Title: Hostile Ground
Author: LA Witt and Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 5/5 Smooches
Enemy territory is a dangerous place to fall in love.
After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.
To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires—including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop—and before they both grow too close to betray one another.
As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet.
“What the hell kind of Jekyll and Hyde was he working for, anyway? If he spent enough time working for this nut job, Mahir could easily see himself begging for an orgasm and for his life on the same damned day. Quite possibly at the same time.
Which could be hot.
What the fuck?
L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov know how to hook readers and drag them into the intense, fictional world of Hostile Ground. This is an intense story with intriguing characters and very hot sex scenes.
Mahir Hussain and David Ridley are multi-dimensional, dangerous and sexy men. Their jobs have them living on the edge of danger. From the moment they meet the tension – both sexual and violent – is palpable.
The room was dim, lit only by a single weak bulb over their heads, but the still, silent man wore sunglasses. Dark ones. The slightest motion of his eyebrows said he was looking Mahir up and down. Mahir had seen guys like this before. Some were just douche bags who wanted to look like gangster badasses or action-movie leads, but then there was this kind: the guy who didn’t like people looking him in the eye. It probably unnerved the shit out of most people, and Mahir had a feeling that effect was not accidental.
Question was, how much of this was a test? Was Mahir supposed to be intimidated and unsettled or look this guy straight in the eyes—well, lenses—and not back down?
The butt of a high-caliber handgun stuck out of a shoulder holster beneath the man’s arm. He didn’t play around. Working for a notorious pimp who was likely also a high-powered drug dealer meant he didn’t have to play by the same rules Mahir did. Passing whatever test he was currently taking wasn’t optional.
This plot of the story is simple. Mahir is an undercover copy trying to infiltrate an organization ruled by the ruthless Gene Lombardi. Lombardi is a smart man, and David Ridley, his head of security, is his right-hand man. Although the premise is straightforward, the story itself is not. There are quite a few plot twists in Hostile Ground, and the story is teeming with suspense.
The fact that Lombardi surrounds himself with gay security is an interesting aspect, and although subtle, it changes the reader’s perspective of the organization, especially when Lombardi has no issues with spouting racist and homophobic comments.
The tension in the story is ratcheted up a notch when the reader is informed that the last few undercover cops who have infiltrated the organization have been killed. After meeting Lombardi and Ridley, Mahir assumes Ridley is the man responsible for the deaths, and it is all he can do to contain his anger.
Mahir didn’t let himself gulp or show even the slightest hint of nerves. He also didn’t let himself curl his hands into fists as he wondered if the man in front of him had pulled the trigger on any one of them. The memory of their funerals —grieving widows, confused children asking where Daddy was, Mahir himself trying to keep it together in his dress uniform—was still fresh, still raw. The only things keeping him composed now were a shitload of undercover training and the desire to see this investigation through so his colleagues wouldn’t have died for nothing.
The plot takes a slight turn when Mahir’s nephew, Kinza, enters the picture. Kinza has left his home after coming out to his parents, who are not happy about the teenager’s revelation. Kinza is angry and afraid of his father. He turns to Mahir for comfort and support.
Kinza is a high school student, and when Mahir discovers that there are high school students running drugs for Lombardi, he is concerned about how far the drug ring reaches. Although Kinza knows his uncle is working uncover, the young man has no idea where or what Mahir is doing. Mahir wants to keep it that way.
… He’d have been lying if he’d said he hadn’t been just trying to feel Kinza out and see if Lombardi’s recruiting tentacles had made it to this side of the Sound. Maybe they had but didn’t have a noticeable presence at Kinza’s school. Not yet, at least.
There was no way in hell Lombardi could go through that many couriers without at least one of them blabbing to the wrong person. A parent would have caught on by now. The police would have gotten at least one hysterical phone call about some man giving kids money to transport drugs. Which meant these couriers weren’t going anywhere they could talk.
Mahir’s blood went colder than the beer in his hand. With cell phones and social networking—on things like the tablets those boys all seemed to have—the kids would be able to contact someone. All it would take was one cocky Facebook status, and the whole thing would blow open. But that hadn’t happened. Which meant these kids were either scared shitless of saying anything or—and Mahir didn’t want to admit this was more likely—they were unable to say anything.
Witt and Voinov do a great job developing the characters in this story. The minor characters serve as foils for Mahir and Ridley. Lombardi, the criminal mastermind, is dangerous, paranoid and an asshole.
“… and you’re an honest enough man to abstain from that, can I assume you’re an honest enough man not to steal from me?” Before Mahir could answer, the hand on his shoulder got heavier, and the pimp looked him straight in the eyes. “Oh, I don’t even need to ask, do I? You skim off my profits or stick your dick in anything I own without paying for it, I’ll kill you. It’s that simple.”
Mahir deliberately let his nerves show just then, raising his eyebrows and gulping. Let the man know he’d made his point and didn’t have to worry about Saeed fucking up. “Understood, sir.”
“Good.” The hand moved from Mahir’s shoulder to the back of his neck. Mahir’s heart leaped when Lombardi’s thumb materialized on the side of his throat, dangerously close to his jugular.
“And since you’re obviously a fast learner”—Lombardi let his thumb rest right on top of Mahir’s racing pulse—“I don’t need to explain to you what happens if you talk to the cops, do I?”
Mahir wanted to shake his head but wasn’t sure he could move. “No, sir, you don’t.”
“I’ve had an awful lot of cops trying to get into my organization, Saeed.” Lombardi’s thumb traced small arcs that were halfway between a caress and . . . not. “Some of them try to get my men to talk. Some of them come wandering in here undercover and don’t think I’m smart enough to notice. And the consequences . . .” His thumb stopped, and now it pressed harder. Not quite enough to cut off the circulation but just the threat sufficed to darken the edges of Mahir’s vision. “The consequences of that are never pleasant for anyone.” He leaned closer, eyes boring right into Mahir’s. “Am I clear?”
Mahir moistened his lips. “Very, sir.”
Lombardi released his neck, and Mahir swore the rush of blood nearly knocked him out cold.
As Mahir delves deeper into the criminal world and begins a very hot and very dangerous sexual relationship with Ridley, the tension in the story begins to build. Witt and Voinov have the uncanny ability to keep readers on the edge of their seats on each page. And when the drama shifts about one-third of the way through the novel, all bets are off.
From the first time Mahir and Ridley meet, the sexual tension is off the charts, and Witt and Voinov know how to heat things up on the pages.
Maybe he felt a bit smug when Ridley uncrossed his arms and one hand went to his groin to adjust himself. While Mahir was trapped being Saeed, he might as well get something out of it. And if it proved he wasn’t a cop, even better. But it had to come from Ridley. The man appeared to respond best when Mahir challenged him. At the same time, though, it should be easiest to bend the man to his will if he allowed Ridley to think it had really been his idea all along.
What Ridley did then surprised Mahir enough to make him jump. He grabbed Mahir’s neck and kissed him—one of those open-mouthed, passionate kisses that were all about let’s fuck. It caught him by surprise, but his body responded immediately, opened up under the onslaught. Every time Ridley tried to invade his mouth, he countered and tried to claim Ridley’s instead. He pushed forward, backed Ridley against the desk, and ground their hips together.
Ridley gasped into the kiss and held Mahir’s neck tighter. He put his other hand on Mahir’s ass, pressing him closer. Mahir felt naked without his usual stubble. Cleanshaven against clean-shaven was a totally different feeling.
He dug his fingers into Ridley’s shoulders, keeping the man pinned against the desk with his weight and grinding touch. He could pretend the man wasn’t a criminal, just one of his bar conquests, and that helped. Ridley was also incredibly hot — tall, muscular, and smart. Mahir would love to see how he responded to a dick up his ass. Whether he managed to be bossy then, too.
Ridley’s hand left Ridley’s hand left Mahir’s neck and went up into his hair. He grabbed it, pulled back, and they were suddenly eye to eye and breathless, staring each other down. Okay, this was getting out of control quickly.
Ridley didn’t let go of Mahir’s hair. His other hand, though, moved between them, nudging Mahir’s hips back. Eyes locked, neither of them looked away, but when Ridley’s belt buckle jingled, they both pulled in sharp breaths.
Then came the zipper. Oh fuck.
“To answer your question—” Ridley paused to lick his lips. “—yes. That was an invitation.” He tightened his grasp on Mahir’s hair and shoved downward, but Mahir was pretty sure his own knees dropped out from under him a split second before that pressure came. Whoever’s idea it was, the end result was the same: Mahir was on his knees, and he had Ridley’s dick between his lips.
It is a challenge to write a review for this book without giving away any spoilers. Despite the fact that the foreshadowing elements used by the authors set up the plot twists nicely, there are a quite a few surprises in this story. The characters are wonderfully developed and have very real flaws, which contributed to the elements of realism and grittiness of this novel. The climax of the story is explosive. Witt and Voinov do a spectacular job from beginning to end.
Thank you to Net Galley and Riptide Publishing for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.