Shane Carson is the chief deputy in the small West Texas town where he grew up, but that was never his plan. Shane was supposed to get out of town and make a name for himself on the football field and he did that for a short time. Shane hates everything about his life now; he especially hates that Dakota Jennings is no longer in it. Dakota was Shane’s best friend and his first love. It was supposed to be Shane and Dakota forever, but they haven’t spoken in 13 years.
Dakota Jennings has never gotten over losing Shane and he still doesn’t understand it. Dakota had a plan to follow Shane, to take care of Shane, to be with Shane, but then Shane was gone. In that moment, Dakota’s world crumbled and he joined the Army. He’s now a Texas Ranger and has been called back to the town where he grew up to investigate a single grave where six bodies have been uncovered. Dakota never expects his partner on the investigation to be Shane.
Dakota still wants Shane with everything he has. But there are years of hurt and complications between them and then there’s a murderer still out there hunting for victims. As Dakota and Shane get caught in the killer’s sights and secrets refuse to stay buried, their need for each is stronger than ever. But they may be too late to have the life together they always wanted.
Friends to lovers, murder/mystery, first love, deep love, and deep pining are all part of Tal Bauer’s newest book, Never Stay Gone. When the book starts, it’s been 13 years since Shane and Dakota have seen each other and they are brought together on the job beside a mass grave of six bodies. The men can barely hold it together when they see each other again and it’s a tension-filled path to get them back together.
Their past is told through memories as opposed to true flashbacks and that style worked for me. We see Shane and Dakota fall in love in small town Texas where they kept each other’s secrets. The two became inseparable and when Shane, who carried the hopes of the entire town on his shoulders onto the football field, got ready to leave for college, we see Dakota plan and plan some more on how to stay with Shane and take care of Shane and love Shane. Dakota would do anything for Shane, including leave when he’s forced to, and there are so many emotions that bleed from them.
Shane and Dakota are both in law enforcement now and working together after so many years is agony for them both. The case takes up a good portion of the book as the men work to identify the bodies of the victims and figure out who the killer is. There are red flags along the way and I was led in the general direction of where the story was going. The “bad guys” weren’t fully developed enough for me to pull the case together and there were too many loose points for me. At the end, it was the case that steered this book off track for me.
When Dakota and Shane get together again, there is little discussion of the years lost and they come together in both body and mind, telling each other their deepest desires, and it seemed a little much a little too soon. The reaction of everyone around them to their relationship was also easy compared to the build up we were given and the fears they had for their entire lives. But the love they have for each other is absolute and watching them fall in love and be in love is the high point of this book.