Against a Rising Tide, by Samantha Cayto
General Release Date: 29th June 2021
Word Count: 54,881
Book Length: NOVEL
MEN IN UNIFORM
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Love always finds a way.
Scott, a Navy SEAL, returns to his childhood beach house to deal with the emotional trauma of his latest mission. When a sniper killed his closest friend, Scott was left dealing with survivor’s guilt and the disturbing feeling that his friend meant more to him. He has always identified as strictly straight, attraction to men being something he has ruthlessly suppressed.
When he finds Kitt, a friend of his sister’s, hiding out from his abusive boyfriend, Scott is once again drawn to someone of his own gender. Although annoyed at the intrusion, Scott also instantly develops an interest in his unwanted houseguest. Keeping his distance is proving to be impossible and his growing desire for Kitt cannot be ignored.
Forced to leave home, Kitt entered into a relationship with a man who turned abusive. Having finally found the courage to escape, the last thing he wants or needs is another alpha male invading his space. But having nowhere else to go, he ends up staying with a man who disturbs him in more ways than one. As scary as the SEAL is, Scott is exactly the type of man Kitt dreams about.
The beach house is small, and the two men cannot avoid one another or the attraction between them. With each passing day, their bond grows stronger. Hesitation slowly gives way to passion. They need to trust their feelings and let go of the things that frighten them, to find safety and solace in each other.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, attempted murder, stalking, PTSD and references to death in a war zone, abusive parents and relationship abuse.
By the time Scott reached the beach house, visions of falling face-down in his bed swam before his eyes. He really should have checked into one of the airport hotels for the night instead of renting a car and heading north. But the driving need for solitude had overridden his better judgment. Even arriving in Boston at o-dark-thirty hadn’t thinned the crowds of people enough to satisfy his jangled nerves. He needed quiet and the mental space that came from being utterly alone to get his head screwed back on right. Otherwise, his time in the SEAL Teams would come to an end. The mere thought of having to leave his Naval career was intolerable to him.
He took a moment as he exited his rental SUV to simply stand and stare out over the ocean. The sun was just rising above the rippling blue-green water, washing the horizon in tones of red and orange. Seagulls screeched in their staccato fashion, as if they were in a constant state of agitation. He welcomed the familiar sound of their mindless scolding. The crash of waves against the rocky shore told him the tide was coming in. He took in a deep breath of salty air tinged with a hint of clam flats and smiled. All the joy of his childhood filled the aching hole that had formed in the middle of his chest. Coming here had been the right call. This was where he needed to be.
His exhaustion momentarily abated, Scott grabbed his duffel bag from the back of the SUV and walked up the stone path to the front door. There was no need to lock his vehicle, not in the low-crime town of Sewall, Massachusetts. It was barely more than a spit of rocky land and had never developed the cachet of its neighbors like Rockport as a fashionable seaside town. It attracted no one other than the dedicated perennial vacationer and was the perfect place to hide away for a while without fear of disturbance. His sister wouldn’t haul her brood up from the suburbs of Boston until August. He could be sure of having the place all to himself…to be alone.
No, where had that thought come from? He was a SEAL, for God’s sake. There was nowhere on Earth that he didn’t feel as if he could protect himself. And he understood better than most that death was always lurking around, regardless. One only had to be ready to face it. Defeat it. If necessary, accept it when options had truly run out, but only after fighting to the very last breath. He took in another deep lungful of brisk ocean air with that last thought, irritated at his dark, almost defeatist attitude.
I need sleep. That’s all.
Scott almost sprinted to the seafoam green door, fumbled with the keys to open it and stepped inside the cool, quiet house of his childhood…that was not empty.
He froze inside the doorway and stared at the vision that greeted him. His mind did all kinds of acrobatics as he tried to make sense of what he saw. With the open floorplan of the first floor, he had a clear view of a naked woman standing in the kitchen. She was reaching up to a shelf filled with bowls, her toned arm stretched high. A curtain of long, dark hair swung below her shoulder blades, catching his attention. He followed the movement past the tapered ends, down a slender back of creamy skin accentuated by some kind of colorful tramp-stamp.
The tattoo skimmed a high, tight ass that held his gaze like a magnet. His overtired brain popped and snapped with a sudden spark of need. As exhausted as he was, his body came alive, desire shooting through him to pool in his groin. Even as an involuntary grunt passed his lips, the more rational part of his mind took over. It was trying to put on the brakes because something was off. The woman’s hips were too straight, and her shoulders were a bit broad. As the pieces clicked into place, the beach house inhabitant whirled around with a sharp inhalation. Now, the cock and balls of the man came literally swinging into view.
Scott’s own cock was caught between hardening and deflating again. He could feel it waging a war inside his worn jeans for a few seconds before it gave up in a semi-hard state that he ignored. Nothing to see here, folks. It was the other man’s reaction that caught and held his focus. Across the large expanse, there was visible fear in the dark eyes staring back at him. And the guy did nothing to hide his genitals. Instead, one hand had flown to the base of his throat in a clear defensive gesture. He whipped the other up to hold against his left cheek. But the quickness of the move hadn’t stopped Scott from seeing a livid bruise that marred the pretty skin there.
“Who?” The young man blinked at him for a few seconds, breathing quickly, before he visibly relaxed. “Oh, you’re Karen’s brother, aren’t you?” Although he dropped the one hand from his throat, he didn’t let go of his cheek entirely. Instead, he carded his fingers through his hair, letting the strands hide that half of his face. “She said you were overseas.”
“I was.” Scott stepped fully into the house and shut the door behind him before setting his duffel on the floor. He was careful to keep his movements slow. He’d dealt with petrified villagers plenty of times and knew he had to prove that he wasn’t a danger to them. Build trust. While he was at a loss as to why exactly, he could sense this man needed the same kind of consideration.
“I just got back and have two weeks’ leave.” Not that it had been his idea.
“Take the time, Carpenter. There’s no shame in needing it after what you’ve been through.”
He’d known an order when he’d been given one, but he still felt some guilt about lying around on a beach while others were out there fighting on his behalf. He pushed those thoughts aside to deal with the more pressing matter. Before he could ask the who, what and why, the naked man was talking again.
“I guess Karen didn’t know that. She said I could stay here until she comes up with her kids.” He dropped his gaze, while still tugging at his hair in nervous fashion.
Scott approached the kitchen area, again keeping his movements slow and non-threatening. “I was going to call her later.” He stopped and hooked his thumbs in his front pockets. “I’m sorry. You have me at a disadvantage. Do I know you?”
The young man flashed his gaze at him before skittering it away. Now that he was closer, Scott could see that his eyes weren’t entirely brown. There was a hint of green there as well. Hazel, he supposed, although he’d never given much thought to eye color before. He forced himself to focus on them, however, because the alternative was to stare farther south. There was a temptation to sneak peeks at parts of the man’s body. He’d always studiously avoided that urge before. He saw more naked men than he did women, that was for sure, and in a military environment where privacy was non-existent, one had to be respectful. Inside a quaint New England house, with the muted dawn shining through the window, making everything soft and almost romantic, the nudity was harder to ignore.
“I’m Kitt Tyler.”
Scott’s attention was tugged back to Kitt’s face—although really, to his lips. He couldn’t help noticing how plump and pink they were. ‘Generous’ was the word that came to mind, like those of old-time movie starlets—the type of mouth that combat men dreamed of kissing as they lay in their makeshift beds. It was what got them up again, fighting for their country. That observation startled him even more. What the hell is my problem? Exhaustion, that was all. What he needed was a solid eight horizontal hours uninterrupted, and that wasn’t going to happen until he wrapped up this unexpected meet-and-greet.
“You’re a friend of Karen’s?” Kind of a dumb question.
Kitt gnawed briefly at his lower lip, once again drawing Scott’s unwilling attention to that spot. “Yeah, I am, but also her hairdresser. I mean, that’s how we first met, and we’ve become friends, too. You know?”
No, Scott didn’t…at all. The last thing he and his sister ever talked about was hair styling, although she always looked great. He knew that she prided herself on being elegant and fashionable for her job as a publisher for some glossy, high-end magazine. She had him on her subscription list, which was sweet, except it all went straight into his trash. What did he care about trendy places to eat in Boston and the best store for thousand-thread-count sheets?
“Anyway,” the guy continued, still playing with his hair and darting his gaze around. “She has like a million pictures of you at home, so I recognized you straight off.”
Not exactly true. For a moment, when he’d turned and caught sight of Scott, Kitt had obviously been afraid. Of what? Scott wondered. Or rather…whom?
Scott ran a hand over his head. The need for sleep was overtaking his initial and visceral reaction to this unexpected guest. “I’m sure she’s bored you to tears with stories about me, too.” His sister was proud of his service, although he feared that she’d put him on a pedestal he didn’t deserve, certainly not after this last deployment.
A ghost of a smile graced Kitt’s lips. That was the moment when it hit Scott that this young man was utterly gorgeous—at a he-could-be-a-model level. Although, he was probably too short for that profession. He was about five-seven, just the right height to tuck into Scott’s shoulder. The new observations sent his brain into another unwanted spasm of discord.
“She has a bit, but I think it’s great how close you two are.” Releasing his hold on his hair, Kitt fluttered his hands and shifted his feet. “Anyway, I’ll pack up and get out of your way. It, um, might take a while for me to get a Lyft driver to come here this early, though. I hope that’s okay.”
“You don’t have a car?” Another stupid question. The driveway had been empty when he’d pulled up.
“No. Um, no.” Kitt stared at the floor again.
Scott could see the distress in the guy’s posture and read it in his expression. He knew when someone was afraid, nervous or angry, even when they tried to hide it from him. He could tell when they were lying about something. Kitt Tyler wasn’t merely a friend of his sister who needed a free summer vacation. There was more to it than that, and given the guy’s skittishness and that bruise on his cheek, Scott could make an educated guess what that more was.
For the moment, however, he was incapable of any further rational thought. He needed that eight hours, then he’d deal with the situation.
“Look,” he said, repressing a yawn. “I’ve been awake for over forty-eight hours straight. I’m going upstairs to get some sleep. No need for you to leave yet. We’ll talk later.”
Kitt’s relief was easy to see. Still, he said, “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely.” Scott turned to retrieve his duffel bag from by the door.
“Oh, I should get dressed now so that I don’t disturb you.”
Too late on that score. “I can sleep through anything, but thanks.”
He made himself not watch as Kitt flitted up the stairs. He didn’t rush when he followed, either, so that he wouldn’t see any more of that undeniably tantalizing flesh. His plan worked. By the time he’d reached the second floor, his sister’s guest had disappeared into the far back room. The sounds of a drawer opening and closing drifted down the narrow hallway. Scott bit back a groan when he realized that Kitt had taken his usual room. That thought had barely formed before the guy popped back out, wearing crotch-hugging cut-off jeans and a tight white crop top. The clothing wasn’t much better than the nudity had been at hiding the guy’s fit physique. Oh, and bonus, now that Scott wasn’t studiously averting his gaze, he could see a belly button ring winking from the flat stomach.
“I took one of the kid’s rooms, if that’s okay?” Kitt looked impossibly young himself. What was the minimum age to be a hairdresser, eighteen? The guy must be straight out of school.
Scott didn’t bother to correct him. Visions of Kitt lying in Scott’s bed were already creeping into his brain. Instead, he waved the issue away and turned into what had been his parents’ old room. Karen and her husband used it now, but she obviously wasn’t coming up any time soon. He may as well bed down in it. He kicked the door shut with more force than he’d intended, but the lure of the big brass bed was irresistible. Stumbling toward it, he did as he’d dreamed of for hours—fell face-down onto the quilt his grandmother had made. He had just enough brainpower left to kick off his sneakers before giving in to the pull of sleep.
His last thought, however, was of the pretty boy at the end of the hall, silhouetted by the glint of the rising sun.
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About the Author
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.
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