It started in high school.
We grew apart. Bit by bit, then all at once.
The friend who was my ride or die suddenly wanted nothing to do with me.
Now Cam’s back from college, living in the house next door, and pulling stupid pranks just to annoy me.
Between my intense family and my failing relationship, I’m struggling enough without his antics.
But Cam won’t go away. And I’m not so sure I want him to.
It started with a smile.
A shared look of mischief.
Rafael Ortega stole my heart before I realised it was mine to give away.
We were best friends from the time we were in diapers right up until the unthinkable happened: he started dating.
I put distance between us to save myself, but now I’m back, willing to do anything for his attention again.
Because the only thing worse than Rafe breaking my heart…
Is him not getting a chance to.
Friendly Fire is the final book in the Never Just Friends series. It’s a low angst childhood-best-friends-to-lovers romance with skinny dipping, sex toys, and one final happily ever after.
Cam flicks a little water from the hose my way, and I quickly jump back from the spray. “It’s okay, you don’t need to beg. It’s all yours.”
I stare at him for a moment. “What is?”
“My spare room.”
“I didn’t ask for your spare room.”
“You don’t need to. I know how you work, timing it so I’m out the front as you’re leaving.” He winks. “Well played.”
My lips twitch again. “That’s definitely not what happened.”
“Oh, sure, yes, of course not. Do you want me to beg to make you feel better? Oh, please, Rafe, stay. It’ll be so much more convenient for me for you to be close to home. I’ve been dying to share my own personal space with someone.”
I assume he’s mostly joking, but the last thing I want is to put him out. It would be more convenient, but I can’t imagine Cam shares well. “Lucky for you, then, that Tanner offered.”
I turn to head for my car, when Cam’s hose suddenly shuts off and he vaults the fence between us. “Don’t be stubborn.”
“I’m not being stubborn.”
“You’re being dumb and stubborn when you know staying here would be a thousand times easier.” His confident stride closes the space between us. “Now we can do this back-and-forth thing for however long it takes, or you can admit that you want to stay and we can get on with our lives.”
“Campbell …” I do want to stay. But there’s also a side of me that really, really doesn’t. It’s sending off warning signals that are making my heart thump harder. “You literally kicked me out this morning.”
“I was hungover.” He gives me a smile, and damn him, it actually looks sincere.
I jump when his fingers trail over the back of my hand and then close around my bag strap.
I should fight him.
Instead, I let go.
“There we are.” He slings my bag over his shoulder and starts to head for his house. I fall into step with him. “This arrangement is going to be great. I’ve always wanted a live-in butler.”
“Tell me you know how to cook, then. I’ll settle for a live-in chef.”
“Maid? I could buy you one of those black-and-white costumes.”
I choke on air. “Hell no.”
“I regret this already.”
“Sure you do.” He leads the way up his front stairs. “Fine, fine. I guess I’ll settle for you repaying me with sex.”
I’m not sure what look crosses my face, but Cam cracks up laughing. “Jesus, dude, relax.” He pauses before opening the front door, and all teasing leaves his face. “You’re my friend. I just want to help you out.”
Then he gives me one of his rare, genuine smiles, the one that makes his eyes go all soft, and that warning signal goes nuts.
Everything about Cam is familiar. It makes me warm and settles the fear and self-doubt inside me. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t stay with him.
Hopefully, it’ll only be a night or two.
I’ve really enjoyed this entire series, and discovered a new author that I will definitely re-read. This being last in the series, I was very hopeful that it would be as much fun as the last books. While it definitely was, there were a few points that I missed the mark with me.
Rafe and Cam were friends from an early age, and then sort of drifted apart. It happened a little when Rafe was sent to another school, and then further when Cam got a girlfriend, while Rafe realized he was gay and in love with his best friend. It happens to all of us, we drift away from someone we once cared about, but this was deliberate on Rafe’s part, and understandable.
When Cam returned to their small town, he bought the house next door to Rafe (lucky it was for sale wasn’t it?) and immediately began finding little ways to annoy Rafe. This was a little confusing to me, other than Cam just could not get past the fact that they were childhood friends, and so played pranks on Rafe. (I just have to say, though, that I absolutely laughed out loud at the two biggest pranks…think a gnome and some forks.) It was Cam’s way of getting Rafe’s attention in the only way he could think of…in order to become friends again. It frustrated me honestly, but it did work to at least get his attention, and allow them to start to work towards each other. I’m not sure it would have worked for most people, but hey everyone is different.
Meanwhile, Rafe was going through some crises. His girlfriend since high school and he had become complacent, and had needed to break up about 5 years prior, but instead just kept pretending with each other. Rafe started to work out that he was asexual, maybe gray ace, but somewhere on the spectrum, and yet felt a growing connection with Cam. And this is where the book really worked well in my opinion.
Sometimes in romance novels (more often than I’d like, tbh) someone who is introduced as asexual is portrayed as someone who doesn’t have sex, doesn’t ever or will never have/want sex, etc. And while that can be true, or somewhat true, it doesn’t describe everything about how someone who is ace actually conducts their life or even feels. Rafe, as he was working it out in his mind, confided in Cam, and not only was Cam encouraging, he was able to help Rafe find ways to be the person he needed to be, for himself. He respected Rafe, didn’t push him, and in kind Rafe respected, and loved Cam enough that sex could be on the table, when it was right. The asexual portion of this book was so well done, it was clear that the author really checked into what people on that spectrum felt was important to them. Sometimes when you love someone, you make compromises that work for you both, and they were able to find what worked for them.
With the rest of the story, the back and forth with the girlfriend, and the mother, and not wanting to tell anyone, and the instant forgiveness for a rather rude event that happened in a previous book…that was a miss for me. I understood that Rafe grew up in that town, had a lot invested, loved his mother, and his girlfriend-as a friend, but it was a bit odd to me that them breaking up needed to be a secret that was let out slowly and with very careful choices of when and where.
But overall, this book worked for me, with the asexual depiction, and the work on the relationship that Rafe and Cam developed on their second go round in each other’s lives.
3.5 pieces of eye candy
Saxon James is an author from Aus who’s obsessed with writing queer characters.
She has a range of books from YA to adult and they all have one thing in common: swoony, sweet love.
When not writing, Saxon exists on a diet of coffee and chocolate while putting her KU subscription to the test.
Connect with Saxon:
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/saxonssweethearts/
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/thesaxonjames/
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