Felix moved across the country to Key Largo with his best friend, Max, looking for a fresh start. His mother’s emotional abuse and attempts to control his life were always bad, but when his epilepsy caused a seizure that permanently affected his brain, Felix knew he had to get away from his family. He may have facial blindness, sometimes struggle with his words, and need some help now and then, but Felix knows he is a capable adult and certainly doesn’t need his mother running his life for him. Now that Max has moved in with his new boyfriend, Felix is navigating living on his own. He has been admiring his hot neighbor, Deimos, a chef at the restaurant next door to the tattoo shop where Felix works, and the two finally meet when Felix steps in to help Deimos’ sister in her time of need.
Deimos was just shy of finishing his tour of military duty when he was severely injured, losing an arm, leg, and eye, among other injuries. Deimos has now made a new life for himself as a chef in Key Largo. The job lets him help take care of his mother, who has early onset Alzheimers, and he enjoys the new group of friends he is making at the restaurant and nearby tattoo shop. Deimos finds Felix incredibly attractive and can’t deny his interest, but Deimos hasn’t gotten involved with anyone since his injury and needs to take things slow. He is also emotionally overwhelmed with his mother’s care and not sure how much he can give to a relationship, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting Felix.
When Felix’s grandmother dies unexpectedly, he really wants to return home for her funeral. His grandmother was the only person in his family who loved and accepted Felix just as he is. But he knows the experience of dealing with the rest of his relatives will be awful and, in a moment of panic, tells them he is bringing a boyfriend home with him. Deimos surprises Felix by offering to play the role, and the two head off to California.
Dealing with Felix’s family is awful as expected, but the trip does give the men a chance to spend time together and really get to know one another better. The attraction flares between the men and they are both clear how much they want one another. But Felix can’t imagine that Deimos will want a long-term future with a guy who will never recognize his face. And Deimos is dealing with both his stress over his mom’s health, and getting serious with a man for the first time after his injuries. That doesn’t stop the connection from growing between them, and as Deimos and Felix act on their feelings, they could be building a love for a lifetime.
Cover Up is the latest installment in E.M. Lindsey’s entertaining Irons and Works: Key Largo series (a spin-off of the original Irons and Works series set in Colorado). We have met both Deimos and Felix in prior books, as both series have a strong found family element and the men appear in one another’s stories. That said, I think this one stands alone just fine and you can comfortably jump in here.
This story is really about two men who have a lot of doubt about their worth in a relationship coming to accept that they deserve and can have a real love. I appreciate that Deimos and Felix are honest about their feelings and really talk to one another about what they are thinking and what they need. There is a dose of hurt/comfort here as well, as the guys support one another and help each other believe they deserve all the good things. The story also has a fake relationship element, but this isn’t really a prominent focus. While it is a reason for Deimos to come along on the trip, they have such limited interaction with Felix’s family, they spend very little time actually pretending to be together.
As with most of Lindsey’s stories, this book explores two men who each have some physical differences and, at times, challenges. For Felix, a big seizure left him with a brain injury, which keeps him from being about to recognize faces, among other things. At times, Felix forgets words, or can get overwhelmed in crowds. He is just getting used to living alone, but he is very capable, despite his awful mother attempting to put him under a conservatorship. For Deimos, he has had time since his injury to learn to adapt to his missing limbs, though he can still tire easily. What’s more concerning for him is that the injury also destroyed part of his penis, and he is self conscious and worried about Felix’s reaction. So there is a nice sense of these men supporting and encouraging one another and helping the other realize just how attractive and desirable they really are. It is somewhat of a slow burn on the physical end (though they are clear how much they want each other early on), but once they get together, these guys are super sexy together and they have a great dynamic.
As always with these series, we get time with the rest of the group and I love the way these guys are so open with their affection and friendship. They are in each other’s business and they mother hen each other to death, but they so obviously care about each other and it is just a joy to see them all again. I found this another great installment in the series. These two Irons and Works sets are among my favorites of Lindsey’s work and I am really looking forward to more.