Hunter, a physician’s assistant at the local hospital, has had a crush for a while now on Shawn, the handsome temp worker at the front desk. Unfortunately, while Shawn might give him a smile every now and then, he doesn’t encourage friendship. When Hunter — bolstered by drink — finally gets up the courage to ask Shawn out, he’s rebuffed rather firmly. There’s someone else in Shawn’s life, but Hunter can’t get Shawn out of his head.
The next day begins with a hangover and ends with a hostage situation while two gunmen come charging into the ER looking for a patient. Shawn tries to hold out but, in the end — with a gun to his head — he gives in and tells them where to find their target. Gunfire follows soon after and Shawn knows he’s just helped kill a man. Fortunately, the police eventually arrive, and after more bullets and more deaths, the hospital staff and their patients are safe.
All it takes is one look between Hunter and Shawn and they find themselves in the nearest closet. It’s not romantic and it has nothing to do with love. It’s life and life-affirming, though Hunter does find himself unable to forget Shawn, or what it felt like to be with him. Shawn seems to feel the same, because it’s not even a day later before Shawn gives him a call, and Hunter can’t resist inviting the other man up to his apartment, which leads to the two of them taking a moment of silence and relaxation (and the comfort of a bed) to get to know one another.
The honeymoon doesn’t last long and Shawn is soon out the door, telling Hunter it’s over, ended before it even had a chance to begin. Shawn’s hot and cold response is frustrating, but somehow Hunter can’t seem to make himself let go of Shawn, of the memory of him or the dream. When the FBI come nosing around, Hunter learns that Shawn is on the run. He is either an innocent man wrongly accused, or one who is guilty of past crimes. Now, Hunter has to decide if he’s willing to put everything on the line for love. He doesn’t know which way is up. All he has is forward.
Hunter is an interesting character. Emotionally, he’s mature and confident, able to know his own heart and his own needs. His last long-term boyfriend became abusive after getting caught up in drugs and drink and ended up killing himself in front of Hunter as punishment for ending the relationship. Hunter’s been in therapy, though, and knows it wasn’t his fault, just as Shawn’s situation — whether he is a fugitive who made a mistake, or the victim on the run from everyone — isn’t his responsibility. But he can’t help getting involved any more than he can stop himself from trying to help people when they’re hurt.
Which brings up the rest of it. Hunter’s a bit of an idiot. Very few of his actions make any logical sense. For example, Shawn tells him he’s on the run from someone who wants to kill him, so … let’s go do my laundry before we leave. Hunter doesn’t trust someone, with good reason, but will sit down and talk to him, will let the man flirt with him, and is neither scared nor upset. Emotionally, he’s a stellar character. But in every other way I found myself unable to really tolerate him.
Shawn is a more sympathetic character. He comes across as young and scared and the few sections in which we see the story from his point of view are, for me, among the strongest. But they’re very limited and serve mostly to show us what happened to lead to him running away. Now he’s on his own, isolated and afraid, and Hunter’s the first person in a long time Shawn feels anything for other than fear.
My biggest problem with this book was the setup, plot, and execution of the plot. Hunter and Shawn spend the first third of the book (a few days time) with one another. Then a large portion of the middle of the book, which covers a week, maybe two, the story is focused on Hunter and his relationship with an FBI agent. Shawn and Hunter do reunite for sex and exposition, and then it’s Hunter on his own with the FBI agent, trying to solve the muddle of the plot and resolve the issue. I didn’t buy the emotional connection between Hunter and Shawn. If the book were about Hunter and Nick (the FBI agent), maybe.
Personally, I didn’t like this book at all. The writing is there, and there are some parts of the story that had some strong beats of interest, but altogether, this book is a hard pass from me. I’d be interested to try the author’s other work, though, just based on the writing ability and those few moments where I could see a bit of sparkle in the cracks of the story.