Thirteen years ago Wesley — please call him West — made a deal with the devil. Every now and then, some demon or demon-blooded person will approach him with a black wooden coin and ask a question or two or three. And West will answer their questions.
If his mother and sister ever found out, they’d kill him.
The demon-blooded man now on his doorstop, Kit, has questions about the death of a human found murdered in his apartment. And not just any human. The deceased man, Mike, is Kit’s ex-husband, the father of their son, and Mike’s family is looking to place the blame on Kit. Not that it’s all that unexpected. Kit is, after all, a demon. But Kit asks for another round of questions, and West agrees. For the money, of course. And when Kit asks for more help, West also agrees. The more he gets to know Kit, the more he wants to get to know him.
Yes, his mother’s going to kill him.
“She’s just, you know, she’s worried I’m gonna end up involved in black magic or something if I start talking to demons.”
“Does that make me the witchcraft equivalent of a gateway drug?” Kit asked.
West is a witch, and a pretty good one — if not a lucky one. He has a gift for tarot cards, works hard, and has the unenviable ability to know when someone’s lying. It’s more than just “oh, I meant to call you,” or “sorry I’m late.” It’s also the “I love you” his boyfriend said and, for the first time, didn’t mean. It’s the small lies people tell each other, as well as the big ones. All day, in and out, like being constantly assaulted by a smell or a sound he can’t get away from. He hasn’t told his sister or his mother about his gift, but he tells Kit. Because he doesn’t want to be spending hours with the other man if he’s going to lie to him, even if they’re polite lies. Kit takes him at his word and does his best to tell the truth, even when that truth isn’t always fun or romantic.
Kit has more human blood in him than demon; he can do small magics, see in the dark, live a little longer … but he’s more human than not. But even one drop of demon blood is enough for humans, witches, and other ‘good’ members of the community of supernaturals to give him the side eye. Shifters are fine, for the most part, but vampires and demons … well, everyone knows they’re evil. And it’s something Kit’s going to have to face head on as he deals with the upcoming custody battle for his son.
The relationship between the two is a slow, lingering one of friendship easing into sex and growing into romance. It’s full of clumsy conversations, doubt, uncertainty, and discomfort as West hides Kit from his sister, going so far as to ask Kit to sneak out the back door in the middle of the night and park halfway down the block when he comes to pick him up. And Kit does. Obedient, patient, he does. His husband, Mike, was controlling, with anger and drinking issues. Perhaps Kit’s a little too accustomed to bending over to appease someone else, willing to let himself be less so that someone else can be more, though he’s trying to change that. His son is autistic, and Mike tried very hard to make Riley behave like other children, as if by sheer willpower alone he could stop being autistic. Kit gave in, he let Mike make those decisions to Riley’s detriment, and he’s not going to make that mistake again.
Kit’s character growth is more in-between the lines and paragraphs and chapters, but it is there. He gives in when West pushes, but when Riley’s in the scene, it’s clear Kit is going to put his son and his son’s needs first. West goes from being aimless and shiftless and selfish to caring a little bit more for someone other than himself. Even so, he’s manipulative, cruel, and petty, but at the end, when it comes to it, West puts himself to discomfort and inconvenience for Riley and Kit. He is by no means changed or made better by the end of this book, but he has started trying.
There are a lot of good moments in this book, and if I listed them all I’d be listing a good quarter of the book. The dialogue can be a little staid in parts, but when Kit and West have a moment to talk to each other, there’s wit and charm and humor. I enjoy the awkwardness of some of their dates because, while it’s nice to see perfect relationships in books, it’s also nice to see two fools flailing about and making a muddle of it.
“You know, a guy gives you his number, it really only means one thing.”
“That he still wants my help solving the murder of his ex-husband?”
The writing is very good. The pacing is a bit slow in parts and rushed in others, but what really stands out for me is the world building. Halfway through the book, we see our first glimpse of real magic in this world as West uses his power to show Kit a small glimpse of the Otherworld. It’s eerie in the best way, evocative and filled with a perfect balance between tension and wonder. This book has some excellent world building that is at an even slower burn than the romance. Crumbs are thrown out that hint at a greater world; the idea of a vampire being sick at a Pride parade, the argument of calling them addicted to blood, or the way a shifter lover may have been … tolerated hint at biases, opinions, and so much more depth inherent in the world.
I want this to be the start of a series because I really, really want to know more about this world, about West and his deal with the devil, about West’s mom. All of it, really. However, as much as there were some stellar moments that stood out for me, as much as I enjoyed the writing, I didn’t really connect with West as a character or West and Kit as a couple. I enjoyed the friendship between them greatly, but the romance felt a bit forced in parts and I didn’t buy either of them as really being into the other as a person as much as being into the need and desire of being into someone, as both men have been going through breakups, and both of them want and need a connection.
Note: West is coping with being dumped and losing control of so much of his life by taking charge of his eating. He focuses on food, comments on calories, and makes a point about how he needs to lose more weight. For some readers, this may cause discomfort and is something to be aware of before reading.