Dante lives in a world partially of his own making and partially made from circumstances outside of his control. A devastating loss has him avoiding anything too personal. His life is about keeping himself detached and about physical pain, as he fights in his underground club. Dante is a dominant and it’s been too long since he has allowed himself the luxury of a submissive. Until Remi shows up in his club.
Remi has been hiding who he is his entire life. He hides his true nature from his father, the mob boss, and he hides his submissive needs from everyone except his best friend, Kai. Remi has to keep up appearances as a straight dominant man as his very life depends on it. Remi has done his research on Dante, but one look at the man and Remi knows that Dante can give him everything he craves.
The men know the deal and the rules are set. No attachment. They both claim they are not emotionally available anyway, and their relationship is just an erotic power exchange to satisfy both of their needs. But the chemistry is intense and heated and the stakes are high as the men may just have to give up everything in order to find a way to be together.
I have read almost all of J.R. Gray’s work, a lot of it more recently, and this was his best book yet. The author creates an atmospheric backdrop laced with banter that is both real and edgy, alongside two characters that complement each other, challenge each other, and just fit together.
Dante is immersed in running his club and he’s also immersed in loss and pain. He can’t move forward since he has no closure and he has so much anger and blackness inside of him. He drinks too much, he sleeps too little, and when the rage overwhelms him, he goes a few rounds and takes his body to the limit with hardcore underground fighting. Just what Dante is trying to move forward from I will allow you to discover for yourself.
Remi has set his sights on Dante from the first page. Remi’s life is so complicated. His father is a mob boss and he can’t get himself free from that life and his father’s demands and expectations. He has a special relationship with his best friend Kai that once was his life line but is now co-dependent, faltering, and not giving him at all what he needs. He is trying to be everything for everyone else while denying the one thing that will ease his own chaos: the fact that he wants to submit. But in his world he is the dominant and he plays the role perfectly with only Kai keeping his secrets as the true nature of their relationship slowly comes to light.
Gray sets up a completely unique dynamic here with Remi being a practicing dominant, but really needing to submit and when he is with Dante these two sides of himself are at war with each other. The men embark on a D/s relationship where Dante gets creative, and there are no limits, except for the one that is making both of them crazy from the heat. They get so tied up within each other that in some ways it becomes difficult for them to separate exactly who holds the power. There were times that the story felt like a slow burn as there were many reasons both men hold themselves back, but these guys ooze chemistry and tension and in actuality they set themselves on fire for each other from the very first glance.
The author had great control of the story. There were many elements all coming together for both men, from Dante’s past, to Remi’s relationship with his father and Kai, and enough details were offered in each area to get the full picture without those areas then taking over. And, as an added bonus, the book is told in dual, first person POV.
The ending wraps up the story. It does. Yet, that final scene was slightly rushed for me. There was one area where I still had questions and I could have used more closure on the Kai story line when all was said and done. There is an epilogue of sorts, which in the ebook is a quoted paragraph. There is an extended epilogue in the paperback version only and perhaps the closure I was seeking is available elsewhere.
Gray captures the chemistry between Dante and Remi in a primal, sensual way and this book excelled at translating that directly off of the page. This is an excellent choice for a book that sets the tone for two characters that live on the edges of a darker life and the struggle to truly let someone in is well played out.