For paramedic Adam Carson, his world is lights and sirens and saving lives. Pressures at work keep him firmly in the closet, and life is too busy to contend with the complications that come with dating and relationships. When a familiar face from his past turns up where he least expects it, Adam starts to question whether or not there is room in his life for those complications.
The last person forensic pathologist Sam McKenna expects to see at pub night is Adam, the guy who made his life hell in high school. The attraction is instant, but Adam isn't gay and Sam has no interest in pursuing him. Still, the leftover animosity from their teenage years isn't enough to extinguish the lust growing between them. After both are called to the scene of a horrific murder, Adam admits he’s not as straight as he led Sam to believe and they seek comfort and distraction in each other's arms. One night becomes many as the murder investigation intensifies, but when Adam is faced with losing Sam, he is forced to make a choice: to break his silence, or to give up everything for the job he loves.
“YOU’RE COMING out tonight, right?” Ford asked, the sound of traffic in the background making it difficult to hear him.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so,” Sam said, flopping down on his couch and lifting his feet from the sea grass rug to rest them on the coffee table.
“Oh, come on. It’ll be fun. The guys are all great, and they all work in and around the hospital, so everyone has something in common. You’ve never been out with us, and after last time, you said you regretted it.”
“I don’t know if ‘regretted’ is the right word.”
Sam could almost hear Ford rolling his eyes through the phone. “You’re holed up in your office in the dungeon all day. You barely talk to anyone. People are going to think you’re reclusive and weird.”
“It’s not the dungeon. And maybe I am reclusive and weird.”
Ford laughed. “You are not. A little antisocial maybe, but I’m fairly confident you don’t have bodies stashed in your basement.”
“Only fairly confident?”
“Well, in all the times I’ve been to your place, I didn’t notice any decomp smells wafting up from the basement.”
“Febreze is pretty amazing stuff.”
“Seriously, though. You should come. It’ll be fun.”
“I’ll think about it. Bars aren’t really my thing.”
“It’s not a bar-bar, and I’m not taking no for an answer. I will be by your place at six to pick you up. And don’t wear your lab coat.”
Sam huffed. “I’m not that socially stunted. Wait, six? That’s in fifteen minutes!”
“Yup. I’ll see you at six.”
Sam hung up the phone and heaved a sigh. He really didn’t want to go. It had been a shit day at work. Dealing with death every day gave him a certain slanted perception on life, but today was particularly bad. His sweatpants, a box of those fake chocolate cupcakes with the curlicue icing, and a DVR filled with hours upon hours of Game of Thrones episodes beckoned him. The thought of having to go out into the cold, then put on a friendly face and make small talk with people he didn’t know sounded like the worst kind of torture.
But Ford, his best friend and an ER nurse at Saint Joseph Memorial, had been bugging Sam for months to join them. Sam was running out of excuses. He didn’t have a lot of friends. He kept mostly to himself, and really, he preferred being alone. Ford was right, though. People were going to think he was weird. He hadn’t been working at Saint Joe’s long, but the year spent in his new position as a forensic pathologist had been enjoyable so far.
He’d met Ford at Code Blue, an annual benefit to raise money for the ER the year before. It wasn’t mandatory for hospital staff but strongly recommended. Luck had them sitting at the same table, and bonding over a mutual love of gory slasher movies had made them instant friends. Normally, Sam wasn’t all that outgoing. Not shy, but he preferred to keep to himself for the most part. Generally, people annoyed him, and so avoidance of social situations was best, but the following week Ford showed up in his office with two orders of chicken enchiladas from the Mexican food truck across the street. They’d been close ever since.
FORD SHOWED up right on time, pulling into the driveway as Sam was sliding the lock on his front door. Sam crossed the front yard, his boots making prints in the shallow snow as he strode around to the passenger’s side, then climbed in.
“Thanks for picking me up,” he said, trying to keep the sarcasm from slipping into his voice.
Ford laughed. “Uh-huh. Because if I left you to your own devices, you’d never have made it.”
Sam smirked but didn’t respond. He just settled in and buckled up as Ford reversed out of the driveway.
THE COPPER Nickel was already busy, despite it being a weeknight and still early. It had a certain divey quality to it that called to people. The pretentiousness of other bars in town was lacking here, the crowd made up almost entirely of blue-collar patrons. The black door and window trim with a black sign gave it a European flair, and the exterior was red brick with a retractable awning that served to shelter the front patio. A small cluster of people huddled beneath the shelter, crowding together against the cold, all to take a few puffs on their cigarettes. Sam couldn’t say he understood the desire to freeze his ass off for a quick hit of nicotine, but to each their own.
Ford moved forward then pulled the door open, holding it for Sam as he stepped inside. Sam shook the dusting of snow from his shoulders, then hung back, waiting for Ford to take the lead. Having never been there before, he wasn’t sure where he was supposed to be going, or who he was supposed to be looking for, for that matter. It was difficult to see through the place with the number of people there, and the dim lighting didn’t help. He stuck close to Ford, who led him upstairs to the second level. It was smaller than downstairs but quieter too, with fewer people. There were tables scattered throughout the space, and a large pool table sat in the corner. From the welcoming looks they received, it appeared as though Ford’s friends had commandeered most of the space, grouping a collection of tables together in the center of the room.
“Come on,” Ford urged. Sam followed closely behind, still regretting not putting up more of a fight. The thought of sweats and TV binges was becoming more and more appealing. Oh well, too late now.
Once they arrived at the clump of tables, Ford began the introductions. A round of “nice to meet yous” was exchanged before they sat down and the group returned to the conversation he and Ford interrupted.
“Where are Adam and John?” Ford asked the girl sitting next to him.
“John just texted. They had a late call. They’re on their way,” she replied.
“Good. I’m going to go grab us a couple of beers. Sam, you want something?”
“Whatever you’re having,” Sam replied.
“You got it.”
And then he was gone, off to find them drinks. Sam pasted what he hoped was a friendly smile on his face and listened to the conversation passing back and forth. Of course most of the topics centered on work, which invariably led to gossip. Having spent most of his time sequestered away in his office or the morgue, Sam had no idea who they were talking about, but he feigned interest while tuning them out.
Ford returned a few minutes later and slid a pint of beer across the table to Sam.
“Ah, here they are,” Ford said, turning his head toward two men who were making their way to the table.
“Adam, John, this is Sam. Sam, these are two of the city’s ugliest heroes, John and Adam.” Ford made the introductions as John slid into a chair across from him, lifting his head in greeting.
Sam swallowed hard, barely registering anything other than the man still standing in front of him. Adam Carson. He watched as recognition dawned in Adam’s eyes and a slow smirk appeared on his face. It was the same familiar cocky expression he wore when Sam knew him a billion years earlier.
“You sure have grown up, Dexter,” Adam said, exercising the nickname he had used for him all through school.
Sam lifted one eyebrow. “It seems you haven’t.”
“You two know each other?” Ford asked, eyebrows lifted in question.
“Oh, me and Dex go way back,” Adam supplied, never taking his eyes off Sam.
Sam rolled his eyes. Ford was his friend, but that didn’t mean he wanted to rehash the shit that happened back in high school. That name was one that haunted him right through the twelfth grade. When he moved, he tucked it safely away, but tonight, it seemed, it had followed him.
“Long story,” Adam said. “It’s good to see you. It’s been a long time.”
Sam nodded politely and tried to turn his attention away. He’d known Adam a lifetime ago. Sam wasn’t the same person he had been in his fragile teen years. Long gone was the shell of brittle aloofness that covered the core of deep insecurity. He had learned to be proud of who he was, and he owned it in every way.
But he’d be fucked if the familiar feelings of self-doubt didn’t set in the moment he realized it was Adam Carson strutting across the room toward them. He was always good looking, but since Sam had seen him last—graduation day—he’d definitely matured, physically at least. The handsome teenager had transformed into the type of man who oozed masculinity, his laid-back confidence potent enough that Sam could practically taste it from where he was sitting. The jeans Adam wore fit low and snug around his hips, and his soft gray T-shirt was tight enough for him to make out the well-toned muscles beneath it. Sam’s stomach fluttered as he felt Adam’s gaze bore into him.
Agreeing to let Ford drag him out was quickly becoming the worst move he’d made in a very long time.
Adam joined John, taking a seat across from Sam at the table, and fell effortlessly into conversation. From the relaxed way they joked and teased, it was clear they all knew one another well. For a brief moment, envy colored Sam’s heart. He would never fit so easily into a group. His whole existence since high school had been about bettering himself, but between twelve years of school, an intense job, and his aversion to people, he had little room for social interaction.
Sam sat back and let the banter churn around him. Now that the focus was off him, he could admit there was a certain merit to alone time, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to switch it up every once in a while. Lost in his own thoughts, Sam ran his finger absentmindedly along the grooves in the wood table. His gaze darted across the table to where Adam was gripping his glass. His hands were large and strong, with slightly calloused squared-off fingers. A thought flashed momentarily of what it would feel like to have those hands on him.
He shook the mental image from his mind. No matter how attractive Adam was, he wasn’t going to entertain the thought of sleeping with him. Other than being pretty to look at, Sam couldn’t stand the guy, and even if he could, it was a moot point anyway. Adam had spent more time in high school proving how undeniably straight he was than doing much else.
No, Sam would not go there.
His daydreams effectively tucked away, he looked up to see Adam staring at him. Sam’s cheeks colored as Adam smirked back. He couldn’t possibly have known what was going through Sam’s head. He chastised himself for being so paranoid.
**eBook copy provided to bayou book junkie by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Adam and Sam went to high school together and had a mutual best friend, although the two of them were far from friends. Adam was mean to Sam, picking on him and even giving him the irritating nickname of Dexter that infuriates Sam. Adam and Sam/Dex haven't seen one another in about 13 years. Dex is now a Forensic Pathologist, Adam a Paramedic. After 13 years Sam and Adam run into one another at a bar. Both men working in and around the local hospital they have mutual friends. Can they put the past behind them and bury the hatchet?
I love a good enemies to lovers. This was an excellent one. I've read a few of Cate's books, and I've like a few and I've loved a few. This one, I LOVED. I adored Dex and Adam. I loved the plot and I enjoyed the mystery portion of the story as well. Adam and Dex were both lovable characters. Even as enemies you just had to root for them. They had an electric chemistry and the sex was unbelievably HOT, and plentiful. The story was well written and flowed well. It was a quick and easy read that pulled me in from the beginning and left me salivating for more in the end. This book had a twist I didn't see coming, and I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for book two. Cate, I really hope you are typing fast!!!
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