Dancing Away by Karenna Colcroft
erotic M/M contemporary romance novella
Length: long novella (approx 30K)
Release Date: 08/16/2012
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
What happens when a bully apologizes? Ballet dancer Merit Hartwick is about to find out. Cole Dellany, the man who broke Merit’s heart with a cruel “joke” the night of their senior prom, has come to town to tell Merit how sorry he is. And to tell him that the dance they shared on prom night wasn’t really a joke. Cole is gay, in the closet, and in love with Merit since high school. Now he’s ready to be honest with Merit about his feelings. Several years have passed, but Merit isn’t sure he can forgive Cole, let alone trust him with his heart.
Cole sat on the bed in his hotel room and wondered why he’d bothered coming here at all. For two years he’d followed news stories and reviews about Merit and the ballet company he danced with, trying to work up the nerve to finally make contact. The way things between them had ended in high school had always bothered him, and he wanted to set things right.
Obviously Merit’s fury hadn’t died with time. Cole didn’t blame him for being suspicious, but the guy had barely even given him a chance. He’d argued with everything Cole had said and had been just short of rude. Cole didn’t even know why he’d bothered.
“Maybe it’s time to let him go,” he said out loud. Ever since graduation day, he’d felt horrible about the misunderstanding. He hadn’t been able to set it right that day, not with his friends standing around listening, but—
But that’s bullshit. He might not have been able to completely explain everything to Merit. That didn’t mean he’d had a right to call the guy a drama queen just to save face with his pals. His image as a jock had been too important to him to care that Merit might hear the insult.
He’d been pretty screwed up back then.
At least Merit hadn’t hung up on him. If the situation had been reversed, Cole probably would have disconnected as soon as he realized who was on the other end of the call. Merit had let him talk, at least. He hadn’t ended the call. Cole had, because he’d finally grown tired of trying so hard to get the guy to accept his apology. Merit took holding a grudge to a whole new level. And he had every reason to be that way.
Cole just hoped that once the surprise wore off, Merit would cool down and call him so they could really talk. All through high school, he’d admired Merit. The guy had acted like he didn’t care what anyone else thought. He’d walked through the halls of their school like he owned them, perfectly comfortable with himself despite the bullying he dealt with. That kind of comfort was something Cole had never managed. He’d been pushed into football and baseball from preschool on up, and his family expected him to make something of himself through athletics. In high school, he’d been one of the star players on both teams. He hadn’t dared risk that to become friends with the openly gay guy.
He hadn’t dared risk it to tell people that he himself was gay.
Even Merit hadn’t been able to tell, though Cole had dropped a few hints here and there. He wasn’t sure if Merit was really his type or if he was just attracted because Merit was the only guy he knew who was unquestionably gay. Whichever the case, he’d genuinely liked Merit. Occasionally he’d even fantasized about him. His crush had been the source of some amusement and a lot of pain within himself because he’d mooned around after the guy and couldn’t tell him. Couldn’t tell anyone, ever.
He pushed himself off the bed and fished his shoes out from under the built-in desk. He’d wallowed long enough. After hanging up on Merit, he’d just lain here being upset about the way the call had gone and all the things he hadn’t had a chance to say. That wasn’t helping. It was time to find out if the city held anything interesting on a late spring Sunday morning.
Even if he didn’t fulfill his real reason for coming to the city, he could enjoy the vacation. The advantages of working for his uncle’s construction company were he earned more than enough to afford a good hotel in the city and his uncle hadn’t questioned him when he’d asked for time off.
He’d taken the job straight out of high school, spending his school breaks there until he’d graduated from college with a degree in business administration. Then his uncle had handed over responsibility for some of the business aspects. Cole had also continued some of the actual construction work that kept him occupied and gave him the work-outs he no longer got from athletics. Although he’d attended college on a football scholarship, his football career had ended at graduation. There were too many other guys out there who were too much better than he. And he hadn’t really wanted to go pro, or even semi-pro, anyway.
Since he’d given up athletics and didn’t have a social life—at least not one he talked about—this was the first time he’d asked for a vacation since he’d started working. His uncle not only hadn’t complained, he’d said it was about time and had tried to persuade Cole to take even longer than he actually wanted.
He headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast before going outside. A buffet of breakfast foods had been set out, but customers also had the option of ordering from a menu. Cole chose the menu and was pleased when a very attractive, black-haired waiter walked over to take his order. He made a slightly flirtatious joke which the waiter responded to with a grin and the question, “Are you staying here long?”
“A few days. Maybe a week.” Cole touched his tongue to his lips. “I’m just playing tourist.”
“Alone? That doesn’t sound like much fun.” The waiter poured water from a crystal pitcher into the tall-stemmed glass in front of Cole. “How do you plan on passing your time?”
“I’m hoping to find someone to show me around,” Cole said casually. Just because he hadn’t had a relationship in his entire life didn’t mean he couldn’t play the game. Picking up guys wasn’t any different from picking up girls, which he’d done all through high school. Dating cheerleaders had been part of the jock package, so even though he’d had no interest in the girls he’d gone out with, he’d played the part.
The skills he’d picked up through those awkward dates had served him well in college and beyond, when he’d discovered men who didn’t care whether there was a relationship involved as long as there was sex. He hadn’t gone out often. He’d still had his image to maintain. But at times he’d found his way to gay clubs and bars with no shortage of men willing to spend a night—or just an hour—with him.
The waiter smiled. “I’m off work at three this afternoon. Track me down if you haven’t found anyone else by then, and I’d be happy to show you some sights.”
I’m sure you would be. The hotel more than likely had rules against its staff members “fraternizing” with guests, but Cole doubted that would matter to this guy. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Good.” The waiter wrote down Cole’s order and walked away.
Cole admired the guy’s backside for a few seconds, then turned his attention to the view outside the window next to him. Passing a little time with the waiter wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It would give him something to look forward to in the meantime, and something to look back on during the rest of his visit. Possibly even a playmate for the rest of the week.
Ordinarily he would have found the idea very appealing, but this time Cole wasn’t sure he wanted to take the waiter up on his offer. He hadn’t come here to find a quick lay. He’d come here to find Merit and tell him what he should have told him years earlier. He’d come here to try to form a relationship—at the very least, a friendship—with the guy he’d wanted all through high school. Despite the phone call going badly, it wasn’t a reason to give up and get laid.
He would have to think about it carefully. Right then, his mind and cock were far from agreeing on the matter.