Kat MacGregor has forty-eight hours to make good on the debt her ex-boyfriend owes a crime boss. Unfortunately, the measly tips she makes waitressing are barely enough for her to live on, much less cover the twenty-thousand needed to keep her breathing. With time running out, Kat's forced to accept help from the only man who's ever made her feel fire rather than fear.
When he learns a friend's sister is in trouble, former Boston MMA fighter Aiden "Irish" O'Brien heads to Louisiana to offer himself up as collateral to keep her safe. But to satisfy the debt, he has to do the one thing he swore he'd never do again: fight. With more than just money on the line, will Irish have what it takes to not only reclaim the man he once was, but become the man he needs to be for the woman he can't live without?
Sexy bad boys with tattoos and a MMA fighting background are becoming all the rage.....with good reason! Their intensity is immensely appealing as is their emotionally scarred backgrounds that you long to help them heal from. Not having read the previous books in this series, or anything by this author, I wasn't sure what I was going to get. What I got though was an emotionally draining, heartbreaking, heartwarming, super sexy story about healing, acceptance, and the power of love. From the first page to the last I became completely enthralled by Aiden and rooted for Kat every step of the way to their mutually satisfying HEA.
Kat is a wounded soul repeatedly hurt and betrayed by those that say they love her. From a childhood of scarring abuse to an adulthood of being used she's run out of trust. With her life in danger from the mafia who are trying to claim the debt of her ex-boyfriend, she's left waitressing while contemplating where she can escape to next. Into this dark and stressful time comes the mysterious, sexy, and protective "Irish" who watches over her constantly and who has her thinking all sorts of naughty thoughts she's not thought before. He's the first person she feels she can confide in and theirs is a relationship that evolves slowly as trust takes time to build. Her body is so used to shutting down in the face of anything sexual that that part of their relationship is the last to overcome in a truly touching, and yet steamy, way. From friends to lovers the sexual tension runs rampant as Kat's strength builds both mentally and emotionally. She was like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon and I applauded her evolution and Aiden's steadfast devotion to her throughout the process. Kat realized that she was stronger than she ever thought and that taking a leap of faith on love is the greatest show of strength there is.
Aiden's past weighs on him as well as he's left fighting, drinking, and love behind after the death of his friend's sister and the part he feels he played in it. He's closed that part of his life away but when he's sent to help Kat she inspires all sorts of heated thoughts in him. He knows he's no good for any woman but can't help but do whatever necessary to keep her safe. He knows of her abuse and never rushes her. He treats her with a gentle hand but always encourages her to be strong. He puts his life, and soul, on the line to keep the mafia away from her and I ached for how willing he was to sell himself to keep her safe. He's the quintessential hero and totally drool-worthy! As Kat began to heal so did he as they both opened up about their pasts which laid the groundwork for a future together.
This was an engrossing story that dealt with heavy issues in a sensitive and realistic way. Kat's past was gutwrenching which made her recovery even more meaningful and satisfying. The evolution of friends to lovers was sweet with bits of humor and unrelenting sexual tension throughout. The sexual interludes aren't rushed which made them immensely satisfying and brought a tear to my eye with true love entwined with the steaminess. Though this story mostly revolves around Kat and Aiden we get glimpses of past characters and a future hero in Xander whose accent and sexiness had me drooling. I hope to see more of him in the future as he's a loyal friend and a true hottie! This story grabbed me from the get-go with a pace that had me turning the pages in a frenzy to reach the end. There's romance, intense issues, with a bit of suspense too that was all wrapped up in a compelling package that can be read on its own, but with the epic promise seen here, why would you not want to read the first two books in this series?!?! Ms. Maxwell has a real winner here and I'll definitely read more of her works and highly recommend that you do the same.
My rating for this is an A.
*I received this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.