X has watched Tate Gillespie for years. Always staying in the shadows, anonymously helping when needed, even checking out his bedroom activities with the boyfriends that come and go, X waits…and watches. Never speaking to Tate, always making sure the young man has no idea that X is there, but still always present, ready to help, ready to intervene should Tate be in trouble. So, when Tate accidentally sees something he shouldn’t late one night at work and is then marked for vaporization, aka death, by the masked and mysterious military (DPT) who metes out “justice,” X steps in and rescues him.
Now the two men are on the run. Tate unsure as to just who X is and how he seems to know so much about him. X knows only one thing: he hasn’t spent all these years safeguarding Tate Gillespie to now let him be destroyed. Now the two are in a race for their lives. They must make it beyond the border, to a community living in an underground warren where even the military will not go, all so Tate can survive. X can’t let himself care too much for Tate, for that will only slow him down and take away the assassin’s edge he has maintained all his life. He and his knives will protect Tate at all cost and deliver him safely or die in the process.
Author H.L. Day gives us a future dystopian world where the haves and have nots live just a few blocks apart and yet their worlds are vastly different, while secret police maintain the population and deliver law and order by vaporizing the guilty or anyone who stands in their way of dispatching their brand of justice, Tate and X live in different parts of the city. Tate is on one side of the wall, where life is simple, everyone has what they need, and people follow the rules. X lives in the slums, surrounded by filth and poverty where crime runs rampant and no one can escape the miserable existence they barely cling to every day. X moves in the shadows, keeping watch over Tate for reasons only he knows. He cannot admit to himself that Tate is something more than an obligation he will always meet, but the whores who look ever so slightly like Tate and who X demands use his name while X is with them realize that X is hiding something more.
Tate, whose friends joke that he must have a guardian angel who is somehow always there whenever trouble arises, works in a pharmaceutical company. When he forgets his wallet one night, he ends up going back into his office and stumbles upon something illegal. He decides he will tell his boss the next day and goes off to meet his friends. It’s then that the alarms sound and the DPT arrive looking for someone who has broken the law. Tate is shocked when he realizes it is him—he has been framed and can do nothing to save himself.
So begins the story, a thrilling action adventure, sci-fi romance that takes off at warp speed and never lets up. During the run for their lives, Tate will finally be able to allow a lover to see just what he has always needed in the bedroom and X will finally be able to admit to himself that what began as a promise to watch over Tate and protect him has developed into something much more. These men are polar opposites. Tate is lively and sarcastic, fun-loving, and talkative, and X is quiet and withdrawn, emotionally cut-off and inscrutable at the best of times. Yet somehow they work oh so well together. As they run from danger, they expose their secrets and begin to depend on each other in a whole new way.
I cannot express how quickly I fell in love with X and Tate. I not only immediately invested myself in their story, but I rooted for X to finally be honest with Tate about how he secretly felt. This is an incredibly exciting story with so many moments of real danger that just as you begin to think the guys are going to make it, suddenly you find you are wrong once again. Along the way, they meet up with some really strange characters and a few absolute gems, but it always comes back to them learning how to trust and rely on each other.
The world building is just enough to give a real taste of where these men live and what they endure to sometimes just barely survive. X and his knives, which are lethal weapons in his hands, are not always enough, but he and Tate manage to make it—until they don’t. But to say more would be to give away the end of the story and that is something I cannot do. Suffice it to say, there is a happy ever after at the end of this novel, but it is a lot of work to get there—heart in throat, deadly work.
Exposed marks the second time I have read H. L. Day’s work, but I can guarantee you it will not be the last. I highly recommend this story to you, it is just an incredibly thrilling read.