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Book Description Click to toggle
The heart always knows the way.
Chris Novak is adjusting to his lieutenant being the first openly gay SEAL. Seeing the man’s obvious love for his husband gives Chris ideas—ones he has ruthlessly suppressed his whole life. Becoming a SEAL was his dream. Having the love and approval of his father remains critical to him. Acknowledging his sexual orientation would have jeopardized both. While the military has evolved, Chris fears that his father’s views have not.
Tanner Pac has been openly out and proud since high school, with his family embracing him as he is. He knows being gay is not a problem, but his dream of becoming a software engineer is. His parents expect him to carry on the family business of running a pizza parlor. He dares not disappoint them, fearing a loss that would crush him.
While visiting his father on leave, Chris goes out for pizza, not expecting to run into his old girlfriend’s annoying little brother. They could never ditch Tanner and now that he is all grown up, Chris finds he no longer wants to. Facing the strong temptation that Tanner presents is causing Chris to also face the truth about himself.
As Chris and Tanner struggle to meet their parents’ expectations, their attraction for each other cannot be denied. Their strength and courage grow in each other’s arms, but it may not be enough to break free of the weight of family expectations.
General Release Date: 1st February 2022
Excerpt Click to toggle
“Man, the way the lieutenant’s reunion is going, I’m not sure they’ll make it home. Know what I mean?”
Petty Officer First Class Christopher Novak did indeed know what his teammate meant. Scott Carpenter’s husband had jumped into his arms the second he’d seen Scott coming through the gates. At the moment, the guy’s legs were wrapped around Scott’s waist, and the two of them were going to pass out from lack of oxygen if that kiss didn’t end soon.
“Yeah, but we shouldn’t be staring. It’s not like they’re animals in a zoo.”
His teammate, Diego, had no filter. “I hear you, only it’s like…when have you ever seen a SEAL kiss another man? It’s a first for me.”
Chris slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. “It’s a first for everyone, and Scott’s already on the receiving end of some nasty reactions. We don’t need to add to them.” He walked away, breaking his gaze from the sight. He hadn’t been able to make the wedding the previous summer, so this was the first time he’d seen Scott in such an obviously sexual way with his husband. He couldn’t bear to watch, not because it disgusted him but because it was compelling in a way that disturbed him.
Diego stepped up to his side. “Wanna grab a drink? I’d like to find some female company myself, and I hear The Anchor has added a new heat level to their wings.”
Chris shook his head. “Sorry… I’ve got laundry to do, then hitting the rack. I have an early flight to Detroit in the morning.”
Diego groaned. “Seriously? Why are you so keen on freezing your balls off after what we just went through? I need a few days in the sun to thaw out.”
“I’m overdue visiting my father. If you think you can convince him to move away from his hometown, his extended family and the proximity of my mother’s grave and come to San Diego, have at it.” There was more bite to his words than he’d intended. Visiting his father always triggered conflicting feelings in him. Obviously, he loved the man, but the strain of meeting his expectations was beginning to wear on him.
“Dude, I’m sorry. I was only joking.”
Chris flashed him a smile. “It’s fine. I know you were. I’m tired, that’s all. Have fun tonight, and I expect a full report on how it goes with both the wings and the women.”
He peeled off when they reached his truck. As he tossed in his duffel and slid behind the wheel, he reminded himself that spending his leave with his father was a good thing. They would talk shop, as much as legally permitted, watch sports and pretend that everything was great—because it was, damn it all. There was no reason to believe otherwise. And yet, the vision of Scott devouring his husband’s mouth in front of God and everyone stuck in his mind, no matter how hard he tried to shake it away.
* * * *
Chris always flew into Detroit and rented a car to drive to his hometown of Saginaw. There was a regional airport he could catch a puddle-jumper to and, being a SEAL, he had no qualms about small planes in rough weather. The drive, however, gave him a good transition period. As he headed up Interstate 75, he had time to shift mental and emotional gears in order to enter the place where he’d played with Legos and face a man who he stilled revered above all others. The last thing he’d ever wanted to do was let that man down.
The weather was brisk but with no snow in sight. There was a thin blanket of the stuff on the ground, however, and the wind had a bite to it. He didn’t mind. He’d always preferred cold to hot, which meant that notwithstanding his most recent mission, his job as a Navy SEAL was almost always conducted in places he found uncomfortable. Still, there was no other career that he’d ever wanted, and the day they’d pinned the trident onto his chest had been the proudest of his life—and his father’s. Chris never wanted to do anything to erase that look from the man’s face.
His father still lived in the family home on the west side of Saginaw. It was a working-class neighborhood filled with small houses on tidy specks of land. With such proximity, everyone knew each other and their business. No doubt, his father had been crowing about his visit for days, though there was no brass band or anything to greet him as he pulled into the driveway. His father liked his peace and quiet, but there would be extended-family visits as well as making the rounds to his father’s favorite haunts. Those places were filled with current and retired police, his father’s people. Most of them understood the kind of experiences Chris had, but they still liked to ply him with beer and pump him for unclassified tidbits about his missions. Among that crowd, he was nearly a celebrity, and while he hated the attention, he played along because of how it elevated his father among his peers. After years of public service, the guy deserved some recognition, even if it was vicarious. Chris was happy to give him that.
He’d barely turned off the SUV’s ignition when the back door opened, and Mike Novak stepped out to greet his only child. Even in his mid-sixties, the man was built like a bull, with only a slight beer gut announcing that he was slowing down. Despite the weather, he wore nothing more than a plaid shirt and jeans, his thumbs stuck in the front pockets. He waited a few feet down the walkway between the garage and the house in silent invitation. The cold slapped Chris’ face as he got out of the car, so he hurriedly grabbed his stuff and went to his father. They threw their arms around each other and did that man back-thumping thing, which was as affectionate as they got, before releasing each other and stepping back.
Chris’ father grinned as he gave him the once-over. “You’re not getting soft, I see.”
This was a running gag and Chris treated it as such, giving as good as he got. “No, sir. The Navy keeps me on my toes. Nice to know that retirement hasn’t yet turned your muscles entirely to fat.”
His father barked out a laugh, then scrutinized Chris’ face. “When did Navy regulations begin allowing scruff?”
Chris ran his fingers down one cheek. He hadn’t bothered to shave before leaving for the airport. He liked a bit of facial hair during the winter. “In the places I go to, beards are a sign of manliness, you know. Not having to shave every day is one of the perks of being a SEAL.”
His father nodded grimly before returning to the house. Chris followed his father up the narrow cement walkway as he’d done thousands of times before—the dutiful son eager to take the path his father had laid down. The moment Chris stepped into the kitchen, memories flooded him as they always did. This was where he’d grown up. He could picture himself helping his mother make oatmeal-raisin cookies. It seemed as if the small room still smelled as it had whenever she’d baked. Emotions welled up, her loss remaining a raw wound, even though it had been three years since she’d passed. He shoved them back down, as he always did so as not to upset his father. The man dealt with his grief as he’d been raised to do—as if it didn’t exist. Chris gave him the illusion of doing the same, pasting a smile on his face as he walked through to his old room. It didn’t take long, given how small the one-story house was. His father’s salary hadn’t given them an extravagant lifestyle, but Chris had always gotten everything he’d needed, and for that, he was grateful. He really wanted to re-create that home life for a wife and children of his own.
“Want a beer?” his father called from the kitchen.
“Sure.” Chris leaned against the doorframe and watched his father grab two bottles from the refrigerator. “Got any plans for today?”
His father popped the tops and handed one of the bottles to Chris as he took a long pull from the other. “Just watching the game later. I figured we could hang out here and catch up.”
Chris didn’t have to ask what game. It had to be hockey. His heart belonged to the Red Wings, of course, but his father would watch any two teams play. The man loved the ice and had played a little in high school. So had Chris in his never-ending quest to make his father proud. He always enjoyed watching sports with his old man. It was an easy means to spend time together, which was just another way of saying ‘safe’. Getting upset at a ref’s call was the kind of emotion they both had no trouble expressing. They sat in the living room, Chris lounging on the sofa while his father relaxed in his easy chair, and shot the shit. Chris had stored up enough stories that he entertained his father for hours as they nursed a couple of beers.
“Val’s expecting us for dinner tomorrow.”
Chris shrugged. “Sure. It will be nice to see her and Uncle Ed.”
“Tim’s making the trek up from Ann Arbor, too.”
Chris smiled as he pictured the quiet boy his cousin had been. The kid had proven to be the smartest one in their family and a true Michigander, turning down MIT in order to go to the University of Michigan.
“Go Blue.” Chris drained his bottle. “It will be good to see him.”
His father sighed and leaned back farther in his chair. “Yeah, not many of your generation have stuck to the home state. One of these summers, Val and I are going to have to plan a big family reunion.”
“Great idea. I’ll come if I can.” Chris glanced out of the window, realizing the afternoon had slipped by. “Getting to be dinner time.” His stomach reminded him that beer and some potato chips didn’t constitute lunch. He hadn’t eaten in hours. “How about I order from Pac’s?” It was the best pizza parlor in the city, and for a while, he’d gotten a lot of free food while he’d dated the owners’ daughter.
“Sounds good. The number’s on the fridge.”
“No need.” Chris tapped the side of his head as he pulled out his phone. “Unless it’s changed, that’s tattooed on my brain.” A woman whose voice he didn’t recognize answered and took his order. When he was done, he went to grab his jacket.
“Here,” his father said, reaching for his wallet.
“No, sir. Dinner’s on me.” He could remember how he’d treated his parents to the same kind of meal with his first-ever paycheck as a teenager. It felt good being able to give back.
With a shrug, his father conceded and turned on the TV as Chris headed out of the back door. Pac’s Pizza was within easy walking distance, but with the growing cold of the evening and the size of the order, Chris didn’t hesitate to drive there. As he navigated a route he could travel blindfolded, he couldn’t help thinking about Lizzy Pac and how they’d lost their virginity together. Picturing her should have made him hard, and while there was some stirring of interest, his dick mostly stayed limp. This was nothing new. For a while now, his body wasn’t reacting to women the way it should—the way he wanted it to. Being in countries where interacting with all females was mostly impermissible was actually a relief. It gave him a reason to not think about them and his lack of interest.
The image of Scott and his husband popped unbidden into Chris’ head. Now that was a different kind of stimulus. “Nope.” He shut it down and concentrated on his driving as if he were navigating a road in a war zone.
Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.
She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don't understand why they can't read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.
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