E.E. Montgomery’s Just The Way You Are
E.E. Montgomery is back today to talk about the fourth book in her Just Life series. She also wrote a nice bonus scene that you can only find here. I’m very excited to read Just The Way You Are, and I hope you get excited about the book as well. Read all about the book, plus an excerpt that will wrench your heart and make you want to know how Jonathan heals. At the very bottom enter for a chance to win one copy of each of the first three books in the series.
Jonathan fidgeted in his seat. His suit jacket pulled across his shoulders. He knew it wasn’t actually pulling but he hadn’t worn anything other than T-shirts and hoodies for months and the tailored fit felt restrictive. He shifted again only to have Ben’s hand land gently on his knee. As usual, the instant Ben touched him, he calmed. He took a breath and focused on the important things.
The room was small but airy. There were a lot more people here than Jonathan had expected, with several standing against the walls to the side and along the back behind the last row of seats. Lorraine sat two rows in front and on the other side of the aisle. Her hair was still styled in the long bob she favored. It was still dark, but a thin line of silver shone at the parting. She wore a floral dress, the brightly colored flowers sparking off the dark background as if they were lights blooming from black night. The dress was one of Col’s favorites. Jonathan wore a red tie because Col’s favorite color was red. Lorraine wasn’t crying. She was calm, appeared almost at peace with the day, but the ravages of the last few months were clear in the new deep lines gouged into her cheeks and the dark sleepless shadows beneath her eyes. He couldn’t see the shadows from where he was but knew they were there, just as they’d been there ever since Col went into the home.
The room fell silent and Jonathan realized he hadn’t heard a word the funeral director had been saying. Ben tapped his thigh and removed his hand. Jonathan stood, sidled out of the row, and walked to the front. He was supposed to go to the lectern but decided at the last moment to stand next to Col. He smiled at the flowers on the coffin, the same colors as the flowers in Lorraine’s dress.
Ben smiled at him. Lorraine tried to. He took a deep breath, and began.
“I didn’t know Col for long. I didn’t even know him that well so I don’t have any wonderful stories to tell. When I met Col, the disease had already taken hold of him. He came at me with a scowl on his face and told me he hoped I didn’t have a dog because he hated killing dogs.” There was a gasp and Jonathan was sure everyone was thinking he was the worst kind of person to remind them what Col had been like toward the end. He looked at Lorraine and caught her smile.
“Lorraine has told me what Col was like before the disease took him, and I’m sorry I didn’t know that man. He sounds like he enjoyed every moment of his life with Lorraine and their children. I wanted to speak today to share with you the man I knew.” The sea of faces looked expectant, but some bordered on anger, ready to shut him down if he said anything that was more out of place than the dog comment. “Col helped me move into my apartment. He was methodical and organized, and showed care for everything he touched. I could see, regardless of the things that terrible disease made come out of his mouth, Col was a gentle man.”
He took a deep breath and shifted on his feet, looked at Lorraine. “Then I saw him with Lorraine. If he heard her name, he immediately looked for her. As soon as he saw her, his face lit up. Even toward the end, when his brain wouldn’t let him respond in any other way, he just needed to feel Lorraine near him to calm and breathe more easily. She was his light, his beacon showing the way. She was his deep water, calm and still. She was the one who brought meaning to his life and joy to his heart.” Sniffles echoed in the room. Someone at the back blew their nose loudly.
Jonathan smiled at Lorraine. “Lorraine tells me she did nothing of the sort. She says Col did all of that for her.” Jonathan cleared his throat and blinked back the tears. “It was Col, and his love for his wife—his soul mate, the love of his life—that showed me how life could be. Without Col and Lorraine, I wouldn’t have known love that deep and enduring could exist. I have had a glimpse at something pure and rare.” He held Lorraine’s gaze, noting the tears tracking down her cheeks unchecked. “Something everlasting.”
He stepped toward Lorraine and spoke more softly. “I’m glad you had forty-two years with your Col, Lorraine, and I’m sorrier than I can say, that you didn’t get more.”
Lorraine surged up out of her seat and launched herself at Jonathan. He bent to gather her close, noting how small she suddenly seemed with Col gone. She sobbed into his shirt but managed to calm herself after a few minutes. He wiped the worst of the tears away with his hands as she smile tremulously at him.
“Thank you for allowing me into your life,” he said. “Thank you for letting me get to know both you and Col.” He kissed her forehead and hugged her again before leading her back to her seat between her children.
They were walking back to the car after the interment, Ben’s hand warm and solid in his, when Jonathan stopped and looked around the cemetery. The wide, sweeping lawns were divided by narrow roads that formed a giraffe pattern over the sloping land. Tall gum trees and callistemon were planted in clumps to provide shade and dampen the noise from the nearby freeway. Crows cawed in the rippling heat. Jonathan took a deep breath and smiled.
“I’ve been remembering a few things from my childhood,” he said quietly, leaning into Ben when he shifted and brought his arms around Jonathan’s waist. “I haven’t thought of my parents from before the accident for a long time. I’ve tried not to, before now.”
“Are they good memories?” asked Ben.
Jonathan looked up at the bright blue sky and breathed deeply of the eucalypt air. “The best.” He straightened and they continued the walk to Ben’s truck. “I think they loved each other like Col and Lorraine did.” He brought Ben’s hand up and looked into Ben’s bright eyes. “I recognize it now,” he said as he kissed Ben’s knuckles.
Ben tugged Jonathan toward him, cupped his cheek and brought him down for a gentle kiss. “I recognize it too,” he said.
They smiled into each other’s eyes then resumed their walk to the cars.
After ten years in an abusive relationship and a near-fatal knife wound, Jonathan Watson is finally free. Unused to being able to make even the smallest decision and smothered by family and well-meaning neighbors, he’s floundering in the real world. Jonathan is afraid of falling into another relationship too quickly and realizes he needs time to rediscover who he is before he attaches himself to another man.
He never counted on meeting Ben Urquhart, though. Ben tempts Jonathan to forget everything and take a leap. For Ben, it’s love at first sight, and he doesn’t want to take it slow. He wants to build a life with Jonathan, free from harm and full of laughter. But before they can take the next step, they must protect Jonathan from his possessive, threatening ex. Jonathan must find the courage to confront him and break the chains of his past before he can be truly free to build a future with Ben.
JONATHAN SHIVERED in the early morning air but not from the chill. He wrapped his arms around himself and groaned as his wound tugged against the movement. He relaxed slowly as the pain eased. From where he stood, he could see between the two apartment blocks to where the sun glinted off the Brisbane River. Five years ago he used to watch the ferries puddle their way up and down the river, dropping passengers here at Hamilton and across the way at Bulimba. He’d missed that view for a long time. He wondered if he’d miss the house now that he was leaving it.
The house was gray—morning gray, Anthony had called it, but it had always looked like unwashed, neglected underwear to him. The lines of the house were precise and symmetrical, unlike the yard. The front lawn bore scars, just like his chest. They were from his Cruiser skidding to a stop the night Anthony had sent him to kill Mark. His eyes burned as he thought how close he’d come to doing what his boyfriend told him to.
At the time, he didn’t think he had any other choice. It was kill or be killed. Literally. By the end of that night, Mark had been the only one left uninjured. Liam’s leg had thankfully healed quickly where Anthony had stabbed him. Anthony was still in hospital with a self-inflicted knife wound to the stomach, and Jonathan… Jonathan was done with that life. Anthony’s knife in his chest—so close to his heart it was clearly intended to be fatal—had cured him of whatever delusions he’d held onto that let him believe he was in love with the man. Even Anthony’s assertions that Jonathan was responsible for him being in a wheelchair since the car accident two years before wouldn’t get him to stay.
He was out of it now, or at least he would be as soon as the removalists came and took his stuff away. Then he could begin to heal. The first step had been to learn to breathe again after his lung collapsed when Anthony stabbed him. The next step… he didn’t know what the next step after this was. He wasn’t going to admit it to anyone, but he was just as terrified now, starting a life of his own—on his own—as he was when he thought he was going to die.
The trembling began again. Dizzy. Couldn’t catch his breath. He leaned beside the front door and forced himself to bring his mind back to the here and now and looked around again. There was a new section of fence now, and the Cruiser had been repaired and sat at the curb, waiting for him. His cousin must have had the damage repaired while Jonathan was in the hospital—learning how to make his lung work again after his boyfriend had tried to kill him. He shook the thoughts from his head. He had to stop thinking like this or he’d go mad.
Sleep last night had been impossible. The house had been cleaned, but nothing was going to completely remove the blood splattered on the white carpet. His blood.
A low rumble burbled through the air, and a truck turned onto the street. Jonathan’s heart raced. “You can do this,” he whispered, although he wasn’t quite sure which part of “this” he was talking about. It could be dealing with strangers on his own, or it could be leaving Anthony—finally. He pressed the heel of his hand over the dressing on his chest. Staying with Anthony was no longer an option.
The truck stopped and turned to reverse into the driveway. The high-pitched beeping made Jonathan jump and, to calm himself, he focused on the two men sitting in the cab. The driver looked young and blond, the passenger older and shriveled, his hair sticking out in unkempt tangles.
“Two people. Not Anthony. You’re outside, everything’s marked. You don’t need to go inside with them at all if you don’t want to. You can do this.” He counted his breaths in and out. The beeping stopped, the engine cut out, and the driver’s door opened.
Long, well-formed legs slipped from the cab, by-passing the step completely as a muscled body slid to the ground. Khaki cargo shorts bunched enticingly around a spectacular package before settling loosely around slim hips as the man’s boot-clad feet landed on the ground and he stood away from the truck. Jonathan moved his gaze up the body. The worn T-shirt did nothing to hide the trim stomach and prominent pecs and the sleeves framed the rounded deltoids perfectly. Jonathan sighed as he lifted his focus higher to see the man’s wide smile.
E E Montgomery wants the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Her philosophy is: We can’t change the world but we can change our small part of it and, in that way, influence the whole. Writing stories that show people finding their own ‘better place’ is part of E E Montgomery’s own small contribution.
Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of inspiration for stories that show people growing in their acceptance and love of themselves and others. A dedicated people-watcher, E E finds stories everywhere. In a cafe, a cemetery, a book on space exploration or on the news, there’ll be a story of personal growth, love, and unconditional acceptance there somewhere.
You can contact E E Montgomery at email@example.com; on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ewynelaine.montgomery; on Twitter: @EEMontgomery1; or at her web site: http://www.eemontgomery.com/ and blog: http://www.eemontgomery.com/blog.
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