Fated Surrender by Alanea Alder

  Connor sighed. “I never should have told you about my side work,” Connor said, returning to his recliner.

  “You put your mind and body through the wringer every time you take on one of these cases. It must be bad this time if you can’t hide it from your family.” Doc sat back on the couch.

  “I normally leave town when I know it will get this bad, it’s just everyone is still reeling from what happened with the virus and Rebecca’s due soon. If it continues much longer I’ll tell them I’m attending another conference,” Connor said, rubbing his forehead. Doc shook his head.

  “Tell them to call someone else. Connor, bow out on this one. Have you ever heard of the expression ‘Physician heal thyself’?” Doc asked.

  “So what you’re saying is I’m no good to anyone while my own shit is falling apart?” Connor smiled.

  “I know that, Doc, but they only call when they have no leads. I am their last resort. So I can’t bow out, I’d never be able to live with myself if this monster went free because I wasn’t doing everything I could to help catch him.”

  “I knew you’d say that. Here, take this. It will help you sleep. When you wake up, eat a large breakfast. I want you to make sure you’re eating three times a day, Connor. If you want to continue working this case, you need to be healthy.” Doc handed him a small bottle.

  “Thanks, Doc. I promise to take better care of myself,” Connor swore.

  “Good, because you shouldn’t worry your mother,” Doc said, smiling.

  “She worries whether we give her cause or not.” Connor grinned.

  “Be thankful for that,” Doc said, picking up his bag and travel scale.

  “I am. Thanks again for coming out and for not saying anything.” Connor walked him to the door.

  “It’s not my place to say anything. Sweet dreams, Connor,” Doc said, giving a small salute.

  “Bye, Doc.” Connor closed the door and stared at the bottle in his hand. He shrugged. Couldn’t hurt. He walked to the kitchen and got a glass and filled it. He read the directions on the bottle, popped the cap, poured two pills into his hand, and downed it with the water. He walked back to his bedroom and lay down on his bed. He was wondering how long it would take for the pills to kick in when darkness swept him away.

  Chapter 2

  Groaning, Connor sat up in bed and looked at his clock, then looked out the window, and then back to his clock again. He hated it when he couldn’t tell if it was six a.m. or six p.m. since they both looked the same this time of year. He picked up his cell phone and shook his head. It was six a.m. the next day. He had slept for nearly twenty hours, which would explain why he had to piss so badly. He got up and took care of business before jumping into the shower. When he got out his stomach was protesting. That large breakfast was looking like a great idea.

  He decided that traditional breakfast food would take too long and popped a frozen pizza in the oven. While that was cooking he munched on an apple. When the pizza was done he sat down and devoured every slice. When he finished he looked down at the empty platter. Feeling better than he had in a while, he got dressed and headed to the diner.

  Whistling, he opened the door and saw that his ma had already started breakfast.

  “Good morning, Ma,” he said brightly, feeling more like himself than he had in weeks. Maybe he should listen to his own advice and get help when he needed it.

  “Good morning, baby boy, you look better. Did you get any sleep?” she asked.

  He nodded and gave her a big hug, lifting her off the ground.

  “Connor! You know I hate it when you boys do that,” she said, laughing.

  “We know. It’s why we do it. Thanks for sending Doc around.” He kissed her cheek. Whistling, he started to help with breakfast.

  “There is the Connor we know,” Damian said, sipping a cup of coffee. Rian looked him up and down, nodding.

  “Much better. The bags under your eyes had bags. You’re too sexy for that. There is only one reason on earth to be that tired and I don’t think that’s why you were missing sleep,” Rian said playfully.

  “You’re in a chipper mood,” Connor said, cracking eggs on the grill.

  “Doc’s sister is arriving in town today. Damian and I are meeting her at the clinic to pick up our goodies. I can’t wait to see what she brought. Over the phone she sounded like she had good taste.” Rian beamed at Connor, excitement all over his face.

  “Make sure she swings by the diner. You know, so she can see we have electricity and running water and all,” Connor said, laughing.

  “I will. Well I’m off to the clinic. See y’all later,” Rian said before downing his coffee. He and Damian waved and rushed out the door.

  “I don’t care how old they get, I still feel like those two need a babysitter,” Ma said, shaking her head.

  “It’s part of their charm,” Connor retorted.

  Connor was just cleaning up from breakfast when Aleks and Rebecca walked in, smiling at each other. Connor breathed a sigh of relief, as it looked like catastrophe had been averted. For now.

  “How is my favorite baby sister?” Connor asked, walking from behind the counter to kiss Rebecca on the cheek. He didn’t move quick enough as small arms wrapped around his neck pulling him down.

  “Whatever you said. Thank you,” she whispered. Connor kissed her forehead and winked at her.

  “Anytime. Now what can I get for you? I have to feed my nephew,” Connor said, patting her extremely distended belly. In the past month it seemed that her stomach was nearly as big as she was. It surprised him some days she was able to walk upright, much less pop around like she still did.

  “Oh, can I get the chili? Hmm, with some of Pa’s pickles cut up in it with spicy mustard mixed in?” she asked, looking up at him brightly. Connor just stared down at her.

  “You three can never get pregnant at the same time again. Your eating habits are starting to disturb me,” Connor said, heading back behind the counter to spoon out some chili.

  “Actually, there is a very reasonable explanation for that. As we are a small shifter community, my getting pregnant basically put the every female in town into estrus. I’ve been reading up on shifter social breeding patterns and found that in small shifter groups, females tend to get pregnant at the same time so that their children will have a support system growing up. It’s why you, Aleks, Bran, Liam, Rian, and Damian are about the same age,” Rebecca rambled while building a sugar cube cabin on the tabletop.

  “So we’re basically going to see a mini baby boom over the next couple years. Good to know. Here is your freaky ass chili,” Connor said, putting the bowl down in front of Rebecca, who immediately doused the bowl with Texas Pete. Connor looked over to Aleks.

  “Anything for you?” he asked. Aleks watched as Rebecca shoveled spoonful after spoonful into her mouth, humming happily. He looked up and shook his head, swallowing hard.

  “I’m good,” he said, wincing when she popped a pickle in her mouth.

  “God I am craving chili!”

  “Me, too.”

  Connor turned to see Kate and Sebastian walk into the diner with their mates. Grinning, he went back to the large pot of chili and dished out two more bowls and waited.

  “Connor, can I get a bowl of chili with some grapes in it?” Kate asked.

  “Oh that sounds good. Connor, can I get mine with grapes, too, and add some pepperoncinis,” Sebastian called out. Shaking his head, Connor went to the refrigerator and got out the grapes and the pepperoncinis. He walked over to the table where Kate and Sebastian sat with Rebecca and put the two bowls in front of them.

  “Bon appetit,” he said, laughing out loud at their mate’s expressions.

  Connor walked back behind the counter and put a pan of baking powder biscuits in the oven. In the fall, they could never keep enough of them baked. He was pulling a second pan from the oven when the bell on the diner door chimed again. When Connor looked up, he nearly dropped the hot baking sheet. He quickly plac
ed the baking sheet on the counter so he could stare. Rian, Damian, Felix, and Doc Claybourne had walked in with the most stunning woman he had ever seen. She looked nothing like the doctor. She was tall for a woman, around five foot ten. Her auburn hair was pulled back in an elegant bun but seemed to perfectly match her creamy skin and bright, turquoise-blue eyes. He watched in rapt fascination as she threw her head back and laughed at something Rian had said. The group took the table next to Rebecca. Rian immediately went to Kate to show off his new things. Connor was about to turn back to the meal he was preparing when a luscious scent hit him in the face. The woman in front of him smelled like apple cake, and she was his mate. His gums ached as he fought his canines from descending.

  He watched her nostrils flare, and she looked up to see him watching her. She took another deep breath and then deliberately turned her face to her brother to resume their conversation. Connor felt his mouth drop. She knew. She knew they were mates and was ignoring him! Snapping his mouth shut, he walked over to their table and stood next to the elegant redhead.

  “Connor, I’d like for you to meet my sister, Madison Claybourne. Madison, this is Connor Arkadion,” Claybourne said, introducing the two.

  “Nice to meet you,” Connor said, looking her in the eye. He watched as she eyed him up and down, taking in every burn mark and stain on his clothing and apron. She ignored him and turned to Rebecca.

  “Rebecca, I’ve heard some interesting things about you. How do you like living in a shifter town?” Madison asked. Connor looked to Claybourne, who was frowning at his sister. Rebecca’s head tilted to one side, and she stared at Madison for a few seconds.

  “I love it here. Then again I was almost mated to Aleks just minutes after arriving in town.” Rebecca looked from Connor to Madison back to Connor.

  “Funny you should mention that, Becca. Madison, can I talk to you for a moment?” Connor said, still standing beside the table. Madison’s head swung to Connor before she held up one finger.

  “Big girls are talking, run along now,” she said and turned back to Rebecca. Connor looked around both tables, and everyone was staring slack-jawed at Madison. Connor let a slow smile cross his face, and he held up his hand.

  “Aleks, can I borrow your car?” he asked casually. Aleks dug into his pocket and threw the keys at Connor, frowning.

  “Sure, but didn’t you drive your truck into town?” Aleks asked. Connor nodded.

  “Yup, but the truck doesn’t have a trunk or the shifter-proof reinforced cage your patrol car has,”

  “Why could you need…”

  Connor grinned, and before Aleks could finish asking his question he grabbed Madison by the arm and slung her over one shoulder. The screeching started immediately.

  “Put me down! Put me down this instant, you backwoods heathen!”

  “Pa, I’m going to be using Grandpa’s cabin for a bit,” Connor said as Madison pounded his back. He gritted his teeth and hoisted her higher, adjusting her on his shoulder. Doc looked at him, panicked, rising from his chair.

  “Don’t worry, Doc. She’s my mate. I won’t hurt her. Much,” Connor assured the man. Doc looked at Connor before collapsing back into his seat.

  “Don’t turn your back on her. She fights dirty,” Claybourne said.

  “Maddox!! How could you? I am your sister!” Madison screamed.

  “It’s because you’re my sister I know you fight dirty,” Claybourne said.

  “Be back later.” Connor carried his struggling mate outside to Aleks’s parked patrol car. Seeing Duncan and Emmett walking up the sidewalk, he tossed the keys at them.

  “Great timing, Em. Can you open up the back, my hands are full,” Connor said, laughing. He grunted when Madison punched him in the kidney.

  “Sure, bro. Hmm, can you tell us why you’re kidnapping this pretty lady?” Duncan asked as Emmett opened up the backseat.

  Connor slapped Madison on the ass hard and she yelped.

  “Quit fighting or you’re going in the trunk,” he said in a firm voice.

  “I hate you!” she yelled. He grinned, tossed her in the backseat, and shut the door.

  “She’s my mate. I’m heading up to grandpa’s cabin for a while to woo my wildcat.” Connor opened the driver’s side door, and a litany of curses were clearly heard. He shut the door and winced.

  “She’s very vocal.” Duncan leaned on Emmett and laughed.

  “Don’t worry about the diner, we got it covered,” Emmett said.

  “Later, guys.” Connor took a deep breath and opened the driver’s side door again. Sighing at the volume of his mate’s screams, he got into the car. He turned around to see that his mate’s cheeks were flushed red in anger. He couldn’t wait to see what they would do when she was aroused.

  “Listen, it’s about a two-hour drive up the mountain to the cabin. You can yell and scream all you want, but you’re just going to make yourself horse.” Connor smiled at his mate, who glared at him through the reinforced steel bars.

  “Listen, kid, I don’t know how you do things out here in the sticks, but in civilization this is kidnapping and everyone in that diner including my stupid brother are accessories,” she said, clenching her jaw.

  “Yup, now sit back and enjoy the ride.” He winked at her.

  “You wish,” she muttered.

  Connor made sure to stop at the grocery store before rolling out of town. They would be okay for a few days. Hopefully he would have her accepting their mating before then.

  Once they were on the road he decided to try to get to know his mate.

  “So tell me about yourself.” Connor grinned at his mate in the rearview mirror. She glared at him. It was going to be a long drive.

  He could almost hear her thoughts. She was itching to get her claws into him.

  “I’m extremely pissed off and thinking of the different ways I am going to eviscerate you later.” She growled.

  “Now darlin’, don’t use big words if you want to scare me,” Connor drawled and winked at her. She snorted.

  “What else?” he asked. He could feel her staring at the back of his head and wondered for the hundredth time in the span of an hour what in the hell had Fate been thinking when she had paired them up.

  “I’m a lawyer.”

  “I knew that already.”

  “I was a lawyer when you were in high school.” She turned her gaze to look out the window.

  “Is that going to be an issue for you?” Connor asked reasonably.

  “It doesn’t bother you?” she asked.

  “Gabriel is a couple thousand years older than Ashby, and I’ve never seen two people more in love with each other. There are more important things that make up who we are besides our age, that’s just a number,” Connor said, looking back at her in the rearview mirror.

  “I didn’t get a chance to meet them. Someone kidnapped me,” she retorted.

  “You’ll get the chance to meet everyone when we return to Arkadia.”

  “What makes you think I’m going to move to your small town?” she demanded.

  “Well I live there,” Connor started.

  “That doesn’t really help your case.”

  “My family lives there. Your family lives there. It’s the safest place for us to live.” Connor listed all the reasons to stay in Arkadia.

  “Valid arguments, but not persuasive,” she replied.

  “I’m about to be an uncle, which means you will be an aunt.”

  “That’s your family, not mine.”

  “Felix could pop pregnant any day now.” Connor grinned at her. She stared up at the mirror looking shocked.

  “You said what?” she demanded.

  “Felix is a hybrid. They can become pregnant, which means we could become aunts and uncles on your side of the family, too,” Connor explained. Madison laughed until she fell over on the seat.

  “Why is it that funny?” Connor asked.

  “I bet Maddox had an aneurysm!” She giggled, placing her hand on he
r side. Connor chuckled.

  “He does seem like the type,” Connor admitted.

  “You should have seen him as a kid.” Madison smiled at Connor. It seemed like she had forgotten that she hated him.

  “Then again you weren’t even born then,” she quipped.

  “Are we back to that?” he asked.

  “You’re too damn easy to talk to,” she grumbled.

  “Makes my job easier.”

  “I doubt the fry baskets are all that talkative,” she retorted.

  He simply shrugged.

  “You know, if you keep frowning like that you’ll get wrinkles.” Connor’s deep voice filled the car. Her hands flew to her forehead, and he began to chuckle.

  “Bitch,” she muttered.

  “Jerk,” he replied.

  She looked up to find him watching her in the mirror again.

  “Do you think Aleks has a weapons stash in the trunk?” Connor asked brightly.

  “This is no Impala.” She grinned, unable to help herself.

  Feeling better about the situation, he grinned back at his mate. That was until he saw her smile shift into a predatory, feral grin. He swallowed hard.

  “Game on,” she said. He pushed down the rising twinges of panic. Oh yeah, this was going to be fun.

  Chapter 3

  They came to a stop in front of an older but well-built log cabin. Connor put the car in park and turned to look at his mate. She was asleep, lying across the backseat. With her eyes closed she looked like a little girl. All the world-weary cynicism was erased and she looked peaceful. He had gotten her to laugh before she had fallen asleep. That had to be a good sign.

  “Madison, Madison, wake up. We’re here,” he called softly. She stirred and curled into a smaller ball. He got out of the car and opened the front door to the cabin. It was late afternoon, and they would only have a couple hours of daylight left and he wanted to make sure the cabin was sound. He walked back to the car and opened the door behind the driver’s seat. He pulled her legs and scooped her up into his arms. For someone so tall, she was a light thing. He frowned, thinking that she wasn’t eating properly. He easily carried her inside to the back bedroom and lay her down on the bed.

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