Title: Cliff’s Edge (Willow Springs Ranch #7)
Author Name: Laura Harner
Publication Date & Length: April 22, 2015 — 119 pages
Navy SEALs Cliff “Snides” Snyder and Ryan “Rhino” Matthews have been moving comfortably in each other’s worlds for two decades. Best friends since attending BUDs twenty years earlier, and despite playing for different teams, they’re often accused of acting like an old married couple—much to their amusement.
Assigned to shore duty for his final tour before retirement and without Ryan to anchor him, Cliff’s restlessness leads him to a local club and hands-on research that leaves him in a compromising position and a witness to murder—signaling the abrupt end of his Navy career. Needing a place to lay low and lick his wounds, Cliff visits his old friends at the Willow Springs Ranch while he considers making cowboy his new job title.
After six long months on deployment, Rhino returns to San Diego—only to discover Cliff’s gone dark and the unlikely words ‘poor judgment’ are hanging in the air. Despite the offer of a prestigious assignment, Ryan opts to track down his best friend first and finds him at the WSR…along with more questions than he ever expected. With the most coveted orders for a SEAL dangling, twenty years of service under his belt, and Cliff determined to move on without him, decisions must be made.
Ryan is certain he has the perfect solution going forward, but Cliff knows he must face the fallout of his actions alone—and the one thing he’s determined to do is protect Ryan from making the biggest mistake of his career—even if it costs Cliff everything. You know what they say—the only easy day was yesterday.
I loved the relationship between the two men. I also loved the advice and guidance the men received from Ty.
This story worked well as a romance and as a thriller. One thing I wasn’t too sure about was the ending. I enjoy series, but I don’t like it when the author leaves loose ends in one book to tie up in the next.
Cliff’s Edge was a good story. Even though I hadn’t read any other of the series, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything..
The relationship between Cliff and Ryan started out as friends. Cliff had always been gay and Ryan was bi. I thought their relationship grew even more through the story.
This appears to be a great series to get involved in. The mystery that was in this book was great and just enough to keep you interested. I highly recommend this series and I look forward to reading more.
1) Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?
Laura: Oh, I’d love to. About six months ago I moved to a new house that sits on a very small man-made lake. The whole backside of the house is sliding glass windows facing the water. When I work, no matter which room I’m in, I have a view of the water plus the desert mountains in the distance. Most of the time I work at my desk, which is a free-standing kitchen island I got from Ikea. It has a smooth butcher-block top at the perfect height for standing at while I type. I probably stand about half the time I’m working. The top is so big, there’s plenty of room for my desktop monitor, my laptop (yes, they’re usually both running) and my two Maine Coons who like to stretch out near me. Of course, they’re only kittens, so we’ll have to see if they still fit when they reach their full size, lol.
2) Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?
Laura: No doubt about it! Elena MacFarland, from Highland Shift/Highland Destiny series. She was strong, smart, and kept going no matter how afraid or broken she was. In the end, she was so much more than she ever believed possible.
3) If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?
Laura: Before I started writing full time I was an instructional designer and classroom instructor for several land management agencies. I put together courses for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Game, Department of Interior, etc. It was a terrific job, so I suspect I’d look for something similar.
4) Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?
Laura: No, actually, it felt like Cliff’s Edge wrote itself. I know these guys…or rather I feel like I do. The way they talk with each other, hang out together—I can’t tell you how many “bromances” I’ve seen over the years.
5) Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?
Laura: No, I don’t think so…
6) How do you come up with new ideas for your story?
Laura: Story ideas come from everywhere. Driving through the desert, standing in a line at the grocery store, overhearing a fragment of conversation… A lot of the ideas are loosely based on actual events in my past or on the news. They literally can just pop up any place. Yesterday for example, I was driving through Texas, and somewhere near Vernon I stopped for gas. When I got out of the truck, there was a young, Hispanic man pacing through the pumps, very agitated. I thought at first he was going to ask for money, but he never spoke to me. Instead he was on the phone to his significant other, begging for her to call his attorney because the FBI was harassing him and had been following him since Las Vegas. The conversation went on a long time, then someone called him back and he went through the story again. By the time I left the gas station, the police were there and the young man was clearly experiencing some sort of break down. But it was a fascinating story…
7) What’s next for you as a writer?
Laura: Next is Broken SEAL, a spin-off from the Willow Springs Ranch series. The new series follows some of the men introduced in Cliff’s Edge. First up is Draco. *secret smile*
Here’s the preliminary blurb:
When heavily armed thugs walk into his club in a hail of gunfire, a friend with benefits is cut down and Draco Kincaid loses everything he’s built over the past ten years. As a former Navy SEAL, his new life strapped to a chair holds little appeal and learning to adapt to his new circumstances robs him of every shred of his much-needed control. Discovering his life is still in jeopardy exposes a crack in Draco’s iron will that may just play into a killer’s hand.
There are no words to describe the grief of losing his other half, but Noah Middlebrooks is determined to make the sick bastard whose games were responsible for his brother’s death look him in the face and explain what happened. Then he’ll make sure the club owner pays for his crime. Burning his final bridge at work to finance his venture, Noah heads to San Diego. With no job and no more family, there isn’t anything left to lose.
Deceit, money, and vengeance put them on a collision course of self-destruction, but nothing can prepare either man for the life-altering impact of their first meeting. As a slow simmer of attraction builds in spite of their best intentions, the killer couldn’t be happier. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
And you should see the cover!!! Look for Broken SEAL at all the usual place later this summer.
8) Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?
Laura: Absolutely. Since I’m retired from the Navy, and have been stationed throughout the US and in Japan, I love to set stories in places where I’ve spent a lot of time. I live in Arizona, right on the border-only 100 miles from Las Vegas now. For several years I Currently, many of my stories are set in Arizona. I also set a lot of stories in New Orleans and southern Louisiana, where I lived for several years. My next series will be set in Southern California where I was born and raised. I’d also like to do a series in Florida and in Maine, two more places I enjoyed very much when I lived there.
9) What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?
Laura: Hmm…I write MM, MMF, and MF because I enjoy all of them. All of my stories include a little mystery or suspense because that’s what I love to read. I guess if I like to read it, I’ll try to write it, lol.
10) Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?
Laura: Oh my god—coffee is a vice? Who knew? I suppose my biggest vice is lack of regular exercise and too much online shopping. The UPS driver knows me well!
Cliff stumbled a little in the dark of his bedroom, reluctant to turn on the lights and ruin his night vision. It had been a long while since he’d had so much to drink—or felt so relaxed. There was definitely something to be said about being on the WSR, away from anyone who might know him or what he did for a living.
In their careers, it was conceivable they could be targeted for one of their field actions or just by virtue of being Navy SEALs. Just like the cops who’d enjoyed harassing him once they’d discovered his profession. Some people needed to try to knock down others to feel good about themselves. But here? He and Ryan were just a couple more guys.
He stripped to his boxers and tossed his jeans onto the chair before pulling back the covers on the king-sized bed. A shudder raced up his spine, and for just a moment, he remembered the frustration and helplessness of the situation when he’d been trapped on the other bed…listening to those fucking punks. His stomach clenched at the thought of Gentry and Draco. Their bodies had been removed by the time the cops saw fit to release him from the alcove, but he’d never forget listening to their last moments or the blood that soaked the floor when he’d been led through the office to the stairs. Ryan would eventually ask for details about how they died—especially Draco, since they’d been friends—but they’d both learned to compartmentalize death a long time ago.
That didn’t mean they weren’t affected by loss, but there was a time and a place to mourn, to say good-bye, and it wasn’t while the battle raged. Despite several warnings from the DA and lead investigator, Cliff would like nothing more than to hunt down those gangbangers and make them pay…and Ryan would be more than happy to help. He recognized the danger in those thoughts, as well.
Blowing out a breath at the loss of his mellow mood of a few minutes ago, Cliff moved silently on bare feet to open the bedroom door and listened. The quiet murmur of television voices from behind Ryan’s door would mask any noise he might make. Hell, Rhino was probably passed out on his bed already.
Cliff padded to the refrigerator, considered then dismissed the idea of another beer. He had a long drive ahead of him in the morning. Grabbing a bottle of water instead, he drank half down in one long pull.
Turning, he found Ryan standing near the counter, watching him. With the moonlight streaming in through the window providing the only illumination, his friend’s face was difficult to read, but his naked body was a little hard to miss.
“Want some?” Cliff held the bottle of water in Ryan’s direction.
With a nod, Ryan took the bottle and finished it off. With a perfect aim, even in the near total darkness, he tossed the empty into the wastebasket. “And the crowd goes wild.”
“Idiot,” Cliff said, opening the fridge for two more bottles of water. Once again passing a bottle to Ryan, he started to head back to the bedroom. Ryan’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“I…uh…had a good time tonight.” Ryan’s words weren’t slurred, but there was a lazy cadence beneath the stilted delivery that spoke of too much tequila.
“Yeah, me too. Ty and Cass are good folk. They’ve made this place a good home for a lot of guys who needed a fresh start.”
“Is that what you’re thinking of doing? A fresh start out here as some kind of cowboy? ’Cause, man…I could see the attraction. You out here surrounded by all those hot guys—I mean obviously not the couples, but there were at least half of them in there single, right?”
Cliff laughed softly at Ryan’s concern for his love life. “Yeah…sorry about that. I didn’t even think about how you might have felt…surrounded by all those guys.” He studied Ryan’s face. “You weren’t offended, right? I mean you’ve been to gay clubs with me and it’s never bothered you…”
“Offended? Nah…why would I be? You never were offended at the straight clubs, right?” His hand tightened on Cliff’s forearm, and he seemed to weave a little on his feet.
“Hey, Rhino, come on. You need to get some sleep—”
“Are we having a bromance?” Ryan blurted.
“A bromance?” Cliff laughed, and Ryan’s eyes narrowed. Oh boy, never laugh at a drunk who thinks he’s making an important point.
“Yeah, a bromance. Where two guys hang out all the time, like the same shit, would probably fuck each other if they were both gay—or if one of them was female.”
Fighting off more laughter, Cliff nodded. “Sure, you can call it that. Come on, princess, let’s get you to bed.”
Ryan didn’t yield when Cliff tried to pull his arm free in order to lead him toward the bedrooms. “What do you think? Should I take the orders?”
“What, are you nuts? You’ve been waiting for those orders your whole career.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem…my whole career.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“You’re not the only one eligible to retire. Just because you had two years prior service in the Marines before you joined the Navy, you’ve got more time in service than me, but yeah…it’s been twenty years this month. I don’t know if I want one more tour. That’s another four or five years, in order to retire at the new pay grade I’d no doubt pick up in the next year or two.
“True, but it’s also more money when you do retire. And, Rhino…it’s Six.” He referred to the DEVGRU unit by their unofficial name, hoping to jar a little sense into his friend.
Squeezing his arm a little, Ryan leaned in, as if imparting a great secret. “You should be there.”
Cliff shook his head. “That’s done. We don’t even need to think about it. I just gotta figure what I want to do next.”
“See, Snides…that’s the thing. If I have to wait another four or five years before I retire and you move on, you’re going to get too fucking far ahead. I don’t like that. ’Sides, that’d mean no more football or watching NCIS. You’d get to see all the episodes of So You Think You Can Dance without me telling you how gay that is.”
“Ha, now I know you’re drunk. We only watch that because you like the women’s skimpy outfits. You probably need to quit hanging out with me and spend the next six months of your training cycle finding the right little woman and getting laid on a regular basis. Hell, get a wife! Then you’ll be all set for retirement when you’re done with the next tour. She can cook your sorry ass dinner, wash your clothes… Yep…you need a wife.”
“Fuck that shit. I’d sooner fuck you than ever get married again. In fact—”
Time seemed to stop, as if they both needed a moment to absorb the truth of those words.
“Careful what you wish for, Ryan,” Cliff said, his voice a ragged whisper. His cock went rock hard, ignoring every warning he could throw out that this wasn’t going to happen. Ryan was drunk, and they both were horny, but this was a line neither of them needed to cross. Too much was at stake for a little temporary relief. Guilt and regret could kill a friendship.
Even as all the reasons they needed to walk away raced through his mind, the moment stretched. For once Cliff had no idea what Ryan was thinking. Cliff started to pull his arm away again. Rhino shifted his grip and guided their joined hands to brush over Ryan’s hard cock.
“Not going here with you, Ry. Not worth a friendship.”
“Won’t cost anything. You weren’t wrong to try it, you know.”
“Try? What are you—”
Ryan’s hand closed around Cliff’s erection. “To try a little bondage. To let someone else take control.”
Cliff jerked his hips to free his cock. “Is that what you think? That I enjoyed lying there while—”
“Don’t be stupid, Cliff. Of course not—not that night—not there. But here? Oh yeah…suck my cock, baby. Come on, we both want this tonight.”
Ryan didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about. Sure Cliff had been at Draco’s to find out more about the lifestyle. Ryan above everyone should know that even though they played on different teams, they were both dominant men, both used to being in absolute control. He had to make Ryan shut up, to stop this foolishness before he said things they’d both regret come morning.
Twisting roughly away, he body slammed Ryan against the wall. A small smile lingered over the other man’s mouth, and Cliff bent in, not to taste it, and definitely not to feel those familiar lips pressed against his…but to wipe away the knowing, mocking smile.
Their mouths crashed together, a fusion of teeth and tongues, of malty beer and tart tequila, and an underlying touch of cinnamon. With his hands pressed to the wall on either side of Ryan’s head, Cliff leaned down, taking advantage of their height difference. Ryan’s face tilted up, his hands sliding over Cliff’s bare chest to pinch his nipples.
Ahhh…he wanted to shout. Fire raced through his nerves as the little buds burned and the heat streaked straight to his cock and tightened his balls. Ryan took advantage of Cliff’s momentary distraction and snaked an arm up, his fingers twisting in Cliff’s hair and holding him tight while he plundered Cliff’s mouth. With his pulse thundering erratically, he lost himself in Ryan’s kiss. Closing his eyes, he leaned into Ryan, their hips brushed together and a hard cock pressed against his. Ryan’s tongue slid over Cliff’s, teased the roof of his mouth, teeth scraping over lips. Cliff moaned as desire built.
Ryan gave another hard tweak to his nip then scraped his nails through Cliff’s chest hair and up to his shoulder to apply a not-so-subtle downward pressure. Using his hair like a handle, he pulled Cliff’s head back from the kiss.
“Now, Cliff, baby. I want you on your knees.” He released Cliff’s hair and started pressing down. “You’ve always said no one can give a better blow job than another man…show me.”
They were almost the same height, just a couple of inches separating them, but right now, the way Rhino looked at him, pushed at him to drop to his knees and bend to his will, was fucking sexy. The two of them had been friends for twenty years, yet this was a road they’d never even remotely discussed traveling together.
A distant part of his mind sensed the danger, worried their friendship wouldn’t survive the morning light if he capitulated, but damn… Cliff had never seen Ryan like this. Commanding bordering on arrogant? Sure—but never aimed in his direction. It had always been the two of them together…going through training, facing battle, taking out bad guys. Either of them could quell the arguments of others with a look. When they walked into a room of civilians, people stared. They’d both been told their confidence was sexy…
Why was Cliff only seeing this side of Ryan now? Was it all drink? That made no sense—they’d been drunk together plenty of times. Seen each other naked a thousand times. Hell—they’d seen each other hard, too. He could recall quite clearly the apartment they’d shared fresh out of BUDs and—and the night Rhino had overlooked the lanyard hanging on Cliff’s door and stumbled in to catch sight of Cliff’s dick shoved down some guy’s throat. Ryan had teased him for weeks before Cliff finally told him guys really knew what another man wanted. The sonofabitch was using his own words against him.
The horny ass had just come off mission and probably needed to get off and didn’t care who sucked him. Or was there something more?
For fuck’s sake. I can’t just stand here all night thinking about it.
Ryan’s eyelids were heavy, almost lazy as he blinked up at him, and his mouth curved up on one side, as if he’d been following Cliff’s jumbled thoughts. He pressed down once again, and this time, Cliff followed the silent direction and dropped to his knees, ignoring the sexy as sin moan of satisfaction from Ryan when he thought he’d won.
There was nothing subtle about the way he drew the tip of Ryan’s cock into his mouth. He wrapped his lips around the fat, leaking tip and got his first salty taste as he sucked hard…almost too hard.
Ryan dragged in a breath, then grabbed Cliff’s hair, holding him in place for a long minute. Finally, he placed his palms on Cliff’s cheeks and tilted his face, a silent command to look up. When he did, Cliff inhaled sharply at the hungry, almost possessive look.
Ryan’s eyes narrowed as he traced his thumbs over Cliff’s mouth, his lips stretched around the heavy swollen cock. “That’s not the way this is going to go, Cliff. This isn’t a race, and nobody’s being punished. Show me you want this, baby…”
Fuck. If Ryan called him baby one more time with that little growl in his voice, Cliff might just fucking shoot right here and now.
Closing his eyes in order to break whatever spell Ryan wove over the two of them, Cliff slowly started to move, savoring the taste and feel of Ryan’s shaft before pulling off with a wet pop. He buried his face between Ryan’s legs, forcing him to widen his stance. He pressed against the coarse hair at Ryan’s groin with his fingers, thumbs behind his balls, creating a perfect frame with his hands. Nuzzling in for a moment, he captured the unique smell of Ryan, breathing deeply, memorizing. Drawing his sac forward, Cliff dragged his tongue over the sensitive skin, following the wrinkles and ridges, using the pattern of Ryan’s ragged breathing to guide his movements. He pulled one of the orbs gently into his mouth and sucked, enjoying the way Ryan moaned for him. Cliff repeated the process then took the whole sac into his mouth, his cheeks stretched to their limits, tongue separating the fragile balls, massaging, teasing.
Ryan’s knees wobbled a little when Cliff released his sac to move back up his cock, laving, stroking.
“That’s it…good. So good,” Ryan murmured, his voice like black velvet.
A thrill of excitement swirled low in Cliff’s belly at Ryan’s tone. Nothing in his life could have prepared him for this—the forbidden thrill of taking his best friend in his mouth, making him weak with need. He moved his mouth faster, licking up drops of pre-cum with his own moan of pleasure.
Ryan’s big hand wrapped around the back of his neck, pulling him forward, encouraging him to take more, pushing his hips forward in time to Cliff’s sucking. His heart thundered uncontrollably as Ryan continued to encourage him with “Yeah, baby” and “So good.”
The dialogue would have sounded cheesy in a porn video, but the endearments seemed to go right to Cliff’s dick. He worked a hand inside his boxers, stroking himself as he continued to suck and lick Ryan. His gaze traveled up Ryan’s hard body, caressing each curve and swell of the chiseled pecs and tight abs. He knew the brutal workouts that put each of those muscles in place. For years they’d worked side by side as they sweated and pushed each other, dragged each other through sand and water. They’d held each other and cried when they’d lost their first teammate. And the second…
They’d stared into each other’s eyes, and with no need to speak their thoughts aloud, had shared both agony and exhilaration. Now, he was here, on his knees, and taking his best friend somewhere he’d never been before—and dear lord, don’t let it be something that would cost them both.
“Stay right here, Cliff—focus on me,” Ryan said. The hand in his hair tightened, then he was held in place as Ryan pushed deeper, cutting off Cliff’s breath for half a second—just long enough to let him know who was in control of this blow job.
“Just like that, Cliff. Going to do it again—”
Cliff’s throat spasmed around the thick cock as Ryan repeated the move, holding him in place longer, his prick deeper than the last time.
“So good, baby. Don’t stop,” Ryan ordered.
Wrapping one hand around Ryan’s ass, Cliff took him again, pulling Ryan forward, groaning as the fist in his hair tightened, holding him captive until his eyes stung with the need to breathe.
“One more time,” Ryan said, only giving Cliff a moment to suck in another breath. He shoved his cock deep, his legs trembling with the effort it took to remain upright, even propped against the wall.
When he released Cliff this time, he could have sworn Ryan whispered, “Good boy,” which given he was both older and bigger, made no sense. Bobbing his mouth more quickly now, a raw noise ripped from his throat as Ryan pistoned into his mouth. Cliff’s fist flew over his own cock as he dug his fingers into the fleshy globe of Ryan’s ass, encouraging him to go faster, pound harder.
The muscles beneath his fingers grew impossibly tight as Ryan lost his rhythm and his breath rushed out in a harsh grunt. Hot cum coated his tongue and spurted down his throat, the first shot all it took to trigger his own release. They finished on gasping moans of mutual pleasure.
“Fuck, yeah,” Ryan sighed. He looped his hands under Cliff’s pits and dragged him up into a quick, hard kiss. He stroked Cliff’s dick through his wet boxers, as if he’d actually intended to do anything about it. When he found evidence of Cliff’s release, he gave a light squeeze.
“Hmm…we might need to work on your control next time.” There was a hint of laughter in his voice, and Cliff was painfully reminded of just how much Ryan had to drink earlier.
There wasn’t a chance in hell his best friend would forget what they’d just done, but there was very little room for doubt how this would play out. This was the beginning of the end of a friendship that meant more than any quick blow job. No fuck was worth the price he’d just paid. Cliff twisted away, mumbled a quick good night, then retreated to his room. The lock made a satisfying click as it turned.
Laura lives on waterfront property in Arizona because she’s always wanted to be an oxymoron. She once enjoyed hobbies such as gardening and travel—now the characters in her head compel her to tell their stories, so she writes. (It doesn’t actually help quiet the voices—but it keeps the folks in the white jackets at bay.)
She shares her home with an ever-revolving cast of characters—some of whom are actually real—and is living her dream of building her own version of the Willow Springs Ranch.
With nearly sixty published novels and novellas, Laura is an international bestselling author of erotic romances, romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and Highland romances. Her books can be found at all major online retailers.