Chapter 4 - Part 1

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Ella

The moment she closed the bathroom stall door, Ella turned around and leaned against it, bringing one hand over her eyes and the other over her chest. She may've mastered having control over many things throughout the years, but one thing she'd never have any control of was her heartbeat. It'd been pounding away in her chest from the moment she spotted Felix at the front desk with Nellie. Nellie calling her over had only doubled the speed and strength in which it pounded.

"You're my strength, Mom," she whispered barely audibly so that no one in the other stalls could hear. "Remind me there's nothing that you and I can't get through together."

Ella had never been very religious. All she remembered paying attention to in church when she was a kid was when it came time to shake the hand of everyone around her, saying "Peace be with you," and when the collection baskets were passed around so they could drop the change their mother had given them into the basket. For some reason, those two things were the highlights of going to Mass.

She knew at times like these when she felt desperate she should be praying to God, but talking to her mom was so much more calming. She wasn't sure why she needed her mom right then to help her calm down, but she did. She'd had a boyfriend in high school and then her relationship with Grayson. Dealing with guys wasn't new to her. She'd also had plenty of crushes on guys she knew she didn't stand a chance with. Even then she didn't allow herself to indulge in the fantasy too much, but this took the cake. She couldn't ever remember feeling her heart beat like this, not even when she'd experienced her first kiss. And if there was ever someone she didn't stand an inkling of a chance with, it was . . . God! She couldn't even bring herself to say his name in her head. The very thought was so embarrassingly ridiculous it made her blush.

"Okay," she whispered, gathering her strength again. "He's a major celebrity"—she squeezed her eyes shut—"a very attractive celebrity who smells amazing." She stopped to scold herself mentally before she opened her eyes and continued with her whispered pep talk. "This is what all those screaming, fanatical girls who actually pass out feel when they're watching their idol from far away at a concert. I got to talk to him up close and in person. He looked at me as if he were very impressed, and then he admitted he was."

She breathed in and out and then it passed. Just like that she was good to go again. She smiled big—satisfied—proud. Her mom had come through, and she felt ready to conquer.

As long as she didn't run into him again.

Ella took a few moments to splash water on her face, trying to understand what had come over her. It was one thing to fall all over yourself over a celebrity you were a huge fan of, but she'd never held Felix in such high esteem. Even back when everyone in East Los Angeles had adopted him as their new hero, she found it entertaining at best. Okay, sure, when they watched him fight, she was rooting for him. But that was mostly because she wasn't a big boxing fan, and as an East Los Angeles native herself, she was a fan by default.

Since then she'd pretty much lost all respect for him even when everyone else was making excuses for him. She wasn't angry with him; she just didn't think he'd appreciated the hand he'd been dealt. He wasn't alone. There were many other young celebrities out there who obviously couldn't handle the fame. So she didn't hate the guy. She just never imagined having this kind of reaction to meeting him.

All she could hope for now was the power of her mother's strength—the one her mother had promised her on her deathbed would always be with her. It had been enough to mask what she'd been really feeling, and her indifference had come across as just that. Not bitchiness. Just because she didn't want him to think she was another typical girl falling all over herself for him, didn't mean she wanted him to think she was a snob either.

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