Tuesday, March 16, 2010
State of Mind by Libby Drew
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What an amazing thrill ride! This book seizes your heart from the very first sentence and doesn't let you go until long after you've put it down! Wow!
Summary: Grier Crist works for the Organization—a group of Gifted “agents” who use their powers to keep peace, help those in need, and combat criminal influence around the globe. When a suspicious bombing drives Grier to break his ties with the group and go into hiding, the head of the Organization sends model agent Alec Devlin after him, claiming Grier is a murderer and traitor to their cause.
Grier manages to turn the tables and take Alec hostage long enough to convince him that the Organization is lying and hiding something sinister. The two strike a bargain: amidst enemies who want them dead, friends with their own agendas, and the growing passion between them, they'll work together to bring down the Organization in order to protect the world… and each other.
This isn't your typical boy meets boy... boy falls in love with boy... boy fucks boy... boy tells boy he loves him... boys live happily ever after formula. While the elements of romance are there and at the forefront of the story, Libby Drew brilliantly weaves a thriller-suspense plotline into the conflict between Grier and Alec. It's so intense, in fact, that I was worried the book would not end in the happily ever after I expect in Romance. Is that a bad thing? Hell no! It's a testament to the author that I was so engrossed in the action going on around the characters that I was prepared to throttle her for hurting them (required conflict or not). Thankfully, she didn't hurt them... too badly! ;)
I'm hoping for a sequel because I'd love to see more of Nicholas.
Excerpt: Nicolas returned in a subdued mood, closing the door behind him before he spoke. “It’s done. You leave in three hours.”
“Thank you.” Grier stood, and Alec followed his lead. “I’d like to get some sleep, if you have no objections.”
“None. Alec?” Nicolas tilted his head at Alec’s blank look.
“Would you care to rest?” Alec shook his head. “Too keyed up. What else do you have to do around here?”
“Ah.” A spark of playfulness returned. “I’m sure we can come up with something. Grier, you’re capable of finding a bed on your own, aren’t you?” Nicolas threw the door open and ushered Alec out. “I think I have just the thing. Do you box, Alec?”
Grier tagged along behind, frowning. “Perhaps—”
“Get some sleep,” Alec said. “I’ll be fine.” Already the tension was spiraling higher, spurred by the promised challenge. He’d welcome the chance to work out some aggression. Working it out on Nicolas would be a bonus.
Nicolas shoved Grier into the nearest guest room. “Nighty-night,” he said with a curt wave. “Don’t worry about Alec. I promise not to hurt him. Too much.” He closed the door in Grier’s face. “Come on. Let’s see if any of my toys make you happy.”
Alec studied Nicolas as they walked. He moved with a fluid grace that Alec lacked, but then Alec also had two inches and a good twenty pounds on him. He bet Nicolas relied on all that fancy footwork too, something Alec had never mastered.
They descended two flights past various utility rooms to a set of double doors. Nicolas pushed them open and marched inside. Whatever Alec had been expecting, this unadorned room wasn’t it. “What, no naked attendants?”
Nicolas flicked on the overhead lights. “I can arrange for some if they motivate you.” He smiled sweetly. “Perhaps Grier would indulge us.”
Alec swallowed noisily. That was the last thing he needed to be thinking about. “Nah.” He took a deep breath of musty air, inspecting the floor mats and punching bags. Along the far wall, a bank of open cabinets held towels, tape, and other odds and ends. A bench ran the length, with pairs of boxing gloves lined up neatly above it. Grinning, Alec rubbed his hands together.
“You never answered my question,” Nicolas said as they moved toward the bench. “Do you box?”
“I dabble.” A pair of jet black gloves caught Alec’s eye, and he scooped them up, testing the weight. He guessed at least sixteen ounces. Perfect. “You?”
“Never before in my life.” Nicolas pulled a pair of shorts off the shelf and begin stripping down. He threw Alec some wraps. “And take your hands off my gloves.”
Being right about something had never been so painful, Alec decided. Twenty minutes later, he stood in a semi-crouch, trying to catch his breath while Nicolas danced around him, feet a blur.
Nicolas’s, “Had enough?” pulled a snarl from his throat. He straightened his stance and began to stalk him across the floor.
Nicolas blocked his next jab and cross—slippery bastard—but couldn’t dodge Alec’s hook. He went down hard. Alec leaned over him. “Had enough?”
Nicolas sighed. Through the headgear it sounded like a snake hissing. “I think… yes.”
“Thank fucking God.” Alec left him on the floor and stumbled to the bench. He peeled the tape loose with his teeth and pried the gloves off, then sagged against the wall, grinning so wide his jaw hurt. His head ached, but the adrenaline rush was keeping it in check. So was the sight of Nicolas limping his way, looking disheveled and not one bit the uptight aristocrat. Alec grabbed a thick white towel off the top of the pile and lobbed it at him.
Nicolas caught it out of the air before it smacked him in the face. “Thanks.”
“God, I needed that.” The endorphins sharpened his awareness to near painful levels. He felt it all. The trickle of perspiration between his shoulder blades. The pull of overused muscles. The cold air gushing out of the air conditioner vent above his head. Nicolas’s presence beside him, and the dual thump of their hearts.
“You’re a brute.” Nicolas wiped the sweat from his face and neck.
“Yeah. You’re not bad either.” Nicolas groaned into the towel. “That wasn’t a compliment.”
“Sure it wasn’t.”
They both looked up when the doors opened. Grier’s sigh carried all the way across the room. “Is there blood?”
“Nope.” Alec looked Nicolas up and down. “I was gentle.”
“Caveman ego is not charming. Grier, tell him.” Grier watched from the door, saying nothing.
“I wasn’t trying to be charming.”
“Sadly, I knew that.” Nicolas winced as he stood. “I need a shower. If you’ll excuse me.” Grier let him go, but a look passed between them, something intimate. Alec felt too sated to care.
Grier nudged the abandoned gloves out of the way and sat. He crossed his legs and stared down his nose at Alec. “Did it occur to you that your little grudge match might have exacerbated your headaches?”
“Nope. I feel great.” He turned his grin on Grier, dipping his gaze to take in the other man’s rumpled appearance. “Get any sleep?”
“None, of course.”
Alec smirked at the tone and continued his perusal, letting his eyes linger where they wanted. He thumped a fist on the abandoned gloves. “Wanna get sweaty?”
Grier’s inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. He sifted a hand through Alec’s damp hair. “Is that an invitation?”
High on endorphins, Alec laughed. “Didn’t it fucking sound like one?”
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