Let me start by saying that I loved this novella. Alexei is most best. Sean is a badass woobie. Where the flaming heck are Alexie's pancakes, woman??? That man deserves pancakes! :D
In all seriousness, Hailey has done it again with this novella. Given how In the Blood ended this book was also extremely needed. Don't get me wrong, I loved In the Blood but OMG the angst, the ouchies, the sheer emotional trauma that Ms. Hailey inflicted on me left me needing this book. Not to say that Out of The Ashes was a cavity inducer or anything.
Out of The Ashes takes place three months after In the Blood finishes and it's an Alexei/Sean centric book because those two boys were left beaten and bloodied at the end of the last one. Sean has just been cleared to return to active duty and Alexei is about to go on his own recertification testing. On the MDF front they've recovered enough from their capture and torture to return to work. On the emotional front? Sean still has nightmares, still feels guilty, and Alexei doesn't know how to convince him that it wasn't Sean's fault. They haven't been intimate since before Boston and both men are fraying at the edges.
On the surface, they're living together, they sleep in the same bed, they love each other more than ever but... knowing that someone from _your_ past hurt your lover in order to hurt you? Sean's guilt is eating him alive. Alexei is trying to be patient, to be an understanding supportive partner. He doesn't blame Sean for any of it and he's committed to _them_. But sometimes the distance growing between them leaves him exhausted.
But once Alexei passes his re-evals there's not time for them to ease back in to work because there's a mission... and it centers around Pavluhkin. Sean's meta ability makes him the ideal person for the mission. Infiltrate a party, retrieve an encoded drive that could link the Pavluhkins to Splice, and get out. The party is in London so Liam Wessex is brought in to act as their contact and way into the party. Alexei is sent along for the ride to test that both men truly are ready to go back into the field.
But as is usually the case with Alpha Team, things go FUBAR FAST! Janssen is at the party and the men have to fight their way out after retrieving the data. A car chase, Alexei setting things on fire, Sean phasing them and a tube ride ensue. Basically normal Alpha Team Chaos. But the end result is that Sean and Alexei finally find their balance and each other again... and Sean finds out that he has a bigger family than he realized, because Alpha Team has his back.
Hailey's characterizations were perfect, as usual, and the book was full of the lovely blend of humor, action, romance and explosions that I've come to associate with Hailey's writing. She is a master of detail and Out of The Ashes is a great example of a well timed, well thought out plot. I am so thrilled to be able to say I know this author because I expect to see amazing things from her in the future!
But there were no pancakes for Alexei. Sadness :( (Hailey teased us saying Alexei was getting pancakes and then denied us the pancakes if y'all are wondering why I keep referencing pancakes. there's even a hashtag for it now #JusticeForAlexei!)