Sequel to Pulling Away
Noah Riggins thought his troubles were over and he’d live happily ever after with Charlie Banks, but lately their domestic bliss has been anything but blissful. Charlie’s shutting down and shutting Noah out, refusing to even consider getting help.
When Charlie suggests a separation, is it really the end? Will Noah be left with nothing but a broken heart?
Once again, when Noah arrived home it was already dark. He was surprised, however, to find Charlie sitting in the living room next to the lamp, which he was surprised to see had been turned on. He hadn't found his lover up and waiting for him for a long time.
"Hey, babe. Everything okay?" Noah asked, attempting a smile. Charlie looked very serious. His dark curly hair lay in a tangle of misshapen curls framing his face.
"We need to talk." Charlie's voice was eerily quiet.
His gut twisting, Noah nodded. He sat on the sofa next to Charlie.
"I don't know how to say this, Noah, but I think we need some time apart."
The breath left his lungs, like he'd been unexpectedly knocked to the ground. In the back of his head, yeah, he thought maybe that was what Charlie would say, but his heart, his very soul, hoped he was wrong.
"Is there someone else?" he heard himself ask, uncertain how he was even functioning. He could have been a zombie, as numb as he was.
Charlie shook his head. "No."
"You've stopped loving me?" The blood rushed and pounded in his ears.
"God, no. Of course not, Noah."
He should feel comfort in Charlie's denial, but he didn't. The hurt overwhelmed him. "Yet you want to break up with me."
"I'm not breaking up with you. I just think...some time apart will do us both good."
"Really?" His throat clogged for a few seconds so he couldn't get words out. Tears burned and pooled in his eyes and he forced them away. "Funny, Charlie, because I don't think any time away from you will do me one bit of good. See, the way I view relationships is they are work, and it's work you do together, not apart."
Charlie looked away. "I know you don't understand."
"I don't. Why can't you just talk to me? Tell me what's wrong."
But his lover remained silent.
"Could you tell Sly Cat?" he asked, referring to the Internet identity he'd used early in their relationship.
That had Charlie looking at him sharply. "You are him."
"I know that, but you shared yourself with him when you wouldn't with me." Noah pinched the bridge of his nose. He was talking nonsense, but he couldn't help it. "I just wish you would agree to see someone. If not with me, then by yourself. I'm sure we can get you the name of a good psychiatrist."
Charlie's jaw tightened. "I can work this out myself."
Heartache and disappointment nearly overwhelmed him. He couldn't force Charlie to get help. Couldn't force him to want to save them. He swallowed heavily. "Okay. I'll ... pack some things."
"Where will you go?"
He almost responded, “Why do you care?” but held back. When he'd moved in with Charlie, he had rented out the home he owned just down the street from this one. He couldn't kick out his tenant without any notice. "A hotel, I guess."
"I'm sorry, Noah."
Look at me. I hate it when you won't even look me in the eyes when you throw me away.
"I'm sorry, too," he said softly, standing.