After his girlfriend was killed and he barely survived, Gabe Vargas must pretend to be dead. The FBI hopes that if the killer thinks Gabe was killed, Gabe will stay safe and they will be more likely to catch the culprit. That means that Gabe has been forced to leave behind his friends and his young son who all think he is dead and is now hiding out with FBI agent Drew Bradley. The two men aren’t on great terms after Gabe’s lover was killed on Drew’s watch, but they aren’t given much choice in the matter.
Drew and Gabe are holed up together with little to do but wait. Gabe can’t help but push the uptight Drew’s buttons a little, but eventually they come to a truce. Gabe is still having nightmares about the killer, and Drew ends up being a source of comfort to him. Drew finds himself confused as he begins to have romantic and sexual feelings for Gabe, since he has never been attracted to a man before. And Gabe has been attracted to Drew all along, but figured there would be nothing between them but some teasing. As the guys grow closer, Drew finally works up the courage to act on his feelings, and the guys begin an affair together.
Things are not easy however. Drew is still hunting a killer, and figuring out who is after Gabe and why is proving complicated. Their quiet seclusion is interrupted by another agent sent to help Gabe try to regain his memories. And once they are able to return home to their regular lives, things aren’t much smoother. Gabe must tell everyone in his life that he is not really dead. And on top of that, the two men must figure out how to make a life together, as Drew’s job puts him in constant danger and Gabe can’t bear to lose another person in his life to violence. The two men have finally found love with one another, but now they must figure out if they can make things last in the real world.
Blood & Tears is the third book in Ethan Stone’s Flesh series and is the first to feature Gabe and Drew as the main characters. Like the first two books in the series, this one has been rereleased by DSP Publications. However, Blood & Tears has also been revised to alternating first person POV to match the other books.
This story picks up fairly soon after Flesh & Blood leaves off (actually there is a bit of timeline overlap). We connect with the guys after Gabe’s death has been faked and he and Drew are hiding out while the murder is investigated. I like the bit of enemies to lovers vibe here as the guys work through their issues. Most of the conflict between them actually took place in the previous book, and Gabe likes to push Drew’s buttons, but there isn’t a ton of animosity at this point in the story. There is a nice sexual tension between these guys as Drew slowly comes to accept his feelings for Gabe and ultimately the two act on them. I think we get a good sense of Drew’s past and why he is so hesitant about initially accepting his feelings for Gabe. However, he makes the transition from literally vomiting at the idea of having been with a man, to suddenly being all in with absolutely no qualms pretty much overnight. It felt way too fast to go from one extreme to the other with basically no explanation as to what changed in his mind. However, I did like these guys together and they have a nice mix of nurturing and sexy times between them.
This book is more relationship focused that the first two, which were more suspense heavy (in fact, though this is a DSP Publications book, it felt just like any romance from Dreamspinner Press). The investigation into the killer is running in the background, but things don’t have quite the same intensity as the mysteries of the other books. I did wish for a bit more here as things don’t really kick into high gear with the suspense end until late in the book. But I did like that it kept me guessing and the story doesn’t go in the obvious direction.
I am a big fan of this series and really enjoyed rereading the first three books. Now I am eager to start on the fourth book, which is brand new to the series, and continue on in this world.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.