Officer Red Markham knows about the ugly side of life after a car accident left him scarred and his parents dead. His job policing the streets of Carlisle, PA, only adds to the ugliness, and lately, drug overdoses have been on the rise. One afternoon, Red is dispatched to the local Y for a drowning accident involving a child. Arriving on site, he finds the boy rescued by lifeguard Terry Baumgartner. Of course, Red isn’t surprised when gorgeous Terry won’t give him and his ugly mug the time of day.
Overhearing one of the officer’s comment about him being shallow opens Terry’s eyes. Maybe he isn’t as kindhearted as he always thought. His friend Julie suggests he help those less fortunate by delivering food to the elderly. On his route he meets outspoken Margie, a woman who says what’s on her mind. Turns out, she’s Officer Red’s aunt.
Red and Terry’s worlds collide as Red tries to track the source of the drugs and protect Terry from an ex-boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer. Together they might discover a chance for more than they expected—if they can see beyond what’s on the surface.
Called to an accident scene at the local Y, Officer Red Markham arrives to find lifeguards have saved the life of a child, but that his mother is verbally and physically berating the male lifeguard for allowing the accident to happen. Red intervenes, and after interviewing others on the scene, determines that Terry Baumgartner was not responsible in any way. Red’s eyes nearly popped out when he met Terry because Terry is not only fit and trim and wearing a brief hot pink bathing suit, he’s also drop-dead gorgeous. But when Red later overhears Terry making a derogatory comment to the other lifeguard about Red’s looks, he turns away in rejection.
Red was severely injured in an auto accident that took the life of his parents when he was seventeen. The accident left him with deep scars, both on his face and on his body, but it’s the emotional scars that have kept him from having a relationship with anyone other than his elderly aunt for years.
After a discussion with his co-worker about how shallow he can be, Terry agrees to do some charitable work and volunteers to deliver meals to shut-ins. One of the people on his route turns out to be Red’s Aunt Margie and the officer is there with her when Terry arrives. Little old busybody that she is, she takes the opportunity to get both men to sit down with her and she starts her matchmaking. When Terry gets a phone call, turns pale, and excuses himself abruptly, Aunt Margie insists that Red go after him to check on him. Since he had Terry’s address in his notebook, he agrees, and when he gets there he disrupts Terry’s former boyfriend James who had broken in to Terry’s apartment. Terry is cut and bruised but the man escapes before Red can get him, and Red insists that Terry come to his house for the night so that he can be safe. Terry can’t quite believe that someone can be so selfless but eventually agrees.
Later that night, Terry and Red seek comfort in each other in the dark but when morning comes, Red turns his back on Terry and rebuffs his efforts at being friendly. Terry doesn’t know it, but Red is so insecure about his looks that he can’t bear getting close to anyone and then having them reject him. Fortunately for Red, he’s given more opportunities to interact with Terry since James doesn’t stop his harassment, and Red continues to step in to help. In fact, some of James’s behaviors don’t seem above-board to Red, and together with a fellow officer, Red begins an investigation.
Throughout the story, the opportunities for growth in their relationship and for emotional healing for both men are present and thankfully taken. They come to eventually love each other as they solve the mystery of why Terry’s boyfriend is continually after him and why he seems to be always flush with cash.
I enjoyed this modern day version of Beauty and the Beast, a book actually referenced at one point in this story as Terry explains his feelings toward Red, a man who is beautiful on the inside regardless of how his outside looks. The solution of the mystery was not as obvious as I had thought, and the romance was deeper and more interesting than some of this author’s other work. The secondary characters were well-rounded and realistic as well, especially dear Aunt Margie, a character I believe I’ve met at some point in my life.
This is a very good choice for lovers of M/M romance who enjoy Andrew Grey’s work, those who enjoy a hurt/comfort story, and those who enjoy a sweet romance with a bit of mystery and adventure thrown in. Highly recommended.