“This really how you want to spend New Year’s, kid?” Flint eyed him, streetlights flickering across his face. “Driving some drunk old man home?”
“Drunk old man?” Josh chuckled. “You don’t seem that drunk or that old to me.”
“Drunk enough I shouldn’t be driving, though, eh?”
Josh shrugged. “Better safe than sorry.”
Flint gave a quiet grunt of amusement. “I could’ve made it myself. And don’t expect me to feel guilty about catching a lift instead of letting you score the only tail you’re going to see for a while.”
Josh laughed softly and focused on the road. “To be honest, I didn’t really see anything I liked at the bar, Chief.”
“In that bar?” He could feel Flint’s gaze on him, peering right into him. “What are you? Queer or something?”
Josh tightened his grip on the wheel and fidgeted uncomfortably, realizing a second too late he should’ve laughed it off like he always did. Should’ve done his usual instinctive, What? No! Of course not! But that had gotten stuck in his throat, and he’d choked, and now… F*ck.
Beside him, the creak of leather upholstery suggested he wasn’t the only one who wasn’t nice and relaxed anymore.
Josh cleared his throat. “I just…didn’t see anything I liked. Chief.”
No answer. No response at all.
He chanced a quick look at Flint. The chief’s eyes were focused straight ahead, his jaw set and his lips tight.
Josh returned his gaze to the road. The rest of the drive was silent except for Flint offering quiet, terse directions now and then.
“This is the place.” He gestured at a small apartment building.
Josh had never been so relieved to reach a destination and pulled into the driveway. He swung into the nearest empty parking spot, killed the engine and got out. “I’ll, um…” He swallowed hard as Flint came around the front of the car. Holding out the chief’s keys, he said, “I’ve got my cell. I can, um, call a cab.”
Flint took his keys but didn’t move. “It’s…just going to get colder out here. If you want to wait inside…” He nodded toward the building.
“I’ll be fine. The 7-11 up the road might be a better place for the guy to meet me anyway. Easier to find and—”
He stopped. Swallowed.
Flint took a breath. “Just wait inside. Neighborhood can get a little rough this time of night.”
Josh hesitated. The neighborhood looked peaceful enough, but… Hell. It was only for ten or fifteen minutes. Flint didn’t seem outwardly hostile or homophobic, just not terribly comfortable. Nothing dangerous.
“Uh, sure. Thanks.”
He wasn’t sure what reaction he expected from Flint. Annoyance? Relief? Hell, he had no idea. The last thing he expected, though, was for the chief to hold his gaze a moment longer and then clear his throat and shift his attention away like he was uncomfortable, but not in the way he’d been in the car. Josh could have sworn Flint was nervous now in the exact same way he was. As if he shared Josh’s disconcerting vulnerability in that moment.
I’m just imagining things, Josh told himself as he silently followed Flint up the front walk. Wishful thinking.
At the door, Flint fumbled with his keys, swearing under his breath a few times.
Just the alcohol. Good thing he didn’t drive.
The dead bolt finally gave, and Flint let them into the apartment. He tossed his keys onto a table beside the door and said over his shoulder, “Long as you’re stuck here for a little while, you want a beer?”
Josh chewed the inside of his cheek. Tempting, but no point in adding some fraternization to their already awkward evening. “I’m okay. Thanks.”
While Flint was in the kitchen, Josh pulled out his phone and scrolled to the number for a cab company. Then he stared at the number. Just stared at it, completely at a loss for the next step.
Call them, idiot. Arrange a pickup. You’ve done this before, and you’re not even drunk this time.
“Something wrong?” Flint stepped out of the kitchen, brown bottle in hand.
“I, um…” Josh looked at his phone. “I need your address. To give to the dispatcher.”
“Oh. Right. I’ll jot it down for you.” Flint quickly wrote the address on a scrap of paper and handed it to Josh.
“Thanks.” The sooner he made the call, the sooner he could get the hell out of here. Maybe he should’ve gone to the 7-11 after all, because he couldn’t concentrate now. Getting away from Flint seemed like a damned good start as far as—
Josh cleared his throat. “Sorry. I’m…” He stared at his phone. What was I doing?
Calling a cab.
Getting out of here.
Away from my instructor who knows.
His stomach was a ball of nerves now, his heart pounding and his hands shaking. One badly judged reaction in the car, and now his trident—his career—was on the line, entirely dependent on this man’s willingness to keep his mouth shut.
He lowered his phone and looked Flint in the eyes. “Chief, about…um…”
Flint tilted his head but didn’t speak. Of all the times for him to just stand there quietly and let Josh untangle his own tongue instead of cussing him up one side and down the other, he had to pick this one.
Josh pulled in a breath. “Look, yes. I am gay. But none of the other guys know. And I don’t want it getting out. Is there… Can we…”
“You want to keep it between us.”
Every muscle in Josh’s neck and shoulders relaxed. “Thank you, Chief.”
And just like that, all those muscles were tensed up again. “Okay…”
“I’ll keep it quiet.” Flint locked eyes with him and stepped closer. “As long as you will too.”
“What?” Josh furrowed his brow. “If I don’t want you to out me, why the hell would I out myself?”
“I wasn’t talking about outing yourself.”
“Then what the hell—” Josh’s jaw dropped. “Oh. Oh.”
Flint took another step toward him. “Do we have an understanding, Lieutenant?”
Josh fought the urge to counter with a backward step, but he wasn’t sure he could’ve moved if he’d wanted to. He was stone-cold sober, but he couldn’t think, couldn’t move, couldn’t understand anything about this moment. Anything except for the fact that Flint was looking right at him. He’d been on the receiving end of Flint’s green-eyed stare before, but not this stare.
“Do we—” Flint hesitated, and his voice was both soft and unsteady as he said, “Do we have an understanding, Lieutenant?”
“I don’t know,” Josh whispered. “Do we?” He swallowed. “I mean, do we, Chief?”
Flint broke eye contact, though he didn’t back off. He turned his head and slowly, as if the motion took intense concentration, set his beer bottle on the end table beside the sofa. The tap of glass on wood made Josh jump like a gunshot had gone off.
Flint didn’t give him any shit for the startled reaction. He didn’t tell him to relax or calm down. Josh couldn’t be sure, but he thought the chief was just as on edge as he was.
Then he was looking in Josh’s eyes again.
And somehow, he was closer now. Somewhere between turning away and turning back, he’d narrowed the space between them to a few tense inches, and Josh was sure his heart couldn’t possibly pound any harder.
“Do me a favor.” Flint spoke so softly, Josh leaned in closer to hear him better.
Flint lifted his hand. Their eyes were locked on one another, but Josh still watched Flint’s hand in his peripheral vision, and yes, his heart could in fact pound harder as Flint reached across that short distance. Flint touched Josh’s neck, his fingers still cool from his beer bottle, and Josh closed his eyes as the warm-cool hand followed the line of his collar around to the back of his neck.
“Do me a favor,” Flint whispered again. “Tonight, don’t call me chief.”
Josh opened his eyes. “W-what should I call you?”
The fingers on the back of his neck tightened, and Josh let himself be drawn closer. Much closer.
Oh God. Oh my fucking God. Is he…? Oh…shit…
“Just for tonight,” Flint said, his breath brushing Josh’s lips, “call me David.”
And Flint—David—kissed him.
Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid.
When Navy SEAL training pushed Lieutenant Josh Walker to his limit, Chief David Flint’s stern heart-to-heart—more like boot-to-ass—helped Josh realize his potential. When the holidays found them alone together and sharing a mutual attraction, they couldn’t help breaking a few regulations. And nearly breaking some furniture in the process.
Years after their short-lived fling, Senior Chief Flint returns to SEAL duty and finds himself under the command of the man he’s never been able to forget: Lieutenant Commander Walker. And Josh hasn’t forgotten David, either. Rules be damned, they can’t keep their hands off each other.
Despite their discretion, another SEAL catches on and threatens to expose their relationship, forcing Josh to bend to a blackmailer’s demands to avoid strife within the team just before a dangerous mission. David is the last man he can confide in…and the first to pick up on Josh’s tightly screwed down stress.
When a life-or-death decision calls Josh’s leadership into question, coming clean could cost him what he values most. His coveted trident…and the man he loves.
Contains a pair of Navy SEALs who don’t like playing by the rules, scorching hot sex between two Alphas who like to be in charge, cursing as only Navy men can curse, lots of camouflage and badassery in the wilds of North Korea, and enough emotion to sink a battleship.
This 63,000 word novel was previously published.