It only seems fitting that a series about ‘antiheroes’ should come to a close with the story of the darkest horse of them all—a man we distrusted, feared, even hated at times, but whose every conflicting action up to this moment has also led us to believe there was more to his story, more to the man he could be. A splendid conclusion to the series, quite unexpected in its twists and turns, this is a story about redemption, hope, trust, resilience of the human spirit, and the healing power of love. Kristen Ashley brings out the big guns this time around, gifting us with a story that is as bold as it is shocking at times, immersing us into a dark underworld that keeps us on our toes page after page, and making us connect with two characters whose flaws are their most compelling features. I did not expect this story, I didn’t even hope for a story like this, but we were given everything this story needed to be…and more.
“Back in the day, Nick Sebring had been known as the incompetent, unprincipled wastrel younger brother of a successful man. Nick also was known to have a fondness for cocaine and a mind filled with nothing but getting laid and living large off his brother’s back. He was no longer any of that.”
Nick Sebring’s ill-spent youth might be behind him, but there’s a whole new set of demons tormenting his dreams and deciding his every move. His past mistakes have forced him to work on re-building the family bonds his careless actions put into jeopardy and to do all in his power to make his loved ones proud. But the agony and helplessness he felt while being forced to watch the brutal killing of his girlfriend have also shaped the past two years of his life, turning him into a man single-mindedly focused on revenging her and completing the mission that ultimately cost her her life. And that mission has led him to a woman whose blood makes her an ideal target in Nick’s quest for retribution.
“I breathe. I’m here. I take up space. I eat. I drive. But I have no brain. No will. No strength. No opinions. I do not matter to the point I do not exist.”
“You exist for me.”
Olivia Shade is a prisoner of her birthright. Born into a life of crime and violence, she’s never had any other choice but to join it, all freedom to make decisions taken away from her and any disobedience on her part punished severely. She is a woman profoundly unhappy with her life, but she has learned to keep all her emotions tightly locked inside her and to accept the hand that life her served her in silence and with no objections. Olivia’s only sanctuary, the only safe place she can just be her in a world where she can be everything but herself, is a very private and discrete sex club that no one in her family knows about—the perfect place for a man seeking revenge to gain access to a woman like Olivia.
“He had no idea. No f*cking clue. No f*cking clue that before dawn hit the sky on a new day, he wouldn’t be in over his head with Olivia Shade. He’d be drowning.”
With the setting just right and the perfect opening in place, it is Olivia who takes the first step, but from the moment they bodies converge, from the moment their eyes lock while panting against each other’s lips, they both know they are over their heads. And that they want more. They keep meeting and with each new encounter, their connection deepens. Under Olivia’s emotionless façade, Nick discovers a woman who yearns to feel safe and loved, a woman who never smiles because she believes emotions to be her greatest weakness, a woman who needs to exert control in the bedroom because she has none in her daily life. In Nick’s arms, however, Olivia blossoms, and as her walls start crumbling, she allows herself to believe in a better life.
“I believed. For one magnificent second, connected to Nick Sebring, I believed. I believed in a better world. I believed I could feel complete. I believed I could have someone by my side. I believed I could feel safe. I believed I could be happy. I believed I could be loved. I believed in a dawn coming where I would open my eyes and have all of this only for it to lead to another day dawning where I’d have it and then another day… And another… And another… And another…”
But with secrets on both sides, and Nick’s ulterior motives threatening everything they’ve slowly built between them, their worlds inevitably collide, putting into question every moment, every touch, every word, and pulling the two lovers apart.
A heart-wrenching story of finding hope even when darkness is all one has ever known, and of letting go of the past in order to embrace a brighter future—this is a book that put my poor heart through the wringer, and then left it brimming with glee. It is the perfect conclusion to an unconventional series that never stopped challenging the very definition of an ‘antihero’, giving us characters who don’t always follow the rules of society, yet live their lives by their own strict, albeit more cynical moral codes. Tales of redemption and second chances in life are my personal weakness, and Olivia and Nick’s story was beyond anything I could have hoped it would be.
"Dawn is coming, honey. Open your eyes."