NFL player Jordan Christensen walks into Reed Ryan’s restaurant without a reservation. It isn’t the most serendipitous of meet-cute’s and they certainly aren’t the likeliest of romances, but over venison steaks and crème brûlée, they fall in love anyway.
Flash forward two years . . .
When Reed moves to Los Angeles take a new job, he doesn’t realize Jordan now works at the same company. But Jordan definitely realizes how precious the second chance fate has bestowed on them is. He’s determined to make up for everything that fell apart the first time around, and it turns out he’s not the only one scheming to right old wrongs.
Starting a new career is always difficult but sharing office space—and big projects—with an old lover is particularly rough. Between impromptu Secret Santa exchanges, Christmas light viewings, and more tacos than even Reed can eat, the two former lovers have an eventful holiday season to navigate.
“You work here?” Reed asked incredulously.
Jordan could lie again, but that was only going to buy him a few hours, and in the end Reed would just be angrier. No, as hard as it was going to be to come clean, he needed to. He’d just wished he could have had a little more time before Reed discovered the truth.
“I do,” Jordan admitted.
Landon glanced from Jordan to Reed and then back again. “Well, crap,” he said. “Reed, I guess I’ll see you upstairs at our meeting.” And because he knew exactly what was about to happen, he split and headed for the elevators. One of Landon’s smarter decisions.
Reed didn’t have much of a temper, but he really didn’t like being lied to. Jordan had known this when he’d agreed to the ridiculous plan that his friends had cooked up. He’d only agreed in the first place because he hadn’t known how else to get Reed into his vicinity for the foreseeable future. And he’d thought that Reed would be perfect for the job Nick wanted to offer him.
But Jordan didn’t think any of that was going to buy him brownie points.
“You lied,” Reed said predictably, a crease forming between his brows. “Why?”
Jordan thought about telling him the complete truth. Now that he knew Reed had missed him just as much, it might be easier to say how much he still cared about him. But then Jordan remembered all the guilt he’d felt when he’d realized that he shouldn’t have let Reed get away. When he should have stopped him or gone after him when he’d left LA. After he’d let too much time go by after. When he’d composed about a hundred emails and deleted them all. Just as many text messages. When he’d almost hit dial on Reed’s number, more times than he could count over the last sixteen months.
He’d chickened out, every single time. He’d thought he’d get over Reed eventually, but to his own surprise, the breadth of his sadness had only deepened until he’d known for sure that what he felt for Reed was the kind of love you don’t get over.
The kind you hold onto with both hands and don’t let go.
The kind you pull all the stops out for if you’re stupid enough to let it get away.
But he could be a little bit honest, at least. “Because the job was perfect for you and I didn’t think you’d take it if you knew I worked here,” Jordan said.
The crease deepened. “Did you get me the job?”
That much was easy to say and also completely true. “No. Quentin actually suggested you to Nick.”
Reed shoved his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know if I can believe you.”
That was the hardest thing Jordan had heard yet. Harder than watching Reed escape last night. Harder than Reed turning him down, even though it had been for good reasons. Losing Reed’s trust–and Jordan knew exactly how tough it was to build with him–was a killer.
“You can ask Quentin. You trust him.”
Reed nodded slightly. “What did you say when Nick asked you about me?”
It was impossible to be honest now. Yes, the idea had initially been Quentin’s, but then Landon had latched onto it as a way to get Reed back around Jordan again. It was hard to discern where one plan started and the other ended. What had he genuinely thought the first time Landon had suggested it?
He’d wanted to laugh and to cry, both at the same time. He still wasn’t sure which he felt more strongly. Probably wouldn’t know until he and Reed figured out what they wanted from each other.
“I thought it could be terrible, but that it could be great too,” he said.
“That sounds pretty honest.” Reed still sounded doubtful, but then doubtful was his normal MO. Reed Ryan was very much a look first, leap second kind of guy, and Jordan had always loved that about him.
He loved that Reed took forever to get comfortable around people. Loved that the first time they’d ever met, Reed had casually insulted him completely by accident. He was endearing and adorable and real. There was nothing on earth more attractive than authenticity.
“I know I should have told you last night,” Jordan admitted.
Reed glanced down at his watch and motioned to the elevator, because of course he couldn’t be late. He wasn’t really in danger of being late, but then he wasn’t going to be early either–all because Jordan had distracted him. Jordan bit his tongue and forced himself not to apologize that he’d interfered with one of Reed’s most ingrained habits.
“You should have,” Reed agreed. They stepped into the elevator and it shut behind them. Jordan reached over and hit the button for the Five Points floor.
Reed took a deep breath that Jordan might not have heard if he wasn’t so intently focused on the man next to him. “What would you have done if I’d said yes?”
Jordan turned to him in surprise. “If you’d said yes?”
Reed flushed, which was also adorable. For someone rather uninhibited in the bedroom, he could still be shy. Another thing Jordan loved. Another thing he’d missed so much that seeing it again made his heart clench. Please tell me I can fix this, he thought desperately.
“If we’d had sex last night.”
Jordan reviewed and discarded all the flippant replies he could think of. Usually Reed wasn’t such a stickler, but he’d screwed up by not telling the truth and the last thing he needed was to not take this question seriously. “Then you probably would have been angrier with me.”
“But you asked me anyway,” Reed stated incredulously. The elevator dinged and the doors opening, announcing their floor.
Jordan could see Nick and Jemma and some others coming towards the reception area, ready to greet their new employee. He should get lost. But he still didn’t think Reed got it.
“It would have been worth it,” Jordan said. “Just a kiss would have been worth it.”
His bomb dropped, Jordan slipped out of the elevator, leaving Reed in the foyer, fish-mouthed as his new boss and co-workers arrived to greet him.
Yeah, he was probably going to have to apologize for that too.
4✨s – Normally, if I know characters appeared elsewhere in an author’s world, I’ll do my best to start there, but Beth Bolden is a new to me author and this story sounded like a cute holiday read.
Falling in love is so much easier than holding onto it and there isn’t always a happily ever after. After falling hard and fast, Reed and Jordan find this out the hard way, but their story isn’t over. Nearly two years after losing one another, they are in the same place (though, not quite by accident) at the same time, and while it can all blow up in their faces, their feelings are worth the risk. Determined not to make the same mistakes twice, this truly adorable pair work on their biggest weakness: communication.
Second chance romance, a little matchmaking from their friends, and some holiday magic were the perfect recipe for Reed and Jordan. Now, I look forward to picking up Landon’s story to see what I missed.
About Beth Bolden:
Beth Bolden lives in Portland, Oregon with her supportive husband and their beloved cat. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. She’s a fan of fandoms, and spends too much of her free time on tumblr.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published three novels and two short stories, with her next novel, The Rainbow Clause, releasing in April 2017.
Where to find Beth Bolden: