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

By: Layla Hagen

I glance at the clock again before returning to the file, sighing. One minute left. My palms are sweaty, and I wipe them on my pants, but the fabric of the spandex training gear isn’t absorbing anything.

When I hear the door of the room open, I snap my head up from my file. Max and Kurt, the head of the clinic, are in the doorway. Kurt is talking, but Max isn’t listening. His eyes are fixed on me, and his face breaks into a smile, instantly transporting me back to the day when he offered me his first smile.

With hurried footsteps, I walk toward them, inspecting Max from head to toe. The last time I saw him, he was thirteen years old, and a whole head taller than me. Now he towers over me. I’ve inherited Grams’s petite frame, sure, but Max must be at least six feet and he’s just… magnificent. Broad shoulders and strong arms. His dark brown hair is tousled and sticking out in every direction. His face is a mix of panty-dropping masculinity with a dash of that boyish charm I remember about him. Max Bennett is all man.

I stop less than a foot in front of him and Kurt. Max pins me with his gaze and his smile deepens. Oh God, I forgot about those dimples.

“As far as I understand, no introductions are needed, since Abby said you already know each other,” Kurt says. I open my mouth but find my throat too clogged with emotion to form words.

“We do,” Max says, and his voice doesn’t sound quite right. It’s deep and strong, with just a slight hint of nervousness. “She used to be my best friend.”

“Well, I’ll leave the two of you,” Kurt says. “Emilia will take good care of you.”

“Of course, I will,” I say, having found my voice again. Kurt nods at both of us before leaving.

The second the door closes, Max pulls me into a hug. I walk into his arms without hesitation, even though there are six other people in the training room. He hugs the same way I remember—wholeheartedly. But then again, there weren’t many things Max the boy did halfheartedly, and I can’t imagine Max the man to be any different.

“I can’t believe this,” he murmurs against my hair. “I always wondered about you. Where you were, what you were doing. I wanted to look for you, but I didn’t know where to start.” He rubs his hand up and down my back, sending sparks of warmth down my spine.

Pulling out of his arms, I say, “I, on the other hand, knew where you were all this time. I moved to San Francisco when I started college, but I didn’t know how to reach out.”

“Ah, it’s a good thing I was a blithering idiot then and had the accident,” he exclaims. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. Gives a whole new meaning to everything happens for a reason, right?”

I smile at him, surprised to learn that he kept his self-deprecating humor. Reading in magazines about his family’s success always did make me wonder if he’d changed or if he’d become more arrogant. So far, it seems not. I wonder how his siblings turned out. There are nine in total. Sebastian, Logan, and Pippa were the older trio, and as far as I understood, they set up Bennett Enterprises—one of the biggest players in the jewelry market. Max and his identical twin brother, Christopher, also work at the company, but I don’t know what the other siblings are up to: Alice, Blake, Daniel, and Summer. Can’t wait for Max to fill me in.

“How did you manage to get yourself into that mess?”

“If I make up a heroic reason, will you believe me?”

I burst out laughing. He cemented his status as my hero one lousy, rainy day after school. We were walking home when we heard howling. After sloshing around in the mud for a few minutes, we located the dogs. They were on the edge of the road, next to a ditch. I counted four pups and what looked like their dead mother. The pups desperately tried to get a reaction from her, pushing their little heads against her belly, and one of them licking her nose. I felt such an instant kinship with the pups who’d lost their mother that I couldn’t bear leaving them to fend for themselves. As Max and I bent to lift them, we noticed a fifth pup. He’d fallen into the ditch, which was very deep and narrow. Without hesitation, Max jumped inside it, pulling up the pup. It then took him nearly twenty minutes to get himself out. Grams and his mother, Jenna Bennett, nearly went into cardiac arrest when we returned home with five pups and covered in mud. I hero-worshiped him from that day on.

“I know you can be a hero, all right. But the skydiving accident is in your file.”

He groans, then tugs with his teeth at his lower lip, and I can’t help admiring his lush mouth. Had his lips always been this full? And why, in the name of all that is holy, am I having these thoughts? The training room suddenly feels too small, as does the distance between us.

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