ROUGH TERRAIN by Annabeth Albert
Series: Out of Uniform, #7 *Final book in the series*
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Release Date (Print & Ebook):
eBook: Monday January 14, 2019
Print (mmp): Tuesday January 29, 2019
Length (Print & Ebook):
Contemporary Romance, Male/Male Romance, Military Romance
Warnings (if any):
No content warnings needed. Hot fake relationship shenanigans dominate along with being trapped outdoors, but HEA for everything. No addictions/bdsm/deaths etc.
The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after in Rough Terrain, the final book in Annabeth Albert’s critically acclaimed, fan-favorite Out of Uniform series.
Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.
Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.
Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…
Blog Tour Exclusives:
“Canaan. Baby. Everyone will be coupled up. I’m bringing Eric, and everyone else has someone. I don’t want things to be awkward between us.”
God forbid they were awkward. Like breaking up in Prague hadn’t been bad enough, or Damian taking up with Eric, the replacement drummer, mere minutes later, now apparently they had to socialize like adults because the rest of their friend circle demanded it. And quite honestly, Canaan had lost enough the past few years. He wasn’t losing his oldest friends too. “Things will be fine.”
“Of course,” Damian said, a little too quickly and brightly. “But last time we talked, you said you were seeing someone… Just bring them. It’ll be easier. On everyone.”
More like easier on Eric’s jealous ass. And had Canaan said that? He supposed it was possible in some vague make-Damian-happy way that he’d alluded to such a thing.
“I…uh…” The absolute best thing would be to say the truth, which was that he was exactly as single as he’d been boarding that plane in Prague. As single as he’d been in the three years since, flitting from hookup to hookup, nothing sticking. But what came out was “He’s a SEAL. You know, unpredictable hours. Could be deployed anytime. Can’t say for sure if he’ll have leave…”
“Well, can he try?” Damian did not sound in the least impressed by the SEAL factoid. “And really, I’m happy for you. About time you moved on.”
“Yeah.” About that…
“Listen. Since your guy’s military and all, I’ll just tell Kelly you’re bringing him. I’ll cover the fee, and you guys just show up.”
“I’ve got money.” Not much, but he did have some, and didn’t feel the best about letting Damian float him. Not to mention his imaginary boyfriend.
“My present to you. I insist. Just get your ass to Flagstaff.”
“I’ll try. Probably by myself though because—”
“Bring. Him. Don’t be a loser.”
Too late. He already was a loser. Giant L and all. Twenty-six and concocting relationships out of thin air like some sixteen-year-old might. And he’d be showing up alone with some bullshit story, and things would be awkward with Damian and Eric, because of course they would be.
“Big plans this weekend?” Canaan asked while he made the drink.
“Working out with a friend tomorrow. Gonna film some new moves.”
“Please tell me you put those clips online.” Thinking fast, Canaan grabbed a blank stamp card and a pen and thrust it at him. “I’ll fill a stamp card for you if you give me your handle.”
“Well…” Rooster’s eyes shifted to his friends, who were deep in conversation. “Navy doesn’t exactly approve of me being on social media…”
“Not gonna tell a soul,” Canaan promised. “I just like workout videos and fitness pics.” And how.
“Yeah?” Rooster gave him an appraising stare, one that had Canaan damn near preening. “That so?”
“Yup.” Canaan set the blender going and returned to the counter. He filled a stamp card and waved it at Rooster. “So how about it?”
“Okay, okay.” Rooster scribbled something on the other card and pushed it at Canaan. Their fingers brushed as they traded cards, thick callused fingers rubbing against his, and Canaan swore his toes curled from the contact.
“So how about you?” Rooster asked as Canaan poured his drink into a purple plastic Smoothie Palace cup.
“How about me what?” Canaan was still busy celebrating getting his username and felt a little punch-drunk on the contact to boot.
Here was the opening Canaan had been waiting months for, and no way was he missing it. “Dunno. I get off at nine. Wanna help me find trouble?”
“You make that offer to all your customers?” Rooster studied him intently, and Canaan straightened his spine, trying to pass whatever test he was giving him.
“Just my favorite ones.” The more honest answer would be just you, but Canaan didn’t want to seem too desperate, so he kept his voice light and easy. “How ’bout it?”
“Rooster!” Bacon called out before Rooster could answer. “Come on. We’ve got that meeting in ten.”
“Sorry. Gotta head out. Thanks for the card.” Rooster gave him a smile but no answer before hurrying over to join his friends.
Maybe they were better off as buds. But telling himself that didn’t stop his brain from taking note of how Canaan looked digging into the soup. His lips parted, a sigh escaping, and his eyes went soft, happiness smoothing his features. The sound of pleasure he made at the first taste of the broth had Renzo shifting in his chair.
To distract himself, he asked Canaan all about his favorite foods while they ate, and he liked discovering that they had a lot in common with a taste for all things Asian, a dislike of beans, and a high tolerance for spicy foods. Hell, he liked just hanging with Canaan in general. He was fun and spontaneous and easy to be around.
The food was as good as Canaan had advertised—well worth the drive—spicy broth balanced with sweet barbecued pork, loads of delicious noodles, and crisp veggies. Heaven.
“Good thing this isn’t closer to base. I’d lose all my ab definition in a week,” he joked.
Canaan gave him an appraising stare that made Renzo’s face heat. “I don’t think you have much to worry about there.”
“Ha. You have no idea how hard I work for this body.”
“I think I speak for all your admiring fans when I say it is well appreciated.” Canaan gave him another of those looks that made Renzo think about sex again. Damn it. Just buds was hard.
And as he watched him sleep, it hit Canaan that while he was on this weird adrenaline high, Renzo did this every day. Every day for days on end he confronted danger, high risks, threat of death, and he had a whole team of people counting on him the entire time too. While Canaan had been busy freaking out, he’d worried a lot about himself, about Grandpa, about what he’d miss out on. And he’d worried some about what he and Renzo could have had, especially when Renzo had been threatening to go out on his own.
But Renzo had neither freaked out nor focused on himself—the whole time, he’d been worried about Canaan. Keeping him warm. Making the alarms to drink and eat. Making sure Canaan had first choice of food. Coming up with plans to keep them safe and ensure the rescuers spotted them. Damn. It was humbling to think of all Renzo had done for him. And now Renzo was exhausted. Spent. Energy reserves clearly gone.
And yet, he would do something like this again, soon probably. With better equipment and better teammates, but he’d face danger again, head on. Because that was what he did. Who he was. His moral fabric was made of camo—tough as ripstop, unwavering and unyielding. Maybe Renzo had joined up because of his brother originally, but he hadn’t been lying about finding himself on the teams. And who he’d found there was possibly the best man Canaan had ever met. His throat ached just looking at Renzo, hands tightly clenching to stop from touching him.
“I’m going to take better care of you,” he whispered softly. “You took care of me, so maybe it’s time someone took care of you like you deserve. How about me?”
Renzo, of course, slumbered on, but something inside Canaan shifted. Changed. Accepted this new reality in front of him where this sleeping giant was suddenly the most important person in Canaan’s life.
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. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series include the #OutOfUniform, #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat, #RainbowCove and #PerfectHarmony series.
To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: 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.
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