Loving You Always (The Bennetts #2) - Kendall Ryan

Chapter One

Walsh Bennett scowled at the teetering tower of paperwork overwhelming his desk.

“Trish, last time I checked we were in the twenty-first century,” he yelled through the open door connecting his office to his assistant’s. “What’s up with all this paper? Nineteen ninety called and wants its dead trees back.”

Trisha snickered and sauntered into his office, her matte red smile a vibrant slash in her golden brown face. She gestured to the offending paper pile, one hand on her curvy hip.

“The board expects your John Hancock on all these dead trees, so I hope 1990 sent pens.”

Walsh grinned, shaking his head before obediently plowing through the documents requiring his signature.

“Do we still have coffee around here?” He tried to keep a straight face while he growled, but it hadn’t taken Trish long to figure out he wasn’t the slave driver everyone expected Martin Bennett’s son to be.

“Would you like coffee, Walsh?” Voice saccharine sweet, Trish arched her brows at him, one of the little tricks she used to remind him that he might be the boss, but she wasn’t his gofer.

“Why, yes, Trish. Now that you mention it, a cup of coffee would be delightful.”

“Make him fetch it himself.”

They both looked to the open door, where his cousin Jo Walsh stood like a queen paying a royal visit. Her chestnut hair waved in an angled bob past her shoulders, a studied, tousled, beautiful mess. Her black leather and tweed panel dress may as well have been poured over Jo’s long, elegant body, its lines liquid against every firm curve. She strode deeper into the office, tossing her clutch onto Walsh’s desk and lowering herself inch by inch into the seat facing him.

“Jo, to what do I owe this pleasure?” He looked away long enough to catch Trish’s eye and send her on her way. “Coffee.”

“I’m here for Fashion Week.” She pointed to the dress. “Zac Posen show this afternoon. Donna Karan later.”

“Ah, I’d forgotten that was this week. Moneyed fashionistas descending on New York City. One of your favorite times of the year.”

When she remained silent, he looked up from the paper he was reading over before signing.

“Right? Don’t you usually waste obscene amounts of money and spend the week hobnobbing with all the other wealthy women who just have to have this season’s whatever? You and Mom always…”

Walsh let his words peter out, dropping the pen to give his cousin his full attention. He looked past the glistening surface; he looked at her eyes beneath the smoky eye shadow and mascaraed lashes and saw grief, a twin to his own.

He and his father had spent the last month since his mother’s funeral conducting business in Hong Kong. It had distracted him from the yawning hole in his heart, but every time he stopped for even a minute, the wailing monster inside reminded him his mother was gone. She would never return.

“It’s my first Fashion Week without her.” Jo straightened out the wobble in her voice before continuing, fixing her eyes on the large hourglass his father had given him, in its place of pride on his desk. “I know it seems flighty to you, but fashion was our thing. One of our many things. Doing this without her feels empty and foolish, but not doing it—”

“She’d want you to.” Walsh stood and crossed around his desk, settled on the edge, and reached for Jo’s hand. “Enjoy it as much as you can. We’ve gotta find joy wherever possible. Dad and I used work to survive the last month. You can certainly use fashion.”

Jo ran the tips of her dark, square nails over a leather patch on her dress before looking back up at him.

“I miss you, cuz.”

Damn. He had to add “asshole” to whatever titles his father and the board of directors wanted to bestow on him. How could he have neglected Jo? Sure, things had been strained between them before his mother had passed. All the drama with Kerris and Cam had managed to slither into his relationship with Jo, but she had needed him. Hell, he had needed her, and neither of them had reached for the other. Until now. He’d castigate himself as a self-centered so-and-so later. Right now he needed to fix this.

“Jo, I’m sorry we’ve barely talked. I didn’t mean to abandon you. There was too much in Rivermont I needed to get away from. Mom’s funeral and…”

Walsh didn’t need to finish that sentence. Jo had stood witness to the Pompeii-like destruction of the