Sep 24 2017 1:38pm

L.A. Witt Excerpt: Rank & File

L.A. Witt

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he's had his eye on the prize — making master chief and retiring after thirty years of service.

Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He's lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he's destined for great things —once he's done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.

When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn't stop them. It also doesn't keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give — Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they'll both face court-martial.

But there's also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.

Except — too late.

Get a sneak peek at L.A. Witt's Rank & File (available September 25, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

As I was reaching into the pile to see what other excitement NAS Adams had to offer, a familiar voice came from a little ways down the hall and made my heart stop:

“Is Senior Chief Curtis around?”

You have got to be shitting me.

“I think he’s in his office,” MA2 Hill said. “You want me to check?”

“Sure. I’ve got some forms for him from admin.”

I gulped, staring at my open door. Since when did admin send a lieutenant to do their bitch work?

Footsteps came down the hall. Then MA2 Hill leaned into the doorway. “Senior, there’s a Lieutenant Jameson here with some paperwork from admin. Do you want me to send him in?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. If I was genuinely busy or just plain didn’t want to deal with whoever was asking for me, I had no compunction about asking her to get their information so I could put it off until later.

If ever there was a time to let my MA2 run interference, it was now.

But I cleared my throat and reached for my cold coffee. “Yeah. Send him in. Thanks, MA2.”

“Will do.” She left my office. I listened to her footsteps. Then the exchange of words. Then another set of footsteps that were sharper and much more determined.

I held my breath.

And there he was.

“Hey.” He stood in the doorway, a drab green folder under his arm. “You have a minute?”

I hesitated, but then put my coffee cup down and folded my hands on my desk. “Sure. Yeah. What do you need?”

Brent shut the door behind him so gently, I barely heard it click. In his hand, he had that file folder, but in his eyes there was something decidedly less professional.

I gulped. “You have something for me to sign?”

He chuckled. “Nope.” He held up the folder and winked. “Call it a forged hall pass.”

I didn’t laugh. “Brent . . .”

Sobering, Brent swallowed as he set the folder down on my desk. “Listen, I’m not gonna lie. I can’t stop thinking about . . .”

My stomach somersaulted. “You know we can’t, though.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.” He ran a hand through his hair, and my fingers twitched at the memory of combing through it, grabbing it, pulling it . . .

I cleared my throat. My alternately bored-horrified-annoyed mood evaporated along with any concentration I might’ve mustered up for my job. “So what are you doing here?”

“Because this is killing me.”

I blinked.

A set of boots and voices went by outside. My neck prickled—if I could hear them, they could hear us. So, in an effort to be a little more discreet, I got up and came around the desk. At least now we could speak more quietly.

Except . . . it also meant we were closer.

A lot closer.

And then Brent took a step, and . . .

Fuck. We were eye to eye now. When he shifted, the toe of his boot nudged mine. He didn’t pull away. Neither did I.

“You know we can’t do this,” I said.

“I know no one can know about it.” The stubbornness in his eyes did weird things to my pulse. He knew as well as I did what a risk this was, and he was determined to do it anyway? That should’ve reminded me that we were being fucking idiots, but instead, it was flattering. And hot. What the hell did I do for him that made this a risk worth taking?

“You do understand what’s at stake here, right?”

“Yes,” he said, barely whispering. “But what we did was the first thing that’s felt that good in . . .” His eyes lost focus. Then he shook his head. “I don’t remember how long.”

That hit somewhere under my heavy police belt. “Yeah. I know the feeling.”

“Right? And the thing is, I’m a million miles from everyone I know. I’m fucking miserable at my job.” He locked eyes with me and swallowed hard. “Regs be damned—I want to feel that good again.”

The raw need in his eyes did me in. Not only because I felt for him—I’d sure as fuck been there in the early days of my career—but because now that he’d put it into words, I felt the same way. I’d been treading water emotionally for way too long. Everything had been stagnant and cold since I’d caught my ex cheating. I was hardly in love with Brent, but damn if there wasn’t something between us that I needed right now, even if it was nothing more than physical.

I reached for his waist, and he stiffened when my fingers brushed his blouse. “You’re not sure about this, are you?”

“I’m . . .” Avoiding my gaze, he exhaled. “I am. Kind of. I mean . . .” He shifted his weight, then blurted out, “I don’t know what this is, and I don’t know you, but it doesn’t feel like something I want to walk away from.”

I blinked. Now that he’d said it, I couldn’t argue. We were strangers for all intents and purposes, but there was some chemistry here that I’d never experienced with anyone. Alone in my office, I could tell myself all day long that I needed to ignore this and move on, but now that I had him here—now that I was touching him—that internal lecture was long gone.

“Yeah, I don’t want to walk away from it either.” I glanced down at my hand on his waist and didn’t pull it back. “But there’s a lot on the line. If we do this and get caught, we’re both done. You know that, right? They’ll dismiss you and force-retire me.”

Brent nodded. “I know.” He looked in my eyes again. “No one has to know but us.”

“No one can know but us.”

“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.”

“Good.” And against my better judgment, I pulled him to me and kissed him.

Copyright © 2017 by L.A. Witt.
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L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn't lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.

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