Master of the Abyss by Cherise Sinclair

  Table of Contents

  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

  Loose Id Titles by Cherise Sinclair

  Cherise Sinclair

  Master of the Abyss

  Cherise Sinclair

  Master of the Abyss

  Copyright © October 2010 by Cherise Sinclair

  All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the purchaser of this e-book ONLY. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from Loose Id LLC. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  eISBN 978-1-60737-880-8

  Editor: G. G. Royale

  Cover Artist: Anne Cain

  Printed in the United States of America

  Published by

  Loose Id LLC

  PO Box 425960

  San Francisco CA 94142-5960

  This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


  This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id LLC’s e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

  * * *

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  Chapter One

  The sound of melodic laughter added a sweet note to the country-western music drumming through the ClaimJumper tavern. With a slight smile, Jake Hunt tipped his chair back against the rough log wall and took in the view of the women at a corner table. Gina, Andrea, Serena—all of them tall, curvy, feminine. Beautiful women. Over the last two years, he’d dated all three. Perhaps when he’d been only twenty, he might have prided himself on that—but now? No girlfriend, no wife, no children. No plans for any. That’s pitiful, Hunt.

  A fourth woman sat at the table, Kallie Masterson, and he gave her a speculative look. He’d seen her around over the last couple of years but never paid much attention to the grown-up tomboy. However, if Serenity Lodge teamed up with the Masterson Wilderness Guides like he and Logan were considering, she’d be one of the people they’d deal with.

  In marked contrast with the other women, Kallie had short black hair that appeared as if she cut it herself—with a knife—and no makeup. Rather than a pretty top like the others, she wore a red flannel shirt that completely hid her small frame. Baggy jeans and scarred boots. He shook his head. Women were definitely equal to men and should be treated that way, but why the hell would a woman try to look like a man?

  Or act like one. Serena had once mentioned that Kallie had tried to outmacho the boys all through high school. He sized her up. Maybe twenty-five or twenty-six, she appeared to have turned into a pint-size Chuck Norris.

  As he watched, she bounced up, hands waving, relating a story that sent the others into hysterics. Jake grinned. Most women’s high-pitched giggles reminded him of champagne bubbles, but Kallie’s husky chuckle? Coke. Yep, a Coke would bubble pleasantly at rest, but shake it up and it’d froth all over you—and eat the corrosion off your battery too.

  “Jake!” Serena abandoned the table of women and glided across the room.

  He rose to his feet. “Serena, what can I do for you?”

  “I’m twenty-five today, and I want a birthday kiss.” She tossed her blonde, wavy hair back over her shoulder and flirted up at him through long lashes.

  “I might be able to handle that.” He pulled her into his arms, all fragrant woman, and kissed her thoroughly enough to have the mostly male bar cheering. As she plastered herself against him, his cock gave only a few jerks in token interest.

  Nothing new and not her fault. She was exactly the type of woman he enjoyed: soft, sweet, and lush. But these days, a good book held more attraction than a good lay. As he pulled back, she clung, so he gently eased her arms from around his neck, then squeezed her shoulder. “Happy birthday, sugar.”

  She hesitated, obviously hoping for more, but he resumed his seat.

  Her face fell. “Fine,” she muttered and returned to her table, hips swaying, every man in the place watching.

  Jake tipped his chair back against the wall and drank some more beer. The clock above the bar read nine. Almost time to go meet his brother down the street. Meantime he’d enjoy the entertainment. Pretty women, good music, and…ah, perhaps a little action. In the center of the room, some idiot tourist was taunting Barney, a logger built a whole lot like the purple dinosaur that bore the same name. Did the tourist have a death wish?

  And there went the domino effect: Barney rose to his feet and delivered a solid right cross. The tourist crashed into a table filled with loggers. Two pitchers of beer unloaded their contents over the burly men. One soaked man threw his chair at Barney. The chair bounced off and hit a biker. The biker jumped to his feet.

  And then the whole bar erupted.

  Jake laughed and dropped his chair legs back on the floor. He hadn’t been in a brawl in a year or two—Logan said he’d turned into an old man.

  As he headed for the free-for-all, high-pitched shrieks drew his attention to the women’s corner. Blocked from escaping through the entrance, Andrea, Gina, and Serena had barricaded themselves behind the table. Kallie stood in front, one scruffy sprite, boots planted, guarding the territory. Looked rather like Toto trying to defend Dorothy from all comers.

  The woman was dumber than—Jake blinked in stupefaction when little Toto sidestepped a drunk, then shoved him hard enough that his trajectory altered to miss the women’s table. The man hit the wall with a nice crunch. Kallie laughed and bounced on her toes. She slugged another guy in the breadbasket and dodged as he landed on hands and knees. Jake grinned. Not bad. Not bad at all. Nonetheless, a barroom brawl was no place for a woman.

  He glanced toward the main knot of fighting, where the bikers surrounded Barney. Too close to the front door. Even as Jake looked, Barney threw a man across the room—straight for the women’s area. Having turned to check her friends, Kallie didn’t have a chance. The biker slammed into her ass, flattening her like a pancake onto the sawdust floor.

  Oh hell. Jaw tensed, Jake shoved his way past two brawlers and kicked another out of his way to get to her. He lifted the biker off and flung him at Barney before dropping to one knee. So small. Limp. Not moving.

  The gut-twisting memory of a different body—of Mimi’s body—slid into his brain like an icy knife, and cold sweat slicked his palms. “Kallie?” He touched her cheek. Don’t be dead. Dammit.

  When she inhaled with a harsh sound, relief made his head spin. Get a grip, Hunt.

  She was already moving—just had the wind knocked o
ut of her. In fact, she was very much alive and using words that would make his mother blanch.

  “Fucking son of a bitch,” Kallie snarled. What had hit her? She was lying on her stomach on the damned tavern floor. Rising slightly, she wiped sawdust off her face and gagged at the stench of stale beer. Whoever hit me is going to die.

  With a grunt, she pushed herself up to a sitting position, and for a second, she would have sworn angels were singing. And then, to her regret, the music descended into the noise of men yelling and Swedish curses as the owner tried to move the fighting outside. She took a breath and waited for the world to stop swirling. She’d still kill whoever had hit her—but maybe later.

  “Let’s see the damage, sugar,” said a deep, rumbling voice. Hard hands closed around her arms, steadying her.

  She looked up at a darkly tanned, lean face. Strong jaw with a faint cleft in the chin. Thick brown hair. Cobalt blue eyes. Jake Hunt. Oh wonderful—of all the people to see her like this. Kallie tried to pull away.

  His grip tightened. “Hold still.”

  “Let go of me.”

  Ignoring her, he ran his hands down her shoulders and arms, his eyes intent on her face, his touch gentling when she winced. “Banged your shoulder up some.”

  “I’m fine.” The knowledge that she had Jake Hunt checking her over made her want to sink back to the floor in embarrassment. She tried to shove his hands away with as much success as moving a granite boulder. “I don’t need any help, got it?”

  “Anything else hurt?”

  His gaze ran over her body, and she flushed, acutely conscious of her less-than-hourglass shape—more like a two-legged pear. Scarred face or not, the man could have had any woman in Bear Flat and had dated most of the good-looking ones. She wasn’t one of them.

  “No, nothing hurts,” she muttered.

  “Your jaw is bruised.” He cupped her cheek with a big hand and tilted her face toward the light. “Did you bang your head? Let’s see your eyes.”

  “I said I’m fine.” Averting her eyes from his intense gaze, she tried to push his hand away again. Unsuccessfully.

  His voice roughened. “Look at me, Kallie.”

  The low, commanding tone shook her bones, and she shivered. Her gaze flashed up involuntarily.

  His eyes narrowed, becoming more intent until she felt like a deer trapped by a cougar. She swallowed hard.

  A smile flickered over his angular face. “Well now,” he murmured. “Appearances can be deceiving, can’t they? Aren’t you supposed to be tougher than any man around?” His hand still gentle on her cheek, he ran a thumb over her lips, sending a tremor through her, followed by a wave of heat.

  Wimp. Wuss. Her muscles had turned to water, but she managed to grasp his wrist, trying not to notice the thick bones, the steely tendons. She firmed her voice, and it still came out sounding all girlie and weak. “Don’t.”

  “Don’t what?” he asked softly. And he regarded her…differently…in a way that sizzled straight to the center of her body.

  “Don’t look at me like that,” she muttered and pushed his hand away.

  Amusement lit his eyes, and a corner of his mouth turned up, creasing his cheek. “Oddly enough, I think I like looking at you.”

  “Oh sure you do. So are you the one who hit me?”

  “I don’t hit women,” he growled…and then his lips quirked up. “There are much better ways to punish sassy wenches.”

  At the assessing look he gave her, she could feel her face flame red.

  “That’s a fine color on you, sugar,” he murmured and grasped her upper arms, lifting her to her feet as if she weighed no more than a doll. As the room did a fast merry-go-round, Kallie sagged.

  He put an iron-hard arm around her waist to keep her upright. She’d had dreams of having his arm around her, but somehow they’d never included being knocked sprawling in a bar first.

  “Hey, Kallie.” Barney poked his head in the entrance, eliciting a stream of curses from the grizzled Swede who owned the tavern. “I’m sorry. I threw him at the door, not at you.”

  “You hit me with a person?” When they’d played baseball in high school, Barney’s aim had been notoriously bad; it obviously hadn’t improved any. After a second, she laughed and shook her head—whoa, not a good move. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”

  Giving his gap-toothed smile, Barney disappeared back out the door, and his roar of battle glee drifted in with the night air.

  “Nice of you to forgive him,” Jake said as he guided her to a chair. When he stepped away, the warmth of his hands still lingered on her waist.

  “He’s too big to kill easily.”

  Jake’s laugh sent chills across her skin. When her friends surrounded her and their perfume smothered his clean, masculine scent, Kallie felt relieved. Mostly.

  “Girl, I can’t believe you’re all right. You landed really bad.” Gina swooped her hands to demonstrate Kallie’s dive and face-plant.

  Great. Bet he found that just hilarious.

  His grin confirmed her opinion, and then he slid a finger down her cheek. “You know, little sprites shouldn’t be fighting.”

  From anyone else in the world, she might have found the remark amusing. From him, after wanting him for so long, it simply hurt. Trying to ignore the way her skin tingled in the wake of his touch, she gave him a cold look. “I’m not little, and I’m not a sprite. Thanks for the help—now go away.”

  “You’re welcome. Sprite.” He glanced at his watch, winced, and shot a stern look at her friends. “Someone take her home.” Before anyone could respond, he walked away.

  As he left the bar, Gina sniffed. “Such a shame that bossy looks so good on him.” She patted Kallie’s shoulder. “Let me get my purse, and I’ll drive you home. You really—”

  “I really need a beer,” Kallie interrupted. “No, two beers. And a burger and fries. I just got back from a week in the backcountry, and I’m not running home because some pushy”— gorgeous—“person”— bastard—“thinks I should.”

  She’d watched her friends turn all syrupy whenever Jake Hunt touched them. Now she’d done the same thing—and she didn’t like it one bit.

  He watched from the shadows, unwilling to join in the fighting. His battle wasn’t against his fellow men—his brothers—but against evil.

  The small woman who had fought, who actually struck a male, had caught his eye. Dark hair and dark eyes were often markings of the devil.

  He would watch. He would see.

  * * *

  His coffee sent a thin line of steam up into the chill morning air. With a sigh of enjoyment, Jake set one foot on the porch rail and settled comfortably in his chair as the sun edged up from behind the white-capped eastern mountains. At his feet, Thor snoozed, his black-furred muzzle resting on Jake’s boot. The dog had chased a bear away from the cabins last night and apparently felt he’d earned his rest.

  Jake frowned. He and Thor needed to have a chat. They had named the place Serenity Lodge, not Barking Dog Cabins. Then again, could anything be more serene than a summer morning in the Sierra Nevada?

  Logan’s rough voice from inside the lodge indicated his brother was awake, and when Rebecca’s laugh floated out, Jake knew breakfast wouldn’t be too long in coming. And a damn good breakfast since Rebecca cooked like a dream. Logan had lucked out to find himself such a soft, sweet woman—well, she did have a temper, but that simply added some spice to a relationship. Very feminine, though; in fact, she’d worn tailored shirts and designer jeans on her first visit to the lodge.

  Jake grinned and shook his head, thinking of Kallie Masterson, the direct opposite of feminine for whatever reason. He’d known women who worked in male-dominated fields. Some downplayed their charms when on the job, but not all the time. He might have thought she preferred women, but the notion had bit the dust last night when she’d warmed so sweetly under his hands and eyes.

  He took a sip of coffee. A man had to wonder how she’d react to a more…personal?
??touch. And what she was concealing underneath those flannel shirts and baggy jeans. His hands had curved around a nice waist, one that flared out to what was probably a lushly rounded ass. When the thought of peeling her jeans off to see that ass made him harden, he huffed a laugh and shook his head. Not going there.

  The way her beautiful eyes—so dark a brown they were almost black—had widened at his command told him she wasn’t experienced in the games he enjoyed playing. And he sure as hell didn’t want another vulnerable woman. The thought of Mimi’s face as she had knelt before him and pleaded with him to keep her stabbed his heart. He wasn’t cut out for a serious relationship—didn’t need one, didn’t want one.

  Especially a submissive who didn’t even realize her nature, let alone one living in Bear Flat. He’d dated quite a few women from town but kept the dates strictly vanilla. When he required a submissive for some BDSM play, he went farther afield. Considering how badly he’d screwed up with a sub once, he never sought anything more than light play.

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