sniffing distance of Blake is  dangerous. It usually sends my pulse into overdrive, messes with my  senses. Tonight, his proximity seems to affect me less-

Wait, I spoke too soon. There is pounding in my ears... Yep, that's my  pulse spiking. My heartbeat accelerates. Blake is still holding my gaze  captive. I stubbornly look back but give in when I feel the heat rising  to my cheeks.

"You know I was supposed to receive the keys to my apartment next Monday?"

I'm still over the moon about the my bit. This will be the first home I will own. A tiny box, but it will be mine. Eventually.


"Well, turns out the construction crew found some issues, and they're delaying the project completion by ten to twelve weeks."

Blake sets his lips into a grim line. "Let me guess. You already put in the notice where you live now?"

Shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I cross my arms over my chest.

"Exactly. I'm supposed to move out by the end of next week. Called the  landlord, asking if he can extend the contract, but he's already rented  the place to someone else, so his answer was something along the lines  of chop, chop, move it, move it."

"I'm gonna take a wild guess that house hunting isn't going well?"

"Not easy to find something on such short notice in San Francisco."

"Especially for only a few months."

Blowing out a breath, I nod. Ever since the construction company  notified me of the delay two weeks ago, I've been browsing apartment  listings and emailing with a real estate agent, but so far nothing. The  short lease time is a deal breaker for all the places I can afford, so  my options are rather bleak.