Rethinking Fate Prologue



“You ask him. You’re the one who’s curious.” Bryan’s whispered voice held an edge of panic, but since it was Kevin egging him on, I thought that was to be expected.

“But you’re the one who’s little, so you should ask.” Kevin seemed to be trying to convince Bryan that his logic was sound, but there was obviously some debate over that.

“This isn’t my idea. I don’t even know why I’m listening to you.” Bryan’s voice was clearly stressed but since he seemed more likely to hit Kevin than pass out, I didn’t step in. “You’re a nuisance, and I’m going to tell Jeremy you’re driving me crazy.”

Kevin just giggled. “Good, I haven’t been spanked in days.”

Bryan groaned. “I don’t need to know that.”

Kevin giggled again.

“Let’s just go.” Evidently whatever Kevin was trying to talk Bryan into wasn’t sounding like such a good idea anymore.

But Kevin was persistent.

“You’re going to feel ridiculous if you chicken out now.” There was a pause, and I knew more than likely Kevin had hugged his still-nervous friend. “Besides, it’s just a question, it’s not like you have to do anything.”

“But what if he thinks it’s stupid or too personal?” Bryan’s voice dipped quieter, but I heard his nerves even more clearly.

“Then he’ll politely tell us that, but the chances of that are slim. We’re not asking about him, just about it in general.”

Now they both had me curious.

Bryan sometimes stayed late at the end of the day and came in to talk to me about things because it generally took him a while to work up to it. He wasn’t technically my patient anymore, but he needed someone to talk to occasionally. Bryan was so much more confident about what he wanted and who he was than when I’d first met him, but sometimes his worries still got the best of him.

Kevin, on the other hand, loved dragging him out of his shell.

Sometimes they were an odd match for best friends, but they complemented each other perfectly. Each didn’t judge the other; they even helped bring out each other’s best qualities.

“This is stupid.” Bryan sighed.

Evidently Kevin had won.

I turned back to my desk, pretending to focus on the blank paperwork in front of me as a knock sounded and Kevin’s head popped around the door. He gave me an innocent smile that I’d very early on learned was completely fake. “Do you have a moment?”

“Of course.” Sometimes keeping a neutral expression around them was entirely too difficult.

“Great.” As he stepped into the room, I saw that he had a death grip on Bryan’s hand and was visibly dragging him into the room. But since I’d seen Bryan stand up to his overbearing best friend before, I wasn’t worried for him—Kevin’s health was clearly in jeopardy, however.

Bryan looked like he wanted to deck him.

“What can I do for you gentlemen?” I waited with a neutral smile while Bryan opened his mouth several times, nothing coming out.

Since I was patient and we’d done this dance before, I was skilled at waiting—Kevin, however, was not.

He sighed dramatically and jerked on Bryan’s hand. Bryan huffed and shoved him with his shoulder, but since it had worked exactly as Kevin had intended and pushed him out of his panic, I couldn’t complain. Kevin shot me another innocent expression I didn’t buy at all. “Bryan has a question.”

Bryan does?” I let one eyebrow rise, and Bryan finally chuckled.

“He’s got your number.” Taking a deep breath, Bryan finally pushed through his nerves. “We want to know what it’s like when…littles get together to…um…play and stuff.”

Kevin nodded enthusiastically. “He won’t let me see him play, but I think it would be a good idea if he had other littles he could have like playdates with and be able to talk to. The BDSM meetings are fun, but he’s the only little.”

Bryan groaned, but he didn’t stop Kevin’s verbal charge into the issue.

“Does Bryan actually want to meet other littles or do you want him to meet other littles?” Bryan’s quiet laughter and Kevin’s grin said they both realized it was a reasonable question.

“Both.” Kevin beamed. “He’s just shy about saying anything, but he said it last night.”

Bryan gave him a dirty look. “Only because that drink had a lot more alcohol in it than you said it did.”

Kevin waved it off. “You worry too much.”

I pretended not to hear the drinking part and focused on their actual question. “Well, do you have specific questions about what happens?”

Kevin nodded excitedly but rolled his eyes when Bryan cleared his throat. “But he won’t let me ask. So just the general stuff will be fine.”

They were absolutely hilarious.

Trying to decide how much I could share without making Bryan nervous, I thought quickly. “Well then, how about I start by saying that it depends on the group.”

Over the years, I’d done my best to find the right balance between sharing with my patients so they could be comfortable and not crossing any ethical lines, but Kevin and Bryan always made it hard. Bryan especially, from the first time I’d met him.

“I’ve belonged to several groups over the years, from very organized events to just friends hanging out, and each one is different. There are several groups within a few hours of here that meet on a regular basis, but there’s one here in town that meets monthly. It’s basically just a group of pups, handlers, boys, and daddies—and the occasional mommy—that meet. You’ll find the pups in their personas playing together. The littles will either be sitting with their daddies or in groups playing.”

I tried to think about what Bryan’s biggest fears would be.

“You’ll find some in diapers and some without, but it doesn’t make any difference for the littles or other people. There are a variety of personalities. At this event specifically, everyone is reasonably well covered, that’s usually more of an issue with the pups, but there’s no nudity outside of someone being changed in the bathrooms.” I had to fight off a smile as Bryan’s eyes widened.

Kevin was just about jumping up and down, he was so excited. “That sounds perfect for you!”

Bryan seemed a bit overwhelmed and just looked between the two of us. “Um.”

Kevin didn’t lose his grin, but he tightened his hold on Bryan’s hand and turned to run his other hand over Bryan’s head. “You could have so much fun.”

“I don’t…um…” It was all going too fast for Bryan, and I watched him take a deep breath. “I’ll think about it.”

I was glad he was trying, but I didn’t want Kevin’s enthusiasm and excitement to push him into something he wasn’t ready for. “Does it sound fun in an abstract sort of way? There is no right or wrong answer. Everyone handles groups and events differently. Some people never go to any kind of meeting, and their time as a little or pup is always private.” I gave Kevin a quick, firm glance. “There is nothing wrong with that.”

Bryan smiled as I focused on Kevin but nodded. “I don’t know.”

“That is a reasonable answer.” I found myself willing him to relax. “You need to talk to Maddox and see what his opinion is, and then really think about what would make you happy.”

Bryan gave me another nod and shifted from one foot to the other. “Um, thank you for answering our questions.”

“Always.” I smiled and stood as Bryan started dragging them toward the door. “Feel free to talk to me about anything, Bryan.”

He wasn’t really my patient anymore, but there was still a boundary between us that he’d never crossed. I understood, but sometimes it was hard when I wanted so badly just to give him a hug and tell him it would be all right.

As they reached the door, I glanced at Kevin. “Give us a moment, please.”

Kevin seemed to be worried that I thought he was pushing Bryan because he sighed. “It really was his idea…”

I smiled. “You’re not in trouble.”

Still looking skeptical, Kevin headed toward the front of the office. Bryan looked more nervous than I’d intended, so I reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I just wanted to remind you that while I approve of Kevin’s enthusiastic acceptance of the lifestyle, you need to take things at your own pace.”

Bryan smiled and glanced out toward where he knew Kevin would be waiting. Not wanting to keep them, I continued. “Also, some people find being little around strangers easier, but others find it easier to step slowly into being little in a semi-public setting by being little around friends first. I know that Kevin’s excitement might make you nervous, but he has good intentions. He wants you to be happy.”

“And he’s curious.”

I couldn’t hide my grin. “You’re right.”

“Thank you, Dr. Sheppard.” His smile seemed more relaxed and I could feel the strain in his body releasing.

“Any time, Bryan, and I mean that. I understand where you’re coming from.” Just the small reminder about my role in the lifestyle had him blushing, but he nodded.

I released his shoulder as he stepped away while giving me a stilted wave. I knew he was relieved to have escaped, but I also knew that he’d continue to roll the discussion around in his head. Eventually, he’d come back to it, either when he was ready or when he was tired of Kevin bringing it up.

With them, it could go either way.





Chapter 1


Ten Years Earlier


“‘Mister Rogers’ has fallen asleep. What do you want me to do about him?” The bored tone of the server had me wanting to sigh. For someone who worked in a gay bar and looked like a bear’s wet dream, he was annoying as fuck.

“I think he’s a doctor.” Not that he seemed old enough, but the cutie had mentioned it casually one time when some asshole had tried a bad pickup line. No one seemed to know his real name, but the bar staff had been calling him Mister Rogers behind his back for a while. The sweet little thing always had the quiet understanding of the TV show guy and seemed just as vanilla.

It fit, but looks could be deceiving.

“Dr. Rogers doesn’t have the same ring to it.” The duh in Ronnie’s voice had me throwing a dish towel at him and looking out over the bar.

The poor guy hadn’t made it through his second beer before he’d passed out in a booth, leaning against the wall. “He looks comfortable. Just leave him there for a while—but keep an eye on him.”

I might have been fairly new at the bar, but I wasn’t going to let something happen to anyone under my watch.

Ronnie sniffed like he didn’t appreciate the extra work. “How much did you serve him? Jake is going to have a cow if you get us in trouble.”

I had the patience of a saint most of the time—it wasn’t even bragging, it was just a fact—but the kid was starting to drive me nuts. Giving him a long stare, I pulled out my best Daddy voice. “Do you honestly think I’ve served that boy enough alcohol to have made him pass out?”

Ronnie squirmed and shook his head before scampering off to pretend to be busy. How he’d gotten hired I couldn’t imagine. Jake hadn’t been the new owner long, but from what I’d seen, he was doing a good job at turning the bar around.

We just needed to talk about his hiring criteria.

I knew I’d gotten the job because I’d been a regular of the old place for years and he’d been desperate for help right when I’d needed an excuse to get out of the house. But how had he ended up with the bored brat who seemed to be straight, as a server in a run-down gay bar?

Keeping one eye on the sleeping boy in the corner, I finished cleaning up around the bar and waited for the next wave to come in. As Jake had started fixing up the place, more of the old regulars who’d stopped coming in had started wandering back.

I’d never found the time to check out other places, so even when the old owner had started letting the place go downhill, I’d stuck around. Others hadn’t been in as much of a rut and had branched out long before Jake had picked up the place.

One of his first steps had been to clear out the old staff that had been robbing the place blind, but hiring didn’t seem to be his strong suit. As my gaze wandered between the lazy server who couldn’t flirt if his life were on the line and the sleeping doctor who couldn’t seem to take care of himself, the night passed quickly.

I almost didn’t hear Jake when he came in to check on things. “What’s Ronnie doing?”

“Doing his best to avoid the table in the back who wants him to giggle and smile.” I rolled my eyes and leaned back against the bar. “They’re not drunk enough to throw out and haven’t been doing anything really wrong, but they stupidly think Ronnie’s a shy twink instead of just an asshole.”

Jake sighed. “It’s an easy mistake to make at first glance.”

I chuckled. “No, not if your big head is doing the thinking.”

Shrugging, Jake refused to admit the obvious. “He’s not a bad employee.”

“You mean he’s not stealing and he shows up to work. That isn’t the same as being a good employee.” I wiped down the bar, still keeping an eye on things. Since it was slow, I glanced over at him. “How did he really get hired?”

Jake wasn’t the type to think with his dick or he’d have found someone cuter to work behind the bar too. Jake ran his hand through his hair. “He didn’t come off as gay during the interview, but that isn’t a requirement to work here. I mean, it’s helpful, but he seemed to understand customer service and had good experience on his resume. I just don’t think this is what he was picturing.”

“Someone obviously told him he was cute enough that gay guys would tip big, but they forgot to tell him he’d have to flirt and actually be nice to them.” It was my turn to sigh. “And he keeps trying to tell me what to do.”

Jake laughed. “Oh, he broke the only rule.”

I’d stepped in to take over the bar one night when he’d caught the last guy drunk off his ass, getting fucked in the back room when he should have been working. Jake hadn’t minded him flirting with the customers, but he’d been drinking on the job and somehow money had disappeared from the register while he’d been occupied.

While he’d tried to sober the guy up enough to fire him, I’d stepped behind the bar and had taken over. It’d taken Jake a little while to realize that he’d left the bar unattended while he’d yelled at the naked ex-bartender in the back. By the time he’d chased the guy out and had come back to the bar, I’d had things pretty much under control.

He’d asked me to stay on and we’d ironed out a deal that worked for both of us. I’d work a few nights a week to cover for the other guy, but I was the boss when I was working, and I wouldn’t flirt with the customers. There was nothing wrong with the waitstaff flirting or even having a bit of fun, but it wasn’t what I was into.

Big, rough-looking bears or the occasional confused college kid just didn’t do it for me—and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Jake had agreed right away, mostly because he’d been desperate, but it had worked out well for both of us. I got out of the house a bit and he managed to get a few nights off. Sometimes he even went out, although most of the time, he stopped in too many times to check on things.

“You sure you don’t want to pick up a few daytime shifts as well?” Jake already knew the answer, but he couldn’t seem to stop asking.

“Nope. Too much to do.” I gave him a firm glance before looking over at the sleeping doctor again. “This is just for fun.”

Jake sighed. I knew he didn’t get it, but since his job involved working around people constantly, I had a feeling he just couldn’t understand what it was like to be alone all day. There was nothing I loved better than seeing a beautiful piece of leather take shape into something functional, or even sexy in the case of a new harness or collar, but the quiet could get to me after a while.

So instead of turning into an old fart who grumbled about young people today and ended up with a load of cats, I’d decided to get out more. At that point, fate had stepped in and I’d found myself working behind the bar a few nights a week.

He shook his head, watching the drunks in the back call out for another round. “We obviously have different definitions of fun.”

“This place would be more fun if you hired people who wanted to be here. Present company excluded, of course.” I could leave whenever I wanted. I wasn’t here for the money, just for the noise and occasional friend to chat with.

“But he’s not bad.” Jake shrugged. “I can’t fire him for not flirting.”

“You can fire him for driving me crazy and generally being too lazy to deal with the drunks, though.” Maybe I was being too hard on the kid, but he spent more time trying to tell me how to arrange the bar and what I should be pushing than actually talking with the customers.

“Maybe.” Jake finally came around the bar and started checking over the receipts. “I’ve got a few interviews for new servers this week. Things are starting to pick up again and we need more help covering the place.”

I had to agree. “Yeah, at least one more part-timer for the busy nights on the weekend. You’ve got to be just as busy on Friday night as we are on Saturdays.”

It wasn’t crazy, but enough of the regulars were back that on the weekend they could keep one server jumping. “You get a few cuties in here who actually flirt and are looking to tease the customers and things could get even busier.”

Jake laughed. “Yeah, I don’t want to end up with a bar full of drama queens, but anything has to be better than watching Ronnie. Do you think he’s really going to dump that beer on Ed? That old bear has been coming here for god knows how long and just wants some attention. Ronnie looks…”

“Like he’s going to end up pissing off a whole table full of drunk morons.” I tossed my rag at Jake. “You hold down the fort here. I’ll be right back.”

Jake laughed, giving me a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”

Rolling my eyes, I weaved my way through the barflies and tables of businessmen who were clearly trying to slum it and headed over to the back. I heard one of the guys at the far table start to make a dirty joke and then one of Ed’s buddies finally crossed the line.

As he reached out to grab Ronnie’s ass, I put my hand on his arm, applying just enough pressure that he realized how much stronger I was than him. “That’s not the best idea you’ve had tonight. Settle up the tab and head out. You guys can come back when you can make better choices.”

They started to sputter and give me shit about being tossed out, but all it took was one raised eyebrow and a glance at the ass who thought he could feel up my staff before they quieted down and handed over their money to a stunned Ronnie. If he’d been into it, I’d have ignored whatever they were doing, but even the drunk should have seen the signs to stop.

I wasn’t sure how they’d act as they left, but watching them go, they seemed to be more upset with the handsy drunk than me, so I had a feeling they’d be back to apologize at some point. Glancing around, I made eye contact with a few others who were on the border too. “Hands off unless the invitation is blatant. We clear?”

Heads went up and down and the tension in the place went down a few notches. Turning to Ronnie, who looked a bit lost, I nodded. “Looks like table four could use a refill.”

He took a breath and looked over. “You’re right. Thanks.”

“Good.” If he’d been more open or even more emotional I would’ve asked if he was okay or wanted to talk, but we just didn’t have that kind of relationship, which was probably one of the reasons he drove me crazy. He hit a few of my buttons that said sub, but he seemed to be fighting every one of them and was so straight it was painful.

As he headed over to the table of young guys who’d been poring over paperwork for hours, I looked over at the bar and saw that Jake had it under control. Heading past the guys who probably should have been working at a coffee shop or in a boardroom, I made my way over to the sleeping doctor.

He really must have been a doctor if he could sleep through the chaos, but even over the teasing and the music that was playing in the background, he continued to relax there quietly. I’d dated a few doctors over the years, because smart was damned sexy, and a lot of them were more interesting than they pretended to be at work. Doctors had a curious habit of being so in charge in their daily life that they looked for outlets to give up control in their off time, but I couldn’t decide about Mister Rogers.

I had a feeling I was just seeing what I wanted to see, but he looked so young and innocent that I could see him holding onto a blankie and stuffed toy as he slept. It was probably the light brown hair that was a little too long for a professional that made him look younger. But the dark circles around his eyes didn’t help, and the five-o’clock shadow that he normally didn’t wear just added to the exhaustion. Reaching out, I moved his half-full glass back so he didn’t knock it over and left him there to sleep for a little while longer.

My shift was almost over, so I’d have to wake him up soon, but until I was done, there was no reason to wake him up. If he was still out, he obviously needed the rest.

Heading back over to the bar, I nodded to Jake who was handing over a beer to a regular at the end of the counter. After a quick conversation, he put the money in the register and made his way back to me. “Good call.”

“They need to learn they can look but can’t touch unless the person wants it.” I focused out over the bar and watched as the crowd laughed and relaxed. “The last guy didn’t set enough boundaries and attracted a few bad apples.”

“Yeah, but things seem to be improving. We just need to find the right mix.” He might have been talking about the customers, but I thought he needed to focus on the staff.

Watching Ronnie awkwardly take orders, giving the men flat, uninterested looks, I knew he wasn’t the right person for the job. It was a bar. Out there, it didn’t matter if he was a straight kid or not; he needed to be able to have fun with people and enjoy the attention.

“You’re right on the edge of being a leather bar, and it’s definitely not vanilla even if it looks that way at first glance. You need to hire more people in the lifestyle. A few subs who get off on the attention and can flirt would go a long way.” I looked back at Jake. “I’m not saying they have to do anything, but they need to be able to deal with the men. Ronnie can’t.”

Jake sighed. “I know the owner of that steak place across town. It hasn’t gotten out yet, but they’re going to be hiring more waitstaff soon. Ronnie would be a good fit over there.”

I nodded. “Maybe just let it slip once you’ve interviewed the new people this week. He can’t be making enough in tips here for it to be worth it.”

The kid just needed a push to find something that was a better fit for him.

“Good idea, and I’ll talk to the manager over there and see if I can put in a good word for him.” Jake grinned. “They like the stern, quiet waiters over there.”

“Then it would be a much better fit.” Enjoying the slowdown at the bar for a moment, I turned to Jake. “Do you want me to sit in on the interviews this week?”

He laughed. “I’m not that bad.”

Yes, he was.

I stayed quiet and looked at him. He finally sighed. “Not for the actual interviews, but before I extend offers, I want you to meet them. If they can’t flirt with you, then we probably shouldn’t hire them.”

I barked out a laugh. “Why is that the qualification now?”

“Because if they’re too straight to find you interesting or so much of a top that they aren’t at least a bit curious, then they won’t make it with the rest of these guys.” Since he thought it was completely logical, I kept chuckling.

“How about they flirt with you and leave me alone?” I wasn’t looking for a little twink who winked and flirted with everyone.

He shook his head. “I’m the boss. Absolutely not. If they don’t see that as being important, then they need to find someplace else. I’m not going back to dodging guys wanting to exchange blowjobs for better schedules.”

I couldn’t blame him there. I’d mainly ignored some of the things that had gone on in the past, but Jake had worked hard to clean it up. A lot of the borderline activities could be ignored because they were between consenting adults, but the old owner had been one blowjob away from getting shut down by vice or the health department, so Jake had a right to be worried.

“All right, you just tell me when you need me to make an appearance. But fair warning, if they drive me nuts or I think they can’t do the job, I’m not going to hold back on my opinion.” If he needed someone to point him in the right direction, then I’d do it, but I wouldn’t sit back and watch him hire more people like Ronnie.

Just because they needed a job didn’t mean he had to be the one to hire them.

“Deal.” With that settled, Jake looked over across the room. “What’s your plan for sleepy Mister Rogers over there?”

I shrugged. “You were supposed to be here in a few minutes, so I thought when you came in, I’d call him a cab and wake him up.”

Jake nodded. “Yeah, he probably shouldn’t be driving, just in case.”

“Don’t you start. He didn’t even finish his second beer before he was out.” I frowned at Jake as he grinned.

“I didn’t say you got him drunk. I know you’d take care of your boy better than that.” His grin widened as I scoffed.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I’d done my best to keep my private life out of the bar since I’d been working there. It’d never been the best place to find subs anyway, so it wasn’t hard.

Jake laughed. “Oh yeah? You watch him like a hawk every time he comes in.”

“He’s not here often enough for you to know that.” The tired doctor only came in every couple of weeks, tops. Usually it seemed to be when he was beyond stressed and just needed to unwind for a while. He’d knock a few back and then would head home.

Always alone.

No matter how many guys had tried to pick him up the handful of times I’d seen him there, he’d turned down every offer. If I hadn’t seen the way his eyes would follow the occasional rough-looking bear, I’d have thought he was straight.

“You haven’t let him out of your sight all night.” Jake grinned at my scowl. “I’m not falling for that. You’d take him home in a heartbeat.”

I pointed to the men who’d walked up to the bar. “You’ve got customers.”

His grin widened again. “Protesting too much? Have a good night, and go wake up Mister Rogers before you go. You’ll worry if you don’t, and we both know it.”

I’d worry about anyone in the same situation—or at least that’s what I was going to tell myself.

Gathering up my stuff, I went back over to the sleeping doctor. No matter how tempting he was, I had to remember that I had no idea if he was in the lifestyle at all. The chances that the smart, sexy man was looking for a Daddy were so remote it was laughable.

Resigning myself to reality, I reached out and laid my hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, resisting the temptation to run my fingers through his hair. “Wake-up time, Sleeping Beauty.”

Rethinking Fate by MA Innes - Gay Romance Ebook Cover

Now what? Dr. Miles Sheppard has been focusing one goal for so long nothing else mattered, including his personal life. Unfortunately, now that he’s crossed the finish line, he’s lost. Gaining his doctorate should have been the hard part of his career, but figuring out what to do next might drive him crazy.

Now what? Sean’s been watching the sexy doctor for months. But when the quiet cutie dozes off in the middle of the crowded bar, it might be time to step in and actually talk to him. Sean’s not shy, but he knows he’s not the most traditional man. It will take more than a sweet temperament and an understanding smile to accept the unconventional relationship Sean is looking for.

When an exhausted doctor meets a bartender who’s more than meets the eye, they’re set for a match made in heaven…as long as heaven includes binkies and bedtime stories.

Story Contains: M/m Sexual Content, BDSM elements, Spankings, and Age Play
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