**I’ve brought back Cole and Rafael for another week, because I wanted to see their relationship a little bit down the road. And with the challenge for this week–a fight and a visit with an old friend–I knew these were the guys to tell the story. Enjoy!**
Cole was everything I had ever been looking for and everything I didn’t know I wanted. He was smart and charming and beautiful. He had a huge heart, a kindness that wouldn’t quit, and a sense of adventure that rivalled mine. When I had stopped him for speeding—and let him off with a warning even though he should have gotten a ticket—it was because his gorgeous face caught my attention. There was a spark when our eyes met that I couldn’t ignore. I was grateful every day that I’d taken a chance and shown up outside his audition. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.
Right now, though, he was inexplicably and extraordinarily angry with me.
“Cole,” I began, trying for soft and soothing.
“Don’t,” he hissed. “Don’t you say my name in that patronizing manner. I’m not wrong here and I have every right to be beyond pissed. So don’t stand there using your ‘hey I’m a cop diffusing the situation’ voice on me. I don’t appreciate it.”
Oh yes, he was mad. His eyes were lit with a dark, angry light, his face flushed, his mouth set in a hard line. Truthfully, he was turning me on a little. I liked seeing the passion on his face. And I knew I should stay and work things out. We’d only been dating for six month, and had moved in together a mere three weeks ago. But I was late, and he was being unreasonable.
“Okay,” I said in the same placating manner. I couldn’t help myself. I loved him, and I knew we could make our relationship work. But continuing the argument right now would serve no one. I grabbed my jacket from the hook by the door.
He made an indignant noise. “You’re going to go?” He was incredulous.
“Yeah,” I said, letting a bit of my annoyance creep into my voice. “We can deal with this when I get home.”
“You’ll be lucky if I let you back into the house!”
It was an empty threat so I walked out the door.
Jake was already waiting for me when I got to the restaurant. He’d been gone for more than a year helping to open a new office for his company in London, and I’d missed him terribly. We’d been friends since we were kids, and lovers for a brief time in our early twenties. We’d fallen into a relationship because it was easy, and we were horny. We were never meant to be more than friends though, and it ended almost as soon as it began. He was my closest friend, and just seeing his smiling face made some of the tension in my shoulders disappear.
I greeted him with a hug and a kiss to the cheek, then dropped down into the seat across from him. He gave me a critical look, his gaze shrewd as he took in my face and demeanor.
“What’s with you?” he asked jovially. “Where’s the new boy?”
“Cole’s at home,” I answered. I scowled. “We’re fighting.”
“Already?” There was a chuckle as Jake picked up his menu. But he wasn’t looking at it. Instead he peered over the top of it to keep his gaze on me. “About what?”
“You,” I answered honestly.
His eyes went wide and he set the menu down. “Rafael? What the hell, man? If you had to cancel—”
I cut him off with a shake of my head. “No. Don’t. You’re a part of my life, and Cole is going to have to get used to it. And he will get used to it. Once he realizes that there’s nothing between you and me other than friendship. He just doesn’t understand yet.”
Jake’s eyes narrowed. “Then you should have brought him so he could see.”
I snorted out a laugh. That wouldn’t have worked. Not tonight. Cole was too angry. I acknowledged to myself that I shouldn’t have sprung it on him at the last minute. And perhaps I shouldn’t have been honest when he asked me if Jake had ever been more than a friend. But I wasn’t in the habit of lying, and I wasn’t going to keep anything from Cole.
“We’ll work it out. Don’t worry about it. Read your menu.”
Jake didn’t move or saying anything for a long moment, then he reached out with one hand and patted mine. He studied me for a few more seconds, and then picked up his menu, this time actually looking at it. I breathed a sigh of relief. I just wanted to have a nice dinner with oldest friend.
After that, we fell into old habits, teasing each other and laughing at stupid things. He didn’t bring up Cole again and neither did I. For a time, I was able to forget that when I got home, the love of my life would still be pissed with me. I enjoyed our dinner, and it wasn’t until Jake was paying the bill—it was his turn to buy—that I realized leaving here meant going home and fixing things with Cole.
As always, Jake knew where my mind had gone. He walked with me to my car, and gave me a brief but tight hug. When he stepped back, he offered me a small smile. “Next time, bring Cole. Once he sees there isn’t anything more between us than a bromance, he’ll be reassured.” He stopped, and then gave me a glare. “Fix it, man. I’ve never seen you so happy since you started dating him. He’s your forever man. So fix it.”
I held up my hands in surrender. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I gave him a wave, got into my car, and drove home. But when I pulled into the driveway, the entire house was silent and dark. Cole’s car was still there, so unless someone had come to pick him up, he was at home. But he’d probably gone to bed, despite it not being that late. I felt twitchy that we wouldn’t be able to resolve this thing between us until tomorrow.
I was quiet as I entered the house. I didn’t want to disturb him. I hung my jacket on the hook, and then tossed my keys on the sideboard before toeing off my shoes. I made sure the door was locked and that the alarm was set before I padded in socked feet toward the kitchen. I didn’t relish the thought of climbing into bed with an angry, but sleeping, man.
“Don’t leave again.”
Cole’s voice startled me and I only just managed to quell the yelp of surprise that wanted to escape. I turned in the direction his voice had come from, and realized that the shadows in the corner of the living room had kept me from seeing him hunched up and huddled on the armchair. I moved closer, snapping on the light as I passed the end table. He’d been crying.
He wasn’t now though, and his glare was hard. “When we’re fighting in the future, I’d really appreciate it if you’d stay and work things out with me if it’s at all possible.” Despite the harsh look on his face, his words were soft and firm.
“I am sorry about that,” I said sincerely. I knelt in front of him, wanting to be close and have this conversation face to face. I was gratified when he unfolded enough to lower his legs. I put my hands on his thighs and looked directly into his eyes. “I was angry too, though. And I didn’t think we’d get anywhere if we kept yelling at each other.”
His nod was slow. “All right. But leave the room, not the house, next time. When you walked out, if felt like…” He took a deep breath. “If felt like you were choosing him over me.”
“Never,” I said quickly and vehemently. Cole gave me a ghost of a smile. “Look, Jake is my oldest and closest friend. I love him like a brother. But I’m in love with you, and that’s not ever going to change.”
Cole’s eyes went soft, and he sat up far enough so that he could put my hands on my face. “I won’t lie. I’m jealous of that. Of what you have with him. That you were together, for however brief a time, and still friends.” He blew out a breath, and then rested his forehead against mine. “But that’s something I’ll have to work through. And I should meet him, yeah?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” I said as relief poured through my veins. For a long time, we stayed just like that, breathing each other in and holding on. Eventually, my knees let me know that I was on a hardwood floor, and I pulled back, giving Cole a grin. “I guess we survived our first real fight, huh?”
His chuckle was warm. “I guess so. The first of many, I expect. But you know what comes now?”
It took me a second to catch on, but when I did, I shot to my feet and hauled him out of the chair. “Race you to the bedroom.”