“Come with me if you want to live” isn’t the best pick-up line Riley’s ever heard, but considering the night he’s having, accepting the hand of the mystery man who claims to be saving him from kidnappers isn’t the worst idea he’s ever had. The would-be James Bond is an army vet — at least that’s what the patches on his leather jacket imply — and he certainly seems to know what he’s doing. And for Riley, spoiled heir of a wealthy family, the likelihood of being kidnapped isn’t that far from the realm of reality. Still, it doesn’t take him long to ditch the guy claiming to be his new bodyguard and only hope for survival. And it takes even less time to meet more kidnappers. Fortunately, Kaden is willing to forgive Riley his lack of faith and rescues him. Again.
Between broken ribs, bruises, and an hours-long motorcycle ride, Riley starts to take things seriously. Someone wants something from him. Whether that’s his death, his father’s money, or something else, he really doesn’t know. Kaden seems convinced that this all ties back to Russia, somehow. He spins a story of Cold War spies, Riley’s grandparents, the fact that men are trying to kill Riley … and as unbelievable as it sounded at first, Riley can’t help but wonder if maybe Kaden’s right.
Riley is 22 and manages to act every day of it with his pouting, sniping, and whining throughout the book. But he’s neither stupid nor unjustified in his complaints. His father barely acknowledges him, he doesn’t know where his mother is even buried, and for all that his grandmother is interested in his existence, it’s a cold and distant watchfulness. Riley’s daddy issues have daddy issues, and for him, Kaden — older, authoritative, and focused on Riley’s safety and well-being — immediately gains his attention.
Kaden did his time in the army and now works for the government. He was given the task of keeping Riley alive without being told anything beyond who the kid was. He has no idea who wants Riley dead, no idea who wants him alive, and the only resources he has are his own. Kaden has to beg for backup from old buddies and hide Riley in his own house, since this operation seems to be operating in the deepest, darkest parts of the CIA and even his own boss won’t tell him anything about anything. Or can’t.
The relationship in this book feels very much that of agent and charge rather than that of friends or lovers. Riley doesn’t actually seem to be that interested in Kaden, so much so that I wondered if he was on the ace spectrum. When Kaden kisses Riley, there’s never an indication that he has an attraction of any kind to Kaden. When Riley does decide to make their paper thin cover of fake boyfriends work, it feels more as if Riley’s curious about sleeping with a guy as opposed to wanting to sleep with Kaden specifically.
Riley is hypersensitive, which means smells, sounds, sight, and touch are amped up to 11. In theory. Even so, for someone so sensitive, he endures broken ribs, fractured ribs, bruising, and a lengthy motorcycle ride without even a twitch. When Kaden brings up that Riley must be sore, Riley seems absolutely indifferent to any sensation. Even when being waterboarded and beaten, or even in bed with Kaden, he doesn’t seem to be all that aware of any intense sensations. To be honest, I don’t know why it was made such a point of when it ends up amounting to not much of anything.
This is one of those books where the characters know more than the reader, and Kaden was making leaps of logic that I couldn’t follow. I couldn’t find any foreshadowing or string of clues that led Kaden to most of his speculations, and — like the relationship between Riley and Kaden — a lot of it felt pre-planned rather than organically grown by the story. I don’t read many thrillers, so it’s hard for me to honestly judge it as a thriller, but as a story, this book had issues that kept me from enjoying it.
The groundwork was there, but Kaden’s leaps of ‘logic’ just felt like he was reading ahead in the script. While I enjoyed Riley as a character — the 22 year old kid wanting attention, making stupid decisions, wanting to impress an older father-figure while still getting his own way — I didn’t feel invested in the mystery behind who wanted to kill him. In part, I think, because there was no mystery to it. Just answers to questions from characters who already knew the answers. The writing is decent, the pace and characterization were fine, but this book just didn’t give me anything to sink my teeth into, story-wise.