Today I am so pleased to welcome Annabeth Albert to Joyfully Jay. Annabeth has come to share an exclusive excerpt with us from her latest release, Beta Test, the second book in the #gaymers series (which I reviewed here and loved). Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Thanks so much to Jay for having me today! I wanted to share a peek at BETA TEST, my new release. My characters are on a road trip together and this is the latest in a string of complications for the pair. Tristan and Ravi start the trip as co-workers who barely tolerate each other, but they don’t know what the road ahead has in store for them…
Ravi suppressed a groan as he approached his desk. Captain America, AKA Tristan Jones, was at it again, stalking Ravi’s cube like he’d been waiting for him to return from lunch. Which he probably had, because Captain Perfect brought his lunch in a cute little plaid insulated bag and worked through every lunch hour like he was allergic to socializing. Also, Tristan undoubtedly spent the time dreaming up new “action items” for Ravi to address, because every freaking day since this project started three months ago he was there promptly at one o’clock with a list of questions.
Like seriously, a written list of questions, ones that could be just as easily emailed, but no, Tristan had to personally walk them over and stand there waiting for him. It was as if he didn’t trust Ravi to answer his email or respond to chat messages. And okay, he could be a bit lax in that department when he got deep into a design project, but hello, work. As in what he was supposed to be doing. It wasn’t his fault that when he got really sucked in to one of his drawings, the outside world faded away. And even so, despite all Tristan’s worries, Ravi still managed to address the action items and meet his deadlines.
“Hey, Tris, what’s up?” Ravi deliberately used the nickname to irritate Tristan, who was nothing if not formal. Hell, Ravi was surprised the dude didn’t have a double first name and hyphenated last name like some of the country club guys Ravi had gone to high school and college with. Ravi supposed Tristan was attractive in the same way as those guys—every blond hair on his head neatly tamed, and his wide shoulders and square jaw suggesting he’d be good at whatever he attempted in his life.
Including managing Ravi.
“I’m double-checking that the order went to the printing press on schedule. And I have questions—”
“Of course you do.” Ravi tried not to sound irritated, but failed miserably. They had been put on the same team for a top-secret project that would be unveiled at a huge gaming convention in Seattle. Really, it was a huge honor to be selected to work on the project after only a few months with the company. And the rest of the six-person combined marketing-and-graphics team were pretty cool, laid-back people who were content to let the new guys do the brunt of the work. But where Ravi saw creative freedom, Tristan saw a fiefdom ripe for seizing. And spreadsheeting. Ravi wasn’t entirely sure that was a verb, but if it was, Tristan was the master of it.
“Here’s my checklist of last-minute items—” Tristan held out a color-coded spreadsheet. His tone was efficient, but even though Tristan put the P in Professional behavior, he never seemed completely able to hide his frustration with Ravi’s methods of getting things done. “And these are the six items I need you to double-check. I made your items navy.”
“We need to introduce you to the rest of the color spectrum, man.” Ravi took the spreadsheet. Tristan saw the world in navy, tan, white and gray. Hardly worth the effort of color printing. Even the guy’s highlighters were a nice classic subdued yellow. No neon colors were slipping in on Tristan’s watch.
“Are you making fun of my tie again?” Tristan straightened his tie, which had tiny navy ties on it. A tie of ties. Ravi’s eyes wanted to cross.
“Nah,” Ravi lied. There were three types of dressers at the Space Villager headquarters offices: the majority who seriously didn’t give a crap and showed up in faded jeans and Think Geek T-shirts, the couple of people like Ravi and his friend Adrian who had an actual personal style, and Tristan, who owned an alarming amount of polyester and who seemed incapable of letting go of his starched shirts and ties even after Robert Christopher himself told Tristan it was okay to go casual.
“You’ll have this done by Friday?”
“Of course.” Ravi resisted the urge to roll his eyes. No matter what Tristan thought, Ravi was a professional—one who was putting in sixty hours a week easily on this project, and he hadn’t missed a deadline yet. But for Tristan, on time wasn’t good enough.
“Thank you.” Tristan’s eyes darted around Ravi’s cube. This was always the fun part of Tristan’s little visits. It was as if Tristan couldn’t decide on a safe spot to rest his eyes. Today, Tristan’s gaze landed on Ravi’s collection of rainbow-themed bobble heads dancing over the clipboard with the pledge sheet for the AIDS research fun run Ravi was doing in a few weeks.
“Want to sign up?” Ravi grabbed the clipboard. He knew what the answer was likely to be, but it never hurt to try. “You can run with me and my friends, or you can give me money. Some guys like Adrian are pledging based on my 10k time, but others are giving a flat amount.”
“I…uh…” Tristan turned several shades of purple. Typical. Anything remotely “gay” made Tristan twitchier than a Bible Belt preacher.
Ravi sighed and put the clipboard back. He’d about had it with Tristan’s subtle homophobia. He could handle the spreadsheets, but Tristan’s veneer of discomfort made these little visits about as much fun as a tooth extraction. “Whatever. It’ll be here. You need anything else?”
“No. Just please do your list. Double-check. Everything must be perfect before they load the truck on Friday.”
“Got it.” On Friday, the truck heading to the Seattle conference would be loaded, then there would be a big corporate party celebrating the end of this big push to get things ready. On Sunday, the two senior members of the team, a married couple who thought driving to Seattle would be “a kick,” would set out for next week’s conference. And then Ravi could relax, and with any luck, be rid of Tristan. Heck, he’d take whatever conceptual project Robert wanted to toss at him, as long as it meant a bit of breathing room from Captain Perfect and the Spreadsheets of Doom.
Player vs. Player. Fight!
Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he’s just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.
Tristan Jones isn’t really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.
Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi’s shocked to see Tristan’s sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He’s less shocked to learn his handsome colleague’s prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn’t struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they’ve even begun?
Book Two of the #gaymers series
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. Annabeth loves hearing from her readers. Please sign up for her newsletter and/or join her reader group on facebook!