By Christiane France
Publisher: Amber Quill Press/AmberAllure
Misinformation and misunderstandings drove Chad and Reese apart and shattered their dream of a new life together.
Ten years later, they meet again in Las Vegas, and try to figure out what went wrong. However, Reese tells a completely different story to the one Chad heard back in New York, and now he’s convinced what he heard was true and Reese is lying. Problem is, he still loves Reese, and Reese says he feels the same way. But can love overcome all the hurt and the pain and give them a second chance at happiness?
Chad Varaday leaned against the lobby wall of the Neapolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, waiting for what seemed like forever for an elevator to take him up to his room. Finally, a car arrived. The doors opened and as the passengers exited, one of them, a dark-haired man in his late thirties, snagged Chad’s attention. His heart skipped a beat.
Reese Harmer? Impossible! He watched, frowning as the man took off in the opposite direction, turned a corner and disappeared.
The guy bore a strong resemblance to a man from his past who Chad remembered all too well. But ten years was a long time, and as people got older, their looks changed and memory couldn’t always be relied on. Chad knew he didn’t look the same as he had ten years ago. He’d lost his boyish looks, along with his illusions, and each week seemed to bring a few more lines and grey hairs.
Another car arrived, closed its doors and left, but Chad continued to stare down the now empty hallway. He knew it couldn’t have been Reese…yet there’d been something. Maybe it was the way the guy carried himself or something about the way he walked that reminded him of the man he’d once loved. Chad shook his head. Not Reese, but enough of a likeness to stir up a sack full of painful old memories of times and places best forgotten.
When the next car slid to a stop and opened its doors, Chad picked up his overnight bag, got on and pressed the button for his floor. Tall, slim, dark-haired handsome men were a dime a dozen in Vegas, nevertheless he’d found the likeness strong enough to be more than a little disturbing. A ghost from the past…
Ten years ago, Chad had had it all. As the youngest son of an influential family, and fresh out of school with his master’s degree in business, he’d spent the winters in town, living the life at his own bachelor apartment in New York, and summer weekends either at his parents’ place in the Hamptons, or at a friend’s summer home at the Cape. He’d had everything he wanted and his future had been there before him like a bright shiny bubble.
And then he’d met Reese at a charity function. Reese had said he was married, but he and his wife were separated and had been for several years. They just hadn’t got around to talking to a lawyer and filing for divorce. Whether Reese had married to hide the fact he was gay or in an effort to deny it, Chad had never quite figured out. And since it was none of his business, he’d never asked. But it had been pretty much love at first sight for him and Reese. They’d spent that summer and fall keeping their affair under wraps by inventing business trips and meeting in out of the way places. Until one snowy winter day when the bright shiny bubble had burst and life, as he’d known it back then, had ceased to exist.
“Can you hold the door, please!”
As Chad stuck his foot out to stop the door from closing, the same dark-haired man bounded back into the elevator.
Almost nose-to-nose, they stared at one another, and everything around Chad vanished except the here, the now, and the one face he’d never expected to see ever again.
Chad held his breath. His heart was beating too fast, and his stomach was doing a great imitation of a ship on stormy seas. Ten years ago, he’d gone through all the gut-wrenching aftermath of a bad breakup. The crying jags, the inability to eat or sleep properly for weeks. The deep depression when he’d shut himself away from the world and everyone in it, including his own family.
He could not go through all that again. Maybe, if he just ignored this ghost from the past, pretended he hadn’t heard…
“Hey, Chad? It’s me, Reese. Reese Harmer.”
The elevator stopped. Chad glanced at the indicator board, realized it was his floor, and with a muttered, “Excuse me, please,” pushed his way past the ghost and out of the car.
He’d taken no more than two or three steps along the hallway when a hand grabbed his shoulder.
“Chad! Hold it! Please don’t do this. I know it’s you.”
Chad stopped, gritted his teeth and turned. “Get your hands off me. Now!”
Reese removed his hand and took a cautious step backward. “Hey, you were the one who was supposed to call me back, remember? At least that’s the way I heard it.”
“Wherever you heard that, then you heard wrong.”
Reese frowned. “Okay, I heard wrong. I guess my roommate must’ve misunderstood what you said.” He paused. “I have no idea what you’re so angry about. But…but whatever it is, ten years is one helluva long time. Can’t we at least talk?”
“Talk about what? How you made promises you broke because you had no real intention of keeping them in the first place? How you let me build all those wonderful mind pictures of the two of us moving to the west coast where we’d start fabulous new lives and have our own fantastic business? And how, at the very last minute, you did a complete one-eighty and blew it all away without one single fucking word of apology, explanation, or even two little words like, ‘I’m sorry.’ That the kinda shit you want to talk about?”
Reese flinched like Chad had hit him, and, for a second, that’s exactly what Chad wanted to do…grind Reese’s once-beloved face into the carpet with the heel of his boot, and then…just walk away.
If only he could walk away.