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Copyright

His Deepest Desire

A Portville Mpreg Romance


By Xander Collins


© 2018 Xander Collins


All Rights Reserved.

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.


This book is a work of fiction and is intended only for adults over the age of 18.

All characters are 18 or over.


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Table of Contents

Copyright

Table of Contents

About His Deepest Desire

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

About His Wildest Dream

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Also By Xander Collins

About Xander Collins

About His Deepest Desire

ABOUT HIS DEEPEST DESIRE


To find happiness, two lost souls may need a miracle … but could the miracle have been inside them all along?


Eleven-years-ago, Jake broke Stephen's heart. Now he's back, acting like nothing ever happened. All Stephen wants is to move on and start a family of his own. But he can't find the right man to start over with. When Jake is hired as the director of Stephen's clinic, will Stephen ever be able to escape his ex ... and does he really want to?


When Jake left town, he thought he was doing the right thing. But no matter how hard he tried to forget, his heart couldn't leave Stephen behind. But getting Stephen back means telling him the truth about why he left and the tragedies that followed. Jake wants Stephen. But is Jake brave enough to reveal the deepest parts of his soul to have a second chance at love?


Will a sick baby force these two reluctant exes to risk it all, let go of the past, and let each other back in?


His Deepest Desire is a second chance non-shifter omegaverse romance of 36k words, with heart-wrenching moments, super hot intimacy between two men, not one … but two cuddly babies, and a beautiful HEA that will most likely bring tears to your eyes.




Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Stephen



"Hey, Stephen!” Mark called out as he followed me into his house from the patio. “What’s going on? You're not leaving already, are you?"

I turned around and looked at my brother. At first, I almost laid into him because I was getting the feeling that he wasn’t on my side. But when I saw the concern in his eyes, I couldn’t. He was such a different person than he had been a year ago, and our relationship was really different now. But I was still really frustrated with him.

“Why did you say that?” I demanded. I hadn’t expected the question to come out the way it did, but I was feeling cornered.

“What?”

I rolled my eyes and glared at my brother. “This is just like when we were kids. You trying to make me look like the bad guy and then pretending that you didn’t know what you were doing. Why did you say that I should lighten up on Jake? Don’t you know how that makes me feel?”

I stared at Mark, hoping he would tell me he was sorry. That he was wrong. But he didn’t.

“I don’t know, Stephen. I feel kind of bad for the guy.”

I felt a flash of anger fill my chest and I turned around. I couldn’t even look at my brother anymore. I felt like he had turned against me, but I thought that was all in the past.

All throughout our childhood, I’d felt a low-level tension between the two of us and I never understood why it was there. There was good-natured rivalry and competition, which was great. The problem was, sometimes things between us got a little uncomfortable, but I never said a word about it to Mark.

He’d been born a beta and all through high school, and his early twenties, I got the distinct feeling that he was jealous of me. That he wished he had been born an alpha, like me. But when he became a cop and was respected by a lot of his colleagues, and I figured he had to have outgrown that envious phase.

But then it happened. He became an omega. One minute he was plowing down bad guys with a Glock, and the next thing I knew, his feet were in stirrups and he was giving birth to his son, Trevor. Don’t ask me how it happened. I’m a doctor and I’ve been studying the phenomenon for years, but we still don’t know what causes the change.

What we do know is women are no longer able to bear children. For the last four decades, not a single woman on the planet has conceived. The role of furthering the species has fallen squarely on the shoulders of omegas, and it seems that nature has taken it upon herself to make sure there are enough omegas around to keep the earth populated.

At first, this change was hard on Mark, as I'm sure it was for most betas who were affected by this later in life change. But I didn’t find any of this out until a few weeks ago when his partner Landon called me and told me that Mark’s baby was coming.

That’s when I saw him again—Jake Livingston. The one Mark was defending not five minutes ago. "Look, Mark,” I said, slowly. I didn’t want to upset him on his wedding day, but I just couldn’t stay at a party where that bastard was smiling and talking like he didn’t have a care in the world. “I’m so happy for you. Really, I am. I can't even begin to tell you how good it is to see you with Landon and Trevor. The three of you are just … you’re the picture-perfect family. And, look,” I said, gesturing to the backyard that was wall-to-wall full of smiling people. You’ve got all your co-workers and friends and family supporting you on this amazing day. I’d love to stay, but I … I can’t. I just … I can't be here if Jake is going to stay.”

"Oh, come on, Stephen. The backyard is huge. All you have to do is stay on one end and I’ll have Landon keep Jake all the way on the other side. Okay? Please?”

I hated this. I didn’t want to disappoint Mark. “No, I don't want you to ask your husband to keep my ex-boyfriend away from me. This isn't grade school, Mark. I got to see the two of you get married, and that was so wonderful. But I’ve gotta get out of here. I’ll come over for dinner one night next week. How does that sound?"

My brother didn’t say anything for a moment and I was afraid of what was going to come out of his mouth next. Sure enough, he made it all about me. “Can’t you just let it go?" Mark said, his eyes tinged with sadness.

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Are you on his side or something?"

“His side? What do you mean? I’ve always been on your side, Stephen. You're my brother, and I love you. I just think …"

"You think the problem here is me? That everything will be fine if I forgive him? That I should just let bygones be bygones?” I stared at him in shock. I couldn’t believe he was doing this to me. “That's not fair at all, Mark. You know the hell I went through when he took off without a single word or text or email. He just left me behind, Mark. Like I meant nothing to him. Like I was nothing. And I’m supposed to forgive that? It’s been eleven years. I’ve spent eleven years getting over him, Mark. And I think I was doing a pretty good job before he showed up here, so don’t act like I’m the problem.”

“Were you, though? Look, I’m not saying that you’re the only one that needs to make some effort in this situation, you know that. I'm saying … well, would it be so bad to just try to forgive him? To let some of your anger go?"

I looked out into the backyard, at all the happy faces celebrating my brother’s wedding and new baby. Celebrating the loves of his life. I was so happy for him and I wanted to be there for my brother. I wanted to celebrate his wonderful life too. But my eyes wouldn’t stop wandering over to the person who had taken my happiness away from me.

I couldn’t just turn the hurt off. The part of me that desperately wanted that same happiness for myself was nothing but a gaping hole. “I was in love with him, Mark. Head over heels completely in love with Jake. I really thought he was my one true mate. And he left me alone without a word. You have no idea how many times I tried to call him and text him and even write him stupid letters. He never said a word to me, Mark. Do you have any idea how much that hurt?" I said, looking back at him.

Mark glanced down at the floor and sighed. “Yeah, I can imagine—”

"No, you can't. You spent your life jumping from one-night-stand to one-night-stand. And now you have your mate, Mark. You have Landon and Trevor. I don’t pretend to know what your life’s been like. And I’m not saying that I’ve suffered more than you. But with this subject? You have no idea how crushed I was. How worthless it made me feel. How that one experience kept me from being able to trust anyone again. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about how I was feeling, Mark. Dad would have laughed if I told him. He would have said I needed to man up and find another mate. And you and I … we didn’t talk about anything back then. I was so alone, Mark. And now that same guy is here at my own brother's wedding … and you’re telling me to just let it go? I don’t deserve this, Mark. I deserve to be able to experience these feelings that I’m feeling. I deserve to be angry and resentful, Mark. It’s my right, goddamnit!"

Mark paused for a long moment, then put his hand on my shoulder. "No. You don't. You deserve to be happy, Stephen. If anyone in the world deserves that, it's you. You're a wonderful guy. You're smart, and good looking … from what I hear,” he said with a laugh, which successfully broke the tension and made me laugh a little too. “And you're actually trying to make the world a better place. I'm not saying that you should let go of your anger because of Jake. Because it would make life easier for him. I'm saying you should let go of your anger because of you," he said as he put his hand on my chest. “To make things easier for you. I know you can’t do it overnight, but can you at least try? Try to just ignore him … for your sake. Besides,” Mark said with a sheepish grin. “I wouldn’t feel right about kicking him out of our party. He’s the doctor who delivered Trevor.”

“Yeah, I know. I wouldn’t want you to do that.” I didn't know what else to say, though. I knew Mark was right, but there was a part of me that couldn't fathom forgiving Jake for what he had done. Just the thought of it felt almost like sandpaper rubbing on my insides. And the more I thought about forgiving him—of him getting away with what he put me through—the angrier I became. But when I looked into Mark's eyes again, I thought, maybe, just for today, I could to put my feelings aside. It was my brother's big day, his wedding and his coming out party. And I knew I wanted to be here for him. "Okay," I said with a smile. "I'll stay for a little while longer. But that’s the best I can do for now.“

That’s good enough for me,” Mark threw his arms around me and gave me a giant bear hug, and I couldn't keep myself from laughing. This was the Mark I'd always wanted to be around when we were growing up. The one that I’d always hoped for when I really needed someone to talk to. And for a brief moment, when I thought about everything he’d gone through in the last year, I wondered if it was possible. If Mark could make such a huge change, could I?

But all thoughts of forgiving and forgetting went out the window when I walked back out onto the patio and saw Landon putting Trevor into Jake’s arms. It wasn't anything that I had expected or even prepared myself for, but seeing the man that I had loved so much at one point in my life holding a newborn baby in his arms, it just made my stomach sink. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that I never seemed to get what I wanted. And from where I was standing, Jake had everything.

He had won over my brother and his husband, and now he was holding my nephew, my own flesh and blood, in his arms while he laughed and smiled like he didn’t have a care in the world. I hated him so much in that moment I could barely get any words out through my clenched jaw. "I can't do it, Mark."

Mark turned around and looked at me, then slowly nodded his head. "Okay. I understand.” I could tell he was hurt but there was nothing I could do about it. I was hurting too. “But come back for dinner soon. This week, okay? We’re gonna have a ton of barbecue left over, and I know how much you want to play with Trevor." He said with a smile, but with sadness in his eyes. I could tell he was trying to lighten the mood, but there was nothing that was going to make me feel better than getting Jake Livingston out of my sight.

I hugged my brother goodbye, then headed out to my car. I couldn't believe that Jake was not only back in town, but he was running me out of my own family’s celebration. I decided right then and there that I never wanted to speak to that asshole again.


Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Jake



Well, that went well, I thought to myself as I left the party I'd just crashed, as gracefully as possible. When I’d agreed to meet an old friend at an afternoon barbecue, I had no idea whose house I was going to. I was just grateful to get out for a while. I’d been hibernating indoors ever since I got back to town.

It just so happened that an old friend of mine from high school worked at the same precinct as Mark Lewis (now Harris) and his new husband, Landon. Whose baby I also happened to deliver a few weeks ago … and who also happened to be the brother of an old flame, Stephen Lewis.

Uncomfortably small world, isn’t it?

So this friend invited me out for a day of relaxation, which also kept me from moping around the house all weekend long. Unfortunately, my plan of eating and drinking and getting my mind off of how miserable I was backfired. I wound up doing my best to put a happy face on while Stephen’s eyes shot daggers at me from across the yard.

The minute I walked in and saw whose house it was I knew Stephen would be there, so I tried to make the best of things. At first, I wasn't sure if I should talk to him or ignore him. But ignoring him just seemed childish. So I bit the bullet and went up to where he was sitting and said hello.

I could immediately tell by the look on his face what he was thinking. The anger in his eyes told me everything I needed to know. Then when he got up and walked away without saying a word I knew it was hopeless—that I’d made the wrong decision.

It wasn’t that I expected him to forgive me. I didn’t expect anything from him, not after what I’d done. But seeing him again after all these years, I realized it was stirring up emotions inside me that had been buried for a long time.

I thought it would be simple. I’d leave my old life behind and come home to Portville. I figured if I was in a different town I wouldn’t constantly be reminded of what I’d lost. I had friends here who could distract me and keep me occupied while I tried to branch out into a different field of medicine. Seeing babies all day long had turned into a harsh reminder of what I couldn’t have.

But you don’t just walk into a hospital one day and say, ‘Now I’m an internist.’ With my training, I could do anything relating to delivery, newborn emergent care, pediatrics, and even family practice. But in order to switch to a new specialty, I’d need to do another residency, which would be years of work.

That’s where things started to get a bit complicated. Six months ago I got a call from a former colleague. My ex-boyfriend, Brad, actually. When we broke up two years ago. It was an amicable split. Things just weren’t working out for either of us and it was too painful to keep trying.

After a year of not much contact, we started chatting online here and there and had been friends ever since. He said I was the first person he thought of when an ER obstetrics position opened up here in Portville. He told me he thought it would do me good to get a change of scenery, to get away from the place that held some of my most painful memories. He said I could probably move into family practice soon and that Portville was a lot more progressive when it came to omegas working in higher-level positions. He made it sound pretty good.

What he didn’t tell me was that I’d wind up delivering my ex-boyfriend’s brother’s baby. Or that I’d end up crashing a barbecue where I was clearly not wanted. But no one could have told me that.

Brad and I both knew that neither of us would want to try to start things up again, so I wasn’t worried about any old feelings popping up where he was concerned. But what I didn’t expect was being bowled over by the emotions that came rushing back when I saw Stephen again. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t secretly hoped he still lived in this town. And I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t hoped I’d run into him one day.

But I always pictured that day in a sort of a soft-focus haze. Me sitting on a park bench feeding ducks in a pond. A field of flowers waving in the breeze off in the distance. Maybe something cute like a dog winding his leash around my legs and me looking up into Stephen’s eyes, both of us laughing at the coincidence. Both of us happy to see each other.

What wasn’t in my dream was watching his face turn as white as a sheet when I walked in as a last-minute stand-in to deliver his brother’s baby. Or seeing him get up and walk away from me when I approached him at the barbecue. It had been eleven years since I’d spoken to him and part of me hoped that by now he, at the very least, didn’t hate me.

But the part of me that knew how much he meant to me, that knew how much we meant to each other, that part understood the way he reacted to me.

I got home to my silent house and settled into some work. I figured I could go over a few charts and distract myself and try to forget the way Stephen looked at me. While I was immersing myself in a recent neonatal case, an email notification popped up. Normally I tried to ignore distractions while I was working, but this one caught my interest. It was a job offer for a new position at a clinic here in Portville.

I opened the email and read through quickly. From what it said, in light of recent events that had caused multiple birth and fertility clinics in the area to be shut down, the Medical Care Equality Board was putting a significant amount of money toward overhauling the remaining clinics. Thousands of dollars worth of equipment were being donated and purchased in order to upgrade the type and level of care in order to accommodate the increasing number of patients that visited these clinics around town. The Sunnyside Clinic of Fertility and Family Health would be implementing a new clinic director position and they were offering it to me.

The Sunnyside Clinic sounded familiar and I quickly did a Google search, finding out why. That was the clinic where Stephen Lewis was head physician. That would mean they wanted to hire me as Stephen’s boss. It sounded like I would be overseeing the entire operation, under the direction of the MCE board who were offering me the position.

I stared at the picture of Stephen for a long time, with his vague yet sexy smile, while he held a patient’s chart in his hands. He always looked the part of the perfect alpha doctor to me. Controlled, strong, insanely sexy, but also humble.

He had always been a kinder, gentler alpha than what I’d been used to. In fact, he didn’t really come off like an alpha most of the time. He usually let other people speak while he listened intently, which was not common alpha behavior. He didn’t try to control the room, but he always somehow seemed to be in control of every situation. To me, that was truly alpha. Being on top of everything without having to call attention to it.

I wondered who took the picture. I couldn’t imagine they’d hired a photographer to come into a low-income clinic and do a whole shoot. But that’s how it looked. He was somehow perfectly lit and looked incredible. His beard and hair neatly trimmed, and his white coat without a wrinkle. Perfect, as usual.

That was a word that I’d always associated with Stephen Lewis. I’d always found him perfect in every way. I don’t know if I ever stopped thinking about him that way. And as I stared at that image, I realized how far gone I was. I was actually considering taking the job. I was actually considering being my former lover’s boss. The man who, just hours ago, left his brother’s wedding party rather than remain anywhere near me.

I started listing the pros and cons in my head of taking the position. Pro … the position was more administrative and organizational. At least it sounded like it would be in the beginning. That meant, even though it was a birth and fertility clinic, I wouldn’t be required to practice obstetrics. Especially since they were adding additional services. Besides, Stephen would still be the head physician and would most likely be overseeing the delivery rooms.

Con … I wasn’t sure how well Stephen would take me being there, and I honestly didn’t want to hurt him any more than I already had. It made me incredibly sad to see the way he reacted to me. I’d hoped that there would be some way for me to talk to him. To explain. But I wasn’t sure if that was ever going to happen.

But the biggest reason for me to take the position? The one that simultaneously made me feel like a selfish bastard and a masochist, was that if I took the position I would be near Stephen. I would be able to see him every day. I wouldn’t have to wonder if we would run into each other again. And maybe … just maybe … I would get the chance to talk to him, to make him understand why I had to leave all those years ago.

I wanted, more than anything, for Stephen to understand that it was never about him.

So, against my better judgment, I replied to the email and agreed to meet with the board.

Then I realized I was going to have to tell Brad that I was leaving the hospital, and I figured I’d better tell him sooner than later.

“Jake. What’s up?”

“Hey,” I said. I paused for just a moment, but knew I needed to come right out and tell him I was leaving. “I need to talk."

"What's going on?”

"Well, I'm not sure how to tell you this …"

“Let me guess,” Brad said, cutting me off. “You're taking a new position, aren’t you?”

"How did you know?"

"Well, to be honest, I had a feeling this wasn't going to last forever. I know how hard it’s been for you to work with the newborns. I brought you out here hoping to get you out of your funk, but I honestly didn't expect that you would be able to stay on long-term.”

“Wow,” I said, flooded with relief. “I’m glad you understand. I really do want to move forward with my life, and you’ve already helped so much. I’m eternally grateful to you for bringing me in to work at the hospital, but this position I’ve been contacted about is more on the administrative end. I’ll be helping to develop a fertility and birth clinic into a broader medical facility.”

“Wait, is this the Sunnyside Clinic project?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“Well, I’m an observer on the Medical Care Equality Board and I have the minutes sent to me. I saw that they were planning a big overhaul of some of the clinics. But wait, isn’t that the clinic where—”

“Yes. It’s where Stephen Lewis is head physician.”

“So, you’re telling me you're leaving your current position at a hospital where you're working with a former lover, only to take a different position at a clinic where you'll be working with another one? That doesn't sound like you're trying to move forward to me."

"It's not like that at all, Brad. It’s not about who I’m working with, you know that. Relocating to a new town, I can’t even begin to tell you how much it’s helped me move on. How much you’ve helped me. But delivering babies every single day … it’s hard. Harder than I thought it would be. This position would be different.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry, Jake. I know how hard this has all been for you.”

“For both of us,” I said. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that you were there with me too.”

“I know. Look, don’t listen to what I said. I’m behind you no matter what your decision is. It won’t be a problem at all to replace you. With all the clinics that have been hit lately, there’s a surplus of doctors running around town with no place to practice. I’m sure I’ll be able to fill the ER Obstetrics position in no time. When are you leaving?”

“I don’t know. I just emailed them and agreed to meet.” I glanced over at my computer and noticed I had another email notification. “Wow, it looks like they already got back to me. On a Saturday.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they’re desperate to get these changes underway as soon as possible. You might even be starting on Monday.”

“Well, I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything. And Brad …”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you. For everything.”

“No problem. Take care of yourself, Jake.”

“I will. Bye.”

I hung up the phone and opened the email from Harrison Beaumont of the MCE board. He wanted to meet with me tonight.

“Maybe Brad is right,” I said to myself. “Maybe I’ll be seeing Stephen again on Monday.”

But seeing Stephen again couldn’t be the only reason I was taking this job, could it?


Chapter 3

Chapter 3


Stephen



I had the majority of the weekend to myself and it gave me time to calm down a little about what had happened at Mark and Landon's wedding. I knew I had overreacted, and I knew Mark was right, the one that was suffering most was me. I headed to the clinic on Monday morning with a clear head and a new resolve to move on. To leave the past behind me.

My positive attitude quickly took a nosedive when I walked in the front door and saw Jake Livingston standing at the reception desk with the Medical Care Equality director Harrison Beaumont. He was the head of the board that oversaw all of the low-income clinics in Portville and was also my immediate supervisor. As head physician, I’d been acting as director of the Sunnyside Clinic for a while.

Harrison had mentioned recently that the board was planning on creating a true clinic director position soon, and since I’d been acting in that role for a while now, I was the obvious candidate. So it was just a matter of time before the position was finalized.

Or so I thought.

I immediately wanted to know what Harrison was doing talking to Jake Livingston in my clinic, and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like the answer.

"Stephen," Harrison Beaumont said as he saw me enter through the glass doors. "I'd like to introduce you to your new colleague, Jake Livingston."

“Colleague,” I said as my eyes slowly made their way to Jake’s.

“Yes, well, he’s been asked to take the clinic director position that the board has been discussing. I’d been meaning to speak to you about it, Stephen, but we came to a decision very recently and wanted to get moving on this new project.”

I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. That was supposed to be me. The clinic director position was mine, goddamnit. With all of the turmoil that had been caused by the shortage of clinics around town, I assumed the conversation had been temporarily put on hold. But now it seemed that the board had found someone else. Someone they apparently thought was more suitable.

I looked back at Jake, hoping to conceal the anger that was boiling up inside me. "Dr. Livingston," I said through gritted teeth as I extended my hand.

"It's good to see you again, Stephen” Jake said with a smile. "It's funny how we keep running into each other.”

"Yes," I said pulling my hand away as quickly as possible. “Hilarious.”

"Oh, so the two of you are acquainted?" Harrison asked as his eyes moved back and forth between the two of us.

"Yes," I said. "We attended medical school at the same time, here in Portville. But Dr. Livingston transferred out after only …” I looked at Jake. “What was it? One year?" I smirked, trying to let him know how little our time together meant to me now. I wasn’t sure how convincing my act was, though. Jake didn’t seem phased at all.

He glanced down at his feet for a moment, then looked back up, directly into my eyes. "Two years," he said to me, then glanced back over to Harrison. "I had to leave Portville unexpectedly.” Then his eyes moved back to mine. "Due to some unexpected circumstances that were beyond my control." Jake’s eyes lingered on mine for a long moment, then he addressed Harrison again. “I finished up my degree on the East Coast, then did my residency in the Midwest.“

“And now you’re back home,” Harrison said.

“Yes,” Jake said with a smile, his eyes still fixed on mine. “Now I’m back home.”

I was still seething over the fact that Jake had been hired to take the new position, and every time his eyes caught mine it made my blood boil even more. I kept finding myself getting sucked into his stare and the last thing I wanted to do was allow myself to be affected by those dark eyes of his.

"Well, that’s wonderful. I’m glad this is such a pleasant homecoming for you, and that you two already know each other. That should make this whole transitional period a little easier since you’ll be working closely together."

"Transitional period?" I asked, finally tearing my eyes away from Jake’s and looking back at Harrison. Even with my head turned, I could feel Jake’s eyes on me and it took every ounce of strength I had not to look back.

“The board has decided to greatly expand the services that are offered at the Sunnyside Clinic while some of the other low-cost clinics are rebuilt."

“Expand in what way?” I asked.

“We’ll be purchasing some new equipment, as well as bringing some in from various organizations that have been generous enough to donate. We’re planning to expand the birth clinic to a fully functioning medical center with emergent care services. The board believes that we’ll start seeing at least as many patients as the main hospitals around town, if not more, since every clinic that was hit by the arson fires were in a low-income neighborhood and was frequented by patients who can’t afford insurance. Our services at this clinic are going to be in high demand, and we want to make sure that everyone who needs care gets it.”

How nice that I was the last to know. I took a breath, stuffing down my anger, once again. "So, what has the board decided that my role will be during this transitional period?” I asked.

Harrison paused before answering. He looked a bit like a deer caught in headlights, and it was clear he hadn’t quite thought about how I would react to the news. “Maybe we should talk in your office about this, Stephen. The board has decided on a few changes since the last time we talked. I’ll meet you in there after I’ve shown Jake around.”

When I didn’t make any moves toward my office, Harrison continued. "You're still head physician, Stephen. That hasn’t changed. The board is hoping that the two of you can work side-by-side to make sure things run smoothly. The next few months are going to be difficult, and we’re very excited to have two first-rate doctors to see us through."

“Fine. I appreciate the confidence the board has in me, Harrison. I'll do everything I can to make sure the clinic functions at its highest level during this … transition,” I said to him, glancing at Jake for a moment, then looking back at Harrison. "If you'll excuse me.” I turned and walked off down the hall without giving Jake any further acknowledgment.

I heard the two of them exchange a few words behind me, then, when I was halfway down the hall, I heard footsteps. "Stephen, I really hope you don't see this as a slight on how the board feels about you,” Harrison said, the tone of his voice verging on panic.

I turned around and saw the same level of anxiety on his face. "Of course not,” I said with a forced smile. “I know how crazy things have been since the fires, and that we need all the help we can get right now,” saying what I knew he wanted to hear.

I knew this was the best course of action. The arson fires that leveled multiple clinics around town had wreaked havoc on the very people that needed the clinics most. And I wasn’t opposed to anything that would help those in need.

It was this whole thing with Jake that was really pissing me off. Why had he chosen this moment to show up in my life again? What was he doing here?

"Yes, exactly. And I realize we had discussed you taking the clinic director position, but when it was decided by the board that we expand the clinic … well … it just made more sense to create an additional position. Jake Livingston’s role will be primarily administrative.”

The way Harrison worded that last sentence struck a chord with me. “Does this mean he’s my boss, Harrison?” I asked.

“Well, technically his position is above yours, but in the eyes of the board, you’re working together on this project. We don’t view this as any kind of hierarchical—”

"There's no need to explain, Harrison,” I said, cutting him off. “I understand." But I didn’t understand. I just didn't want to hear another smarmy word out of his mouth and I could feel that he was trying to placate me. There was a part of me that wanted to know exactly why I had been passed over for this position, but I wasn't going to stand in the hallway and bicker about job titles.

"I don't want to lose you, Stephen. You're the best doctor I've ever worked with. Truly.” Harrison gripped my shoulder, a look of concern filling his eyes. “I want to make sure you understand that this decision has no bearing on how much you are valued here.“

I took everything I had to push the corners of my mouth up into a smile, but I did. "Thank you, Harrison. I appreciate you saying that. I really should get to work now.”

"Of course,” he said, releasing my arm. “I’ll speak with you later."

I went into my office and closed the door, then flopped into the chair behind my desk. I honestly didn't know if I could work side-by-side with Jake. With the man who ripped my heart out with his bare hands, then ran away with it and never looked back.

What made me so angry was, throughout all this time, I truly thought that I had gotten over Jake Livingston. But as it turned out, he still held a part of my heart in his cold, steely hands. I could feel it when I looked into his eyes, and that pissed me off more than anything.

An alert beeped on my computer that told me I had a patient coming in any minute. I had to pull myself together. I wasn't going to let Jake interfere with the important work I was doing at the clinic. I had to admit, it crossed my mind to give my notice to Harrison.

But I realized how childish that would be. The people who came into this clinic needed me, now more than ever. Especially people like my next patient, Daniel. He was a young omega who lived on the streets. His parents had kicked him out when he was fifteen, right when he presented as an omega. He was now nineteen and had squatted and couch surfed to get by.

It was young patients like Daniel that kept me going. I couldn't stand the idea of anyone being abandoned, not having anyone to trust or turn to. And even though general medicine had never been offered at this clinic in the past, I had always accepted appointments from anyone in the neighborhood who needed medical attention, regardless of status or what the medical issue was.

Daniel originally came in with a host of injuries. He told me that he fell off his skateboard, but I had a feeling that wasn't exactly true. He had bruises all over his body, and when he took his shirt off there was a boot shaped bruise in the center of his chest. It nearly made me break down to see such a sweet boy treated this way.

Daniel had been nothing but courteous and thoughtful when he was in my office and it tore me up to see him, or anyone, treated so badly. But what worried me the most was that he was afraid to tell me the truth. He didn’t have anyone he felt he could trust. But that was the way life was for a lot of omegas who lived on the streets. He was incredibly lucky that the only bones that had been broken were in his arm, and today he was coming in to get his cast taken off.

"It's good to see you, Daniel, have a seat," I said, gesturing to the chair in front of my desk. "I bet you’re ready to get that thing taken off.”

"Yeah, it's been a pain in the ass,” he said as he futilely pushed a couple fingers under the plaster. “And it itches like hell."

"All right, let me get the exam room set up." I called the reception desk and had them send a nurse over, then told Daniel to go inside and remove his shirt.

After the cast was off and his pale arm was cleaned up, I decided to talk to him about how his life was going. I knew it would be tricky. I didn’t want to scare him away, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him going back to the same situation where this had been done to him.

I was hoping to get him off the streets. Find him a job and a place to live, and maybe even someone he could trust.

"I talked to my brother about you," I said as I checked Daniel's vitals and recorded them in his chart.

"Oh yeah? What about?"

"Well, I thought maybe he could spend a little time with you. Maybe help you find a job. He's familiar with this part of town and the places were you’ve been living. I think he'd be happy to talk to you, if you're interested."

"Oh yeah? What does he do?"

"He's a cop."

“A cop? I don’t know about that, Dr. Lewis. To be honest, I’ve had enough of that authoritarian jazz with my parents. My dad is one of the most intense alpha’s I’ve ever known. He was all about rules and goals,” Daniel said as a shiver ran through his body. “No thanks.”

"Well, Mark’s a little different. He's an omega and he only works part-time now because he and his partner just had a baby. He’s become really laid back since Trevor was born.”

"Get out of here! I thought omegas couldn't take jobs like that because they’d disrupt all the alphas when they went into heat or some bullshit like that."

"Well, Mark’s situation is a little different. He started out in the academy and on the force as a beta. He just changed to an omega this last year.”

“Man, that's wild! Yeah, I've heard about some betas changing like that. It seems like it would be a pretty big bummer for someone to have their life all set, then blammo, one day they aren't what they thought they were. That must have been pretty harsh."

"Yes, well, it was quite an adjustment for him. But I think it gave him a new perspective on life. In the end, I think it made him a better person."

"So he's okay with the change that happened?”

“Well, he is now. He went through quite a few months of feeling like the rug had been ripped out from underneath him. But he has a really amazing partner who’s helped him get through the hardest part.”

"Damn," Daniel said as he stared at the floor. "It must be awesome to have someone like that that you can rely on."

It broke my heart to hear Daniel say that. I knew how much he and every single kid who lived on the street wanted just that. Someone to love them and accept them for who they were. Someone they could trust completely. I wanted that for Daniel so badly. "So what do you say? You wanna meet with him?"

"Yeah, sure. As long as he’s not gonna make me walk around and pick up garbage or anything like that," he said with a laugh.

"I'll make sure that's not on the agenda," I said. “Now get your shirt on. While you’re here I want you to talk to our social worker real quick.”

“About what?” Daniel asked.

“I’m wondering if maybe we can’t find you a temporary place to live starting tonight. Would you like that?”

“Yeah,” Daniel said at the ground as he jumped off the exam table. “A place with a hot shower would be nice.”

I could see that he wasn’t comfortable talking about his situation and I wanted to make it as nonchalant as possible.

“We can also make a follow-up appointment so I can check on how that arm is healing.

“Sounds good,” Daniel said, looking up at me with a smile in his eyes that warmed my heart.


Chapter 4

Chapter 4


Jake



"Dr. Livingston!"

I was just about to push my way through the glass door at the police precinct when I heard someone calling my name from behind me. I turned to see Mark Harris, Stephen Lewis's brother, walking toward me.

“Hey, Dr. Livingston, I thought that was you,” he said as he extended his hand.

I was still a little nervous when I spoke with Mark. Although we now had a professional relationship since I’d delivered his baby, he had been around back when I was seeing Stephen in medical school. I remembered meeting him a couple times when I went over to their parents’ house.

Stephen had even had me over for dinner once. But why wouldn’t he? We were planning on spending the rest of our lives together. That’s what we’d said anyway. What I’d wanted. But that was all before I ruined everything. And I assumed Mark knew exactly how I’d left things with Stephen. How horribly I’d treated his brother. And I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought of me.


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