Your Inescapable Love (The Bennett Family Book 4)(3)

By: Layla Hagen


“Violet, you’re home,” she exclaims.

I blink back tears. Violet was my mother’s name, but I’ve learned it’s best not to correct Grams; it just makes her confused and anxious. Grams loved my mama dearly, even though she was just her daughter-in-law. Mom got pregnant with me at sixteen. Her own parents kicked her out of the house so Grams, my dad’s mother who was a widow, took her in, and the three of us lived with her. Then after mama’s funeral, my asshole of a father decided parenthood wasn’t for him and disappeared off the face of the earth. Never saw him again. It’s just been Grams and me ever since.

Holding up the package, I say, “Brought you crackers.”

She tsk-tsks, shaking her head. “Don’t come home so late again tomorrow. You know what they say about girls who come home late, and I won’t have anyone speak ill about my daughter-in-law.”

I press my lips together, hating that my eyes are stinging with tears. I rack my brain, trying to come up with a way to bring Grams back to present day without upsetting her, when she surprises me.

“This house is beautiful, Emilia, darling. I’m so happy we found it.”

“Me too. I like our yard the best. It’s so peaceful.”

Grams doesn’t say anything for long, painful minutes, and when she speaks again, she shatters me anew. “I received a call from your principal today. He said you got into trouble again at school.”

A knot forms in my throat. There she is, slipping away from me again. Sometimes she mixes up people, sometimes time periods. It’s an emotional roller coaster.

“Let’s have dinner, okay?” I ask in a strangled voice.

I finally coax her into eating dinner, and afterward she showers. Just before she gets in her bed, I comb her hair, the way she did for me while I was growing up. The worst thing about her illness is that it’s episodic. Some days she’s her old self, some days she’s unrecognizable. After she goes to sleep, I pour myself a glass of wine and go out in the backyard, stretching on the bench. As I sip from my drink, my phone vibrates with an incoming message from Evelyn. She’s my other best friend, and she also works at the clinic. She’s not a physical therapist, but a psychotherapist. Some of our patients need that therapy in addition to the physical one, especially if they suffered grave injuries, or their careers have come to a halt—as is the case for professional sportsmen.

Evelyn: A friend of my sister’s says she might be interested in buying your wedding dress. I gave her your number.

“Oh.” Something painful twists in my chest at her words. This is a good thing, I tell myself. I need to get rid of it, and God knows I can use all the money in the world.

Emilia: Thanks.

Evelyn: You can celebrate getting rid of it by starting to date already. You know what they’re saying about plenty of fish being in the sea.

This reminds me of joke I read recently. Chuckling, I type back.

Emilia: Yeah, and I live in the desert. I’m getting used to the idea of lifelong celibacy. I’ll buy some cats.

I love my life. Some days it’s hard, some days it’s downright painful, but what the heck? I have two great friends, my Grams, and this piece of heaven I can call home. And I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but the childhood friend I’ve missed like crazy for years might just pop up in my life again. If that’s not a sign of great luck, I don’t know what is.

As I fiddle with my phone, I notice a message from Abby.

Abby: I shifted one of your patients to someone else. Max Bennett is all yours.



Giggling, I take a sip of my wine. I might be taking a lifelong break from dating men, but reuniting with my old best friend couldn’t have happened at a better time.





Chapter Three





Emilia




My first appointment with Max is Monday of the following week. I pace up and down one of the training rooms, looking over his file for the hundredth time. He has a posterior cruciate ligament injury, a slight tear. He didn’t need surgery or require crutches, but he needs a rigorous therapy to get that ligament back in shape. I’ll make sure he’ll be able to kick anyone’s ass by the time our sessions are done.

The three other therapists in the room smile at me encouragingly, concentrating on their own patients. The clinic has ten such training rooms, and up to five patients and their individual therapists can be in one room at a time. I wish Max and I could be alone so we can catch up, but that will remain wishful thinking for today. My stomach is in knots as I glance up at the clock. Two minutes left.

I first met Max when I was nine years old. Mom had died, and Grams and I moved a few houses away from the Bennetts. I went to the same school as the Bennett kids and quickly became somewhat of an outcast, which was entirely my fault. I was shy, awkward, and grieving. Since I had buried my mother, I had retreated into a shell. Max pulled me out of it. When Grams and I moved to Montana four years later, I was devastated.

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