They headed down the sidewalk. “I teach dance. I perform. There’s a lot to do,” Merit said.
“Right. That makes sense.” Cole paused. “You’ve really settled in here, huh?”
“Very much. I love living here. It’s a lot more open than our hometown.”
“Yeah.” Cole looked around at the buildings and people they were passing. “Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad you found a place where you’re happy.”
“So am I.” Merit glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He sensed Cole wanted to say something else and didn’t quite dare. Despite his curiosity, he wasn’t about to ask what that might be. If Cole had something to say, he could just say it.
Cole didn’t say anything for a moment, just kept walking. Merit stayed beside him, willing himself to stay silent. Whatever the guy was thinking, Merit refused to try to read his mind or to push him in any way.
“I work for my uncle,” Cole said suddenly.
“You told me that,” Merit said. “Is there a reason you’re repeating it?”
“If I didn’t work for him, things might be easier.” He hesitated. “If I didn’t work for him, I’d be able to move. He has everything set up so that when he retires, I take over the company, and he’s retiring pretty soon. Within the next couple years, most likely. I can’t just leave him in the lurch.”
“Did anyone ask you to?” Merit felt a bit of mental whiplash trying to keep up with Cole’s thoughts.
“I asked me to.” Cole shook his head. “I know I’m not making a lot of sense. I haven’t really thought this through, and it’s hard to figure out what I’m saying while we’re walking up the street. Too many distractions.”
“Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?”
Cole snorted. “Not always. Look, we need to sit somewhere and talk. This place looks good.” He gestured at the bar and grill they’d stopped beside. “Hopefully it’ll be quiet enough we can hear each other.”
“Sure.” Merit hoped so, because he was growing a little tired of not really knowing what was going on. Cole obviously had something on his mind, but he was jumping around so much with his words that Merit couldn’t even begin to keep up.
It sounded like Cole was thinking about moving to the city. And he didn’t have any reason to do that other than being with Merit. Merit didn’t know how to feel about that. A guy—not just a guy, but Cole Dellany—was thinking about changing his whole life for him.
He decided he was better off not trying to figure out what to say until Cole clarified what he was talking about.
They went inside and found a small table near the front window. “What do you want to drink?” Cole asked. “My treat.”
“I won’t argue with free drinks, but I’ll just have a soda,” Merit replied. “Rehearsal in less than an hour, remember?”
“Right. I’ll be right back.” Cole went to the bar to order their drinks while Merit sat and looked out at the passers-by. He’d only come to apologize to Cole for the way he’d acted on Sunday. He hadn’t planned on having a serious, potentially life-changing conversation, and yet that seemed to be where they were headed.
Cole returned with a bottle of local beer and a glass which he set in front of Merit. “Soda, as requested.”
“Thanks.” Merit took a sip. “Look, you obviously have something to say. I’m having a little trouble figuring out what it is and we’re running short on time, so if you wouldn’t mind just saying it, that would help me out a lot.”
Cole swigged some of his beer and took a deep breath. “Fair enough. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here. With you.”