His Winter Heart: Gay Romance - Trina Solet - ebook
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Wes is living a lonely, stark existence when he meets Colin, a lively young guy in desperate circumstances. Wes is so taken with him that he has to have him. His decision to invite Colin to spend the night is going to turn his quiet life upside down.Colin almost finds himself sleeping on the street. When the tall, blond man makes him an offer, he can't say no either to the money or to the man. Colin is impulsive and full of contradictions. He refuses to sell himself for money and ends up homeless because of it. But when Wes offers to pay him for sex, Colin jumps at the chance to go home with him. Something about Wes strikes a chord with Colin. He knows there is a warm heart under the serious, impassive exterior and an awesome body under all the layers of winter clothes.Things don't go as planned when Wes decides that Colin is too young and inexperienced and refuses to sleep with him. That doesn't mean that Wes can stay away from someone who shakes up his world.The more time Wes spends with Colin, the more he wants him. Colin feels the same way, and he isn't shy about getting what he wants. His relentless pursuit might pay off if Wes doesn't let his family history and his fears about the future keep them apart. Will Wes let go of his inhibitions and allow himself to love the younger man?

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His Winter Heart: Gay Romance

By Trina Solet

Copyright © 2014 by Trina Solet

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales or actual events is entirely coincidental.

All sexual activity takes place between persons eighteen years of age or older.

This novel contains material intended for mature readers.

Cover image is only for illustrative purposes. Any person depicted is a model.

His Winter Heart

Gay Romance

By Trina Solet

Chapter 1

On the tree lined sidewalks, the leftover leaves of autumn were crunching underfoot. Deeply brown, they were being swept and blown away. They were disappearing. The bare branches looked brittle as cold winds whistled through them. Those same cruel winds had stripped them of their last leaves. Looking up through the stark treetops to the darkening sky, Colin felt like nature was sending him a message. "Get your ass inside," it said to him and every other creature without a home.

Colin heard the message loud and clear. The days were only going to get colder and the nights were already freezing. It would be snowing soon. So far he hadn't been able to find a place to stay for more than a night or two.

It was that time of the evening when it started to get seriously cold the second the sun disappeared behind the tallest of the buildings. The wind was already cutting through his jacket. People were bustling, hurrying somewhere warm, maybe home. Colin envied them because they had a place to go. For now he had somewhere to head for too. He was going to his job, but after that... This might be another night he spent chilled to the bone and wide awake, scared to stop anywhere to rest because he might get arrested or attacked.

Since he still had some time to kill, he spent it staring into store windows and silently cursing Brad. He was a blackmailing son of a bitch. It was his fault Colin was walking the streets, lightheaded from hunger, watching the displays taunt him with scarves and boots and gloves sticking out of pockets of fur lined jackets. His own jacket was OK, and his shoes were holding together, but they weren't good enough to take the place of central heating and a roof over his head. He was saving the little money he earned so he could chip in for rent or at least bills or groceries if he found someone who would let him crash at their place.

The last place where he lived was Brad's apartment. Brad was his brother's best friend. Tim, Colin's older brother, was in Canada. That's where Tim found work with one of their father's cousins. Before Tim left, he and Colin both lived with Brad. With few marketable skills, Colin couldn't land any decent paying jobs, and Tim had the worst luck keeping a job, maybe because of his quick temper. They barely made ends meet. Most of the time, they were late with their share of the rent. That's why Tim went as far as Canada to find work.

When Tim left, Brad had promised him that he would look out for Colin and give him a place to stay. Tim and Brad had been tight through most of their childhoods and inseparable in high school. Tim didn't worry as much about Colin as long as Brad gave him a place to live. Tim trusted Brad, but he shouldn't have. Brad was a snake. If Tim knew what he tried to pull, he would kill him, tear him limb from limb then put him back together and kill him again.

For now, Colin wasn't going to tell Tim anything, not about Brad or about himself and where he was living, which was nowhere. He would just keep walking around until it was time for his shift at the diner. It was only part time. He washed dishes there and bussed tables in the evenings when the place got busy. As a bonus, he knew that he could get something to eat even if he had to sneak it off a customer's plate before he washed it. Damn, he was so hungry that the idea didn't even sound disgusting to him. As he passed a pizza place and smelled it, he got so preoccupied with food that he stopped worrying about where he would sleep tonight.

*

Wes wouldn't call Penny's Diner his favorite place to eat, but he often found himself there. It was only a block from his apartment building. Its windows allowed a clear view inside where it was warm, and the smell of hot food permeated the air. On such a dismal night, Wes didn't have the heart to pass up the place in search of something better or at least different. He looked in and became drawn into one of its red booths with white tables.

Wes usually took a booth in the middle, but those were occupied tonight. He took one closer to the kitchen. It was serendipity. He heard a very pleasant, male voice calling to the waitress who had just served Wes his stew. The voice was just deep enough to resonate inside Wes and stir his imagination. The voice said, "You don't have any room at your place, do you? I can sleep on the floor. I just want to be inside. I'm so tired. I've been walking around all day."

"That's right, you got kicked out. Sorry, honey. John would go apeshit. No way. I can't take the drama. See if Lee can put you up."

"No. I asked. He has a girlfriend and her kid living with him now."

"Oh. Sorry. Good luck finding some place to crash."

As the waitress walked away, Wes turned to see who was so desperate for a place to stay. His eyes fell on a beautiful young man. Broad shouldered, he was strong but with muscles that were streamlined rather than bulging. He had curly, brown hair and blue eyes that looked worriedly out the diner windows as he wiped a table. It was already dark out and not much could be seen outside. But he probably didn't need to see what was out there to know that it was cold and inhospitable. It wasn't where he wanted to be tonight.

Wes's curiosity was now overtaken by other emotions. There was probably some compassion mixed in there, but mainly he felt desire. His eyes lingered on the young man's partly open mouth. Of course he stared too long, and the young guy caught him at it. His eyes widened and he looked away even faster than Wes did. That told Wes all he needed to know.

Wes called him over to his table. Seeing his expression, Wes was sure of it now. This guy gave Wes a look which he recognized as checking out another man out of sexual interest. It was perfunctory, without any real intent. Other things preoccupied the young man's mind.

"Could you wipe this up? I don't want to get my sleeve wet," Wes said pointing to a ring of condensation on the table. The guy had to reach over him to get to it as Wes hoped.

"Three hundred to come home with me and spend the night," Wes said quietly while the guy leaned over him.

Startled by his words, the young man flinched away. He looked bewildered, desperate and a little sad. But then he stared long and hard at Wes. His look changed. His breathing became deep and even. He looked Wes in the eye and said, "OK."

*

Colin had noticed him as soon as he walked in. Tall, blond and built – how could he miss him. Preoccupied with spending yet another night roaming the streets, he couldn't give the blond guy the attention he deserved. He must have sent him some kind of signal anyway otherwise the guy wouldn't have propositioned him.

Colin couldn't believe he was standing there, looking at this man and thinking about going home with him for money. And it wasn't just the money. Going home with this guy meant he wouldn't have to spend the night out there in the cold.

While Colin was thinking it over, the man waited patiently. If he was only less attractive, or more leering, less patient and quiet, it would give Colin a reason to refuse. But the guy was all that plus big, blond, broad shouldered, with gray eyes that pulled Colin in. Just the thought of climbing into this guy's lap made him hard. How bad could it be to spend a night with him? Colin decided to find out.

Colin didn't want to leave before his shift was done. That wasn't a deal-breaker for this guy.

"I'll wait for you," he said in that deep, quiet voice.

Colin's heart was already beating fast. Hearing his words, Colin swallowed and his heart beat even faster. This was actually going to happen. As the guy got up to leave, he told Colin he would be back when his shift was over.

"I'll be outside. My place isn't far," he said as he put on his jacket.

Colin only managed to nod. For once in his life, his mouth wasn't running a mile a minute. Stunned, excited, and a little confused, he stared after the guy as he left. After what happened with Brad, Colin couldn't believe he just said yes to fucking for money.

Even before Tim left, Colin had noticed Brad eyeing him in a funny way. At first Colin thought that Brad might be gay. He had seen him with plenty of skanky girls, but what else would explain that look? He figured Brad wanted something from him, maybe a blow job or a fuck. As long as Tim was around, Brad wouldn't dare touch his younger brother. Once Tim was gone, the leash came off. Brad made demands that started out as just wheedling but turned into outright threats. But Colin had been wrong. Brad didn't want him. He wanted to make money off him. Colin had just lost his job at the fast food place. That's when Brad started coming up with moneymaking ideas.

"Don't you want to help with the rent?" Brad asked.

Colin had been paying a little bit, but not since he was out of work.

At first Brad only suggested that Colin should maybe do some stuff over webcam, just chat with guys. Some trashy girl he knew was doing that and making good money. She told him a lot of guys did it too. That's what gave Brad the idea to recruit Colin.

"You need to make money," Brad said. "You wouldn't have to do anything, and no one would know. It's easy money. I would just take a small cut. Just for using my computer and helping you set things up."

Colin refused and looked for any other kind of work, but Brad just kept pushing. He was telling him how much money he could make. Then he started handing him phone numbers.

"Text this guy. Just see if you hit it off." It was clear that Brad wanted to be his pimp.

When his suggestions had no results, he moved on to telling Colin he would throw him out. Then he threatened to call Tim and tell him Colin had been doing what Brad was trying to force him to do. Colin stood firm, not out of pride, but out of anger. Colin was nothing to him, but Tim was supposed to be Brad's best friend. Knowing how much this would hurt Tim, Colin wanted to punch Brad. It really pissed him off that Brad would betray him like that.

And Colin couldn't even tell Tim. He would just get mad and worried and leave his job to come take care of Colin again and probably beat up on Brad. He kept his mouth shut even when Brad kicked him out. He didn't tell Tim about Brad or about not having a place to live. Colin was eighteen now, and he was going to take care of himself, show Tim he didn't have to worry about him.

Going off with some guy for money probably wasn't the best way to prove that. He didn't even want to consider what Tim would think of him if he knew.

With that on his mind, Colin spent the rest of his shift in a daze. Several times he considered ducking out through the back. But at the end of the day, Colin walked out through the front door, knowing that the big, blond guy was waiting out there to pick him up and walk him to his place. Stepping out into the cold, night air, Colin saw that the guy was waiting on the sidewalk in front of the diner the same way he had waited for Colin's answer, no fidgeting, no impatience. The guy was impassive but not cold. A smile almost brightened his eyes when he saw Colin coming toward him.

As they walked to his apartment building, the guy said his name was Wes. Colin took too long trying to figure out if he should give his own name or a fake one. He ended up not giving either as he was distracted by a lady texting while trying to walk three unruly dogs. This happened right in front of what turned out to be Wes's apartment building. It was a nice, solid brick building with twelve floors. Wes was on the ninth.

In the elevator, Colin took another look at Wes so he could figure out why he had said yes to him. Wes looked good in a pale, washed out kind of way. He had a big, hard body under his clothes, but they were too bulky to see much. Colin would have to peel off at least two or three layers to get a good feel. He had the impression that it was the kind of body he would like to get his hands on and explore for hours. Depending on what Wes had in mind, he might even get to do just that.

Colin kind of looked forward to it. He was nervous too, but with each passing second spent thinking about Wes naked, he got less nervous and more eager to fully earn those three hundred bucks. For three hundred, he figured this guy was sure to want a thorough workout. Colin was rock hard in anticipation, but his hands were shaking and not from the cold. If anything he felt a little warm. Almost dizzy with the mixture of conflicting feelings, he gulped and tried to breathe evenly. After all, he was about to become a professional. He should act like it and definitely not hyperventilate or pass out.

Colin stepped out of the elevator on wobbly legs and followed Wes to his door. Going in, he saw that his place seemed really impersonal. If it wasn't for a pair of boots by the door, he wouldn't even think anyone lived there. The furniture was mostly black and clutter free. There was a black leather sofa and a recliner facing a big TV with all the good stuff plugged into it but not any game consoles. Though the leather furniture looked comfortable, the place was stark and too neat to have been lived in. The kitchen was pristine as was the dark wood floor.

"Did you just move in?" Colin asked since that would explain it.

"I've lived her for a couple of years," Wes told him as he took off his jacket.

"I guess you don't have a lot of stuff," Colin said.

He took off his jacket too. Wes took it from him and hung it on a hook next to his own.

"What would you expect to see?" Wes asked. He looked around his apartment like he didn't know what was missing.

"I don't know. Dishes, cups, newspapers, unpaid bills," Colin listed. That was just the tip of the iceberg. In his experience, the list went on and on.

"I like to put things away."

"You might want to leave a few things out so people know you're not a vampire. You are kind of pale, you know."

"And the compliments just keep coming," Wes said with a sigh, but he didn't seem too put out.

*

As he hung up their jackets by the door, Wes realized that his guest had not introduced himself yet. He waited until he was done questioning him about his apartment before he asked, "What's your name?"

"It's Colin. Unless you want a fake one. Then it's Max." He looked proud of that choice.

"Colin will be fine."

"I'm not sure what you had in mind, but we will be using condoms for the heavy stuff, right? Wait. Not in the form of a question. We will be using condoms. No question mark."

Before he answered, Wes waited to make sure he was done rambling.

"Of course," Wes said, but he now took a long, hard look at Colin. The facial hair had made him look older. Examining him more closely, Wes could see that he was very young. He was almost angelic in a scruffy kind of way. Wes wasn't sure he could go through with this.

"I imagine you've been offered money before," Wes said to try to persuade himself that what he was doing was OK.

"Umm. Kind of," Colin said uncertainly.

Wes was not persuaded by that answer. "But you said no?" That was a given. Everything about Colin was all wrong for someone who had been paid for sex before.

"Oh, big time. And it cost me. But I'm OK with it now, I guess. That's why we're here. Do we jump right to it, or is there chitchat first? Is this the chitchat? Is that what we're doing now?"

As he rambled, Colin looked so confused and ignorant of what was going to happen that Wes couldn't help asking him, "Have you even had sex before?"

"Depends on what you mean."

"Oh, God. How old are you?" Wes asked even though he really didn't want to know.

"I'm almost nineteen. And I'm not a virgin," he said looking offended at the accusation. "I just didn't know what kind of sex you meant. I never took it up the ass. I've done other stuff, but I only fucked two guys. One of them was OK. The other one was really hot. They both seemed to like it."

Wes felt disappointment wash over him. However much he wanted him, he couldn't have him. The years between them were almost Colin's whole life. Colin was just too young and inexperienced, not to mention desperate. And apparently the experience of thirty-four years hadn't taught Wes anything. How could he have been so blind? Colin's character was written on his face. He was completely transparent. Wes had deliberately blinded himself to all that because he wanted him more than anyone in a long time. And for three hundred bucks he thought he could have him.

Seeing how Wes reacted to his meager sexual history, Colin became a little defensive.

"Were you looking for a guy with lots of experience and you picked me? What do I look like?" Colin asked. "Do I look like a guy who fucks for money? Is that it? Because this other guy, Brad, he wanted me to do that. He said I was perfect for it. Is there something about me...?"

"No, no. Definitely not. You are just someone men want, and some aren't picky about how they get you. That's all. There's nothing about you that says you do it for money. Some men are just willing to take advantage of your desperation to get what they want. Men like me. Losers."

"Hey! You're not so bad."

"Let's call this off. I'll give you fifty bucks for your trouble. You can sleep here tonight. I'll buy you breakfast in the morning, and we'll go our separate ways. I hope you're not disappointed."

"I don't know. I'm not dying to be a prostitute."

"So the man you mentioned who wanted you to..."

"He said if I didn't, he'd kick me out," Colin told him.

"Then why did you agree to my offer?"

"You looked pretty good. I'd get to sleep indoors, and I need the money."

"How is that any different than what that man wanted from you?"

"I guess because it's someone like you and not some gross guy," Colin said with a shrug.

"You said I was a vampire."

"Sure, but you have that whole big, blond thing going for you. Your eyes are sort of... I don't know. There's something about your eyes. Whatever." He blushed. "Are you fishing for compliments? You're a good-looking guy. 'Nuff said." Then he thought of something. "Hey, how come you're paying for it? I mean. The way you look, you could just go out and get a guy."

"Even you?"

"Umm. Probably," Colin said and smirked.

"I guess I wanted to pretend I was being a good Samaritan while at the same time getting what I want."

"But you don't want me any more?"

"I do. But I don't want to corrupt you."

"Better you than someone else. If things don't turn around for me..." He looked really down just then.

"You have a place to stay for tonight. You have time to figure out tomorrow night. For now you can watch TV if you like. I'll be in my office, working," Wes told him.

As he left for his office, he saw Colin sit down and grab the remote off the coffee table. Wes had to take a few deep breaths once he was alone. He didn't know if he regretted what he almost did or that he didn't do it. When he took his libido out of the equation, he wasn't left with any doubts. Having seen enough relief on Colin's face, he knew he made the right decision. If he focused on that, he might even be able to concentrate on getting some work done. Before he could get to work, Wes remembered that he didn't offer Colin any food or drink. Wes went back to the living room to tell him to help himself to whatever he wanted from his understocked kitchen.

When Wes went in, he found Colin asleep. The TV was still off. The remote was loosely cradled in Colin's hand. Slumped over the arm rest, it was as if he had fallen asleep within seconds of sitting down. Wes first brought over a pillow and a blanket then he woke him up so he could lie down properly and maybe take off his shoes.

"Not yet," Colin pleaded, not willing to be woken up. With his shoes still on, he curled himself around the pillow, and Wes covered him up. The couch wasn't really big enough for him to fit on it comfortably, but that obviously didn't matter to a guy as tired as he was.

Wes worked late into the night, unable to go to sleep. Colin's soft snoring reminded him that he was right there within reach and off limits. While doing as much useful work as he could, Wes tried to keep himself from thinking about what he wanted to do to Colin. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't escape the knowledge that it would be wonderful to sink into his young flesh. Wes could see him writhe and buck under him. He could hear him moan and call his name. He could feel Colin strain upward, reaching for him, pulling him down for a thorough, wet kiss that would be stamped on Wes's memory forever.

Well past midnight last night, Wes had forced himself to go to bed even if all he did was lie there restless under the influence of visions of Colin. The next morning it was impossible to stay in bed. All night he had used his bed to turn and turn, and when his visions got the better of him, to find some relief in the tight circle of his fingers.

Though he kept his own hours and answered to no one, Wes always got up early. He expected to find Colin still asleep on his couch. Somehow that didn't prepare him for the reality of it. On coming into the living room, Wes stopped. The sight of Colin sleeping was startlingly beautiful. Wes felt like there should be a guard on duty to keep Colin safe from men like Wes.

To keep himself in check, Wes maintained a minimum safe distance as he went into the kitchen. He didn't even try to avert his eyes. That would have been impossible. As he stared, Wes felt like he was taking in what he saw, storing it away deep inside. One of Colin's legs was most of the way off the couch. His foot, clad only in a sock, dangled right above the floor. He must have taken off his shoes sometime during the night. His hands were stuck deep under the pillow and half his face was buried in it. His hair was slightly damp and plastered to his face. His mouth was hanging open reminding Wes of how he had snored lightly, just a low rumbling sound that Wes wouldn't mind having right next to his ear.

Wes turned away and started coffee. He got out the bread for toast then remembered he had promised to take Colin to breakfast so he put it away. Once the coffee started brewing, Colin blinked and groaned. It was clear how much he didn't want to wake up despite the inviting smell of fresh brewed coffee filling the air.

"Keep sleeping. It's not time for breakfast yet," Wes told him. It actually was time for breakfast, but Colin still looked so sleepy Wes decided to delay breakfast and do some work.

*

Once Colin found himself inside Wes's apartment, where it was warm and safe, he started to feel kind of heavy. He got knocked right out and all it took was sitting in a warm apartment on a comfortable couch. He found himself waking up in the pale gray light of early morning. A pillow was under his head and a blanket over him. Soft black leather was under his hand. Wes's deep, soothing voice had told him to keep sleeping. It sounded good to him, and he went back under.

The next time he woke up, Colin could tell it was much later. Streaming in through the big windows, the light was bright and crisp. In the daylight, the place looked only a little better. It was still bare and not lived in. Colin got the same impression as last night. This place and everything in it was still waiting for someone to move in and start living there.

From waking up before, Colin knew that Wes made coffee, but there was no sign that anyone used the kitchen at all. When Colin used the bathroom, he found it was impeccable. What kind of guy has a clean bathroom? That was unheard of. Wes was living here like a ghost. Colin took a quick whore's bath though he hadn't earned the name yet. He was tempted by that nice, clean shower, but to use it seemed like overstepping. From a total stranger, this was already a whole lot of hospitality. Remembering that he owed Wes at least a thank you, Colin went in search of him.

Seeing an open door, he poked his head in. On the first try Colin had found Wes's lair – his office. Sitting in front of three monitors in the corner of a built-in, black desk, Wes was busy at his computer. The desk ended in two tall shelves stuffed with binders, books, and computer equipment. There was a big, black filing cabinet and some boxes stacked next to it. Most importantly, this place was in full use.

"Now this is what I'm talking about," Colin said as he gestured around.

Startled, Wes turned to him and smiled vaguely at his outburst. "My office?"

"Yes, it is," Colin said. "And it looks normal. Like a human office."

"I guess it's time for breakfast," Wes said, getting up.

"It's almost ten," Colin pointed out. "Thanks for letting me sleep. I needed it."

"It was no trouble," Wes said as he got his shoes and jacket on.

Colin had his on already. He knew he was about to get thrown out. It was nice of Wes to follow through and take him to breakfast. Colin knew he hadn't earned it. He kind of wished he could do a little something to show his appreciation, but Wes seemed withdrawn, kind but all business. Wes was sending him a clear signal. It said "No longer interested."

Chapter 2

Next evening, Wes returned to Penny's Diner even though he liked to eat at a different place most nights to add variety to his life of routine. This time he had only one reason to go back so soon. And there he was. His reason for coming was stacking dirty plates onto a tray. Wes smiled. That was all the encouragement Colin needed to stop what he was doing and come over to his table.

"Do you have a place to sleep tonight?" Wes asked him.

"Are you going to make me another offer?" Colin asked with a self-satisfied grin.

"You can sleep over if you have nowhere else. That's my offer."

"This girl I know is talking to her roommate about letting me stay with them if I pay a little rent. I'm supposed to hear from her," Colin said and crossed the fingers of both hands.

"Good luck," Wes told him. He knew it was a better solution for him than another night at Wes's. It would be unconscionable to wish for Colin's friend to fail him.

Even if he didn't allow himself to make that wish, Wes still took his time with his BLT. Without fully acknowledging what he was doing, Wes watched Colin as he went in and out of the kitchen, doing his job, flashing a smile at the customers he knew. There was something almost clumsy about his movements. The way he picked up a glass or a plate wasn't quite fumbling, but it wasn't deft either. His fingers were long but not dexterous. He nearly collided with the waitresses twice. Wes admired how his body twisted so he could get out of their way. It was too easy to picture that body in bed, eager for his cock.

Wes looked down at his empty plate and ordered a lemon meringue pie so he would have an excuse to linger. The pie was still slightly frozen when it arrived, but Wes didn't mind. He didn't usually order dessert. Eating it reminded him of eating out with his grandparents in establishments that served dinner early, where he was often the only child. He remembered always being greeted by the waiters and waitresses in a special way. When the waitresses would ask about dessert, they would look from his grandparents to Wes. Then Wes would eat a piece of cake or pie while his grandparents only sipped coffee. Wes felt like he was recreating those moments with every mouthful of translucent lemon cream and foamy egg whites.

As the past threatened to pull him down, he looked up to break the spell. He sought out the sight of Colin as an antidote to the stuffy confinement of memories. Taking in Colin's broad shoulders, his swimmer's body, the curve of his mouth, his luminous eyes, Wes felt that everything oppressive was banished. Wes's own untasted youth was returned to him whenever those insinuating eyes were turned in his direction, and Colin winked at him.

Whenever Colin passed his table, he smiled at Wes, but not the last time. Wes obsessed over the reason Colin had looked more serious. Then he got his answer. Colin came by his table with the downcast look of a guy about to ask for a favor.

"No luck with Naomi's roommate. Is your offer still good?" Colin asked in a slightly gloomy voice. His eyes were hopeful though.

"Sure. Do you want me to wait for you?"

"No. I picked up two extra hours covering for someone. Can I meet you at your place?"

"OK." Wes felt his heart beating faster. How was it possible that he was more excited at the prospect of Colin coming over tonight than last time. Tonight there was no possibility that anything would happen. Wes had made an absolute decision about that. Colin was just going to sleep over like he did before, but Wes's heart had some ideas of its own. Despite Wes's decisions, it harbored its own unreasonable hopes and longings.

*

Colin had gotten his hopes up that Naomi would come through for him with an actual place to live. Now he stood in the lobby of Wes's apartment building, out of the cold which had been cutting right through his clothes. It was a winter night no doubt about it. Colin thought about that apartment upstairs. It was somehow snug and welcoming though at first it seemed sterile.

Colin passed up the elevator and made his way up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time. Everywhere he and Tim had lived since their parents died had been a dump – when they lived in that little hole of a place with noise and smells coming through the walls, with Uncle Hal, with that girl who latched onto Tim, and then with Brad. In those kinds of places, the elevators were either disgusting or gave someone the opportunity to corner and attack you. The second reason was why Tim told him never to use them. In Wes's building, the elevator was neither dirty nor dangerous, but Colin still took the stairs now that he was going up alone. It was only the ninth floor anyway.