Debt - K.C. Wells Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This isn’t your typical rent-boy and john falling in love story. It’s also not your typical K.C. Wells story, but it is a love story between two characters with big hearts and a lot of chemistry with some heartbreaking moments and a bit of suspense that will have you wondering how on earth they’ll ever get to that happy ending.

When Mitch, a 45 year old high school English teacher whose lover recently ended their relationship, is brought to an upscale club by a co-worker, the last place he expected to find himself in was a brothel. Feeling insecure and a bit lost since Jerry left him with a few pointed remarks about their sex life, Mitch takes a risk against his better judgment. It should be no surprise that in the offering of nude and nearly nude men, he is attracted to the man in the back, fully clothed and curled up in a chair reading a book. While Mitch is unsure and hesitant about where he is and what he’s doing, he is drawn to Nikko. After that first visit Mitch can’t get Nikko out of his head and nearly bankrupts himself joining the club and continuing to visit. There is something about Nikko and no matter what he says about it being his choice to work there, Mitch has a feeling there is more to it and vows to find out what it is and do what he can to help Nikko.

Nikko is 22 and would do anything to help and protect the grandmother and brother who raised him since he lost his parents at 14. When he finds out his brother Ichy is in a hospital in New York City, he jumps on the first plane out of Oregon. Little does he know that doing so will place him under the thumb of Mr. Richards and working as a prostitute to pay off a vague debt his brother owes. While he looks forward to the times when Mitch is his client, the other times he is, at best, feeling used, but there are also times when he is abused and those are suddenly becoming more frequent. Nikko knows he just has to ride it out for a while, but when he finds out what, in his naïveté and desire to help his brother, he has really gotten himself into, the despair is almost too much to handle and he fears he may soon break. In all of this, his feelings for Mitch are growing and he thinks Mitch feels it too, but knows it’s unlikely that he can get out of his situation and then maintain a relationship that started when he was made to be a whore.

First off, Nikko is in a bad situation and while you hear about what he is going through and see the physical and emotional after effects, any abuse he suffers happens off page and it is not the focus of the story. The story really is focused on the growing feelings between Mitch and Nikko and them trying to figure out how to move forward once Nikko is freed of his situation.

Mitch is a shining light in Nikko’s day-to-day existence. He is gentle and caring and nothing like the other men who frequent the club. They enjoy their short times together whether it’s having sex, talking or just being held and comforted. They quickly realize that lines are being blurred and feelings are involved. From almost the moment they meet Mitch is wracking his brain to find a way to keep seeing Nikko and eventually get him out of that place. Mitch wants to be a hero, but he’s not one of those characters that really thinks he can just swoop in and save the day.

I loved Nikko from the start for his vulnerability, his loyalty and his determination to make the best of things and just get through it so he can get back to his real life. As things got worse for him and the threats from Mr. Richards became more sinister, I was truly concerned for Nikko’s well-being. His fear and despair radiated off the pages, as did his love and concern for his brother. Any time Richards was on page he just made me cringe.

Although there is a 20 year age gap, Mitch never treats Nikko as if he is inexperienced or too young and while they should be embarking on two different stages in life, they are both really starting over. Although when Mitch and Nikko meet their circumstances couldn’t be more different, deep down they are very similar. They both have inner strength, a love of family and an undeniable physical connection. That doesn’t make it smooth sailing, however once they are able to start considering a future together there are a few stumbling blocks they hadn’t had time to consider.

From the start there is real chemistry between the characters. The best part for me, however, was seeing a different, surprising and sexy side of Nikko once he is out of harm’s way and allowed to be himself, along with Mitch’s absolute appreciation of it.

Mitch’s big, outspoken family plays a large part in the story. While their support of Mitch is never in question, they do raise realistic concerns when Mitch confesses his situation and ultimately introduces them to Nikko. Mitch’s mother is a standout and I loved her down to earth wisdom, willingness to speak her mind and her acceptance of Nikko.

As I said earlier, this is a departure from the usual K.C. Wells book, but don’t be scared off. The tone is grittier, but it is not a dark book and there is a good balance between the drama of the first part and the comfort/healing aspects of the second. There is some suspense, and a nail biter moment or two, but it’s not overwhelmed by angst and there is romance throughout. There is also a happy and hopeful ending that signifies a new start for Mitch and Nikko. While not everything is magically wrapped up in a tidy bow and you know there will be some rough times ahead, it is very clear how much love the men share and that it will see them through those times.