Hiya peeps, we have L.A. Witt stopping by today with her new release Just Drive, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
For Sean Wright, driving a cab in the tiny Navy town of Anchor Point isn’t an exciting job . . . until he picks up just-dumped Paul Richards. A drive turns into a walk on the pier, which turns into the hottest hookup Sean’s had in ages.
After a long overdue breakup, Paul can’t believe his luck. Of all the drivers, he’s picked up by the gorgeous, gay, and very willing Sean. Younger guys aren’t usually his thing, but Paul can’t resist.
One taste and neither man can get enough . . . right up until they realize that Paul is Sean’s father’s commanding officer and the last man Sean should be involved with.
With two careers on the line, their only option is to back off. It’s not easy, though; the sex and the emotional connection are exactly what both men have been craving for a long time. But Paul has devoted twenty-four years to his career and his dream of making admiral. If he’s caught with Sean, that’s all over. He has to choose—stay the course, or trade it all for the man who drove off with his heart.
The voice from the backseat was quiet and flat. Not rude, not demanding, but not all that friendly either. Which was fine—people called the company for a cab, not conversation.
I didn’t move, though. Tapping my thumbs on the wheel, I looked in the rearview. I couldn’t see him very well; he’d taken the seat directly behind mine, and he was staring out the window toward the strip mall across the street. What little of his face made it to the mirror was heavily shadowed thanks to the bright lights from the hotel’s reception area.
“Um.” I cleared my throat. “I need an address. Or the name of a place.” I glanced at the screen with the message from dispatch. My passenger had specifically requested someone with base access. “Do you want to go to the base?”
He released a long breath, and clothes and upholstery rustled as he shifted behind me. “You get paid by time or distance?”
Dude, what the hell? You want to go somewhere or not?
“Distance. Unless I’m waiting for you.”
He turned toward me. Shadows slipped far enough off his face to give me a glimpse of tired eyes and prominent, angular features. “Whatever the meter says at the end of the night, I’ll double it.” He faced the window again. “Just drive.”
I bit back my frustration. “Where?”
“Anywhere.” He seemed to be focused on something outside. All I could see was the outline of the back of his head and neck, and the top of his jacket collar. In a voice so low I wondered if he was speaking to me or himself, he added, “I’m not ready to go home, and I sure as fuck can’t stay here.”
I glanced at the hotel he’d come out of. Message received. I put the car in drive, pulled out of the reception area, and turned onto the road. Maybe he’d be more willing to cough up a destination once this place had disappeared into the rearview.
Suit yourself, dude. I’m holding you to that double fare.
Admittedly, I was curious. If this was a walk of shame, he wouldn’t be the first. I’d picked up plenty of people who were slinking out after a one-night stand they obviously regretted, and a few who needed to make a quick exit before they were busted by a partner who wouldn’t be pleased. Then there were the people who’d obviously had an amazing night—maybe with a stranger, maybe not—and grinned all the way back to their own places. Hotel pickups in this town were nothing if not interesting.
This guy hadn’t been carrying a bag when he’d come out. Eyes down, hands in his jacket pockets, he’d walked like he was on autopilot. Maybe he’d been kicked out by someone who was still in a room with his luggage? Or he and someone else had rented a room for a short time, and things hadn’t gone as planned?
I wasn’t clairvoyant, so I wasn’t going to figure it out.
For a solid ten minutes, the only sounds in my car were the AC and the road noise as I followed the gritty highway toward town. I didn’t even have the radio on—I never did when I had a passenger—but I was tempted right then to find some music. With my luck, though, I’d probably put on some song that would annoy him, or would strike some nerve. Like the time a guy had gotten into my car and, when a particularly sad country song came on, started bawling about the woman who’d just dumped him. That had been one long, awkward ride.
So yeah. Radio off.
I subtly tapped my thumbs on the wheel, keeping the beat of the song that had been stuck in my head all night. It was something to do, anyway.
From time to time, I caught a glimpse of pale light hinting at his features. He must’ve been doing something on his phone. Maybe a few texts to get in the last word with whoever he’d left in that hotel room or something. I had no idea. He stayed silent, which most passengers did, but for some reason, that silence made me twitch. Probably because I still had no idea where the hell he wanted to go.
We were getting close to downtown now. There weren’t a lot of options for directions, but if I got on the highway and headed north or south, there were some stretches where we could go five or ten miles with no place to turn around.
“So, um.” I hesitated. I sucked at small talk, and it didn’t seem welcome anyway, but I did need some more information from him. “Any, uh, particular direction?”
My passenger was silent for about half a block. “Maybe down by the water.”
I bit back an impatient sigh. This was a Navy town, hugging the strip of land between a national forest and the Pacific Ocean. There was no such thing as not down by the water.
Dude, where down by the water?
Well, whatever. As long as he didn’t get annoyed with me for lacking the psychic abilities to know where he wanted to go.
I made a left and headed toward the pier at the south edge of town, and hoped that would satisfy him. Most of the shops and restaurants on the pier and the boardwalk would be closed this time of night, but if he didn’t like it, he could give me something more specific.
Then, he broke the silence. “You get a lot of business in a small town like this?”
“That depends.” I glanced in the rearview. “You looking to become a driver?”
He laughed quietly, and I caught a hint of smoke in his voice as he said, “No. No. Just making conversation.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t expected him to want conversation, but okay. “Business is all right. It’s only a part-time gig for me. During the week is kind of quiet, but the weekends, I scrape up all the Sailors stumbling out of bars.”
Another laugh. I decided I liked the way he laughed. Probably because it was better than uncomfortable silence.
“Somebody’s got to do it, right?” he mused.
“Yeah.” I wasn’t sure what else to say, and silence fell again.
The pier was coming up fast, and I was ready for this ride to be over, but then he leaned forward and gestured up ahead. “There’s a 7-Eleven on the left. Could you stop there?”
“Yeah. Sure.” I pulled into the parking lot.
“I’ll be right back.” He unbuckled his seat belt and opened the door, but paused. “Do you want anything?”
I looked at him in the rearview. “What?”
His reflection’s eyes met mine. Wow, they were blue. “I was going to get something to drink. You want anything?”
“Um.” I glanced down at the water bottle that had been empty in my cup holder for a while now. “You don’t . . . you don’t have to—”
“I’ll feel less guilty about making you drive me all over town.”
Oh hell. Why not? “I could go for some water. Thanks.”
He smiled, crinkling the corners of his eyes, and yeah, I needed some water. Something cold, anyway. Jesus.
“All right. I’ll be back.”
With that, he was out of the car, and I exhaled hard, sagging against my seat. I didn’t dislike the guy, and he’d been perfectly polite since I’d picked him up, but I had to admit it was nice to have a short break from that weird silence. I also turned on the radio, but kept the volume way, way down. It was loud enough I’d be able to hear it, but soft enough that, if he noticed it at all, he might believe it had been on the entire time. Why did I care, anyway? We were in my car. We weren’t talking. Let me listen to some goddamned music.
Through the 7-Eleven’s windows, I finally got a good look at him as he paid the cashier. He was vaguely familiar too, but the fact that he needed to get on base explained that—I drove people on and off post all the time, and I went there myself because my dad was stationed there. It was entirely possible I’d seen this guy at the commissary, in a parking lot, at the gym. The base wasn’t as big as Norfolk or San Diego—not by a long shot—so paths crossed on a regular basis.
He didn’t have a high-and-tight like the NCOs on the base. His light-brown hair was still short and neat, if not as severe as it was in the younger guys under my dad’s command. Even though his fatigue was visible from here—tired eyes, slightly downturned shoulders—he still carried himself like someone who’d worn a uniform for the better part of his life. He stood straight, and if he walked that fast when he was obviously exhausted, he must’ve been impossible to keep up with the rest of the time. Obviously military, but that was no shock in this town.
After he’d paid, he came back to the car, and he sat on the passenger side of the backseat this time. When I twisted around to take the water bottle he’d brought for me, we made real eye contact for the first time. He also held that eye contact like someone who flinched away from nobody.
“Here you go.” He handed a water bottle over the seat.
“Thanks.” I glanced at the one he was uncapping. It was the same brand of water as mine. “I figured you were getting a drink.”
He glanced at the bottle in his hand and shrugged. “Nah. I’m going to feel shitty enough tomorrow. No point in adding to it.”
He took a deep swallow and leaned back against the seat. I drank a bit too. I was still watching him the whole time, which was much easier now that he wasn’t directly behind me. And, God, the light spilling out from the 7-Eleven made him much easier to see too, and up close, he was smoking hot. He was definitely older than me—he had a few lines, and I could make out a few grays too. That didn’t necessarily mean much. The military had a habit of aging people prematurely. All the guys I knew looked at least five years older than they were. Ten if they’d been to combat.
So I couldn’t tell how old he was, only that he definitely wasn’t twenty anymore. Older guys weren’t really my thing, but time had been kind to him, and I hoped my heart wasn’t beating as loudly as it seemed to be. Of course he wouldn’t be able to hear it, but rational thought had gone MIA right then.
When he’d spoken earlier, there’d been a distinctive hint of gravel in his voice, and he had the same creases at the edges of his mouth that both my parents did. If he wasn’t a smoker now, he had been at one point in his life. Considering he hadn’t stopped outside the 7-Eleven for a smoke, and I couldn’t smell any on him, he must’ve quit.
And why was I so interested in him? Half the time I forgot what my passengers looked like five minutes after they left my car, but this guy needed to be memorized for some reason.
He took another drink, drawing my attention to his slim lips, his jaw, his neck . . .
I turned back around, nearly unloading my own drink into my lap before I managed to swallow a gulp. Meeting his gaze again—this time in the safety of the rearview—I said, “So, you want to keep driving around?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I still don’t know where I want to go.”
So I drove. With the road to hold my attention, at least I wasn’t staring at him anymore. Even with the radio playing softly in the background, the lack of conversation was more unnerving now that I’d let myself shamelessly check him out. It was one thing to have a weirdly silent passenger. It was another to have a smoking-hot one, especially when I was a few months into the dry spell from hell.
Note to self—don’t check out passengers if you haven’t gotten laid recently.
I fidgeted as subtly as I could. Thank God for the darkness, so my very attractive and very quiet passenger couldn’t see me surreptitiously adjusting myself. Not that he’d have noticed—he was playing on his phone again.
Out of nowhere, he broke the silence. “Christ, I’m such an idiot.”
I tapped the wheel. What was I supposed to say to that?
He let his head fall back against the headrest. “You ever wonder why perfectly functional adults turn into utter morons when they’re in relationships?”
“Um.” I cleared my throat. “Happens to all of us, I think.”
“Yeah.” He laughed bitterly. “Maybe one of these days I’ll learn.”
“You’d be the first.”
“Probably.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and exhaled. “I just . . . I mean, the worst part is when you invest so much time and energy into a relationship even when you know it’s over, and then feel like a moron when it is over.”
Oh, that explained it. A hotel room breakup. I wondered if he’d gone there expecting to spend a more pleasant evening with his girlfriend, and then found himself single and in the back of my car. Poor dude.
“Sorry to hear it,” I said.
“My own damn fault for not putting on the brakes months ago.” He muttered something I didn’t understand, and shook his head as he looked out the window again. “Didn’t have the balls I guess. Can’t even be mad that—” He paused and cleared his throat. “Well, I wasn’t going to do it. Guess I should be grateful someone finally dropped the hammer.”
He went on, mostly rambling about breakups and doomed relationships that seem to go on forever until someone finally works up the courage to call it off. I wasn’t sure exactly what he was trying to rationalize, but God knew I’d been there—searching every angle of a breakup to find silver linings and explanations so it wouldn’t hurt quite as much.
As he talked, I listened. It was usually my drunk passengers who did this—talking to the window like they didn’t even need to be heard as much as they needed to get it out of their system—but he seemed pretty sober. Sober enough to know he was in a car with a stranger. I couldn’t help feeling bad for him. This town wasn’t huge, but the only person he could find to unload all this shit on was me?
Jesus, man. How lonely are you?
Though it was a Navy town. People came and went. Loneliness was par for the course. Didn’t I know it?
“Anyway.” He blew out a breath. “I’m sorry. You probably didn’t get this job to listen to people whine about their boyfriends.”
“It’s okay. I’ve been—” Wait, did he say boyfriends? I muffled a cough. “I’ve been there, believe me.”
“Sorry to hear it.”
For a few seconds, silence. Then, “Well, that’s what I get for trying to maintain a relationship in the military. All it takes is a change of assignment, and . . .”
I sighed. “The Navy giveth, and the Navy taketh away.”
“Yes. Yes, it does.” He ran a hand through his hair. “It most definitely does.”
And for the hundredth time tonight, I had no idea what to say. He didn’t speak either, and I kept driving.
A sign caught my eye. Somehow, I’d circled back toward the pier where we’d been heading earlier.
“Why don’t you go ahead and park up there?” he said. “I could stand to get some fresh air, I think.”
“Sure.” I parked in front of the weathered driftwood fence at the end of the pier.
“I think I might go walk for a while.” He unbuckled his seat belt. “You don’t have to wait. I can, um, call another driver.”
“It’s all right. I’m already here.” I paused. “I can turn off the meter too.”
His eyebrows rose. “You don’t have to do that.”
I shrugged. “Seems like you could use a little time to clear your head.” I switched off the meter. “Won’t do you any good if it’s costing you by the minute.”
My passenger exhaled slowly. “That’s . . . I really appreciate that. Are you sure, though?”
I nodded. “It’s fine.”
“Okay. Uh, thanks.” He opened the door, then paused again. “You want to join me?”
Yes. Yes, I do. I have no idea why, but I do.
I shook my head, though, and killed the engine. “I’ll stay here. Take as much time as you need.”
He hesitated again, holding my gaze in the mirror. I thought he might say something else, but all he did was mutter something about being back in a little while, and got out.
The door shut, and it was just me, the barely audible radio, and my thumping heart. Sweaty hands on the wheel, I watched him walk toward the pier, then out onto it. He stopped a short ways down, at the far edge of a streetlight’s wide circle, and rested his forearms on the railing. He gazed out at something, and I gazed out at him.
He was impossible to read, especially from this far away, but I could empathize. I knew what overdue breakups were like. Even if they were a long time coming, they still sucked, and there were still pieces to pick up.
My stomach tightened. I’d been there. God, I’d been there. And the worst part of my last breakup had been being alone. Completely alone. Dad had been deployed. It was back before we’d moved in with his girlfriend, so I’d been holding down the fort by myself. We’d only been in this town a few months by then, and everyone I could talk to had been scattered all over both coasts and various places overseas. I could text, call, email, but at the end of the day I’d been alone, and stayed that way, and I’d hated it.
I watched my passenger, who still watched something in the distance. Maybe that was why he’d asked me to just drive him around instead of taking him straight home. Maybe it was why he’d invited me to join him while he walked around out there.
Maybe he knew as well as I did how lonely a guy could be in a town of forty thousand.
To hell with it.
I got out of the car, locked it, and started after him.
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/just-drive (Just click the excerpt tab)
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 . . .
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