Author: Lissa Kasey
Graham Church began career as a police officer with a case so gruesome it sent many officers into early retirement. That day he helped save the lives of children and began a long crusade of protecting the residents of Friday Harbor from the worst of humanity. But brutal car accidents and the discovery of a dog fighting ring have taken their toll on Graham. Returning to an over-crowded apartment where his room is a closet, and working sixteen-hour shifts, have left him emotionally exhausted and in need of a quiet place to call home.
Jason Wullcot is a horse breeder and a mystery to the island he lives on, but is in need of a roommate for human contact. His therapist recommends Graham Church, who also happens to have a “white knight” syndrome. When Graham discovers his new roommate was one of the children he helped save twelve-years prior, Graham’s need to protect and save kicks into high gear. Only Jason has no interest in being saved. In fact, Graham realizes that Jason may not be the one in need of saving at all, but maybe, just maybe they can fill the broken pieces of each other.
Graham Church is totally dedicated to his job as a Friday Harbor police officer, the kind of guy who gives up days off and vacation time to monitor his scanner and step in to help out his fellow officers when they need it. Always on patrol, even when off duty, he’s been known to offer help to town’s residents no matter how large or small their problems are. In other words, he’s a good guy, a softie at heart, and a great example of a good neighbor—and a cop.
Early in his career, he was on duty when the bodies of multiple children were found on an isolated farm—beaten, raped, starved—and only three survived. He’s also witnessed gruesome cruelty to animals and helped rescue the victims there as well. And now he’s on the watch for vandals in his small town—something rarely seen in Friday Harbor. Little does he know how much all this emotional stress is costing him.
His best friend is Charlie Fox, the firefighter featured in the first book in this series, Painting with Fire. They’re talking together late one night, both on graveyard-shift duty, when they approach a group of teens hanging out downtown way past curfew. They may have just found their vandals but manage to grab only one of them before the rest dash away. And then the next day, Graham is stunned to learn that one of the teens was beaten up in his holding cell—a cell supposedly accessed with Graham’s ID badge. In a snap, Graham’s life is changed—he’s out of work and walking down the road to his newly rented room on Jason Wulcott’s horse farm outside of town before he can even recover from the shock.
Rooming with Jason initially sounded ideal—a place where he could live in relative peace without the constant interruption of roommates. He didn’t realize just how much he’d enjoy the solitude on Jason’s farm, but it was especially appreciated after the incident that stripped him of his badge. The shame of being suspended had him craving isolation in his need to avoid the town’s residents. Though Jason wasn’t initially exactly happy to see Graham move in, he did acknowledge that he needed some human companionship as he is still healing emotionally from the events of twelve years before when he was one of those three survivors Graham found.
It’s slow going, but step by step, both men form a bond of friendship, and Graham’s ideas of how the world should be perceived and how people should act are shaken a bit by the reality that Jason presents. Challenging Graham’s beliefs on personal interactions, nudity, and how people should and shouldn’t act toward each other, Jason unwittingly shows Graham that there’s often more to a person than appearance and preconceived notions might indicate.
Graham’s friend, Charlie, and Charlie’s partner, Bastian Fox, befriend Jason as well. It’s slow going since Bastian is shy, and Jason doesn’t generally let anyone get close, but Jason senses a fellow survivor in Bastian and falls in love with Bastian’s drawings of Jason’s horses—horses that saved his life when he was put into foster care with a kind couple who used animals to help heal the wounds that were more than skin deep.
As the story grows, their lives all become more entwined, and when tragedy strikes at the horse farm, we not only see Jason moving forward in his emotional growth and healing, we see Graham’s layers of self-confidence peeled away. As his inner core of fear is revealed, and his PTSD from past traumas is addressed, both men finally gain an opportunity to move into a future where, together, they can have a new beginning.
I enjoyed this story so much—the character building, the slow burn, the chemistry between the MCs, the healing and emotional growth—I’m going to go back and buy book one. Now I’m craving Charlie and Bastian’s story, and I hope the author doesn’t just stop with two. Highly recommended.