Release Day Review ~ Never Lose Your Flames by Francis Gideon ~ (Review + Excerpt)
Title: Never Lose Your Flames
Author: Francis Gideon
Category: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal: Other, Werewolves/Shifters
Cop-turned-bounty-hunter Gabe Dominguez is hired to capture firestarter Nat Wyatt. For a dragon-shifter like Gabe, apprehending Nat is easy, but transporting him involves more time, energy, and blood loss than he envisioned. An attack from a band of fairies, an out-of-control forest fire, and a showdown at an auction don’t faze Gabe, but Nat’s innocence might stop him entirely.
Since discovering his abilities, Nat’s lost a best friend, a boyfriend, and trust in his brother. Only his love of concerts and card games get him through life without a home. Rumors of the Judge, a giant dragon who once destroyed half of Canada avenging those he loved, provide Nat with hope of vindication. When Nat discovers his captor is the Judge, he thinks he’s finally caught a break. Through late-night conversations and a shared love of music, Nat tries to convince Gabe he’s not guilty.
Can Gabe continue his cutthroat lifestyle, or will he run away with his dragon hoard like he’s always longed to do? Can Nat escape his legacy, or will his be another spark snuffed out by people who don’t understand? The Oracle, the most powerful wizard in Canada, might be the only one who can provide answers.
“GOT A light?” Gabe asked.
The guy in the gray hoodie paused. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his tight jeans, flipping his hair out of his face with a tilt of his head. He was unsuccessful in his movements, and his mousy blond locks still obscured part of his eyes. But Gabe could see there was something in the man he liked. Skinny, a touch shorter than Gabe’s six feet four, all sharp edges and attitude, and obviously into the underground scene in some way. Maybe this guy was a supernatural or someone who knew that Beatrix Jane threw the best parties in the scene. Her house throbbed with music. The heat of the people crowding her basement formed condensation all the way to the sliding doors of her back porch, where both men stood.
“Did you hear me?” Gabe asked. “Do you have a light, or are you admiring the view?”
The guy combed his hair behind his ears successfully. His eyes were young—definitely young. No bags, no wrinkles anywhere on his face, but as he removed his hands from his pockets, Gabe noticed they were scarred. A tiny lattice of burned tissue coated his hands and fingers like gloves. Maybe he’s a guitarist who got into an accident or someone who used to be an alchemist at one of the plants. Gabe examined the stranger’s hands, then his eyes again. Maybe twenty-five. At most.
“I heard you,” he said. “But I don’t really smoke.”
“You want to start?” Gabe tapped the front of his jacket as he took out a package of cigarettes. Two bounced forward as he extended the pack to the stranger. “Come on. I promise it adds to the music.”
The guy smiled as he took the cigarette. As Gabe grabbed his own, the kid reached into his pockets again. He must have pulled out a lighter, because a flame danced between his cupped palms. He took in a deep breath and exhaled smoke.
“Pass it over,” Gabe said.
“You come here. It’s my father’s lighter. Can’t let it go.”
Gabe’s stomach flipped as he encroached on the guy’s space, nearly bending himself in two to reach the flame. The kid made an impressed noise between his mouth and the cigarette.
“I’ve never seen a lighter, especially an older one, work that quickly.”
“I know.” He took a step back, until he was leaning against the railing on the porch. “Which is exactly why I can’t let it out of my sight. I’ve kept it all these years because it actually works. A rarity.”
“Without spell work, that’s true. Your dad a mage?”
“Not even close.”
When the kid didn’t offer up his own mage status, Gabe figured there was no story to tell. Tonight was about good luck and being in the right place at the right time.
They smoked in silence. The sky was dark over Winnipeg, making the smelting plants light up across the lake. Gabe’s stomach turned as the molten plastics and base metals hit his nose. He swore that he could smell this kid too on the updraft of the wind. Something different about him. Something… almost sweet.
“I’m Gabe,” he said, extending his hand. “And you’d be?”
The guy eyed Gabe’s hand for a moment before shaking it. In spite of the scars, his skin was soft. Almost surreal. He was also warm—warmer than Gabe anticipated, and the sweet smell from before was overwhelming. Fuck. This kid. This kid is utterly beautiful and utterly my type.
Nat gazed out at the skyline, while Gabe was still stuck on his name. His hand. Nat’s feeling all over Gabe’s body. Gabe wanted him. And from past experience, Gabe was used to getting what he wanted. Especially at Beatrix’s parties.
“So, Nat,” Gabe said. “What brings you to Beatrix’s?”
“You know the answer to that. She’s the best hostess in Winnipeg.”
“Farther than that,” Gabe added. “She’s the best in the underground network.”
When Nat didn’t react, Gabe beamed. Nat knew about the network as more than just a cool party he’d stumbled into. Nat also didn’t react much when Gabe brought up spell work. His father wasn’t a supernatural, but so what? He wasn’t like Gabe, but maybe he was like Tansy. Or even someone like Imogen, who worked with the supernaturals but never manifested themselves. Gabe placed a hand on the porch railing, sliding closer to Nat. As their elbows brushed, Gabe’s heart hammered. Was that a spark between them? No way this kid’s normal. He has to be some magical creature.
“So what’s your story?” Nat asked.
Nat inhaled smoke before he gave Gabe a sidelong glance. “Your story. You mentioned the underground network, and in my experience, no one ever does unless they want to share. Or brag. So are you gonna tell me a bedtime story to keep me up at night?”
Gabe let out a low chuckle. “Oh, I can think of so many better things to do than to tell stories.”
“Oh yeah?” Nat turned on his side against the railing, lifting his eyebrows in a challenge. “More than listening to music and gazing at the stars?”
“Is that really what you came to do tonight?”
“Maybe. But I’m good at adapting.”
Gabe turned to face Nat. Nat’s gaze never wavered, never flinched. His hazel eyes—almost gray in the low light from the party—made Gabe think of quicksilver, the kind of metal that melted in his hands. Oh my God, I want to make you melt, boy. Gabe placed a palm on the small of Nat’s back, and he swore that Nat really did melt into him. The inches between them were gone. Their cigarettes were forgotten about as they ashed them on the railing. Nothing separated them but their breath and clothing. Nat’s scent was enchanting in a way Gabe hadn’t experienced. The sweetness he caught a whiff of before wasn’t entirely accurate. Now, this close, Gabe realized Nat was hot, savory, and—
“Are you gonna breathe in my mouth?” Nat asked. “Or are you going to kiss me?”
Gabe laughed lowly. He placed his other hand on the back of Nat’s neck and dragged their lips together. Nat opened to him with a gasp, allowing Gabe’s tongue inside. Nat tasted like he smelled: savory and rich. Gabe latched on to his hips, knocking them together as the kiss grew in ferocity. Gabe wished he hadn’t worn his fucking belt buckle tonight. No matter, he chastised himself. It’ll soon be on the ground, if I get my way. Gabe caressed Nat’s neck and cheeks—his hot cheeks—as he kissed him with more force. Teeth gnashed together, lips were bit. But it was good, rough in all the right ways. Nat tugged on the collar of Gabe’s leather jacket, and soon, Gabe was shucking it off.
“Inside?” Nat asked.
Gabe sucked on the tender skin by Nat’s ears. He didn’t answer.
“Inside?” Nat asked again, gasping this time.
Gabe sucked harder. He could feel the suck-bruise he was forming on Nat’s skin under his tongue. He snaked his arms under Nat’s, pinning him against the railing. Nat squirmed, moaning and shuddering under Gabe’s movements. When he asked to go inside again, it was a faint whisper to Gabe’s ears. A frenzy took over Gabe. He wanted Nat right here, right now, in front of nothing but the smelting plants of Winnipeg, at a shitty house party (even if Beatrix was the best, all house parties in Winnipeg were shit), and even while he was on the clock at work. Fuck. I can’t believe Duke actually wanted me to work tonight. The house party was supposed to be a lead in a new case Duke hadn’t even given him specific details for yet. As soon as Gabe stepped into the front hall, Beatrix had welcomed him with open arms and a drink. Then the songs took over. The music got underneath his skin, like Nat was right now, and made Gabe forget all the consequences to his actions.
“Fuck,” Nat cursed as he writhed. Taking Gabe’s collar in his hands, Nat pulled Gabe’s mouth off his neck and made their tongues meet again. Gabe went willingly, especially as Nat’s erection collided with his own. After several moments of rushed grinding, Gabe grasped the hem of Nat’s shirt and lifted it up. He raked his fingers against Nat’s rib cage before he pressed their bodies together.
“Fuck. Fuck. Gabe,” Nat panted. “We can’t do this here.”
“But I want you right here.”
“I know.” Nat grinned—fiendish, almost devilish. He held Gabe’s chin in his hands, their lips so close but not touching. “I know. But is this really where you want this? Beatrix… you know she has bedrooms, right?”
“Right.” Gabe nodded. Nat caught his lips off guard, and his thoughts, however coherent, were lost to his impulses.
“Okay,” Nat said, pulling away. “Then you’ll get a room for us. I’ll be there in a moment, trust me.”
“I just met you. How can I trust you?”
When all Nat did was grin, Gabe’s stomach flipped. The feeling was compounded when Nat kissed Gabe again.
“Fuck,” Gabe whispered in Nat’s ear. “I want to kiss and fuck that grin right off your mouth.”
Nat laughed, deep and throaty. For a moment, Gabe thought he saw sparks and felt a glow of fire underneath Nat’s skin. Gabe shook his head. You need to control yourself. Get your power under control before you do anything else—or anyone else—tonight. Beatrix would fucking kill him if he changed into a dragon midfuck and ruined her house. Gabe laughed at the image now. Nat tilted his head.
“What’s so funny, biker boy?”
“Biker boy?” Gabe laughed. “You saw my bike in the front?”
“Hard not to see it. When I first got here, I wondered whose Davidson cruiser was in the front. Custom paint job, right? I wanted to admire it—the whole thing, really.”
“You know something about bikes?”
“Enough to know what I like.” Nat tugged on Gabe’s belt buckle and cupped a hand over Gabe’s still half-hard erection. “Are bikes really what you want to talk about now?”
“Not at all.” Gabe kissed Nat again, tongue diving in and out, as an answer. When he broke away, his breath was choppy. “Go to the bedroom first. I have to make sure I have what I need so I can treat you right. You understand, of course?”
Nat bit his lip, already red and swollen from their actions. “You may not need that for me, you know.”
Gabe shuddered at the thought. No condoms? For this guy? Maybe he’s a mage and his entire immune system is enchanted against disease. A thousand other reasons spun inside Gabe’s mind, but they were all trumped by the permission he’d been given. Fuck this guy without anything between them. Skin to skin, body to body…. Gabe swallowed hard.
Nat pressed a brief kiss to Gabe’s mouth. When he stepped back, he unzipped his hoodie and hung it over his arm. “I’ll be waiting. Don’t take too long, biker boy.”
Gabe watched from the porch until Nat’s slender body disappeared into the living area and then became indistinguishable in the crowd. Fuck, Gabe thought. This is definitely my lucky night.
His phone’s muffled ringing against the porch’s wooden floorboards and jacket pocket startled Gabe from his thoughts. Duke. Shit. Gabe scrambled to find his phone in the jacket’s breast pocket and wondered if he could cook up an excuse. Sorry, boss. No one here. I guess the gang—because what else would you send me?—you wanted me to track doesn’t like the punk scene anymore. Really, if you want me to find smugglers, you gotta go to the industrial buildings. The raves. The smugglers love it there. Gabe had learned this the hard way when he was tracking a different gang but kept the info to himself when Duke texted him the orders tonight, because he missed Beatrix. Any excuse to see her was a good one in his book. Some nights he swore he missed Winnipeg more than Toronto now, though Gabe would never admit to that out loud. At least not without threat of torture.
By the time Gabe grabbed his phone, a second call had gone to voice mail. Several angry text messages were also there, all of them in caps and from Duke. CALL ME. WHAT DO I PAY YOU FOR? COME ON, DRAGON BOY. BEING THE JUDGE MEANS NOTHING UNTIL YOU CALL.
Gabe groaned. He glanced back at the house and wondered how long Nat would wait for him. Naked. Maybe Nat’d get hot and bothered in the meantime, touching himself when Gabe took too long. So when Gabe arrived, he could slide up next to him, and they’d be ready to go all night.
If Duke will let you go all night.
With a sigh, Gabe called Duke. He picked up on the first ring. “Dominguez. Fuck you.”
“Fuck you,” Gabe said right back. “I’m busy. I’m working. But let me tell you, gangs don’t like the punk scene. They like—”
“I know. I don’t care. I found someone else to go to the industrial parks in Toronto.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good, I guess.” Gabe brushed past the sting of a job being taken away from him. “So why bother me again? I’m busy.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Duke’s tone suggested he knew exactly what Gabe was about to get busy doing. “I still have a case for you. With one hand I take, but I’ll always give back. I’m a good boss.”
“Get to the point.”
“Well, the last lead we had for this new guy was in Winnipeg, so I think you may be in the right spot.”
“I’m not looking for another troll in the smelting plants. I smelled for weeks afterwards.”
“Calm down. Don’t reject until you read the case file. Do you remember nothing of what I taught you?”
“Fine. Send it over. I’ll text you if I’m into it. But don’t expect anything for a while. Not until dawn, at least.”
Duke huffed. “You work for me, Dominguez. I don’t work for you.”
Duke disconnected. His last words stung for several seconds afterward. Gabe really didn’t mean to offend him—and not just because Duke was one of the most power-hungry men he knew. Gabe could handle big egos. That wasn’t a big deal. It was disappointment, after he owed Duke so much. So much when….
Gabe’s phone buzzed with an e-mail before he could wander down darker thoughts. He clicked on it and scanned Duke’s first message as he slid open the porch’s screen door.
So I have a firestarter for you this time, a branch of elementals. Name’s Wyatt. He may be going by several different names, though, so use the photos to ID him. Firestarters can’t do any permanent body modification because of their blood chemistry, so he should look the same as ever, barring maybe hair color changes. I’ve attached the photos and the cases he’s involved in. You’re a good worker, Dominguez, so we really need you for this one. Fire can’t kill dragons, remember? So don’t reject it.
Take it easy,
Buy The Book:
*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie in exchange for a fair and honest review. ***
Nat’s gift has cost him more than enough in his life: his best friend, his boyfriend and the brother he once trusted above all others. It seems like every person he meets only wants to take something from him. After being accused of being a deadly arsonist, he's gone on the run, hoping that he'll be able to prove his innocence. The rumors of a dragon named Judge, give Nat hope that he might be able to clear his name once and for all.
Stopping at a concert, Nat runs into Gabe. Neither realize that Gabe has just been hired to take Nat in. When it becomes clear Nat leads Gabe on a chase, only he doesn't get far. When Nat realizes that Gabe is the infamous Judge, he hopes Gabe will listen to his side. Gabe, however, has already made up his mind.
With instructions to keep Nat with him until his boss Duke and Nat's brother Atticus can meet him, Gabe begins to realize things are not what they seem. It doesn't help that they seem to be trouble magnets. First they are attacked by a small group of Fairies, leaving Nat a little worse for the wear. Next thing they know they're facing a forest fire and trying to win a flying sidecar in an auction.
When Gabe gets shot, he and Nat end up stuck together in a safe house. The opportunity gives them time to talk and get to know more about each other. Gabe starts to believe Nat's claim of innocence and with a bit more information, pieces start coming together. Unfortunately, it seems that this job may be connected to Gabe's past, making the whole thing a lot more personal.
What I loved: Honestly I really enjoyed both Gabe and Nat. While Gabe was gruff and a bit obstinate you couldn't help but be drawn to his dedication for justice, his loyalty and the fact that underneath it all he's actually a bit of a goofball. Gabe doesn't want to believe Nat is innocent but over time Nat naturally earns his trust, making their relationship seem more secure.
What I liked: I I liked the world building as a whole. There are shifters, witches, elementals and it takes place in Canada.
The writing is good, the plot well thought out. There's action, suspense, humor and romance thrown in. There is also a handful of very good secondary characters to add to the story.
What I didn't like: Talk about slow burn, it took forever for these two MCs to finally get together. There was so much sexual tension between them from the very first moment they saw one another that I was sure they'd be all over each other the first chance they got. Nope, it seems Gabe is much too professional for that, *sighs* so if you're hoping for a lot of sexy times between a dragon and a fire starter, I'm afraid that's not the case here.
Overall I would recommend Never Lose Your Flame.