Shock & Awe
Riptide / November 11, 2013 / $9.99 print, $3.99 digital
After barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him getback on his feet—after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.
Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part . . . or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address.
Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other—friends and brothers in arms, or something even deeper?—before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.
Kelly Abbott, a medic for the Sidewinders, was wounded (in Touch and Geaux; Cut & Run #7) and is now on medical leave for a month. Nick O’Flaherty, Kelly’s best friend and fellow Sidewinder, decides to use his time off to help Kelly while he recovers. Being on the same Marine Recon team for years, Nick and Kelly are closer than friends—they are brothers-in-arms and confidantes. In the days to follow, they decide to explore a simmering attraction that will either make them true partners or destroy their friendship forever.
Shock and Awe is the first male/male novella in Abigail Roux’s spin-off series The Sidewinders. Fans of her Cut & Run series all know who the Sidewinders are and sent up a collective shout of joy when we learned Roux would write stories about each of the men in the group. Though these can be read alone, there is heavy character and situation crossover from the main series. Even though it's only 92 pages, this novella packs a heavy punch, as it addresses one of my favorite tropes—friends to lovers.
Roux's talent shows in the relationships she builds in her series. The gritty angst-filled romance balances well with the action packed plot lines and unexpected humorous moments, fronted by Roux's fabulously obstinate alpha males whose jobs and lifestyles aren’t conductive to homosexuality or monogamous relationships
The strength of the bond between Kelly and Nick is apparent from their first appearance together, and you can feel the chemistry between them pulsating off the pages. They have loved one another forever, built by the partnership they have shared for years. An undercurrent of attraction has always existed, and when they are in a position that allows for exploration of that attraction, the gloves come off.
Kelly held up a finger. “No half-assed middle school kissing, either.”
“I want the whole deal.”
“This is starting to feel like I’m leasing a car or something.”
“I’m serious, I want the Irish special.”
Nick rolled his eyes and glanced up at the ceiling. “Fine. Jesus.”
Kelly is a fun-loving, outgoing man who jumps into life with his eyes and arms wide open. Nothing is off-limits, especially when he puts his mind to it. Nick, on the other hand, is a quiet man whose larger-than-life reputation is only eclipsed by the danger that he radiates. When Nick came out to Kelly in Touch and Geaux, explaining he was bisexual, Kelly’s neverending curiosity started to get the better of him and suddenly Kelly wants, no, needs to see exactly what the fuss is all about. And he needs to explore it with Nick.
“It was a good kiss,” Kelly finally said.
Nick huffed a laugh. “Yes, it was.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’m a fabulous kisser and you’re easy.”
Kelly rolled his eyes.
Nick watched and waited, but finally he got tired of the weighty silence. “Are you asking me if it means you’re gay if you liked one kiss?”
“Well, I don’t have any answers. I’m leaning toward no.”
Kelly sighed loudly. “I still want you to do it again. Does that matter?”
Nick’s chest fluttered. He had to fight for enough breath to answer. “You mean does it matter in the grand scheme of things?”
“I mean does it matter to you?”
The sexual tension heats up quickly as Kelly and Nick begin to push at the boundaries that surround their friendship.
“Now you should be thinking about me fucking you,” he hissed. “Because I sure as hell am.”
“Oh God,” Kelly breathed.
“No, you don’t say his name when I fuck you. You say mine.”
Both want more, but are afraid to ruin the friendship they have come to depend on for survival. Nick fears Kelly is only looking to satisfy some sexual curiosity. Kelly tries to explain to Nick (and himself) this isn’t an whim on his part. He’s not looking for a quick walk on the wild side.
Kelly bit at Nick’s lip, smiling. “You remember that trip to San Diego when we shared a hotel room and you hooked up with that freaky blonde?”
Nick grunted, nodding. “Odd time to bring it up.”
“I watched you,” Kelly admitted, closing his eyes. “Whenever I need to get off, I think about that night. I always thought it was the girl, but now I’m thinking maybe . . .”
Plenty of humor diffuses what could have easily become an overly emotional story mired in miscommunication and neverending angst. Nick and Kelly are not like our main protagonists, Ty and Zane. Nick and Kelly have had the benefit of knowing each other for years and neither of them are hiding tragic pasts. The bonds they share take on new meaning, leading their relationship to another level.
They both grinned, meeting each other’s eyes. The warmth and excitement of new attraction were bolstered by years of history. Years of camaraderie. Years of comfort. It was something entirely new, and it was something that just felt right.
Abigail Roux once again brings her amazing talent to the table and exceeds expectations. Shock and Awe is a delightful story filled with love, laughter, joy, heartache, and hope. I look forward to more from Ms. Roux and her sexy, sexy Sidewinders.