Patrick Holt is lonely. A bad breakup with his boyfriend has left the forty-year-old ophthalmologist reluctant to get involved with another man. When his neighbor sets him up with her brother-in-law Eric, Patrick prepares himself for disappointment. But Patrick quickly finds himself surprised and charmed by Eric, and Eric, who’s had relationship problems of his own in the past, falls hard and fast for Patrick.
On the outside, Eric seems like a great guy: young and attractive with a promising job as an assistant manager at a Chicago hotel. But Eric has a dark side he and his family are hiding from Patrick. When the truth is finally revealed and Eric’s secrets are exposed, will Patrick be willing to go the distance with Eric? Or will he run as fast as he can from the new man in his life?
Eric lived in a non-descript mid-rise building in the South Loop. When he’d described his place as a “depressing little studio apartment in the city” I thought he was exaggerating. He wasn’t. His apartment was dark and small and had a lovely view of a parking garage and the L tracks. It also lacked a sufficient amount of furniture. In addition to a couple of mismatched stools pulled up to the breakfast bar, there was a flat screen TV, a leather recliner, and an air mattress on the floor.
“You don’t even have a bed?” I asked as I looked around.
Eric shook his head. “I haven’t gotten around to looking for one. The guy who owns the condo put all of his stuff into storage, so I had to furnish everything myself.”
“No wonder you always want to come to my place.”
“Your place is nice.”
“Your place could be nice too if you bought a bed.”
He shrugged. “The air mattress is okay.”
I looked at the mattress on the floor and the mismatched sheet and comforter strewn across it. “You’re joking, right?”
“Come on. It’s not that bad. Just stretch out on it. You’ll see.”
I shook my head. “I’m not sleeping on that.”
“What, you’re too good for my air mattress?”
“Yes, I’m too good and my back’s too bad. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bit older than you are. Getting up from the floor at my age isn’t easy.”
“You make it sound like you’re a senior citizen.”
“Sometimes I feel like I am.” I pulled Eric to me and kissed his forehead. “I’m going home.”
He looked surprised. “You’re not going to spend the night with me here?”
“No,” I said, releasing him, “I’m not. Eric, you work every day. You have your own car and your own place. There’s no reason for you to be sleeping on the floor.”
“I’m not sleeping on the floor!”
“Oh, pardon me. You’re sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. Big difference. Call me when you get a real bed.”
He let out a dismissive laugh and shook his head. “God, you’re such a dick.”
“Why? Because I think it’s ridiculous that a grown man doesn’t have a bed to sleep on?”
“No, because you’re judging me.”
“Damn right I’m judging you!” I snapped. “You’re a fucking adult, Eric, so act like one and buy yourself a fucking bed!”
His face turned red with anger and he narrowed his eyes at me before folding his arms across his chest and calmly telling me to get out. So I did, storming out of his apartment and slamming the front door shut behind me.
I drove home like a mad man. My fingers gripped the steering wheel like I thought it would disconnect from its base if I let go. I couldn’t even deal with having the radio on because I found the sound of music or the news distracting. I didn’t manage to calm down until I was nearly home and by the time I turned into my driveway, my anger had been replaced by disappointment. Eric and I had had our first fight. It was bound to happen, but that didn’t make it any less upsetting. By the time I’d gone upstairs and changed for bed, I was second-guessing myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have argued with Eric about his bed, or lack thereof. Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut and spent the night with him. Maybe I needed to call him and apologize. Maybe I was a dick.