"Hyde and Neal are not the first couple in this series to be mated against their will, and they are as distant as Emery and Griffin (in the previous two books) when they recognize what’s going on. On top of that Neil, who is a hunter like Emery used to be, has to face the anger of the rest of the pack – and in the wake of Dean and Joey’s disappearance, more alphas are madder at the hunters than ever before. But Hyde and Neal have their individual issues as well as the problems they encounter as a couple, and it takes them a while to figure out how to deal with them. Neal, much like Emery, joined the hunters to avenge a loved one being killed by a werewolf or wolfhound – he is not exactly clear on which it was. Nor does it matter – he wants revenge. There are a few things he has never considered – like the fact that werewolves and wolfhounds are also people or that they were mistreated and attacked by humans first. Neal cannot resist the mating pull, and as soon as he begins to talk to Hyde and others in Max’s pack, Neal begins to change. He is learning to see a different perspective, and added to the feelings he has for Hyde; Neal begins to realize he was wrong. Making up for what he did may not be possible, but he sure tries! Hyde thinks he is too big and too ugly ever to be liked, never mind loved by anyone. But that doesn’t stop him from adoring Neal and doing anything to protect him from other pack members. Hyde may not be clever (or so he thinks), but he is strong and perfectly capable of protecting Neal. And Neal needs more than a little protection, so Hyde has his hands quite full. He doesn’t mind, and the longer he knows Neal, the more he realizes the “liking” is not just due to the mating. If you like stories about total strangers, enemies even, having to learn to live with each other, if two men who both feel like outcasts sound like an interesting couple, and if you’re looking for a read that is as intense as it is hot, then you will probably like this novella. And on top of everything, Mary Jacks gave me some tantalizing hints about Dean and possibly even Joey – who may be presumed dead, but since they never found his body, I am presuming something else." -- Serena Yates, The Rainbow Reviews
“I bet his mate wants to kill me for that one, doesn’t he?” Neal asked softly.
“Probably,” Hyde said. He wasn’t good with words, so at the very least, he should be honest. Neal was a hunter. An incredibly young hunter, but still a man. He needed to hear the truth.
“Are you going to…I mean is that why…”
Ah, so that was why his mate feared him.
Hyde had told the man they were mated, but that didn’t mean a human could fully understand it. He wouldn’t understand that Hyde would be almost incapable of hurting him. It was possible for mates to hurt each other, and of course there were outliers of abuse and maybe even murder, but Hyde didn’t have the stomach for it. He knew that now that he had a mate. He couldn’t hurt Neal.
“No. I’m not here to bring you to any justice,” Hyde said. “And Dean won’t be coming near you, at least not tonight.”
“What? Why?” Neal asked, that pale, ghostly look still on his face. He stared up at Hyde with an expression more open than he’d ever had since arriving here.
Or finding out that he was going to belong to Hyde.
“He left,” Hyde said. “Either to kill himself, or to be alone and mourn. We don’t know.”
“Jesus,” Neal said. He brought his hand up to his mouth, shaking his head. “I never…I never meant for this. I didn’t… Christ, I didn’t want that guy to die.”
“There was a time when you wanted all of us dead.”
“That was different,” Neal said, still shaking his head. “I thought you’d killed my friend. You all killed so many men that I’d spoken to and sat down to eat with.”
“After they’d attacked us first,” Hyde said. “And as you’ve seen, Emery is alive and well.”
“Y-yeah,” Neal said, though now he was having a difficult time keeping eye contact with Hyde.
Hyde could not help but stare, however. Even when in shock, and chained to the floor of a cage designed to hold back wild wolfhounds, he was a beautiful man.
Some might snidely call Neal a pretty boy, but pretty did not do him justice. Even with stubble from several days of not shaving, and wearing that bloody black getup he’d been wearing when he was caught sneaking around the territory, he was beautiful.
Neal had become a hunter to avenge a dead loved one. A boyfriend, according to Emery, and Hyde found himself jealous of a dead man.
He was jealous because even though he was mated to Neal, and Neal belonged to him, that other dead human was the one who held Neal’s heart. It was him that Neal yearned for, and to Hyde, that simply would not do.
“What’s going to happen to me?” Neal asked, pulling Hyde out of his jealous thoughts. “They want to kill me, right? You can’t let me live after this. Is that what you’re here for?”
Neal stared up at Hyde with a new fear in his eyes, and it made something clench inside of Hyde’s chest.
Hyde approached the cage, noting the way Neal’s heart skipped beats the closer he got. There was no doubt in Hyde’s mind that, had Neal been able to, he would have backed up farther, pressed himself against the very far wall of the cage.
But he could not. The chains wouldn’t allow it, and then Hyde was kneeling down, staring between the bars and into his mate’s face.
Had he not been so ugly, had his face not been as warped as it was, this might not have frightened the man so much. It might have comforted him, which was what Hyde wanted to do. He didn’t want his mate to be afraid. He didn’t want his mate to be disgusted by the sight of him. He wanted his mate to desire him.
Well, Neal did, but he couldn’t help that. Hyde could smell the lust on the man just beneath his fear. He knew that if he ripped Neal’s clothes from his body, he would find the man’s cock half-hard and aching to be touched and teased.
Just thinking about taking his clothes off sent a jolt of pleasure to Hyde’s cock. His mouth watered. He wasn’t going to be able to keep his control for long. It had been too long already.
“I’m not here to kill you,” Hyde said, and he produced a key from one of his pockets. He unlocked the door to the cage. Neal frowned at him.
“If you’re not going to kill me, what are you doing?” he asked, still very clearly suspicious of anything Hyde might want from him.
Hyde opened the door to the cage and squeezed his way inside. He was a large man, and not always in a good way. Hyde was tall, broad, and muscular. It meant a lot of ducking under doorways, being his height. So much so that he swore he looked like a hunchback at times.
Hyde reached for Neal’s chains. Another skip of his heartbeat, and another light gasp came from the man when Hyde took his chains and unlocked them, too.
Hyde struggled not to gasp himself. Touching Neal’s skin was like touching pleasure itself. His blood warmed. His cock swelled.
He grabbed Neal by the hand. Neal’s breath hitched, but he didn’t fight it as Hyde pulled him close. The man’s body temperature spiked. Because Hyde had touched him?
He hoped so.
“Wh-what are you doing?” he asked. He wasn’t fighting Hyde, but he was clearly still frightened that a terrible, gruesome, screaming death was awaiting him wherever it was that Hyde wanted to take him.
“To my room,” Hyde said, and he pulled Neal out of the cage.
Neal clenched his teeth, and it did hurt, but not enough for him to make a complaint about it. He was still a man, dammit, and he wasn’t going to be a delicate little flower about all this.
But fuck, it really was starting to burn.
“Tell me if it’s too much.”
Neal shook his head.
“I’m serious. I can hold back. I won’t hurt you or be angry if it is.”
Hyde was seriously going to treat him like glass if Neal didn’t do something about it. Part of him had to admit that he was kind of flattered, whether or not it was sincere. After spending so much time in a cage, and before that being in a camp being yelled at in the face by his superiors while still mourning a dead lover, it did feel kind of nice to have someone be gentle with him.
But he wanted to get this over with. He wanted to be able to breathe like a normal person again, and he wasn’t going to get that if Hyde insisted on taking so goddamned long.
“I said I’m fine,” Neal said, and it felt so weird to be getting all irritated when he had someone’s fingers in his ass. He tried to calm down. “I can do it. I want to do it. I can’t wait anymore. Seriously, just stop holding off.”
Hyde said nothing, but Neal could feel the man’s dark gaze boring into the back of his head. He couldn’t look back at the man, he couldn’t handle that stare.
Which just proved he was a total coward.
Hyde’s fingers fell away from Neal’s hole, and Neal simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief, and despair. “No, no,” Neal said.
“I got you,” Hyde replied, his large palm on the spot between Neal’s shoulder blades.
And then he felt something thicker pressing against his stretched asshole, touching him, and then piercing him.
It was…definitely bigger than what Neal was ready for. And it burned unlike anything he’d ever felt before in his entire life. The burn itself was pretty bad. It was almost as bad—no, it was as bad—as the first time he’d ever had sex.
Neal had hurt for two days after that, and the ghost of the burn had stayed with him for a while longer. He hadn’t had an orgasm, and he’d been pretty pissed off about the entire thing when it finished.
Okay, this wasn’t anything like that. This wasn’t some random drunken hookup at a party with an older guy. Well, he was pretty sure Hyde was older, but not that much older, and Hyde also claimed they were mates. That meant he cared about him at least a little, right?
And that was about when he realized Hyde wasn’t moving.
Neal looked over his shoulder. “What are you doing?”
“You’re in pain.”
Neal exhaled a hard breath. “Well, yeah, no kidding.”
“You’re not supposed to be in pain.”
This guy must seriously think Neal was a soap bubble or something.
“Please just don’t stop. I want you to…” Neal closed his eyes, hardly able to believe the next words that left his mouth. “I want you to claim me.”
Hyde’s large hands slid around to the side of Neal’s waist, and then one hand moved down, down his pelvis, and over the top of his cock.
Neal’s breath hitched when he realized what Hyde was doing.
Hyde’s large hand was taking hold of Neal’s dick, and his touch was gentle. Despite the rough touch of his skin and the calluses on his palms, the way his hands moved just seemed so slick and erotic. Probably because of the soap easing the way. That had to be it, and why every hair on Neal’s body was standing up in that instant.
Hyde didn’t so much stroke Neal as he gently squeezed his cock, and then twisted his palm. His palm, not Neal’s dick. That would’ve probably hurt more than every pain Neal had ever experienced in his life combined.
But the sensation of it, the way his fingertip pressed into that sweet spot just at the underside of the head, and the way Hyde seemed to push his cock deeper inside of Neal’s body without him noticing, let something warm and pleasant spread inside of him. Spread and swell and grow.
That warm feeling was getting heavier, but then it seemed to plateau. It was still there, and it still felt good, but the pleasure wasn’t growing. It was just there.
Which was actually incredibly good. It meant that with every forward thrust of Hyde’s hips, and every gentle squeeze and stroke of his hand, that Neal got to have that amazingly warm, toe-curling pleasure without having to worry about this ending before he wanted it to. He wanted this to last for as long as possible now that he got it.
“Oh, yeah,” Neal said, dropping his head.
Warm lips, that almost seemed hotter than the water around them, dropped onto the back of his neck, and even that felt good.
It felt good when Hyde kissed the little bones of his spine. It felt good no matter what the man did, and Neal wanted more of it. He pushed his ass back against Hyde’s thrusting cock, and then humped forward into the man’s large hand.
“Feels good now?” Hyde asked.
Neal couldn’t speak. He tried, but only little panting noises left his throat. He nodded instead, needing to get the message across that he was getting it, that this, as impossible as it was, felt good, and was gradually starting to feel better.
There was no more ceiling on this. The pleasure was spiking, and Neal could feel that his orgasm was coming. He wanted it. He ached for it. He craved it. He needed it.
Neal finally managed to get some words out despite all the panting and gasping and moaning. “Oh God, right…there. Yeah,” he breathed.