Title: Can’t Live Without You
Author: Andrew Grey
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Sept 12 2016
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print
Justin Hawthorne worked hard to realize his silver-screen dreams, making his way from small-town Pennsylvania to Hollywood and success. But it hasn’t come without sacrifice. When Justin’s father kicked him out for being gay, George Miller’s family offered to take him in, but circumstances prevented it. Now Justin is back in town and has come face to face with George, the man he left without so much as a good-bye… and the man he’s never stopped loving.
Justin’s disappearance hit George hard, but he’s made a life for himself as a home nurse and finds fulfillment in helping others. When he sees Justin again, George realizes the hole in his heart never mended, and he isn’t the only one in need of healing. Justin needs time out of the public eye to find himself again, and George and his mother cannot turn him away. As they stay together in George’s home, old feelings are rekindled. Is a second chance possible when everything George cares about is in Pennsylvania and Justin must return to his career in California? First they’ll have to deal with the reason for Justin’s abrupt departure all those years ago.
Heavy footsteps sounded from behind him. Justin turned. “Georgie?” Justin said half under his breath, unable to believe what he was seeing. “Is that you?” His heart leaped for a second but then settled as the new reality overshadowed the old memories that seeing George had brought rushing back.
“Justin,” George said in disbelief. “He told me he’d asked the doctor to call you.” He came closer to the bed. “That was the last he spoke yesterday. Since then he’s been still, and he hasn’t opened his eyes.”
“What happened?” Justin asked.
“He had a stroke a year ago and then a heart attack last week. Since then there’s been a series of small incidents. They aren’t calling them strokes, but that’s what they act like. It’s been up and down.” George stood next to him. “They said there’s only a slight chance he’ll regain consciousness now.”
So he hadn’t made it in time. Not that Justin had been expecting anything. “Why are you here with him?”
“I’ve been taking care of your dad. I’m a home health care nurse, and after his heart attack he needed care, so I was called in.”
“I bet that was uncomfortable,” Justin said.
“Yes, it was at first. He didn’t want to let me in the house, so I told him that was fine. He could sit in his chair and starve to death while he wet himself or he could let me in to help him. The old coot unlocked the door but refused to talk to me for a week.”
“That sounds like him. Ignore what you don’t like and maybe it will go away, no matter how good for you it may be.” Justin kept his gaze on his father, hoping he’d open those damned eyes of his and say something to correct them, but of course he remained still.
“He’s a stubborn ass if I ever saw one. But I took care of him, and eventually he opened up a little. Believe it or not, we became friends of a sort.” George walked to the far side of the bed and checked the pillows as well as the monitors. “He’s stable at the moment, but that’s all anyone can say right now.”
Justin nodded. “Has he ever said anything about…?” God, this was so fucking hard. He wanted to shake his father and ask him what in the hell possessed him to turn his back on his only child. Justin had only been honest with his father, something he had always told him was one of the most important things a man could be, and then he’d rejected Justin for doing exactly that.
“No. We talked about many things, but that day you left wasn’t one of them,” George said.
“He threw me out of the house,” Justin said. “I told him who I was, and he turned his back on me.” He stepped away from the bed and put his hands on his hips. “What I don’t understand is how you can defend him in any way. After what happened… what he did… to me… to us.”
“Yes, I know what he did. He kicked you out because he couldn’t understand how his only son could be gay. But he didn’t do anything to us. I was willing to stand by you through anything. You’re the one who left, remember? You said good-bye and were out of town like a shot.”
Justin lifted his gaze, looking across the bed to George. “There was….” He’d been so young, and people in town had sided with his father and turned their backs on him as well. “I didn’t have a future here, remember? I asked you to come with me.”
George nodded slowly. “You did. But I couldn’t.”
“You still had a family and people who loved you here. I didn’t have that any longer.”
“You had me,” George said. “That should have been enough. But it wasn’t. I know now that something else was calling you away. You had things you had to do, and I wasn’t enough to keep you here. I understand that.” George took a deep breath and grew quiet.
Justin took a few seconds to study the man who had been his first love. His eyes were the same—big, thoughtful, caring, and stunning, with green flecks in a clear blue-sky background. The rest of his face was older but still much the same, his features seemingly carved out of marble. The George he remembered had been lithe and fast, but he’d filled out and was wider and stronger now. A man, where in his memories George had always remained on the cusp of adulthood, with a hint of the boy that was gone now.
“We were so young,” Justin said. “I don’t know if I realized that then or not. We had our whole lives ahead of us, and so many dreams….”
“Justin?” his father whispered. His eyes were still closed, but his lips moved slowly. “Is that you?”
“Yes,” he answered, pushing back the memories of confusion that talking about that time in his life always brought up. “I got a call from your doctor.”
“You came.” His eyes fluttered open. Justin looked into his father’s eyes. They were cloudy, and he didn’t know if his father really saw him or not. “I’m glad you did.” He lifted his hand, and when Justin came closer, his father trailed his fingers down his arm until he found Justin’s hand, then curled his fingers lightly around Justin’s. “Thank you.”
“I’m going to die.”
“They told me,” Justin said.
“At the end….” Justin had to strain to hear him. His father paused and his eyes closed. “We see the mistakes we made….” He took another breath, and his features tensed in pain and then relaxed. “In life. And we sometimes get a second chance.” He released Justin’s fingers. “You came,” he repeated twice more, and then his features went slack, the pain leaving him completely along with his last breath of life. The last touch of his fingers fell away. A nurse came in and silenced the machines around him, leaving the room quiet.
Justin took a final look at his father, trying to reconcile his last words with his actions years before and coming up empty. He wanted to think that his father had known remorse for what he’d done. But he refused to believe that some sort of deathbed “I’m sorry” could make up for his father’s rejection at a time when Justin had needed him most. He backed away from the bed and turned to leave the room.
“Will you be staying in town for very long?” George asked.
“I don’t know. Do you know if he made any arrangements?” Justin didn’t dare look at his father, so he watched George. Making funeral arrangements for a father who had disowned him wasn’t a task he was looking forward to.
“Yes. Everything is done. All I have to do is call the funeral home, and they will know what to do.” George came around the bed to where Justin stood. “He wanted to have everything planned and done. The only unfinished business he kept talking about was you.”
“Then why didn’t he call? He could have reached out a long time ago,” Justin said. His father was dead. Anything said or unsaid was in the past now, he knew that. But he still had questions in light of what George was telling him.
“Would you have accepted his call?” George asked seriously.
“I don’t know. He had the number. He could have used it. But he didn’t until he knew he was dying, and then he was looking for some sort of forgiveness. I don’t know if I can give that to him.” The pain of having his family ripped away was too damn much even now.
“But in the end you came, and that’s what he wanted most of all.”
Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing) He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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