(Anchor Point #2)
by L.A. Witt
Release Date: January 16, 2017
About Afraid to Fly
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.
Read my five-plus-starred review of Afraid to Fly.
Add Afraid to Fly on Goodreads.
An Excerpt from Afraid to Fly
In the parking lot, a car door slammed. The distinct click of dress shoes came closer, and I turned my head.
And almost dropped my cigarette.
Was I already getting loopy on the Percocet I hadn’t even taken yet? Or was Clint really back? Strolling up the sidewalk? Coming right toward me? Alone?
I blinked a few times. Nope, this was no phantom drug side effect. That was Clint, and he was back, and was . . .
I stood straighter, schooling the wince out of my expression. “Hey. I thought you called it a night.”
“I did. But then . . .” He shook his head. “Anyway. Can, uh . . .” He gestured toward the door to the ball still going on without us. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Uh . . .” I really am having premature hallucinations, aren’t I? “I . . . Seriously?”
“Yeah. Kind of feel like . . . uh, like I owe you and everybody else for putting up with Logan.” As soon as he said it, something in him settled, as if he’d been searching for an explanation and finally found one that satisfied him. He took a deep breath, and shifted slightly, as if he couldn’t quite stay still. “Do you want anything?”
Oh, I definitely want—
“A Coke is fine. I’ve, uh, gotta drive.” Which was true. Kimber had had quite a bit to drink tonight, so it was either me or a cab. “Here.” I reached for my wallet. “You fly, I’ll—”
“I’ll get it. Don’t worry about it.” He flashed a shy smile. “Should I come back out here, or . . .?”
“No. I . . .” I glanced at the cigarette in my hand, then dropped it on the ground and crushed it under my heel, ignoring the twinge that motion sent from my hip to my back. “I was heading back inside.”
“Meet you at the table?”
We separated, and I headed back to where we’d been sitting earlier. Everyone else had cleared out—they were either dancing, socializing, or waiting for more drinks. Fine by me. I didn’t need anyone watching me lower myself into my chair like I was eighty-five instead of forty-five. Or notice me cursing when a spasm knifed across my back and made my eyes water.
I leaned my forearms on the table, lifting my shoulders as much as I could to stretch the aggravated muscles. The spasm started to subside, but it wasn’t in any hurry.
“Are you all right?” Damn. Clint’s voice.
I nodded, and cautiously released my breath. Lifting my head, I forced a smile. “Old injury.” I took out the TENS unit and cranked that fucker back up. “Still likes to come back and haunt me sometimes.”
“Those are a bitch, aren’t they?” He set a Coke in front of me and sat in the next chair with what might’ve been a Coke, or maybe Coke and something stronger.
I rolled my stiff shoulders. “Eh, life in the military, am I right?”
“I’ll drink to that.” He raised his glass. “This life ain’t for the faint of heart.”
“Amen.” I clinked mine against his and took a sip.
“And, um . . .” He lowered his gaze. “By the way, I hope my date wasn’t too much of an idiot for—”
“Don’t sweat it. You should’ve seen Wolcott’s wife at the Christmas party last year.”
He met my eyes. “Really?”
“Oh yeah. And Stevenson’s husband got so shitfaced, he tried to pick a fight with the chaplain.”
“The chaplain?” Clint sputtered. “Over what?”
“Who knows?” I shrugged. “When you’re that drunk, why does anything need to make sense?”
I couldn’t be sure, but I thought he winced. Averting his eyes again, he quietly said, “Isn’t that the truth.”
I studied him, not sure if the wince had been leftover embarrassment from his idiot date, or something deeper. Whatever it was, he probably didn’t want to get into it, so I changed the subject.
“So, um.” I drummed my fingers nervously. “Are you settling in okay? To the new town and all?”
Clint nodded. “It’s nice to be out of the desert.”
“The desert?” I paused. “Oh right. You came from Nellis, didn’t you?”
“Yep. Man, I did not sign up for the Navy to spend my life in Nevada.”
“Could be worse. I know a few people who’ve landed in Nebraska.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Ugh. The Navy does not belong in landlocked states.”
“Tell that to the Air Force,” I muttered. “They’re the ones who need the Navy to operate the complicated, technical shit.”
That got a laugh out of him. Nothing like the good-natured rivalry between military branches to lighten up a conversation.
“So, you were a drone pilot, right?” I asked.
His laughter faded a bit, and he sat straighter. “We prefer RAP. But yes.”
“RAP?” Come on, Travis. You haven’t even taken the drugs yet. “Remind me what that is again?”
“Remote aircraft pilot.”
“Right. Right. Got it.” I took a sip of my drink, and with it, swallowed a few smartass comments about how a fancy name didn’t change the fact that if you don’t leave the ground, you’re not a damn pilot.
Says the man who hasn’t left the ground in too many fucking years.
As if for emphasis, one of the spasms in the center of my back tightened, catching my breath. God, if I’d been sitting here with anybody else, I’d have flagged down my daughter, bowed out, and gotten the hell home for my date with Percocet. As it was, I probably wasn’t going to last too much longer, but this was the first chance I’d had to sit down with Clint, one-on-one, outside the office, and with the knowledge that he wasn’t straight after all. I could breathe through a few muscle spasms if I had to.
“How long were you a drone—RAP?”
Clint fidgeted, wrapping both hands around his drink and staring into the glass. “Little too long.”
Okay, so that topic was a minefield too. Maybe the best approach was to let him choose a direction, and I’d follow his lead.
The silence hung there for an uncomfortable minute or so.
Then, finally, he said, “So your date really hooked up with the bride’s father?”
A relieved laugh burst out of me. I didn’t even care about the pain it sent radiating across the back of my ribs. “He really did. That was . . . awkward.”
He chuckled. “I can imagine. Did she at least know her dad was into men?”
“Nope.” I shook my head slowly. “Pretty sure it was news to her mother too.”
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah. Let me tell you, nobody was surprised when the bride’s sister eloped the next year, and her brother had a dry wedding a few months later.”
“I believe it.” He held my gaze, giving me a chance to see how dark his eyes really were. “They didn’t blame you, though, did they?”
“No, no. Hell, the bride actually felt really bad for me because she thought we’d had something serious going on. She felt a lot better once I told her we’d only been out on a few dates by that point.”
“That’s good. I can only imagine what holidays are like in that household now.”
I grimaced. “I heard through the grapevine that they were pretty awkward for the first couple of years.” I was about to mention the number of antiques and heirlooms that were smashed the next day after the father of the bride’s walk of shame, but right then, Kimber appeared beside me.
She looked at Clint. “Oh hey. I didn’t know you came back.”
Clint shrugged. “Had to drop someone off.”
Kimber mouthed a silent Oh. She glanced at me and gestured with her beer bottle toward her seat, eyebrows up as if to ask if it was okay to sit down.
I nodded back, so she did.
“Getting tired of dancing already?” I asked.
“Just need a break for a few minutes.” She took a swig, then peered into the bottle with a scowl on her face. “What the hell? When did this one get empty?”
Clint and I both laughed.
“They have a way of doing that, don’t they?” he said.
“Little bastards,” she muttered.
“You want another one?” I asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Drunk.”
“Shut up. I am not.”
“Uh-huh.” I glanced at my soda, and realized it was getting pretty low too. “You know, I could use one myself. I’ll go get them this time.” I started to stand, and something in my back . . . moved. It wasn’t a spasm. It wasn’t a twinge. It wasn’t even really pain—just that ominous shift of soft tissue that meant things were going to get bad.
Kimber gently grasped my arm. “Dad?”
“You okay?” Clint asked.
I swallowed. “I think it might be time to call it a night.”
Instantly, Clint was on his feet. “Do you need a lift?”
I closed my eyes and exhaled. As much as it killed me to admit it, I needed someone to drive us home tonight. Swallowing my pride was the best option I had right then, so I turned to him. “You don’t mind?”
“No, of course not.” His keys were already in his hand.
“I’ll go get my coat.” Kimber let go of my arm. “Do you have the claim ticket?”
“Yeah.” I took out my wallet, fished out the ticket, and passed it to her. “We’ll meet you outside.”
“Got it.” Ticket in hand, she hurried toward the coat check.
I leaned on the chair for a second, cautiously stretching my back to gauge how bad this was going to get and how fast. Pretty bad and pretty fast, if the rapidly spreading tension was anything to go by.
“We should get out to the car,” I said, concentrating on not letting my rib cage move more than it absolutely had to while I was talking.
“Good idea.” Clint walked ahead, clearing a path for me as he went. As soon as we were outside, he turned around. “Why don’t you wait here, and I’ll bring the car up?”
Without speaking, I nodded. I could have kissed him right then even if I hadn’t been fantasizing about it for ages. I wasn’t in the mood for anything that didn’t involve sleep or pain pills, but he was a saint for being this considerate. Or maybe I’d just spent too much time with people who weren’t.
Moments later, Kimber appeared with her coat over her arm, and Clint parked at the end of the walk. Thank God I didn’t have to put on a coat. The dinner jacket I was wearing was warm enough anyway, and the motions would have been too painful.
With my daughter’s help, I eased myself into the passenger seat of Clint’s car. Then she got into the back, and Clint pulled away from the curb so carefully and smoothly, he must’ve had experience driving with someone who was in a lot of pain. At the stop sign at the end of the road, he stopped just as gently.
“Which gate?” he asked.
“Gate two,” Kimber said. Though she’d had quite a few drinks tonight, she was sober enough to direct him back to our house, so I left her to it. Meanwhile, I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing without snapping my ribs off my spine.
After we’d left the base and were on the highway, she asked, “You have some of the strong stuff at home, right, Dad?”
“Of course.” I turned to Clint, half expecting a raised eyebrow over what I meant by strong stuff, but when he glanced my way, the only thing that registered in his expression looked like genuine concern.
I closed my eyes again.
And while she continued directing him toward our place, I sent up a prayer of thanks that he’d come back to the Navy Ball tonight.
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…
Connect with L.A. Witt
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!
Follow the Afraid to Fly blog tour.