Max had his heart broken and he’s not interested in getting close to anyone. He’s good for one night, no small talk and no commitments. But he’s not prepared at all for his quick encounter with Dr Ashton Jackson. Ash leaves Max his card, but Max has no intention of calling. He can’t stop thinking about the sexy doctor, but Max is not letting anyone in ever again. Except, at the opening of the dance studio at the community center, Ash is right there and he makes it clear that he wants Max.
Ash would like to find the one for him, but he doesn’t think it will ever happen. He has a good career and a great relationship with his mother, but Ash has demons to slay that come out in the form of nightmares due to his what he witnessed years ago in the home of his best friend, Damon. Ash wants Max and having mutual friends puts them in contact, but Max is determined to resist Ash with everything he has.
Max can’t trust anyone and his wounds bleed into every area of his life. Ash wants to show Max that he can love again, but when Max has to confront his past, Ash may be the one pushed to run.
Max and Ash were introduced in Harris’ previous book, Surviving the Merge, featuring Justin and Damon. There are enough events that carry over into this book that for continuity, it would work best to read the Chadwick series in order. I liked the story this book was telling and Max and Ash and the struggles they both had added to the story. Both of them have issues and, as their relationship evolves, they both display possessive qualities as they look to lay claim to the other, but the structure of the book didn’t all work for me.
Max and Ash hook up in the beginning of the book in a public restroom. Before that, we are told they have an attraction to each other, but I didn’t feel it so much at first. Also, restroom encounters have to have something special to win me over as a reader and I didn’t feel that here either, and there was something about the opening scene that gave me the feeling that the book was starting in the middle of their story, even though it wasn’t.
In the previous book, Max was interested in Justin when they first met, but here, he is absolutely opposed to any kind of relationship and he appeared different to me in this book. Max has rituals he performs to keep his focus of keeping everyone out. It is mentioned several times how important these rituals are to him, yet at one point, they were casually discarded.
The relationship between Max and Ash is intense as they pull together to push each other away. They are possessive in bed and alternate dominating each other to stake their claim on each other. Max had been in a relationship with his best friend, Hayden, for years and the story is slowly shown over the course of the book to finally show the brutal emotional devastation he suffered. Yet, when the confrontation came, Hayden was shown to be one dimensional and rather bland for all that had transpired.
Ash’s story ties into Damon’s story and Ash has struggled for years with nightmares. Ash is a doctor, his mother is supportive, everyone supports Damon’s therapy, yet no one thought to encourage Ash to seek help as well for the trauma he experienced.
This book was a mix for me and, while I liked the characters, their personal stories, as well as what Ash and Max were doing with the community center and the clinic, the structure was uneven for me. I do like this world and with Harris being a newer author, I would check out more as the writing evolves.