Fated Surrender by Alanea Alder

  “Arkadion, is that you? Who pissed the bear off?” an older man’s voice asked. Connor watched as Griffin stepped out of a side room and looked around until he saw him.

  “Get your ass in here boy. Bring your mate.” Griffin turned and went back into a large conference room. Connor turned to Madison.

  “We have been summoned,” he said, grinning. He took her hand and walked to the conference room. He held the door open and closed it behind them. There were two other men besides Griffin seated around a large table. Connor eyed Gary Wendall wearily. He had dealt with the Agency director before, he didn’t like the man. The second man was Jeffrey Davidson, the council’s most trusted representative to appear when they could not. He had their complete trust to speak on matters. He had met Davidson before in passing, so he had no idea why the man was with them now.

  Gracefully, Madison took a seat and Connor sat beside her.

  “First off, congratulations on your mating. I’m sorry to call you away, but we had another body pop up this one practically on our front door step. It was Stanton. The bastard took out one of our own,” Griffin said, and Connor clenched his fists. He had worked with Stanton. He was a laid-back lion shifter who had been lucky enough to mate with a rare female lion shifter. They had three cubs.

  “Stacy?” he asked.

  “Grieving. She wanted to know who was working the case and was shocked when your name wasn’t mentioned. She seems to have the opinion that if you had been there her mate would still be alive.” Griffin said watching Connor closely.

  “I’ve worked with Stanton before, we got along well together. She’s right. If you had called me in before this, he may still be alive. So let’s cut the shit, gentlemen. Why in the fuck did you wait nearly four months before calling me? Not a high enough body count?” Connor asked bitterly.

  “There is reason to believe that the killer is a vampire. Your loyalties would have been divided, seeing as how you are living with the blood suckers.” The wolf shifter sitting across from Connor spat.

  “Fuck you, Wendall. Gabriel and his coven saved Arkadia this summer by freely donating their own blood so that shifters would live. My loyalties lie where they have always been, in finding the truth and stopping monsters,” Connor said, barely holding his anger in check.

  “Maybe that is how they have gained control of you,” Wendall said.

  “You want to say that again?” Connor growled, standing to his full height.

  “I must say that I am extremely underwhelmed by your associates, Connor,” Madison said, sounding bored. She looked at Wendall. Connor could see disgust fill her eyes. She continued.

  “No wonder this case hasn’t been solved with men such as this one heading up the investigation. He is blinded by his racism and fear. I could send your statements to the council. I could also recommend they call every single one of your cases up for review. I’m sure they would be curious to see how many of the cases you have solved had a convenient vampire perpetrator. That being said, my own brother, Dr. Maddox Claybourne, created and administered the cure to the shifter virus in Arkadia. He and Elder Lachlan Lewenhart have reported that there were no side effects in using the vampire blood so generously donated by Prince Gabriel’s coven. Now it sounds to me like you have a problem with my mate, my brother and my elder. I’d like to know why,” Madison said coolly.

  Connor felt like hugging his mate but knew that would be counterproductive to the professional image she wanted to portray. He stayed standing and crossed his arms. He glared at Wendall, who looked mad enough to spit nails.

  “I would be interested to know why as well.” Connor growled.

  “Connor, Wendall is a jackass, but he may be right about this being a vampire,” Griffin said, trying to diffuse the situation.

  “What evidence do you have? Because I have been keeping tabs on this case for months and didn’t see any indication that made me think this was a vampire,” Connor said, taking his seat.

  “I suppose you have all of the crime scene photos?” Wendall asked with a sneer. Connor grinned back at him and watched the sneer disappear. Wendall turned to Griffin.

  “Did you know someone in your department has been leaking information by sending Arkadion photos?” he demanded. Griffin nodded and looked Wendall in the eye.

  “Yes, because it was me. We needed him on this case from the beginning, but for some ridiculous reason it was decided that this case fell under the Agency’s jurisdiction. I had to lose a man to finally get Arkadion called in. Now stow your shit and let the man speak,” Griffin roared.

  Connor looked down at the table to hide his grin. His commander was a gruff, no-nonsense bastard most days, but he had the loyalty of every single Sentinel that served under him and that was because he always had their backs.

  “You…” Wendall started.

  “Just shut the fuck up already. Arkadion, what do you have?” Davidson snapped.

  Connor looked up and smiled at Jeffrey Davidson before turning to his boss. He picked up the manila folder and started flipping through the case notes.

  “Sir, I have been tracking the locations where the bodies are found.”

  “Found. You are implying that they are not killed in these locations?” Wendall interrupted.

  “That’s exactly what I am saying.” He turned back to Griffin, ignoring Wendall’s sputtering indignation.

  “Each scene where the bodies are found, at the beginning anyway, they were almost clinically clean. No blood splatter, no loose hairs or fibers found. Each location seems to have been chosen to somehow mock the happiness in the life of the victim. The first was found in a playground. He was an elementary school teacher. The second was found at a café table where the victim days earlier had confessed to friends, that it was the planned location where he was going to ask his mate to marry him. The list goes on. Each victim is completely drained of blood, with two open holes in the neck, yet there is no evidence of blood being spilled from the wounds or any of the victims clothing. All the victims are healthy shifters in their prime. Of the males taken, every single one show signs that they had been severely beaten, all the females were repeatedly raped.” Connor sighed and continued.

  “None of the victims are children, nor have any of the victims been parents with the recent exception of Stanton, but I’ll get back to him.” Connor spread out the photos and stood to go to a pinned map. He examined it for a second before turning back to the table.

  “The red pins show where the bodies were found, the green ones show where they were taken from. I believe that he takes them to a third location where they are tortured and drained. I think that his base of operations is central to all three locations, which would put him somewhere around the warehouse district,” Connor said, pointing to the map.

  “I don’t think you have a rogue vampire on a killing spree. I think this is the work of a drainer collecting blood, the holes in the neck are from pick lines,” Connor said, sitting back down.

  “Arkadion, all you did was restate the facts that we already know,” Wendall said. “I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page. But before I go on, where was Stanton taken and where was he found?” Connor asked.

  “From a stakeout van at Purgatory last week. He was found yesterday in his kid’s tree house, his Sentinel windbreaker was shoved down his throat,” Griffin said sadly. Connor took a steadying breath and felt a warm hand take his under the table. He looked over to Madison. There was warm sympathy in her eyes. He nodded and pulled his hand free, taking out his own notes from the folder.

  “Here are my conclusions based on his actions thus far. We’re looking for a white male between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. I am leaning toward the high side of his late forties. He has had years of being pushed around to fuel his anger. He will be small in size and his animal will also be small, probably a prey animal. He blames others for his own unhappiness, which he attributes to a lack of respect, which in his opinion is due to his height or animal.”
  “He probably works in a medical field. He is draining and storing blood, which takes medical training and equipment. He was probably bullied or abused as a child. I have no proof, but I am willing to bet that the first victim was an accident, the elementary school teacher. I believe that he saw the teacher either hit or abuse one of the children, which made him a target. It also explains why none of the victims are children or have children with the recent exception of Stanton.”

  “He is using these deaths to support his Shifted Death habit. He kills the shifter, drains them, and takes the blood to a local dealer for processing. He only gets a fraction of product for the quantity of blood he is taking. But he is a user, and he is starting to make mistakes, which is why you found traces of vampire blood at the last scene before Stanton. It wasn’t the blood of the attacker, but blood from the drug. He is experiencing highs and lows, manic and depressed states. In his manic state he rages and loses control consumed in jealousy. He feels as if the victim has somehow taken something from him. He either beats or rapes his victim to extract revenge, to put himself above them, to control them. It’s a power play. In the depressed, paranoid state he removes all traces of himself from the victim. He is working outside the drug ring operations. There aren’t enough bodies for this to be a small faction. He is doing this to support his own habit. One, maybe two kills a week, I estimate.”

  “That just leaves Stanton. The anomaly. The statement. The killer knows he has our attention. Stanton was part anger and part satisfaction, as if he feels like he is finally being seen. I hate to ask, sir. But was Stanton raped?” Connor asked and held his breath. He really didn’t want to know. Tears filled the older man’s eyes and he nodded.

  “How could you possibly know that? We have kept that under wraps,” Davidson asked.

  “Because if I were him, that’s what I would do. It was a message to us. He is saying ‘Fuck you. You can’t beat me. I am better than you, I own you. Look what I can do and you can’t stop me.’” Connor had to take a deep breath. This was the part of the job he hated. This was the part that scared him. He feared how he well he understood these monsters.

  “He’ll be celebrating tonight. Manic state. Flying high. He has stuck it to ‘the man.’ Literally. We may get lucky and catch him at a bar or club. He may get sloppy and start bragging, but it’s a long shot.” Connor let his head drop back. He was exhausted.

  “Griffin was right. You should have been called in at the beginning. Wendall, I will also be including that in my report to the council. I will also take Ms. Claybourne-Arkadion’s advice and make the suggestion to Elder Ora that your cases be reviewed. Your narrow-minded bigotry has gotten a lot of people killed. Connor Arkadion is under vampire control about as much as I am.” Davidson looked at the director of the Agency in contempt.

  “Now see here,” Wendall began.

  “You are dismissed, Director. I am moving this case where it should have been all along. Under Sentinel jurisdiction. Pull your agents from this case immediately,” Davidson ordered.

  “Blood fuckers!” Wendall snarled and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

  “Commander, I am sorry for your department’s loss. Arkadion, you have done good work here. I hope that we can continue to come to you for assistance,” Davidson asked.

  “We’ll talk later, Jeffrey,” Madison said, speaking up. Connor rolled his eyes.

  “I wish that bastard wasn’t so damn slippery. He approached the van where the closed circuit television from the shop across the street couldn’t see him.” Griffin growled.

  Connor froze. Stanton was taken at Purgatory. David and Daniel had that placed wired like Fort Knox. He quickly pulled out his cell phone and dialed Gabriel’s number.

  “Gabriel speaking,” the smooth, musical voice answered.

  “Prince Gabriel. This is Connor Arkadion. I’d like a word in private if you can manage it,” Connor said. He could hear people’s voices and laughter and knew that Gabriel was at the diner.

  “Connor? Are you being coerced? Are you able to speak freely?” Gabriel asked, and Connor nearly groaned out loud when all the background noise stopped. Knowing that his Ma wouldn’t let Gabriel leave the diner until she knew he was okay, he sighed and continued.

  “Prince Gabriel, I am sitting with Commander Terrance Griffin from Sentinel and Jeffrey Davidson, trusted liaison from the shifter council. We are reviewing notes regarding a string of murders that have been taking place around Brighton. The last man who was killed was kidnapped from Purgatory’s parking lot last week. Can you see if David and Daniel have anything on video surveillance? It would have been a parked, unmarked, black van,” Connor explained.

  “David, Daniel,” Gabriel said.

  “On it.” “Connor, are you safe? If you are in Brighton, I can have my coven members to your location in under ten minutes,” Gabriel offered.

  “I’m safe. Tell my Ma to bake me an apple pie and have the coffee ready. Oh and tell Aleks to calm down before he bursts a blood vessel,” Connor said, smiling.

  “Blood vessel my ass. What in the hell is my baby brother doing at the Sentinel head office?” he heard Aleks roar.

  “Connor, I would feel better if you would allow Kurt and Lauri to come to you,” Gabriel said.

  “Really, everyone, Madison and I are fine. We’ll wrap up here and be back home in a couple of hours,” he reassured the prince.

  “Connor Christian Arkadion, you bring your ass back to this diner. You have two hours before I send your brothers to come get you,” his Ma said, growling between each word.

  I’m in for it now.

  “Gabriel, if you could have the twins email me anything they find I would appreciate it,” Connor said.

  “Are you sure you don’t need an escort?” Gabriel asked again.

  “I’m sure. Thank you for everything.” Connor ended the call and let his head fall onto his arms on the table.

  “My ma is going to kill me,” he whispered. Madison giggled. He looked up and Griffin and Davidson were struggling not to laugh.

  “Now I see why I don’t intimidate you,” Griffin said, smiling wide.

  “Sir, she wasn’t kidding. I better leave now to make it back to Arkadia in under two hours. Knowing her, she’ll jump the gun. I’ll forward anything I get from David and Daniel to you. Come on, honey,” Connor said, standing. He fought the need to run to the truck to get on the road.

  “She doesn’t know that Sentinel asks for your help on cases does she?” Madison asked. Griffin started laughing.

  “Ms. Claybourne-Arkadion. Connor doesn’t just help with cases, he works them. Connor is a Sentinel,” Griffin explained. Madison’s eyes narrowed.

  “Son of a bitch,” Connor murmured.

  Chapter 5

  The entire drive back to Arkadia, Madison sat with her arms crossed over her chest, fuming. Connor didn’t know what he feared worse, the ass chewing he was about to get from his Ma, or the ass chewing his mate was probably planning in her tactical mind right now. He wondered if he could sleep at Emmett’s tonight.

  “Try it and I’ll skin you alive,” Madison said coldly. Shit. He had said that out loud. He parked the truck at the diner one hour and twenty minutes later. He stared at the neon red “Open” sign.

  “Go take your lumps like a man. That’s what you get for keeping secrets,” Madison said, opening the truck door before climbing out and slamming it shut.

  He got out and joined her on the sidewalk.

  “Why couldn’t Gabriel just walk outside to take the call?” He shook his head, holding the door open for his mate.

  “Probably because he didn’t know you were a fucking Sentinel and thought you were in danger,” she said loudly. Connor froze and looked into the diner from the doorway. Every head had turned to stare at him. He looked down and realized he had forgotten to change back into his diner clothes. Right now, he really did look every inch a Sentinel.

  “Thanks, Madison,” he said with clenched teet

  “Any time,” she said, smiling up at him sweetly before waltzing by and taking a chair next to her brother. Connor walked in and went over to where his ma waited for him in front of the counter, standing next to Pa who was sitting on one of the barstools.

  “Hey, Ma,” he mumbled. His ma walked over and pulled him into a bone-crushing embrace.

  “Don’t you ever scare us like that again! Now. What in the world is going on with you, Connor? You haven’t been sleeping, you’ve lost weight. You’re distracted and distant. Are the Sentinels bothering you? What did Madison mean when she said you were a Sentinel? She is mistaken, right?” Ma fired off question after question. He took a deep breath, held both of her hands in his, and led her to the table to sit next to Aleks and Rebecca. He nodded at Pa and sat next to his mate.

  “Madison is right, Ma. I am a Sentinel. I was recruited out of college to work a serial killer case at the suggestion of my college advisor. He was also a shifter, and he knew that I applied what I learned about psychology and took into consideration the animal aspect of things. It’s why he suggested me, the serial killer was suspected of being a shifter by Sentinel,” Connor explained.

  “The trip you took to help battered women in Virginia?” Ma asked. “We were tracking the killer. He was a wolf shifter. He would shift to his animal and lure small boys out of their homes at night. He would abduct them, rape them, and hide the bodies in the foundations of houses that were being built that summer in a shiny new housing development.” Connor looked around the table. Everyone looked horrified. Ma had her hand to her mouth.

  “Once I figured out how he was getting the boys, we set up a wide net. I was the one who nearly caught him in the backyard of the house we were watching. The little boy was reaching out to pet him. He saw me and ran. When he realized we were closing in on him, he left a trail of boy’s bodies leading back here to Arkadia. He was going after the one that got away,” Connor said and looked at Gavin. All the blood drained from his brother’s face.

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