“Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.” ~ Adrienne Rich
After almost dying on a mission, Cabe is finished. But before he leaves the company for good, he is asked to get a message to someone retired. He agrees, not knowing that it's the man he's tried to hate for a year, Brax, a former lover and the one who shot him.
When Cabe realizes that Brax is the one whom he's taking the message to, he's beyond furious. Cabe is caught up in a Gordian knot of love, hate, and betrayal, in addition to a myriad of feelings he can't even identify much less express. On the surface, Cabe hates Brax for what he considers the ultimate betrayal and has more questions than answers about what happened when Brax shot him and why he did it. At first, Cabe is totally unreasonable, not wanting to let Brax get a word in edgewise, thinking, understandably so, that there couldn't be an explanation that would suffice to make up for the emotional and physical pain he's endured. Trust has never come easy to Cabe, and when the man he believed in more than anyone tried to kill him, something inside Cabe died that he will never again be able to revive. The idea of Brax, someone he trusted with his heart and his life, becoming his “enemy” is so unimaginable that Cabe can hardly bear to think of it. It almost destroyed him. The only thing that kept him alive was the goal to survive and extract vengeance. Cabe turned the deep love he felt for Brax into the same degree of hate. But even with the hostility, Cabe feels toward Brax, he can't deny his body’s reactions to the man. Cabe is lying to himself when he thinks he can separate sex from emotion when it comes to Brax. Not that it will matter, but Cabe is, at least, curious about what Brax has to say about that fateful night.
Brax loves Cabe and knows he doesn't want to live without him. He's taking a gigantic chance asking his boss to send Cabe to him with the express reason of trying to convince his former lover that he chose to take an assignment designed to kill him so he could protect him. It's so convoluted that Brax can hardly explain it to himself, but he justifies his actions by telling himself that he did what he had to to keep Cabe alive and safe. On the surface, that seems unjustifiable, but if he has a ghost of a chance of keeping Cabe, he has to try. Unfortunately, he hasn't yet learned his lesson about not telling Cabe the whole truth. When Cabe catches Brax lying to him again, despite swearing to tell the whole truth, he blows up, negating any hope of understanding the motivation for his actions, much less obtaining his forgiveness. If not for the blizzard raging outside, Cabe would have walked away immediately. As it is, they are forced to spend more time together regardless of it seeming to be beyond the point of no return for them.
This story is not an endearing holiday love story. It is complex, raw, and emotionally challenging. Brax and Cabe could have had so much together, but both got caught up in expectations, past negative behaviors, and stubbornness. They had to peel back layers of themselves and each other that were very painful to admit much less change. Theirs is an extremely hard-won love; just like them, it is tough, undeniable, sexual, deep, and lasting. If you appreciate a story that is honest, almost brutally, told, not sparing emotions, but, almost unbelievably ending happily, you may like this one. Thanks, HelenKay for telling the story of these two remarkable men.