Home > The Billionaire's Salvation ~ Max(4)

The Billionaire's Salvation ~ Max(4)
Author: J.S. Scott

Max barked out a laugh. “So can we come on over there and give you a brotherly little hug, Kara?” he asked, watching Simon carefully. Honestly, he really shouldn’t bait the poor guy. Simon was obsessively jealous and his wife was nine months pregnant, but Max just couldn’t help himself. Shooting Kade a conspiratorial glance, both men began to rise.

Simon growled—actually snarled—as Kade and Max stood.

Kara beamed, delighted, looking pleased with the idea of giving both men a brotherly hug.

“Come one step closer and you’ll both end up in the hospital,” Simon warned dangerously.

Max smiled, while Kade laughed uproariously. Yeah, it was definitely not nice to tease Sam and Simon about their women, but since neither Kade nor Max actually had a woman, it was just so entertaining to watch Simon’s reaction. Both of them sat back down, knowing better than to push the jesting any further. Max had no doubt that Simon would make good on his promise.

“Just wait,” Simon warned. “Payback sucks.”

Max’s smile faded. While Kade had recently been dumped by his longtime girlfriend, his brother-in-law would probably find a good woman someday and get paid back for teasing Simon. But Max knew he never would. And he’d never treated Mia the same way Sam and Simon treated their wives. His parents had loved him, given him everything an adopted child could ever want, and in return, he’d always tried to make them proud by behaving with control. Not that he hadn’t wanted to go completely cave dweller on Mia at times—actually pretty much all the time—but he hadn’t allowed those emotions to claw to the surface. He’d ruthlessly crushed those feelings, burying them deep inside him, and he had loved Mia with the same tepid, felicitous affection his dad had shown his mom. But, Holy Christ, it hadn’t been easy. Max knew his possessive, animal instincts had been there with Mia, snarling to get out, but he’d always hid them, constantly struggling to keep them leashed. Now, he wished he would have set them loose and loved her wholeheartedly. He’d been afraid of scaring her off, freaking her out with his irrational behavior. But watching the other men with their women, he wasn’t entirely certain that she wouldn’t have wanted him that way. Kara and Maddie seemed happy, entirely certain that they were loved. Had Mia felt that way? Max wasn’t sure she had.

Sam brought over a huge platter of freshly cooked burgers and hotdogs. Picnic tables were hastily pushed together to seat everyone, the wood nearly groaning with the weight of all the people and enough food to feed a small army. Kade slid in next to him on his left, and Maddie slipped into the seat to his right.

Max’s eyes scanned the crowd sitting at the table and then around the perimeters of the park, wanting to laugh at the amount of undercover security that surrounded them. Already knowing Sam and Simon would have the park surrounded, he hadn’t bothered to include his small security team in this event. Now, he was really happy that he hadn’t. It would have definitely been overkill. The Hudson siblings practically had an entire SWAT team around the park to guard their wives. Not that Max really blamed them. Maybe if he had been firmer with Mia about her security, maybe if he hadn’t let her convince him that she didn’t need to be followed every minute of the day, maybe…

He was reaching for a hamburger bun when he saw her, his hand stopping abruptly before it reached the platter, his entire body frozen in place as he met the stare of a woman about fifteen feet from him, her body still and half hidden by a palm tree. His heart surged and then plummeted to his feet as his eyes locked with hers, eyes so very much like Mia’s. He might have been able to blow off the fact that her eyes were the same azure blue as his deceased wife’s, but he couldn’t ignore the sense of recognition he felt and saw reflected back at him from her gaze. Sweet Jesus. “Mia,” he whispered huskily, his hand lowering to the table as he openly gaped at her.

Hearing Max’s quiet declaration, Kade looked at Max, following the direction of his stare, looking at the woman for a moment and then back at Max. “Don’t do this to yourself, man. It isn’t her,” Kade told him harshly.

Yeah. Sure. For the first year after Mia’s disappearance, Max had seen her everywhere he went, in every crowd. But this wasn’t the same thing. “I feel her,” Max answered, his eyes never leaving the woman, his body tensing as he rose to his feet.

Kade grasped his arm. Hard. “Her eyes are the same color, but that’s all. It isn’t her. Look at her, Max. She has short, dark hair. She’s thin. Nothing is the same except her eyes. There are lots of women with blue eyes. Stop torturing yourself. Mia’s gone and she’s never coming back.” Kade’s voice was low, grating, his head turned so only Max could hear him.

Max ignored him, shrugging off his brother-in-law’s hold as he stood, the sorrow that he felt coming from the woman beckoning him, calling to him. Stepping over the bench seat of the picnic table, he kept his focus on her. The sense of recognition he felt made every sound fade around him until all he could hear was the thundering sound of his heart pounding in his ears, and all he could feel was the eerie sensation of knowing the woman who was so close to him, yet too far away.

Déjà vu.

Those were exactly the same sensations he had experienced the moment he’d first looked at Mia and had fallen into her deep blue eyes.

As he took a step toward her, she bolted. Breaking his gaze, she pivoted and started sprinting away from him, her slim, bare limbs exposed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, moving gracefully in quick, fast strides.

Dammit. No. Don’t run. Please don’t run.

Desperation seized him as his body kicked into motion, his feet pounding the dirt as he ran after her, covering the distance between them quickly. “Wait. I just wanted to talk to you,” he yelled, close enough to almost touch her.

Her head jerked around while she was in motion, startled by his voice so close to her, her expression panicked. Concentration lost, she stumbled, not seeing the elevated sidewalk in front of her. She went down hard, her head the first thing to hit the pavement. Because she had been looking back at him, she’d never had a chance to throw out her arms to break her fall.

“Fuck.” Max’s breath left his body as he leaped to avoid landing on top of her, cringing as he saw her head connect with the cement as she went down. He slowed and turned, dropping to the ground beside her, hating himself for chasing after her like a madman and causing the brutal fall. “Are you okay?” he asked hoarsely, turning her body over gently, cradling her head.

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