Zeeb Hemming is the new sheriff in town, and he’s not entirely thrilled with the people of Stoneshade. He wanted a change of scenery and a new start, but the close-mindedness of a small town, combined with the pack mentality of shifters, lead to a hostile working environment, especially for a new Alpha bigger and badder than the previous top dog. Adding to that, he took the previous Alpha’s promotion, and now instead of being in charge, Dolph is still a deputy.
When Zeeb finds out about the town sport of harassing one of the few human residents, an agoraphobic named Jeremiah, by constantly putting out ads in the local paper inviting people to show up on his porch and try to get in (“sub looking for a dom,” “masseuse willing to give happy endings”), he’s not laughing, and the fact that they are pisses him off. Zeeb demands they stop what they’re doing and leave the poor guy alone, but instead of having the desired effect, the tensions only get worse.
This novella packs a great deal of punch for such a small package. Jeremiah was a brilliant child, stuck in the local human schools where his education could only go so far. His father decided to try to have him placed in a local shifter school for better teachers, more resources, and maybe even the chance at college, but something happened that left Jeremiah terrified of leaving his house. He knew, through horrible experience, that the big bad wolf was on the other side of his door, and is still somewhere out there.
Things change when Zeeb realizes Jeremiah is his mate, making him more determined than ever to do something about this horrible situation. The harassment, the bullying, it is going to stop, whether Jeremiah is his or not. And Zeeb isn’t even certain he should do anything about the mate bond. Jeremiah is a human, not a shifter, and won’t feel the pull the same way. A shifter/human relationship isn’t unheard of, but it’s not exactly accepted, and less so in Stoneshade where humans are targets, not neighbors.
The world building, the storytelling, and the characterizations are all so well done, especially considering the fact that this story takes less than 80 pages to get it done. Honestly, I wish this had been a full-length novel with the author having the room to really stretch their wings and explore more of Jeremiah’s position in the town as a human, and Zeeb’s own difficulties being a new Alpha, having outranked the previous ruling family. It’s always a sign of a good book, I think, when I’m left running off to see if I can find a sequel for it. Alas, this one doesn’t have one, yet. But fingers crossed!