Under the Influence by V.J. Summers
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (83 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Sex
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Buttercup
Working undercover in a club to bust a dealer should be routine. And it would be, if Max wasn’t distracted by a gorgeous Goth-boy. He wants to bury his hands in Ben’s spiky black hair, bury something else in his pouty red mouth. When his sweet candy boy refuses to stay away from the dangerous club where patrons are ODing in record numbers, Max doesn’t know if he should beat some sense into Ben—or fuck it into him.
With his thesis on the Goth subculture finished, Ben has no reason to hang around Candyland anymore. Except for Max. The brooding bouncer is too tempting, even if he can’t seem to decide whether to push Ben away or pull him closer. But Ben will take what he can get, because when Max pulls, it’s mind-blowing.
As the ODs continue, Max tries to fight his raging libido long enough to collar the perp. And the deadly dealer is closer than he thinks, scrambling to tie up loose ends—including one named Ben.
Welcome to Candyland where the music is hot, the drinks aren't watered, and the party favors just might kill you. The 18 and older goth club Candyland is the place to be seen and, just lately, die. With a different kid OD'ing each week on pixie dust all Max, an undercover police officer, wants to do is keep Ben safe. Ben on the other hand only wants to get Max's attention.
Ben has finished his thesis on the Goth subculture and has only been hanging around Candyland in the hopes of catching Max's eye. Max has been trying to stay far away from Ben, while trying to catch a drug dealer and killer. A night out celebrating leaves Ben waking up in Max's bed with no memory of what happened the night before, or how close he came to dying. Meanwhile Max can't get the thought of everything that did happen and almost happened out of his head. After starring for so long in each other's fantasies, and having had a taste of what could be, they both find it hard to stay away. The closer they get to each other the more they pull away.
Max and Ben both have the uncanny ability to say the exact wrong things at the exact wrong time. Mainly directly before or after some very steamy sexual acts. The chemistry between these two men is undeniable, it's their communication skills or lack thereof that keep getting them into trouble. Max, in his efforts to protect Ben, keeps ordering him away from Candyland, with no explanation. Ben, in defiance of Max's orders, keeps showing up, causing a great deal of frustration for the reader and characters alike. Max expects Ben to just blindly trust him without giving him a reason to. Even though Max habitually breaks protocol to help Ben, he stubbornly refuses to tell Ben who he really is and why he is at Candyland. While Ben know's he likes Max he refuses to believe that Max could like him. For two people so adept at observing their surroundings they are both surprisingly blind when it comes to their own lives.
Despite the somewhat circuitous rout, Max and Ben do come together in a surprisingly tender moment. Their entire relationship has been overshadowed by the investigation, emotionally and sexually, so the first time they really kiss is at the end. Although it was frustrating at times, it isn't until after they have both almost lost everything that they are able to admit, not just to themselves but each other, how they both feel. While I enjoyed all the buildup, the sexual tension, the clandestine blowjobs in the men's room, and the slightly macho posturing, it was great to finally see these two come together and be vulnerable.
V.J. Summers' Under the Influence is a heady mix of danger and lust. The fast paced and gritty storyline will keep you guessing, and the sexual tension will leave you itching for just a bit more.