Slade Slater is a one-night-only kind of guy and he isn’t interested in complications. When last night’s hook up comes back again wanting more, Slade quickly dismisses the man without a thought. Until the twink’s boyfriend shows up, furious that Slade hurt his man and issuing a curse: Slade will not be able to stay anywhere longer than a month or he will die, and the only way to break the curse is to give up his true love. At first, Slade doesn’t think much of it… until a month passes and he starts to get sicker than he has ever been. Then the harsh reality hits that the curse is real, and Slade must leave his home, his shop, and his family and hit the road if he has any chance of survival.
Noah is a wolf shifter who grew up isolated from the human world. His whole pack was slaughtered by hunters and the man who raised Noah taught him to fear humans and stay away at all costs. Noah’s one attempt at socializing with a human ended in disaster and he has learned his lesson. But while he just wants to live a quiet, remote life, hunters are still targeting Noah and want him dead.
When Slade encounters an injured, naked man who has been shot, he immediately jumps in to try to help. Except the man is healing awfully quickly. And Slade knows he heard a wolf whimper right before a human cry. And those are wolf prints leading up to the man’s body, not human ones. The Slade of ten years ago never would have believed Noah was anything but human, but years of being forced to wander the roads under a sorcerer’s curse have taught him there is more out there than he once believed. Slade is determined to protect Noah while the hunters are on his trail and the two men set off on the road together.
Noah is wary at first about trusting a human, but Slade shows him nothing but care and kindness. Slade is even determined to help Noah find others like him. As they spend more time together, feelings start to grow between them and the men begin falling for each other. But Noah needs to find his pack and Slade can’t settle down. Not to mention, with hunters on their trail, Noah’s life is on the line.
Cursed: Ride or Die is an entertaining shifter story with some great world building. The focus on the paranormal side here is really on the battle between the human hunters and the shifters. We learn about Noah’s past and the loss of his family and pack to the hunters, as well as some more recent trauma. Almost all of the wolf packs have been destroyed, meaning Noah and his adoptive father, Paul, lived essentially without any contact with people or other wolves. Noah is afraid of humans based on Paul’s teachings and his own experiences just reinforce it. So meeting Slade and realizing he is a person who actually cares and wants to help him is somewhat of a shock to Noah. The conflict with the hunters builds well throughout the book, keeping a simmering threat that crops up periodically and comes to a big finale with danger and excitement, as well as some interesting revelations.
The other paranormal focus is on Slade’s curse. He ends up brushing off a one-night stand who is too clingy and it turns out the guy’s boyfriend is a sorcerer. The sorcerer is angry at Slade, not for sleeping with his mate, but for hurting him by blowing him off. So as punishment, Slade is cursed to never be able to settle down with anyone, needing to constantly move from one place to another. The story sets this up well as we start ten years ago with Slade’s encounter with the sorcerer and then his early attempts to understand the curse and possibly find a way to break it. He can’t get rid of the curse, but he does manage to mitigate it with a condition — if he gives up his true love, it will break the curse. Of course, finding anyone to love is difficult when Slade can’t stay in one place for more than a month. By the time we catch up with Slade again, he is weary of traveling and frustrated that he is still paying for a mistake he made so long ago. While Noah travels with Slade for a while, his ultimate goal is to find a pack, and Slade definitely wants that for him. But of course, that means the end of things between them because Slade can’t stick around. It makes for an interesting conflict and overlays nicely with the human/wolf part of the story. I did feel this resolution comes together a little too quickly at the very end, and I didn’t fully understand exactly what happens or how things were going to play out in the future. But it is a solid HEA for the men.
I also enjoyed Noah and Slade together. Noah has been super sheltered with so little outside contact, so not only is he unfamiliar with the human world, he is also a virgin and has no experience with men. Slade, on the other hand, has never had anything serious. He is also a big biker dude who scares off most folks, but is sweet and gentle with Noah. He is attracted to Noah right away, but takes a lot of care to keep things slow given Noah’s lack of experience. The two men are a nice fit and their relationship grows well as they spend time on the road together.
Overall, I really liked this shifter story. The world building is interesting and creative and the characters are nicely developed and likable together. If you are looking for a shifter story with a bit of a different twist, this is definitely worth checking out.