Michael Pappas has been dating football superstar Tre Griffin on the sly for nearly a year. Unfortunately, the demands of Tre’s career often keep them separated and alone.
But Tre has a plan to change all that, and showing up unannounced in Miami on Christmas Day is just the beginning of his surprises...
...For a guy born and raised in Milwaukee, now living and working in Washington, DC, Christmas in Miami would never feel completely normal. There should have been huge oaks, thick branches barren of leaves or crusted with ice from a recent storm, instead of palm trees with their abundant fronds drifting on a breeze. Or bundling up in a thick coat and gloves in order to go outside instead of hanging out indoors out of the sunshine with the air conditioning running.
And he would never, in a million years, have ever anticipated sitting in front of the TV with his father in anticipation of watching a football game. Michael Pappas had finally escaped this kind of torture when his dad realized he had a bookworm for a son instead of an athlete. Yet this morning, just like he had done yesterday, Michael had been the one to command the best seat in the house in order to watch the game.
There was only one reason for that.
The house smelled of roasting turkey and his mother’s sausage stuffing, but while Christmas dinner was always one of Michael’s favorite parts of the day, he barely noticed the scents now. Every one of his senses focused on the TV, absorbing details of the pre-game show that he had always ignored before. Miami had actually played the Saturday night game on Christmas Eve, and Tre, their star running back, had had an amazing game. Michael hoped they would replay some of the clips, not because he cared about the plays themselves, but rather for the chance to see Tre in action.
The handful of days they’d been able to have together since the season started were just not enough.
He took the ginger ale his dad brought out from the kitchen for him and leaned back into the couch. “Mom okay in there?”
“She’s fine. You know how she gets about her kitchen. She practically shoved me out of the room.” George lowered himself to his recliner with a soft groan. “God, I know I’m not as old as I feel.”
Michael glanced over, a slight line between his brows. “You’re not pushing yourself too hard, are you?”
“If I didn’t push myself every day, I’d feel even worse than I do now.” George nodded at the screen. “What do they say about New York’s chances today? Is Geary’s injury going to force them to rely on the running game? That’s what I’d guess.”
Michael tried not to fidget. He had no idea what his father was talking about. He’d picked up a few pieces here and there on the game—inevitable, considering how much time he and Tre had spent together after they’d first met—but much of it still went right over his head. If it didn’t involve Tre, he had a tendency not to notice it. And he hadn’t even watched Tre’s games in the beginning because he didn’t want to be reminded they weren’t together.
“I don’t think they’ve said anything about it yet. Who’s New York playing again?”
George’s lips twitched. “New York played yesterday afternoon. You were sitting here when Geary was injured, and they were forced to rely on the running game.”
His face flushed. Now that George mentioned it, he remembered now. He had been so focused on Tre, he hadn’t even made the connection.
“I’m still learning, okay? Be glad I’m not bugging you about why the team’s uniforms change colors in between games anymore.”
“It was my fondest hope that my brilliant son would one day learn the difference between home games and away games.” George took a long swallow of his Coke, then reached for the bag of peanuts he always kept on the side of his chair. “How many rushing yards did Griffin have yesterday?”
“A hundred and thirty-seven with ten receptions.” Michael sipped his drink before adding, “And seventy-four passing yards.”
“I see. Was that his first hundred-yard plus game this year?”
“Tenth, actually. He would’ve had eleven if he hadn’t been injured in the New England game.”
“Yeah, he probably would have. He was lucky it was just a sprain, or else he might have missed more games. You talk to him at all since the season started?”
“Every once in a while.”
Not as often as Michael would have liked. And he didn’t dare tell his dad the truth about their relationship. George thought they were just friends, and had ever since Michael had brought him to the family reunion the January before. Though Michael was out in his day-to-day life, his parents didn’t know the truth, and Tre was deep in the closet due to his career. For Tre’s sake, they kept it as discreet as they possibly could. Michael didn’t care. All that mattered was the time he got to spend with Tre. If the world wanted to see them as only friends, it didn’t change a thing about his feelings for the man.
“Uh huh. Son…” George muted the television and trained thoughtful eyes on Michael. Though he was getting older, and had all the aches and pains to prove it, his mind was still as sharp as it had ever been. “Are you and Tre Griffin more than just friends?”...