Brett isn’t exactly running away from Marcus, the sadistic, abusive man he’s been living with; he’s just leaving. Or is it the other way around? All he knows is that he can’t stay with Marcus another second, and so — packing up his cat and his few belongings — Brett moves across the continent to a small town that is both run by and known to welcome people like Brett: mages.
The only problem is, Brett isn’t like other mages. He’s an Invert. All his life, his grandfather taught Brett and his brother to be careful of the Fated, the mage police who would kill them for the smallest transgression, and kill Brett for simply existing. Brett can’t use magic like others do. He’s an empath and a healer, but to use his powers he has to touch someoene, and in doing so has access to their emotions and their pain, getting through their own magic, something no mage wants.
Both his father and grandfather were brutally killed by the Fated, and then his brother, leaving Brett alone and easy prey for Marcus, another inverted Mage. Marcus, though, can use his power to cause others pain, and took delight both in hurting Brett and forcing Brett to heal those he’d tortured and broken, only to kill them again before Brett’s eyes. The Fated never stepped in to stop Brett.
A small town seems like the perfect place to start a new life and piece himself back together. It’s quiet and the mages there are friendly enough. So long as he doesn’t let them know about his magic, he should be safe. What Brett didn’t count on was Lane, whose friendly, heart-melting smile has been turned in his direction. Lane is flirtatious and friendly, and so very gentle. He pieces together what Brett won’t tell him, how badly Brett was hurt, and wants to take care of him.
Brett wants to take a chance on Lane. He wants so badly to be happy and to be safe. Lane’s parents, though, don’t like him. And people are getting killed. Brett wants to put his past behind him, but it definitely won’t be easy.
For all the talk of magic in this book, you don’t see that much of it. Which I like. It makes magic, when it does happen, more impactful and more magical. As a small warning for those who are sensitive to such things, this book does mention and deal with the fact that Brett has been in a severely abusive situation that has left him scarred, both physically and mentally, but it’s neither gratuitous nor graphic.
Brett is constantly afraid. His grandfather taught him that everyone and everything was out to get him, that the Fated were evil, other mages were evil, that doing anything that went against his rules was evil. But when he was left alone, Brett was terrified. He’s been taught he’s useless and defenseless and needs people to protect him. It made him easy bait for Marcus. As much evil as Marcus has done for him, he did make Brett more aware both of his gifts, and his need to be around people. Solitude doesn’t work for him; he needs people and their emotions around him.
Lane is a good guy who just happens to really be infatuated with Brett. He reads the signs of fear in the way Brett jumps at noises, stares at new people, and tries to avoid crowds. Rather than ask questions he’s not certain Brett is ready for, he’s calm, patient, and always waits for Brett to make the first move. It’s Brett who initiates their first kiss, and their first intimacy. Not once does Lane push, or question, not even about Marcus. He’s also loyal to his brother and father, but more than willing to stand up to them where Brett is concerned. He’s always there to shepherd Brett into new situations, such as birthday parties or dinners, and takes note of what makes him happy and what upsets him. He’s perfect for Brett.
Brett is very co-dependant. When Lane makes his gentle moves, Brett takes a chance to touch him — skin to skin — and read what’s beneath the surface. Being able to sense devotion, lust, and Lane’s natural protective instinct helps him take that final step to opening up a relationship with Lane, one where he leans on Lane to be his rock and his shield, but it’s hard to say how much of the relationship is lust or infatuation, and how much is Brett’s need for emotional contact.
Brett moves very, very quickly into his relationship with Lane after having left Marcus, with no time to heal or recover. While I do believe Lane is both able to handle Brett’s issues and more than willing to, the fact that Lane avoids them is a concern. However, near the end Brett does take some very large steps in dealing with is issues with Marcus, and the plate breaking was a good start on his path to healing.
The world building is very well thought out, and — again — the light touch with magic was very appreciated. The characters are realistic and Lane is a great foil to Brett. It’s the ending, though, and the why behind Brett’s grandfather’s words that I enjoyed. This book is definately worth a read if you like your mysteries with a bit of magic and don’t mind some angst. The only thing that kept the rating from being higher were the two typos and the malapropism which niggled at me. Other than that, I really liked this book and look forward ot more from this author.