Max Bennett was nine years old the first time he met Emilia. The two formed a tight friendship that lasted for years until she moved away. Now, years later, Max enjoys a successful career, and his brilliant business sense helped him take his family’s company to the next level. Max loves his life: carefree and fun. He has everything he wants and does not intend to settle down anytime soon (even though his family might have other ideas).
But when a chance encounter brings him face-to-face with Emilia, he starts questioning everything. The girl he last saw years ago has grown into a beautiful woman with sensual curves and a smile he can’t get out of his mind. Their chemistry is sizzling, and between old memories and new challenges, the two form an undeniable connection.
Emilia Campbell has a lot on her plate, taking care of her sick grandmother. Still, the twenty-eight-year-old physical therapist faces everything with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. The one area in her life where she’s not too optimistic is love. After practically being left at the altar, Emilia has sworn off men. Until the childhood friend she hero-worshiped and hasn’t quite forgotten steps into her clinic. Max is every bit the troublemaker she remembers, only now he has a body to drool over and a smile to melt her panties. Not that she intends to do the former, or let the latter happen.
They are both determined not to cross the boundaries of friendship. But as they spend more time together, their chemistry spirals out of control.
Can Emilia trust her childhood hero with the key to her heart and accept she might have found her one true love?
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.
“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.
“I never took you for the skydiving type,” I continue.
“I’m not. Just made a bet with Blake. I was flying with a trainer and still managed to crash land.”
At the mention of his younger brother, I can’t help grinning.
“Damn, I have so many questions for you, I don’t know how to get them out fast enough,” he says.
“Pretty much describing my current dilemma.” I hold up a finger. “But, we need to start with the session. Kurt warned me that I should keep the relationship professional during our sessions.”
Max cocks an eyebrow. “What did he think I’d do? Jump your bones the moment I saw you?”
Heat rushes to my cheeks at his words, and I lower my gaze, suddenly flustered. Thank heavens we’re far enough from the others that they can’t hear us.
“I see you still put your foot in your mouth every chance you get,” I inform him.
“I do, but that came out wrong. I didn’t mean there’s anything wrong with jumping your bones. In fact, you filled out beautifully. As your oldest friend, I’m allowed to say that without sounding like a pervert, or like I’m hitting on you. You are beautiful.” He utters those last few words in a lower tone and damn, it makes all my lady parts tingle.
“You haven’t aged too bad either, Bennett. You wear a suit well,” I volley back, though my skin is simmering. Teasing each other was one of the backbones of our friendship, but now it feels different. Max wears a gray suit, and he wears it as if he’s been born into it, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I saw him running around in jeans or shorts and simple shirts our entire childhood, but there is something about him in a suit that is absolutely irresistible.
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