Home > The Billionaire's Salvation ~ Max(2)

The Billionaire's Salvation ~ Max(2)
Author: J.S. Scott

In reality, he hadn’t given her the chance. He’d never let himself completely open up to her, had never told her exactly how he felt. Now, when it was too late, he regretted it.

Rocking harder, he opened his eyes, and the tears finally flowed. He swiped an arm across his eyes, cursing angrily as he roughly removed the droplets from his ravaged face, but they kept returning, and that only pissed him off more.

Stumbling to his feet, he moved to the edge of the water and waded in, so damn tempted to lose himself in the ocean if it was the only way he and Mia could be together again.

She’s not dead. She’s missing. I’m not giving up on her!

“Mia!” His hoarse shout was carried away across the water by the brutal wind, his body shivering as he called desperately, “Come back.”

No one answered, and he fell to his knees in the frigid water, letting it lap over his chest. His tears mingled with the water, and his hopelessness and anguish burst from his throat in a painful sob. And then another. And another.

The waves pushed his body toward the shore, and he let the momentum carry him. When he reached the sand, he crawled on his hands and knees for a short distance before collapsing on the beach.

Stop f**king crying. She’s not dead. She’s out there somewhere. You need to find her.

Coughing hard, he tried to stem the harsh sounds erupting from his mouth, angry that he was already mourning a wife who hadn’t yet been proved dead. So what if the police and everyone else thought she was deceased? He wasn’t giving up. He’d never give up.

There was no activity on her bank accounts, no sign she was still alive. But he wasn’t going to stop until he found her. Barely sleeping since she had disappeared, he’d spent the last week tearing through Tampa looking for her, hiring private resources when the police were basically shaking their heads in resignation.

“I won’t give up on you, sweetheart. I promise,” he muttered, his lips gritty from the sand that was beginning to coat the inside of his mouth as he inhaled. “I’ll wait forever.”

His vision blurring, he stared determinedly at the crashing waves, exhaustion overwhelming him. He could see lights in the distance, boats passing through his line of vision in the dark night. Blinking, he tried to stay conscious, but blackness covered him and he succumbed to it, knowing he wasn’t leaving this beach tonight. Maybe he never would. Maybe he’d stay here until he died or Mia came back to him.

The wet, shivering, bedraggled figure lay unmoving until daylight, opening his eyes in the morning and hoping that everything that had happened in the last week had only been a dream.

It wasn’t…and when Max looked in the mirror the next day…he had to admit to himself that sometimes there were no second chances. Every so often, something or someone extraordinary came along in life and there was only a small window of opportunity to snatch it and make it your own. Unfortunately, he’d been a coward, afraid of change, and his “someone extraordinary” had been taken away before he could entirely claim her.

For the first time in his life, Maxwell Hamilton was left with regrets. And it was excruciatingly painful. Later, he might examine his life and figure out whether or not he really needed to be a robot that functioned with meticulous control and logic, doing only what was acceptable in his mind. But that would come later, after the pain subsided. Unfortunately, that day never came.

Chapter 1

The Present

“I don’t want a woman, Maddie. I’m already married.” Max fingered his platinum wedding band, a ring that had rarely left his finger since the day he’d gotten married, and would remain on the same damn finger even after he was dead. Technically, he was still married. Mia’s body had never been recovered, nor had she been declared legally dead.

He took a deep breath and slowly let it out, savoring the smell of barbeque and the outdoors. They were having an “end of summer” picnic, a rare time when friends and family were able to get together in one of the local parks and act like kids again, and forget that they were a bunch of the wealthiest people in the world with more responsibility hanging over their head than the average person. Today, they could just be ordinary, and Max didn’t want to have this conversation with his newfound sister. He just wanted to savor the fact that he actually had family, a sibling he had never known existed until earlier this year. Just for a few hours, he wanted to enjoy the company of the people he cared about and try not to think about the woman he’d lost. Finding Maddie had been a miracle, a gift that he didn’t want to squander.

Maddie chewed on her lower lip, looking at him with a concerned expression across a picnic table to which they had been banished by Maddie’s husband, Sam Hudson. Sam was barbequing and wanted his pregnant wife away from the fire. Max smiled, wondering how his friend and brother-in-law was going to survive this pregnancy with Maddie. She was only a few months along and Sam already treated her like she was as fragile as blown glass. He could only imagine how insanely protective Sam would become as her pregnancy progressed. It wouldn’t matter that Maddie was a physician and perfectly capable of knowing what she could and couldn’t handle; Sam would hover. Honestly, Max couldn’t blame him. He was feeling more than a little brotherly protectiveness himself. His sister was thirty-five, two years his senior, and she wanted this baby so desperately. He’d definitely breathe a sigh of relief when the baby was safely delivered. Any other result would break Maddie’s heart, and his sister had already had enough adversity to fight through in her life.

“I just want you to be happy,” she answered softly, tugging nervously on a strand of her curly red hair.

Oh hell, he hated that sad look on her face, but somehow he needed to make her understand that he wasn’t interested in a female companion. Sometimes there was no ecstatic happiness like she had with Sam. It definitely wasn’t in his future. He’d had the love of his life…and had managed to f**k things up completely. His sister had been trying to hook him up with various women all summer, and it needed to stop. “I feel the same way about Mia as you feel about Sam. I loved her. I still do. Her death didn’t change that. There isn’t anyone else for me, Maddie. She was my one and only.” Max knew Maddie would understand. After all, she had waited over a decade for Sam. “I can’t be with anyone else. Not now. Not ever.”

“You feel that way now, Max, but someday—”

“I’ll feel exactly the same way next year, ten years from now, and every day after that.” He wasn’t going to bullshit her. Not anymore. In the past, he’d changed the subject every time she mentioned that maybe he should find some female company, but he wasn’t backing down. Maddie’s quest for his happiness was endearing, but misguided, and it only reminded him of what he’d lost. “If something happened to Sam, when would you be ready to be with someone else?”

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