Title: Going Overboard
Series: Anchor Point #5
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication Date: February 5, 2018
Length: 286 pages
About Going Overboard
Second-class petty officers Dalton Taylor and Chris Ingram have been best friends since coxswain’s school. Now they’re stationed together in the Harbor Patrol Unit of NAS Adams. They’re content as friends, but secretly, they both ache for more. Neither makes a move, though; while Dalton is out and proud, Chris is closeted—even from his best friend.
Then another coxswain’s negligence nearly drowns Dalton. After a taste of how easily they could lose each other, neither man can keep his feelings hidden anymore, and it turns out love and sex come easy when you’re falling for your best friend.
Things aren’t just heating up between the friends-turned-lovers, though. The Navy is investigating the accident, and the Harbor Patrol chief isn’t going to let his star coxswain go down for dereliction of duty, even if saving him means throwing Dalton under the bus.
As the threats and gaslighting pile up, Chris and Dalton need each other more than ever—as shipmates, friends, and lovers. But if their chief prevails, the only way they can save their careers is to let each other go.
I couldn’t sit still. As much as I was pacing by the fish tank in Coastal General’s ER waiting room, I was probably making the colorful fish nervous.
I’d been here almost an hour, and no one had said a word about Dalton. Was he okay? Was this place even equipped to handle him? Fuck, I probably would’ve been more comfortable if we were at a military hospital, and some of those were sketchy as hell.
Naval Air Station Adams was too small to have its own hospital, though, and Anchor Point wasn’t a big town. Not surprisingly, the emergency room at Coastal General wasn’t teeming with activity, but it wasn’t exactly a Level I trauma center either. What the hell was so long?
All the way to the hospital, even half an hour after we’d pulled him from the water, Dalton had stayed semiconscious. Sometimes his eyes had fluttered open and he’d babbled incoherently. Once, he’d asked where his shoes were. Most of the time, though, he’d been quiet and still, and that had scared the shit out of me.
The EMTs had assured me over and over in the ambulance that extreme fatigue was par for the course with his degree of hypothermia, but they also kept checking him for responsiveness. Checking his eyes with a pen light. Asking him questions he couldn’t answer. Frowning over his vitals. He’d been semiconscious. Not awake enough to know who or where he was, but definitely awake enough to swear or cry out when they jabbed his side or his ribs.
When we’d arrived, they’d jogged the stretcher in through the red-striped automatic doors. There’d been no sitting in the waiting room. Which I’d expected. A head injury? Significant hypothermia? All kinds of potential for neck trauma? Yeah, that was an express ticket to the front of the line.
A nurse had taken down my name and sent me to the waiting room, assuring me Dalton was in good hands. He was going straight back for X-rays and a CT scan. I was almost surprised this facility had the equipment for a CT scan. Nothing about this place screamed state-of-the-art to me. The tiny waiting area looked like a regular doctor’s office, complete with tattered magazines, brightly colored plastic kids’ toys, and the obligatory fish tank. The gray-haired triage nurse looked as worn and tired as the cracked linoleum, and I wondered if she’d been here as long as the yellowing wallpaper and dull pastel-pink paint. Maybe I’d been spoiled with the high-tech hospitals I’d gone to as a kid, but this place reminded me of a veterinary clinic in a strip mall. Did they even know how to handle someone in Dalton’s condition?
Of course they did. Over and over, I reminded myself this a hospital, these medical professionals, and they know what they were doing. Hopefully.
While I waited, I fielded texts from our coworkers and our chain of command, assuring everyone I’d update them when I could. Technically, Chief Lasby should have been here, but I’d assured him I’d wait for Dalton so he could deal with our crippled boat. And whatever issue had prompted Anderson to leave the harbor. Another disabled vessel, I thought I’d heard. Chief Lasby would handle everything back at HPU, I’d keep everyone posted about Dalton, and MA2 Simmons said she’d stay with MA3 Rhodes until her husband came.
I also texted Dalton’s roommate to see about getting him some clothes. What was left of his uniform was probably still on the deck of the boat. Not half an hour later, AT3 Jay Stockton strode into the waiting room with a pair of sneakers and a plastic grocery sack full of folded clothes.
“How is he?” he asked as he handed everything over. His eyes were wide—he was a younger Sailor, probably only a couple of years past boot camp, and it was entirely possible this was his first brush with the scary shit that could happen in the military.
I swallowed. “I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything. The EMTs thought he’d be okay, but he’s been back there awhile.”
Stockton pursed his lips, glancing toward the doors leading into the rest of the emergency room. “Well, this place can be slow as fuck. Buddy of mine came in with a sprained ankle and he was here almost six hours.”
I exhaled. As much as I didn’t like the idea of being here all damn night, I found some comfort in knowing the hospital was notorious for taking its sweet time. I’d stay here for days if it meant Dalton was all right. “I’ll send you a text when I know something. Between the hypothermia and the concussion, he’s probably—”
“Concussion?” Stockton’s eyes widened. “Shit, what happened? I thought he just went in the water.”
“No idea. He was bleeding pretty good from one side of his head, though, and one of the EMTs said something about a concussion, so . . .” I shrugged.
“But you think he’ll be all right?”
“I sure hope so.”
Stockton glanced toward the doors again. “Definitely keep me up-to-date. Even if it’s at crazy thirty in the morning. I want to know he’s okay.”
“I will. And thanks again.” I held up the clothes he’d brought.
“Don’t mention it.” He paused. “You know, I can go crash at my girlfriend’s place tonight. He could probably use the peace and quiet.”
“Someone might need to stay with him. If you don’t mind me hanging out in your barracks room, I’ll stick around and keep an eye on him.”
Stockton nodded. “Awesome. Does he have his keys?”
“I don’t know, actually.”
He took out his own and pulled one off the ring. “I’ve got a spare in the car.”
“Perfect. Thanks.” As I pocketed the key, I added, “We’ll get this one back to you ASAP. If Dalton doesn’t have his on him, and he didn’t drop them in the water, they’re probably in the security building.”
“Whatever.” He shrugged. “Long as he’s got a place to—”
“Mr. Ingram?” a woman’s voice called.
I spun around. “Yeah, that’s me.”
She smiled and waved for me to come with her. I glanced at Stockton, and he practically shoved me. “. Text me when you know something.”
I nodded and beat feet after her, and my heart sped up as we headed down the hall. “How’s he doing?”
“He might not be much of a conversationalist for a while, but he’s awake.”
Relief hit me so hard, I just about stumbled over my own boots. He was awake. I didn’t think I’d ever heard better news.
At the end of the hall, she stopped and leaned into an open door. “Mr. Taylor? You’ve got a visitor.” Then she gestured for me to go in.
Dalton was under a pile of heated blankets, semireclined in a hospital bed with an IV in one arm, white tape covering one side of his head, EKG pads all over him, and wires sticking out from under the blankets and the collar of his hospital gown. His eyelids were heavy, his skin was still pale, and damn if he didn’t look better than anything I’d ever seen.
“Hey.” I smiled as I stepped closer. “How are you feeling?”
He swallowed like it took some work, and his eyelids slid closed again. “Fucking hurts.”
My heart jumped. “Hurts? What hurts?” In all the chaos, we hadn’t even had time to check him for injuries. Aside from stabilizing his neck and trying to staunch the bleeding on his head, anyway.
He licked his lips slowly. “My fucking head. And . . .” He made a heavy, weak gesture toward his side and winced. “Kind of feel like someone ran me through the washing machine.”
I barked a laugh and dragged a chair over with my foot. As I sat, I remembered the bag and sneakers in my hand. “I’ve got some clothes for you, by the way. So you don’t have to wear that thing home.”
A small smile pulled at his pale lips. “I don’t know, man,” he slurred softly. “It’s the latest fashion.”
I snorted. “Yeah, okay. Well when you get your fashion sense back, these will be waiting for you.” I twisted around to put them on the counter.
“Where’d you get them, anyway?”
“Stockton came by.”
The nurse cleared her throat, reminding me she was still in the room. “We’re waiting on Mr. Taylor’s CT scan results, and the doctor want to get another X-ray of those ribs, but I think he’s leaning toward releasing him.”
“Are they broken?” Dalton asked, voice faintly slurred.
“They don’t appear to be.” She fiddled with one of the leads disappearing under the top of his rumpled gown. “Dr. Engle thinks you pulled some muscles. Probably on the way out of the water.”
I shuddered at the memory of Dalton being hauled onto the deck like a ragdoll. They’d been as careful as possible in case his back had been fucked up, and they’d had a C-collar on him, but the decision had been made to pull him out as quickly as they could. They’d had to be careful about his neck because of how he’d hit his head, but apparently they hadn’t been as concerned about his back. Or at least, not concerned enough to risk keeping him in the water—which was tossing him around anyway—long enough to put him on a backboard. So no, I wasn’t surprised he had some pulled muscles. Probably some bruises too.
Dalton asked the nurse a few more questions. When he was done, she offered me a motherly smile. “I’ll send the doctor in as soon as he’s free. You’re welcome to keep him company until then.”
I nodded. “Thanks.” Then she left the room, and I turned back to Dalton. “You really got knocked around, didn’t you?”
Eyes closed, he gave a slow, subtle nod. He didn’t speak, though. As his breathing slowed, I realized he was drifting off. Wait, didn’t he have a concussion? Should I let him sleep? I glanced back and forth between him and the door, then decided my best bet was to check with one of the nurses.
I stepped outside the room. The nurses’ station was a few feet away, and a tall white guy with wire-rim glasses and thinning blond hair sat at the desk.
“Hi,” I said as I approached. When he looked up, I gestured at Dalton’s room. “Listen, my friend is here with a head injury and hypothermia. Is it . . . If he starts going to sleep, do I let him? Or should I wake him up because of the concussion and all?”
The man pursed his lips. “Are you family?”
“Yeah.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m his brother. I just go to the tanning salon more often.”
He scowled up at me. “Well, I can’t disclose his medical information to anyone except his family or designated emergency contacts.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes again. “I’m not asking for his medical information.” I jabbed my thumb over my shoulder. “I’m just asking if I should wake him up or let him sleep.”
The scowl deepened, and it was followed by a long-suffering sigh as the man got up. He strolled to Dalton’s room, and I silently followed him inside.
He glared at the screen, eyes moving side to side as he read what I assumed was Dalton’s chart. After a moment, he said, “Your friend is fine to sleep.”
The man didn’t offer anything further. He left, and once again, it was just me and Dalton. I took my seat beside the bed, not sure what to do except wait for someone to come in and give me news. Or, well, give Dalton news. When he was awake.
He was still asleep when the other nurse came back in. She typed something into the computer, checked his vitals on the monitor, and turned to go.
“Wait,” I said. “Is he . . .” I chewed the inside of my cheek. “Look, I know you can’t tell me anything because I’m not family, but can you at least tell me if he’s gonna be okay?”
She hesitated, regarding him silently, but she finally nodded. “He’ll probably sleep for several hours when he gets home, and then be very tired tomorrow, but he’ll be fine.”
“And it’s really okay for him to sleep like that? With a concussion?” I didn’t trust that other dick-bag.
The nurse smiled. “Yes. Someone will need to stay with him for the next twenty-four hours at least—ideally forty-eight—but he can sleep.”
I released a breath. “Okay. Thanks.” I felt like an idiot for being so hung up on whether or not Dalton could sleep, but I was terrified of him suddenly taking a turn for the worse. Especially if it was something I might be able to prevent. Fuck, I hated being this useless.
As I watched him sleeping peacefully, my brain kept darting back to the ambulance ride. When Dalton had come around enough to moan when the medics had prodded him just right. I’d imagined all kinds of horrible injuries that might’ve been causing the pain in his side. Busted ribs? Internal bleeding?
Fortunately, it had turned out to be some pulled muscles. Probably from struggling to stay afloat, or maybe they’d happened in the process of hauling him onto the boat. Dalton wouldn’t be comfortable for a few days, but given the alternatives, I didn’t figure he’d be complaining.
Neither was I. He was alive, and it looked like he was going to be okay. That was all I needed right now.
About Anchor Point
Welcome to Anchor Point!
Nestled on the northern coast of Oregon, this small town is home to Naval Air Station Adams. On base, you’ll find freshly minted Sailors who’ve just graduated boot camp, salty officers counting down till retirement, grounded pilots who’ve landed behind desks, and everyone in between—and they’re all looking for love. Well, not all of them, but that won’t stop love from finding them.
So pull up a barstool, grab a beer, and get ready for some sea stories as these men in uniform—or not—navigate the waters of love and life in the military.
Anchor Point stories can be enjoyed in any order. Hop in wherever you'd like!
About LA Witt
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. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…
L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).
To celebrate the release of Going Overboard, one lucky winner will receive their choice of two eBooks off L. A. Witt’s backlist (excluding Going Overboard) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 10, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!