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Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform #7)
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The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after.
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…
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Canaan slipped on a puddle behind the register, narrowly avoiding hitting the tile floor, before he even got a chance to ogle the latest group of SEALs walking through the Smoothie Palace doors.
“Look out! I’ll mop in a minute.” His coworker Sage reached around him to add strawberries to the blender.
Fitness Friday was his favorite day of the week. Two-for-Tuesdays tended to bring in the civilian base employees in cheerful clumps, and on Wacky Wednesdays young ensigns and newly minted lieutenants enjoyed one-upping each other’s bizarre combos. But something about Smoothie Palace’s protein drink specials on Fridays brought out the SEALs.
Sure, Coronado was overrun with SEALs as it was, but Canaan looked forward to seeing the guys come in, many still in PT shorts and T-shirts, all sweaty and glowing from the obstacle course or running. They laughed and joked and tended to tip better than the civilians or the brass. And the eye candy… Good lord. Biceps and abs and thighs for days. It was no wonder that he worked with a little extra something something in his step Fridays.
“Your eyes get bigger and bigger every week,” Sage teased as she worked.
“Shut up.” He went back to the register to help the next person in line.
He’d own his SEAL fetish. Just like he owned this job. The wages sucked, even with tips, but the hours fit with his class schedule, and the boss was a nice man who always asked Canaan how school was coming and didn’t give him crap. So Canaan did his best, delivered superior customer service, and enjoyed the perks of the job, SEALs included.
He was helping a ripped African American SEAL with a gleaming shaved head, badass biceps tattoo, and shiny wedding ring when some of his favorite customers came in, all wearing camo work uniforms. They almost always came in together—a taller auburn-haired guy with a scorpion tat on his forearm, a shorter burly man, an earnest younger guy, and the muscled Italian stud of Canaan’s dreams. They all had fun SEAL nicknames too. Bacon. Curly. Shiny. Rooster. The Italian guy was Rooster, which suited his styled dark hair, muscles that outdid even his built friends, Mediterranean coloring, and endless swagger.
They took their time deciding on their order, so Canaan waited patiently and tried not to look like he was listening in.
“Shiny, you need to put a ring on that girl of yours.” Curly was newly married and apparently eager to get others hitched up. “Get out of the barracks.”
“Aww, we’re not that serious. She just came to your wedding as a favor. I think.” Shiny didn’t look any too sure, and Canaan felt for the guy. Not knowing how serious a hookup wanted to be was one of Canaan’s talents.
“She seemed nice.” Rooster had the best voice, deep with more than a hint of East Coast to it. “Just tell her how you feel. Women tend to dig when you’re straightforward.”
Shiny groaned, and apparently none of them were in any hurry to order, which was fine. More Rooster watching for him.
“Easy for you to give advice. You’re the one who brought a dude to Curly’s wedding.”
Wait. Hold up. Rooster did what now? Canaan had been flirting rather shamelessly with the whole group for months now, and his favorite one was known to bat for his team? Hello. Red-letter day. They could take till next year to order, and Canaan would just bask in this amazing revelation.
“Are we going to order?” Shiny stepped forward, got his usual Power Lifter Pineapple, and seemed awfully eager to move down the counter away from his friends. Curly got the Strong Arm Strawberry, and Bacon got that week’s special—a cherry base blended with vanilla protein powder. He was a good tipper, so Canaan made sure he got a wide smile and thanks in return before he moved farther down the counter. Which left Canaan all alone with Rooster, who was taking forever studying the menu.
“Tell me. Is the cherry stuff that good?” he asked Canaan in that voice of his—all confident and commanding but silky smooth like cheesecake.
“Dunno. Do you like cherries?” Canaan reached below him to the fridge where they had a few sample cups made up with the special. “Wanna try a sip?”
Rooster swallowed with the sort of seriousness Canaan imagined wine tasters used, then grimaced. “Too sweet.”
“Now that’s a complaint I don’t hear very often.” Canaan winked at him. “You like something a bit more…complex?”
Rooster’s mouth quirked. “Not complicated. I don’t like nine million ingredients.”
“I can handle uncomplicated.” Canaan gave him his real smile, not the one he kept on stock for good tippers, but the one that said he really wouldn’t mind another twenty minutes of this banter as long as the line stayed slow. “How about the High Octane—it’s coffee, chocolate, protein powder, and energy blend. Not too many ingredients, but really good. It’s what I get on breaks.”