Name three things you’re scared of.
a. Not being able to write!
b. Not being able to read!
c. Something happening to one of my kids!
You’ve been offered a guest spot on your favorite TV show. What is the show, and who is your character?
I want to be an extra on Downtown Abbey, and I want to be a fabulously wealthy visiting friend with a great wardrobe.
You are planning a cross-country trek to raise money for a charity. What is the charity? What does it mean to you?
I support a lot of different charities, but as part of my promotion for this anthology, I’ve been talking about the awesome work America’s Vet Dogs does to provide service animals for disabled military personnel. You can learn more at http://www.vetdogs.org/
Why this particular charity for Xander and Mackey’s story? You’ll have to read to find out how Xander’s opinion on service animals changes!
You’ve been commissioned to paint a mural. What do paint, and why did you choose this subject?Oh fun! Like my characters in this story, I have a special place in my heart for rural America. I’d love to do a Norman Rockwell/Grandma Moses style scene depicting all the best of the heartland—big pies, drive-in movies, fried chicken. Xander and Mackey would approve.
I’m thrilled to be part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle. My story, Resilient Heart, stars Mackey and Xander.
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. Forced to accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.
At the heart of Xander and Mackey’s story is what it means to come back from a war zone. Both men come back changed individuals—Xander has obvious external injuries, but it’s the internal wounds that threaten to tear them apart. What I wanted to explore with Xander was the notion that sometimes the deepest injuries are the ones we can’t see.
Want a sneak peek at Xander and Mackey? This is from the opening chapter where Mackey has come to bring a reluctant Xander back to his apartment:
“Think I pretty much have everything.” Xander gestured at his duffle. A nurse’s aide had helped him pack, a humiliating process. His mom had brought him a bunch of civvies, but otherwise the duffel contained way too many reminders of the Army life he was leaving behind and too few clues about what the heck came next.
“Prosthesis in there?” Mackey asked, body language deceptively relaxed, eyes avoiding Xander’s arm.
“Yeah.” Xander put a heavy dose of “drop it” in his answer. He was supposed to wear his temporary prosthesis at least eight hours a day. He actually had two, but he hated both of them. His residual limb—such a BS term—was short, only three inches below his elbow, which made fitting tricky. The therapists kept telling him how much easier things would get when the last of his swelling went down and he could get a better-fitting myoelectric prosthesis, and how the process of skin desensitization would help him be more comfortable. Fuck that noise. Nothing he tried worked. He kept a padded sleeve on mainly because it hid the stump, but he hated the stupid devices. He was pretty sure his therapist had every synonym for “noncompliant” all over his chart.
“You got all your meds or you need to stop at the pharmacy on the way out?” Mackey dropped the prosthesis questioning, but wandered into the next pile of dog crap Xander wanted to avoid.
“I got them.”
“Including the new one?” Mackey did that thing with his eyebrows again—the thing where he tried to look casual and came off looking like a smart ass.
“Medical information is supposed be confidential.” Xander didn’t know who Mackey was buttering up—nurse, doctor, someone in command—but he clearly had the inside track on all Xander’s shortcomings. “And I don’t need head meds. Doctors want to medicate everyone these days.”
“Oh? You’re not depressed?” Mackey kept that same uber-reasonable tone. Uber-irritating more like it.
“This new propensity of yours for glowering and cursing and scaring nurses, it’s just for giggles and grins? Because I got to tell you man, it’s not working. And it’s not really you.” Mackey hefted the duffel onto his shoulder as easily as if it were one of the bed pillows.
“This is me. You want old me? The nice guy? He’s gone. You’re wasting your time.”
“Oh, he’s in there,” Mackey said lightly. “He’s smothering under that giant chip on your shoulder, but we can knock that sucker off.” And with that, he—and Xander’s bag—headed into the hallway, the sounds of the ward creeping in as soon as the door opened.
Fuck Mackey. Fuck his sudden do-gooder streak and his assumptions. Like Xander wasn’t entitled to be pissed? Like he was supposed to be all Suzy Sunshine about his wrecked life? And Mackey saw him as some of fixer-upper project? Disappointing him was going to be hell, but the old Xander had died in a ditch back in Afghanistan when an IED took everything he knew to be true about himself. He grabbed the pillow and punched it hard with his good hand. Fuck.
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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.