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Max's Italian Romance

Max's Italian Romance
Release Date: 07 February 2011
Description:

Max still can't get over the loss of his lover two years after the accident - so a trip to Florence and its famous works of art might be just what he needs.

Max Travis is a lonely bus driver, stuck in a job he doesn't want but he has to pay the bills. He'd love to be a photographer and is interested in art, so his brother gives him a trip to Florence for Valentine's Day. Even though Max thinks the gift is too lavish, he can't resist the temptation and goes. When he runs into hunky art professor Rocco Moretti on his first day there, the attraction is immediate.

The two men share a steamy romance, but what will happen when Max must return to the USA?

 


Pages: 44
Words: 14,800
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: April Martinez
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

 

"You know that I can't afford a vacation." Max Travis barely managed to suppress the sigh that wanted to follow. It was nice that his older brother called him every week, and Max knew he meant well. But being a partner in a huge public relations company meant living such a different life that sometimes Derek just didn't get it.

Max desperately needed some time off, and was certainly entitled to the days after almost two years driving buses around New York City for the MTA. But he never seemed to have much money left over after paying for rent, groceries, and the occasional movie rental. What little there remained at the end of the month went into a savings account from which he hoped to buy a really decent camera one day. Like a Nikon D7000 with a few lenses, or maybe a Canon EOS. He mentally snorted. Yeah, right. Neither of them was even within a few miles of his budget right now, maybe ever.

"I don't care if you can't afford it. You need some time off and I'm going to make sure you get it." Derek's voice had taken on its ‘I'm your older brother and I know what's best for you' tone. "You've been miserable long enough, and your birthday is coming up, so there's no way you can stop me."

"It's not like it was my choice to become miserable, you know?" Max pinched the top of his nose, trying to stave off the tears.

Being reminded of Steve's fatal car accident on Valentine's Day almost two years ago did that to him. He hated feeling weak like that, but damn it, he'd loved the guy. He'd been Max's first real boyfriend. They'd met during orientation week at Eugene Lang College and had been inseparable for over three years. Then-in an instant- Steve's life and promising future were taken away by the inattention of some drunken idiot who had decided he was still fit to drive.

"I know, Max." Derek's voice had gone soft, all traces of pushiness gone. "But you're still alive and I think it's time you remembered that. Steve wouldn't have wanted you to be so unhappy. He would have wanted you to move on, find someone to love and become the photographer you've always dreamed of being."

"Don't start that again." Sure, he wanted to be a photographer, but who was supposed to pay the bills while he was trying to make a name for himself? "Finding love is highly overrated. I'm doing fine. As for becoming a photographer? Not as easy as you might think, at least for me. And no, we're not going to talk about how you can help me. I've got to stand on my own two feet, you know that."

"I think you've more than proven that you can do that. Hell, you're even doing a job you hate just to be financially independent." Derek sighed. "Okay, tell you what, little brother. I'll leave you be for now, so you can enjoy the rest of your day off. Just be ready for a birthday surprise next Saturday."

"Derek-"

But Max was speaking to a dead line. His annoying but well-meaning brother had already hung up, leaving him to worry about what Derek could have meant.

* * * *

A few weeks later Max not only knew what his brother had planned for him, but had also been pulled right into the meddlesome man's plans. Not that he really minded all that much, except as a matter of principle. Once he'd found out what Derek's birthday gift was, he'd been hard pressed to refuse going along with his brother's more than generous surprise. Derek had not only planned a vacation for him, he'd fulfilled one of Max's fondest wishes.

How was he supposed to say no to that?

He stared out of the plane's window, tired and bleary-eyed from the long trip. At least he was awake enough after the stopover in Frankfurt to try to catch a first glimpse of his destination.

Finally, there it was. Florence.

According to the tour guide he'd read so often that it was ready to fall apart, Florence was one of the oldest cities in Europe. Established by Julius Caesar in fifty-nine BC as a settlement for his veteran soldiers, it had retained its importance through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, thanks to its role in trade and industry, as well as the influence of the powerful Medici family. He'd been surprised to learn Florence had even been Italy's capital city for six years, before Rome took over that role. The city re-emerged relatively unscathed from World War II and was now a centre of tourism and trade.

Of course, the main reasons for his interest were the amazing buildings and all the art that he'd so far only seen in pictures. He couldn't wait to explore them and take some photographs. Since his brother had insisted on giving him some spending money, he'd even be able to enjoy some of the more expensive restaurants and cafés he'd read about.

They were coming into Peretola airport from the north with a beautiful view of the entire area. February was still relatively cold, with an expected high in the mid- fifties, but Derek had insisted Max go now. What he needed, according to his brother, was a distraction on Valentine's Day, to avoid last year's disaster. The first anniversary of Steven's death had hit him so hard that he'd gotten alcohol poisoning. This year he would distract himself by doing something special on Monday night. He wasn't sure what that was going to be yet, but he'd figure it out.

Despite the relatively low temperatures, the city looked as if it was already summer. Gleaming in the sunshine like the ‘jewel of the renaissance' it had often been called, it sprawled outward from the central basin into the surrounding hills. The river Arno was a bright band of glittering blue-green running from east to west.

Even though Steve's death still weighed on him, he couldn't wait to go and explore.

It took a lot longer than he'd hoped to go through customs and retrieve his baggage. It was after three p.m. when he lifted his suitcase off the belt. It seemed that everything and everyone did move more slowly in Italy.

People were milling around him as he left the secure area, and the noise level increased exponentially as family members were greeted with hugs and torrents of the melodious language Max didn't speak. The chaos was indescribable and he absolutely loved how alive it made him feel. It took a while to get a taxi. There were lines, but they weren't all that effective. Everyone was far too busy talking to everyone else at breakneck speed to be worried about exactly who got into a taxi first.

Max took it all in stride. He hadn't planned on visiting any museums today, even though many were open late. He'd decided to give himself some time to settle in. He'd check into his hotel, wander around a piazza or two to orient himself, maybe find a café somewhere and have dinner as early as possible. That might be difficult with Italians being notoriously late eaters, but he wanted to get a good night's sleep before hitting the Uffizi Gallery tomorrow. Derek had even gotten him a ticket, so he'd be able to avoid the lines.

A little over half an hour later the taxi pulled up in front of the Hotel Davanzati. Max was grateful he'd survived the driver's breakneck speed and daring manoeuvres. Everyone else was driving the same way, and it clearly worked for them, but Max had been close to a heart attack on several occasions. Driving a large bus in relatively calm traffic, at least compared to this chaos, was a very different thing. He paid the fare and got out, almost kissing the ground with relief.

His hotel was the one argument with Derek he'd won. His brother had wanted to put him in the Grand Hotel, but Max wouldn't have felt comfortable in a five-star establishment like that. The Hotel Davanzati had only three stars, but was family run and centrally located. It was an ancient building in the typical Florentine style, but was supposed to have all the modern amenities. On top of that it had character instead of flash, a much better fit with Max's personality and likes.

Walking into it, he already knew he'd made the right choice. Red-brown terracotta tiles covered the floor. Warm furnishings and welcoming smiles from the hotel staff completed the picture. What the check-in procedure lacked in efficiency was more than compensated for by the friendly chatter.

He took the time to take a quick shower to remove the grime of his fourteen-hour trip, dressed in casual but warm clothes and called Derek to say that he'd arrived safely. That dealt with, he grabbed his backpack that contained a tourist's essentials, got out his map and walked toward the Piazza della Signoria. It was a good place to start his visit, offering the famous Palazzo Vecchio with its crenellated tower and several historical government buildings that were still in use today. He'd even be able to see part of the Uffizi Gallery.

Best of all, there'd be the fountain of Neptune with its marble statues.

* * * *

Rocco Moretti was taking in the scene as he completed a leisurely walk through the centre of Florence on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. He'd lived here for almost ten years now, but he could never get enough of its statues. Maybe it was because he was a sculptor himself, at least when he wasn't teaching art history to mostly unwilling young artists. But mostly he thought it was the sculptures' beauty and majestic permanence that drew him.

Rocco grinned at his own melodramatic thoughts as he rounded the octagonal fountain, looking up to admire Neptune glistening in the sunshine. He was nothing like the bronze river gods, satyrs and marble sea horses around the perimeter of his domain. Made from Apuan marble, he stood above and apart from them, dominance and authority pouring from his every beautifully sculpted muscle.

"Ouch!"

Rocco stopped in his tracks, whipping his head around to find out who had run into him. A flash of longish blond hair turned into a bright face with light blue eyes and pink lips when the smaller man looked up at him. He blinked and wobbled on his feet, clearly disoriented.

"Scusi." Rocco grabbed the man by the shoulders to prevent him from falling.

"I... Sorry." The stranger grinned, steadying himself as he held onto the camera.

Aha, a tourist. His fine facial structure and white skin reminded Rocco of marble. His body was well proportioned without being muscular. Rocco felt physical attraction tugging at him, intensified by the adorable confusion in the brightest blue eyes he'd seen in a long time. Their owner looked young, maybe in his early twenties.

"It is I who am sorry." Rocco switched to his mother's language easily. He didn't let go, liking the feeling of the unexpectedly strong shoulders and upper arms under the down jacket. "I should have watched where I was going. It's not the first time I'm here, after all."

"No, no, I'm sorry." The tentative smile on his lips made his face light up. "It's just that I didn't expect the fountain to be this beautiful, so I wasn't paying attention to anything else."

"Well, it appears you weren't the only one." Rocco reluctantly let go and took the smallest possible step back. "I was just as distracted, and I've lived here for a long time. I still take weekly walks around the centre, just to enjoy the beautiful art and architecture everywhere."

"You live here? Wow, you're very lucky." He didn't seem to want to move away either. "I'm just visiting."

"Is this your first visit?" Rocco would bet it was, he'd rarely seen this much wide-eyed wonder in anyone's gaze.

"Yeah. I've wanted to come here for a long time." He grinned. "I can't wait to explore everything."

"Would you like some help with that?" Oh, Rocco would like to explore this man as well, but they could always start with the sights. He'd use any excuse to spend more time with the cute stranger.

"Uhm..." He frowned. "I don't want to be a burden."

"You wouldn't be. It would be my pleasure because it gives me an excuse to visit all my favourite spots again. My name is Rocco Moretti, and I'm an art history professor at the Florence Academy of Art." Rocco held out his hand, delighted with their first skin to skin contact when the other man took it. "I only have two classes to teach on Friday, so I would be happy to take you around the city any time."

"That's a great offer." He took a deep breath. "I'm Max Travis, just arrived a few hours ago and here for a whole week."

"So, do we have a deal?" Rocco held his breath. He really, really wanted to get to know Max better. A lot better.

"Only if you let me invite you for a coffee." Max grinned and took his hand back.

"Okay." Good place to start.

"Would you-maybe-know the best place for coffee around here?" Max's smile turned impish. "I mean, it wouldn't do if I took you somewhere awful, would it?"

Rocco laughed out loud. Max was cute and had a sense of humour. It looked more and more like it was going to be a great week.

 

©Serena Yates, 2011
All Rights Reserved

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