Sanyam Desai is a Dom, a master of his craft. He knows exactly how to make a person beg, and he does it for a living, but he has no idea how to be in love.
Sterling Reynard is in desperate need of manners and someone who cares enough to take him in hand, but he knows he’ll never be loved.
When Sterling’s world crumbles around him, he turns to the one person who’s never asked for anything from him but his trust. But their relationship is built on quicksand, and one careless word will bring the whole thing down.
Sterling propped himself on his elbows and glanced at the clock. It was close to dinnertime. He’d slept right through lunch, he realized, surprised.
There was no answer. Of course there was no answer. Why on earth would Sanyam have stuck around?
Rolling off the bed, Sterling limped to the bathroom, which was spotless. He used the toilet, washed his hands, and shuffled his halting way out to the living room just as Sanyam pushed the front door open and stepped inside.
“Oh,” Sterling said blankly. “I—thought you’d gone.”
Sanyam hefted the bags in his hands. “I did, briefly. I had a craving for some Thai curry. I hope you like spicy food.”
Sterling followed him to the table, and Sanyam set the food on it before turning to inspect Sterling, who blinked and drew back a pace.
“What are you doing?”
“Trying to get a gauge of your mental state,” Sanyam said. “How are you feeling?”
Sterling twitched away from Sanyam’s probing gaze. “I didn’t jack off, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Sanyam’s eyes creased as he smiled. “I know. Sit. Let’s eat.”
Sterling sank into a chair as Sanyam gathered silverware and plates from his cupboards.
“How do you know?”
“Hmm? Know what?”
“Whether I’ve jacked off,” Sterling clarified. He shifted in his seat and winced. “You knew… at the club, that I had. And today, you knew I hadn’t. So… how?”
Sanyam straightened with plates in his hands. “It’s in your bearing, for one thing. I can’t really put a finger on it, but it’s a combination of tension or lack thereof, as well as—” He laughed as he put the plates on the table. “You looked ridiculously guilty when you lied to me last night. You’re a terrible liar.”
Sterling scowled. “I’m a great liar, excuse you. My parents still think I’m straight, for one thing.”
Sanyam’s eyebrows went up as he went back to the kitchen to get Utopias from the refrigerator. “Oh dear. Are they homophobic?”
“Dad is,” Sterling said, hunching his shoulders and twirling a fork between his fingers. “Mom… doesn’t care.”
“About you being gay or in general?”
“Yes,” Sterling said flatly. “What kind of curry did you get?”
“Massaman and red,” Sanyam said. His eyes were sharp, but mercifully, he dropped the subject of Sterling’s parents. “If you can’t handle spice, stick with the massaman; I’ll take the red.”
Sterling bridled and snatched the red curry. “I can handle spice just fine, asshole.”
Sanyam’s lips twitched. “If I’d said I preferred the massaman, you’d have taken that instead, wouldn’t you?”
His eyes danced with amusement, and Sterling floundered. No one had ever found his dickish behavior funny before.
Sanyam’s smile widened. “Enjoy your spice, Fox.”
“What is it?”
“I… actually like massaman better,” he admitted.
Sanyam laughed out loud and handed him the container. “Good, because I prefer the red.”
Sterling’s lips curved as he took the curry and began to ladle it over his rice.
I will admit that I haven’t read anything by this author previously, but something about this book intrigued me right away (the cover threw me though…I didn’t understand it at all, until I read the book, then it made so much more sense!). I loved that it was BDSM, but clearly not just any BDSM. A Dom that actually WORKS as a Dominant for a living is not a book you read every day.
The beginning was a little rough for me. When they first met, there was a difficult situation, and I didn’t see or feel any chemistry. Then when they met the second time, I felt the same. I couldn’t see why Sanyam was drawn to Sterling at all. He wasn’t just a brat, he was an a-hole. Just a complete a-hole. A hard character to like initially. Of course, because the author really put her characterizations together well, you began to see why Sterling was a character that was hard to love, but that Sanyam looked right through to the core of. In that same vein, I even had a hard time figuring out why Sterling chose to meet with Sanyam at all. It just didn’t make sense to me. So yeah, the beginning was a touch rough.
But it smoothed out very quickly after that. The reader definitely saw the characters’ personalities, and how they were shaped. In the case of Sterling, he had several very traumatic events at an early age. Not physically traumatic, or even something that someone might characterize as “abusive”. However, with events such as that, it was obvious why Sterling developed a shell around him that he would rather have everything bounce off of, versus letting anyone close to him.
The glimpses of the “good guy” in Sterling were fantastic though. He took a situation that was an every day event with his sister, that could have been so tragic to the eroding of his shell, and slowly worked it into something positive, something he could feel proud of. Oh, he fell, many times, but he kept trying to find the good in himself, and Sanyam was will and able to help with that.
I loved that Sanyam was an Indian character, originally from Mumbai, and other than one very brief moment in the book, it was never an issue for him. The author could easily have used Sanyam’s race as a way to move the book forward, and yet did not, and I appreciated that. The issues that came up were plentiful and of the characters’ own making, so the book did not feel lacking by not addressing racism intensely.
By about 50% in the book, Sterling had stolen my heart, simply because he had so many hard knocks in his life, and they just kept coming. And although, no one could call him a positive person, he could easily have sank into drugs or alcohol, and instead stayed away from that, keeping his pain internal. Certainly not the best avenue, but it could have been so much worse for him. It did allow Sanyam the space to help where he could, and bring Sterling out of his head, and into his heart.
One last piece, the “resolution” scene, if you will. There were pieces that I didn’t quite like as a reader, simply because I want joy, and agreement and happiness everywhere…and yet, they were absolutely the right things for these characters, and once I thought on that, I completely agreed with the author’s choices there. So, although I always want everyone to have the happiest of happy endings, and to get everything they want, it truly was what was right for the characters. Bravo to the author for changing my mind…not always possible. 🙂
In the end, 4.5 pieces of eye candy, and one I think I’d like to read again. I think this is a book, I might glean even more from once I read it a second time. Recommended.
Michaela Grey lives and writes in the Texas hill country. Her hobbies include knitting, analyzing her favorite TV shows, and experiencing intense feelings over fictional characters. Michaela Grey told stories to put herself to sleep since she was old enough to hold a conversation in her head. When she learned to write, she began putting those stories down on paper. She and her family reside in the Texas hill country with their cats, and she is perpetually on the hunt for peaceful writing time, which her children make difficult to find. When she’s not writing, she’s watching hockey videos or avoiding responsibilities on Twitter, where she shamelessly ogles pretty people and tries to keep her cat off the keyboard.