By S.C. Wynne
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Paul Smith prefers his calculator to people. People are annoying and demanding, but numbers will never let you down. He works tirelessly for his dad’s mortgage firm, foreclosing when it makes financial sense, and not losing any sleep over it either. Paul’s dad has always been a demanding taskmaster. But when he has a major health scare, Paul’s dad see’s the error of his ways. He decides he wants to change to a more benevolent business model. After having decades of harsh business practices drilled into him, Paul is not a fan of his dad’s new idea.
Cort Callahan lives and has worked on his granddad’s ranch most of his life. But times are hard and they’ve fallen behind on their mortgage. When Paul’s dad decides he wants to offer them a way out of debt, if they’ll just go along with his unorthodox idea of turning the spread into a dude ranch, it’s hard to tell who thinks it’s a worse idea: Paul or Cort.
But when Cort and his granddad take the deal, Paul is forced to work closely with Cort. The two men are surprised to realize they share an intense attraction that only grows stronger the more they’re around each other.
The problem is Paul has spent his life trusting numbers and calculations. No matter how much he wants Cort, when he looks at how different they are from each other, the two of them just don’t add up.
I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it: the emotionally pulling storyline, the unexpected plot twists, the character development, and especially how author S.C. Wynne cultivated and nurtured the evolution of Paul’s and Cort’s relationship, built-up the sexual drama between these two, and crafted a character you-can’t-help-but-hate in Riley. The secondary characters – namely Benji, Paul’s dad Greg, and Lawrence – each played important supporting roles, and the author expertly wove them into the story, and the reader easily feels connected to their contribution to moving the story along without overdoing it. And if you like sizzle and steam, the simmering chemistry between Paul and Cort was palpable and frustrating, and when it finally came to getting it on, the sex scenes were really well done.
Paul and Cort are definitely opposites, but between Wynne’s great writing and Paul’s narrating – he’s not the warm, easy-going, connected-to-his-emotions-type who can accept what’s happening with Cort and want to fight/deny/push away from each advancing step – the reader is mesmerized by intoxicatingly complex and complicated characters and perspectives. How Wynne carved out the emotional, gutsy drama both Paul and Cort were experiencing individually independent of one another really pulled me in.
The situations testing this couple were believable and realistic. Paul’s fears were exasperating but believable (probably because I could relate to them), and built up to that make-or-break climax. It doesn’t appear Paul has the emotional intelligence or skills to rectify his lost chance at love. (In an attempt to help out his boss, one of my favorite scenes had to be when Benji takes the so-called bull by the horns and orchestrates the Friday night impromptu beer-at-the-bar conversation when Cort and Riley walk in together.)
Can or will Cort settle for his long-time on-again, off-again lover, or will he instead pursue Paul, even though he turned him away? This book was an addicting read for me – solid writing, solid storytelling, and not your ordinary characters makes it worth the read.
I turned to him and spoke sharply. “Do you have any sort of plan for your grandfather? Is there something you have in mind that will catapult him from the massive debt he’s slowly being buried under? Because if not, you’re wasting your breath with useless platitudes.”
Cort straightened and lifted his brows. “I take it you don’t believe in supporting someone who’s hurting?”
“Fairy tales are for little girls in pigtails.”
His lips twitched. “I’m not blowing smoke up his ass, if that’s what’s bugging you. Things will get better one way or another. Either we catch up on the payments, or we lose the place and this huge stress that’s eating him alive goes poof. Either way, things will get better.”
“I have no sympathy for Riley. I feel sorry for his wife. Is coming out hard? Yeah. My dad was a total and complete dick to me when he found out I was gay. So what? I didn’t let his disapproval send me scurrying into the closet. Fuck him and anyone who has a problem with me.”
His wide grin split his face. “God damn, you are a spunky little son of a bitch.”
I flushed and took another large gulp of my beer. “Like I said, I’m from the city, but I’m not a pussy.”
“But your dad is different now?”
“That’s the story.” I pushed my plate to the edge of the table.
“But you don’t buy it?”
I finished off my beer and patted my mouth with my napkin. “I’m confused by him.”
I stared at the little red flickering candle on the table. “To be honest, I’m angry. “
I lifted my gaze to his defiantly. “Why? Because he told me the world was one way, and now he’s saying it’s different. What am I supposed to do with that? It’s bullshit.”
“Change with him.” His voice was soft.
I rubbed my eyes and gave a short laugh. “Sure. No problem. I’ll just grow some feelings.”
“Maybe this project will help.”
I arched one brow. “How?”
“Pay attention to all the good that will come from not taking Marty’s land. Keep your eyes peeled. You may be shocked by how many people’s lives you impact by this one seemingly small thing.”
I clenched my jaw. “I’m hoping the numbers make sense when all is said and done.”
“Sure, but I’m saying if you really want to understand how much bigger this all is than just a business deal, you have to pay attention to the humans in the scenario. Not the money. I think that’s what your dad’s doing.”
He studied me. “Since you and I will be working on the ranch project together, I’ll have other chances to buy you dinner.”
“My guess is the more time you spend with me, the less that will be something you want.” I signed the receipt Trudy brought back to the table.
“You underestimate your charm.”
I snorted. “How do you underestimate something you don’t have?”
He squinted. “Nah. It’s there. It’s well hidden, but it’s there.”
Everything about the moment said we should just lean in and take each other’s mouths. I wanted to feel his warm tongue against mine more than I’d ever wanted anything. I was shaken by the level of lust he brought forth in me. Knees weak, pulse elevated and palms sweaty, I wanted him. And he wanted me.
But as if we’d planned it, we both moved apart, eyes down and expressions rattled. He appeared every bit as freaked out as me. He pulled his hat off as he neared the door and ran his shaky hands through his hair, looking spooked.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on December 6, 2016.