It's been eight years since Julian Thompson lost his virginity to Maxwell Nordstrom during a steamy one-night-stand in college, but the two went their separate ways after graduation. Max went off to play for a professional basketball team, but after a knee injury cuts his professional career short, Max establishes himself as a successful hotel owner. When his business partner's wife hires up-and-coming party planner Julian to coordinate the hotel's Valentine's Day ball, Max is shocked to see the man who still haunts his dreams. Sparks fly the moment the two meet again, but Julian isn't sure that he's willing to risk his heart again with Max. Can Max convince Julian that he's changed and convince him to give him a second-chance? Volatile attraction and a reawakening romance—could this be the happily ever after both men have been searching for?
“This is nice,” Max said looking around. “Do you live here alone?”
“Yes,” Julian answered. “Let me take you on a tour.” It wasn’t a mansion, but he was plenty proud of his condo. It was a typical bachelor pad with modern furnishing and state of the art appliances. Julian had thought about buying it from the current owner, but he would need more room in the future. He fancied having a house, with a big yard and a porched to sit on. He wanted to get away from the rat race of the city and become one with nature. Julian showed him around the two-bedroom apartment, then took him to the den. The room had come complete with a full bar that Julian kept stocked just in case guests visited. “What would you like to drink?”
“Just a beer, if you have it. I’m driving, remember.” He sat down on the couch.
Julian got him the beer, and fixed a glass of red wine for himself. He sat down on the couch next to him. “Why aren’t you still dating that fashion designer?”
Max took a sip of his beer. “I wondered when you were going to bring him up. We’ve both gone our separate ways.”
“What happened? Did the media break you two up?”
Max shook his head. “He found someone richer.”
“Ouch,” Julian said. “Are you over him?”
“Why? Are you interested in taking his place?”
“Maybe,” Julian replied.
Max seemed shocked by his answer. “What about you? No guy in your life?”
“I have several guys in my life, but I’m not dating any of them. I have a few male friends that I go clubbing with every now and then.”
“I have some of those too,” Max said. He looked around. “Is party-planning a lucrative business?”
“Yes. There was this period during the lockdown that I thought I would lose my shirt. It was a good thing I thought enough ahead to put the company on line so I could still sell supplies even though we had to close the store.”
“We? How many employees do you have?”
“Just four. They worked the phones during the lockdown and took orders so I could still afford to pay them a salary. My store has reopened and business is booming again. How did the hotel do during that time?”
“It was horrible at first until the total lockdown ended. But business has picked up better than before since the vaccines were rolled out. We’re still following the safety precautions as well. I for one was glad when the quarantine ended. It made dating almost impossible.”
“Almost?” Julian asked. He polished off the rest of his wine and put the glass on the cocktail table.
“Sid and I quarantined together. So, he either met the other guy before or right after it was lifted.”
“I’m sorry. Breakups are never easy.”
“Where were you during the lockdown?”
“Right here. I have a fully-functioning office in the next room. And the place is equipped with movies, cable and the internet. There is a grocery up the street if I needed food. Luckily, I knew how to cook.”
“You cook?” Max asked.
Julian nodded. “Being the only guy in Home-Ec in high school really paid off. I can sew, manage a household budget and clean house.”
“Ah, just like a….”
“Don’t you dare say it, Maxwell Nordstrom, or I won’t invite you to dinner tomorrow night.”
“You’re inviting me to dinner?”
“Yes. Dinner will be served at seventy-thirty. Do you like Italian food?”
Max nodded. “Lasagna is my favorite.”
“Did you have anyone here with you when you were under lockdown?”
Julian shook his head.
“There is no one that I wanted to be around twenty-four-seven.”
“Why not? You’re still a total babe.”
Julian made a face. “What’s that from, the nineties?”
“Funny, but I’m serious. Why aren’t you dating?”
Julian shrugged. “I don’t want to be a one-night stand.” He moved away from Max and took his glass over to the bar, rinse it and put it away. Then returned and sat back down.
“What do you mean by that?”
“You never spoke to me again after that day,” Julian answered.
“Not because I didn’t want to. I was embarrassed for what I did to you and I thought approaching you again would only make matters worse.”
“Why? It wasn’t like you forced yourself on me. I gave it to you willing,” Julian said.
“Both of our reputations would have suffered if I pursued you. Besides, we graduated shortly after that and I left for the NBA and you went your way.”
“It still hurt. I mean emotionally. You had to have known that I liked you back then, even though you made fun of me and my team.”
“Not really. I was going through a few things myself. I kept teasing you. Walter told me I did it because I liked you. I kept denying it, you know how it was, big man on campus. I could get any chick I wanted. But when I looked into those startling blue eyes of yours in that locker room, I couldn’t help myself. And to make matters worse, I thought it was the best sex ever between you and me. I didn’t want a woman after that. I had to come to the realization that I had been living a lie all of those years. And I kept pretending until Sid and I got busted.”
“The world found out about you anyway. You played for one of the biggest NBA teams in the country but you lost it all because you dated a fashion designer.”
“Pretty much,” Max replied. “The media had a field day. I lost endorsement deals and some of the guys who I thought were my friends didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“How did it affect Sid?”
“It didn’t bother him one bit. Everyone already knew he was gay. Then he just walked away after he found another guy.”
“Did you love him?”
“Yeah, and I thought he loved me.”
“Do you still talk to him?”
“Not really. He’s still around because his fashion house is here in New York.”
“Oh,” Julian said.
“It’s late. I better go,” Max said. He stood up and walked to the trash and tossed his empty beer can in.
That’s when Julian noticed the slight limp Max had. He rose and walked Max to the door. Max put on his coat.
“Don’t forget dinner is at seven-thirty. You don’t need to wear a suit, because I’m not my aunt and uncle. Do you have any allergies to any food?”
“No,” Max answered. He pulled Julian to him, picked him up and kissed him. “Do you believe in giving second chances?”
“Yes,” Julian answered. He kissed Max back. All those feelings he had years ago had returned and had ignited a fire in him that only Max could extinguish.
Max put him down. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He left.
Julian watched him get back into his car and drive away. He closed the door, smiling. Not only did he believe in second chances, but he also believed in miracles.