Your Inescapable Love (The Bennett Family Book 4)By: Layla Hagen
Max & Emilia ~ The Bennett Family, Book 4
Nineteen years ago
Why is there a girl in our yard? She’s just stepped through the gate and looks around, holding a backpack in her arms. Mom is in the kitchen with my brothers, and I probably should call her, but I won’t. I can take care of this. I’m nine years old.
I run to the gate, and as I get closer, I recognize her. She’s the new girl in my class at school, Emilia Campbell, who always looks like she’s going to cry. I overheard one of the teachers say her mom died before she moved here. Probably why she’s sad. No one should lose their mom.
“What are you doing here?” I ask her when I reach the gate.
“I live two houses away,” she says quickly. “But I lost my key, and I can’t get in the house. I live with Grams, who is working now, and she’s usually not home until seven. I left the window to my room open, and I tried to climb in, but I couldn’t. I fell, and now my knee hurts.”
Wow. I don’t know many girls who would climb through their window. My sister Alice does, but Alice is cool. I decide that Emilia Campbell is cool too.
“Grams says I’m not supposed to tell anyone that I’m home alone, but I can’t get in, and I don’t know what to do. There is a storm coming, and I hate storms. I’m afraid of thunder.”
“You can wait inside our house,” I say.
“But I don’t know you.” Emilia Campbell has long blonde hair. It’s almost as blonde as my sister Pippa’s, but shorter.
“Yes, you do. We have class together. I am Max Bennett.”
“Emilia Campbell,” she says.
“I know. I heard the teacher call your name. You’re the new girl who doesn’t play with anyone during recess.”
She looks at her boots, and those are some butt-ugly boots. Pink with even pinker hearts on it. I open my mouth, and close it again, remembering my sister Alice saying people don’t like it when I tell them their things are ugly. And Mom said I’m not supposed to say butt.
“I don’t play with anyone because I don’t have any friends.”
She’s weird. How are you supposed to make friends if you don’t play with anyone? Maybe it’s a girl thing. I’ll never understand girls. A few drops of cold water fall on my face.
“It’s raining. Let’s go inside my house. Momma says it’s bad to be out when it rains. We’ll get a cold.”
She looks at the house behind me and then back at me. “Are you sure your parents won’t be upset?”
“No, they let me and my brothers and sisters bring friends all the time.”
She looks down at her ugly-ass boots again. “But I’m not your friend.”
A loud sound cracks above, and she jumps. She looks at the sky with wide eyes. Boy, she really is afraid of thunder.
“You are now. I want to be your friend, Emilia Campbell. And I will protect you from the thunder.”
“Please, please, please, let us have some hot rock star or actor on the list with new patients.” My best friend Abby stands behind the reception desk, staring intently at her computer.
“Anyone interesting?” I ask her. This is one of the most sought-after physical therapy clinics in San Francisco. As such, we often work with high-profile athletes who must recover after an injury, and even the occasional celebrity. In the case of the latter, it’s nice to get a scoop beforehand, because sometimes paparazzi show up. While Abby surveys the list on her computer, I make a mental note to stop at Target on the way home and buy a box of cheese crackers for my grandmother. No matter how bad a day she’s having, they always make her happy. Because she has Alzheimer’s, most of her days are bad lately. Watching the strong woman who raised me slowly fading away is excruciating.
“Nah.” Abby shakes her head in disappointment. “We’ve had a dry spell with celebrities lately. Just more businessmen.”
I grin. Ah, yes, we also get the assorted businessmen who decide all of a sudden that their lifestyle is too sedentary and they have to incorporate training into their routine. They sometimes overdo it, which is a recipe for injury.