“How can you do this to me?” Danny says, his nostrils flaring.
“I—” I don’t know what to say, but he cuts me off anyway.
“How can you even think about participating in that bachelor thing?” He pounds a fist on the dining table and goes on. “I understand that we can’t be together openly, that I can’t be your boyfriend in public, but now you’re pretending to be interested in dating women?” The muscles in his forearms quiver as he leans on the table to support himself. “Do you realize that you will have to go out with them? Pretend to be interested in them? On camera? Are you going to flaunt them in my face? How do you think that will make me feel? Do you even care about my feelings?” His face is beet red as he finishes.
“No, Tyler, now it’s my turn to speak. God knows I’ve been patient enough. It’s either me or that Romkey thing.” He turns his back to me, breathing heavily.
I try to swallow the lump in my throat, but it doesn’t go away. Instead, pain shoots through my whole body and my insides constrict. My throat is as narrow as a drinking straw, making it impossible to breathe, and my chest is ready to explode.
I can’t lose him. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. I. Cannot. Lose. Him. And I won’t. No. Not going to happen. Not even over my dead body. There has to be a way out of this.
I hate that I have to participate in this marketing nonsense as much as he does. He’s right, he shouldn’t have to put up with all the secrecy and the hiding. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to keep our relationship a secret. But we’re not living in an ideal world.
I want to kill the person responsible for this “Romkey” disaster. What kind of name is that anyway? Romkey: “Romance your hockey hottie.” Who comes up with shit like that?
“Danny, please don’t do this to me. I love you.” My heart is racing. I do love him. With all my heart. He’s my light. But I can’t risk my career. Not even for him.
Or can I?
“What does playing hockey have to do with a reality show participation?”
Good question. One I’d love to ask the team’s GM myself, but it’s not as if my opinion counts.
“It’s what the team owner wants.” Sweat trickles down my neck. My arguments are weak and I know it. I’m a coward whenever the words “come” and “out” are even uttered. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and I don’t want to risk my career. But I can’t lose Danny either.
What a fucking mess.
How did we even end up here? Things had been going well between us. I had told Danny several times that I couldn’t acknowledge him openly, and he agreed… at least until now.
There is no such thing as an openly gay hockey player. Maybe one will come out in the future, but I doubt I’ll still be playing then, and I refuse to be the league’s guinea pig.
Officials try to create a homo-friendly image, and the teams have signed nondiscrimination agreements, but hockey as I know it is not and probably never will be a gay-friendly sport. Public opinion would have to change in general for that to happen. Too many idiots are still around who could never accept a gay player in this manly sport. They are unable to accept that a man can love another man and be a badass hockey player at the same time.
Some of my teammates would have a hard time dealing with a gay man in the locker room too, which would make for awkward situations. I could probably deal with them in the long term. The biggest problem would still be the fanbase and the homophobes among them. They may be the minority, but even a few people could, and possibly would, make my life a living hell on and off the ice.
Danny and I have often talked about this, and so far, we’ve always been of one mind regarding this matter. Not only did Danny want to protect me and my career, but he also tried to protect himself. There’s no way of predicting what our life would turn into after a public coming out. I highly doubt I’d be the only one harassed by media and fans.
Am I selfish for not wanting to risk my career? I’ve busted my balls to make it to the NHL and still hustle every day to maintain my place. The NHL is not a bed of roses—well, perhaps one with thorns.
Am I selfish for living my dream? How many people can honestly say they love what they do for a living?
I love hockey, always have and always will, but I also love Danny with all my heart. Up to this point, I didn’t think I’d have to choose between the things I love most in life, or that the choice would be taken away from me, but I’m not so sure anymore. I had planned to play another five years in the NHL, make enough money to have a decent life afterward and live openly with Danny after my career is over. But if Danny doesn’t want to wait anymore… is my career worth losing him?
“What about what I want?” Danny turns toward me with lips tightly pressed together.
“I’m not exactly given a choice, Dan. All the single guys are practically being forced to participate. And unless I magically produce a girlfriend, I cannot avoid this.” Those are the hard facts. The team owner is desperate, and with ticket sales dropping, he’s willing to introduce drastic measures. “Most of us don’t want to participate, but we weren’t exactly asked. The marketing team is trying to expand the female fanbase. I’d only have to go on a few dates. Nothing will come out of this. I don’t want a girlfriend. I only want you.” I reach for him, but he steps back.
“It’s one thing to hide our relationship but another to pretend you’re heterosexual.” He puts his chin forward, and a muscle in his jaw twitches. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” He heads for the door, leaving me alone in the living room.
My limbs feel like they’re made of steel, pulling me to the ground as I watch him go. I slump down on the couch and bury my head in my hands. What the hell is happening? We’ve managed to keep our relationship a secret for almost two years now. It hasn’t been easy, and certainly won’t be easy in the future, but it has been the happiest time of my life so far. This can’t be the end of it.
I’ll give him some space now. He needs some time to think this through. In the meantime, I need to come up with a solution. He’ll expect at least a compromise, and I can’t blame him. He deserves so much more.
Possibly I’ll have to organize a fake girlfriend—an aspiring model or actress to flaunt on my arm. I can even use Romkey as an explanation for my sudden need for a girlfriend. I’m sure my agent knows how to organize that kind of thing.
Until now, I didn’t want a fake girlfriend out of fear the girl would guess my sexuality. Neither Danny nor I have female friends we’d trust with our secret. Hell, even our families don’t know about us—not that I have any left. But now I have the perfect excuse for why I need a woman on my side.
I still don’t want a fake girlfriend, but if having one saves my relationship, I’m willing to try. I’m not sure whether I’m a good enough actor to pull it off convincingly, though. Women simply don’t do it for me, and at the thought of having to spend time with an empty-headed beauty, the hair lifts at the back of my neck.
I sigh deeply. I’m getting nowhere tonight, and tomorrow is game day. I need to sleep, but I dread going to the bedroom, sure that Danny won’t be sleeping next to me tonight. He occasionally uses “his” room, the room we only keep for pretense, when we argue.
Sleep doesn’t come to me during the night, and I’m severely tempted to join Danny in the guest room several times, but that won’t help the situation, not until I come up with a magic solution. Instead, I count sheep and go through game strategy until it’s time to get up at 6:30 a.m.
My legs are shaky, and my stomach feels rock hard. A hell of a day awaits me.
Over the years, I’ve developed a strict game-day routine. My breakfast consists of scrambled eggs and toast, accompanied by a big bowl of fruit and a steaming cup of tea, preferably a classic blend of Earl Grey. After breakfast, I take a long, hot shower followed by a carefully developed routine of stretches to loosen up my muscles and prepare my body for the game.
Morning skate usually commences at ten, and I try to be at the rink at least an hour in advance. Putting on the equipment and preparing the sticks takes time, and again, I don’t want to rush in the morning. The training is followed by lunch with the team and pregame meetings with the coaching staff. Afterward, I have time for a short nap, and then things pick up—final team meeting, warm-up (we usually kick a soccer ball around), put on the gear, go on the ice. Showtime.
But today isn’t a typical day. With a groan, I flip over on my back, placing a hand over my eyes. Yesterday’s fight flashes before my eyes. We’ve had similar arguments before over the last couple of months but always managed to make up before going to bed.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I have to fix this. At once.
I jump out of bed and go to the bathroom. The aroma of coffee lingers in the hallway, and tears well up behind my eyelids as relief washes over me. Danny has already made coffee. I brace myself entering the hallway and pause in the doorframe to the living room, taking in the scene in front of me.
Danny is sitting at the kitchen counter with a mug of steaming coffee in front of him, typing something on his phone. Sunlight pours in from the window behind him, giving his skin a golden glow.
Since he still hasn’t realized my presence, I take the time to look at him. He’s an extremely handsome man with his thick light brown hair and high cheekbones. I’m a lucky bastard having him in my life. Not only is he one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen, but he has a heart of gold as well. I love him. I love him so freaking much, and I can’t stand to lose him. I have to make this right. Somehow.
Finally sensing my presence, his green eyes meet mine. For a moment, we only stare at each other. I can see the same emotions I feel flicker in his eyes—love, despair, hurt, anger, and uncertainty.
“I—” we start to say at the same time, then both stop abruptly. Usually we’d laugh, as this happens quite often to us, but we’re both too insecure after our fight.
“Let me,” I blurt, not wanting him to say something. It’s up to me to straighten things out.
Danny nods and leans forward.
“I love you, Danny.” I look directly into his eyes. He opens his mouth again, and I quickly add, “No, please let me finish. I don’t want to hurt you. That’s the last thing I ever want to do to you, and I know I hurt your feelings gravely yesterday. I hate our current situation as much as you do. I hate that we fight. I hate that you didn’t spend last night lying next to me, that I couldn’t hold you in my arms.”
Danny leaves the kitchen counter and walks over to me, but I’m not finished yet.
“You’re my everything, and I hate that we can’t tell the world you’re mine. That we can’t live openly together. I hate that I can’t even touch you in public, kiss you for everyone to see. I hate that I have to pretend to be single, and I hate that whole Romkey thing more than you do. But I don’t see a way out other than getting myself a fake girlfriend, and I thought we’d already agreed that wasn’t an option?”
He waits until I’m done talking and then takes my face in his hands, his big palms framing my cheeks. For a few seconds, he looks me deep in the eyes; then he touches his forehead to mine, and neither of us moves. Heat evaporates from his body, and my nose is infiltrated with his aftershave mixed with his very own musky smell. I inhale deeply, and the familiarity of it makes the pent-up tension leave my body.
“I love you too. I missed you so much last night, I couldn’t sleep at all.”
“I missed you too.”
Our mouths are only inches apart, and the air moves over mine when he speaks. He leans even closer, whispering against my lips. “I love you so much, Tyler, sometimes it nearly kills me. You’re my world. I don’t want to fight either.” Then he touches his lips to mine. The contact is soft. At first, I can barely feel his. It’s like we’re reacquainting our mouths again with each other. Then he repeats the touch. Again and again. Just the barest of contact.
I let him take his time and enjoy our connection. I’ve never felt closer to anyone, and I don’t think I ever will.
His hands move to the back of my head, kneading my hair. Finally he pulls me in for a deep kiss, tasting me, making me his.
His lips are soft as he kisses me deeply, adding pressure and persistence gradually. He nips on my lower lip, sucking it in his mouth, caressing it with his tongue, and I moan helplessly. He knows what I need. I can already feel the heat rushing through my veins, and my dick twitches.
“I need you.” Pulling away for a moment, I stare into his eyes before I grab him again and draw him against me completely this time. The sensation of his bare chest against mine instantly turns my semi into a full hard-on.
I let my hands roam his back, my fingertips touching smooth skin and strands of well-trained muscles. He moans as I scratch his back with my fingernails.
“Like that?” I ask, though I already know the answer. I know my man and what he needs. His dick hardens against mine when I grind my hips against his, practically dry humping him. We’re both breathing heavily now. I pull my mouth away from his and trace a wet path down his neck, stopping at his collarbone to suck on the thin skin.
“Tyler,” he gasps, his voice sounding husky and strained.
“Tell me what you need.” I kiss my way from one collarbone to the other. Instead of answering, he pushes my head down to one of his nipples. “Good choice.”
I lick around his nipple, teasing it with the tip of my tongue, which earns me another low moan. Danny’s nipples are highly sensitive. I can get him off most of the time only by sucking hard on them while giving him a light hand job. But that’s not what I have in mind this minute.
“Suck it,” he practically begs me. I comply and give each nipple a long, hard suck. A shudder runs through his body, and he tries to rub his dick on my thigh.
“Oh no, you’re not coming yet.”
I let my lips trail down his body until I kneel in front of him with my mouth pressed against his groin and inhale his musky scent.
I smile at his plea and pull down his boxers.
When I have them halfway down, his dick pops out and slaps against his belly before I can grab the shaft, and his breathing stops for a moment. I don’t give him time to adjust before I massage his long erection lightly.
“More. Please. More.” Danny squirms against my hands, but I keep my strokes light, barely touching him. I’m driving him crazy, and I know it. His orgasm is going to be epic. I love the power I have over him. And I love that he lets me do as I please.
“Ty.” His voice is strained now. Looking up, I take in his open mouth and half-shut eyes. Without further warning, I take his dick deep in my mouth and suck it.
“Fuck,” he screams, grabbing my head as his knees buckle. I suck him again greedily, taking his dick even farther down my throat. Danny moans and pulls my hair while his cock pulsates uncontrollably in my mouth. I keep working him, and his groans mingle with the popping sound his dick creates in my wet mouth as it slides in and out with increasing speed. He thrusts his hips forward, and I have to push him back with my hand to avoid him sliding too far down my throat. There’s only so much I can take. I suck again and let my tongue whirl around his shaft, and he shoots his load down my throat. I swallow the salty fluid, sucking him until he has nothing left while his hands caress my head.
He shudders again when I lick him clean and holds his hands tightly pressed on my head, practically leaning onto me. I take in his flushed face and relaxed features. He’s beautiful. And I won’t let him go. I smile at him when he finally opens his eyes.
“Come here.” He pulls me up against him, and I lean in for a lingering kiss. Time stands still again, and the world outside with all its problems ceases to exist.
With a sigh, I finally pull away. A glance at the kitchen clock confirms what I’ve already suspected. “I need to shower and prepare for tonight. Go to bed and sleep.”
“Want me to return the favor before?” He stares down at my erection.
“Not before the game. But I’m going to collect tonight.” I place a soft kiss on his forehead and shove him in the direction of the master bedroom.
He smiles shyly at me. “Tonight, then.”
So much for an easygoing morning. I’ll have to rush now. But for Danny, I can do that.
Nothing has been resolved yet, but we’ll make this work. No matter what.