Deke nodded, walked over to the polished mahogany bar and plopped onto a stool. At the moment, Val was at the far end, filling two glasses with champagne. As if feeling Deke’s presence, Val looked in his direction. When their eyes met, Deke couldn’t help but notice the man’s body tense. A stab of jealousy pierced his heart as a tall, nice-looking man gave Val a familiar smile and took one of the champagne flutes from Val’s hand. Could he be his exdom’s new lover?
He pushed the thought from his mind and concentrated on the speech he’d been preparing for days. God, this was going to be much harder than he’d anticipated. Val oozed sexuality and strength. Never more so than now. Deke had an overwhelming urge to bolt from the stool and reach out and touch that long, sable hair, run his hands over the ridged muscles of his chest. His white cotton shirt was open at the neck, but Deke didn’t need it to be to remember the feel and scent of his skin. What a damn fool he had been.
He drew a deep breath and thought of his mother’s words that afternoon. Thank God, she accepted that he was gay. “You’re no longer a child, Deke. Be a man, tell Val you made a mistake and you want him back,” she had said. With that in mind, he commandeered his courage as Val walked toward him.
Deep, blue eyes looked into his. “How goes it, Deke?”
Val’s familiar, rich voice sent Deke’s heart into triple beats. The room stilled and Deke had the feeling everyone was watching them. “Good, fine.”
“I see you got my invitation. What are you drinking tonight?”
“Huh? Oh, nothing for me, thanks.” Deke ducked his head to avoid Val’s curious gaze. “Things aren’t good; I’m not fine. Can I talk to you . . . in private?” There was a long pause during which Deke held his breath.
“What would we have to talk about? It’s all been said.”
“No, it hasn’t. At least not on my part. Two minutes, Val, that’s all I ask.”
Val leaned back against a large wall mirror. Long minutes later, he walked out from behind the bar and stood in front of Deke. “Two minutes, outside.”
Thank goodness for the temperate weather in St. Louis this time of year. No snow, sleet or rain in the last month, and even the nights only required a lightweight jacket. By the time they walked outside, Deke’s courage wavered like the flickering lamplight in the front yard.
Val broke the ice. “How’s it going at the radio station?”
“Okay, we’ve been busy as usual. How are the restaurants doing?” All three of Val’s restaurants were located in St. Louis’ prestigious downtown neighborhood and every one financially lucrative.
“Busier than hell this week with Valentine’s Day reservations.”
Deke watched his lips move as he spoke and before he knew it, he closed the short distance between them and covered his mouth with his. In an instant, his cock grew hard. Val didn’t try to stop him, but he didn’t respond like he normally did either.
Moments later, Val pushed him back. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Apologizing, trying to show you I made a mistake.”
Val’s brows drew together with a scowl. “You think it’s that easy. You just come waltzing into my restaurant after a month of not talking to me and kiss me?”
“That you could fuck someone else and I’d be here waiting?”
“No, please, Val, I made a mistake. It wasn’t about him; it was about . . . about my fear.”
“Fear of me?”
Deke expelled a long sigh. “No, I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know I did what I did because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough for you. I thought you deserved someone who willingly . . . .”
“Are you shitting me? You cheated because you believed you weren’t making me happy; you weren’t good enough for me?”
Deke nodded. He felt Val’s rage in the space that separated their bodies. This was going to be much harder than he’d imagined. Even if Val gave him another chance, which was doubtful, Deke would have to prove once and for all he could take whatever the man dished out.
Deke closed the distance between them again. “I’m asking for one more chance. I won’t ever hurt you again.”
Val stared at him and pushed a long lock of hair from his forehead. When his blue eyes narrowed, Deke almost dropped to his knees and begged. “Why should I believe you wouldn’t cheat again?”
Stammering like a school boy, he said, “I’ll prove it, do anything you ask.”
“Yes.” His heart thudded. “Whatever it takes to have you back again.”
“Your punishment will be severe.”
Deke swallowed. Hard. “I expect it to be. I can take it; just let me come home with you.”
Val grabbed his shirt and sent the buttons flying as he ripped it apart.
“We’re meant for one another and you know it,” Deke whispered. “Let me show you it can work.”
“You trust me not to hurt you after everything that’s happened?”
“I trust you. If those old feelings of vulnerability surface, I’ll tell you right off, I promise.”
“One thing I don’t understand, Deke. You always had a safe word. If you were so afraid, why didn’t you use it?”
“You wouldn’t understand. You’re not a submissive, Val, you’re a dom, through and through. I felt weak, and I hated myself for being scared. I thought if I talked to you about it, you’d dump me in a heartbeat and find a more experienced sub.”
“Jesus, Deke. I could search the world over and not find another like you.”
Deke traced Val’s bottom lip with his thumb. “You mean it? You’re willing to work on this?”
“With two conditions.”
“Tell me. What?”
“If I ever find out you’ve cheated on me again, the rage you saw before will be minor in comparison.”
“What’s the second condition?”
“I don’t ever want to know his name, don’t want to know anything about him.”
Deke crossed his heart. “Agreed. Punish me and let’s be done with it, never talk about it again.”
“I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.”
Val placed his hand on Deke’s crotch and rubbed his cock. “I’ll let Geoff know we won’t be returning to the party, and I have to find someone to take my place behind the bar.”
“Tonight, we find out if you can trust me completely. If so, I’ll do everything I can to keep you. If not, we agree that we both move on.”
BUY VALENTINE'S VINDICATION HERE: Noble Romance