Today I am so pleased to welcome Annabeth Albert to Joyfully Jay. Annabeth has come to talk to us about her latest release, Sink or Swim. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
“I had a great idea.” Calder looked up when I reached the last step, usual impish grin firmly back in place.
“Oh?” My stomach quivered. Had to be dread because no way was I hoping for some lewd suggestion. Liar. Skin heating, I made my way to the chair by the woodstove, very carefully not sitting next to Calder.
“We should play pool. Test out my repair job.” Pointing toward the hallway, he gave me a crooked smile, one I wasn’t entirely sure I trusted.
“You want to play pool? Now?”
“Well, it’s that or talk you into coming over here on the couch with me, but I figured my chances of making out would go up if you were more certain they were asleep.” Moving his legs, he patted the space next to him.
Yup. I definitely didn’t trust that grin. “Calder…”
“I know, I know. You didn’t mean to kiss me. But you did.” He shrugged like accidental kissing was something people wandered into all the time. “And the way I see it, there’s no reason you can’t do it again. Tomorrow I’ll be out of your hair and you can go back to being Doctor Responsible Parent, but maybe tonight you can have a little fun for yourself.”
“That would not be prudent.” I licked my suddenly parched lips. Fun. He’d used that term earlier. Did I even remember what R-rated fun was like?
“Probably not, but it sure would be memorable.” He waggled his eyebrows at me, all silly, and that lightness made him infinitely more appealing, that much harder to turn down.
I stood before I could let my growing temptation win. There might be something to his logic, but I wasn’t quite ready to let myself agree with him. “I’m going to go make a fire in the game room.”
Grabbing the walking stick, Calder hobbled after me. “So, pool first. And then…”
“Pool only.” I headed right for the woodstove and busied myself with starting a fire. “And no, you’re not playing me for articles of clothing or something ridiculous.”
“Felix. You wound me.” Calder put his hand on his heart, as dramatic as one of the kids. “Strip pool is strictly an after-midnight enterprise.”
“Don’t make me poke you with the cue,” I said as I retrieved one for each of us.
“Oh, you can poke me…”
“You don’t give up easy, do you?” I peered closer at him, trying to see a shadow of that bullied kid. He’d showed amazing tenacity in his story. The navy was lucky to have someone with his sort of perseverance and resilience.
“Nope.” Laughing, he grabbed the chalk. “Giving up wouldn’t have gotten me through basic training and sub school and making chief.”
“Why did you pick the submarine force? That’s all volunteer, right?” Like with cooking, we worked together without needing a lot of negotiation. He passed me the chalk, then waited while I racked the balls, leaning against the table. I hoped his foot wasn’t hurting too badly, but chances were high that he wouldn’t own up to the pain if it meant missing out on a game.
“Yup. You have to volunteer and then get picked. A good percentage of the personnel who raise their hands never make it through the training. It’s intense. And my dad served on submarines. I wanted to prove that I could do it too. Wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I was too tall or that I’d wash out of sub school.” The defiance in his voice said there was another story there, one that had likely added even more mettle to his steel-plated spine.
“You had something to prove.”
“Guess so. I know my limits though.” He gave a harsh laugh before I indicated that he should go first. Balls clattered across the table. “I don’t have the sort of math brain you need for being a nuke. Instead, I picked logistics as my duty rate because I’ve always been good at making stuff happen, working out details, facilitating deals. Less math, more people skills.”
“You’d be a good salesperson.” I took my turn, shots less aggressive than Calder’s, but still racking up some points.
“Nice job.” His appreciative gaze made warmth pool low in my gut. Damn, I wanted him. “And that’s what my mom’s always saying. She likes to joke that I could sell ice in a blizzard. She’s not wrong.”
“And you’re so humble.” I made the joke simply for the pleasure of hearing him laugh.
“Hey, it serves me well in cards too. People who don’t know me tend to think I’m a nice-but-dumb jock.” He frowned as he lined up another shot, deftly sending a ball into the corner pocket. “They don’t see my victory coming.”
“Like Tim?” I probably shouldn’t have brought my snake of an ex up, as all day we’d both avoided talking about Calder’s possible claim on the cabin. And he didn’t need my frustration at the whole situation.
“Like Tim. He thought he had a win in the bag, but I showed him.” Pausing to stare me down, Calder pursed his mouth. Maybe I wasn’t the only frustrated one. “Good for you.” My voice came out too clipped to defuse the growing tension between us.
“Look, I might be dying to kiss you again, but I’m also not going to apologize for going to the poker party.” Snap. He sank the last two balls with a fancy move, but didn’t smile at his victory.
“You didn’t know he was lying.” I reached out to touch his sleeve. Even if it made me shift my weight from foot to foot, I appreciated his directness. He owned his choices, and I could respect that. “Trust me, I know how convincing Tim can be. And I’ve already put a reminder in my phone to call the lawyer first thing Monday.”
“Good.” Calder nodded sharply. “And don’t think I didn’t notice you avoiding the kiss comment.”
I quickly dropped my hand. “You said we weren’t playing for that sort of thing.”
“No, I said I wouldn’t take your shirt. Never promised not to steal a kiss.” Stepping closer, he did exactly that, a quick peck that only left me that much more hungry for this to continue.
I groaned, more at my own fickle resolve than at his audacity. “Calder…”
“How about you play me for another kiss?” With the earlier tension evaporated, his playful grin made him awfully hard to resist.
“This is a terrible idea.” I racked up the balls for another round anyway.
“I know. You go ahead and break.”
Calder wasn’t the only one with a repertoire of trick shots. Not sure exactly what I was playing for or which outcome I wanted most, I nonetheless scored several points in succession.
“Oh, it’s on.” Calder whistled low. Impressing him felt better than it had any right to. “I think you have a secret competitive streak of your own, Doc.”
“Maybe.” I rubbed the back of my neck, still unsure whether I wanted to win or not.
“I guess you kind of have to be to make it through medical school.” He easily won some points of his own before leaning against the table. “How’d you pick your specialty? I bet you would have been a great pediatrician or something like that.”
“Kids are great. I always wanted to be doctor. And you’re right. Originally, I’d thought pediatrics.” I hesitated, not sure how much he really cared to know, but like with the story earlier, he listened with his whole body, eyes sharp, body turned toward me, and attention locked on me. He was too damn easy to talk with. “But then my grandmother spent her later years battling dementia and cognitive function loss and the accompanying depression and anxiety. I became fascinated by the research into treatments. I might not have been able to help her, but I can help others, and that means something to me.”
“Yeah. I can see that.” Calder tilted his head like he’d truly heard me, the solemn regard in his eyes more potent than a shot of bourbon. “She’d be proud. You’re a good guy.”
“I try.” I had to look away then before I kissed him senseless. I busied myself with the game, not keeping track of my shots until Calder groaned.
“Well, heck. You win.” His disappointed tone echoed through me.
“I do.” My voice was as grave as his, and I held his gaze until the air became thick, the moment almost unbearable.
And then I lunged for him.
Forget meaningless games. I wanted to kiss him, so I did. And unlike that first kiss, which had been born of an urge to comfort, this kiss was all combustible lust. He met me eagerly, as if he’d known all along that this would be the outcome.
His happy noise as our lips met went straight to my cock. Being able to give him something he wanted this damn much made me light-headed, giddy with power. Not content with little nips and sips, I delved deeper into his mouth, which parted on a needy gasp. He tasted sweet, like the marshmallows we’d toasted with the girls after dinner. His tongue against mine made my cock swell further until all I could think about was the next kiss, existing simply for that next brush of contact.
“Albert makes a deeper and more sensitive investigation into what love is than most romances.” —New York Times Book Review on Conventionally Yours
Winning and losing are subject to sexy interpretation…
Navy chief Calder Euler loves to win big. His latest score? A remote mountain cabin. Checking it out is supposed to be a quick trip, but Calder’s luck abruptly turns when a freak injury and a freakier snowstorm leave him stranded.
Oh, and the cabin isn’t empty. A silver fox caring for two young girls claims that the property is his, but Calder’s paperwork says otherwise.
Felix Sigurd is on a losing streak, and his ex-husband risking the cabin in a reckless bet is only the latest in a series of misfortunes. He’ll tolerate the handsome stranger for a couple nights–even care for his injuries—but that’s it.
Calder doesn’t know a damn thing about kids, but making pancakes for Felix’s girls is a surprising delight. Trapped in the cabin, the four of them slip easily into the rhythms of a family. But when the ice melts, they’ll have to decide if a future together is in the cards.
Carina Adores is home to romantic love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.
Book 1: Sailor Proof
Book 2: Sink or Swim
Also by Annabeth Albert:
Out of Uniform
Book 1: Off Base
Book 2: At Attention
Book 3: On Point
Book 4: Wheels Up
Book 5: Squared Away
Book 6: Tight Quarters
Book 7: Rough Terrain
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 Pacific Northwest romance writer of many critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series. To find out more, check out: www.annabethalbert.com. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content.