Sparks fly when Chance meets tall, sexy Xav at a Wilmington bar and they have the hottest one-nighter of their lives. But Chance doesn’t do repeats, Xav seems detached, and they go their separate ways without a word. Later, when closeted Assistant District Attorney C. Evan “Chance” Fairchild meets Dare's Landing's newest deputy sheriff, Xavier “Xav” Constantine, Evan isn’t only wary. He’s irritated as hell.
Xavier is a former FBI agent turned deputy sheriff who is hot on the trail of a South American child prostitution ring. Evan is fighting to put an end to rampant cocaine trafficking and chafing under the thumb of an election-hungry boss. When someone tries to kill the eleven-year-old witness who holds the key to both their investigations, they’re forced to work together as they put their lives on the line to protect him. As Chance and Xav collide in the heat of a sweltering North Carolina summer, dodging bullets and chasing bad guys isn’t the only action going on.
DIEGO TAPPED the barrel of his Heckler & Koch G3 rifle against the doorjamb of the small mud hut situated high in the Bolivian Andes. “¿Qué estás haciendo?” he demanded.
Xavier ignored him as he ladled the repulsive cassava gruel they called food from a bucket into a tin bowl. The bitter smell of wild roots was nauseating; the only redeeming quality to the soup, if there was one, was that it had boiled long enough to be rid of its natural deadly cyanide.
“Hey! I’m talking to you, Green Eyes!”
Xavier continued to ignore Diego but moved aside to reveal that he was ladling the gruel into a bowl.
“Too much!” Diego slapped the ladle and gruel splattered the dirt floor. The drops pooled and glistened in the flickering candlelight.
Xavier looked at him, careful to keep his expression neutral. “They’re weak and too thin.”
Diego grunted. “Easier to control the little maricónes.”
Xavier fought not to show his hatred of Diego and disgust for the pejorative. “You will lose money on them.”
Angry now, Diego shoved the nose of his rifle into Xavier’s side. “You and your boca linda. You work here more than a month and you think you know something. If I tell you it’s too much, it’s too much!”
Xavier set the ladle in the bucket and awaited dismissal, his eyes riveted to the floor.
Diego burst into cruel laughter, the stench of his rancid breath almost too overwhelming to bear. “Eh, maybe you’re right. We want them to look good for delivery tomorrow. You take the bowl and you come back for more and maybe I approve it.”
Xavier kept his gaze downward as he nodded and turned to leave with a mumbled “Sí, mi jefe.”
“You learn fast. I like that.”
THUNDER RAGED overhead and lightning struck on the distant mountaintops as Xavier crossed the filthy, muddy camp. The Altiplano storms were famous for their brutality, often washing away entire villages.
Careful to note the positions of the cocaleros in his peripheral vision, he made his way to the squat hut where they kept the two boys. He went down on a knee and lifted the wooden bar on the door. He opened the door slowly, knowing even the dimmest glow from the firelight would be hard on their eyes after six weeks in pitch-dark captivity. The two boys huddled in a corner, their wrists and ankles bound, and the terror Xavier saw in their blue eyes made his gut clench. He carefully slid the bowl over the dirt toward the boys.
They glanced at it and huddled closer together as if trying to become one.
Xavier slid a small cloth pouch from his pocket and set it next to the bowl.
The boys glanced at it and then back to him.
One of the boys leaned forward, grabbed the pouch, and opened it quickly. He withdrew a small piece of paper and read it. His eyes went wide and he shook his head fervently.
Xavier nodded once before backing out of the hut on all fours. He closed and barred the door, stood, and resumed his paces as guard of the hut.
TWENTY MINUTES later Xavier returned to the food hut with the empty tin bowl. Diego blocked his entrance with an extended rifle barrel. Xavier waited, unsure of Diego’s next move. “Not too much,” Diego ordered.
Xavier nodded. “Sí, mi jefe.” He entered the hut and ladled but one cup of gruel into the bowl. He stopped in the doorway for Diego’s approval on the way out.
Diego sneered at him, pinched his cheek, and patted it. “You learn very fast. This is good. No more food tonight.”
“Sí, mi jefe,” Xavier offered softly as he headed back to the hut.
THUNDER CRACKED the sky, and Xavier nonchalantly looked up and then beyond the hut. There it was: the telltale signal lamp for extraction. As before, he dropped to one knee, set the tin bowl on the ground, and unbarred the door. He opened it, carefully slid the tin bowl to the boys, and then held his hand up, five fingers splayed.
One of the boys whispered, “Five minutes?”
Xavier gave him the barest of nods.
The other boy shook his head again.
Xavier’s gut twisted again. If he didn’t get them out tonight, it would be too late. They’d be shipped off to the buyer tomorrow and gone for good. “Has to be now,” he whispered ever so softly.
Tears filled the terrified boy’s eyes, and a faithless drop spilled over. “They’ll shoot us.”
Xavier shook his head slowly. “I’ll keep you safe.”
“Eh! You better not be touching the merchandise!” Diego yelled as he shoved Xavier hard in the side with a boot.
Xavier gritted his teeth and fought to ignore the pain. He raised his hand again, four fingers splayed.
The braver boy nodded.
Xavier quickly poured the gruel out at the edge of the hut and backed out with the tin bowl in hand. “Just getting the bowl, mi jefe.”
“Gimme that!” Diego grabbed the bowl. “Get back to your post, puto, or you go back to the fields!”
“Sí, mi jefe.” Xavier shouldered his rifle and began his routine patrol around the hut as Diego walked away.
Lightning struck in a nearby field and deafening thunder rolled across the sky above them. He continued his patrol and prayed heaven would wait a little longer before unleashing her fury. Each time he passed the back of the hut, he withdrew a sheaf of straw. On his fourth pass, the far-off signal blinked thrice, letting him know it was time.
Within seconds, a grenade exploded on the other side of the camp. Lightning cracked with a riot of color directly above them right before a barrel of coca paste exploded, the sound nearly drowned by thunder. Chaos descended and guards scattered in every direction as the sky opened up to lay waste to the land. Wild gunfire began, and Xavier drew a knife from the leather sheath on his aguayo belt, bent quickly, and snapped the skimpy wooden frame on the back of the hut. He reached in and grabbed the first boy, who came willingly. He quickly cut the bindings on the boy’s wrists and ankles. The second boy refused to come, and Xavier dragged him out by the arm. He cut his bindings and pushed both boys into the copse of coffee trees behind the hut. “Run!”
Xavier half ran and half dragged the boys along as they cleared the trees and raced down the muddy, crooked rows of coca plants. Lightning momentarily obscured the blinking Morse code of the signal lamp, but, after nearly two months working this field, Xavier knew exactly where to go. Gunfire sounded behind them, and Xavier’s hopes of a covert escape were dashed as a bullet whizzed past his ear. “Faster!” he shouted in the pouring rain.
As they crested a rise and descended to the edge of the field, a DEA helicopter rose out of the trees and hovered, skids just off the ground. Xavier looked for the second chopper, and when it didn’t show, he swallowed back panic as a sickening dread threatened to overwhelm him. Automatic gunfire sounded and the helicopter’s M60s swiveled and fired in response, but without the firepower of the second chopper, they had no chance of getting out alive. Amid the shower of bullets, one of the boys slipped and fell in the mud, and the other boy ran back to help him. Xavier ran back and grabbed them both by the shirt, lifted them, and half ran, half dragged them again. “Get to the helicopter!” He shoved them in front of him, and they ran for the chopper.
As the boys neared the skids, tracer fire lit the blackened sky and bullets strafed the mud at their feet. Xavier didn’t dare look back. He ran at the boys, taking them both to the ground, but not before bullets arced, nearly tearing them in half. Warm red rain showered him, made brilliant by the riot of lightning overhead. He reached for them, still believing he could save them, right before his world turned to black.
This review will be purposely vague so that readers can enjoy the mystery and suspense of the plot and the slow reveal of the character’s many layers without being spoiled.
Right off the bat I need to let you know that this story was more mystery/suspense than it was a romance. It did include a romance, and a great one at that, but the mystery to romance ratio was about 60/40. I also need to caution you that there are some pretty graphic descriptions (which take place off-page) of child sexual abuse that are particularly gut wrenching.
With that out-of-the-way, I really enjoyed this book. Xavier Constantine is an ex-FBI agent looking for a change of pace and a lower stress job. He takes the deputy sheriff position in a small town in North Carolina.
During his first night in town, Xav meets and sleeps with Evan “Chance” Fairchild. The sex is hot and both men feel a connection, but neither are looking for a relationship, so it ends there without any exchange of details about their lives or their phone numbers.
Xav walks into his first day of work to find “Chance”, his one-night-stand, is actually the closeted C. Evan Fairchild, Assistant District Attorney. They will be working together on a child kidnapping/prostitution ring. Evan is furious with himself, and Xav, for the sexual encounter and the mood is quite chilly between the two for several weeks. But it’s a nice, slow burn and when these two finally get together, it is hot and romantic and emotional and there is a lot of hurt/healing/comfort.
The action and suspense in A Solitary Man is fast and exciting. One of the main characters even plays the White Knight and rescues the other! Gotta love that. I read this book in one sitting and didn’t figure out the mystery until the very end.
I can highly recommend A Solitary Man to fans of M/M mystery and suspense who like a bit of romance and hurt/healing/comfort on the side. This is an exciting ride!
A Solitary Man is a brilliant book by Shira Anthony &Aisling Mancy.
The way the story flows and the heartbreaking story of the children of trafficking will make you admired them more as authors.
Chance and Xavier fight to eradicate a child trafficking ring and also the traffic of cocaine in the North Carolina town …. But also Xavier has to help Chance fight the demons from his childhood.
This book is full of colloquialisms that will make you laugh in the middle of your tears. Because while you read each page if you don’t feel the rage deep inside against the monsters out there you are not truly understanding that behind each word the message is … do something … have hope and truly at least be happy if you can save at least one.
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