Waking up from a nightmare to find himself handcuffed to a bed isn’t Lex’s idea of how a second date ought to go. The man watching him — dressed in a suit and tie — the man who’d chased him down a dark alley and knocked him out, who’d kidnapped him, is a far cry from the urbane man he’d met in the restaurant when his blind date hadn’t showed up. No, this Frank is a very different and very dangerous man.
Lex, still grief stricken from the loss of his lover, Dom, had signed up for an online dating service at the suggestion of his therapist. So far, eight of the nine dates he’d arranged had ended up with Lex sitting alone at a table eating his duck and creamy potatoes. It didn’t seem like date he had a week or so ago was going to be any different until, midway through his meal, a man slid into the seat across from him and changed his life. Frank wasn’t his online assignation, but another man waiting for someone who didn’t show and chose to keep a lonely looking Lex company rather than settle to his own solitary dinner. Lex felt more than simple gratitude. He felt a spark of attraction, something he hadn’t felt in… well, since Dom had died. They had a wonderful conversation and, after Frank drove him home, a wonderful kiss. Unfortunately, that was where it ended, and no matter how many times Lex visited the restaurant after, he never saw Frank there again.
He did see him, though, when he took a wrong turn down a random street and saw Frank, the man he’d been crushing on since their unofficial date, killing someone. As soon as he realized Frank had also seen him, Lex ran. Unfortunately, Lex was never very athletic and ended up being caught by the man he thought would kill him. Instead, he’s handcuffed to Frank’s bed and at his mercy.
Having recently reviewed another work of Voisen’s, I went into this book with a critical eye. I was pleasantly pleased, however, to find myself caught up in the story. As a character, Lex is endearing, foolish, and filled with more bluster than bravado. Unfortunately, it was hard to see beyond the surface of this character. When we meet him, he’s still recovering from the loss of his lover and visiting a therapist regularly. None of this is dealt with in greater detail once we move beyond the first chapter. Lex is lonely and reaching out for contact, contact that keeps being denied him as his blind dates never show — and we never learn what happened with the one guy who did join him for dinner — which makes his instant reaction to the offered warmth of human contact with Frank believable. For someone, anyone — let alone someone handsome and charming — to show an interest in him, to be kind to him, is enough for Lex to want to reach out and grab hold.
Frank, who just so happens to be a contract killer, is emotionally rather similar to Lex. While not having suffered great loss, he’s isolated from other people. Bound by the obligations of his job, he’s not encouraged to seek out the company of friends or lovers, and someone like Lex who is so needy and so… normal can’t help but make Frank want something more than an emotionally absent one night stand. Frank is reluctant to do more than stalk Lex, get all the information he can on him, and hold on to the few memories of their dinner and quick kiss. He has no interest in bringing Lex into his life. Unfortunately, Lex’s wrong turn got in the way and now Frank has to decide if he’ll kill the one man who made him feel human or keep him alive. So long as no one knows he let a witness live and so long as Lex won’t go to the police or blow Frank’s cover, perhaps he can let the other man go. After a night or two (or three) of course. Just to make sure.
While this sort of story appeals to me — two damaged souls coming together, two people reaching across a void of loss and pain to find happiness and healing and self worth — this book didn’t quite do it for me. Lex and Frank were never developed beyond their initial characterizations and once they fell into bed, everything was hunky-dory. (Well, almost, but I don’t want to give away the entire story.) It’s not that I wanted angst as much as I wanted to see how the characters overcame A) Lex’s grieving and healing and B) Felix’s acceptance of being emotionally vulnerable. Instead, it was just magic sex that made everything better and now two formerly sad characters can skip off into the sunset.
The world this book is set in has some intriguing options for sequels and spin offs. A mysterious company called “The Organization” owns Frank, hires him out to kill targets, and has cleaning crews to dispose of bodies, messes, and witnesses. What else do they do? What will they do with Frank now that he and Lex want a normal life? I’m hopeful there’s more to Lex and Frank’s story that will deal with both The Organization as well as their relationship.
In this story the plot and pacing are tighter and the writing was smoother than in other work I’ve read by Voison, but there’s still more work to do with regard to the characters. I’ll be keeping my eye out to see if there’s a sequel to Lex and Frank’s story.