Leland is a skilled assassin, known as The Sandman, and he has been hired to take down a target suspected of human trafficking, among other crimes. While staking out a house, Leland spots a private investigator who is after the same guy. Jackson is attempting to climb a fence — and failing miserably as he falls and ends up mooning Leland. Intrigued and delighted, Leland can’t help but seek Jackson out. Getting involved is a bad idea — Leland has stayed alive by staying away from relationships of any kind — especially once Jackson figures out Leland is The Sandman. Not only is Leland a wanted criminal, he also is responsible for killing the partner of Jackson’s police mentor. But when Leland is critically injured, the only person he can think to run to is Jackson.
Jackson became a private investigator after leaving the military. He knows about the elusive Sandman and clearly getting involved with the man would be a terrible idea. But Leland is persistent and despite his often outrageous antics, Jackson can’t resist being charmed by the handsome man. Jackson can’t believe he is even considering not turning Leland into the police, let alone helping him. Jackson isn’t ready to trust Leland yet, but he will let Leland stay with him while he recovers, as long as he stays out of trouble. However, despite Jackson’s efforts to keep his distance, he finds himself unable to resist Leland’s charms, his humor, and the joy he brings to Jackson’s life. Soon the men find things are getting much more serious between them than either ever expected.
All is not easy, however. While Leland would do anything for Jackson, including giving up his job, he admits only to himself that he is bored at home all day while Jackson is gone. He is afraid to tell Jackson how he feels for fear that Jackson will conclude that the men are wrong for each other. On top of that, Leland is still a wanted man, and while he is keeping himself clean, the police are still after him. And when the bad guy the men have been hunting resurfaces, both men find themselves in grave danger. Now Jackson and Leland must give all their trust, as well as work together, if they are going to stay alive and out of prison.
Alice Winters has a style that I just love and her stories mix humor, sweetness, and excitement in such nice balance. The Hitman’s Guide is another great example of this and I really just loved the way the humor and the heart combine here.
The story starts out delightful as Jackson and Leland are hunting the same man and Jackson accidentally finds himself mooning Leland (and no, Leland will never let him live that down). I think the pacing here is really well done as the early part of the story focuses on the guys investigating the trafficker. There is nice suspense and excitement here, as well as a chance for the reader to get to know the men as we see them dancing around each other. Then the focus shifts to the developing relationship between the pair. I think this is important as it helps the reader to not only see that Leland is a good guy, despite all the murder for hire stuff, but also understand why Jackson falls for him.
Winters does an incredible job with both of these characters, making them so layered and well developed. I could feel just how lonely Leland has been, how he never thought he would have anyone or anything in his life, and his pure delight when he realizes what life is like with a caring partner. For Jackson’s part, his life has been quiet and staid, and Leland brings such light into his life. I’ll admit that some of Leland’s humor didn’t always strike a chord with me, but I never doubted just how much he delights Jackson. Winters made me completely buy the devotion these men have for one other, enough that I could accept Leland giving up his illegal ways and Jackson willing to overlook his past. The story then kicks back into high gear as the suspense plot comes back around and trouble is brewing. Like I said, the pacing works so nicely here as both the thriller side and the emotional one are all set up for the big ending.
So I really loved this story and continue to be a huge fan of Alice Winters’ writing. I think this book gives such great balance, bringing together humorous banter between the men, lots of excitement, and then tying it all together by an incredible emotional connection between Jackson and Leland. This book was definitely a hit for me and I can highly recommend it.