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Nathaniel Montgomery can’t escape the pressure to be perfect, to be smart, to be successful. To live the life chosen for him–one that doesn’t include being gay.
Wren Cunningham lives on the streets and does what it takes to survive. No one has ever given a damn about him, so he works with the cards he’s been dealt and pushes his dreams aside.
Fate steps in when Nate and Wren meet at eighteen years old. They have one week to live how they want, to pretend everything they hope for is within reach. What they don’t expect is to find exactly what they need in each other…or to fall in love.
But sometimes love isn’t enough, and goodbyes are inevitable.
No matter how much time passes, Nate and Wren never forget. They always find their way back to each other, and that helps them make it through. It’s never been a question of if they want each other. Their love is constant and never fades. Love Always.
They’ve spent their whole lives dreaming about their future together. To have a fighting chance, they’ll need to find a different kind of strength–learning to love themselves first.
If not, their next goodbye will be their last.
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Sunday, June 8
My stomach clenched, nerves and fear and maybe a little bit of excitement creating a devastating storm inside me. The urge to vomit was there, gaining strength as I looked at the busy city in front of me.
Los Angeles. California. Alone for a week. Just a few days after graduating high school.
What had I been thinking?
“Excuse me, sir. Can you spare some change?” a man asked. He was dirty and had holes in his clothes. His beard was overgrown, his eyes wild, and when he smiled, he had a tooth missing.
“Um…yeah. Let me see what I have.” My hand automatically went for my wallet at first, but then I froze. I was pretty sure that was a stupid idea. If this guy saw how much money I had, he could totally try to rob me. Then I felt like an asshole, like my father, for judging the homeless man. Just because he was on the streets, didn’t mean he would try to steal from me.
Still, I slipped my hand into my front pocket instead, knowing there was some change in there, and handed it over. I didn’t want to be a prick like my old man, but I didn’t want to be stupid either. There was a fine line between the two.
Not that bailing on “The Future Is Ours,” a retreat for the next generation of business leaders that I was supposed to attend, and buying a plane ticket to Los Angeles instead was smart. My parents would kill me if they found out. It was a sign of success that I’d gotten into this program, one I didn’t want any part of. But then Dad had attended when he was my age, and so had my grandfather before him.
“Do you know what a disgrace it will be if you don’t get in, Nathaniel? Why are you always letting me down?” My dad’s voice was in the back of my mind like it always was, wreaking havoc on my thoughts. It seemed that I couldn’t get away from him, even traveling across the country to do so.
“Thanks, kid,” the guy replied, reminding me he was there, before walking away.
I hefted my backpack higher on my shoulder and grabbed ahold of my suitcase again. God, I wished I had my guitar, wished my parents had let me take it with me, but no; the guitar was “beneath me.” There was no future there, and it was time I got over my silly dreams. At least, that’s what they always told me.
My hotel—the Magnolia—was in the heart of West Hollywood, which, from everything I’d read online, had a high population of LGBTQ people, gay bars, and all the things I was going to forget about after this week.
I trembled with excitement at the possibilities that lay ahead of me, while also trying to ignore the voice in my head telling me it was wrong. It wasn’t my voice—the one saying it was sinful…dirty; that belonged to my parents. They couldn’t make much time for me. They were too busy being masters of the universe, Dad in business and Mom in the church. They expected the same for me, which meant I couldn’t be a fag—Dad’s word again, not mine.
I was supposed to be perfect. Montgomerys were wealthy, God-fearing people, who pretended to give a shit about those who weren’t as privileged as us, all while looking down our noses at them.
We went to Harvard, which was where I’d be in a few months.
We didn’t struggle in school and have to work ten times harder than everyone else.
We played football in high school and joined fraternities in college.
We didn’t miss church on Sundays.
We didn’t like to stand out, unless it was for something that made us look better than everyone else.
We didn’t dream of a simple life where all that mattered was our guitar.
We sure as hell weren’t gay.
I was shit at being a good Montgomery.
But that’s what this week was about, why I’d skipped the retreat and changed my hotel reservation. My parents never checked my credit card, so they wouldn’t know I didn’t attend the retreat. They would never expect something like this from me. Hell, I was struggling to believe something like this about myself.
After all, I was always trying to be perfect like them, even though I typically failed. I sure as shit didn’t rock the boat or cause trouble. I was motivated, and loved football, and couldn’t wait to go off to my Ivy League college so I could follow in my parents’ footsteps. And if I did get in trouble, it was always swept under the rug because I was Nathaniel Montgomery and that mattered.
What they didn’t know was that I hated myself for all those things.
They didn’t know I was a lie.
They wouldn’t care how I felt about it, anyway.