Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.
Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.
Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.
It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.
“You know the only reason I come to these things is because you want to go, right?”
Kimber batted her eyes at me and smirked. “Aww, the sacrifices you make for your baby girl.”
“As if I haven’t made enough already.” I parked outside the hotel where the command had rented the ballroom for the evening. I was actually amazed this tiny town had a big enough hotel to host something like this, but wonders never ceased.
The lot was mostly full already, so obviously this year’s Navy Ball was a popular one. Great. The more, the merrier, said everyone right up until the cops had to be called.
I stepped out of the car, fussed with my black bow tie, and buttoned my jacket. It was a bit snug; either I needed to spend some more time at the gym, or I’d damn well better get this uniform let out before Kimber strong-armed me into next year’s ball. For tonight, I just prayed like hell the single button holding it together above the gold cummerbund didn’t snap off.
On the other hand, standing up straight and pulling in my midsection did take some of the strain off my back. Not enough to go without my TENS unit—I’d been clinging to that fucker since breakfast—but it helped.
At least I wasn’t wearing a back brace this year. That combined with my dinner dress uniform had been downright suffocating. God help me if I had to restick one of the TENS pads or untangle a wire, or if the fucking battery died again, but I’d deal with that if it happened.
I could do this. It was only a few hours.
I stood up straighter, sucked it in, and adjusted my jacket.
A few long hours. Joy.
On the sidewalk, Kimber fussed with the strap on her bright-red dress and swore under her breath.
“Stupid . . . fucking . . .” She rolled her shoulders. “Okay. I think I’m ready.”
“Shut up.” She laughed. “You have my ID, right?”
I tapped the pocket where I kept my wallet. “Yep.”
“Okay. Good. Let’s get inside. It’s freezing out here.”
“Well yeah. It’s October.” I didn’t mention it would be warmer if she wore the jacket draped over her arm, mostly because she’d get me back later when I bitched about being too hot in my jacket. Never mind that I was required to wear mine whether I liked it or not.
As we headed inside, I tugged at my lapels and my sleeves, and suppressed a groan. The ball was an annual form of torture that was ostensibly to celebrate the Navy’s birthday. I was pretty sure it only existed so we’d all have a reason to wear our dinner dress uniforms. Or, more to the point, a reason to clean them, iron them, and spend half an evening cursing at all the medals and insignia that refused to go on properly, all before scrambling to the on-base tailor because maybe we’d put on some weight since last year.
But Kimber loved these shindigs, so she came with me as my “date.” And even if I thought this fell somewhere between waterboarding and watching Sex and the City, I tamped down my distaste as we walked inside.
The ballroom was packed with round tables and decorated to the gills, looking as glorious as any Holiday Inn banquet. The organizers were well aware that there were a lot of people here with varying degrees of PTSD, so they didn’t go crazy with strobes or spotlights or anything like that. No disco ball over the dance floor. No funky lights from the deejay’s booth. The sunken lights overhead were dim, creating a nice atmosphere, and everything was soft and subtle enough to avoid ruining someone’s evening.
With any luck, the food would be decent, but if the last five Navy Balls I’d attended were any indication . . . well . . . I wasn’t holding my breath. Just as well. As snug as my uniform was this year, I would need to hold my breath if I actually ate very much.
“So.” Kimber looked around after we’d checked her coat. “Where should we sit?”
I scanned the room for familiar faces, and found Norris, one of the guys from my office. He and his wife had commandeered a table on the opposite side of the room from the buffet. Wise—the buffet was going to get crowded as hell once the lids came off the chafing dishes. At least it would be reasonably quiet over here.
We joined them and claimed a couple of chairs on the side facing the front of the room. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance at these things, and the people with their backs to the front would have to spend a good hour twisted around to face the right direction. The pain in my back intensified just thinking about it. The tingle from the TENS still helped, but I had to wonder how long that would last. Good thing the control box was the perfect size to fit in the pocket of my trousers where it was inconspicuous and within easy reach if I needed to crank it up. Which, judging by the tightness in the middle of my back, I would.
“I’m going to go get a drink.” Kimber nodded toward one of several bars. “You want anything?”
“Yes, please.” I took out my wallet and pulled out her ID, which I carried tonight since she didn’t have any pockets and hated purses, along with some cash to tip the bartender. “Whatever you’re having.”
“Unless it’s fruity and comes with an umbrella, right?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Obviously.”
“Got it. Back in a minute.”
Peering the growing lines at each bar, I said, “Good luck with that.”
“Eh. I’ll be fine.” She grinned. “Plenty of eye candy.”
“Uh-huh. Go.” I playfully shooed her away, and she headed toward the bar. While she was gone, I looked around for more people I knew. Almost everyone from my office was planning to come—open bar was the quickest way to persuade officers and Sailors alike to show up, after all.
Sure enough, Captain Rodriguez, our commanding officer, was walking in with her husband. They’d barely taken off their coats before the executive officer, Commander Johnson, was right in their faces, brown-nosing like he always did. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, making captain was a political game—didn’t I know it—but Captain Rodriguez didn’t like kiss-asses. Well, fine. Let him earn himself some “not a chance, asshole” points. One less commander for me to compete with for that coveted promotion.
I left him to his idiocy and looked around again, and—
My stomach flipped.
Lieutenant Commander Fraser.
The crowded room was suddenly empty. Everyone else faded into the shadows as my brain superimposed a spotlight over him like some sort of cheesy 1980s prom movie special effect.
I’d been ogling that man since he’d transferred to NAS Adams recently. Tonight he took “oh my God” to a whole new level when he strolled into the Navy Ball in his dinner dress uniform. The short jacket and tailored trousers made even the least attractive man look good, but Fraser . . . Jesus. Something told me he hadn’t struggled with getting into his uniform. It all fit like he’d been poured into it. The trousers hugged his slim waist, and the jacket clung comfortably to his shoulders. The button holding everything together in the front didn’t look like it was straining at all, and he didn’t appear to be sucking in his gut under the cummerbund like the rest of us.
He’d been hot before. Tonight he was going to be the reason I wound up drooling on my not-quite-as-nicely-fitted uniform.
Of course that was before I realized he’d come in with a date’s hand on his elbow.
And that date was a man.
I shook myself, blinked, and stared.
Lieutenant Commander . . . Fraser . . . is . . . gay?
To celebrate the release of Afraid to Fly, one lucky winner will receive $10 in Riptide Publishing credit and two books of choice from L.A. Witt’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 21, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
About the Author & Links:
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…