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Aug 26 2017 11:00am

Audra North Excerpt: Midlife Crisis

Audra North

Midlife Crisis by Audra North

Cam McGhee grew up like any other small-town Texas farm boy: he played football, went to church every Sunday, and married his high school sweetheart. But thirty-five years after he said “I do,” Cam finds himself nursing a beer in a gay bar, thinking about what might have been.

Dave Montoya is confident, self-assured, and cautiously single. But when he meets shy, uncertain, and clearly-still-not-out Cam in a coffee shop in Austin, his reservations about getting seriously involved again disappear. Cam is everything he’s looking for in a partner . . . almost, anyway.

No matter how much Dave wants him, and how good they are together, Cam can't bring himself to fully embrace the life he was meant to live. After all, when his secret finally gets out, he faces the very real possibility of losing everything that kept him going for the first fifty years of his life, just like he’s feared for so long. But with a little faith—and a lot of love—his dream of living fully, truly, as himself might finally be within reach.

Get a sneak peek at Audra North's Midlife Crisis (available August 28, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

The sound of an engine slowing behind him caught his attention, and he turned in time to see Albert Clark leaning one arm on the sill of the rolled-down window of his beat-up old Ford, the other hand barely keeping the truck on course.

“I saw you’re having some trouble walking,” Albert teased. “Need a ride?”

And then . . . he winked at Cam.

Cam’s heart flipped over at the flirty gesture.

No. Not flirty. He’s not flirting. He’s being friendly because he’s a guy and you’re a guy and he thinks you’re notinterested in kissing him.

Cam made himself dial back his urge to smile like a besotted fool. “Hey, Albert. Yeah, I’d appreciate a ride.” He huffed out a laugh. “Sure is hot out today.”

“It’s May. What’d you expect?” Albert snorted, came to a complete stop, and jerked his thumb toward the passenger’s side. “Hop on in.”

Cam practically sprinted around the front of the truck to launch himself in the cab alongside Albert, shutting the door behind him and trying not to swoon at the smell of the other young man, a mix of soap, sweat, and sun-soaked outdoors.

Albert gunned the engine, and they took off, careening down the road, wind whipping through the open windows. Cam found himself laughing at Albert’s wild streak.

“You got time to go mudding? The old quarry is still good for a few more weeks.”

Racing through a muddy track, watching the splotches of wet earth fly, the speed and the dirt and Albert . . .

Cam reluctantly shook his head. “I’ve got to stop in and see LaVerne.”

“How’s she doing? Feeling better?” Albert slowed the truck when he asked it, as though exhibiting some sort of funny vehicular respect.

Cam nodded. “Improving every day. Since her mom and my mom started picking up the wedding stuff, she’s got a lot more energy. She’ll probably be completely back to her usual self after the weekend.”

“Good to hear it. Y’all’s wedding is all the girls can talk about these days. Hannah won’t let up on me about when we’re gonna have a turn.”

Cam didn’t miss how Albert’s hand tightened on the steering wheel.

“So is it gonna happen anytime soon?” he asked. Better to be straightforward than try to tiptoe around things when it came to Albert.

Albert sighed. “Probably. I mean, yeah, it will. I can’t hold off much longer than a year, anyway, without causing a fuss. But sometimes . . .”

Cam wasn’t sure whether Albert was lost in thought or simply didn’t want to share the rest of that sentence, so he stayed silent. Waiting, even though he wanted to poke and prod and find out what Albert had been about to say.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait long. After a few seconds of distracted driving, Albert picked up where he’d left off. “I think about taking off and going up to Dallas for a little bit. Just to see what it’s like before I settle down and turn into one of the old men who sit around Rex’s joint all day. Not run away, but just . . . get away. You know?”

I do know.

Albert sighed. “I want to do it. But I’m waiting for a good time to spring it on Hannah. Maybe right after your wedding I can tell her that I want to go for a month or two and then when I’m back, we can get married.”

Take me with you.

Cam’s reasons were different from Albert’s, though. Cam wanted to go with Albert as much as he wanted to get away from this town in general. But even then, he had a sneaking suspicion that if he ever left, he’d never be able to come back. What would become of him then?

He needed this town and the people in it. His future depended on him being able to fit in. Not only his future—LaVerne’s, too. He was responsible for someone else now.

It felt unbearably heavy, that responsibility.

The talk turned to football, and before Cam knew it, Albert was pulling up in front of LaVerne’s place.

“This is your stop.” Albert threw the truck into Park and turned to give Cam a friendly shoulder punch, accompanied by a wide smile. “Not even married and you’re already letting her lead you around by the nose.”

Cam had been so relaxed, talking about everyday things and letting the hot wind rush over his body, soothing him into a state of ease, he wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of sensation that Albert’s smile spurred back to the surface.

He had to get out of here before he did something stupid, like lean over and kiss his friend.

Well, make an attempt to kiss him, anyway.

Because Albert would never let you actually put your lips on his. You’d get beat down so fast, you wouldn’t even see it coming.

Cam let out a nervous chuckle. “Thanks for the ride.” He was grateful for the excuse to turn away and grabbed the door handle, pushed the door open, and swung his whole body out of the truck.

He slammed the door behind him, and Albert threw out a, “See you ’round!” before speeding off.

Cam was walking up the front path when the door opened and Mrs. Russo appeared on the doorstep.

“Was that the youngest Clark boy?” She peered up the road, but the truck was already out of sight.

“Yes, ma’am. Albert,” Cam answered, coming to a stop before the Russo matriarch.

“Takes after his father,” she commented, her mouth drawing tight as she continued looking at the empty intersection at the top of their street.

Cam wasn’t sure what to say to that—he didn’t know in what way Albert resembled Mr. Clark other than sharing the same square jawline—so he kept silent, and after a second Mrs. Russo turned back to him and smiled warmly.

“Well. Enough of that. Come on in, Cam. LaVerne’s feeling back to normal today and is looking forward to sitting outside with you.”

Cam followed Mrs. Russo, but just before he stepped over the threshold of his fiancée’s home, he turned and looked up the street too.

Empty.

Opportunity gone.

He shook his head at himself and went inside, shutting the door behind him.

***
Copyright © 2017 by Audra North.
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Learn more about or order a copy of Midlife Crisis by Audra North, by visting the publishers website.


Audra North is a contemporary romance author of more than twenty romances, including the Stanton Family series from Entangled Publishing, the Hard Driving series from St. Martin’s Press, and the Pushing the Boundaries series from Samhain Publishing. She is the owner and publisher of Pink Kayak Press, which focuses on the publication of diverse romance works. Winter Rain, a Pink Kayak Press anthology, won a gold medal in the 2015 Independent Publisher Awards.

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