Take Everything

by Alexandra Y. Caluen

A second-chance romance about trust, truth, and recovery.

When Richard and Willem picked each other up at the dance studio, it was supposed to be a one-night stand. Richard didn’t think there was anyone who could deal with his issues, or that it was even fair to ask. After six dates with Willem, he knew he was too close. And he knew it was too late, because Willem was leaving for the cruise-ship job.

There was no way Willem was extending the cruise contract. Which meant it was time to change his life once he was back on land. Time to stop the endless round of auditions, put that yoga certification to work, and start building a steady life. A life he could share with someone. Maybe even with Richard, the person he couldn't seem to forget.

Their next meeting was not precisely by chance; Willem knew Richard would be at the nightclub. Inviting him to a wedding was an impulse. But by the end of that date, they both knew they wanted to try again. This time they'd take it slow. They'd tell more of the truth. They'd dance together, using that common language to say things they were still afraid to say.

After all that, maybe they'd be ready to take each other on forever.

This book is on:
  • 1 To Be Read list
Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: M-M
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Love Can Heal / Redemption, Reunited and it Feels So Good, Second Chances
Word Count: 66000
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

The downstairs lounge at Chrome was packed. Richard was standing by the bar, holding a cocktail he wasn’t drinking and couldn’t remember ordering, when Rory, one of the stage managers and sort-of a friend, washed up beside him. “Hey Richard. Why aren’t you dancing with Willem?”

Because I don’t want to start crying in public. “I need to get out of here.” He set the cocktail glass on the bar and turned blindly toward the stairs, almost colliding with someone he probably knew and didn’t acknowledge.

“Whoa. Dude. Are you all right?” Rory stopped herself a moment before touching him. She couldn’t tell if this was distress, or temper, or what.

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“I have to go,” he said, then remembered he’d come with Willem. There was no way he could stand riding back with him, or even getting in the car with him. The car borrowed from Willem’s landlady because it was a special occasion. He dug in his pocket for his phone. His hands were shaking and he nearly dropped it.

Rory saw all this, abruptly remembered the backstage back-slapping, the ‘bon voyage’ and ‘Anything Goes’ jokes, and said, “Don’t move.”

Richard stopped trying to call up the Uber app. He didn’t say anything in the moment before she walked away, simply stood there, now trying to breathe. Two minutes later Rory was back with her girlfriend Dana, and they were walking him toward the stairs. He didn’t turn his head, didn’t try to see Willem one more time, maybe the last time. His lover was out there dancing, celebrating, not even thinking about Richard. Why should he? He didn’t know how Richard felt. How could he?

Neither woman asked Richard any questions. It didn’t occur to him that they didn’t know where he lived.

About half an hour into the after-party, Willem looked around for his date. There was no sign of him. He did  manage to locate Vicky, another of the dancers in the show. She was at a lounge table with her wife Sharon and their good friends Sam and Mateo. All people Willem only knew because of the show. Like Richard. “Hey, Vicky?” He pitched his voice low, trying to be discreet. “Have you seen Richard anywhere?”

Vicky studied him for a second. She’d known Richard for going on six years and Willem for only a few months. Richard wasn’t her friend, precisely – he didn’t really seem to be close with anyone at the Shall We Dance studio in West Hollywood – but it had become obvious over the past few weeks that he and Willem were, at the very least, banging. “I haven’t seen him. Sharon? Did you notice if Richard went upstairs?” The mezzanine lounge at Chrome was open to the public tonight, and might have been quieter than the private after-party.

Sharon looked up at Willem too. “Oh hey. I think he left with Rory and Dana. I saw them walking out a while ago. Didn’t he say anything?” Everyone at the table could see that he hadn’t, and that Willem didn’t know how to take it. He looked annoyed, and upset, and worried. There was an exchange of ‘oops’ glances. Sharon filled in the awkward not-quite-silence, or rather the awkward gap in chatter over the house music that was pumping. “He probably sent you a text. When do you leave for the new job?”

“Tomorrow,” Willem said, making an effort. He didn’t know what had happened. Whatever it was, none of these people had caused it. Mateo and Sharon made room for him to pull another chair into the group, and invited him to give them the scoop on the cruise-ship contract. Before long they were all talking comfortably again. Willem forgot about checking his phone until he finally left, hauling his tired body up and out to his borrowed car. God that was fun, he thought, glad he’d had this experience before heading off to sea.

He would have liked to spend the night with Richard. To celebrate, and to say goodbye properly. They’d only had that one night together in their short string of dates. On the thought, with the engine running but still in the parking lot, Willem got his phone and checked for a message. There wasn’t one. “Well, fuck you too,” he said out loud, letting annoyance boil to the top, swamping the hurt. He wouldn’t have thought Richard would be rude, would dismiss him without a word.

The lights on Hollywood Boulevard were all against him. Somehow this made him angrier. So what if they hadn’t talked about commitment. It had only been a few weeks. They hadn’t even talked about ‘when I’m back on land.’ Willem hadn’t wanted to go there, because he didn’t know if he’d like the gig. If he did, it might be years before he came back. It was good Richard did this. Better for both of them.

It wasn’t until he stopped at the signal at La Brea, felt a tickle on his cheek and wiped his face, that he realized he was crying.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published eleven more novels and twenty-nine novellas. My day job is in a law office, I've been married for eighteen years, and I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie.


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