Caleb has just about made it through college. He has one month left and he has successfully navigated four years without running into Nathan. High school was not easy for Caleb, who loved the theater. Developing a relationship with star athlete Nathan meant everything to him until Nathan broke Caleb’s heart on a prom night he cannot forget. When Caleb’s roommate drags him to a party, everything comes to a screeching halt as he winds up face to face with Nathan again.
Nathan is a hockey player and was nowhere near ready to come out in high school. He stood by as Caleb was constantly bullied and loved him in secret. He has never gotten over losing Caleb and the pain he caused him. Nathan is so tired of hiding who he is and is ready to come out. He wants a chance to apologize to Caleb, but Caleb won’t hear anything Nathan has to say for he is the absolute last person that Caleb will ever trust. Nathan isn’t ready to give up and he has to figure out just what it will take to get Caleb to give him a second chance.
The author does a good job here with the play on words in the title for both hockey, theater, and the way Caleb and Nathan’s relationship started and ended. Caleb and Nathan are both characters that are easy to warm to right away. Caleb carries hurt and sadness and the cause is slowly revealed throughout the course of the story. He was bullied in high school and for the most part Nathan stood by in silence.
The story is told in flashbacks bringing us from current day to how Caleb and Nathan’s relationship developed back in their senior year of high school. Their relationship was a series of stolen moments where they fell in love. And then there was the fateful night where Nathan just slayed Caleb emotionally. The flashbacks are clear and it’s effortless to follow what time we are in or whose point of view is on page.
Caleb has had a few brief relationships or hookups with both men and women, but he never let anyone get close and he is terrified of being hurt again. As attracted as Caleb still is to Nathan, it takes a while for Caleb to even be able to speak to Nathan and his raw hurt radiates from him whenever the men are near each other. There is always another side to the story and while it doesn’t excuse what Nathan did, Caleb has to get to a place where he can even listen to what Nathan has to say. And filled with regret, this time Nathan is not giving up so easily.
The story primarily covers what happened in the past and Nathan trying to get Caleb to speak to him. Their story is well written and engaging as the layers are revealed, but there is also a lot of waiting to get them back together. I did like that Caleb did not make it easy for Nathan. But, the story started losing steam due to the back and forth style and then the ending was abrupt and rushed. While their current story is tied up, a glance into their future would have been as welcome as the look into their past. Bully & Exit is the first in a new series and maybe Lowell and Brent will be up next as that looks to be a whole lot of fun.
The story of Nathan and Caleb offers a story of first love, coming out, growing up, and a second chance with the one that got away.