Her gaze narrowed as she slumped against the couch cushions. “You screwed up, didn’t you?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t screw up. You know damn well I’m in no position to date.”
Dana’s eyes popped. “Whoa on there, handsome. Don’t you dare put words in my mouth.”
“Our mouths,” Carly piped up. “And yeah, what she said.”
Dana arched an eyebrow. “We know no such thing. There’s no reason you can’t date….”
For fuck’s sake. “We’ve been over this. There’s a million reasons—”
“Hey.” She stabbed a finger at me. “I’m talking here, which means you shouldn’t be. Got it?”
Jesus Christ. Save me from stroppy women with protective instincts the size of fucking Australia and mouths to match. I shut up.
Dana’s expression softened. “You know we love you, right?”
I felt a “but” coming and nodded anyway.
“And we would never say anything to hurt you, right?”
Oh yeah. Definitely a “but.”
“But you have Crohn’s disease, not bloody end-stage terminal cancer, you dipshit.”
And there it was.
“Other people with equally vicious chronic illnesses manage to have a life and even a family. Get over yourself and give people a chance.”
“Easy for you to say,” I bit back. “When was the last time either of you turned down a date because there wasn’t a close enough bathroom on that romantic walk along the beach or that invigorating bush hike? Or because you were in too much pain that day or simply too fucking exhausted, or knew you couldn’t eat any of the food at the restaurant he wanted to take you to and rada, rada, rada?
“When did you last have to explain that you didn’t want to stay over because you currently needed to sleep on towels for the night sweats? Or even worse, explain in advance the possibility of an inconvenient ‘accident’ that might happen at any time but especially during sex and especially during a flare-up. Not to mention that any sex at all might be off the table for weeks or even months at a time if things got really bad. A real selling point, that one.
“And what about how all of that might just put a downer on any and all dating, let alone your libido and sexy times in general. Not to mention the being gay part, where that particular piece of anatomy is kind of a crucial component in sex and means needing to have these conversations pretty damn early while being scared shitless you’ll frighten the guy off.
“What if he’s a preferential top, and I can’t bottom for him as often as he’d like, let alone as often as I’d like, if at all. Jesus, guys, do you have any idea what it feels like to finally take a chance on someone you really like and then watch their attraction to you dissolve into distaste and a million other excuses to clear the fuck out of it because they can’t deal with your disease? ‘Don’t call me, I’ll call you.’ Do you?
“It takes all the energy I have to get through an average day without adding a ton of relationship angst to the pot, and hey, I’m one of the lucky ones. My Crohn’s mostly sits in the mild to moderate range. I’ve pretty much lived in remission over the last ten years with only a few major flare-ups but who knows when that will change, like last weekend for instance after ‘you know who’ fucking arrested me.”
I ran out of steam and an awkward silence rushed to fill the vacuum. Carly shuffled in her seat, picking at a thread on her cushion, but Dana’s level gaze never wavered once from mine.
“I take it there’s a point in there somewhere?” she asked benignly, keeping a straight face. “I mean, far be it from me to interrupt you on a roll.”
I stared at her for a few seconds, then snorted and shook my head. “Jesus Christ, woman, come here.” I pulled her over for a hug and buried my face in her shoulder. “God, I love you guys,” I said, my voice rough with emotion. Seconds later, Carly joined in the hug from the side.
And I did love them. God knows most people didn’t want to even mention my Crohn’s other than offer helpful “suggestions” they’d read somewhere or seen on television or the internet, as if I hadn’t researched that fucker to death over the last ten years. But these two women not only accepted and talked openly about it, they called me on my shit as well, pun fully intended.
And it wasn’t like I didn’t know I was being a fucking scared rabbit about the whole dating thing, it was just that living with this bloody disease was bad enough without being rejected by guys again and again because of it. Better to not want and wonder, better to put a lid on that shit fast. Easier all around.
It’s not that Dana and Carly were ignorant of what Crohn’s had cost me. Hell, they lived with the impact of it on my life on a day-to-day basis, covering for me when I was too sick to move and couldn’t make my appointments. If anyone had a right to front me, they did.
Dana pulled back, her eyes red-rimmed and wet. She reached for the ever-present box of Kleenex always on my table and helped herself to a fistful. “We don’t mean to be jerks,” she apologised, glancing back at Carly, who nodded in agreement. “We know you’ve been dealt a crap hand. God, those fucking puns.” She laughed and pressed a kiss to my cheek. “But you’re too damn good to put yourself on a shelf. You deserve a real life and a guy who’s gonna love everything about you.” She sat back down and eyed me seriously. “You do know that, right?”
Did I? I wasn’t sure I could even afford to entertain the possibility. I wiped her damp cheek with my thumb. “Maybe. I’m just not sure I’ll survive another disappointment like Jared. Walking out like he did nearly fucking killed me. You know that, you were both there. I was in hospital for two months.”
To be honest I didn’t totally blame Jared. Hell, I’d walk out on me too, if I had the choice. Still, I’d genuinely loved him, and we’d been together for nearly two years before he left, though to be fair I’d been in remission for the first eighteen months of that so he didn’t really know what he’d signed up for. But then I was hit with a major flare-up, and one too many cancelled dinners and a life that revolved around my health was suddenly more than he could deal with.
It hurt like fuck at the time and the flare-up, coupled with Jared’s rejection, sent me into a depressive tailspin that had taken some deep digging to get me out in one piece. Little wonder I’d given up on dating. Was I lonely? Fuck, yeah, I could admit that now. But Grindr and the odd hookup when I was well enough ticked enough boxes to keep me going… most days anyway. Not that I’d even done that in a long while.
A Digging Deep Story
Drake Park has a complicated life. As a gay male midwife, he’s used to raising eyebrows. Add Crohn’s disease and things get interesting—or not, considering the sad state of his love life. Experience has taught Drake that most men are fair-weather sailors when it comes to handling his condition—gone for dust when things get rough. Staying healthy is a full-time job without adding in any heartbreak, so a little loneliness is a small price to pay. If he says it often enough he might even believe it. One thing for sure, the cop who arrested him isn’t about to change that.
Caleb Ashton does not have a complicated life. A senior detective with the Whangarei Police Department, he likes his job and is good at it. He works hard and plays hard, happy to enjoy as many men as he can while he’s still young enough—or at least he was. These days he feels adrift for the first time in his life, and the only thing sparking his interest—a certain prickly young midwife.
But can Drake find enough faith to risk opening his heart again? And does Caleb have what it takes to cope with the challenges Drake’s condition presents?
Jay Hogan is a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, romantic suspense and fantasy. She has travelled extensively and has lived in quite a few countries. She has a BA degree in Nursing and in Theology, and in another life, she was an Intensive Care Nurse, Counselor, and a Lecturer.
She is a cat aficionado especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook- pretty damn good, loves to sing – pretty damn average, and as for loving full-time writing -absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging her characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand and how much coffee she’s had.
She has complex boys telling stories in her head that demand attention and a considerable number of words to go with them. Their journeys are never straightforward and even surprise Jay. She does her best to plot things out ahead of time but those pesky characters seem to have a mind of their own. Go figure.
You can find Jay at:
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