Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)

Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) - Abigail Roux Tough book... I'm still processing, so I expect that in a week or two, I'll have to re-read the book and revise and review it when I can think more clearly.WARNING - POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD - NOT MARKED ('cuz right now, I'm still processing)Here are the thoughts foremost in my mind:HOLY BEIGNETS, BATMAN!This book is like a riding a rollercoaster at night, without lights, while blindfolded. There are so many ups, downs, curves, twists... Just as you think you've navigated one set, wham! You've just dropped another 50 feet upside down, going in the opposite direction.I get that to keep series going, everything can't be all lovey-dovey all the time. And, frankly, I don't keep up with all the politics and drama that seem to revolve around this series and its author. I just read the books. But my understanding is that when Ms. Roux went solo on this series, she's taken quite a bit of heat about being "easy" on the characters and that the last 2 books have been "fluff". Well DARN IT! I like some fluff! I loved both [b:Armed Dangerous|13246997|Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run, #5)|Abigail Roux||18447540] and [b:Stars Stripes|14061520|Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run, #6)|Abigail Roux||19698922]. Heck, my major complaint with this series has always been about the cases; if Ty & Zane are FBI, other than the 1st book, we've not really seen a lot of true case-work - not the kind where these two guys focus almost solely on the case. No, these books are about TY & ZANE, and their evolving, developing relationship. The casework is something that moves the story forward.Granted, in the last 2 books, there's been slightly more "casework", but in both books, the circumstances of the case (being on the run and fending off man-eating tigers) got in the way enough that Ty & Zane simply had to keep rolling with the punches. The "cases" resolved themselves, with a bit of help for our duo.In this book.... wow. I can't even tell you what the "case" is, because there is SO MUCH HAPPENING!!! So many different types of Bad Guys trying to kill our heroes and the Sidewinder team off. Everyone has their own agenda and motives. And you can't tell when someone will work with them and then stab them in the back or work against them, help them, and then stab them in the back. It's a free-for-all.Honestly, it seems like every previous path our boys have been on suddenly intersects - in New Orleans. It's kinda cool, kinda creepy, and just plain confusing. I know there's a method to the madness in there somewhere... but, it's too much for me to process right now.Calendars, Cakes, and Orchids, Oh My!We start on a fairly light note, with what seems like little to no fallout from the previous 2 books for Ty & Zane. Everything seems fine. McCoy tells them their undercover (UC) days are behind them, because of all the publicity from [b:Divide Conquer|12384681|Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run, #4)|Abigail Roux||17365486], and they'll talk more about that later. Right now, our boys have been requested as male models for a calendar to benefit first responders injured in the line of duty.There's a cute sequence with our guys, as their photo shoot occurs in a hotel room, in a bed, under covers... get it? And ends with some photos any Ty & Zane fan would likely pay good money to behold.Because it's Easter weekend, the boys are going to take a hotel suite, only to be lured back to the office and into Zane's Surprise 20th Anniversary party - 20 years with the Bureau. (Except it's 21, but who cares, right?) Zane thinks Ty's acting a bit strange when he disappears; and he catches sight of Burns heading down the back stairwell, except Burns wasn't at the party. But oh well. Let's go off to the hotel for some hot sex!All Roads Lead To... New OrleansIn the middle of the night, Ty gets an urgent phone call from Nick. Nick & Digger are in jail, accused of murder. And they need Ty in NOLA - now. Problem is, we know from the previous book that NOLA isn't a place that Ty can easily go back to. He told Zane that some Cajun voodoo Daddy will kill him on sight. And the only gal that Tye even considered becoming engaged to lives there.But because this is the Sidewinders (his RECON team) calling... and because Ty ignored a call from one of his Sidewinders buddies (Eli Sanchez), and Eli was killed shortly after that missed call, Ty always answers his phone. And his loyalty demands he go when and where his teammates call.Through flashbacks, we learn that Zane took a trip with his wife, Becky, to NOLA. She led him to a kinky, shabby, strange bar with a fascinating show. That's where Zane realized he might be interested in men: the man in the bar with the flowing hair who sang like an angel and flirted made Zane realize that he'd do the guy in a second. And Becky didn't seem to mind - in fact, she seemed to go to that bar knowing that after the show, the performers (a couple - man and woman) liked to invite another couple to "play". Too bad we don't get to know more about Becky... she sounds pretty cool.When Zane shares this with Ty, something clicks. Was Ty the man? Was that when Ty was undercover in NOLA? Hmmm...And so, Zane & Ty are in NOLA, exiting the airport, when they're kidnapped and shoved into a van. Yep, it's Nick and Digger... and the rest of what's left of the Sidewinders team. Nick's phone call was all just a ruse to get Ty & Zane to NOLA. (Not the 1st time Nick's pulled such a stunt on Ty.) It's Eli's birthday that weekend, and they're celebrating in style. Since Digger can't leave the state, due to whatever he did to the Feds that Ty re-routed to Digger to get them off their tail when they were on the run with Cross, the group is celebrating in NOLA.Ty can't and won't tell his buddies how dangerous it is for him to be there. Even Zane isn't completely aware of all that will hit the fan while they're there... And it doesn't take long for things to get strange.... including a British guy named Liam Banks who hits on Zane.That Voodoo That You Do So WellIn the bar they're celebrating in, a woman is strangled. The guys keep the scene clear for the cops. But Ty takes off - he can't be seen. The woman is holding a gris-gris bag in her hand - voodoo. And Digger and Ty seem to know all about voodoo and gris-gris.During a hot, steamy shower scene between Zane and Ty back at their hotel room (which Nick so generously booked under his own name), Zane thinks he hears their hotel room door open. And later, they discover a gris-gris bag under the mattress... and Ty's in excruciating pain, which he & Digger attribute to the gris-gris bag, which is to draw pain and death. Turns out Ty has a kidney stone. And is hallucinating about all kinds of things and people, including one Liam Banks.Lots happens, but the team ends up in the very bar that Becky dragged Zane to with the gal that Ty would have gotten engaged to. And yes, in case you were wondering, it WAS Ty that Zane saw and was attracted to that night. But there's a lot more going on here... and Liam Banks is only part of it.Secrets and LiesThis is the mind-blowing part of the book... what constitutes a secret or a lie? We all know that there are a lot of things that both Ty and Zane have done in their past that they can't and won't and haven't discussed. Does that make them secrets? Not telling make them lies?Here's the FINE LINE, to me... and everything, literally, changes in a very short time, as Ty feels bound to reveal some secrets that affect the Sidewinders and Zane. THIS is the crux of the book, and I confess that I don't completely understand or can accept what the secrets and so-called lies lead to.1. Liam Banks - He's a former SSA guy that the Sidewinders team worked with... and that had an intimate relationship with Ty. During this mission or op or training exercise that I can't quite figure out, there was a mole. And the mole was Liam. But Liam told Ty that the NIA (National Intelligence Agency - of the U.S. - no, I never heard of it either) wanted him (Liam) and Liam wanted Ty and his team to join him at the NIA. The "mole" part was Liam giving misinformation to some Russians... again, I totally don't understand. Except that to get Liam out of a no-win situation, Ty had to shoot him and kill him.So when Zane talks about Liam, and Ty sees Liam in his hospital room, the Sidewinders think these guys have taken something. Until Ty explains that he didn't really kill Liam. Which Nick backs up when he realizes that after filling out the reports, Ty's bullets didn't hit any major organs or cause any major damage, except blood loss.Now Liam's back, bent on revenge. Why again?But this whole incident had to do with why the Sidewinders were kicked out of the Marine Corps and given that settlement - not to talk about Liam or the NIA. But... wait for it! Nope, in truth, the guys aren't out of the Corps. The settlement came with a stipulation that they could be recalled, as a unit, back into active duty at any time. Gee, wonder what will happen soon?2. Ty's wet works ops for Burns - So for SOME UNKNOWN REASON, Ty decides to tell Zane that the ops he's been doing for Burns were to keep an eye on Zane... to eliminate any of the Miami cartel targets that might find or take out Zane. And, oh BTW, Burns thought Zane might be a traitor, so Ty was watching him for that, too.Zane goes ballistic, as Ty had to know that he'd do. A lot of icky, unhealthy, can't-ever-take-it-back stuff is said and done between these guys. Zane practically kills Ty in the process, while Liam makes it known that he wants Zane, now that he's free. And oh yeah, Liam figures that Nick'll take up where Zane left off with Ty. YOWSA!The magnitude of Zane's hurt and betrayal are... beyond me, frankly. I know I should feel it. I know I should empathize. I know I should probably hate Ty just a little bit. But, honestly? I believe him when Ty says that he only did this - took this assignment from Burns - to stay close to Zane. To protect him. To clear him. To me, Zane's response is way OTT. But I guess we have to have something to further demoralize Ty and kick apart this relationship that's much more fragile then it seems. Because, obviously, just under the surface is a lot of mistrust. Enough to crash-and-burn what they've built. Because Zane now doesn't trust anything that's happened between them; he's convinced (or trying to convince himself) that everything they've shared, including the intimate stuff, has been about Ty playing his UC role for Burns.I can see that, I can. I think.Which Bad Guys, Again?Liam tells them that he's not with the NIA. He's a hit-man-for-hire. And he's been hired by the Miami cartel to take out... Zane. Or is it Ty? Because the top guy in the Miami cartel died awhile back, and the guy's brother who's now in charge is certain that Xander (Zane's UC name) is responsible and hires Liam to kill him. Except HOW did Liam know that Zane would be in NOLA, when it was all last minute?Regardless, Liam tells them all that, yes, he's alive; and the story of what really happened is played out again. So now, not only is Zane pissed at Ty, so are the Sidewinders. Except that Liam realizes that because of Ty's assignment from Burns to protect Zane, it's TY he's after. It's TY that took down that plane with the head of the Miami cartel on board. (Oh yeah... remember that snippet where Ty did something to a plane and broke his fingers?)Not to mention Ty's ex-girlfriend, who's the daughter of the corrupt police commissioner that Ty was trying to take down on his last UC assignment in NOLA. He would have succeeded, except that Hurricane Katrina prevented it. It's HER daddy that's the Cajun daddy that wants Ty dead. And he knows that Ty and his buddies are in town.PLUS the Miami cartel happens to be in town. AND the local office of the FBI, who somehow owes either the cartel or the police commissioner...Because suddenly, the world is crashing and exploding around them... and shooting at them. Kelly gets shot, and the guys have to get him to the hospital before he bleed to death. Ty is captured by the police commissioner's son (his ex's brother), and we find out it's the brother who's been working with the gris-gris. (Is it an inside joke about the cat stuff? 'Cuz Ty is plagued by cats in one way or another, even though they usually end up loving him. I know about the attack in book 2; I just don't quite understand why it's such a long-standing joke beyond that.) ANYHOO... in a daring motorcycle rescue that Evil Knievel would approve, Zane manages to free Ty. And with Liam and the Sidewinders, the gang decides to make their final stand and get out of town. Because, on top of everything else that's come down on Ty, Burns has refused to help. And it doesn't look like our boys can get out of town without help.Back To The RollerCoasters...So, we go off to the local theme park that's closed down after being wrecked by Hurricane Katrina. And history is repeating itself in reverse... or maybe it's deja vu... but anyway, Liam is supposed to "shoot and kill" Ty. Which somehow gets everyone out of town. Yeah. Still trying to figure that out.Of course, Digger's made pints and pints of fake blood. Ty's worked on a bullet that should only hit his Kevlar vest really hard but not pierce it. And Zane is somehow going to be the hero that the rest of the world sees pull the trigger on Ty. (Except that it's Liam doing his sniper thing; Zane's gun has blanks stuffed with wads of cloth and paper.)And WWIII begins... ending with Burns and helicopters and Ty's ex dying to save him (did Liam mean to kill Ty or just mix up the bullets?)...HooRah!And we end with... I dunno. Ty & Zane are trying to patch things up. Burns covertly lets the boys know that someone in their office/unit is a mole. And there's a wire under McCoy's desk. So whoever set up these events in NOLA was working with someone in their unit.And BTW, the Marine Corps has decided to recall the Sidewinders back to active duty.So Ty, thinking there's not much left to lose, grabs Zane and gives him a kiss - right in the middle of the FBI office, in plain sight.END... OK?!UndercoverSo, one of the things that bugs me about this book is that now Ty and Zane can no longer go UC. And it makes Zane think about retirement. Except... WAIT! When have Ty & Zane gone UC together, as partners, on a case, since book 3? That was the one-and-only time that they were on a case UC. (I don't count book 1, since they were UC within the FBI, which means that everyone knew who they were, what they looked like, and that they were Feds. Just not what their true mission was.)And the other times they've gone UC, it's been separately, on separate assignments. Or was the Cross assignment UC?In Divide & Conquer, they tried to keep their names out of the press. But that seemed to be about protecting themselves and not being targets. Yes, I know the UC stuff was mentioned. But they went everywhere with badges and guns. And they dressed like FBI guys. So why is Zane considering retiring because he can't go UC any longer?Ty's done stuff for Burns, but Burns told him that wouldn't be happening any longer. In light of what we learned in this book, does that mean that Burns decided Zane wasn't a traitor? Didn't need protection any more? CONFUSED!!!Obviously, I missed something here....=========================Anyway, those are my thoughts on the book, as of now. I feel like I've been through the wringer. And I'm not sure which end is up or what might even begin to happen next.Is Ms. Roux considering ending this series? Because I'm sure there's plenty she could invent for Ty & Zane. But long-distance? As Ty serves with his Sidewinder team? And all those secrets that Ty can't tell Zane? And Zane worries that Nick might just be the warm body and cool head that Ty needs in the thick of things? While Zane tries to out the mole with Burns' help? What about those secrets and lies?No answers... I enjoyed this book, I just can't quite make heads-or-tails of it yet. After the slower pace of the previous books - maybe all of them - it seems like we had enough action, drama, plot, and angst for 3 books in this one book. Power-packed, yes.