Sink or Swim
(Anchor Point #8)
by L.A. Witt
Release Date: July 16, 2018
About Sink or Swim
When need meets fear, can two very different men find common ground?
Alhazar Bukhari spent his Navy career in the closet. Now he’s retired, divorced, and hungry for the love he’s never had a chance to experience. He tries to put his faith in Allah to bring the right man into his life, but it’s hard to be patient after all this time.
Chaplain Dylan Pedersen spends his days counseling Sailors, and his nights with men he doesn’t know. Months after finally escaping an abusive relationship, he’s terrified of anything more than a physical connection. Maybe it’s a sin, but he’s too lonely to not let men into his bed, and too scared to let them into his heart.
When Alhazar’s civilian job brings him aboard the USS Fort Stevens, and his daily prayers bring him into Dylan’s chapel, the chemistry is instantaneous. Sex and friendship quickly evolve into more, but Dylan’s too haunted by his recent past to be the man Alhazar wants. Alhazar needs love, Dylan needs time, and if they can’t find some sort of balance, they’ll sink before they ever have a chance to swim.
Read my five-plus-starred review of Sink or Swim.
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An Excerpt from Sink or Swim
After I’d finished my midday salat, I closed my eyes and exhaled. The day was far from over, and I was sure there’d be more stress and aggravation, but right now, like I always did after a salat, I felt good. Serene. Completely relaxed. People had commented to me over the years that they had no idea how I could deal with praying five times I day. I wondered how they did without it.
Calm and ready to face the snarl of corroded wires I’d been working on before lunch, I carefully rolled up the mat and collected my misbaha and Qur’an. As I rose, though, I nearly dropped everything.
When had Dylan come into the sanctuary? I’d been distantly aware of movement and footsteps, and I’d heard someone take a seat in one of the creaky pews, but somehow I hadn’t realized it was him. Which was stupid. He was the chaplain. Of course he was in here.
But for whatever reason, my heart was suddenly racing. Had he been watching me pray? Did it bother him even though he’d insisted he had no problem with it?
Except Dylan wasn’t watching me. In fact, he was staring straight ahead. Elbows on his knees, hands clasped under his chin, he was just . . . staring. Probably not at anything in particular.
Or rather, probably not anything that was actually in this room.
I swallowed. I knew that look. No one served in the military or lived within spitting distance of a base without becoming familiar with the thousand-yard stare. Even the fluorescent glare on his glasses couldn’t hide the blank look in his eyes.
It had been jarring the first time I’d realized chaplains weren’t immune to combat-related PTSD. Intellectually it made perfect sense, and I’d never thought they were immune to it, but actually seeing a chaplain fighting off a flashback hit me hard. They were the counselors of every command. The guy you went to see when separation from your family was getting to you or, if you’d been to combat, when the nightmares and flashbacks caught up.
So who does the chaplain talk to when he’s the one with PTSD?
Maybe the other chaplain? Or . . . I didn’t know.
I stepped a little closer, moving cautiously, and kept my voice soft. “Hey. You all right?”
Dylan jumped, but then he nodded. He shook himself, took off his glasses, and wiped a hand over his face as he sat back in the pew. “I’m sorry. Did . . .” He blinked a couple of times. “Did you need something?”
“No, I just, uh, thought you were kind of . . .” I waved my own hand in front of my face.
“Oh. Right.” He lowered his face, ostensibly to put his glasses back on, as his cheeks darkened. “I’m fine. Just distracted.”
You’ve been somewhere with bombs dropping, haven’t you?
Who do you talk to?
I cleared my throat. “Hey, um. This might be out of line, but . . .” I hesitated, muffling another cough, then blurted out, “Do you want to get coffee later?”
Dylan blinked. “Coffee?”
“Yeah.” With a cautious smirk, I added, “You know—hot bean water?”
He actually laughed, and the color in his face deepened. “Cute. But I mean, you’re . . .” He looked in my eyes. “Coffee, together?”
“Yeah.” I shrugged. “You look like you could use some company. Maybe someone to talk to.” The words were out before I could stop them, and now that they were, I wanted the deck to split open and swallow me up so I wouldn’t have to be here for his reaction.
To my surprise, though, he smiled. Faintly, but genuinely. “That would be nice, actually.” He paused. “Did you have any place in mind?”
“Not really. There are a few cafés in town.”
Dylan’s eyes lost focus for a second before meeting mine again. “What about the O club on-base?”
The officers’ club? For coffee? Wasn’t exactly the first place that sprang to mind, but I supposed if they catered to officers, they would have decent coffee.
“Sure.” I matched his smile. “I clock out at four, so I can meet you anytime after that.”
“I’ve got a meeting at 1700, so why don’t we say 1830?”
I nodded. “Great. I’ll see you there.”
He held my gaze a moment longer, then nodded and got up. “I should get some work done. I’ll see you tonight.”
“See you then.”
As we squeezed past each other in the narrow aisle between pews, I half expected him to touch my arm or even my hip or something. Of course he didn’t. So why was I so disappointed?
Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.
No kidding. And tonight we were . . . he was . . .
I was dazed as I walked down the passageway. What in the world had possessed me to ask him? And had he really said yes?
Of course he had. Because this was just coffee after work. It wasn’t a date.
I laughed at my own thought. Right. A date.
The ship’s chaplain going on a date with a Muslim.
That’ll be the day.
About the Anchor Point series
Nestled on the northern coast of Oregon, this small town is home to Naval Air Station Adams. On base, you’ll find freshly minted Sailors who’ve just graduated boot camp, salty officers counting down till retirement, grounded pilots who’ve landed behind desks, and everyone in between—and they’re all looking for love. Well, not all of them, but that won’t stop love from finding them.
So pull up a barstool, grab a beer, and get ready for some sea stories as these men in uniform—or not—navigate the waters of love and life in the military.
Anchor Point stories can be enjoyed in any order. Hop in wherever you'd like!
Find the Anchor Point series on Goodreads.
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
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To celebrate the release of Sink or Swim, L.A. is giving away reader’s choice of two eBooks off of her backlist and a $10 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 21, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
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