That's the question faced by Merit Hartwick and Cole Dellany, the two heroes in my new contemporary M/M romance novella With My Heart, releasing from Jupiter Gardens Press on November 14.
Merit and Cole first got together in the M/M contemporary romance Dancing Away, which was released by Jupiter Gardens in August 2012. In that novella, Cole tracked down Merit to apologize for a bullying incident at their senior prom nearly ten years earlier, and to tell Merit he was in love with him. (Dancing Away is a sequel to an M/F contemporary romance, You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This, which released from Jupiter Gardens in early 2011.)
In With My Heart, Cole is having trouble adjusting to life in the city where Merit lives, where Cole relocated from their small hometown to form a relationship with Merit. Merit's busy schedule as ballet instructor and principal ballet dancer doesn't make it any easier to keep their relationship solid. After an argument, they agree to see other people, but will their relationship survive?
As of this writing I don't yet have cover art for With My Heart, but here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
They found a seat fairly easily and placed their orders before continuing their discussion. “I can’t forget about you sleeping with someone else,” Cole said.
“Can you forgive it?” Merit braced himself for the answer.
“You didn’t do anything I need to forgive you for.” Cole sighed. “I kind of think I should forgive you, or not. I feel like you did something wrong, but you really didn’t. This whole ‘we aren’t exclusive’ thing isn’t working for me, though. I know it’s only been a day, but I don’t want to do it. The way I felt when you told me you were with someone else last night, I don’t ever want to feel again.”
“Yeah, and I don’t ever want to hurt you like this again.” Merit stopped himself before he rambled on about how sorry he was. He hadn’t done anything he needed to apologize for. The only thing he had done wrong was suggest they see others in the first place.
It had seemed a good idea at the time. They were arguing too much, and taking a breather had sounded reasonable. He wasn’t entirely sure it hadn’t been, but looking at the man across the table from him, he could see the pain he had caused. He definitely didn’t want to do that again.
“You told me I should date other people because I’m not used to being in a relationship with a guy.” Cole took a sip from the water glass the server had placed in front of him when she had taken their orders. “I disagreed then, and I disagree now. If I need to work on being in a relationship, being in a relationship is the way to do it, not fucking random guys. Been there, done that.”
“I didn’t mean fucking other people.” Merit stopped himself again. Maybe that wasn’t what he had meant, but it was what he had done. “I just meant…Fuck, I don’t know what the hell I meant. You couldn’t even tell me you wanted to spend more time with me without feeling like a whine-ass.”
“I’m not used to talking about stuff like that,” Cole agreed. “In my universe, guys don’t do that. Women do. But shit, my universe hasn’t been such a great place. Not until I got you back into it. So I need to work harder on saying what I mean without feeling stupid about it, and it would really help if you gave me time instead of getting pissy and telling me to practice relationships with someone else.”
“I didn’t get pissy.” At least he didn’t think he had, though it was definitely possible. He and Cole had had an argument, and he didn’t really remember everything they had said or how they had said it.
“Okay, I won’t get into a debate with you, because it isn’t that important,” Cole said. “Anyway, look. Here we are. You had an event tonight. I know you did, because I was there when it was mentioned the other night at the last event. And you didn’t go because you wanted to talk to me. At least I’m assuming that’s why.”
“Yeah, it is.” Merit had forgotten that the evening’s event had been mentioned during the previous one. He never paid much attention to the announcements at those things. He preferred to get his information at rehearsals.
“This is what I wanted,” Cole said. “Your time. I know dancing keeps you busy, and I understand why. But I moved down here to be with you as well as to start my own life away from home, and I felt ignored. I mean, it isn’t as if I’m dragging you to parties and shit for the construction company all the time.”
“Because you don’t have any.” Merit put his hand over his mouth. “Sorry. That sounded bitchy.”
“A bit.” Cole grinned, and Merit relaxed. If Cole found him amusing, maybe they would be okay.
Cole shook his head. “Don’t take my shit, Merit, but I’m not taking yours either. I’m not doing the see other people thing. Not happening. Hell, D—the guy I went out with last night and tonight would have been happy as hell to take my cock up his ass or suck me or whatever I wanted from him, and I couldn’t do it. Not out of any lack of attraction, believe me. I just couldn’t do that to you or to us.”
“I’m sorry,” Merit said softly, and this time he meant it even more strongly than he had outside.
“Don’t be.” Cole rested his hand, palm up, on the table. Merit lay his own hand on it and Cole twined his fingers with Merit’s. “You don’t have to be sorry. You’re right, you didn’t do anything wrong. You really didn’t, and I need to let it go.”
“You don’t have to let it go.” He had to be an idiot for trying to talk Cole out of forgiving him, but he refused to let Cole force himself to be okay with something he really wasn’t okay with. The way his heart had missed a beat when he had believed Cole had fucked someone else that night showed him exactly what he had done to Cole, and Cole had every right to be upset.
“I want to,” Cole said. “I don’t want to be pissed at you. Promise it won’t happen again, okay? Please tell me you aren’t going to keep seeing him, because I want you to myself. You didn’t cheat on me, so we can move on if you want to, but I can’t share you.”
He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. Merit wasn’t quite sure how to respond. As much as he wanted Cole’s forgiveness and to go on with their relationship, he couldn’t accept it if Cole wasn’t completely certain. “I do want to move on, but can you really let this go?”
“I’ll try. That’s the best I can do right now.”