Tobias is a consummate good boy. The perfect people pleaser. After announcing at a young age that he would become a doctor like his Papa, he's now stuck in premed classes he hates, but can't tell anyone. Struggling with abandonment issues all his life, after being found in a dumpster as a baby and having been adopted by a Haitian couple who provide a loving but strict home, he has tried and tried and tried to be the perfect son, the perfect friend - because if only he's perfect, people won't leave him. He remembers what happened the last time he tried to break free of his parents' expectations. It earned him a trip to the Woodbury Center, where he met Ghost and Church (whom we met in the first book). Yes, Tobias is a good boy.
Until he isn't.
When Ghost goes missing and Tobias realizes that he may be in trouble, he will do whatever it takes to find his friend. Including blackmailing a PI to help him.
Sullivan is that PI. He's working an old case that his boss took over from the previous owner of the firm, and he is pursuing a new trail that puts him in Tobias' path. Blackmailed into helping the younger man find his friend, he reluctantly begins to spend time with Tobias while gathering clues.
It becomes clear quickly that Sullivan possesses a quality Tobias craves. He craves it without knowing what to call it. Soon, they spend their days searching for clues and their nights exploring their mutual kink.
This book is really a character study wrapped in a mystery/suspense plot. The author cleverly weaves Tobias' growth as a person, as an individual, as someone who figures out his own needs and wants compared to what he's been told to need and want, into the plot and provides Sullivan as the key to give Tobias wings to fly.
Of course, standing up for yourself isn't an easy thing to do when you've been indoctrinated all your life to do for others, to sacrifice your own wants and needs, to stay the course laid out for you by someone else, while grappling with crushing guilt and fears of abandonment. All too often, we attempt to change ourselves, only to be told by those we love to change back. To revert to who and what we were, because change is hard. It's difficult, not only for the person changing, but also for the people in your lives who may not understand your need to become someone different. Some people will withhold their affection because you've decided to become a truer version of yourself, and if you fear losing them, if you don't meet their expectations - well.... That takes a lot of strength to overcome.
Tobias learns that people don't always leave because he's not perfect. Tobias learns to trust himself. Tobias learns to trust Sullivan.
And Sullivan learns to trust Tobias. It takes him a bit longer to see the younger man clearly, but eventually, he does.
The mystery/suspense - yeah, not going to give anything away here. I will say though that it had some twists and turns I didn't expect, and it kept me glued to the pages until the very end.
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it even more so than the first one. While it could be read as a standalone, I think it would make more sense to someone who's read the first one - there is some background info that should be present for this book to have the full impact.
And, honestly, why wouldn't you read both? Sidney Bell has written a fabulous follow-up to the first book, and they are both well worth your time!
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **