Celebrating Christmas in the Italian Alps, Drew is enjoying his break and feels excited for what Santa may bring his way this year, having taken some time for himself after a bad break-up. When he bumps into Rourke at dinner one night, the handsome young man’s directness sweeps Drew off his feet. Knowing they only have a few days together, Drew and Rourke embark on a holiday fling in the snow covered resort. Agreeing to keep things light between them proves increasingly difficult as Drew finds himself falling more and more for Rourke. Can they abide by their own rules for the next few days, or if their hearts thaw along with the snow, could there be something deeper between them if they just give love a chance?
Drew watched a single snowflake, caught in the crisp winter air, twisting and turning as it fell from the grey sky above. Glistening in the glow of the low sun across the Italian Alps, the snowflake heralded the oncoming snowfall in its sparkling branches, headed ever closer to him.
On his way to dinner along the cobblestone paths of the lodge, Drew paused to gaze up, taking a moment to stand outside in the snow as it danced around him. He fixed his eyes on the tiny, delicate little snowflake. It adjusted its course in the gentle breeze that whipped past Drew’s stubbled face and flew straight at him.
Drew smiled at the inevitability of it, sticking out his tongue as the snowflake dissolved on the warm, pink flesh; fleetingly connected before the flash of cold gave way to the heat of his mouth and was gone.
When the snowflake’s friends overwhelmed him, Drew darted back indoors, shaking off the remnant fractals that clung to his long-sleeved shirt and trousers.
“Bloody hell, that’s cold.”
Ready to warm up with dinner, Drew walked through the corridor, noting how thick the snow fell outside; feeling like he was in a giant snow globe protected under the glass corridor connecting this part of the hotel to the newer section.
The Bella Montagna resort was enormous; this was Drew’s second visit here, and even after his visit last year, Drew had yet to come close to exploring it all. It was comprised of several older stoned bricked buildings housing the bulk of the hotel, linked by modern glass walkways that gave the patrons amazing views of the mountains outside.
Drew headed to the newer lakeside building that held the dining room. There, one enormous space with the entire exterior wall made of glass panes looked out across the lake. He hoped to grab a table by the window so he could enjoy the view before it got too dark.
As he passed the reception, Drew’s attention was seized by the booming belly laugh of the hotel’s resident Santa. Dressed in the obligatory red and white regalia, complete with bushy fake beard, the Santa was entertaining a group of small children, no doubt letting him know what presents they wanted.
Ah, to be young again, he thought, before correcting himself that at thirty-one, he was not old and absently brushed down the wavy brown hair on the back of his head with the palm of his hand.
Thank goodness for Mum’s genes. Drew smiled as he approached the dining room, remembering how his dad had been bald by the time he was Drew’s age.
“Good evening, Mr. North. How are we on this wonderful day?” came the jovial greeting of the maître-de.
“I’m well, thank you, Ciro.” Drew nodded politely, amazed at how the tall and impeccably dressed man seemed to know the names of all the guests. He’d overheard him the past few days and Ciro had not once failed to use their name. “And you?”
“Ah, looking forward to the slopes tomorrow. It’s my day off and this snowfall is bellissimo,” Ciro said, tipping his head to the nearest window and the continuing white blizzard.
“The resort has snowboarding available, right?” Drew asked, genuinely curious.
“Yes, we do Mr. North. If you ask at reception in the morning, they can give you directions to the Events Center.”
“Thank you,” Drew said with a gracious smile and dared to hope. “Any chance of a table by the windows tonight?”
Something about the question made Ciro suddenly uncomfortable. “We do have a table free, sir.”
“If they’re all booked up, it’s fine. I’m happy somewhere else.”
“It’s not that Mr. North,” Ciro leaned in conspiratorially. “It’s just that it’s hotel policy to restrict those tables to…to parties that are…well, in all honesty, made up of more than one person, sir.”
There it is. Drew gave a half-disappointed, half-resigned sigh.
“Don’t worry about it, Ciro. I understand.”
“I am very sorry, Mr. North. Perhaps if you were to come down a little earlier tomorrow, when it’s quieter, I could sneak you in.”
Truly touched by the gesture, Drew put a hand gently on Ciro’s forearm and gave it a small squeeze.
“Honestly, it’s totally fine. I get it. It’s the life of the single traveller.”
As Ciro looked through his tablet’s screen for the first suitable table, Drew looked out at the packed dining room and, true enough, tormenting him from its fantastic vantage point, was the one vacant table.
“Excuse me,” a soft voice said from behind.
Drew turned to see a young man, all blue eyes, curly blond hair, and warm smile.
“I don’t mean to butt in. It’s just I heard some of that and wondered if you’d mind sharing with me? That way we would both get to sit by the window.”
The man’s voice was like sunshine; friendly, welcoming, genuine. Drew didn’t say anything back straight away, instead lost in the curly blond locks on the top of his head, ringed by shaved hair underneath and the pale, yet defined, cheekbones and pert pink lips that were still speaking to him.
“Tell me to shove off if I’m interrupting.”
“Erm…no…that…” he stuttered, embarrassed. “If you don’t mind sharing…that’d be great.”
“Us solo travellers need to stick together,” the man said with a broad grin that revealed a set of perfect white teeth.
“Table for two now?”
Drew was sure he saw a playful twinkle in Ciro’s eyes.
“Yes, please,” the guy answered, stepping beside Drew.
“This way, please.” Ciro led them through the busy dining room and proudly directed them to sit at the table by the window.
Not so empty now, Drew crowed as he waited for the guy to sit down and couldn’t help but notice the plunging curves of his ass in his snug trousers when he moved by to take his seat.
What am I doing? Eyes back in the head, Drew!
“Some wine to get you started?” Ciro suggested as Drew sat.
“White please. If that’s okay for you?”
Drew nodded and Ciro left them alone.
“Sorry, it’s just that red gives me a really bad hangover,” the guy said.
“It’s fine. I prefer white anyway.”
“I’m Rourke,” the guy offered, holding out a hand across the table with another warm smile.
“Drew,” he said back, shaking Rourke’s hand and matching his grin.
“Thanks for letting me gate-crash. This place is always rammed, I never get to sit by the window.”
“I know what you mean. I’ve been looking forward to taking in the view.”
Drew registered two seconds too late that he’d said that and kept gazing into Rourke’s stunningly blue eyes.
“It’s, um, pretty nice from here too,” Rourke said, meeting Drew’s look.
Is he flirting with me?
Wait—am I flirting with him?
Drew’s mind was buzzing.
Is he flirting back?
Am I talking out loud?
No, he realized, relieved.
But I’ve also not said anything for a while now and I’m still looking at him like a deer in headlights.
“Yes, the water is…” Drew trailed off as he tuned his head to finally revel in the view. The lake filled the horizon, the flat dark blue surface eventually meeting the grey line of the sky, all currently blurred by the relentless snow and framed by the mountains of the Pragelato region.
“It’s stunning,” Rourke finished for him. When Drew turned, Rourke was still looking his way, making Drew’s face flush.
Glad for the few seconds of silence when a waiter brought over their wine, Drew gathered his thoughts whilst the waiter poured them each a glass before depositing the bottle on the table. After they both thanked him and the waiter had left, the silence remained as they each sipped on their wine.
Drew wasn’t quite sure how to start. A handsome young stranger had invited himself into Drew’s night and they were now about to have dinner together. When he’d gotten ready earlier in his room, this was absolutely not how he’d pictured his night going.
“Not how you’d imagined your evening, I guess?”
Can he read my mind?
“No,” Drew said, perhaps a little too quickly and sternly as Rourke’s gentle expression seemed to sour. “But I’m not complaining.”