Exclusive Excerpt featuring
(Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert!
About the book:
Squared Away by Annabeth Albert
Series: Out of Uniform #5
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date (Print and Ebook): April 16. Print, ebook, and audio all available.
Length (Print and Ebook): 80,000 words
Subgenre: m/m military romance
Includes: military romance, insta-family, hurt/comfort, angst, interracial, heroes-with-kids, gay romance, demisexual/gray ace hero, first time, loss, reunion, forced proximity
In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.
Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.
As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.
Hi! I’m so excited to be celebrating the release of SQUARED AWAY, which is book 5 in my Out of Uniform series. Today I’m sharing an excerpt that really captures for me the dynamic between Mark and Isaiah as they navigate through their attraction to each other. - Annabeth Albert
Since Mark was distracted with making the baby laugh, Isaiah grabbed the last two bags.
“Ow.” The same neck muscle that had been sore since Saturday pinched, pain radiating down his arm.
“Here.” Mark took the bags from him, easily adding them to the pile. “Let me see?”
“It’s nothing. Too much lifting and carrying lately.” Isaiah waved him off, but Mark had his medic face on, all serious as he prodded at Isaiah’s neck and shoulder.
“You should see a doctor,” Mark chided him.
“Seeing one right now.” Isaiah laughed. Damn, Mark’s fingers felt good. “And it’s nothing a good massage wouldn’t fix.”
He really hadn’t meant that last bit as a hint, but Mark’s fingers switched from poking to rubbing. “Like this?”
“Yeah.” Isaiah had to stifle a moan. “But I wasn’t angling for one from you. I can probably barter with a friend—”
Mark made a scoffing noise. “I’m here now. Let me help.”
“Okay.” Isaiah really wasn’t going to tell him not to touch him, not when his fingers digging into Isaiah’s sore muscles felt so damn good.
“I’ve never done this before. Tell me if I go too hard.” Mark’s thumbs dug into a particularly tight knot and Isaiah groaned.
“No such thing.”
“Still, I don’t want to hurt you.” Mark was standing close enough that his breath ruffled Isaiah’s hair.
“Do what would feel good to you. And trust me, I’m loving this.” Isaiah stretched to chase more of the touch. His tone was maybe a little too flirty. He couldn’t help it though. He’d waited so long for Mark to touch him like this.
“This?” Mark tried a deep, rolling massage motion and Isaiah whimpered with pleasure.
“Yeah. That for like a hundred years.”
“You work too hard,” Mark chided. “Dragging the kids around all day. Let me do more of the lifting.”
“Okay.” Isaiah would have promised him anything to get more of Mark’s strong hands.
“And there’s a steam shower in the master with multiple heads. Try either that or a hot soak in the deep tub. I’ll watch the kids so you can do it later.”
“Can’t. Haven’t been able to go in their room,” Isaiah admitted.
“I know.” Mark stopped rubbing to hold Isaiah close, and it took Isaiah a second to realize that this was a hug. As in Mark was hugging him. And probably didn’t even realize what he was doing. Didn’t know that Isaiah’s heart just trembled. “But we have to move on. And they’d want you to feel better. Tell you what, I’ll air it out later when you go get the girls from school. And when you’re ready, I’ll go in with you.”
“It’s just a bath in their bathroom.” Isaiah’s chest burned. “Shouldn’t make me this worked up.”
“It’s okay.” Mark pressed a kiss to the top of Isaiah’s head, then seemed to realize what he’d done. “Sorry. I just… I hate seeing you sad.”
“It’s okay. I like this.” Isaiah sagged against him, letting the cool breeze coming off the ocean wash over them both. “It helps.”
“I like it too.” Mark sounded genuinely surprised. “I liked massaging you. Just wish I was better at it.”
“You get any better at it and I’ll be a puddle of goo.” Isaiah laughed. “But you can practice on me whenever you want. Add to your skillset.”
“Maybe after your bath.” Mark still hadn’t released him, and Isaiah wanted to freeze this moment. He’d needed this hug in the worst way, more than he’d even realized.
“Now that’s incentive.” Isaiah groaned as Mark started rubbing his shoulders again. With another guy, Isaiah would ramp the flirting up a notch, offer to share the bath or shower. But this was Mark, and Isaiah was determined to let him lead. Even if the path was one that led straight to heartbreak for him. He just wasn’t strong enough to turn down more touches and affection from Mark.
About Annabeth Albert:Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.
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