Title : Safeword
Author : A.J. Rose
Series : Power Exchange, Book 2
Publisher : Voodoo Lily Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, BDSM, Contemporary
Word Count : 110,000
Published : June 2, 2013
Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.
Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.
The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.
But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?
Safeword takes us back to the lives of Gavin DiGrassi and Ben Haverson. It’s been a bit over a year since their vicious assault at the hands of the Breath Play Killer. They are doing better in the aftermath but still have a lot of work to do. Gavin has gone back to work after a year of leave but has been completely unable to submit to Ben after a disastrous attempt at a scene. Gavin and his partner, Myah, get a new homicide case. A cop. He was bound, raped, beaten, and stabbed to death. Gavin has some difficulties with the case but handles them. A second cop is murdered in the same fashion. Gavin and Myah are given that case as well but have to share it with Gavin’s ex-partner, Trent. Yeah, the same Trent who was sleeping with Gavin’s wife during his marriage. Because Trent isn’t sleazy enough Myah tells Gavin of a story she uncovered about Trent. Apparently he got a teen girl pregnant. He’s quite a creep. Despite being able to handle the situation at work Gavin and Ben are beginning to have some serious relationship problems that couples therapy just can’t clear up. Gavin is desperate to submit to Ben who won’t accept it. Gavin repeatedly accuses Ben of not wanting his submission. Things come to a head when Gavin and Ben go to Collared. Gavin sees Ben watching a handcuffed sub dancing and notices the look in his eyes. He runs out and safewords on their relationship. Ben has to do a lot of explaining, but they are able to move past the majority of their problems.
DNA results from the first murder come back. It’s the DNA of a boy who had been kidnapped six years earlier, Alex Dennan. That the first victim had recently cracked a kidnapping case was a bit too much of a coincidence for Gavin. Gavin and Myah ask the kidnapper, David Strange, if he may know of Alex Dennan. He is unhelpful, as is his youngest victim. The older boy, Marshall, they are unable to locate. The press seems to have hounded the family into hiding. Ben and Gavin’s house is broken into. A key on a small key chain resembling a flogger is left. The key belongs to the first victim. Trent’s partner is murdered. Trent, who is still an ass, is pulled off the case. Gavin and Myah take an age progression of Alex to the press. Somehow, the press gets significantly more information than they were supposed to. Gavin finds a voodoo type doll in his car. Ben does not handle the threats to their personal safety well. In a weird twist, the leak of Alex Dennan’s personal information does help the case. Marshall, one of the kidnapping victims, calls Gavin and shows up in St. Louis. Alex Dennan was indeed kidnapped by David Strange, and helped in the kidnappings of both the other boys. They were all victims. Marshall wants to find Alex. They allow the press, minus the station that aired the leaks, to air a tape of Marshall asking Alex to contact him. More information gets leaked, Alex’s hotel room is found, Marshall runs away, and a credible threat against Ben and Gavin has to be dealt with. Gavin and Myah are suspended due to the leaks. The leaker gets caught by Alex. Amidst the chaos of the case Gavin and Ben’s house burns down and they make serious relationship and life decisions, it wasn’t really the most convenient time. There is a showdown with the murderer.
Being the victim of violent crime is a life altering experience. Alex was heartbreaking. After their son vanished Alex’s parents died young, and he was left with no safety net at all after David Strange was arrested. Despite being a horrible person David was the only thing Alex knew. A lot of this book also shows the path Ben and Gavin took to get over their experience. Whereas their experience can’t be compared to Alex’s, it was obvious having people help you is key to healing. As for the leaker, his path to healing will be interesting. I would actually like to read about that. Surely some of healing after trauma has something to do with your personality before it all happens.
Both Gavin and Ben drew a hard limit at what they will accept in their relationship. Touchingly, they both refused to watch the other self-destruct or do something injurious to themselves physically or emotionally. It was nice to see a relationship with problems for which both partners bore responsibility and were highly motivated to solve. Gavin and Ben are so very much in love.
The writing was good although there were a couple of times I felt like the characters referred to something and I had no idea what it was. This may have been me. I did stay up late to read. Overall this is a stellar sequel. It dealt with the previous book in a way that wasn’t heavy handed, yet still held it’s own. The portrayal of Alex was very good. I liked that he was broken. Well, I didn’t like it, but that he wasn’t responsible for starting the evil was a nice touch. He was a good kid, taken and systematically destroyed by a sick man. I appreciate that I felt empathy for people who committed truly horrible actions in this book. I was most impressed with how I ended up feeling toward the character who leaked the information to the press. For me, that alone made it worth the purchase price.
Rated 4.5 stars by Faye