Riven is a grown man who’s caught in a bad situation. He can take the fall for an accidental manslaughter charge for a crime committed by his best friend, Rex, or risk Rex’s drug-dealing father killing his grandma. Riven cops to the crime, does the time, but now he’s been released and his only choice is to return to his small Oregon town where the criminals he once called family still live. Worse yet, the only job he’s able to find also employs Parrish, Rex’s younger brother.
Parrish has tried to stay on the straight and narrow, and he’s been aided by Riven’s willingness to do whatever dumb crap Rex tried to bait Parrish into. Parrish had a lot of hero worship for Riven as a kid, seeing his kindness, and later was attracted to him physically. He’s pretty angry with Riven about going to prison, because he can’t admire a murderer–even if it was accidental. It’s clear that Riven’s still got beef with his dad and Rex, though, and Parrish can’t figure out why. Not until he overhears his dad talking about how they plan to use Riven in more of their dealings, since Riven can be manipulated by his love for his grandma, who raised him. It’s a big awakening, and melts Parrish’s heart for Riven all over again.
But, between Rex and his dad still gunning for Riven, Parrish having feelings Riven doesn’t feel like he deserves, and Riven himself having a hard time connecting with people post-incarceration, there are a lot of signals that are getting mixed and crossed.
Riven’s the first person who’d call himself poor white trash, and the folks in this story are one phone call away from a daytime soap opera. Parrish and Riven have a connection, the only one that Riven’s been able to make, beyond that with his grandma. Parrish may be the job runner on their construction site, but Riven runs things in the bedroom, much to the satisfaction of both men. Parrish wants them to find a way out of their sleepy Oregon town, and Riven’s sure he’s not long for this world. If Rex and his dad don’t kill him, he’ll probably end up back in prison and give up all hope. Parrish is the rock Riven needs, even if he’s willing to sacrifice himself–once again–to keep Parrish out of the spotlight cast by Parrish’s own father.
There are a lot of struggling people in this story, and most of the time their options aren’t great. Riven has to choose between bad and worse options, repeatedly. That’s why his choice to pursue Parrish is so liberating. I loved how their enemies to lovers dynamic develops, and how they are able to support one another in big and small ways. The drama builds to a head at just the right moment, and unexpected help arrives to free these guys from the long shadows cast by Rex and his dad. I liked the story, which is pretty dark and decidedly gritty. I liked how Parrish is a good man, not letting his disastrous relations taint his life. I loved Riven’s loyalty, especially for his grandmother. There are enough dirty sexy moments to make the relationship development feel authentic. I would definitely recommend this story for readers who enjoy darker romances and flawed characters.