"In this fourth book of the 'SWAT' series, not only do we finally find out what mysterious activities Oliver gets up to when he sneaks away from the team on some evenings, we also get to see how and why he is a slightly different wolf from the others. This, of course, creates yet another mating situation, but it's also somewhat different from the previous ones. What isn’t different is the amount of intrigue and secrecy that the team has to deal with as they try to solve the case of finding the murder of Josh's brother – just so they can officially free Oliver of the accusations. As the blurb says, "murder and intrigue are no way to start a relationship" – yet that is exactly what Oliver faces. Partly, he is to blame, because he hides his activities from his pack mates. But being caught on video surveillance in a place he wasn't supposed to be, supposedly murdering someone he never met is strange enough to ask for help. And to top it all off, the man who accuses him of being the murderer of his brother turns out to be Oliver's mate. Problem is, Oliver kissed him before he suspected he even had a mate, and now he is tied to someone who hates him. What a mess! Josh is a great guy who tries to do everything right, but he has a few problems. One, his brother was a great guide when they grew up, but now Josh needs to learn how to live the life he wants. Two, the property taxes on the house they inherited are so high he needs three jobs, and cannot find time to play the violin, which is what he really wants to do. Three, the police haven’t made any progress catching the guy who killed Josh's brother, so he's going to do it himself. Only he ends up incapacitating himself, becomes the mate of a werewolf (whose existence he never even suspected), and is no closer to ensuring justice is done than on the day of his brother's funeral. It's all a bit much. For two men who are thrown together entirely against their will, these two do pretty well. Yes, they argue and dealing with a murder investigation isn’t easy, never mind that Josh doesn’t want to get into some of the stuff Oliver craves in the bedroom, but on the whole, they are very civilized about it. The tension is there, but the way Oliver deals with it is simply wonderful. It makes a huge difference when passion flares! If you’re ready for a variation on the "mating trial theme", if you enjoy reading about a strong man dealing with rejection from his mate without going all alpha on him, and if you're looking for a suspense-filled story with two very passionate partners at opposite ends of the spectrum who learn to work together, then you will probably enjoy this novella." -- Serena Yates, Rainbow Book Reviews
Oliver Arnaud felt like a thief in the night. He wasn’t, but he couldn’t escape a sense of naughtiness stealing over him, giving him an erotic thrill. Sneaking away from his pack mates without telling them where he went or what he did certainly made him feel like he was stealing something. Since he took nothing that didn’t belong to him, and only disappeared when he wasn’t on call, he supposed he was, at worst, lying by omission. Still, no one had directly asked him what he was doing. They teased and joked around about his nocturnal outings, but they never actually posed a question. Oliver suspected they had far too much fun speculating about what he was doing than they would if they found out the truth.
As Oliver slunk away yet again, he pondered his pack mates’ motives. Ivan’s new mate had a list of what he called Ryder’s Rules. They were guideposts to life that helped Ryder stay out of trouble. Rule number twenty-three was don’t ask a question unless you actually want to hear the answer. Oliver suspected that his pack mates didn’t ask him what he was doing because they really didn’t want to know. Perhaps they respected his privacy. Or, more likely, if they pried into his life, it certainly meant they didn’t have one of their own.
“I wonder if they would believe me if I told them?” Oliver considered as he strode with intent toward the parking garage six buildings over from the converted firehouse where he lived with his pack. Would it change anything if they knew? He supposed it probably wouldn’t. He wasn’t doing anything illegal, immoral, or even unethical. What he was doing was…
The one word echoed off the rain-wet streets and buildings of Los Angeles. Something about even the briefest rain sent the people of L.A. scurrying indoors. Not Oliver. He loved the night, the rain, and even the scent of the city. It was dirty in places, clean in others. Just moving at a fair clip down the crumbling sidewalks exposed him to smells from cars, cooking, and cats. A lot of cats. Oliver felt their distrust of him but didn’t begrudge them their fear. He was, after all, a wolf-shifter. It seemed only natural that cats wouldn’t like him.
All the different scents blended into the mélange of humanity. Oliver loved the way humans smelled. He always had. The scent of the American city was unique and vastly different from the smell of Paris. Although he deeply loved his home city, Paris had a unique essence of body odor, urine, and cigarettes. The scent of Los Angeles was no better or worse only different. Oliver believed that if he were blindfolded and dropped into the middle of a city, he would be able to identify the place by smell alone. He’d never tested his theory, but the belief remained.
As he drew closer to the parking garage, he quickened his pace. He wanted to be there already. He wanted to take the cool leather-clad paddle in hand and find the sweet bottom of a trembling submissive. How perfect the setup was. Masked and mysterious, Oliver dropped his jovial cook persona and became a dangerous Dom. He wasn’t a sadist. Not at all. He abhorred delivering excruciating pain, but a few slaps with a wide, flat paddle made a man’s cheeks rosy and warm. What he loved was control. So much of his life was out of his control that to wield power absolutely, even for a handful of hours, was extremely satisfying. And spanking was what so many of the tender-bottomed boys craved.
Although, to be fair, the word boy was not quite right. Boi was slightly better, but that word had certain connotations that weren’t quite right, either. Still, the word didn’t matter. What mattered to Oliver was that he was free to enjoy sexual activities without risking the encounter becoming emotionally entangling. Sometimes he thought about getting a mate, but he wasn’t certain he was ready. For now, he was happy with the way his life was.
Once Oliver entered the parking building, he took the lift to the third floor where he kept his automobile. A nondescript economy car blended right in with all the other cars in the lot and on almost every street in the city. Oliver had chosen the vehicle for precisely that reason. Insomuch as something that actually existed could be, the car was invisible. No one would notice it. Oliver was dressed in standard urban guise—jeans, tennis shoes, T-shirt, and a hoodie. He loved the navy hoodie. He wasn’t sure what had started that particular trend, but he took full advantage of the way he was able to use the hood to hide his damaged face.
That was the one part of him that people would remember. Unlike his nondescript car, Oliver was extremely memorable. There were scarred people all over the world, but L.A. seemed to attract far more of the beautiful people. Those who were perfect or at least had an outward appearance as such made his damaged face stand out even more. Long ago, he’d toyed with the idea of having the scars fixed. The snarled skin couldn’t ever be obscured entirely, but a skilled surgeon could certainly lessen the visual impact of the damage.
Oliver had made the appointment yet he’d been unable to go through with even a consultation. He’d peered at himself daily for his entire life. Removing the scar would be like taking away a part of his soul. So he’d stayed home. He’d found ways to be comfortable with the initial shock that flared in people’s eyes. Most of them weren’t being cruel. It was just such a surprise, especially if they saw the undamaged side first.
Oliver settled on the edge of the bed, watching as Josh undressed. He wasn’t certain what was going on in his mate’s mind. Josh didn’t seem upset at the idea he was exchanging sex for protection. It was possible he didn’t even see it that way. Rather than assume his motives, Oliver asked, “Is that all you think you have to give?”
“For now, yeah.” Josh shrugged, but his casual stance suddenly tightened as he held his clothing protectively in front of his body. “Why? Don’t you want me?”
“Very much.” Oliver wanted Josh in his bed and in his arms, but he wasn’t buying Josh’s casual attitude. Still, Oliver couldn’t make him talk. Clearly, there was a lot going on in Josh’s mind that he simply wasn’t ready to share. Oliver remembered how Cooper had treated him when they’d first started working together. Coop let Oliver keep to himself. Perhaps Oliver should do the same. Josh might not even understand what was going on in his own head. He’d certainly had a tremendous amount of issues to deal with. Instead of pressuring Josh, Oliver climbed under the sheets. After tossing his clothes on the floor, Josh joined him. Oliver switched off the bedside light, plunging them into darkness.
Oliver stayed on his side of the bed, on his back, determined that Josh would make not only the first but all of the moves to come. Since he couldn’t understand exactly what was going on in Josh’s mind, all he could do was be there for him when the inevitable truth came out.
After a long moment, Josh placed his hand on Oliver’s chest. He then slid closer. He did so tentatively, almost as if he was afraid Oliver would either reject him or pounce on him. When Oliver realized Josh was shaking, he thought he knew what was going on.
“It’s okay, Josh. I’m here.” Oliver placed his arm around Josh and pulled him close. He finally understood that Josh wasn’t cavalier about losing his virginity and he wasn’t trading sex for protection. He’d lost so much that he was seeking some kind of positive declaration. Sex was life affirming. Only healthy living creatures craved the caress of another.
“Please don’t be angry with me, but I want you to touch me.”
“Why would that make me angry?” Oliver asked.
“I’m so afraid of being weak.”
“It’s not weak to need someone.” Oliver rolled over and kissed Josh gently.
Josh melted into the kiss and pressed tightly against Oliver’s body. Only the thin barrier of Oliver’s boxers prevented their cocks from touching. That slender wall between them somehow inflamed Oliver. When Josh whimpered, he uttered a hungry growl in answer, grasped his buttocks with one big hand, and pulled him tight.
Deepening the kiss caused Josh to reach up and grab onto Oliver’s shoulders. It was almost as if he were bracing himself or perhaps he was holding himself back. Either way, Oliver kept right on kissing him as he smoothed his hand over Josh’s high, tight buttocks. Grinding his hips in an almost subconscious gesture, Josh was stiffening Oliver’s cock to the point he was almost in pain. His release at The Leather Tiger had been truncated by events there, so he was now fully primed. What made him even harder and hotter was that he was now holding his mate and they hadn’t done anything. All the firsts they would ever experience flashed through his mind in an instant.
Hungry to feel him but loathe to move too quickly, Oliver split the difference by rolling over and taking Josh with him. Once he was on top, Josh was able to squirm more, making delicious friction all along Oliver’s body.
“Why did you put these on?” Josh placed one hand against Oliver’s shoulder so he could angle himself up and tug at Oliver’s boxers.
“I was trying not to pressure you.”
“You don’t need to pressure me when my own body is doing plenty.” Josh climbed off Oliver and helped him ease his underwear down, and then he tossed them over near his bundle of clothing. Normally, Oliver was extremely fastidious and put his clothing in the hamper, but right now, he didn’t care. Once free, Oliver’s cock seemed to grow yet again. His desire quickly became overwhelming when Josh climbed back on top of him and rubbed their cocks together without any barrier at all.
“Why does that feel so good?” Josh was breathless as he rocked his hips.
“Because we’re mates. Because this is right. Because—” Rather than offer out another explanation, Oliver reached between their bodies and wrapped his fist around their pricks. After an excited moan, Josh started fucking Oliver’s clenched hand in earnest. Each pass rubbed his cock against Oliver’s, smearing their pre-cum all over their shafts.
“I’m not going to last.” Josh sounded far more concerned than he should be.
“Don’t try.” Oliver murmured a slew of endearments in French. “I won’t last either.”
“Oh, God! This is so much better than being alone in my bed with only my own hand.” When Josh struggled to lift his head up far enough so he could kiss Oliver while still riding his fist, Oliver angled his head down. Meeting in the middle, they kissed hotly while Josh’s pace increased. Oliver tightened his fist and then rocked his hips in unison with Josh’s.