Today I am so pleased to welcome Douglas Black to Joyfully Jay. Douglas has come to talk to share an exclusive except from Left Behind. Please join me in giving Douglas a big welcome!
“Lucas, be careful!” Gary shouted.
Gary turned to see Lucas running around the field pushing a wheelbarrow. Inside the wheelbarrow, Havana was grinning. Her eyes were shut, and as Stewart watched, she started laughing, a sound Stewart hadn’t heard in a long time. Loud and carefree, it rang out across the meadow.
“She’s fine,” Stewart told Gary, impressed he could get the words out. He watched them make another lap, and as they got close to them, he called out, “Havana, hold on to the sides.” She didn’t appear to hear him. “Hold on to the sides,” Stewart repeated.
Lucas was approaching them, slowing the pace of the wheelbarrow as he got closer and closer. Stewart hopped off the fence. He took a few steps, planning on telling Havana to hold on to the sides yet again, but it seemed Lucas was going to beat him to it. The boy set the wheelbarrow down. As Stewart watched, he walked to the front. Lucas moved Havana’s hands into position. She looked at him like she didn’t understand.
“You have to hold on to the sides, Havana,” Lucas told her, sounding older than his years. “You have to do what your daddy tells you. You should always listen to what your daddy tells you because your daddy is always right.”
Lucas was such a serious little boy sometimes. Stewart glanced at Gary, who grinned at him. The man got off the fence. He came to stand beside Stewart. Stewart smiled. The day had taken an unexpected turn since Lucas first made an appearance earlier in the morning, but it felt nice. Then, as Stewart should have known they would, things started to go wrong.
“You should always listen to what your daddy tells you,” Lucas repeated. “And you should always listen to what your mommy tells you too.”
Gary must have sensed something was wrong. Standing close to Stewart, his whole attention shifted, focusing on Stewart instead of Lucas. Stewart was holding his breath, watching Havana. He heard the sound of the lager can crumpling despite not being aware of tightening his grip.
Havana was about to give his secret away. He knew it, even before she opened her mouth. He needed to interrupt her, stop her talking, but his inertia was total. He couldn’t make himself move. He stood to watch the scene play out as Gary watched him.
“I don’t have a mummy,” Havana said. “I just have a daddy. I had a dad too, but he went to live in heaven. Daddy says not to cry, because Dad still loves me, and Dad sometimes comes to visit me, but I can’t see him, because when he leaves heaven, he has to wear a special coat that makes him nimbisible.”
Fuck. Stewart knew his mouth was hanging open, could imagine the look of horror that must be on his face. And then he didn’t feel those things, because the guilt and pain came back. Guilt that he taught his daughter to say such nonsense. Pain because, fuck, it still hurt like a knife in his stomach.
He had forced himself to stop crying after the first months when he hadn’t been able to stop, when he had made himself sick with it. And now, listening to all those stupid lies he told his daughter, he realized not only had he been outed in front of a guy who for all he knew might have no problem knocking him on his ass for it, he was going to cry.
It had been going so well. So nice. To meet two people to talk to, play with, get on with. To take his mind off why he wasn’t home, in his beautiful house with all the comfort he and Archie created for themselves over the years. And now his little taste of happiness was being snatched from him, and he couldn’t make himself care about that, because he was going to cry.
He stole a glance at Lucas, who was looking at his uncle, uncertainty etched on his face, but Stewart couldn’t look at Gary. Havana was still sitting happily in the wheelbarrow, unaware of what she had done.
Stewart turned away. He wasn’t going to be able to stop the tears. The pain was overwhelming, breathtaking. A physical wound. And those lies were so stupid. Stupid because Archie wasn’t sneaking out of heaven in an invisibility coat to watch over them. He was just fucking gone. Never to return. And it wasn’t fair, because Archie had been Stewart’s everything.
Stewart had nothing without Archie.
He managed a few staggering paces, vision blurring, as Gary told Lucas in a calm, cheerful-sounding but insistent voice to take Havana around the field in the wheelbarrow one more time. Stewart willed Gary to leave him alone, but he could hear the man’s heavy footsteps. He was approaching quickly as Lucas started running and Havana started laughing once more.
Before he knew it, Gary was squeezing his shoulder tight. That touch magnified the ache in Stewart’s belly, and the tears started to come, ugly tears accompanied by the horrendous sound of sobbing. It was a sound Stewart associated with weakness, with not being able to cope. He tried to fight it. Knew he would fail.
“Easy, easy,” Gary said softly. That didn’t help. Those words, that gentle tone, made Stewart cry harder. Gary said, “Take a deep breath,” and Stewart didn’t know how Gary knew before he did, but the second his legs unexpectedly gave out, Gary was already holding him, lowering him to kneel on the cold, damp grass.
Stewart felt the shock hit him. He tried to stop sobbing by switching to some sort of silent, breathless scream. The pain in his chest was intense, as if he was having a heart attack. Gary stood behind him, leaning over him. He kneaded Stewart’s shoulders with big, rough hands. It was painful, and that did the trick. The tears didn’t stop, but Stewart closed his mouth. In silence, he fought for breath.
“Go around again,” he heard Gary call out.
At first, Stewart didn’t know what Gary meant. Then he remembered. The wheelbarrow. Havana. Archie was gone, and he was in a field, two days before Christmas, with a virtual stranger kneading his shoulders and whispering to him that it was all going to be okay. And the part of Stewart that was desperate to surrender to grief nearly told Gary to shut the fuck up. It wasn’t okay. It was never going to be okay again, and then the other part of him, the part that got him up every morning and washed and dressed despite knowing his world had ended at twenty-five years of age, took control once more.
That part of him had become good at shoving Stewart’s emotions so far down his throat, Stewart sometimes thought he might choke on them. That part of him forced himself to wipe his face on the sleeve of his jacket, scrubbing away tears and snot. Absently, Stewart wondered what happened to his can of lager, but then he was trying to get to his feet, and Gary took care of that problem too by hoisting him upright. There was no escaping the realization of how powerful Gary was. Stewart seriously hoped Gary wasn’t going to punch him, because Stewart would be on his back with half that force directed at him.
“One more time,” Gary called. “Then we’ll go see if we can find the ducks.”
Stewart scrubbed his face some more as Gary left him. He wasn’t surprised. Then he was when Gary returned with another can of lager. He passed it to Stewart, who hesitated before he took it. His hands were shaking.
“Won’t do you any harm,” Gary said. He stepped in close to Stewart’s side and, without hesitation, wrapped an arm around Stewart’s shoulders. In his other hand, he carried his own can, but despite that, he pressed his hand and the can against Stewart’s belly. There was something achingly pleasurable about that. He didn’t pull Stewart any closer, but his hold was strong.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so fuckin’ sorry.”
Silently, the tears started to come again.
Stewart is instantly attracted to Gary, but he isn’t sure he’s ready to date again. Gary wants Stewart, but he doesn’t think Stewart will stick around when he finds out the secret Gary is hiding.
Faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone with his daughter, Havana, in the house he used to share with his husband, widower Stewart Robertson heads north to a campsite in Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands. There, he meets Gary James, an American parapsychologist with beliefs very different to Stewart’s own.
The sexual attraction is instantaneous, and overwhelming, and when Gary asks Stewart to spend Christmas with him and his friends in Fort William, Stewart agrees. Knowing next to nothing about each other, the two quickly start a physical relationship.
Stewart, emotional, angry and still reeling from the recent death of his husband, doesn’t know if he’s ready to start dating again, but he can’t deny that he wants Gary, a man who is keeping a secret that threatens to derail any chance of a happy ending before they even get started.
Douglas Black writes MM erotic romance. Welcome to your fantasy.