Kyle McKee lives a charmed life. He co-owns Under, an uptown speakeasy, where he is chief mixologist. Friends poke fun at Kyle’s tiny one-bed apartment in Chelsea, but they’re the best support system a man could ask for. Unfortunately, Kyle’s lackluster love life has led him to take a break from dating.
Harlem resident Luka Clarke is a lieutenant with Engine 47, the Pride of Morningside, where he carries on his father’s legacy with the FDNY. Luka, who is mixed race and bisexual, has his eye on Kyle, whom he met at a local burger joint and he just needs to make time to visit Kyle’s bar.
Before work one evening, Kyle is trapped inside the luncheonette when a fire breaks out. Luka’s firehouse answers the call and he connects with Kyle again under the most unexpected of circumstances. When Kyle gratefully invites Luka and the firehouse squad to Under, the flirting between the two men leads to a date.
Kyle and Luka quickly grow close, but Luka’s mother and sister distrust Kyle for being both white and gay. Luka believes his family will come around and accept Kyle in the end, but Kyle is not optimistic and hides his disquiet as attraction blossoms into love.
Kyle and Luka’s near-idyllic bubble is shattered one evening after a hate crime leaves them scarred, inside and out. Shaken, they put on a strong front but struggle inwardly against fear and personal demons. As the emotions seething beneath the surface finally come to a head, both men must decide if they have the strength to find love enough to conquer hate.
Reader advisory: This book contains references to non-nurturing parenting; homophobia; racism and racist slurs. There are references to recreational drug use. This book also contains scenes of mmmm ménage and characters caught in fire.
Kyle McKee set down his gym bag and yoga mat and pulled up a seat at his gym’s juice bar. The class he’d taken had warmed his skin and stretched his muscles and joints to their limits. He felt like the world’s most relaxed slab of single New York man, which was good for Kyle’s state of mind. He’d been stressed lately, about his love life in particular. Because damn if every guy he’d been out with in the last two months hadn’t turned out to be a shitheel of epic proportions. So much so, Kyle had decided to stop dating entirely.
Eyes closed, Kyle forced away thoughts of dating catastrophes. He rolled his neck from side to side but peeled his lids open again when the chair on his left slid back and his friend Malcolm Elliot dropped into the seat. Malcolm gave Kyle a lazy grin. At six-three, he stood a few inches taller than Kyle, and he looked rosy-cheeked and loose limbed, his blue-gray eyes shining.
“I am a man-sized untwisted pretzel,” Malcolm said. “I’m not sure what that means, so don’t ask.”
“You’re yoga-stoned, dude.” Kyle smiled at Malcolm’s laugh.
“Is that a thing?”
“Totally a thing.”
Malcolm narrowed his eyes at Kyle. “You’re the one with the bloodshot eyes—what did you do after class?”
“Ugh, nothing but itch from allergies. Ragweed is my kryptonite.” Kyle pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, then nodded at the menu on the wall behind the counter. “What are you drinking?”
“I’ll do a Kale Storm with protein,” Malcolm said.
Kyle held up a hand when Malcolm reached for his wallet. “I’ll grab these—you paid last week.” He smiled at the barista who’d stepped up to take their order. “A Kale Storm with a protein powder shot and a Peanut Butter Baby with chia, please. You headed home after this?” he asked Malcolm.
Malcolm shook his head. “I’ve got errands to run. My kitchen has mysteriously emptied itself of food since my brother and his girlfriend came back to town. What about you?”
“I’m opening tonight, so I’ll just head to the bar. I have extra clothes at the office I can change into.” Kyle co-owned a speakeasy called Under with his friend Jesse Murtagh and, while he loved his job, the commute uptown from Chelsea to Morningside Heights could be a pain in the ass. He welcomed the option to skip extra stops when he could.
Malcolm ran his gaze over Kyle’s gray Henley and dark jeans. “You could always serve in what you’re wearing, you know. You’d blow Jesse’s mind.”
Kyle covered a theatrical gasp with one hand. “I would never!” His preference for black or dark gray clothing while working was a source of gentle teasing among his friends. “Seriously, I don’t feel like I’m working unless I’ve got my blacks on. I’ve done it for so long it’s just part of how I do my job.”
Well, well, well, color me surprised. I didn’t think the Speakeasy books could get any better, but I should have know better. I absolutely adored Kyle in the first two books and I was so excited to finally get his story. He was so patiently waiting in the wings till it was his time to shine. And SHINE that boy did. But he never would have been able to shine so brightly without the help of the rugged firefighter Luka. Hot damn people.
I have adored Kyle since he was introduced but I didn’t NEED his book like I did Jesse’s. That is until Jesses book, then it was imperative that I had Kyle’s story. Kyle is your typical secondary character, where you know he has a story, but its just not in the forefront like say, Jesse.
I love firefighters, they are one of my favorite tropes. So when I found out that my sweet Kyle was getting his very own hot firefighter, sign me up please. I love Luka, he is just one of those characters that you root for, the kind you need them to be happy.
I was a bit skeptical on how things would go down for Luka regarding Kyle and Jesse’s “arrangement” and what it would mean for their dynamic. But these two authors are fantastic and brilliantly weave the story to make it flawless.
But as fantastic as these authors are, they sure do know how to break you. Oh and it hurt so good. I cried and I panicked, and I wanted to step away for a while to get myself under control. But you know what, as much as it hurt, it was real. What Kyle and Luka went through can happen and that is what hurt the most. It hit home that there is still so much hate in this world.
But K. Evan and Brigham know how to put you back together. They take that pain and make it better. They piece those characters back together and make them stronger because of what they went through.
I LOVED this book and it was nice catching up with characters from the previous books. While yes these can be read as standalones I highly recommend reading all of them. Not just the Speakeasy books but Wake and Calm as well. They all tie together and are totally worth it.