With My Heart by Karenna Colcroft
erotic gay contemporary romance
release date 11/28/2013
Merit Hartwick and Cole Dellany are working to build their relationship, but things are not going well. After an argument they decide to see other people, but will their relationship survive?
Cole Dellany stood at the window, carefully not looking out at the street but just staring into space. He wanted to be out there, not in here watching his—watching Merit float around the room with all the grace a ballet dancer should possess, greeting other dancers and some of the men and women whose donations supported the ballet troupe to which Merit belonged.
Watching his. He didn’t even know what to call Merit. Boyfriend was the first word that came to mind. They were definitely in a relationship, but they didn’t seem to be going very far with whatever was between them. Cole had been living in the city for three months now, and most of the time he and Merit had spent together had been at events like this. Parties. Drinks. Socializing with Merit’s dancer friends and the people who supported them.
The social scene wasn’t really Cole’s thing. He got along well with the people Merit had introduced him to. Cole got along well with most people, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be in a non-stop whirlwind. Whenever he asked Merit for a quiet evening of dinner and a movie, or better yet in Cole’s apartment, Merit said he had a commitment.
A woman in a flowing grey floor-length gown approached, and Cole put on his best game-day smile, the one which had won him plenty of female attention as a high school and college athlete. The woman smiled back, a pleased smile showing interest in more than conversation, at least to Cole’s perception.
In the past, he probably would have taken her off somewhere semi-private and made out with her. Possibly even fucked her. In the days when being an athlete had been more important than being himself, he’d been with plenty of women.
That had stopped when he’d admitted to himself that he was gay and had started fucking men instead. He’d stayed in the closet and had gone to other towns to get laid where no one knew him, but he’d mostly stopped screwing women. And now, thanks to Merit, he was out of the closet and in a committed relationship.
It didn’t stop him from admiring the way the dress showed off the woman’s curves.
The gleam in her eyes told him she was well aware of his attention. “Why are you standing over here all by yourself?” she asked in a slightly husky voice.
“I’m not big on crowds.” Cole leaned casually against the wall and turned on the charm. “Why are you walking around by yourself? A beautiful woman like you must be here with a date.”
“He’s busy.” She jerked her head toward a cluster of people in suits and gowns. “Schmoozing, of course. That’s what he does. What do you do?”
Her tone was pure proposition. Cole considered biting at it for about a second, but he wasn’t the casual sex kind of person anymore. “Construction,” he replied. “I’m a foreman. Right now we’re rebuilding a couple places near the main library.”
“Interesting.” She looked disappointed. “I’m Sheryl, by the way.”
“Cole.” He shook the hand she held out. “So your husband is one of the donors?”
“My boyfriend, and yes.” She sighed. “I came over here to see if you wanted a drink. Not to talk about him.”
“My boyfriend is one of the principal dancers in the troupe.” Cole smiled at the widening of Sheryl’s eyes. “I appreciate the drink offer and I’ll take you up on it if it’s only a drink.”
“Maybe another time.” Her tone hardened. “It was nice meeting you.”
She turned and quickly walked away, and Cole stifled a laugh. He had to wonder whether he was the first gay man Sheryl had tried to hit on that night. She certainly hadn’t seemed happy about it.
Glancing around the room, Cole spotted Merit near the bar in a cluster of people. As if he felt Cole’s gaze, Merit turned toward him, smiling, and waved. Cole took it as a summons and headed over, wishing the party would end already so he could go home and relax.
“This is Cole Dellany.” Merit slid his arm around Cole’s waist when Cole was standing beside him. “A close friend of mine. Cole, this is—” He went on to rattle off a string of names Cole didn’t try to remember.
“It’s nice meeting all of you.” Cole tensed. There wasn’t enough space to step away from Merit without making it obvious, but he still had trouble being comfortable with any public displays of affection. Even though this city was much more liberal than the small town where he and Merit had grown up, Cole still worried about repercussions if people saw two gay men touching each other.
A few people responded to his greeting, then the conversation returned to whatever it had been before Merit had beckoned him over. Cole tuned it out. It was more ballet stuff, and he wasn’t interested beyond the fact that it made Merit happy.
He needed to stop coming to these events. It wasn’t right that he only had a chance to see Merit at parties he didn’t really want to attend. Cole had given up a cushy job with his uncle and his house in the town he’d lived in all his life to move to this city and start a new life. He hadn’t known for sure whether Merit would be part of that life, but Merit had definitely been one of the reasons Cole had made the decision.
Now he sometimes wished he’d stayed at home and taken occasional trips to the city. He probably would have seen more of Merit that way.
“Do you want to get out of here?” Merit said, his breath warm against Cole’s ear, after much too long.