Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
However, Bailey ends up being not quite what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.
Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.
I’m so excited to be here today! I’m celebrating the re-release of my novella LEVEL UP which is loosely connected to my #gaymer universe and was originally in the EXPOSED anthology with some other great authors. Landon, our hero, is a genius physics professor and the book centers around his decision to pose nude for a charity calendar featuring rising stars in their professions. These sorts of charity calendars are all the rage lately what with Naked Rowers and other causes. I love these calendars of all genders and body types because there’s something so brave and real about posing nude. A talented photographer captures so much more than just skin.
Here’s a little glimpse of what Bailey sees as he photographs Landon for the first time.
“Pull the robe off your shoulder,” Bailey suggested. Baby steps. They’d get to pictures they could potentially use eventually.
One slim but muscled arm emerged as Landon freed one arm from the robe. He kept his lower half behind the sculpture, but more of his upper body was visible now. He was lean, but his arm and chest had the sort of muscular definition that suggested he was no stranger to exercise. His ropey neck and prominent collar bones were particularly hot, and Bailey tried to capture the way the light played with the contours.
The robe fell open more, and a hint of blond fuzz showed in the gap of the robe. He hadn’t waxed, for which Bailey was selfishly thankful, as a lot of the guys on these calendar projects always seemed to go for the totally smooth look.
“How about both arms now? Leave the robe around your waist.”
“Okay.” Landon slipped out of the other sleeve and leaned forward more, looking at Bailey instead of Savannah. Snap. Snap. That inquisitive, cautious stare was catnip to the camera, as it gave Landon a vulnerable air, would make the viewer feel like they got to see something secret.
“Kick out a leg, like you’re about to run away,” Bailey directed.
“That allowed?” Landon laughed. “It’s hard to kick with all this fabric, but I’ll try.”
“Let it drop. Then show us the one leg and your upper body, like you’re about to sprint, but stay playful about it.”
Landon took longer to comply this time, but then a bare leg emerged along with Landon’s upper body.
“Woohoo!” Savannah called. “Now stop looking like you’re running from an alien invasion and start looking like you’re on the hunt for fun.”
“Hey, alien invasions are fun,” Landon protested. “Point me to the nearest LAN party. That sounds way more my speed than anything risqué.”
“Smart guy,” Bailey said as he got a few more pictures. He had to remind himself not to let his voice get too light. Landon was not here for flirting, no matter how much they had in common. “Me too. And we don’t need you looking like you’re heading to an orgy. Just like you’re ready for a good time. Rachel, can you grab the robe so it’s not visible at the bottom of the frame?”
Landon looked down with a sagging face like Bailey was removing his security blanket.
“I’ll be right here,” Rachel promised, standing just out of the frame.
“You’re doing great,” Bailey encouraged. He was rapidly scrapping huge portions of his shot list in favor of things that might coax more smiles out of Landon. “Can you turn, make it look like you’re about to duck behind the piece instead of emerging from it?”
Landon sucked in a deep breath before following directions, turning so that Bailey had a great view of the curve of his ass and one thigh. He had a gorgeous tat above one shoulder blade that Bailey wished he could see more clearly of some sort of colorful bird.
“What’s the tattoo?” he asked because he was never very good at restraining his curiosity.
Landon’s blush was seriously adorable and Bailey managed several good shots as he waited for an answer. “It’s Fawkes the Phoenix from Harry Potter. Laugh and I’m done.”
“Never! I love it. Turn your shoulder more toward me.” He set up the shot before asking, “What’s your favorite book in the series?”
And with that, they were off to the races, discussing the books as Bailey got more of the pictures he was hoping for.
“And now, move about three feet to your left, back to me, and look over the rail.”
“Away from the sculpture?” Landon frowned.
“We’re almost done here. I want a few without the sculpture, just to have that option. You looking out over the atrium will be an epic shot.”
“It’s just ass,” Savannah called. Not helping. Bailey shot her a look.
“Okay.” Landon scooted into position, keeping his back to Bailey. And damn, he did have a nice ass, high and plump and muscular.
“Stretch your arms over head, like you’re owning the space. Think War Elf chieftain surveying his realm.”
Landon laughed and turned his head over one shoulder. Gorgeous. Bailey got that shot before Landon did as requested and stretched, totally a textbook study in back muscles, tat adding to the visual appeal of the shot. He was shorter than Bailey, maybe five foot ten or so, but stretched like that, he seemed much taller. Mythic almost.
Want to see more of their photoshoot? Be sure to check out LEVEL UP!!! Thanks so much!!
Aww…I kind of love an opposites attract love story. Especially when one of the men isn’t your typical romance hottie.
This is a short, maybe novella? I don’t know, but fewer than 200 pages for sure. It was part of an anthology that is now being released alone. And although it is part of the Gaymers series, there is little reference to the other books and is an easy stand alone read.
Landon is a science geek (by profession and hobby) and pretty unaware of how good looking he is. Bailey is a photographer and gamer, well aware of how not perfect he is. And they are totally adorable together.
There is a bit of angst- past trauma on the part of Landon, and although it is part of the story and what makes Landon the man he is today, it isn’t overwhelmingly angsty. There is quite a bit of humor, romance and hotness. So don’t be turned away by the bit of angst there is.
Definitely a fun, fairly quick read. If you’ve never read one of Annabeth Albert’s books, this would be a good start. She creates characters that just nestle into your heart.
4 pieces of eye candy
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.
Annabeth’s Angels: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annabethsangels/