Master of Freedom: A Mountain Masters Novella by Cherise Sinclair




  Master of Freedom

  A Mountain Masters Novella

  By Cherise Sinclair

  1001 Dark Nights

  Master of Freedom

  A Mountain Masters Novella

  By Cherise Sinclair

  1001 Dark Nights

  Copyright 2015 Cherise Sinclair

  ISBN: 978-1-940887-36-4

  Forward: Copyright 2014 M. J. Rose

  Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.

  Book Description

  Master of Freedom

  Detective Atticus Ware gave up Idaho to start again in the California mountains, close to his imprisoned brother. Although he’s found good friends, the experienced Dominant wants more than the “do me” submissives flocking around him. He needs a woman to give her heart as well as her body.

  After Virginia Cunningham exhausts herself propping up a failing relationship, she accepts a social worker job far, far away in a California prison. Invited to observe BDSM classes on a wilderness camping trip, she’s shocked—her fiancé had insisted BDSM was a fabrication to sell books. But when Atticus lures her into participating, she learns submission under the hands of a powerful Dom is beyond anything she’d imagined. Nonetheless, she can’t permit a relationship—she’d just lose herself again.

  Finally, Atticus has found the woman he wants in his life. In his bed. In his cuffs. Only she keeps backing away. Well…if he has to help a little counselor get her head on straight, he’s just the Dom for the job.

  Also from Cherise Sinclair

  Click to purchase

  Masters of the Shadowlands (contemporary)

  Club Shadowlands

  Dark Citadel

  Breaking Free

  Lean on Me

  Make Me, Sir

  To Command and Collar

  This Is Who I Am

  If Only

  Show Me, Baby

  Servicing the Target

  Mountain Masters and Dark Haven (contemporary)

  Master of the Mountain

  Doms of Dark Haven 1 (anthology)

  Master of the Abyss

  Doms of Dark Haven 2: Western Night (anthology)

  My Liege of Dark Haven

  Edge of the Enforcer

  Master of Freedom

  The Wild Hunt Legacy (paranormal)

  Hour of the Lion

  Winter of the Wolf

  Standalone books

  The Starlight Rite (Sci-Fi Romance)

  The Dom’s Dungeon (contemporary)

  Author’s Note

  To my readers,

  The books I write are fiction, not reality, and as in most romantic fiction, the romance is compressed into a very, very short time period.

  You, my darlings, live in the real world, and I want you to take a little more time in your relationships. Good Doms don’t grow on trees, and there are some strange people out there. So while you’re looking for that special Dom, please, be careful.

  When you find him, realize he can’t read your mind. Yes, frightening as it might be, you’re going to have to open up and talk to him. And you listen to him in return. Share your hopes and fears, what you want from him, what scares you spitless. Okay, he may try to push your boundaries a little—he’s a Dom, after all—but you will have your safe word. You will have a safe word, am I clear? Use protection. Have a backup person. Communicate.

  Remember: safe, sane, and consensual.

  Know that I’m hoping you find that special, loving person who will understand your needs and hold you close.

  And while you’re looking or even if you’ve already found your dearheart, come and hang out with the Mountain Masters.

  Love,

  Cherise

  Acknowledgments From The Author

  Many thanks to the usual suspects, Bianca Sommerland, Fiona Archer, and Monette Michaels—crit partners extraordinaire. My wonderful Aussie buddy, Ruth Reid, helped with the story’s psychology issues and beta reading.

  A bazillion thanks to Lisa SK who suggested the heroine’s occupation and tried to keep me on the straight and narrow as far as correctness. All errors are hers. (Shoot, I tried. Okay, all errors really are mine.)

  While never sharing anything that breached confidentiality, the stories she gave me were simply hair-raising. People working in the prison system have my most profound respect.

  And, on the subject of errors and prisons, an escape truly isn’t easy at all. However, driving through fences? Yep, that does happen. (Thank you, Kevin).

  I actually got out of my cave and attended some reader-author conventions this year—and was thrilled at y’all’s enthusiasm. For those who attended, for those who brought me gifts or hugs or simply made me feel so, so welcome—you have my gratitude. Thank you!

  Finally—I never forget that I’m creating these stories for you, my readers. And I hope you realize how much it means that you’ll gift me with your time and trust. (Yes, that sounded very Dom-like, didn’t it?) But it’s honest, as well. Thank you, my dears.

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  1001 Dark Nights story

  The First Night

  by Lexi Blake & M.J. Rose

  Table of Contents

  Book Description

  Also by Cherise Sinclair

  Author’s Note

  Author Acknowledgments

  Foreword

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Also From 1001 Dark Nights

  About Cherise Sinclair

  An excerpt from Servicing the Target by Cherise Sinclair

  Special Thanks

  One Thousand and One Dark Nights

  Once upon a time, in the future…

  I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

  I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

  the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

  library at my father’s home and collected thousands

  of volumes of fantastic tales.

  I learned all about ancient races and bygone

  times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

  people through the millennium. And the more I read

  the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

  that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

  become part of them.

  I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
r />   and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

  would not be telling you this tale now.

  But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

  with bravery.

  One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

  Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

  see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

  (Persian: شهریار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

  sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

  and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

  the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

  women.

  Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

  in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

  places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

  never occurred before and that still to this day, I

  cannot explain.

  Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

  taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

  protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

  protect herself and stay alive.

  Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

  And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

  point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

  And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

  he might hear the rest of my dark tale.

  As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

  one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

  you now.

  Chapter One

  “You fucking…” As the inmate on the other side of her office desk alternated spitting and swearing, Virginia Cunningham fought to keep the expression from her face. Her years as a social worker had given her a fair amount of experience, but the past two months of working in a prison were sorely testing her skills.

  She flattened her trembling hands on the desktop and glanced around her claustrophobia-inducing cement box of an office. Since the sole window was in the door, she’d tried to create a more spacious feeling by hanging vibrant posters of the nearby Yosemite mountains. Her favorite was of a man climbing El Capitan. She could almost feel the strain in his muscles as he moved upward toward the peak.

  If only she could give him a boost. But the determination on his face told her he’d make the summit all on his own.

  Now, if she could only transmit some of his resolve to the inmates she counseled. So many had given up hope. Or, like Mr. Jorgensen, were so filled with anger there was room for nothing else.

  “Mr. Jorgensen,” she said quietly. “When you––”

  His voice rose to drown her out. “And those mother-fucking, cock-suckers…”

  Lordy. Sometimes her job was simply to listen, however they chose to speak. Sometimes inmates would talk to her goldfish, Chuck, who lived in a small bowl on the filing cabinet. After they relaxed, she could move into active therapy.

  Unfortunately, Mr. Jorgensen’s ranting hadn’t helped him one bit, and she had a feeling he wouldn’t depart politely.

  Although he had no history of violence, she’d been warned not to take chances—as if seeing unrestrained inmates without a guard present wasn’t already risky. But it was what it was. She pressed the intercom summoning the correctional officer.

  When the CO entered her room, she rose. “Mr. Jorgenson, our time is up now.”

  The prisoner spat at her. “And those fucking bastards…”

  “Please escort him out,” she told the officer.

  “C’mon, let’s go, Jorgensen,” he said.

  The inmate jerked around and saw the CO. Obediently and quietly, he stomped from the room.

  As the door closed behind them, Gin sank back, turning her chair to avoid seeing the puddles of spittle. Thankfully, her desk was quite wide.

  In the past when working with children and families, she’d been cussed out, yelled at, insulted. Teenagers especially were adept at the scathing put-downs.

  But never had anyone spit at her.

  She pulled in slow, calming breaths, although each inhalation brought the stink of Mr. Jorgensen’s sweat mixed with the harsh cleansers used by the inmate workers.

  Dear heavens, she was not cut out to work as a prison social worker. She should have looked before leaping into the position. Desperation surely did sorry things to a body—and she’d been so frantic to get away from her ex-fiancé that she’d taken the most distant job she could find.

  Well, mistakes happened. And, so she’d carry on—and do the very best she could for the souls entrusted to her.

  “The day is over. And I’m so out of here.” Penelope’s voice drifted in from the reception area.

  What an excellent idea.

  Jorgenson’s had been Gin’s last session of the day. She pushed to her feet, ignored her wobbly knees, and shrugged into her black jacket. The garment was loose fitting, as were her baggy pants and oversized, button-up, white shirt. The last thing she wanted was for an inmate to see her as a female, although her ugly attire didn’t seem to affect the number of catcalls and whistles.

  After a quick pat to ensure she had her body alarm and keys, she walked out of her office into the gray reception area. Two other counselors were preparing to leave. Flouting the suggestions for feminine attire, Penelope’s flaming red, skintight dress accented every curve. Bless her heart, the woman obviously didn’t have any problem with getting hit on by the inmates.

  Near the door, Howard Slidell was pulling on his coat.

  Gin nodded politely at him, then smiled at Penelope. “I’ll walk with y’all, if it’s all right.”

  “Sure, Gin,” Penelope said. “There’s safety in numbers, right?”

  “Not with animals like these,” Howard said sourly.

  Gin bit down on her response. The overweight social worker was one of the most intolerant people she’d ever met. In his mind, the inmates were irrevocably bad. Unredeemable. With such a biased point of view, how could he help them?

  Then again, maybe he’d never experienced the joy of improving someone’s life. Lord knew, it wasn’t easy to do, not here, but the chance to make a difference was what had called her into counseling. That’s what she did.

  * * * *

  An hour later, Gin pulled open the heavy door to the ClaimJumper Tavern. The loud country-western music echoing off the rough log walls knocked her back a step. At a high enough volume, Johnny Cash’s gravel voice could abrade skin.

  Walking into a bar without a date surely could make a girl feel awfully lonely, and Gin paused next to the wall-mounted antlers serving as a coat rack. Despite being a Thursday night, the place was packed. With the summer season beginning for Yosemite Valley and the surround, the population of loggers, fishermen, and locals swelled with the influx of seasonal help.

  She looked around unhappily. Her favorite brown cords and slinky silver-blue top with the intricate side ruching were definitely too dressy for the jeans and flannel shirt crowd. Oops. A shopping trip needed to happen in her near future.

  More people entered the bar and spurred her into movement despite her desire to linger by the wall.

  “Gin! Over here!” In the far corner of the room, a tall, curvy redhead stood and waved. Two other women were seated at the square wooden table.

  Spirits lifting, Gin crossed the room, careful of the uneven floor in her high-heeled leather boots. Each breath brought her the scents of perfume and popcorn, beer and sweat, damp clothes and cologne.

  “Gin, I’m so glad you came.” Becca moved her hand in an all-encompassing circle. “Virginia Cunningham, this is Summer Aragon and Kallie Masterson Hunt. Summer is a nurse at the Bear Flat clinic. Kallie and her family own a wilderness guide business.”

  The pretty blonde in a golden cashmere sweater beamed across the rustic plank table. Definitely a “Summer.” “Welcome, Gin.”

&n
bsp; “It’s nice to meet you.” Kallie was petite with dark, dark brown eyes, choppy black hair, and wore a flannel shirt over a tank top. She motioned to the pitcher of beer and held up a glass. “Do you drink beer?”

  “Thank you—and y’all are lifesavers.” Gin hung her suede jacket over the back of the chair and settled in. She took the beer Kallie had poured and downed a third. Cold and malty. “This is just what I needed.”

  “Rough day at work?” Summer asked with unfeigned sympathy, every inch the nurse.

  “Sugar, you have no idea.” Gin rolled her eyes and grinned.

  “What do you do?” Kallie asked.

  “I’m a social worker.”

  “With the county home health agency?” Summer asked, eyebrows pulling together. “Or do you have your own practice?”

  “No.” Longing for her old clinic made her swallow. “I work at the prison.”

  “Wow, I can’t even imagine,” Becca said.

  “I’ve only been there about two months. It’s very different from what I’m used to.” Some of her associates had gone into prison counseling, so she’d thought she’d enjoy the challenge. Wrong. She stared into her glass, watching the bubbles rise to the surface. She’d dreamed of a fresh beginning, a brand-new life filled with rewarding work, a supportive community, and wonderful friends.

  Instead, she’d been stunned silly by her job. And even worse, she missed her ex-fiancé, her friends, her city. In fact, she’d been more homesick than a child away at her first summer camp.

  Moping around home and indulging in comfort food and old Western movies wasn’t the way to start a new life.

  After giving herself a good scolding, here she was, out having fun. Gold star, Gin. Happy noise surrounded her—laughter, clinking glasses, Alan Jackson singing Good Time, the popcorn popping. She smiled at the others. “I’m really glad y’all let me join you.”

 
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