Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#BlogTour - Kinky Sprinkles by L.A. Witt @GallagherWitt #Giveaway @riptidebooks

Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/L. A. Witt blog tour for Kinky Sprinkles!

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist (excluding Kinky Sprinkles) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 1st. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to leave your contact info, and thanks for following the tour!

About L.A. Witt

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

Kinky Sprinkles Blurb:

Joel has finally walked away from his abusive ex and is ready to meet new people. But that isn’t easy for a guy who’s shy, self-conscious, and struggling with his body image.

Andre has wanted Joel since the first time he laid eyes on him, and finally Joel is single. But Andre is a Dom and a sadist, and Joel is unapologetically vanilla. There’s no happy medium—either Andre reins in the kinky side that took him years to accept, or Joel grits his teeth and subjects himself to kinks that aren’t his thing. No matter who bends, someone’s going to be unhappy.

They agree to walk away, but they keep circling back to each other. Though their kinks might not line up, the chemistry between them sizzles and the emotional connection keeps getting deeper. But none of that will get them anywhere if they can’t find some kind of middle ground in the bedroom.

Kinky Sprinkles is available September 26th from Riptide Publishing.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spotlight - Rented Heart by @Garrett_Leigh #Giveaway $25 @riptidebooks credit

About Rented Heart

Ex-surfer-turned-businessman Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. Grief and loneliness keep him a solitary figure, and he likes it that way. There’s no room in his broken heart for anything else.

Rentboy Zac Payne left London and most of his demons behind, but he still only knows one way to make a living. When he spots Liam in a club one night, it seems he’s found his mark. But Liam proves nicer—and their connection far deeper—than he’d bargained for.

Their arrangement quickly becomes too complicated for Zac, who has other things on his mind: namely his BFF and wayward flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie the world, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.

Besides, Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life, too caught up in his own head to think much beyond the crazy heat he and Zac share. But when trouble comes to Zac’s door, putting his life in danger, Liam must set his grief and anger aside to pick up the pieces of Zac’s shattered heart and his own.

Purchase now at Riptide: 

About Garrett Leigh

Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. Her protagonists will always always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you’ve got yourself a Garrett special.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.

Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors under the pseudonym G.D. Leigh. For cover art info, please visit

Social media:
Cover art enquiries:


To celebrate the release of Rented Heart, one lucky winner will receive $25 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 17, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Spotlight - Counterbalance by Aidan Wayne @justsayins #GiveAway $20 @riptidebooks credit #mmromance

About Counterbalance

John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John's got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.

When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side—talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.

John doesn't know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao—maybe a little too much, honestly—but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.

Purchase from Riptide: Counterbalance

About Aidan Wayne

Aidan Wayne is a big believer in character-driven stories with happy endings. This is not to say that stories can’t contain a little (or a lot) of grief, just that at the end of it all expect there to be bandages and hugs. They particularly like to write about minority characters because damn it, they deserve happy endings too.

When not writing, Aidan enjoys practicing aerial, martial arts, and ASL, and watching reality cooking shows. They are probably in the middle of twelve projects as you read this.



To celebrate the release of Counterbalance, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 17, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Debauched Denial Interview Pt 1 - @JosephLTonlet on Wes' Denial HUGE #KindleFire #Giveaway

Welcome everyone, thank you for visiting Attention Is Arbitrary for this very special, exclusive author interview with Joseph Lance Tonlet. 

This interview has two parts. My co-reviewer, OJ and I have practically torn JLT in two to bring you a dual perspective from our Gay Guy Straight Girl viewpoints. 
Our co-review of Wes' Denial is here.

I get to go first and then OJ will have his way with JLT in a couple of days. Be sure to check that out over on the OJHeSay blog. But for now let's get right into it from a straight girl who is just a little over-the-top crazy for Wes (and JLT too).

And don't miss out of the crazy-fabulous giveaway package JLT has put together for a very lucky winner.

The Debauched Denial Interview - Part I

Lisa Arbitrary - Hello Joseph, thank you for giving me this opportunity to interrogate interview you. I know how busy you are with this amazing release and tour, but you have been more than generous playing along with my whims. 

Joseph Lance Tonlet - Thank you for having me. I consider it both an honor and a privilege.

Lisa - I can’t help but compare Wes’ Denial to Grif’s Toy, so forgive me if that’s a continuing theme here.

JLT - *smiles* I understand completely. It’s a slightly odd thing; they are part of the same series, they contain many of the same characters, and parts of their stories do overlap. But, on the other hand, they are uniquely different books - in both tone and subject matter.

Lisa -I enjoyed Grif’s Toy, but I wasn’t easy on you in my review. I thought you had something more in you, something deeper. I’m going to pretend that I am personally responsible for the level of excellence that you achieved in Denial. Ha ha. Seriously though, I felt this book challenged you more, as it will challenge your readers more. Can you tell us if Denial came more easily or if it tested you?

JLT LOL! Indeed, all comments and concerns - both positive and negative - should be directed to Lisa Arbitrary at: (Please note: as this is a fictitious address, any emails sent are not likely to be seen or read. *grins*) Seriously though, one of the most difficult things about writing is reader’s expectations. Let me explain what I mean by that. The only thing my books have in common is they’re not what anyone would consider mainstream romance. Each of them is unique and delves into different areas of the darker/taboo side of human nature. Therefore, unlike many author’s work, it’s not easy for readers to know what to expect with any of my books. On the one hand, I’ve found this very liberating creatively; it allows me the freedom to explore the stories that motivate me to write. However, on the other, it creates the huge potential for reader dissatisfaction. “I read XYZ and I thought JLT’s new book, ABC, would be just like it. It wasn’t.” So, to your question, was this book more challenging? Yes. But not because of those particular reader expectations. My biggest challenge with writing Wes was a pretty simple (yet important) one: Wes is a Dom and I’m a sub. Hence, my concern was ‘Could I get the feeling right?’ And, like always, that will be for readers to decide.

Lisa - Very funny, Joseph. But in all seriousness I do indeed believe you got the feeling right in every sense :D

Okay, where were we? Grif and Wes are such vivid characters, do they have some "real life" connection to you?

JLT As with most of my characters, there are bits of me sprinkled throughout their makeup. However, Grif and Wes are VERY loosely based on the Hubz and I. For readers who follow me on social media, it’s pretty widely known that we enjoy a self-styled D/s relationship. Grif is me magnified, exaggerated, and fictionalized. The same applies to the Hubz and Wes.

Lisa - You’ve made a bold move in choosing to take the Grif reader on Wes’ ride. In my mind these are nearly two different genres. Did you have any qualms with choosing to reveal Wes’ darkness to your multitude of Grif readers?

JLT - Great question, Lisa. From the beginning, I saw this story as two separate and distinct pieces: Grif’s story, and then Wes’. And, I’ll admit, the differences between the two is one of the many reasons Wes’ Denial took so long to be released. Grif’s Toy is one man’s journey to acceptance. Granted, that embracement wasn’t fully fulfilled in the first book (and it’s a storyline that concludes in book two) but it is unquestionably Grif’s story...just as Wes’ Denial is Wes’. Wes is a completely different character and, thus, his story is wholly different. Indeed, despite Grindr, Grif’s character in book one conveyed a sort of innocence. Conversely, Wes’ character is filled with a darker need to inflict pain and humiliation. Exploring how those differing needs are born, how they’re embraced by each of them, and how they ultimately come together - then flourish - was a tricky balancing act. At the forefront of my mind were two primary questions and objectives: 1) How do I convey Grif’s need without him coming off as needy, or whiny, or weak, or broken? (This was of the utmost importance to me.) And, 2) How do I present an honest portrayal of Wes while also embracing who he is, his licentious desires, and not have the reader unequivocally reject him?

Lisa - As you say, in Grif’s Toy, Grif was innocent, sexually timid, reserved and rather inexperienced. In Wes’ Denial there comes a time that Grif steps outside of himself, his sexual comfort zone, to become what Wes needs. This is a brilliant part of the book, btw. In your experience, can a sub change his stripes?

JLT Grif does indeed ‘step outside himself’ in Wes’ Denial. And although it comes in a sexual way, which admittedly may have been out-of-character for him early on, I feel Grif has shown tremendous strength throughout the series. That said, we as readers have followed Grif’s growth in all things related to his sexual identity since the series’ beginning and, by the end, long gone is the sexually timid man we met so long ago. In his place stands the man Grif yearned to become with regard to his sexuality: strong, confident, and committed to his relationship.

Lisa - In that vein Wes and Grif visit a club in San Francisco where Grif becomes intensely uncomfortable. Later, Wes puts him in another situation where Grif is pushed to go beyond his comfort zone. During my beta-read I questioned you about this. I thought it was too much too soon. You came back with an explanation both to me and also in the book about how the two situations were different. Would you like to comment or expand on that here?

JLT - Without question, Grif and Wes have an incredibly complicated relationship. One important facet is Wes’ desire to humiliate Grif, and Grif’s equally strong desire to receive said humiliation. However, for Wes, there’s a constant balancing act taking place: Push Grif far enough to provoke humiliation and tears, but not so far as to do him mental or physical harm - something, if it happened, Wes would never forgive himself for. In the end, when all of the trappings are stripped away, Grif and Wes desire the same things from their relationship that most folks do; love, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and fulfillment. Grif allows Wes to control certain aspects of their sexual relationship - something both of them enjoy - and Wes considers Grif’s relinquishment his most treasured gift.

Lisa - Do you have a tear kink? Because you made me cry, ugly cry, a lot with this book. Maybe that one’s rhetorical.

JLT LOL! I believe I know which parts of the book you’re referring to, and no, I personally don’t have a tear fetish. That’s Wes’ twisted thing. *winks* However, my constant and sustaining goal as an author is to write stories and characters that provoke feelings in the reader. Whether that be joy, or anger, or despair, or revulsion, my objective is to take readers on an emotion-filled journey. I find the books I enjoy reading offer me that...and I strive to do the same with mine. Personally, if a book makes me laugh out loud, or yell in frustration, or shed a tear or two - or better yet, has me thinking about it long after I’ve finished - then it’s a winner for me. I consider Wes’ Denial invoking enough emotion in you to cause a tear to fall an incredible compliment, Lisa. Sincerely, thank you!

Lisa - Besides Wes and Grif you gave us some absolutely endearing characters here: Henrik, Thomas, Quinn, Gage. Any chance we’ll be seeing more of them? Please.

JLT Wow, thank you for the compliment! Honestly, it is one of the more tricky aspects of ‘side’ characters. As writers, we undoubtedly want our characters to be engaging, to be interesting, to be well rounded and flushed out - but we don’t want too much of any of those things because they aren’t the primary story and, therefore, we don’t want them to distract from the main characters. I’m thrilled you found them interesting and would like more. You know what they say about never saying never. Can we say ‘Cher’s fifth Farewell Tour’? LOL! However, at this point, I have no plans for future books in the Tease and Denial series.

Lisa - What’s next from JLT for my reading pleasure?

JLT Thanks so much for asking. Next up is a deliciously dark story Louis Stevens, my co-author of Quillon’s Covert, and I are writing. It’s still early in the process, so I hope you’ll indulge me in a bit of leeway in side-stepping what it’s actually about. But, to say that it’s the most depraved thing I’ve worked on isn’t a stretch at all. Working with Louis is a pure joy and I’m looking forward to sharing more about this project in the coming months.

Lisa - It has been an absolute pleasure having you here, Joseph. I hope you'll stop back by with Louis. *wonders if I can handle the two of them *thinks I'm totally willing to try *EWG*

Two things - Do enter the giveaway, it's easy and the prizes are Huuuuge. Also, don't miss the rest of the Debauched Denial tour (list below) and especially OJ's interview. Those two boys get up to some pretty fun stuff ;) 
Wes has spent his life looking for that one special guy who will understand and love him—all of him. From his tender vanilla side, to his darker debauched side.

Throughout high school, his successful career in the Marines, and as a BDSM Dom, he’s remained confident his partner is out there waiting to be found.

However, several events shake his normally unflappable self–assurance.

And, even after he finds Grif, will his past catch up with him and possibly drive his soul mate away?


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Joseph Lance Tonlet

JOSEPH is a born and raised Southern Californian—with a twenty-year stint of living in the Midwest. He loves the laid-back lifestyle of San Diego and considers himself lucky to live where people dream of vacationing.

A lifelong reader of m/m fiction, he began his writing career one night sitting at his MacBook and has never looked back. He writes to bring the characters he dreams about to life.

Wes’ Denial: Tease and Denial Book Two
JLT Publishing
M/M, Romance, Erotica, BDSM, D/s

Novel- 103K+ Words / 300+ Pages
PayHip (Preferred)
ARe  Smashwords  Lulu (after 09/01/16):  GooglePlay  Amazon

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

#CoverReveal $10 Amz #Giveaway - A Kind of Honesty by @LaneHayes3 #MM #Excerpt

A Kind of Honesty Reveal Banner

Title: A Kind of Honesty

Series: A Kind of Story, #3
Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 7, 2016
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 85K
Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Rock star, NYC, humor



Music is Tim Chalmers’s great escape and the one thing that’s never let him down. But his band Spiral’s meteoric rise to fame has made it difficult for the drummer to maintain a low profile. Unwanted press pesters him after a public breakup with a volatile ex-girlfriend who loves the limelight as much as he loathes it. Tim’s main goal is to avoid confrontation. However, when he meets a handsome stranger in a dive bar who turns out to be someone he may know, everything changes.

Carter Hamilton-Temple might be a successful financial consultant with more brains, sophistication, and charm than most, but he always falls for the wrong guys: closet cases or men with issues. He can’t fight his attraction to the tattooed rock star, but can he trust his own judgment? When the thrill of danger combined with a fierce physical connection proves too strong for either man to resist, a quiet liaison away from the public eye and curious friends seems like a safe bet. But some secrets are hard to keep. When rumors threaten to rock his world, Tim realizes it’s time to confront his fear with his own kind of honesty.


“What kind of a rock star are you? You’re supposed to love sex, drugs, and alcohol. I haven’t known you long, but you seem to only really like one out of three,” Carter commented idly as he shuffled the cards.

“You’re right. I’m a sucky rock star. I rarely have more than one drink when I go out for dinner or even at a bar. Two at a party. Anything more usually leads to trouble. And I never take drugs. Even cold medicine makes me nervous.” I winked and gave him a lecherous grin that no doubt looked far from provocative in my current condition. “But I love sex.”


eBook | Paperback

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is finally doing what she loves best. Writing! An avid reader from an early age, Lane has always been drawn to romance novels. She truly believes there is nothing more inspiring than a well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Lane discovered the M/M genre a fews ago and was instantly hooked. Her first novel was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. She is the bestselling author of the Better Than Stories series and Right and Wrong Stories and the new A Kind of Stories series. She loves travel, chocolate, and wine (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter |
| eMail | Instagram | Amazon

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Feather in My Cap! Thanks @JosephLanceTonlet - Wes' Denial (Tease and Denial 2) #MMRomance

It was my absolute pleasure to be involved with this project. When Joseph Lance Tonlet told me he was sending me a paperback copy I was ridiculously excited. I mean come on, Wes in my very own hands!? (And psst, those veins really are lickable.) But then to find my quote on the back cover, wow!!!

I am deeply honored. Thank you, JLT <3 font="">

You can read my full co-review of Wes' Denial (Tease and Denial 2) here

~ ~ ~

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Monday, September 5, 2016

#BlogTour - Connection Error (Gaymers 3) by @AnnabethAlbert $20 Amz GC #MM #Excerpt

Connection Error Blitz Banner

Title: Connection Error
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series Title and Number: #Gaymers, Book 3, but stands alone well too
Cover Artist: CARINA PRESS
Release Date: September 5, 2016
Heat Level: 4 (explicit m/m sex, but lots and lots of plot too!)
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: approx. 66,000 words
Genre/Tags: Romance, M/m Romance, contemporary romance, military romance

Add To Goodreads



It's typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he's (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can't handle another distraction. But he also can't ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man's a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He's got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn't mean he's above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it's even begun?

Book Three of the #gaymers series


Chapter 1

Somewhere between the third newsstand and the fourth moving sidewalk in LAX, Josiah regretted not joining his friend Ravi in training for a 10k charity race. Nothing like a flat-out sprint from the check-in counter to the slow-moving security lines and another dash from security all the way through gates to make him rethink his aversion to cardio. And the worst part was that for once in his life he’d made every effort to be on time, getting up before the alarm, starting coffee, making sure they were out of the house by o’dark thirty ready for his early morning flight to Germany via a stop in Washington, DC.

Passport? Check.

Carry-on with both laptops, tablet and assorted accessories? Check.

Suitcase with more shirts with buttons than he’d ever owned in his life? Check.

Double-checking that his ticket was booked under “Josiah” not “Joseph”? Total fail, but in his defense, it never occurred to him that the travel agency his employer used would give the wrong name. And the check-in attendant at the airline counter didn’t want to believe that there was a mistake. Thus, every careful endeavor he’d made to ensure that he was on time—early even—went up in a huff of waiting for a supervisor and then another supervisor.

And now finally he was sprinting to make sure he didn’t miss the plane. Forget being there in time to priority board, he was going to be lucky to make the plane period. His first time flying first class—thank you, Space Villager for being such a bestselling gameand it was off to an inelegant start thanks to a stupid mistake.

Finally, finally, he reached the last few gates of the terminal. The TV sets scattered throughout the waiting area were all taking about that huge freak snowstorm heading for the New York area and whether it might veer south enough to cause snow along the whole Eastern Seaboard. Josiah shook his head, trying to not get sucked in to the TV. As long as he got to Germany on time, it wasn’t going to affect him and he needed to stay focused on—

“Last call for Flight 324 nonstop service to Washington Dulles International,” the loudspeaker blared.

“I’m here, I’m here,” he panted as the gate attendant set the red phone back on its hook. He held out his ticket. The woman was around his mother’s age with very red lipstick and very short blond hair and a spectacular frown just for him.

“Ah. Mr. Simmons.” She looked up after scanning his tickets, decidedly less frosty once she saw his first-class seat number. “Come with me, I’m going to have to walk you down.” She spoke into a walkie-talkie as they headed down the walkway. “We’re going to need to gate check your bags. I’m so sorry, but the first-class overhead compartments are all full.”

“Crap.” She gave him a questioning look, and Josiah remembered that he was supposed to be Mr. Smooth and Sophisticated Project Manager, not some whiny kid. “Sorry. That’s fine. Just let me grab my laptop.” He grabbed the laptop with the longer battery life before the attendant put a pink gate-check tag on his two bags. “But…uh…fragile.”

She gave him a tight smile, but added a yellow Fragile tag to his laptop bag. “You’re in Seat 1A,” she said, handing him his ticket back. “You’ll get your bags back when we land, I promise. Enjoy your flight.”

After a brief conversation with the gate attendant, a male flight attendant shut the plane door behind Josiah. “Welcome aboard,” he said to Josiah in a tone that clearly meant, “thank you for pushing back our departure.” In fact, the plane was rolling away from the gate before Josiah almost tumbled into the empty aisle seat of the first row.

“You made it.” A warm chuckle eased past the pounding of Josiah’s heart.

“Wha—what?” he whipped his head over to the window seat—a farther distance than one might expect. The first-class seats were huge padded affairs and there was a thick console dividing the seats. And…hello, most gorgeous guy Josiah had ever seen.

Wide, mischievous smile. Sparkling hazel eyes. Unshaven jaw. Short dark brown hair. And holy hell, arm muscles for days. Bulging biceps with tats poking out of his T-shirt sleeves.

All of a sudden this flight started looking way up.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. I just meant I was beginning to think I’d get the row all to myself.” The guy’s voice was possibly even more attractive than his model-worthy face, deep and soothing, with an undercurrent of the sort of confidence that never failed to make Josiah shiver.

And he was all Josiah’s for the next five hours.

Well, except for the part where he seemed ready to take a nap and tune Josiah out—the guy had a pillow behind his head and a blanket on his lap. He yawned, revealing gleaming teeth worthy of a toothpaste ad.

“You’re not a model, are you?” As usual, Josiah’s tongue leaped into action before his brain could restrain it.

“What? No, not a model.” The guy laughed, more of that smoky chuckle that did things to Josiah’s insides.

“TV star? Athlete? Because it seems like I should know you from somewhere, and I don’t want to get to DC and people be like, hey, you were next to that Laker the whole flight…” He trailed off because his friends were right that he had absolutely no filter, and that was triple true around Muppet-flail-worthy hot guys.

“Nope, not famous.” The guy studied Josiah for a long moment, considering, the sort of are-you-for-real expression on his face that Josiah was well used to. Seeming to come to some sort of decision, the guy stuck his right arm across the console. “Lieutenant Ryan Orson, US Navy.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Josiah accepted the handshake. Navy made sense given the Navy-emblazoned T-shirt stretched tight over the guy’s aircraft-carrier-wide chest. Holy crap, the guy was big. Josiah was a skinny 6’2” with big hands and feet that always got in the way. But this guy’s hand made Josiah’s feel downright dainty. “I’m Josiah, Josiah Simmons.”

“Well, Josiah, want to know a secret?” Ryan asked in a conspiratorial whisper.

“Sure.” Josiah was down with whatever secrets this guy wanted to share.

“Not only am I not famous, I’m not even supposed to be in first class.”

“You’re not?”

“Nope.” Ryan winked at Josiah. He had a very disarming wink, all good humor and twinkly eyes.

“The check-in clerk bumped me into first.”

“You got the nice clerk.” Josiah was still a bit grumbly over the name hassle.

“She lost a brother over in Afghanistan.” There was a subtle hint of “grow up” in Ryan’s tone. Josiah straightened, remembering again who he was supposed to be. And here was this impossibly attractive guy to practice on. Sure, he might be Josiah the clueless geek back home, but here he was Josiah the new project manager. This Josiah knew the right way to act and speak and could impress even tough audiences.

“That’s so sad for her.” Josiah tried for sophisticated empathy, something he knew he kind of sucked at.

“Yeah, it is.” Something indecipherable passed over Ryan’s face, his eyes getting darker and cloudier and that wide smile flagging a bit. “Anyway, guess she saw…the Navy connection and had a spare seat to bump me into.”

“What do you do? In the Navy I mean?”

The guy went silent, considering, and Josiah was afraid he’d been too nosy again, but right when he was about to apologize, Ryan finally spoke. “I’m a SEAL. I do a little bit of everything, but mainly I make things go boom. You?”

“Oh my God, you’re Special Forces. Do I ever have questions for you!” Josiah babbled again, only slowing down as Ryan’s easy smile morphed into grim line. “Sorry. I’m just excited because I’m a video game designer. And special ops is our new expansion pack.” And it happened to be the one Josiah was in charge of.

“You program games?” Ryan blinked, and Josiah wasn’t sure what he’d expected Josiah to do, but this clearly wasn’t it. “Anything I’ve heard of?”

Ah. That was it. He assumed Josiah was some sort of kid programming a dot matrix game in his basement. Josiah knew he looked too young for his job, because he was too young. At twenty-three, he was the youngest lead developer on the design team. Thus, he took no small amount of pride in saying, “Space Villager.”

“Oh wow, really?” There was a new note of respect in Ryan’s voice. “I love that game, especially the pod racer and first-person shooter expansion packs.” There was a hint of Texas or something else Southern in his voice, and Josiah could listen to him all day.

“Yeah? Well you’re going to love our special ops expansion pack even more.” Josiah projected far more confidence than he actually felt. He could make this project a success. He had to. The PR team had already hinted that the next expansion pack would revolve around special ops activities on a small war-torn planet, so Josiah didn’t worry too much about sharing this much with Ryan.

“I bet. My ex got me to back the crowdfunding drive, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My buddies were already teasing me about how much time I spent gaming, but there’s something particularly addictive about your game.”

Your game. Josiah liked the sound of that. He only knew a handful of women who played Space Villager, but the ones who did tended to be rabid fans. It was possible he might even know Ryan’s ex by her user handle, but Josiah had just enough self-control to not ask.

“Prepare for takeoff,” the pilot intoned over the PA. This was the part Josiah hated, the acceleration and stomach-dropping ascent. Today he hated it even more, knowing they might catch the edge of that storm. Focusing on turbulence that was probably hours away wasn’t logical, but then, Josiah’s brain seldom was.

“You always so antsy or are you a nervous flyer?” Ryan asked.

Oh crap. Guess he wasn’t doing such a bang-up job projecting the aura of a with-it project manager. He laughed nervously. “Both?”

“I promise we’re going to be okay.” Ryan gave him a quick friendly pat on the knee.

Oh. Josiah’s eyes went wide. Ryan was missing part of the pinky finger on his left hand and had some wicked scarring further up his forearm. Josiah tried not to stare, but knew he failed miserably.

“Mission gone wrong,” Ryan said gruffly. “Now back to flying, millions of people fly every day. It’s safer than car travel.” His tone made it clear further discussion of his hand was not on the table.

“I know flying’s safe. Knowing that’s not the same as believing it.”

Ryan’s answering laugh seemed to strip some of the tension from his face. “How well do I know that attitude. My ex got nervous before every flight, and his buddies used to razz him about it mercilessly.”

Man, two ex references in five minutes. Ryan must be totally hung up on his ex…wait. “His buddies”…What the hell?

“Your ex is a guy?”

“Yup.” Ryan’s smirk said he’d pegged Josiah ten minutes ago, probably when Josiah couldn’t peel his eyes away from those tasty biceps.

“Cool.” He was grinning, but he couldn’t make his facial muscles behave. Hot damn. Gorgeous, muscled, single, gamer, and gay. He ticked every last one of Josiah’s “perfect man” boxes. And if the gods were kind at all, Josiah could keep it together long enough to make a lasting impression.


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Meet the Author

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

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