Melanie Tucker figured writing to Levi “Painter” Brooks while he was in prison would be harmless. After all, he was locked up, and probably lonely. A handful of letters would help pass the time and give him something to look forward to. Nothing more. There’s no way Painter could be interested in her.
Oh, he’s interested all right. He might deny it, but he wants Mel, and when he eventually owns up to it, the results are explosive – in more ways than one.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the characters did so much to hurt each other. As tangible as the chemistry is between Painter and Melanie, there’s a lot of pain, too. One of them will screw up, and the other will have a (justifiably) bad reaction. It’s a cycle that repeats itself for much of their relationship, and it’s kind of a wonder they don’t kill each other (though Mel does threaten to on occasion).
And I have to say, a lot of this sits on Painter’s head. I didn’t think it’d be possible for any of the other Reapers to knock Ruger out of the top spot as biggest alpha-hole. Well, Painter does. At first, it surprised me, because in the earlier books, he’s portrayed as a bit of a pussy, pining after Em but unwilling to put himself out there. We caught some glimpses of the new, tougher Painter in Silver Bastard, but here…I lost count of the number of times I wanted to smack him. Every time Mel walked away from him, I cheered.
What saves Painter is his willingness to admit his feelings. Once he realizes he loves Melanie, he doesn’t try to deny it or brush it aside, like it’ll go away like some rash. Nope, he loves Melanie. He wants to be with her. He makes plenty of asshole moves along the way, but his absolute, dead certainty that he loves her makes up for it. The fact he realizes it fairly early on in the story works in his favor, too.
They’ve got good banter. More, they’re friends. Under all that sexual tension and hurt is a solid friendship. They’re comfortable talking to each other, and it comes across in their conversations.
Reaper’s Fall gives us a couple of hints into Jessica’s story, too, which makes me curious about what’s going on with her story – and who it’s with. Throw in a tantalizing peek at what’s up with Gage, and this is definitely a series I’ll keep reading.
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Copy provided by the publisher.