At age 16, Aleks faced a choice: participate in an underground fighting ring or his brother would be killed. Aleks fought for two years, barely making it out with his life. Now it is eight years later and all Aleks has been living for is revenge.
When Brogan walks into his tattoo parlor, Aleks may have found the perfect chance. Brogan’s cousin is the one who ran the fight ring, and though Aleks is pretty sure Brogan had no idea what was going on, he still figures Brogan is his ticket to getting close enough to Harry to exact some revenge. What Aleks doesn’t count on is falling for Brogan, and seeing what a good man he is. But Aleks is determined to get vengeance for his brother’s death, as well as other the lives that Harry ruined, even if it means destroying what he is building with Brogan.
Thirds is the second book in S.E. Jake’s Inked series and follows Aleks, one of the artists who works in Con and Quinn’s tattoo shop. Although those two guys appear in this story, Thirds would stand alone fine if you jumped in here.
This story is kind of an interesting take on enemies to lovers in that Aleks is the only one who really knows the full story about their connection. He doesn’t believe that Brogan is involved in Harry’s dirty dealings, but he has to be sure. And if nothing else, Brogan is a way to get to Harry. But it turns out, not only is Brogan innocent, but he is exactly what Aleks needs. Aleks is full of pain and anger and intensity, and Brogan somehow is able to reach him and help him deal with all those feelings. The guys have a relationship with some light kink, along with a lot of alpha aggression between the two of them that is super hot. But it is clear that while Aleks has his own agenda, he is falling for Brogan despite himself. So we have this relationship that is truly growing on one hand, but Alek’s need for revenge is still raging on the other.
The story does a nice job of building this conflict and pulling together a reasonable solution to what seems like an impossible situation. I did find some suspension of disbelief was necessary that these men have been supposedly fantasizing about one another for years, ever since Brogan saw Aleks fighting ten years prior. The idea that in that situation Brogan would remember Aleks, let alone that Aleks would remember anyone from the crowd, seemed kind of hard to imagine. But I liked the connection it drew between the guys and seeing them move on from this fantasy memory each had to an actual relationship with real feelings. I felt pleased with the way it all resolves, though the ending comes very fast, especially as the book ends at about the 80% mark on my Kindle.
I really enjoyed this story and it is hot and intense, with a lot packed into a short book. If you enjoy some light kink, some intense guys, and a seemingly impossible situation to overcome, you may want to give Thirds a try.