The heart always knows the way.
Chris Novak is adjusting to his lieutenant being the first openly gay SEAL. Seeing the man’s obvious love for his husband gives Chris ideas—ones he has ruthlessly suppressed his whole life. Becoming a SEAL was his dream. Having the love and approval of his father remains critical to him. Acknowledging his sexual orientation would have jeopardized both. While the military has evolved, Chris fears that his father’s views have not.
Tanner Pac has been openly out and proud since high school, with his family embracing him as he is. He knows being gay is not a problem, but his dream of becoming a software engineer is. His parents expect him to carry on the family business of running a pizza parlor. He dares not disappoint them, fearing a loss that would crush him.
While visiting his father on leave, Chris goes out for pizza, not expecting to run into his old girlfriend’s annoying little brother. They could never ditch Tanner and now that he is all grown up, Chris finds he no longer wants to. Facing the strong temptation that Tanner presents is causing Chris to also face the truth about himself.
As Chris and Tanner struggle to meet their parents’ expectations, their attraction for each other cannot be denied. Their strength and courage grow in each other’s arms, but it may not be enough to break free of the weight of family expectations.
General Release Date: 1st February 2022
Word Count: 33,436
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
“Man, the way the lieutenant’s reunion is going, I’m not sure they’ll make it home. Know what I mean?”
Petty Officer First Class Christopher Novak did indeed know what his teammate meant. Scott Carpenter’s husband had jumped into his arms the second he’d seen Scott coming through the gates. At the moment, the guy’s legs were wrapped around Scott’s waist, and the two of them were going to pass out from lack of oxygen if that kiss didn’t end soon.
“Yeah, but we shouldn’t be staring. It’s not like they’re animals in a zoo.”
His teammate, Diego, had no filter. “I hear you, only it’s like…when have you ever seen a SEAL kiss another man? It’s a first for me.”
Chris slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. “It’s a first for everyone, and Scott’s already on the receiving end of some nasty reactions. We don’t need to add to them.” He walked away, breaking his gaze from the sight. He hadn’t been able to make the wedding the previous summer, so this was the first time he’d seen Scott in such an obviously sexual way with his husband. He couldn’t bear to watch, not because it disgusted him but because it was compelling in a way that disturbed him.
Diego stepped up to his side. “Wanna grab a drink? I’d like to find some female company myself, and I hear The Anchor has added a new heat level to their wings.”
Chris shook his head. “Sorry… I’ve got laundry to do, then hitting the rack. I have an early flight to Detroit in the morning.”
Diego groaned. “Seriously? Why are you so keen on freezing your balls off after what we just went through? I need a few days in the sun to thaw out.”
“I’m overdue visiting my father. If you think you can convince him to move away from his hometown, his extended family and the proximity of my mother’s grave and come to San Diego, have at it.” There was more bite to his words than he’d intended. Visiting his father always triggered conflicting feelings in him. Obviously, he loved the man, but the strain of meeting his expectations was beginning to wear on him.
“Dude, I’m sorry. I was only joking.”
Chris flashed him a smile. “It’s fine. I know you were. I’m tired, that’s all. Have fun tonight, and I expect a full report on how it goes with both the wings and the women.”
He peeled off when they reached his truck. As he tossed in his duffel and slid behind the wheel, he reminded himself that spending his leave with his father was a good thing. They would talk shop, as much as legally permitted, watch sports and pretend that everything was great—because it was, damn it all. There was no reason to believe otherwise. And yet, the vision of Scott devouring his husband’s mouth in front of God and everyone stuck in his mind, no matter how hard he tried to shake it away.
There was a lot to unpack in this novella/short novel. Chris coming home on leave as a Navy Seal, and not only being in the closet, but not even really knowing he was gay. His father, while not rabidly homophobic, definitely had little tolerance for anyone who was not 100% straight and manly. If you were a SEAL, then you had no business being anything but as heterosexual as possible. Meanwhile, Tanner is stuck in a job that he doesn’t love, because it’s the only option his parents will allow. Yet, he goes to school when he can to work his dream job of working as a software engineer.
I felt for Tanner. He didn’t want to be a manager at the pizza place, and felt he needed to hide that he was going to school. (I loved that he paid for it with money earned from the job he didn’t want.) When he finally was able to tell his parents, they really were very accepting. This was a hard piece to understand since they never had an issue with him being gay, but they wouldn’t want him to have the job he loved? Seemed a little odd to me initially, but I liked how it all worked out, even figuring out what to do with the pizza place.
Chris was so far in the closet, he didn’t even know he was in there. So much of that was due to his father, who he adored, never wanted to disappoint, being homophobic. Chris just felt he couldn’t be gay, because his father wouldn’t be okay with it. It made sense. But quickly after he started spending time with Tanner, he knew that he would not be able to keep it under wraps. The fact that he was willing to give up his father’s love was not easy, which was well portrayed. (The Valentine’s dancing…just lovely. 🙂 )
Overall, I liked it. It was easy to root for them to get all the things they wanted from their lives, together, and for Chris to follow in the footsteps of his boss, Scott.
4 pieces of eye candy
Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.
She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.