Author: Lexi Blake
Series: Masters and Mercenaries #13
Genre: Erotic Romance, Contemporary Romance, BDSM
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment LLC
Release Date: February 28th 2017
My Rating: 4 Cups
Blurb (from Goodreads):
A night he can’t forget*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this copy from InkSlinger PR and Lexi Blake in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of my review in any way.
Five years ago, Nick Markovic found himself consumed by his quest for vengeance. The one time he managed to find peace was in the arms of Hayley Dalton. Being with her was like bathing in sunlight, and he ached to feel that again, but he couldn’t. He gave his oath to Hayley’s cousin Desiree, his partner at McKay-Taggart and Knight, that he’d never let his darkness infect Hayley’s innocent world.
A spark she can’t put out
It was years before that Hayley offered everything she had to Nick. After that one amazing night, all she wanted was to be his forever. Unfortunately, Nick’s reaction was to walk away from her and never look back. The warm and caring man she’d discovered was gone, and after Des’s death, he’d only grown colder. But when Hayley finds herself in mortal danger, she’s forced to seek protection from the man who broke her heart.
A flame that threatens to consume them both
Haunted by the women he failed, Nick can’t allow himself to grow close to Hayley again. Running to stay ahead of the powerful forces that endanger their lives, they travel from the lush Garden in London to the glittering lights of Rio. As the threat against her becomes clearer, he realizes that to keep her safe he must confront the demons from his past, even if it costs him a future with the woman he loves.
Yet another great addition to the world of Masters & Mercenaries by Lexi Blake. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
While reading this book, I had the impression that there were two big themes in this book, one in which we explore Nick and Hayley's love story, and one where we explore Nick's professional relationships. Nick's romantic relationship with Hayley was put in opposition with the one he had with Desiree, and the differences are pretty big not to notice. I would have wanted to see a little bit of that story from Desiree's POV, how she lived the story between Nick and her, but maybe that's explored in previous books. All I can say is that seeing how miserable Nick felt in regards to his and Des's relationship once he started admitting what he truly felt makes it impossible not to like his and Hayley's story. It's also difficult to like Des, which I feel isn't all that fair towards her, seeing how she's dead and an't really explain herself. I can understand how her actions hurt Nick, but at the same time, Nick seems to have given up on life once he got his revenge. So I feel like it's a bit unfair to say that Des was fully to blame for the destructive, toxic relationship they had.
At the same time, it's interesting to see how Nick relates to his field partners. The two people he trusted, Des and Owen, hurt him in one way or another, and now he feels like he needs to do it all alone. What's interesting to me about that is seeing how he gets exposed to the mindset of team work by the Taggarts and their friends, and how he reacts to being part of a team. I liked how he reacted to the fact that being an employee of Damon, and, by extension, of Ian, meant that he had to work with the team, that he had to trust someone to have his back, or to simply give him a solution to his problems, which is something he didn't have before, not even with Des.
Hayley was not the type of heroine I necessarily like or understand 100%, especially when thinking about how she wants to only see the good in people, especially in Nick. Nick treated her quite poorly, both in the past and now. And yet she's still set on being there for him, trust him, love him even. Thinking about her past, how she grew up, how her parents' actions made her feel like she doesn't deserve affection, makes her attitude understandable, but I still would have liked to see her love herself just a little bit more, especially given how she found it in herself to escape the bad guys following her and putting her life at risk. There are moments where that Hayley comes to light, but I would have liked to see that more often. That said, she fits with Nick, probably because he gives her something to focus on and to want to fight for, while she gives Nick some peace of mind.
The plot is pretty fast paced, and I read this book quite fast. I liked seeing glimpses into the lives of the original couples, like Ian and Charlie. Those two are always funny and sexy together. I also liked this very mysterious Ezra guy. I'm really interested to see what his story is, and if maybe he'll get his happy ending. I also love the little taste we get at the end of what happens next in this series. I'm very curious to see how a certain agent will react to what happened at the end. All in all, a good book, one that once again reminded me why I still love this series.
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Nick went back to staring at the report. “Hayley’s not mine. She was Desiree’s cousin. Now she’s my client.”
Who had been tired the night before and that was why she’d said the things she’d said. This morning she’d seemed much more sensible. After she’d had some sleep and a shower and had straightened herself up, she’d been quiet and seemingly reflective. She was very likely embarrassed by what had been said the night before.
I would get safety from murderers and I would get orgasms. I’m sorry, Nicky, you’re going to tell me how that’s a bad deal for me.
He was going to make sure she understood that his protection wasn’t based on whether or not she slept with him.
Because he wasn’t sleeping with her. He couldn’t hurt her that way again.
“So she was your old lover’s cousin,” Owen mused. “The lover you weren’t exclusive with and who wouldn’t marry you. The pretty girl who looks at you like you’re the sun in the sky is her cousin.”
“She looks at me like she would look at man who can save her.”
“I can save her.” Owen’s eyes lit up, his brows waggling. “Maybe she’ll look at me like that.”
Anger flared through his system. “Don’t you dare. I told you I would take care of her.”
His arms crossed over his big chest and Nick knew he’d been had. “Well, that answers the question with more honesty. You can pretend, but you like the girl. And if you honestly don’t then you need to know that the boys got a good look at her last night. If she’s going to be hanging about, she should be ready for some serious male attention.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The lads talked it over last night and decided there’s no dibs on this one. They all saw her at pretty much the same time. They looked over that dead body and saw her walking in the hall and that was when the fighting started. We all sat down and decided no dibs on her. She’ll get to pick. You should know that Sasha and Jax have decided if she picks either of them, they’re willing to share. I don’t play that way. That’s something I do know about meself. No need for you to be telling me that tale. If there’s going to be some sharing in the bedroom, it’s going to be the traditional kind between a man and a woman and her stacked best friend. That’s what I say.”
“You tell those boys to stay away from her or they will be dealing with me. They will not like to be dealing with me. I will put up with many things from them. They can poke all the corpses they like. They can punch each other. I do not care. They touch Hayley and I will be caring.”
“Wow, now you do sound Russian. A scary Russian. Still, I think if you don’t want the girl, shouldn’t she be allowed to choose? Think about it. It could be fun.”
“Are we talking about the lost boys and their battle for the new chick?” Kayla strode in, her hair in a high ponytail. It bounced as she walked, a testament to her seemingly ever-sunny personality. “I had babysitting duty last night and they kept talking about her even after lights out. Bad boys. I had a plan though. I think we make them compete in a beauty pageant. Hayley gets to judge.”
“I’m judging a beauty pageant?” Hayley followed behind Kay, and both women were followed by Charlotte Taggart and Penelope Knight. It looked like Hayley was rapidly being accepted by the women on his team.
That was not necessarily a good thing. The women on his team could create chaos like no others.
“That sounds like fun,” Charlotte said with a smile. “I think we should require Speedos for the bathing suit competition. No boring board shorts. If Hayley’s picking a lover, she needs to see some booty.”
Hayley stopped, her cheeks going the sweetest color of pink. “Wait. What?”
Penelope put a hand on her arm. “They’re teasing you, dear. Don’t worry about it. The lads will be very polite. Though you should expect some suitors while you’re here. Especially if you come down to the dungeon.”
Now he was the one flushing. “Excuse me?”
Hayley shook her head as she joined him at the table. “It’s nothing. I was just talking to the girls. Did you get the report? Penny said the Dallas office had found something.”
He was all too aware that they weren’t alone. Damon and Ian walked in with Brody Carter and Walter Bennett. The four men settled into chairs as the women joined them. Nick held out a chair for Hayley. He would have to remember that he couldn’t leave her alone for a minute or someone would be whispering in her ear, giving her ideas she shouldn’t have.
Like visiting The Garden on a play night.
It wasn’t happening.