“Give you time?” If that was what Merit needed, Cole would happily give it to him. He would know there was still a chance for them to be together, and that was all he wanted right now. Everything else could wait.
It just couldn’t wait long. He had to be back in town and at work bright and early Monday morning.
Merit hesitated, and Cole held his breath. Whatever the guy said next would make a hell of a lot of difference in his life.
“Give me time.” Merit nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. Seeing you brought back the shit. It also brought back the way you used to smile at me when you didn’t think anyone would notice. If you can smile at me like that when people are around, this might work.”
“You’re worried because I’m not out.” He should have realized Merit wouldn’t be thrilled about dating someone who was still hiding the truth.
“Guys who are in the closet aren’t always the best for relationships,” Merit said. “Sorry if that makes me sound like a dick. When I’m in a relationship I want to be able to tell people. I at least want to be able to walk down the street with my boyfriend and not have to keep distance between us or act like I have no interest in him. I’m not talking about kissing in public, or even holding hands. Even around here that might cause problems. But I don’t like to hide.”
“Yeah.” Cole frowned. “If I came out to my family, would that make a difference?”
“I don’t want you to do anything for me. If you come out to anyone, it has to be for yourself.” He glanced at his watch. “I have to go to rehearsal pretty soon.”
“What time will you be finished?” Cole didn’t want to end the discussion. Not until they’d reached some kind of decision. Not until he knew whether he’d be going home that weekend to stay or to pack.
He had to be crazy to even think about leaving his entire life for Merit. Except he wouldn’t be doing it for Merit. It would be for himself. He was tired of hiding himself from everyone he knew. Working for his uncle was great. He couldn’t ask for a better situation, and he sure as hell wouldn’t find one in the city. He’d have to start over completely.
That wouldn’t be a bad thing. Maybe it was finally time to let go of home and make his own life instead of living the one everyone expected from him.
“Late. Probably around nine.” Merit studied him. “You want me to say I’ll come back afterward so we can keep talking.”
“Am I that obvious?” Cole kept his tone light, trying to make it sound like a joke.
“Yeah. It’s kind of cute, actually.” Merit grinned. “Not tonight. Tomorrow I have an easier day. Rehearsal’s earlier, and I don’t have as many classes to teach on Thursdays. Give me a call and I’ll come by around eight tomorrow night.”
“I’d really like you to come back tonight.”
“Yeah, I know. Remember the ‘give me time’ thing we talked about a few minutes ago? This is the time you’re giving me. Till tomorrow night.” He stood. “Think about what you really want from me and with me, and what you’re willing to give in return. And I’ll do the same. When we see each other tomorrow night, we might actually be able to get somewhere. Right now, we’re kind of stuck in a circle, and I have to go to rehearsal.”
“Okay.” Waiting till the next night to find out what was going on would be torture. But they’d laid a lot on the line during this conversation, and they both needed time to process it and decide where to go from there.
Cole knew where he wanted things to go, but he couldn’t make that decision on a whim. He had to think it through more carefully, even if he thought he knew what he wanted.
“Tomorrow,” he said.
“Tomorrow.” For a brief second, Merit rested his hand on Cole’s. That tiny touch sent a shiver through Cole, both promise and desire, and he fought an urge to grab Merit’s arm and not let him leave. Merit gave him a smug grin, as if he knew exactly what was going through Cole’s mind. “It won’t be that long. See you then.”
And once again, Merit walked away. But this time, Cole knew he’d be back.