Darren Brown spent two years running from his past, but he could only run so far before he was found.
Darren Brown lost the only two people he loved just days apart. His mother first, then his best friend. Guilt over his friend’s death drives Darren to wander for over a year before he winds up in the town of McKinton, Texas.
Lee Bausch served his tour in the Army then started his quest to find answers only one person could give him—except that one person had moved away. It takes him almost two years to find Darren Brown, and it turns out Darren doesn’t have the answers Lee needs—he is what Lee needs. Darren is shy and so sexy Lee can’t get enough of him, but he still needs answers because he can’t shake the feeling someone he loved was murdered.
After a terrifying experience at the motel, Darren knows he has to tell Lee about the spirits in McKinton. And there’s one spirit, scared and alone, who has the answers Lee seeks, if only the spirit knew how to tell Lee his suspicions are right.
I have been anticipating Darren’s story since he first appeared as the skittish new waiter in All of the Voices. While he’s still skittish and comes with quite a bit of baggage, I was relieved that his past wasn’t as bad as I was worried it was going to be. This made Aftermath a lighter read than I expected, but don’t despair because it’s not without its own intensity.
Not to spoil the book for anyone, but I will readily admit that I was concerned that Darren was in McKinton because he was fleeing an abusive relationship. While he did indeed flee his hometown, he did so out of guilt and loss. Darren’s best friend died two days after Darren’s mother died. Because he had a boyfriend at the time, Darren felt as though he neglected Stefan and that Stefan wouldn’t have died if he’d spent more time with him. As it turns out, Darren isn’t the only one feeling guilty about Stefan’s death and questioning if it was an accident or murder. Stefan’s older brother Lee has been searching for Darren for more than a year in hopes of finding out more about his brother’s final days. That Lee finds more than he was looking for when he catches up to Darren made Aftermath a lovely read for me – kind of a second chance romance for Darren now that Lee sees him for the man he’s become.
There were several things about this installment in the Southern Spirits series that I enjoyed immensely. While I was relieved to learn why Darren was in McKinton, I was glad to see those around him take a more active part in his life and that they were able to do so without him bolting. Not only did this give Darren people to call friends, but it also gave him the opportunity to stand up for himself when he felt they were being too pushy. I also enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Darren and Lee and how taken aback Lee was when he first saw Darren after the years that have passed. He saw Darren as the man, rather than fixating on the image of the boy he knew as his brother’s best friend. This definitely made for some steamy scenes between the two. As for the spirits, I absolutely adored Stefan and understood his antics better once we learned more about him. It also helped to explain why Darren felt so guilty about Stefan’s death and why Conner was protective of the young spirit. In fact, Conner’s antics in Aftermath were priceless and the sheet incident would make for heck of a scene in a movie. I quite enjoyed this installment and am looking forward to reading What Remains very soon.