Title: Where You Hurt the Most
Author: Anne Brooke
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: Short Story
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance

Rating: 4.5 stars

Adrian works as a high-class escort.  He enjoys his life and loves the perks that his job brings him – comfortable lifestyle, opportunities to attend events and go to fine restaurants, getting to know new people, and even the frequent sex.  Being an escort also gives him time to to study and learn new things, something he really enjoys.  His boss Max is a close friend and very good to him, so when Max asks Adrian to meet with his cousin’s son Dan, Adrian readily agrees.

Over a year ago Dan was in a terrible car accident, the resulting fire leaving one side of his face terribly and permanently scarred.  Since the accident he has given up his dreams of working on home and garden design and his relationship has fallen apart.  He lets no one see his face, covering it up with his ever-present red hoodie.  Max hopes that Adrian might be able to bring Dan back out of the seclusion he has built for himself.

Their first meeting doesn’t go off so well. Dan is angry and prickly and treats Adrian badly.  And Adrian feels off balance and a bit out of control, Dan’s emotions setting off strange feelings in him.  But even with the conflict, there is clearly a connection made between the two men, and Adrian offers to let Dan return when he feels ready.  When they meet again, things go much more smoothly.  Dan actually opens up a bit to Adrian, sharing some of his feelings and letting him see the person inside. And Adrian is able to help Dan see that his old life is not lost under all those scars.  That while what is on the outside still brings him pain, that the things he has always enjoyed and the person he is on the inside is still there.  And Dan does something to Adrian as well, making him think about the parts of him that have been hurt and face up to what is inside him as well.  While the bond between the men is instant and strong, they each need to decide if they are willing to step away from the lives they are currently leading to see if they can make a new life work together.

I really liked this story and thought it was beautifully done.  I appreciated that Adrian is perfectly content with his life as an escort.  He is not someone who needs saving, but rather enjoys the benefits of his job and his lifestyle.  This story turns the tables a bit because the one who is really in need of help is the client.  I liked how Dan’s first reaction is hostility toward Adrian, unhappy to be in this situation, and part of him clearly resentful of Adrian’s beautiful looks compared to his own scars.  But as they spend time together, Dan starts to see inside of Adrian just as he begins to see inside of himself.  And when Dan’s walls come down, Adrian finds himself really drawn to the man and they share both great conversation as well as a night of passion.

Although the short format of this story means the attraction between them happens quickly, things never felt rushed to me. The men each take considerable time to reflect on what they want before pursing the relationship, rather than jumping in right away after one night together.  I could really believe in them and the connection they had made.  There is a lot packed into this short story and I really liked the quiet intensity and sweet romance.  I would certainly recommend it.

P.S. This story is part of Riptide’s new Rent Boy collection. It is being released individually now and will be released as part of the print collection later this summer.

Cover Review: Oh, I love this cover.  Captures the mood completely and, of course, the key red hoodie.

Anne will be here today to talk to us more about the book as well as to bring a great giveaway. Be sure to stop back by to check out her guest post!