Max's Redemption(3)

By: L. Wilder



It was in that exact moment when I knew that fate had taken my life into her own hands. I had no choice in the matter. I had no way of knowing how coming face to face with Harper Campbell would change things, but I did know one thing for certain: change was knocking at my door. I was about to come to terms with my past.


In order to move forward from our past, sometimes you have to go back to the beginning.





CHAPTER 1





Max


Fifteen years earlier

I stared up at the ceiling, thankful for the silence. It was much different from the night before when my dad was on one of his drunken tangents. He and my mother had spent the entire night arguing over the electric bill, the dinging sound coming from the engine of my mother’s car, and even the damn TV remote. When he was on the sauce, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t argue about. I couldn’t understand why my mother put up with his bullshit. I knew she loved him. Unlike me, she still remembered the man he used to be, the man she was proud to have by her side and loved wholeheartedly.

He was one of the best Major Generals in the Corp, and everyone knew it. He led his men with honor and pride, but that all changed the day he’d almost gotten himself killed. Without any warning, his troop walked into enemy fire, killing most and severely wounding the rest. While he was medically discharged and had no choice in the matter, he felt like he was less of a man when he left the corp. It changed him, inside and out. He took to the bottle to help him forget the pain—both mentally and physically. Apparently, last night, the mixture of memories and liquor got to be too much, and he’d acted like more of a dick than usual.

Over time, my sister and I forgot all about the good, honorable man my father used to be. To us, he was just a Grade A asshole, and we wanted nothing to do with him. While my sister spent most of her time next door at our grandmother’s, I kept myself busy working or hanging out with my best friend, Brody Campbell.

I’d made plans with Brody to go to his folk’s place for the weekend. On Saturdays my parents slept in a bit later, which I was banking on, because I really wanted to slip out before they woke up. I pulled myself out of bed and headed for the shower. Once I was dressed, I grabbed my duffle bag and started down the hall. Just as I got to the front door, I heard my mother call, “Maxwell Lanheart!”

With an exasperated groan, I stopped and slowly turned to face her. “I’m gonna be late, Mom.”

“Where the hell is he going?” my father bellowed from the next room.

Ignoring him, she whispered, “You do not leave this house without telling me goodbye. You know that.” She tiptoed over to me and gave me a quick hug. “It’s one of my—”

“Deal-breakers. Yeah, I know.” I looked over her shoulder, making sure that Dad wasn’t coming. “I’m sorry, but I need to go .”

She stuck her hand in her robe pocket, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and placed it in my hand. “Give this to Glenda or Tom. I wish it was more, but it’s all I have on me.”

“It’s fine. Keep it. I just cashed my paycheck last night. I’ll give—”

“No. I don’t want you using your money, Max. That’s for something more important.”

“Like what?”

“Save it, sweetheart. You never know when you’ll need it.”

“Okay.” I took the money and shoved it in my back pocket, then I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I gotta go, Mom.”

“Be careful.”

“You know I will.”

I’d just made it out to my truck when she called, “Hey, Max! Anna Kate wants to go to the mall with some of her friends Tuesday night. I was hoping you—”

“Mom. Really ?”

“It would mean a lot to her. You know how hard it is for her, especially with those girls.” She gave me one of those looks—the kind I never could refuse.

“Fine. But only for a couple of hours. I’ve gotta work.”

“I’ll let her know. Thank you, pumpkin.”

Grumbling under my breath, I climbed into my pickup and headed over to Brody’s place. He lived on the coast on Long Beach Peninsula where all the high society folks flocked together. You’d think by the size of their house, with its outstanding ocean view, and all their fancy cars, the Campbell’s would be a bunch of stuck-up assholes, but they weren’t. Until seven or eight years ago, they’d lived in middle Tennessee where please and thank you just came naturally.

When I pulled up the long, cobblestone driveway, I found Harper, Brody’s little sister, sitting on the front steps of the house. Even though they were siblings, they couldn’t have been more different. Brody was always sporting khakis and a button-down with a smile on his face. He was definitely a confident guy; but then, being the star quarterback and having a pocketful of cash would make anyone a little arrogant. Harper, on the other hand, was a tomboy through and through with scraped kneecaps and freckles dappled across the bridge of her nose, wrinkled t-shirts and cutoff denim shorts. When she wasn’t climbing a tree, she had a book in her hand. Harper was shy and easy to annoy, and I loved giving her a hard time.

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