vegas hustleRating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story

Adam Brand is in Las Vegas with his friend Dean working on some business for his father. While he is there, Adam has another goal — losing his virginity.  Dean wants to take Adam to a club to find a hot hook up, but Dean isn’t sure that an awkward quickie is what he really wants for his first time. When he sees a gorgeous hustler leaving his hotel, Adam decides that paying a professional for the job will be a much better experience and works up the nerve to hire Javier.  Adam’s first time ends up being wonderful and, with regret, he says goodbye to Javier when it is over.

Adam doesn’t want to tell Dean that the deed has already been done, so he goes ahead to a club with him later that evening to look for guys.  When both Adam and Dean find some potential hook ups, they leave the bar.  But when things go awry and Adam and Dean face some racial profiling by some dirty cops, Dean ends up dead and Adam is on the run. Fortunately, Adam is saved by Javier, who helps him hide out from the cops. The police continue to be after him, however, and Adam must hope he can stay safe until help arrives.

So my feelings for this story pretty much divide into two parts.  I found the set up for this one really intriguing and I loved the idea of Adam hiring Javier for some professional deflowering.  Adam is sweet and kind of geeky, but also a young guy who seems to have it pretty together, even at 18.  He and Javier have a sweet and sexy time of it and I got a giggle at Adam going off to the club without ever mentioning to Dean that the deed had been done.  We also get a nice scene in between those two events where Adam goes to a comic book store and pretty much geeks out at the selection. It was cute and a nice way to get to know him a bit as a character.

The second part of the story didn’t work as well for me however.  First off, we have this incredibly dramatic and horrifying event of Dean being murdered right in front of Adam. These guys have been friends for years, they are alone together in Vegas (and Adam is just 18), and Adam is now being accused of killing Dean.  Yet he seems barely phased, mostly because he so quickly connects with Javier and their relationship development takes center stage.  Yes, he does have a short crying breakdown. But then, it is like it barely happened and it is off to continue having sex with Javier.  I also wished Dean’s death hadn’t been revealed in the blurb. It would have made much more of an impact as a surprise, but instead I found myself kind of waiting around to see when Dean would die.

The immediate aftermath of the murder sends Adam fleeing with the cops on his tail and then hiding out with Javier.  It seemed to take a while for him to make an effort to contact anyone for help (not until the next morning), and though I know the cops are after him, I felt like hanging around making out with Javier maybe isn’t the best use of time. Again, friend murdered, police chasing you.  Eventually he does manage to reach out for help, which takes longer to arrive than anticipated, seemingly to give the men more time to have sex while they are waiting.  Then before we know it, things seem to wrap up so quickly and easily and in a way that didn’t feel particularly realistic.   [spoiler] I mean, they bind the cops in BDSM gear and then leave them there all night? And Adam’s uber rich father doesn’t have an attorney or anyone else he can get to help Adam while he is en route to Vegas?[/spoiler]  I think if this story had been longer, we could have seen the relationship develop between Javier and Adam in a more organic way, as well as to allow for some more character development with all three men. The thriller aspect also could have built over the course of the story and really added that fear and excitement.  But things just happened so fast that neither plot really had time to come together.

Ok, so there were also a couple of racial things that gave me a bit of ick.  When Dean and Adam see Javier in the hotel, Dean tells Adam that Javier is clearly a hustler.  He says “There’s no way a dude like him could ever afford to stay at the Bellagio. He probably just finished with a customer.”  Now the only identifying information we have about Javier at this point is that he has brown hair and eyes and is Hispanic.  Now I truly do not believe Stone means to suggest that someone who is Hispanic can’t afford to stay at the Bellagio, but with no other descriptive information about why Dean assumes Javier can’t afford it, that is how it comes across, however unintentionally.  Later, we see Dean and Adam wandering around a bad neighborhood with no ID or money.  They are looking for help and Adam tells us:

We knocked on the doors of several occupied houses hoping to use the phone, but no one answered. I couldn’t blame them. It would be stupid to do so late at night with two black guys, one with a head wound, standing there.

Again, I truly don’t think this is intended to sound like it does.  I appreciated that the author gives us two black main characters in Dean and Adam, both who are educated and accomplished, and their race isn’t even mentioned up until this point.  And the reality is, in a bad neighborhood, they probably would be discriminated against unfairly (and in fact are, when they encounter the cops). But still, it bugged me.

So overall I was of mixed feelings here. I loved the set up, I really liked Adam, and I enjoyed his initial encounter with Javier.  The story worked well for me until the guys left the club and then it just seemed like too much happening without anything being fully developed or all that realistic. So a bit of a mixed bag, but definitely an interesting premise.

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