RELEASE DAY!!! Flawless Surrender (The Surrender Trilogy II) Read Chapter 1…
The Surrender Trilogy II
JUST RELEASED to all major ebook retailers by JK Publishing!
Warning: For Mature Adult Audiences. Contains language and actions some may deem offensive. Sexually explicit content. M/F/M/M, graphic language, consensual BDSM, spanking, HEA. There is ‘No’ touching or titillation between siblings.
In book two of the Surrender Trilogy: The strength of a man is in the way he embraces his flaws, instead of denying them.
Zoey Carson has worked nonstop to graduate with her Master’s degree, after managing to survive parents who neglected her in favor of their own addictions. Her future of helping children overcome their childhood is within her grasp until she is knocked down by a surprise visit from her mother. She finds herself at a crossroads when her longtime crush, Tanner Keegan, comes to her rescue, along with his brothers, Dalton and Clint. Letting them go might help her avoid getting hurt, but the outcome—she would continue to live a lonely, empty life.
The Keegan brothers finally come together after spreading themselves across the globe for more than a decade. Each fighting his own personal battle with the past and future, but there is no question that Zoey turns them all on. Who will risk the pain of baring their soul for the promise of a happy future, and who will succumb to their weaknesses?
Return to Stone River, Texas, where the Keegan brothers work together to win the heart of the woman made for them. Enjoy the journey as Zoey decides if she can be their…Flawless Surrender.
The strength of a man is in the way he embraces his flaws instead of denying them.
Zoey Carson’s life was over.
A couple of months ago she received her master’s degree, and now she would be starting her dream job. In three short weeks, she would be a social worker for the Stone River Junior High School. She would have the opportunity to have an impact on children’s lives, and perhaps encourage them to reach beyond their circumstances. So how in the world was it possible that everything else in her life fell apart just when she thought she was on the right track?
An hour ago she received the news from her landlord the tiny triplex she had occupied for nearly six years had been sold to a developer and was going to be demolished in thirty days. She lived in Stone River. A tiny two-bit town in bum-fuck Texas where there was a ridiculous shortage of apartments and rental homes for a single woman who didn’t have the money to buy a house. So now she was going to be homeless and if the arrival of her mother was any indication, she was going to be broke as well.
Her bone thin, strung out mother stood in front of her with a small backpack flung over her shoulder and a cigarette in her twitchy fingers. Eve Carson only searched her daughter out when she was out of money, or when her latest boyfriend realized what a junkie she really was. Exactly like her ex-husband, Zoey’s lame ass father, Andy. They were both worthless, and she counted herself lucky that she hadn’t seen her father since she was twelve. She only knew he was still alive because her mother occasionally still hooked up with him to score her next hit. Two adults who never grew up and with no intention of doing so, they had come together in a blaze of passion and ended up with a daughter they didn’t know how to take care of and didn’t want. Zoey had always been the adult of the family, even as a little girl.
Eve smiled at her as if she was genuinely happy to see her, but Zoey was under no false hopes of a loving reunion. Instead, she had to bite her own tongue to avoid saying something too vicious in greeting.
Propping her hip on the doorjamb, she blocked her mother’s entrance into her apartment and crossed her arms over her chest. “Mom? What are you doing here?”
Eve’s lips curved up into a tiny smile and Zoey could barely see the faint outline of a bruise marring her jawline. Uh oh. That meant she was coming off another bad break up and she was looking for solace.
She was a serial dater, and the men she usually kept company with were terrible for her. There had been junkies, drug dealers, abusers, ex-cons, and even a pimp a few years back. It seemed like Eve just knew how to pick the shittiest guys around and fall madly in love with them.
“Do I need a reason to visit my beautiful daughter? I came to say hello and visit with you.”
Zoey felt her eyebrow lift nearly to her hairline. “Really? Since when do you randomly drop by Stone River to say hello?”
“Since today, damn it. Now are you going to let your mother in or not?”
Zoey wanted to say no, but she couldn’t. Much to her own dismay, she never could deny either one of her parents. Instead, she stepped back and held the door open to her little studio apartment.
Once upon a time, her mother was a beautiful woman, but now her constant battle with alcohol and drugs had taken its toll on her body. She looked emaciated and sick, with a yellowish pallor to her skin. Zoey knew there was a good chance her mother was stoned out of her mind right now, but she gestured to a seat on the couch anyway.
“So, how have you been, Mom?”
“Good, I’ve been traveling. Leo took me to see Dallas and then San Antonio for a bit. Leo is a great guy. I can’t wait for you to meet him. We met down by Galveston when I was looking for work. We had a little spat yesterday, so we’re taking a break. Giving each other some space. Since I had nothing else going on right now, I decided it was time for me to come visit my Zoey.”
Zoey fought the urge to sigh dramatically. It was just what she expected. “So are you planning on staying for a while?”
Eve’s sunken blue eyes widened in a fake act of surprise, “Only if it’s not an inconvenience, baby. I wouldn’t want to be in your way. I’m sure you have a lot going on right now…”
The words hung there, heavy in the air. Just out of reach. Zoey knew she couldn’t say no, so she nodded, “Of course you can stay here. I’m in the middle of looking for a new place to live though.”
“Oh? Is this place not good enough for a college graduate anymore?”
Eve stubbed her cigarette out in the houseplant that sat next to the sofa and Zoey had to bite her tongue. “No, Mom. My landlord sold the building. I have a couple of weeks to figure out where I’m going to move.
“I see, well I won’t concern myself with the details. I’m sure you will work it all out. What else have you been up to, baby? It’s been months since we sat down and chatted. Do you have a man yet? I met Leo at a bar. He was singing in a local band, and one look was all it took. We’ve been wandering around the state of Texas together, a little like nomads, but you know I enjoy traveling. Do you have anything to eat? I skipped breakfast this morning, and I’m starving now.”
Zoey bit her tongue to keep from responding to Eve’s rush of words. This was the way she was. It was Eve’s world and Zoey felt like she was caught up in a hurricane when she was around, flung about without a handhold. Walking into the kitchen, she tugged the fridge door open and began pulling out the things she would need to throw together a quick sandwich for her mom. Within moments, Eve had two sandwiches and a bag of chips in front of her, happily chattering away about Leo and their misadventures all over the Lone Star state.
“I’m sorry, baby, I’ve been yapping away at you and I haven’t even given you a chance to talk! Now that you’re done with school, what do you plan to do?
Zoey hesitated to be sure the Eve-storm was over before she responded. “I got a job with the local school district. I start in a couple of weeks.”
“Really? I guess nowadays with all of the school shootings and stuff it makes sense they would want head doctors in the schools.” The solemn look on Eve’s face had Zoey shaking her head.
“I’m not a head doctor, Mom. I’m a licensed social worker.”
Eve shrugged. “Same diff. I mean really, you listen to crazy self-centered folks all day long and make them feel better about themselves, right?”
Zoey took a deep breath to calm her nerves and pinched the bridge of her nose as she fought back a snarky reply. “Mom, I’ve got to go out for a bit. Will you be okay here by yourself?”
“Oh sure! I think I’ll indulge in a nice long shower and then maybe take a nap. I haven’t slept much either lately.”
Her mom pulled another cigarette from her purse and reached for her lighter.
“Please, Mom, not in here. You know I can’t stomach the smell.”
Eve rolled her eyes and her lip curled up in a half smile-half cringe. “Yeah, you always were sensitive about things like that. I’ll take a quick walk downstairs and be back in a flash.”
While her mom was gone, Zoey cleaned up the mess left behind in the kitchen, and slid her feet into a pair of sandals. She had her purse over her shoulder and her keys in hand as she crossed paths with Eve going to her car. She had a feeling she was going to be spending a lot more time out of her home rather than trapped inside with her mom.
After a quick text to her best friend, Rachel, as she was starting her beat up four-door sedan, she was on the road with all four windows down and the stifling summer heat of Texas blasting through her dark hair. Oddly enough, even the heavy humid air didn’t stop her from inhaling deeply and sending up a prayer of thanks for the distance she had come since her parents split. She was a grown ass woman with ambitions and goals and her mother was not going to get in her way. Being homeless however, might pose a problem.
Kasey Musgraves new song “Blowing Smoke” echoed over her stereo as she rounded the long dirt drive up to Rachel’s home. Brooks Pastures was one of the most prominent ranches around Stone River and the four Brooks brothers had made up the majority of the towns hottest bachelors list until last summer.
Rachel managed to land all four brothers in one fell swoop, shocking the town and making history. Zoey had braced for some flare-ups about the new polyamorous relationship but oddly, the whole town seemed to embrace the happy family and congratulate them as one. The fact they had just had a beautiful bouncing baby girl might have helped that a little.
Juliet was the sweetest little cherub Zoey had ever seen, and every time she was near the little girl, it was as if her womb clenched. She wanted a baby of her own desperately, but at the moment, the lack of male companionship posed a serious problem. She had been so focused on her career goals that she had put every other need aside, and besides the occasional hot and sweaty hookup that left her wanting, she hadn’t really had a serious relationship. She craved cuddling, and the intimacy and affection that went with a serious relationship. Someday she wanted just one man to look at her and want her from the top of her dark hair to the bottom of her ridiculously oversized feet.
Rachel was waiting on the front porch with a tall glass of sweet tea and a chocolate candy bar when Zoey parked and jumped out. It was just the sort of thing that Zoey needed and she hurried up the steps into her best friend’s arms.
“I’m so glad you’re not back to work yet,” she mumbled into Rachel’s shoulder.
“Me too. It sounded like an urgent situation. What the hell is your mom doing back in Stone River?” Zoey took a step back and accepted the sweet treat from Rachel before following her into the house.
“She’s here to crash at my place because she ran out of money and her newest man, Leo, wouldn’t take care of her anymore. I can’t tell if she’s strung out yet, but she’s sporting a fading bruise on her jaw that she didn’t give to herself.”
“Who has a bruise?” Parker Brooks stepped into the living room just as they were settling onto the sofa.
“My mom. She showed up at my place after another bad break up. I’m stuck with her until she gets bored of Stone River again.” Zoey let out a dejected sigh as she took a big bite of chocolate and let it melt on her tongue. It was amazing how much chocolate could do for a girl in need.
“Why don’t you just tell her to get her own place?” Parker asked, bending and pressing a quick kiss to Rachel’s lips before he sat down in a chair nearby. His jeans and button down shirt were covered in dust, and there was a streak of grime on his cheek making him look like the consummate cowboy.
“Because she has no money. She never has any money, mostly because she spends it all on alcohol or cocaine,” Zoey’s sarcastic comment didn’t cover up the hurt in her tone, and she looked down into her glass of sweet tea, blinking rapidly to keep tears back.
“The guys don’t know about your mom, Zoey, I didn’t think it was my place to tell them.” Rachel was looking at her with pity, and if there was anything Zoey despised, it was pity.
Too many adults looked at her with pity over the years, supposedly sympathizing with her plight, while standing by and allowing it to continue. Her parents never hit her, or physically abused her in a way that would be punishable by law, but they sure were good at neglecting her.
She could remember countless mornings waking up shivering in a house with no heat in the dead of winter, or taking a bath in the creek behind her house because the water had been shut off. The kids at school didn’t know the extent of her situation, but they knew she wore grimy clothes that didn’t fit right. So she became an outcast. Finding Rachel in the second grade was the only good thing that had happened to Zoey in her whole childhood. Rachel’s parents had just split up, and her father had run off to another state with his secretary leaving his family behind. The gossip and chatter put Rachel on the outcast list too, and they connected.
“My mom wasn’t a good mom, and for that matter, my dad was pretty shitty too. It’s not a big deal.”
Rachel and Parker exchanged a look, and for one brief moment Zoey was afraid Rachel would say more, but Parker seemed to shut her down with one of his “don’t mess with me” looks. Instead, Rachel turned and asked her, “So what is this about a developer?”
“Oh yes, that’s the other big news. Langley gave me notice this morning that he sold the house to that developer who just moved here. I don’t remember her name, but she is planning on tearing the place down and building a small sub-division. Apparently the folks in the city like the idea of small town living—as long as they get to keep their suburban housing. So I will be out of a place to live in four weeks, no matter what.”
Zoey let her head fall back on the sofa and closed her eyes. Saying it out loud made it all the more real.
“Shi-oot.” Rachel corrected herself before she cursed in front of Parker, and Zoey looked up just in time to catch the heated look the two lovers shared. “You can always stay here, girl. Now that the remodeling is done on the Master Suite we have a guest bedroom.”
“Um, only one? Didn’t this house have four bedrooms before?” Zoey asked with a raised eyebrow.
Parker chuckled and Rachel snorted before explaining. “I have four husbands, but there is only one of me. So two guys per night can share the bed. That means the other two are on their own, and Juliet has her own room. That leaves one guest bedroom.”
Zoey was instantly sorry she asked as images of her best friend and her four scorching hot husbands sharing a bed and other activities filled her brain. “God, I’m sorry. That was insanely rude of me to ask.”
Parker just laughed while Rachel waved it off. “No biggie. No reason to lie about it. Besides, these guys are taking their lives into their own hands every time they sleep next to me. I kick like a donkey.”
“That ain’t no shit,” Parker muttered under his breath and then grimaced when Rachel cleared her throat. “Sorry, it slipped out. You know Zoey, Tanner Keegan has a room open right now. In fact, he was just saying the other night at Robin’s that he was going to be looking for a renter soon. It’s the room over the garage I believe. Like an apartment type thing. You should call him.”
Zoey’s stomach clenched. Sure, that was easy for Parker to say. If he knew the history between her and Tanner, he never would have suggested such a ridiculous plan.
Tanner Keegan was the only man currently residing in Stone River who could make her blood boil with just his presence. Her vagina wanted him more than anything else, but she had already tried to walk that road once.
Zoey had basically thrown herself at Tanner several years ago, and he had bluntly rejected her, telling her that he only took women to bed, not little girls. It had left her self-esteem shattered, and her ego squashed. No. No way was she ever going to let that man have that kind of control on her life again. Besides, it was highly unlikely Tanner would ever consider allowing her to rent the room from him. When she was around, he acted as if she had leprosy or something twisted and contagious. Stephen King couldn’t have written a better story of avoidance and horror than the relationship she had with Tanner Keegan.
“Uh-no, thanks anyway. I’m sure I’ll find something acceptable within the next month.” She looked down at the empty chocolate wrapper she was twisting in her fingers rather than meet Parker’s curious gaze.
“Tanner would rent it to you at a fair price. His brother, Dalton, do you remember him?” When Zoey nodded silently, Parker continued, “That was his place until he left for medical school. Hasn’t been back in ten years. Tanner has rented it out a few times to make extra money when the cash flow isn’t as high. With that drought last season, everyone’s pinching pennies this season.”
Zoey felt like a cornered rabbit. How was she supposed to explain to Parker why she couldn’t be around Tanner? Not to mention how her pussy clenched at the mention of the beautiful God-like Dalton, who she hadn’t seen in a decade. “Actually, Tanner and I aren’t the best of friends.”
Parker looked surprised right before his eyes narrowed and he did that weird Alpha male thing where he looked down his nose at her and made her feel about two inches tall. “Zoey Carson, I’ve never known you to be afraid in your life.”
“I’m not afraid of him!” she blustered vehemently. “I just don’t want to subject myself to his presence any more than necessary. I will start apartment hunting as soon as I can push my mom out the door and send her back to her newest fuck toy.”
“No cursing,” Parker commanded and Zoey rolled her eyes. The hard glare he gave her had her shrugging and apologizing pretty quickly. “First of all the word sounds terrible coming from a beautiful woman, and second, my Jules doesn’t need to be exposed to that.”
Rachel snorted, “Yeah, because you and your brothers never curse around her, right?”
Parker had the grace to look admonished. “Occasionally, but we’re trying to curb it.”
“I promise, Parker, I will do my best when I’m here or around Juliet to tame my terrible language,” Zoey said, not wanting to be on his bad side for any reason. Ridiculous or not.
“Thank you. Now, ladies, if you will excuse me, I need to get back to the barn. It was good to see you, Zoey, and if you change your mind about asking Tanner, well, let’s just say I would trust that man with my own daughter. He would never do you harm.”
Zoey couldn’t hold his gaze so she just nodded and looked back to Rachel hoping Parker would take the dismissal and let the subject go. She sighed with relief when the front door shut behind him.
“Well, that was a pretty intense reaction to a harmless solution,” Rachel said, eyeballing Zoey.
“Harmless? Do you remember what happened between Tanner and me? That wasn’t harmless. I got kicked in the gut,” Zoey said, belligerently swirling her ice in her empty tea glass.
Rachel was quiet for a moment. “Zoey, you’ve seen him around town, and he’s never been anything but respectful. Surely you don’t still hold a grudge?”
“So you’re telling me that when you see Mitch Edwards and his new fiancée, Connie, that you don’t want to punch him in his overly white toothy smile?”
Zoey smirked when Rachel’s eyes darkened and her eyebrow rose. “That is totally different.”
“I don’t see how. I offered Tanner Keegan my body and my heart and he stomped on it with his boot heel. I have no intention of making myself vulnerable around him again.” Standing abruptly, she waved her glass at Rachel. “Now, is there anymore tea, or do I need to run to the store for emergency rations?”
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As always Live, Laugh, and Love like today is your only chance!~Lori