Evan Arden is a hit man for a Chicago mob boss. He lives his life day to day with the company of his dog, Odin. He has to work hard to get back into his boss’s good graces, but the target proves to be difficult. As demons of his past begin to haunt him, he seeks the comfort of sleep from an unlikely candidate, but will confiding in her be his undoing?
He’s struggling to forget his past, and keep himself Otherwise Occupied.
Evan Arden. Hit man extraordinaire. Marine. Sniper. Dog owner. He’s a lot of things to different people. When we finish Otherwise Alone, he is called back to Chicago by his boss to do a job, and get back into his routine. The woman who shows up on his doorstep in the middle of Arizona, is on his mind all of the time, Lia Antonio. He can’t get her out of his head. It’s like she’s haunting him.
He looks for a substitute in Bridgette, the regular call girl, that looks and feels like her. It surprises him how much comfort he finds in just sleeping with her. She takes notice of this right away, because he doesn’t treat her like other johns. I felt for her, because he sent her mixed signals quite a bit, but Evan is not a man in touch with his feelings or reality some times.
Exert from Chapter 6:
It hit me then why giving a whore an orgasm wasn’t necessarily a great idea, especially not this one. She was having a hard enough time remembering what our relationship was, and I had just provided her with quite the holiday weekend.
“What?” I asked. I was being rather gruff, but I also had this feeling she was getting in far too deep for anyone’s benefit.
If I had to really admit it – which I didn’t, so I wouldn’t – I probably liked her. I wasn’t in love with her or anything ridiculous like that, and I wasn’t about to take her on as my girlfriend instead of my whore, but there was something about her I found intriguing besides the warmth of her mouth on my cock.
She gave me something I needed in the form of comfort and sleep.
I didn’t like the idea of needing her for anything. I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone for anything. It just wasn’t a good idea in this business to spread yourself too thin in the loyalty department. I had already been tested when I had to investigate Jonathan for an alibi, and he was as close to being a friend as anyone I knew.
The fact was, I had only one person who held my loyalty, and that was because he paid me for it.
I walked over and placed my fingers around her upper arms. Her muscles tensed, and I could tell she wanted to back away from me, but she didn’t.
“What’s the problem?” I snapped.
Odin crouched down behind the edge of the couch and whined slightly. Bridgett glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.
“Nothing,” she replied softly. “It’s all good.”
My hands slid up to her shoulders, and I crouched slightly to get a look into her eyes.
“You need to get something through your head, Bridgett,” I said as I gripped her shoulders just a bit more. “I’ve said this before, and you don’t have any clever ways of word-smithing it now. This is fucking – nothing more, nothing less. My cock goes in various places around your body for cash. You’re a whore, and I’m a regular john. There is nothing special here.”
This is definitely not a romance per say. It feels more like a character study of a man who comes back from a war, still dealing with being held captive for 18 months. His nightmares are disturbing his sleep. We learn so much more about his past in this book. It’s why he is hired by Rinaldo in the first place. He has this amazing attention to detail and follow through, but at what cost? Is Evan even capable of feeling emotions or remorse? He has the most intriguing conversation with his boss in his office, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I had to share it here.
Exert from Chapter 11:
“I trust you with my life, Evan,” he said. “My life – the life of my daughter, the running of any of my businesses – I would trust you to be loyal to this family as much as I would anyone who shared our blood. Yes, in many ways you would be the perfect choice for her.”
His lips tightened, and his eyes narrowed. I felt my muscles tense a bit because I knew the answer was coming. His focus on me was acute and palpable.
“You would never love her, though,” he said, “would you?”
I blinked a couple of times.
“You would never love my daughter,” he said again. “Even this hooker you killed for, you don’t have any real feelings for her at all, do you?”
“I…I don’t understand.”
“If you had gone back to your apartment, found a letter from her saying she was moving out of the city, and you never saw her again, would you care?”
I didn’t even know how to answer.
“I didn’t think so,” Rinaldo said. “That’s why you will never touch my daughter. I hope you’ll always be there to protect her if I am unable to do so myself.”
“Of course,” I responded immediately.
“That you understand,” he commented. “Killing to keep her safe – you know just what to do with those instructions. But matters of the heart? You’re lacking there, son.”
My chest tightened up, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. Cold sweat had formed on the back of my neck and trickled between my shoulder blades. The rest of my body tensed completely before I could stop it. I tasted sand in the back of my throat, but when I tried to swallow past the sensation, I couldn’t.
“You don’t even really understand what I mean, do you?” he asked.
“You don’t let anyone in that head long enough for you to understand them or to let them understand you.”
“I have a shrink,” I heard myself say.
“I know,” Rinaldo replied. “I know everything, Evan. You don’t think I’d let your past not be of my utmost concern?”
“I…I never thought about it.” I hadn’t, either, and now the sleepy feeling waned as it was replaced by feelings of stupidity.
“You endured more than most men ever will,” Rinaldo said quietly.
“You’ve had it worse than anyone you ever killed. They died quick and easy. You’ve been dying since they brought you home from that war.”
As reader, you want to get him. Understand him. But he is a shell. So much has happened to him to get him to this place.
It feels like each job or hit is affecting him more and more. Then there’s the lack of sleep, when Bridgette isn’t around. I couldn’t walk away. I struggled to put the book down. I ached for him, when things were spiraling out of control.
Another exert from Chapter 11:
“I told you it was going to end this way,” I whispered. “Why didn’t you listen to me?”
Too many whys.
I dropped back on my ass, wrapped my arms around my knees, and began to rock back and forth. I didn’t understand what was happening inside me, and I didn’t like it. My thoughts couldn’t seem to stay in one place, and instead, they bounced around from one memory to another.
The first time I saw her on the street corner.
The feel of her fingers across my chest in the shower.
The scent of her skin.
Holding her against me as we slept.
Would I ever sleep again
There was just no way I was going to survive this.
Lia. We don’t see much of her in this story, but when she does appear, it could be seen as the best time or worst time. I do hope that Shay will continue Evan’s story. I think there is much more to tell. There is a third book coming called Otherwise Unharmed. No publish date yet.
**I was given this book by the author for an honest review.**
I gave this incredible book, 5 haunting stars, and put it on my “books that own me” and “top shelf fantastic reads” shelf on Goodreads.
Check out the interview I did with Shay and Evan earlier today.