Originally published as part of the Campus Cravings bundle, Winning Bracket is now available on its own with a BRAND NEW bonus epilogue/short story!
A sexy bet on a basketball tournament challenges nerdalicious Edwin and party-boy Ollie to change their relationship status from frenemies to lovers.
Oliver Marshall has been a sexy pain in Edwin Schultz’s side since freshman year. Now seniors and competing dorm resident advisors, the two are in constant strife over noise levels and study hours. However, deep down, Edwin’s been nursing a painful crush on Ollie for years. When Ollie proposes a bet on a basketball tournament, Edwin seizes the chance to put his inconvenient feelings for Ollie behind him once and for all.
Edwin’s not the only one suffering a case of unwanted attraction—Ollie’s been running from his feelings for Edwin for a long time. He doesn’t understand how someone who drives Ollie so crazy with his adherence to rules can be the same guy who makes his pulse pound. In fact, Ollie’s never been so eager to lose a bet in his life.
As the challenge becomes a hot bedroom battle to avoid real emotions, the two “frenemies” must change their definitions of losing to win a shot at lasting love.
BONUS Epilogue/Short Story, Winning Wedding: When a lost receipt threatens their special day, Ollie and Edwin must wager on finding a solution before time runs out.
I read this story when it was first in the Campus Cravings bundle, and to be honest, I was a bit upset when reading it because I felt like the ending was just… missing something.
After reading this new edition of the story, I feel like the story is completely great now. I loved the new ending! I really feel like the story come to a great ending, and that Ms. Albert did an amazing job at bringing these two men a great ending.
I really loved watching as Ollie slowly broke through to Edwin’s walls. I thought that it was great to be following along as both men were fighting their desires, and when they finally gave into them, it was like fireworks.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a semi-quick read that is packed full of humor, love, and an overall great read.
Ollie kept looking at him, dark eyes patient and kind, like he really did care about Edwin and Edwin’s GPA. The dark
slashes of his eyebrows were a contrast to his creamy skin and heart-shaped mouth, offsetting his elfin features with a masculine edge that had always intrigued Edwin.
Edwin exhaled a long, you-win sigh.
“Maybe I’ll try not to go all RA Buzzkill while the games are on.”
“Awesomesauce! You should come grab some pizza too.” Ollie grinned widely, showcasing a row of perfectly white,
straight teeth. Having an orthodontist dad had its perks—high limit credit cards and a gorgeous smile. “And you should do the bracket challenge!”
“For what reason?” Edwin refused to be dazzled by Ollie’s smile. Or charmed by Ollie’s attempts to rearrange the
English language. If he wasn’t adding “-ie” sounds to perfectly good nouns, he was coining his own adjectives. Like “awesomesauce.” Ridiculous word.
“For fun.” Ollie snorted like Edwin had asked an absurd question. Like randomly picking game-winners from an array
of schools Edwin had never heard of was the best way to spend Sunday. “I’ve got some great prizes lined up.”
“I don’t need a prize.”
“Oh come on. We could bet.” Ollie’s eyes sparkled. “Like if my final-four bracket beats yours, you host the watch
“Dream on.” Edwin tried to ignore the feeling of intrigue curling low in his gut.
“Oh come on, Eddie. Think about what would happen if you won! Isn’t there something you want from me?”
You have no idea. Really, none. Edwin had spent the last three years being very, very careful to hide even a hint of “something” from the too-perceptive Ollie. This year had been the worst. Ever since August…And okay, he was not going to think about August right then. Not with Ollie sitting on the bed looking all eager.
Like he’d enjoy nothing more than making Edwin’s dreams come true, though Edwin knew that was far from the case.
Edwin wasn’t a jock, he wasn’t a party guy, he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t cute—he was nothing like the guys Ollie crushed on. No, Ollie was a lit firecracker, and Edwin knew better than to grab on and hope the bang wouldn’t explode in his face.
“I don’t know anything about the teams—no point in doing random guesses.”
“No point? The whole point of the tournament is random guesses! Grady won our floor’s pool last year by picking
all dog mascots to advance and all cat mascots to lose. I kept track of the teams the whole season, and I came in second. There’s no way to predict which big-time teams are going to choke.”
Ollie’s hands grabbed at his own throat, his fingers curving like claws, his eyes crossing, his mouth emitting horribly realistic gagging sounds. Right when Edwin started to get a bit worried, Ollie dropped his hands and grinned. “You know. Choke. Whiff on their chances. Lose even though everyone thought they’d win. But that’s the absolute best part of March Madness—the Cinderella stories. The tiny teams that no one sees coming, and they seize the moment!” Ollie’s hands grabbed at the air in front of him. Like the moment was a real thing to seize. Like randomness and chaos were things people should want.
“Because they finally get a chance to go to the big dance.” Ollie’s hands stopped moving. His face sagged. Like Edwin’s lack of basketball IQ was zapping his energy.
“Come on. You make some guesses, and if you’re right, I’ll do whatever you want. And if you’re wrong—”
“Hold up. If I filled out a bracket and mine beat yours, you’d do whatever I wanted? Like anything?”
“Sure.” Ollie shrugged, an insolent lift of surprisingly wide shoulders inside a too-big shirt. “I mean not all day. But sure, you want me to be a slave for an hour or something, I can take it.”
Ka-pow. The firecracker exploded, hot want raining down on Edwin, sparking against his skin. Anything. Ollie-as-slave images began to run on repeat in his brain, Ollie getting considerably less clothing with each pass. Edwin could ask for anything, and it would just be a joke to Ollie—a lark to be laughed over later, no more of a big deal than opening up with a can of silly string or shorting his sheets every night for a week.
Oh my God. Would it work? Could he use something like this—a stupid bet on stupid basketball—to exorcise the Ollie
demons that had plagued him for years, all without having to admit how he felt about Ollie?
Because while Ollie had been busy with the jock-crush-of-the-month plan, Edwin had been hung up on Ollie. For
three and a half years. If a stupid bet could shake Edwin free, then it was worth having to learn something about basketball.
“Okay,” he whispered.
“Yay!” Ollie clambered off the bed, springs squeaking as he hit the floor. “You’ll see. This is going to be a great couple of weeks! So what are we going to play for this week? If my bracket does better by Sunday night, you send an email supporting the next watch party and you show up. And if you win…”
“I want a kiss.” The words escaped Edwin before he could call them back, before he could temper them with logic or
suppress them with reality.
Originally released as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle, now available as a stand-alone novella complete with BRAND-NEW 10,000 word short story/epilogue.
When a wounded soldier is forced to accept help from his former best friend, both men discover the true strength of their entwined hearts.
Army IT specialist Xander keeps his emotions wired as tight as his NETCOM gear, but when he’s seriously injured by an IED, his whole life unravels. Running out of options, Xander must accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey. However, Xander’s had feelings for Mackey for years, and close quarters only complicates his emotions. Further, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses.
Mackey’s always kept his emotions close to his chest, but now he’s got a secret that could destroy his one chance with the man he cares far too much for. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.
Entwined Future: In this new short story, Mackey has news that could change everything for him and Xander, but a visit from Xander’s family jeopardizes Mackey’s plans–and forces Xander to confront some harsh truths.
This 110 page story is focused on two main MC, Xander and Mackey. Both have been friends for ages and over the years developed that friendship into friends with benefits. Because they are in the military, and even though DADT is over, they have kept the benefit side of the relationship a secret. Then the allotment sacrifice happens and while deployed, the vehicle that Xander is riding is hits an IED. Soldiers are killed and Xander is wounded. We pick up the story months later, with Xander being released from Walter Reed with a lot of unresolved guilt, hatred, angry and depression. But he decides to hide behind all that and just lash out. Mackey, is now State Side in hopes of picking up the pieces of there once fledgling relationship. He knows it’s going to be a hard road but he loves him and is willing to try.
Wow! This story is amazing! You can feel Xander’s pain and anguish just coming off the pages. And Mackey so torn up with his own deceit that may have put Xander in that hospital bed to begin with all because these two men thought they had more time, thought that they could talk later, thought that neither one could feel the same as they felt about each other. I will be looking up all this author’s back list.
“What’s this I hear? They’re springing you loose today?” Mackey’s deep voice rumbled like tires over gravel, making the too-long hairs at the back of Xander’s neck stand up.
Xander tried to push himself upright from the hospital bed he’d been dozing on. He failed miserably, his stupid,
uncooperative limbs flailing around like a squid’s tentacles. Mackey grabbed his good elbow and helped him to sit up, concern on his craggy face.
He looked good. Too damn good.
Mackey’s ever-present five o’clock shadow was darker than usual, but his shoulders were broad as ever, biceps bulging as he hauled Xander up. He wasn’t in uniform—the tight Army T-shirt and loose jeans unfamiliar on his bulky frame.
Too close. Mackey smelled like the old-fashioned soap he favored. Xander’s pulse gave a weak thrum, like it wanted
to rev but had thought the better of it. “What the hell are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in Hawaii.”
“And you’re supposed to be following doctor’s orders. But I hear you’re being a pain in the ass instead,” Mackey
said mildly, shoving a pillow behind Xander without being asked. His face dipped low enough Xander could feel his warm breath. The memory of Mackey panting in his ear—something Xander had tried hard not to think about in
months—rocketed through him, sending blood rushing to sorely neglected places.
So much for that whole motor-not-working thing.
“Seriously. Why aren’t you in Hawaii?” Mackey was supposed to have returned from deployment with the rest of
Xander’s Army NETCOM unit and then moved onto his next assignment. Mackey should be at Fort Shafter right now, soaking up the sunshine and salt water in between running network tests. Yeah, once upon a time he and Xander had a best-friends-with-benefits thing going, but that thing had blown up the night before an IED made the rest of Xander’s life go boom. Besides, a guy didn’t come running around the world for a jerk-off buddy, even one who was also an ex-teammate and an ex-barracks roommate.
“Seriously, I checked at the nurses’ station on the way in. They said your discharge papers are almost done. You ready to go?”
True, he couldn’t wait to escape the hospital, but ready wasn’t the right word. Xander was never going to be ready
for anything again. Ready meant in a uniform, every sense at attention, body primed to do whatever the Army asked of it. Now ‘ready’ meant accepting what that stupid fucker of a doctor had said—that he should prepare to transition
out. Start disability paperwork. Ready meant having a plan for what came next. The only plans Xander had involved getting the heck away from the hospital and finding the nearest bottle of Jack. But he couldn’t let Mackey see how his life was crumbling.
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.
Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency