Total Surrender

By: Rebecca Zanetti
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


It’s with both excitement and sadness that I finish up this fourth book in the Dean brothers’ lives. This series found a wonderful home with Grand Central Publishing/Forever, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with so many wonderful, talented, and hardworking people.

A special thank-you to my editor, Michele Bidelspach, who has the rare talent to see how much deeper a book can go, and who works tirelessly to make sure the book gets there. She’s insightful, kind, and brilliant… and I’m truly thankful for the opportunity to work with her.

Thanks also to Jodi Rosoff, Marissa Sangiacomo, Megha Parekh, and Jamie Snider from Grand Central/Forever for the hard work, dedication, and attention to detail. Thanks also to Diane Luger and Elizabeth Turner for the spectacular covers, and to Joan Matthews for the excellent copyedits.

A big thank-you to my agent, Caitlin Blasdell, who understands world building better than anybody I’ve ever met, and who also protects me, even from myself. She’s the voice of reason in a wild industry, and I definitely owe whatever angel sat on my shoulder when I signed with Caitlin. Thanks also to Liza Dawson and the Dawson gang for the hard work.

Finally, thank you to Big Tone for the support, humor, and good times. Whoever said a marriage can get boring has never met you. I love you. Also, thanks to Gabe and Karlina for the fun and for being such great kids. I love you both!





PROLOGUE


Southern Tennessee Hills

Twenty Years Ago


JORY SET DOWN the screwdriver and shoved the computer guts off his legs. The feel of the wires against his small hands sparked all sorts of creativity, and he knew he could make the processor run faster. Way faster. “I don’t want to train. Can’t I finish putting this back together?”

“No.” Nate, his older brother, crossed skinny arms at the door. Well, skinny for now. At about eleven years old, Nate was starting to get bigger, like their oldest brother, Matt, and would soon be all muscley, too.

Jory sighed and pushed to stand. Wires and electrical components dropped all around him. He’d never be big like his brothers. Even now, at seven years old or so, he was the shortest kid in the compound. “Training is a waste of time for me.”

Nate’s eyes blazed all sorts of gray fire in a bruised face. “Bullshit. You’re going to train like a demon until you finally grow and we don’t have to worry about the commander sending you away.”

Jory swallowed. What if he didn’t ever grow? Fear shook through his hands, so he slid them into his back pockets. He had to be tough like his older brothers. He needed to be a soldier and not a computer guy. “I think the commander’s gonna send me away.”

“Matt won’t let him,” Nate said, scratching a scab on his elbow.

The door pushed open, and Shane clomped his combat boots inside. Although Shane was probably only a year older than Jory, he stood almost as tall as Nate, with identical gray eyes. All four brothers had the same gray eyes, so maybe they’d all somehow grow big like Matt. Hopefully.

Nate glanced down at Shane’s hands before hustling across the barracks to nab a towel. “You’re bleeding.”

Shane swallowed and held out bloody hands for the worn cotton that might’ve been white at some time. “I can’t practice knife fighting any more today with all the skin wearing off my palms.”

“Too bad.” Mattie stalked into the room, bruises on his face, a Glock in one big hand. He’d probably been at the shooting range. His black hair had been buzzed short, showing welts down his neck from hand-to-hand yesterday. “You’re going back out to practice for at least another hour. Tonight, when you’re least expecting it, I’m coming at you. You had better defend yourself.”

Jory swallowed and leaned back against the concrete-block wall. His hands shook harder in his pockets. Matt was his big brother, and he loved him, but sometimes Matt got scary. When he got all determined to train them.

Shane winced. “I don’t think so—”

“Shane.” Matt didn’t raise his voice or move from his spot in the doorway. “Train.”

Shane scuffed his boots and eyed Nate, his shoulders straightening when Nate nodded. “Yes, sir,” Shane said quietly.

Jory gave him a sympathetic smile. Nate always backed up Matt, but Mattie seemed to need that, so it was okay.

Tension spiraled through the room. Jory cleared his throat. Sometimes, even though they were tough soldiers, so much emotion clogged the room he couldn’t breathe. Matt was fierce in his obsession to keep his brothers alive, while Nate was constant in his worry for everyone’s safety. And Shane. If Shane wasn’t exhausted, Shane was pissed. So much anger in him sometimes.

Emotion hurt, and Jory shoved it down deep and did what he did best. It was his job to get rid of the hard looks on his brothers’ faces. “Tomorrow is my birthday.”

Shane grinned, while Matt and Nate exchanged glances.

Nate tilted his head. “We don’t know when we were born, Jory.”

“I know.” Jory pointed to the computer he’d torn apart. “But I did some research earlier, and I found our birthdates.”

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