When I Surrender

By: Kendall Ryan

Chapter One


KNOX



The girl, whose name I couldn’t recall, writhed beneath me on the bed, ready and waiting. My pulse spiked as I watched her tempting curves move in the moonlight.

“Go down on me.” She squirmed, wiggling her hips as if to entice me south.

“I’m not eating your pussy. You’re a stripper, baby, I don’t know where that thing’s been.” It was probably an asshole thing to say, but that shit was the truth.

She let out a short laugh, but didn’t disagree.

“Roll over. I want you from behind.” That way I wouldn’t have to look into eyes that weren’t McKenna’s when I sank inside her. The darkness inside me had lain dormant for too long. Because of her. It was probably a good thing she figured out I was all wrong for her before I did something bad.

I reached for a condom, knowing that the dual sensations of relief and regret would soon be flooding my system. It was familiar to me, and a feeling I welcomed. Even as I rolled the condom on, I knew this dull ache inside wouldn’t be satisfied by the girl in front of me. But this was who I was and I wasn’t fighting it anymore. McKenna might have helped me see the light, but she wasn’t here now. Just this warm, willing girl who wanted me. Sinking into her slick heat was the only thing I needed to numb my pain. Not to be psychoanalyzed by a girl who would probably never trust me anyhow. I’d lost McKenna anyway, so why was I even thinking about that? The truth was, she was still the only woman I thought about day and night, even when I was about to satisfy my needs with some random hookup.

The pattern was impossible to ignore – I’d lost every woman I cared for, beginning with my mother several years ago. That had been the start of my descent into becoming the man I was now. Thoughts of my mother did nothing to relax me. In fact, I felt on edge and wound tighter than ever.

“What’s wrong? What are you waiting for?” The girl shifted to her side and gazed up at me, obviously looking for the same release as me. Blinking several times, I fought to understand what I was seeing – her dark hair and eyes made her resemble my mother. What the fuck? I scrambled away from her on my hands and knees.

With my heart hammering against my ribs, I opened my eyes to blackness all around me. I blinked again, struggling to see.

I was in my bed, alone, sweat glistening along my skin. It’d all been a dream. Thank God. My room was as dark and empty as my heart. I took a deep, shaky breath and scrubbed my hands over my face while adrenaline pulsed through my veins. I needed to calm the fuck down.

Knowing I wouldn’t get back to sleep anytime soon, I climbed from bed and headed downstairs. I downed a glass of cool water and checked on the boys, who were all sleeping soundly, before returning to my own bed. I fell onto the mattress with a thud, my heartbeat still too fast to fully relax.

It’d been a week since I’d seen McKenna – sobbing and hysterical over the thought that I’d slept with Amanda. It still tore me up remembering her like that. I’d done my best to calm her, to try and make her see reason – that I was messed up and it was only a matter of time before I really hurt her – but I hadn’t touched that girl. She’d fled the building without a backward glance. She either didn’t believe me, didn’t care, or both.

I stared up at the ceiling as the minutes ticked past. My mother’s death left a cool, empty place inside of me, and McKenna running away only intensified that.

I hated this sick need that followed me into the night. The desperate wanting that tightened my balls against my stomach. I knew only one way to make it go away. I needed to forget, to bury myself deep in distraction and pleasure. I forced my eyes closed and tried to breathe through the craving. Sweat broke out over my skin and my heart sped. Shit. I hated this side of myself. Trying to quiet my swirling mind, I thought of McKenna, of her quiet confidence and wholesome beauty. Bad idea. My dick started to rise to attention, liking the new direction of my thoughts. I considered grabbing the bottle of Jack that sat untouched in my nightstand drawer and downing a healthy measure to force my brain into oblivion. Switching tactics, I focused instead on my brothers. I would do anything to protect them from the man I’d become. I had to fight these feelings inside myself.

The fact that I was even questioning all this, trying to calm my raging nerves without sex or alcohol, meant one thing. McKenna had gotten under my skin. And hell if a part of me didn’t like it. She was a fascination, someone I wanted to understand. And I felt that way around very few people. I had the boys, and I rarely made time for others. Even friends I’d once been close with no longer counted on my list of priorities. Besides, most were busy being twenty-two years old while I was busy playing dad and sinking deeper and deeper into a hole.

Pulling in a deep breath, I began to relax. I pictured Tucker’s uneven grin when he’d sunk that basket straight through the net earlier. I thought about my mother’s upcoming birthday and made a mental note to buy flowers and take the boys to her grave. I thought about all the little things I needed to get done this week. Luke’s upcoming college placement tests that we needed to register and pay for, Tucker’s family tree that we needed to create for his history lesson, and Jaxon… I had no clue what was going on with my eighteen-year-old brother, only that he seemed to be becoming more and more like me. Which made my stomach cramp with fear. I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.

Rolling over and shoving my pillow into place, I released a heavy sigh and closed my eyes, praying for sleep to take me.





Chapter Two

McKenna

I hadn’t planned to go on this retreat with Belinda, but given the current state of my life, running away for the weekend sounded like the exact thing I needed. The retreat was for addiction counselors in the Chicago area. There would be panels and lectures over the course of two days. We’d learn about advanced treatment techniques and also take much needed time to rejuvenate with yoga classes and meditation. It sounded a little silly to me and I hadn’t wanted to go. I’d planned on staying home and throwing myself into my punishing routine of working and volunteering, but Belinda was my mentor and, well, basically I hated letting people down. So here I was, in the passenger seat of her minivan, watching the miles tick past while unease churned inside of me.

I regretted the way I’d broken down, sobbing, and fled from the group I was supposed to be leading last Saturday. I regretted how close I’d grown to Knox in such a short time, and that he’d been able to break me so easily. Ever since Knox Bauer had first walked into my sex addicts meeting, my life had been in one giant freefall. Despite his baggage, falling for him had been the easy part. Some of my best moments were the quiet ones shared alone with him. The times he’d made himself vulnerable and opened up to me had felt like something. Something real and important. And hanging out with him and his three younger brothers was a nice distraction from the guilt and pain of my everyday life.

But I’d been forced to see the harsh reality of the situation. Knox was a sex addict. Even if he was telling the truth and he hadn’t slept with the girl from our group, Amanda, like I’d thought, he still had an addiction. Which meant he was dangerous for me, not someone to give my heart to.

“What’s on your mind?” Belinda asked, peering over at me before letting her eyes drift back to the road.

I should have known she’d be perceptive. She was a counselor, trained in reading people and situations, just like me. And I had zero emotional energy left to try and act bubbly and personable, so there was no sense faking it. I’d been sitting here sulking for almost an hour. “Just some guy troubles,” I admitted.

“Is this about your roommate Brian?” She had a good memory. In a moment of over-sharing I’d once admitted how I didn’t think my long time best friend Brian was on the same page with our friends-only status.

“No. But Brian has complicated things a little.” Or a lot. He and Knox had gotten into a fist fight because he didn’t think Knox was good enough for me. “It doesn’t matter now anyhow, I called things off with the new guy.” I had to. Even though I hadn’t known him long, Knox had the ability to turn me inside out and destroy me. And it wouldn’t be fair to his brothers for me to parade through their lives and then disappear. Not to mention it’d be unfair to shred the broken fragments of my heart in the process.

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