Love Bytes is delighted to host the official cover reveal for Brandon Witt his upcoming release “Braving the Rapids”
Brandon introduces us to the cover, shares the first chapter and brought a giveaway to participate in.
Thank you so very much to Love Bytes for hosting the cover reveal of Braving the Rapids. This is the second book of the Rocky Mountain Boys series, but both novels can be read as a standalone.
I’m going to let the blurb and the first chapter speak for itself, but I will say this: The characters, combined with the town of Estes Park, are some of the dearest to my heart. All of them. These men (and women) are real, flawed, and longing so deeply to be loved. It’s the great joy of an author to let them discover how deserving of love they truly are.
Braving the Rapids is now available for pre-order, and is released November 13, 2017:
Estes Park native Todd Fleece works hard to honor his obligations to family and the businesses he inherited, but only his friends and the horses at his ranch brighten Todd’s life. In fighting his attraction to his best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Todd has focused solely on his work, leaving little room in his life for finding love.
Matt Abel’s reckless youth put him on a path to a self-destructive life—his most painful failure was being a horrible father. He excels at extreme sports and living on the edge. Now back in Estes Park and teaching white-water rafting, Matt tries to reconnect with his mother and his grown daughter. When he runs into his ex’s friend Todd, Matt longs for more than a fling.
But achieving happiness isn’t simple, not with Todd’s family conflicts and Matt struggling not to slide back into alcoholism. With hurdles threatening to drive them apart, Todd and Matt try to find the courage to brave the rapids and face a future together….
The afternoon sunlight angled down from the mountains just right to highlight the agent’s badge as she walked toward me. But the embroidered yellow star didn’t quite glint in the sun the way a metal badge would have.
I groaned, then couldn’t hold back an exasperated laugh as I raised my hand in greeting. “Afternoon, Pam.”
She waved back, giving no other return greeting before glancing toward the countryside, brows furrowed.
Again I raised my voice. “Last time I checked, the horses were wandering toward the west side of the field, by the mountains, probably just to make rounding them up harder since I’m sure they know I have dinner plans.” I tried to inject as much friendliness into my tone as I could. It wasn’t Pam’s fault. It never was.
Finally Pam drew near enough to speak. She was nice but always serious, like a New York City cop instead of an animal control agent in Estes Park. I’d never asked where she was from. Her unwavering formality wasn’t usual in Colorado. “It’s been longer than normal since my last visit, Mr. Fleece. I’m still sorry to come by at the end of the day. There were more pressing….” A slight blush rose to her cheeks.
Well, look at that. There was a personality under all the layers of bureaucratic hoopla after all. More pressing cases, I was willing to bet. She knew as well as I did she’d find nothing wrong. Which was nice but seemed a backhanded award to make me the last stop of her day. Well, whatever. Again, not her fault. “Call me Todd, please. We’ve been through this enough by now, we should be on a first-name basis, don’t you think, Pam?” Irritation crossed her features—briefly, but there. Again, I reminded myself that none of this was her fault, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t take some pleasure from it, no matter how small.
“Fine. Todd.” She wrinkled her nose. “We’ve had reports—”
I cut her off. “Let’s not do the formalities. We’ve both got them memorized by this point. Even if it has been pushing a year since we’ve been through them. Just tell me what it is this time. Horses too fat again? Too skinny? Reports of me using glitter nail polish on their hooves that hasn’t been thoroughly tested and deemed safe for animals?”
A smile. Just the barest of a twitch from the corner of her lips, but for her, a smile. I nearly patted myself on the back. That had taken years.
“Actually”—this time Pam’s blush was vibrant—“that your livestock is being given illegal growth hormones.”
I felt my mouth fall open, then laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Say what now?”
She muttered something I couldn’t hear.
“So why would I be giving my herd growth hormones? They’re plenty strong enough to carry all the tourists up the mountains and back down again as they are. And if you’ve gotten complaints about me making them flex their biceps for the dining entertainment, I can promise you, it was only that one time. It seemed to cause some sexual arousal in a few of the guests, so I figured it was best to steer clear from then on.”
Pam’s eyes bugged clear out of her head. Or at least seemed like they were about to. “Excuse me?”
“Kidding, kidding.” God, I couldn’t help myself. “I only let the horses get sexually aroused by the humans, not the other way around.”
“Bestiality isn’t a joking matter, Mr. Fleece.”
I grimaced. “Gross. Not when you put it like that.” And I was back to Mr. Fleece. I sighed. “Fine. Let’s get this over with. What do you need to do to prove that I’m not doping my animals before the Olympics and that Jess Waters is a good-for-nothing liar? Again.”
“Mr. Fleece, I never said that Mr.—”
I cut her off once more with a wave. “You and I both know Waters made up this bogus claim to waste my time and yours. Just like he has a dozen other times. And I know you have to investigate each and every time. So, what do we need to do to get this over with quickly?”
She glanced over toward the base of the mountains, like she didn’t want to do this any more than I did. “The most affordable way would be a urine sample.”
I laughed again. “You holding the piss cup, or am I?”
Pam didn’t laugh. Of course.
I so didn’t need this. And God, I fucking hated Jess Waters. I tried not to hate the woman who’d probably put him up to it. “You know, that sounds complicated. Can’t we just do a hair sample or swab their cheeks? Maybe ask them to do the high jump, and if they can’t clear the—”
Pam cut me off this time. “A hair sample would work, but the test is more expensive than the urine, so we’ll go that route.”
“I’ll pay for the hair test, if it gets you on your way quicker. Not that I don’t love our impromptu dates.”
“No. That isn’t….” She looked again toward the west, this time her gaze darting up to the setting sun.
“Gets dark early still in April. Doesn’t it?”
She narrowed her gaze at me. “Fine. We’ll do the hair test.”
Thank God. “Great. Let me go get some from one of the brushes real quick, and you can be on your way.”
“I have to retrieve the sample myself, Mr. Fleece. This is official business.”
I almost argued. She knew I treated my animals like they were family. Hell, better than family. She wasn’t any more worried about ridiculous claims of doping my horses than I was. She knew me. And I knew her. Arguing would do no good. Another sigh, one that didn’t disguise my irritation. “I was about to round them up anyway. I imagine you want to wait here?”
She nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Fleece.” She looked toward the barn. “May I wait in there? The evening chill is starting to arrive.”
I nearly laughed again. The evening chill. I refrained. “You bet.” I headed over to the four-wheeler I used to round up the horses and called out over my shoulder, “Feel free to dig around while you’re in there. You know, just in case Jess complains that I put ground-up kittens inside the salt licks.”
Typically, rounding up the herd was one of my favorite parts of the day, especially on days like this, before we opened for the season. The off-months hurt the wallet, but no tourists, just me and the horses? Perfection. Although I was one of the few locals who actually enjoyed tourists. They were here for vacation, and they were easy to make laugh. A lot more fun than Ms. Pam Your-Horses-Are-In-Danger. Even so, as I sped over the rocky land toward where I figured the horses were, neither the growing colors of sunset reflecting off the mountains nor the physical perfection that was Estes Park cut through my bad mood. I was willing to bet this was the first of many reports to come. The complaints from Jess were always cyclical. I hoped this one was from Jess. A few more over the next couple of months, and then he’d move on to another local businessman and leave me alone for a while. The worst-case scenario was that he’d been set up by my stepmother, and then she might be on the warpath for God knew how long.
Sure enough, the herd was exactly where I figured. As far away from the barn as they could get, all clustered under the shadows of the mountains. Just the sight of them caused my blood pressure to lower. It really was perfection. No man-mademade structures out here other than wooden fencing. Just pines, aspens, and a herd of horses grazing under the Twin Owls formation jutting up from the mountain range. It could be any time period. Just nature. Wild and free, mostly. Just nature. Just life.
I only allowed myself the luxury of peace for a moment. I had things to do and annoyances to handle. And I was going to be late. Of course the other four members of the Gay Boy Christmas Dinner group were used to that. I was always late. It didn’t matter if it was for Paxton’s annual Christmas party or one of our monthly dinners. I couldn’t ever manage to show up on time, best friends or not. However, this time I was going to be exceptionally late, even for me. I paused the four-wheeler and pulled out my cell to shoot Steve a message to let the others know and to order me a burger after they all got their food. Maybe, since we didn’t have to worry about a pee test, I’d be able to get to Penelope’s before the food got cold. Ah, Penelope’s. That was another good thing about off-seasons. The burger joint opened back up a few weeks before the crowds arrived, and we locals could actually get a burger without braving the hordes.
After hitting Send on the text, I stuffed the phone back into my pocket, not waiting for a reply, and slammed on the gas, popping a wheelie. Might as well make it as fun as I could.
I had to give Pam credit. She might not have many people skills, but she was great with the horses. She moved among them like she was an old friend of theirs. Of course, by this point she nearly was. She didn’t let an ounce of nerves show around the massive animals, her calm voice whispering and her free hand ceaselessly soothing over their flanks, managing not to cause a one of them to flinch as she pulled loose strands of hair. She bagged and labeled each one separately. I never dreamed she’d get a sample from every horse. Maybe I should’ve asked the price of the test before offering to cover expenses.
It was worth it. I might be late to dinner with my friends, but at least this way, I wouldn’t miss it. That was worth whatever it cost. Besides, the crowds were due to come soon, and between the stable and the adventure park, money wouldn’t be an issue.
Another forty-five minutes and Pam drove away. Half an hour later than what I’d figured. Still, a cold Penelope’s burger was better than no burger at all. I finished stabling the herd, setting the security system, and locking up. I paid entirely too much a month for that security system, but knowing Jess and my mother like I did, it seemed the only logical precaution to take.
I loaded up the truck and drove down the road to where Highway 36 turned into Elkhorn Avenue and stopped at the intersection. I started to pull out but then hit the brakes. The sun was gone, but the sky was still bright enough that I saw the motorcycle coming in the gloom, just barely, and thank God. I slammed my hand on the horn and flashed my headlights.
What fucking moron drives up the canyon on a motorcycle without their lights on?
The thought hadn’t more than crossed my mind before I sucked in a breath at the face illuminated by my headlights.
The driver looked toward me, sans helmet, squinting, then turned his attention back to the road. I watched him, my heartbeat scrambling. Several hundred feet down the road, his lights flicked on.
It had only been a flash, the split of a moment, but that was all I’d needed.
Holy shit. It had been months.
Not that I’d asked. But every so often, Gabe or one of the others would mention him, always with disdain. I was pretty sure he hadn’t been to Estes all winter. But here he was.
And if he really was back, chances were high I’d hear about it over dinner. Not from Steve. He never talked about his exes. Once they were exes, they were gone. Might as well be dead to him, even though at this point, he could have an army of living dead exes.
No, not from Steve.
But Gabe would have a few things to say. Matt was Gabe’s best friend’s father, and Gabe loathed the man.
Suddenly I wished Pam would’ve done the piss test. Hot or cold, no Penelope’s burger was worth listening to the GBCD gang talk about Matt. Especially when a couple of them darted knowing glances at me whenever his name came up.
It was annoying and embarrassing.
I’d never said one word about my feelings for Matt Abel. He was my best friend’s ex-boyfriend. He was Jordan’s waste-of-space dad. Not that Jordan and I were overly friendly, but she meant a hell of a lot to Gabe, so she meant a lot to me.
No. I’d been very careful to never say a word.
Not about how gorgeous my best friend’s ex was.
Not about how my body forgot I was in my midforties every time Matt was around, and decided to pretend it was the body of a teenager who got a stiffy in a slight breeze.
Not about how I was nearly 100 percent certain I’d been able to tell Matt had wanted me nearly as much as I wanted him, even when he’d been dating Steve.
No, never a word. But they knew. Even if they didn’t say. They could tell, at least most of them. I didn’t think Steve had any idea. And I planned to keep it that way.
Maybe Matt would go back to wherever he’d been, and I wouldn’t have to worry about my heartbeat increasing like it had from him just driving by.
Dear God, I hoped.
I’d rather deal with Pam’s errands from the devil, Jess, and Mom every day of the week than have Matt Abel back in town.
Brandon Witt’s outlook on life is greatly impacted by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he’s got plenty to write about….
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