Sean is a professor of Greek mythology who enjoys the pastries made at the themed cafe Crypt Coffee, with names like “Six Beans Under” or “Roast the Dead,” or Sean’s usual, the “Grounds Keeper” with two shovels (espresso shots). When a student is murdered, Sean is certain he saw it happen, saw the man get his throat ripped out by a werewolf… or at least, he is almost certain. The news is still calling it an accident and Sean hasn’t let anyone know he was a witness. Who would believe him, anyway?
While taking advantage of the free wifi, and taking the opportunity to ogle the handsome and tattooed young man who owns Crypt Cafe, Sean lets time slip past. Soon, it is past closing — not that Dane minds that Sean is still there — and between one yawn and another Sean sees something even stranger than a werewolf: a ghost. An actual glowing, gauzy figure that drifts past and heads downstairs to where Dane keeps his office. Of course, Sean follows. He has to. More astonishing than the ghost is what Dane keeps downstairs. It isn’t bags of beans or stacks of skull mugs. It is weaponry. Spears, swords, chains, knives, and guns all hanging on the wall, gleaming silver in the light. So taken aback by the sight, Sean doesn’t hear Dane sneak up behind him. Suddenly, the ghost is the least of his worries. But Dane only smirks, snarks, and then kisses him and sends him home.
That is the beginning of their friendship. After being nearly killed by ghost possessed fir trees, Sean learns that Dane is a member of The Order, a society that keeps the world of the supernatural from being noticed by normal people, keeping track of witches, vampires, bigfeet, and who knows what else. It is Dane’s duty as a Decrypter to dispose of dangerous cryptids and keep the others in line. It is also his duty to report Sean so that the professor can have his memory wiped and be tucked safely back in the world of academia, but something about Sean makes Dean want to keep him around just a bit longer.
Not that Sean would go away if Dean wanted him to. When another student is killed, Sean, eager to learn more about the world he never knew existed, is determined to find out who did it. It leads them to a family of witches, a smoothie shop run by a yeti, and more magic than you can shake a stick at. While Sean is eagerly looking through databases, looking up legends and being ‘helpful,’ Dane is doing his best to find a way to keep Sean safe and away from the Order. Between one dinner and the following breakfast, the pair of them become more than friends, but what they are– what they want to be — is still up in the air. And if the Order finds out about them, they’ll soon be nothing at all.
Sean is pushy. He’s aggressive, assertive, and a bit of a bully. He’s dismissive of his students and anyone who isn’t Dane. When a previous student of his tries to make conversation, he brushes it away to focus on Dane and their murder mystery, but mostly on what he wants from Dane. Sean is so determined to get Dane into a relationship that it’s more than a bit off putting. The first night they spend at Sean’s house — after a bout of sweaty, rough sex — Dane makes him breakfast, which has Sean already talking about love.
Whenever he’s visiting the coffee shop, Sean just waltzes into Dane’s office without an invitation or even his permission. He just goes where he wants, when he wants, especially when he wants Dane. He sends texts that never get answered; he invites Dane over, asks for sex, and when Dane says no or go away, Sean takes it as an invitation for more attention. Sean never takes a hint and never backs off and if it weren’t for the fact that we see Dane’s point of view and know that he is actually okay with Sean’s pushiness, this would be a thriller and not a romance.
After killing someone’s familiar, Dean has been exiled to sleepy Bleu Falls where he does the bare minimum and no more. When he hears about a woman being murdered, he doesn’t care; why should he? People die all the time and he isn’t a cop. It isn’t until Sean starts looking into the girl’s death and discovers a hint of magic that Dane is obliged to do something, which mostly involves cleaning up the traces of magic at the girl’s house. But Sean keeps pushing and poking and making a nuisance of himself until Dane agrees to help him find out who killed her.
In the meantime he’s willing to accept Sean as a friend with benefits, but Sean only hears what he wants to hear and already has their wedding china picked out. Any attempt Dane makes to put Sean at arm’s length results in the professor forcing himself closer. Dane doesn’t mind that, he wouldn’t mind someone to listen to him, for someone to be there for him, someone to be a regular fuck buddy. What he wants, though, is… normal. What he wants is the house with the white picket fence, a 9-5 job — or rather, the stability of those things. What we don’t see is love for Sean or even friendship. What we don’t see from either of them is any emotion.
The threat of the Order and the memory wipe hang over both of them and it feels more like Sean is seducing Dane in order to get Dane to protect him, and Dane is going along with it. He’s willing to humor Sean until the Order takes him away because it gets him laid and Sean is doing most of the work, both in their one-sided relationship and in their sleuthing.
This is a flat, formulaic relationship in an interesting world. There is no romance in this book, just two characters going along with the script. The writing is good, the world is intriguing, and I really liked the use of and descriptions of magic and what it could do to someone. But Sean and Dane had only the barest personalities, no back stories to explain their actions and reactions, and no chemistry. It’s set up rather clearly to have a sequel — with Dane having filed his report to the Order and the dangling thread of the student killed by the werewolf — and while I will be curious to try another book from this author, I can’t really recommend this one.