Title: In Over Our Heads
Series: Stories from the Shore
Author: CJane Elliott
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Romance, Second Chances, Vacation
Anthony Vallen is the life of any party. Full of energy and fun, Anthony adores romance and enjoys playing matchmaker for his friends while dancing the night away with a series of Mr. Right Nows. But he’s given up on his own happy ending. A bad breakup years ago made him a secret cynic about love… until he runs into Walter Elkins—the boy who broke his teenaged heart—on a scuba-diving vacation in Key West. Suddenly, Anthony’s reasons for shunning romance no longer hold much water. Being with Walter again forces Anthony to get serious—about himself, his worth, and his heart’s desires.
Brilliant and self-contained, scientist Walter Elkins prefers deep thoughts to other people. He’s a good boss and a model citizen, but Walter doesn’t let anyone get close. After a tragedy drove him out of his science career, Walter landed in Key West and became owner of a dive shop and a bar. Things are fine until Anthony Vallen—the only person who ever penetrated his defenses—shows up, and Walter’s calm, controlled life capsizes. He and Anthony have a second chance for love, but Walter must confront the old fears that threaten to torpedo their happiness.
The door burst open, and Sophia sailed in with my morning cappuccino. She was humming under her breath and had that telltale postsex glow about her. I tried not to hate her too much.
“What’re you doing in here with me, doll? Don’t you have a sexy dive instructor to entertain?”
“She had to leave early.” Sophia handed me the mug. “She’s taking her group out on the ocean dive too, and she had to go to Back Bay to get the boat ready.”
I took a restorative sip of cappuccino. “Ahh. Well, I hope you didn’t tire her out too much last night. Or vice versa.” I winked at her, even though I didn’t feel very winky.
“Guilty on both our parts, I’m afraid.” Sophia smirked, then perched on the side of my bed. “Can we talk more about what’s going on with you and Walter?”
“Going on?” I blinked and buried my nose in the cup. “I mean, I told you guys last night. What more do you need to know?”
“Whatever it’ll take to help you and him figure yourselves out, because second chances like this don’t come around often.”
“God, not you too. You and Jonny need to start a group for incurable romantics.”
She straightened, her dark eyes snapping with intensity. “Caro! You’re the one who talks about destiny. This is your destiny!”
I sighed. She was so over the top sometimes. Must be her Italian blood. “Maybe my destiny is to be reminded to never let a guy walk over me the way Walter did.”
“I…. Look, Marco has a good point, and I agree with him that Walter needs to apologize. It was awful of him to drop out of sight. You so don’t deserve to be treated that way.”
“Right.” I put down my cup, having lost my taste for the cappuccino.
“But you two were barely out of high school. So young! People change. It certainly doesn’t seem in character with how he is now.”
“Well, I mean, Walter seems so conscientious and thoughtful. Yes, a little gruff, but not someone who would knowingly hurt you. But maybe… safety seems to be a huge concern to him. And maybe he couldn’t stand that you almost drowned, and he couldn’t face you after that? Did he ever explain it to you?”
“No. I begged him to tell me why, and all he would say is ‘I’m not good for you. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.’ I guess the safety thing is the most plausible explanation. Because other than that, it’s bizarre that he would walk away and throw away a great thing. We were….” I paused, hit by an unexpected wave of grief. “Damn it, Soph, we were really good together. Yes, we were young, but we complemented each other so well. Like, I brought him out of his shell, and he calmed me down. And he took me seriously. He listened to me in a way no one but Jonny ever had before.” My eyes betrayed me by welling up.
“Oh, Anthony. That’s lovely. I can tell he still does. Take you seriously, I mean. He hasn’t been able to stop staring at you the whole time we’ve been around him. It’s obvious he still cares.”
Sophia’s words threw little daggers at my silly heart. Jonathan had said essentially the same thing. If they both thought Walter still cared for me, maybe it was true. And God, if it was true, I was in deep waters. I knew I should stiffen my backbone and armor myself with outrage. But I couldn’t. Still hung up on Walter Elkins? Guilty as charged. Convicted. Lock me up and throw away the key, because I had no hope of rehabilitation. I put my face in my hands for a moment. What a hopeless sentimental fool!
Luckily for my humiliation factor, Marco came barging in with a brilliant grin. “All right, darlings! Today’s the day! Scuba diving or bust! Get ready for the adventure of your lives.” He stopped short and peered at me. “You okay?”
Pulling myself together, I returned his smile. “Fabulous, doll! Off to the reefs we go to swim with the fishies!”
Hi, everyone! I’m thrilled to be here at Oh My Shelves celebrating In Over Our Heads, my new release. In Over Our Heads is a second chance romance for Anthony and Walter—two guys who seem total opposites but truly complete each other.
I thought I’d share a deleted scene with you. In both versions of the story, Anthony and Walter get back together while Anthony is in Key West, and then are parted when Anthony returns to Boston. But in my first take, Walter isn’t so adamant about not being the one for Anthony and they have a sweet parting scene (instead of the angsty one that made it into the book).
Walter kissed Anthony like a drowning man. This was their last night, their last time together. He kissed Anthony over and over, wanting to brand himself on Anthony’s wide smiling mouth forever. The taste of salt on Anthony’s lips told Walter one of them had started crying again.
Why was love so hard?
Being this upset should have rendered Walter impotent (if one were to put stock in the science regarding mind-body connection). But his prick was as eager as it had been ever since Walter had seen Anthony in the bar for the first time in 12 years. Walter had gone home and beaten off that night for the first time in a long time. He’d always assumed he had a low sex drive, but that wasn’t the case. His sex drive was directed at one person, and one person alone, and that one person was here with him.
“I’m sorry to cry so much, but I can’t stop.” Anthony’s voice was tear-clogged. “I want you inside me and I’m just gonna cry my way through it. Because you know I’m an overemotional mess and this is tearing me apart.”
Walter closed his eyes like that would somehow help him soothe his own conflicting mass of feelings: sadness, horniness, fear… he couldn’t distinguish all of them. He’d been adept at repressing his emotions, not at understanding them, and even less at owning them the way Anthony did his.
“Make love to me.”
Anthony’s whisper jolted Walter out of the morass he’d sunken into. He opened his eyes and did the mental equivalent of squaring his shoulders. Willing himself to stay present, Walter touched Anthony’s face, wiping away the tears with a gentle thumb. “How do you want it?” he asked.
“I want to see you.”
They ended up with Anthony sinking down on Walter’s rock-hard cock as they clasped hands. Inch by slow inch, Anthony claimed him. He already had. He always would.
Afterward, they lay holding each other and Walter watched the shadows on the ceiling, cast by the flickering candle Anthony had lit earlier.
“I wish you wouldn’t leave.” He hadn’t planned to say it. But it was true.
“I wish I didn’t have to. But if you come to my birthday party, we’ll be seeing each other in a few weeks.”
“I… uh….” How could Walter explain his aversion to ever setting foot again in Boston? “Maybe you can come back here soon. For Christmas?”
Silence. He cast an uneasy glance at Anthony. His unease grew at the grim expression on Anthony’s face. “Is there some reason you can’t come to Boston?”
Yes! Walter wanted to shout. “I… there’re a lot of bad memories.”
The light went out of Anthony’s eyes. “I see. And you and me—that’s one of the bad memories you’re running from?”
“No. Not any more. But the rest of it… I botched everything. My parents and I aren’t speaking any more. I didn’t tell you that part yet.”
“Oh babe.” Anthony stroked the back of Walter’s neck. It felt good. “So, I’m guessing—without us getting into the ‘talk’ about our future—that you coming to Boston to live with me is a no go.”
“Yeah.” But then he registered what Anthony was saying. “Wait. Are you sure you want us to live together? At all?”
Anthony’s smile was startling in the middle of this conversation. “Oh, yes. We’re meant to be, doll! Destiny didn’t bring us together like this just to have us screw it up. But I know you might not be there yet. And I’m going to wait until you are.”
“Oh.” Walter’s head started to spin with “how about’s” and “what if’s” and damn Anthony for his completely illogical insistence on… on fairy tale endings! Walter was no prince. Why couldn’t Anthony see that?
As if he could read Walter’s mind, Anthony kissed him and said, “You’re the right one for me. I trust you. You would never ever willingly or knowingly hurt me. But I can’t make you see this. It’s something you’ll have to do for yourself. Trust yourself and not that nasty voice in your head. And if you can’t do that, then trust me.”
Walter stowed those words away. He couldn’t deal with them yet but he intended to examine every last one again and again. Whatever it took to… trust? Trust was such a vague concept. But he was determined to study it, analyze it, and master it. Anthony was worth it.
Celebrate the release of In Over Our Heads with a special sale: All the Way to Shore is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon through October 24 with that price matched at the Dreamspinner Press store October 16-24.
Meet the Author
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.
CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Walls was a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogames won first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards.