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“Then you’re gonna be disappointed because I’m not taking no for an answer.” AJ stated with a determined look in his eye.

“Well you’re not getting a yes anytime soon so you’ll have to take it.”

AJ finally climbed down from the truck and handed Max the roses. He moved closer to her so that they were only a few inches apart. Surprisingly, Max stayed rooted to the spot she was in and stared up at him with sad eyes. She was trying to keep up her angry fašade but it was a tough thing to do when she was gazing in those soft brown eyes.

“Please Max, just one dinner to let me explain some stuff to you.”

She thought about it as she looked at the roses. “One dinner and then you’ll leave it, and me, alone?”


Max gave him a look and he shrugged.

“I’m trying to be honest with you.”

Knowing that she would regret it later, she accepted and they decided on her apartment so she could kick him out at any time. Both finally left the diner with decisions they would have to make weighing on their minds.


Max had the early shift the next day and was able to clean up before AJ came over. Not wanting to dress up or appear interested, she pulled on an old pair of black yoga pants and a baby blue t-shirt. She ran a comb through her hair and then slipped her locket around her neck.

The front doorbell rang as she was slipping on a pair of sneakers and she buzzed AJ in. She decided to wait at the door and be ready as he made his way up. As he hit the landing, she could see he was carrying a pizza box as well as another dozen pink roses. He handed her the flowers, followed her into the apartment and set the pizza down on the table.

“You know that roses aren’t going to make a difference right?”

“I can try.” he replied with a smile.

AJ took advantage of her putting the flowers in a vase to survey the place which, to be honest, wasn’t all that hard to do because it was so tiny. It was a small studio apartment on the third floor of a complex and there were only three rooms. The living area was decent sized but the galley kitchen and bathroom were so diminutive that he probably could have fit both of them in one of his own bathrooms. He assumed that the couch was a pullout since there was no bed in sight. Not coming as a surprise, there were no personal touches anywhere in the apartment except for a framed picture on top of the old TV set. Wandering over, he picked it up and saw that it was a picture of Max and her family.

The Max in the picture was a stark contrast to the woman who was fixing flowers in the kitchen. Her smile lit up the scenery around her, although he couldn’t see her eyes because she was wearing a cute pair of pink Barbie sunglasses. She was dressed in a white sundress, which showed off her tan, and her long brown hair was in a French braid that hung over her right shoulder. It made him think back to the comment Nick had made about her hair being overly dyed and it being a lousy haircut.

Everyone was standing behind a sandcastle that looked like it had just been finished. Her parents’ arms were wrapped around each other and their free hands were on their children’s shoulders. Max’s left hand was wrapped around her brother’s right one and he was looking up at his older sister with so much love. AJ was starting to understand how much her family meant to her and he could only hope that at some point, she would let him in.

He didn’t realize that Max had come behind him until she reached out and plucked the picture out of his hand. Once she had placed it gently back on the set, she steered him towards the small dinette table she had set with plates and silverware. After serving up the pizza and soda, Max joined him at the table.

“So, what did you want to say?”

“Jump right in why don’t ya?” AJ responded with a chuckle.

“Look, I said we could have dinner so you could explain your reasoning for hiding your past.”

“When you say it like that, it starts to sound like someone else. Maybe the pot calling the kettle black?”


“I’m here to tell you all about my past and I don’t even know your last name. I don’t think I’m the only one hiding my past.”

Max sat there stunned that he had called her out. She had to admit that he had a point, they were both hiding things with lies of omission. Her anger at him for burying things from her was justified except for the fact that he could say the same thing about her.

“It’s Carmody.” she finally muttered.

“What?” AJ asked not understanding her comment.

“My last name is Carmody.”

AJ laughed. “Well it’s nice to finally meet you Max Carmody.”

“We’ve already met you nut.”

“I know but since we’re starting over, I figured we should start right back at the very beginning.”

“Oh.” Max replied with a small smile. “And you are?”

“AJ McLean, the most handsome boy band member ever.” he told her with a long, sweeping bow. “I belong to everyone’s favorite, the world renowned Backstreet Boys.”

She had to laugh at how overly dramatic he was being.

“There it is.” he teased as he sat back down. “I knew eventually I could make you laugh.”

“You seem to have that effect on me.”

“Good, you’re so much more beautiful when you smile.”

She instantly started to clam up again and he was getting good at reading the signs. This was not going the way he planned and he wanted an explanation.