Release Date: 03/2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1733
Amazon Kindle: Anchors Aweigh
Blurb: After completing Navy SEAL training, Cooper Fitch and Eli Jones face assignment into different platoons. Since the strength of their mutual physical attraction is exceeded only by their emotional reliance on each other, the idea of being separated for a year or more is a bitter pill to swallow. But missing Eli may be just the beginning of Cooper's troubles: he's got an undisciplined man in his platoon, an uptight commanding officer, and his own insecurity about his leadership skills to deal with. Without Eli at his back, Cooper starts to wonder if he really has what it takes to be a SEAL.
NOTE: Excerpt contains both strong language and explicit sexual references.
Cooper looked down at the sad formation of empty shot glasses lined up like soldiers on the scarred wooden table in front of him. Whoa. He didn't remember throwing down that many, but maybe he'd lost track-it had been a long night. He blinked and the number of glasses divided by half. There, that was better. One more shot ought to do it. Maybe two, just to be sure. He smacked his lips to test for numbness, his own personal buzz barometer.
The crew, what was left of it, had commandeered their usual corner at Ketchum's bar. Used to be they had to push a couple of tables together, but without Boom-Boom, Mutt, and Wallbanger, the four of them fit easily at one for their last night of liberty before the hammer of platoon assignments came thundering down. None of them had played pool or chased tail. Instead they'd holed up and started drinking. Even Mickey Chavez, who usually abstained from all corrupting influences, had spent the night tossing back B-52s like they were mother's milk. He'd already excused himself to hurl once, but Cooper didn't have the heart to rib him about the dangers of mixing liquors. Personally, Cooper had stuck to whiskey, the straightest route to utter and absolute oblivion.
Eli reached across him and added his own glass to the formation. "Anybody want nachos?" Bless his hen-pecking heart, Eli had been trying to wean them off liquor and onto something with a lick of fat and protein for the past hour, but so far, nobody was biting. Literally.
"Fuck nachos," Ace O'Reilly muttered into his umpteenth beer. "Today is not yo' day."
"Sing it, Ace," Cooper said, raising one of his empty glasses and clinking it sloppily against O'Reilly's mug.
Eli brushed against his side, leaning in close as he said under his breath, "Don't encourage him."
Too late. O'Reilly raised his mug again and started caterwauling. "Fuck them nachos, fuck 'em hard-"
Chavez reached across the table and clapped a hand over Ace's mouth, force of habit for anybody who'd ever listened to him try to carry a tune.
Eli smothered a grin with his hand, but Cooper could still see it in his eyes. Oh, sure, O'Reilly shooting off at the mouth might be funny today, ha ha, but what about tomorrow, when he got handed over to a platoonful of tight-jawed SEALs who might not feel like putting up with his shit?
"Who's gonna shut him up from now on? Huh? Tell me that," Cooper said. Okay, maybe he snapped a little, because Eli's smile disappeared like it had never been there. Cooper shook his head. "Sorry."
"Maybe he'll end up with you or me," Eli said.
Eli didn't look like he believed it, either. He hadn't said "you and me," see, and therein lay the goddamn rub.
Their little graduation party sucked. Far be it from Cooper to question the Navy in its infinite motherfucking wisdom, but the longer they'd waited to hear where the hell they were going next, the antsier they'd gotten, until Eli had finally herded them off the base and poured the first round down them. They'd held off deliberately, planning to celebrate once all seven of them had their assignments, but the higher-ups had stalled so long on divvying up the four left on the floor at Coronado that the three headed elsewhere were already gone.
Cooper had made his peace with Boom-Boom heading home to the east coast; he had family in Virginia, so he'd put in a request for Team Two at Little Creek. And Wallbanger had always had his heart set on being an 18D medic-the kind that could shoot with one hand and tap a vein for an IV with the other-and he could only get that training at Ft. Bragg. Cooper had even come to terms with losing Mutt to Naval Intelligence, though he'd hoped against hope that might mean a posting nearby. But before he knew it, Mutt had boarded a plane bound for Maryland.
Then there were four. And come tomorrow, fuck it all, they'd be scattered across eight platoons, deployed God knew where for God knew how long doing God knew what. It was enough to drive a man to drink. Speaking of which....
"I'll get us another round," Cooper said. He heard a couple of grunts that sounded in the affirmative, so he pushed back his chair.
Cooper knew that tone, sober or not. Eli used it when he had to get Cooper to do something he didn't want to do, like jump out of an airplane, or crawl out of a warm bed at the asscrack of dawn to go swim a few miles. Eli could fix almost anything, but Cooper couldn't see any way to fix this. He patted Eli on the shoulder while he waited to get his land legs set underneath him, and then he ambled up to the bar.
"Set 'em up," he told the bartender, who raised his eyebrows but dutifully started pouring.
"Last call," the bartender said as he layered a B-52.
"Say what? It's not even midnight," Cooper said.
The bartender pointed over Cooper's shoulder toward the corner. "Last call for you guys."
Cooper leaned one elbow on the bar and looked back at their table. Ace, who really only sat still if an M14 sniper rifle was involved, had Mickey in a headlock. Getting his licks in, probably, for having had his artistic expression about nachos stifled. They played like yapping dogs sometimes. Eli sat back in his chair with his legs spread and his arms crossed, ignoring Ace and Mickey with ease born of long practice. There'd be no broken bottles or splintered furniture on Eli's watch, but the bartender didn't know that.
"Yeah, all right," Cooper said. "Fair enough."
"Cooper?" A woman's voice behind him pulled Cooper's attention back. He turned to find a familiar face staring back at him: a sweet smile, round cheeks, long blonde hair pulled back. An image flashed across his retinas: that hair gliding across his lap in silky sheets while he thrust up into her hot little mouth, sunlight bright on the back of his hand as he brushed her hair away from her face so he could watch her. Then: sunlight through her bedroom blinds moving across her body, her head thrown back, baring the tilt of chin and the slope of her throat as he looked up from between her legs. She'd tasted like salt water and she squeaked when she came. Oh Christ, what was her name?
"Kim," she supplied, so either she was a mind reader or his mouth had run away with him. Since she hadn't slapped him, probably just a good guess. "We met a few months ago."
A few months that felt like a few years... well, hell, that had been a whole slip-slide across the sexual spectrum ago.
"Right, sure, I remember," he said, hoping he didn't sound as dumb as he felt. "You're at U.C. San Diego. Social work."
She nodded, looking pleased. She probably wouldn't be as pleased if he told her that the night he left her bed, he'd gone back to the barracks and jerked off Eli Jones for the first time. He caught his hand headed south on just the memory of it and jammed it in his pocket instead. And she certainly wouldn't appreciate hearing about how he planned on doing the exact same thing in the john behind the jukebox over there, either, soon as he made up a decent excuse. The restroom at Ketchum's wasn't as nice as a Motel 6, but they weren't fussy. They'd learned to settle for what they could get. Of course, he didn't plan on telling her any of that, so he just stood there, staring at her.
"Congratulations," she said after a minute. "I hear your whole boat crew graduated. That's pretty rare, isn't it?"
Cooper nodded. "That was Eli's doing, mainly," he said, lifting his chin in Eli's direction. "He's the rudder on that particular boat."
Kim looked over his shoulder toward Eli and her eyes widened a little. Cooper thought of that as The Eli Effect: one look at him and women tended to get a little gooey around the edges. Cooper couldn't blame them-he wasn't exactly immune himself.