Your Inescapable Love (The Bennett Family Book 4)(2)

By: Layla Hagen

“You’re a bad person,” I say, shaking my head. “Making fun of others’ misfortune.”

“I need to fill my free time with something. Judging and gossiping fit the bill.”

“Have you tried reading or cooking?” I challenge her. “I’ve heard they can be fun.”

“Nah, too much work.”

“Who is he?”

“Forgot the name.” She focuses her attention on the computer again. “Max Bennett. Hey, the name sounds familiar.”

“Max B— Are you sure?” I ask, my heart suddenly doing a somersault. The name is not exactly uncommon, but still….


“What’s his date of birth?”

As Abby rattles off the date, I grin because it’s him. Two different people sharing a name and a birthday would be too big of a coincidence.

“He’s my Max. Come on, I told you about him,” I admonish her when she raises an eyebrow. “My neighbor when I was a kid.”

“Ohhhh, I remember now,” Abby replies.

He was so much more than my neighbor. He was my best friend after Mom died, and I absolutely adored him. I haven’t seen him in fifteen years, though, which is about fifteen years too long. “Can you assign him to me?”

“Your schedule is already full.”

“Can you shift one of my other patients to someone else? You can do that for your best friend.” I bat my eyelashes at her, certain I look absolutely ridiculous.

“Fine. I’ll see how I can shift things and let you know.”

“Thank you. See you tomorrow.”

I leave the reception area with a pep in my step. Smiling, I remember the nine-year-old boy who used to walk next to me to school as if he was my own personal bodyguard. He made it his mission to make me smile when all I wanted to do was cry because I had lost my mama. Grams and I moved to Montana when I was thirteen, and Max and I didn’t keep in touch. The boy I knew wasn’t a hothead. Sure, he had his fun, and never backed away from a challenge, but I wouldn’t have pegged him for one to skydive.

Ms. Henderson, the last patient I had today, exits the clinic at the same time I do. Her husband waits for her by his car and after kissing her cheek softly, opens the door for her. The look of awe and love in his eyes warms my heart. At the same time, it makes me aware of the unease that took residence in my chest months ago. Since I was a little girl, I wished for the kind of love the Hendersons share. But some people aren’t meant to have happy endings. My parents didn’t, and if the unused wedding dress in my closet is anything to go by, neither am I. My fiancé, Paul, canceled our wedding three weeks before D-day. That was six months ago, and part of me still can’t believe it.

On my way home, I stop by the store and buy the cheese crackers for Grams. Suddenly, I have a burning desire to talk to Grams about Max, but I’m not sure if she remembers him. On some days, she doesn’t even remember me. I resolve to test the waters when I get home and see how she feels first. Armed with crackers and a giddy happiness, I turn up the volume of the music in my car, pull my shoulder-length blonde hair up in a ponytail, and then wrap my jacket tighter around me, shuddering. My car’s heater died a few weeks back, and I don’t have the money to fix it yet. I earn a good paycheck as a physical therapist, but paying for rent and a caretaker for my grandmother eats up most of it. Grams’s pension helps with her medical bills. Drumming my fingers on the wheel to the rhythm of the music, I drive away.

Thirty minutes later, I walk inside the house, and Ms. Adams, my grandma’s caretaker, greets me.

“Thank God, you’re home.”

“What happened?”

“She’s not been herself the entire afternoon, and I haven’t managed to calm her down. You’re in for a rough evening. I honestly think it would be easier for you if she were in a home.”

The muscles in my back tense, and I roll my shoulders. I found a senior home a few hours away from San Francisco that would be cheaper than a full-time caretaker, but putting her in a home would just break my heart.

“No way. I’ll manage. Where is she?”

“In the backyard.”

“I’m going to her. I bought her favorite crackers. Thank you so much, Ms. Adams. Have a nice evening.”

“See you tomorrow, Emilia.”

After Ms. Adams leaves, I walk outside. Our backyard is small but full of flowers and plants. The back of the house also has a porch painted in dark green, with a couch and a swing. Grams is sitting on the couch, a vacant expression on her face. She snaps her head in my direction, leaping to her feet when she sees me. My grandmother is sixty-one, but her body is still sharp and quick. She always used to say, “Age is just a number. And it ain’t catching up with me.” Her silver hair frames her heart-shaped face.