Title: Whitetail Rock
Author: Anne Tenino
I loved Tenino’s book 18% Gray when I read it earlier this year (reviewed here), so I went looking to see what else she had written. I was excited to find that she had done a free story as part of the M/M Goodreads Hot Summer Days event that I had never gotten a chance to read, so I grabbed it as soon as I could.
The story opens with Nikhil Larson sitting on the porch of his parent’s store in Whitetail Rock when Officer Eye Candy pulls up on his motorcycle. Nik and his friend Sam are immediately drawn to the seemingly unattainable hotness, assuming he is not only straight but out of their league.
The cop swung a leg off his bike and stood up. Sam sucked in a breath and Nik made a little, high-pitched, semi-conscious noise. Those pants were tight. They showed everything Officer Eye Candy was packing. He busied himself around the bike, doing whatever it is that motorcycle cops do when they stop at a small-town corner store for whatever it was they stopped for. It was 2pm, way past donut time. That ass didn’t look to be packing any spare donuts. It was packing dimples, though. Dimpled ass cheeks made such great handholds. Nik’s fingers twitched.
But Nik is surprised when the guy comes his way, clearly flirting (and clearly gay). Later that night, Officer Eye Candy (aka Jurgen Dammerung) returns and he and Nik have an oh so hot encounter on the store’s side porch.
The guys get together a few more times, then Nik assumes that will be the end of things. He was only home for a few weeks visiting his family while on break and is headed back to graduate school for the new term. He is surprised when one day Jurgen shows up at school, wanting to be with Nik once again. Soon they are seeing each other regularly, with Jurgen making the two hour drive on his chopper for the weekend or occasional midweek visits.
Although Jurgen is attentive and wants to see Nik regularly, Nik is still unsettled. He has been second guessing things with Jurgen from the beginning. Nik has got some trust issues going back a while. As the only Indian kid in a rural western town, he always felt a bit like the circus freak. Adding coming out to the mix and he gets even more unwanted attention (and sometimes interest from guys who just like the idea of hooking up with someone with dark skin). So initially he worries that the tall, blond, light-skinned Jurgen is after him for the wrong reason, although it is quickly clear that is not the case.
Yet Nik still isn’t completely confident in what they have going on. He is slowly falling for Jurgen but he is worried about what Jurgen is feeling in return. Is this just a fuck-buddy, friends-with-benefits kind of thing? Or does Jurgen feel the same way towards Nik as Nik does for him?
This uncertainty has the potential to be all angsty and annoying but it really develops well. We are privy to Nik’s internal monologue (which is quite amusing, especially when his inner slut joins in) so we can see his anxiety, but he is so into Jurgen that despite these fears he continues to move the relationship forward. So there is none of that paralyzing “should I or shouldn’t I” stuff that sometimes happens. And once his concerns are out in the open, the issue resolves itself quickly.
Ok, so the hotness in this book. Whew! The guys are crazy sexy together. They just burn up the page, especially that first scene on the store porch. The story is told from Nik’s point of view, and getting his reaction to Jurgen when he wears his chaps or growls “Nikky” in his ear is so hot. Jurgen is big and hulking and has a bit of a dom side that makes Nik crazy. I totally loved these guys together.
I also liked the presence of Nik’s friend Sam. He only had a small part in the story but he is there to be the voice of reason to Nik when he starts to get all caught up in his anxieties. Sam points out when Nik is worrying too much or being unreasonable, which helps Nik get back on the right track. He tells Nik:
“You don’t trust easily.” Sam nodded, as if it all suddenly made sense.
“No. You don’t. But now you’ve met this man that you trust intuitively, and it makes you uncomfortable.”
“Are you sure? I think you might be—”
“Even worse, for you, you’re afraid you might feel more than just trust, here. You might like him. You might even have more serious feelings of caring for him. Maybe even love.” Sam got a dreamy look in his eyes.
“It’s completely freaking you out. You had those early experiences in your teens with men who weren’t trustworthy. Even before that, when you were just one baby among hundreds in the orphanage, you learned you could really only rely on yourself. It was etched into your very psyche.”
“I was in a foster home,” Nik managed to fit in.
“It’s not your skin color, Nik. It’s your inability to believe in someone. Now, finally, you’ve met someone who’s going to challenge you, make you confront your deeper trust issues and fears, and help you heal.”
“Have you been watching Disney movies again?”
Sam definitely needs his own story.
This story was so sweet and hot and I just loved it. I am a fan of diversity in my romance and it is not often you find an Indian hero, so I was really pleased about that. It is a substantial novella length story which makes it all the more amazing that it is a free read. You guys, there is no excuse not to get this book. It is so good and so well written, I would pay for it without a second thought. But to get it for free? Don’t miss out.
Whitetail Rock is available for free at the following places:
Also, Tenino has just released a new short featuring Nik and Jurgen that is also free. You can download a copy here. I mean seriously, look at that cover! <<makes grabby hands>>