Mischief and the Masters by Cherise Sinclair

  Max actually laughed. “That is a fucking cute pout, baby.”

  “Could be you weren’t seen,” Dan noted.

  Max frowned. “But the driver should have felt the impact.”

  “Unless he—or they—was drunk. Or stoned. It’s Friday night.” Dan’s mouth flattened into a disapproving line.

  “Guess that’s possible.” Max turned back to her. “Can you identify the car or driver?”

  “No.” All she remembered were the two giant headlights bearing down on her and jumping and pain. Her brows drew together. “How did I get here, anyway?”

  “One of the cleaning staff left early and almost ran over your purse. When he stopped to pick it up, he spotted you and called 911.”

  Bless him. “My purse is here?”

  Max walked over to where the ruins of her dress lay. “It’s here. Still has wallet and money and cards. Keys. Umbrella. You’re good, baby.”

  Alastair squeezed her hand. “I’ll take care of you. Max and Dan will deal with your car.” He looked across the cart to his cousin, then Dan.

  Max nodded. “Yeah, Doc. You handle the medical; we’ll take care of the mechanical.”

  A forties-something, brunette nurse entered, frowned at Max and Dan, and walked over to Uzuri with a smile. “You look more awake. How’s the pain?”

  The nurse wore a mock wrap, fuchsia scrub top that set off her curvy figure nicely, and Uzuri gave her attire a nod of approval. “I feel better. Can I go home now?”

  “We’ll see.” The nurse turned to Alastair. “Dr. Drago.” Her lips quirked, and she winked at Uzuri. “Isn’t Ms. Cheval a bit old to be one of your patients?”

  Alastair chuckled. “Uzuri is a friend. Is she discharged, Madge?”

  Despite the stab of pain, Uzuri tried to sit up and look healthy.

  “Maybe.” Madge frowned. “The radiologist said nothing interesting showed on the scan or x-rays. However, Dr. Benson says that since she took a thump to the head, she needs someone with her for the next twelve hours. If no one is available, we’ll admit her overnight.”

  Oh no. “I’m fine,” Uzuri whispered. “I don’t need anyone to—”

  “I’ll be with her,” Alastair said.

  “What?” Uzuri’s gaze flashed to his and dropped when he gave her a look. A Dom look.

  The nurse nodded. “Excellent. I’ll get the discharge forms.”

  “Sounds good,” Max said. “Dan and I’ll check on the vehicle, and I’ll report when I get home. Or are we staying at her house?”

  Uzuri stared at him. We? Staying? “B-b-but…”

  “Our place,” Alastair said.

  “All right.” Max’s easy agreement stunned her. He leaned forward. “Be a good girl and don’t give Alastair any trouble, princess.” His voice lowered to a growling whisper. “Neither of us hits subbies, but Alastair enjoys spanking them.”

  At her quick inhalation, he laughed and kissed her cheek. “I’m glad you’re not badly damaged, darlin’. I was worried.” Straightening, he nodded to his cousin. “Take care of her, and I’ll see you in an hour or two.”

  * * * * *

  ALASTAIR SAT UZURI on the closed toilet seat in the guest bath and smiled at her confused look.

  The little miss was always polite, but she wasn’t impossible to read, even when she tried to cover up her emotions. Months ago, during their scene, he’d easily picked up when she grew anxious, although he hadn’t understood why at the time.

  Now, however, she showed no fear of being alone with him—probably due to the medications she’d received in hospital. Perhaps someday the reason would be because she knew him and trusted him.

  “You’re heading for bed, but we shall get you cleaned up first,” he said gently and wet a washcloth. To keep from setting off her fears, he went down on one knee beside her. A scrape on her cheekbone glistened with antibiotic ointment, and he carefully cleaned the dried blood streaks from her cheek and jaw.

  “I can do it.” She tried to take the washcloth.

  “You can barely sit upright.” He wiped the mud off her neck. The nurses had irrigated, debrided, and bandaged the abrasions and lacerations, but had only cleaned off enough of the other areas to ensure there were no other injuries.

  He moved down. Since her clothes had been cut off in the ER, the staff had offered a set of scrubs. He’d dug out a spare shirt from his hospital locker instead. The shirt was far easier to slide on and off. He unbuttoned the first few buttons before she noticed.

  “Sir. No.”

  “Pet, you’re covered in mud and blood.”

  She looked down, saw the red stains on the fabric, and her stricken look wrenched his heart. “I’ve ruined your shirt.”

  “Blood washes out.” When her unhappy expression didn’t lighten, he touched her cheek and said lightly, “I’m a doctor; I should know. But we must wipe you down before you get in bed.”

  “I can do it.”

  “Sweetheart, you can barely move.”

  Her big eyes focused on his face as he unbuttoned the shirt and slid off only the right side, leaving her left side covered.


  “Uzuri, I’ve not only seen your bare breasts, but I’ve played with them, too. Twice.”

  Startled, she stared up at him. “Oh. You really have. I’m being silly. But…twice?” Her forehead wrinkled. “We did one scene and then…it was you. You and Max. Last weekend. I knew it.”

  Interesting that she’d figured that out. “Yes. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the scenes we’ve done together, but for now, let’s get you comfortable and into bed.” Gently, he washed down over her collarbone. Her breasts—undoubtedly protected by a bra—were clean and uninjured. She had lovely breasts. Not too pendulous, but heavy enough to have some sag, to be a good weight in his hands when he cupped them. He did like to be able to fill his hands.

  Nevertheless, this wasn’t the time.

  As he washed, he catalogued injuries. Her right shoulder had nonstick gauze on it. He checked beneath and found the extensive scrapes were well cleaned and glistened with antibiotic ointment. Still oozing. He’d change the pad later.

  Her side and back were muddy, but undamaged. Her right hip was deeply scraped, swollen, and bruised. Her skimpy dress had offered no protection against concrete. “This is going to hurt, pet. Hold still for me now.” Rinsing the washcloth frequently, he washed that side, and tweezed out a couple of fabric threads the nurses had missed.

  Breathing through the pain, the brave girl silently endured the treatment, although tears filled her big eyes. When he finished, she studied her hip. “No wonder it hurts.”

  “I’m sure it does. Stay put for a minute.” Max kept his clothes until threadbare, so the flannel shirt Alastair dug out of his dresser was worn soft as a tissue.

  Trying to keep her at ease, he pulled the flannel shirt on over her cleansed right side before removing the bloodstained one on the left.

  After he finished washing her torso, he checked her left thigh. Swollen, hot, black from bruising. She was lucky the bone hadn’t fractured.

  The driver of the car hadn’t even stopped. What a fucking wanker.

  Alastair tossed the washcloth into the sink. In the war-torn countries where he’d volunteered, mangled bodies were far too common. Yet seeing this little subbie covered in blood had shaken him. “All finished.”

  “Oh, good.” Her smile could brighten any man’s day.

  He slid her left arm into the flannel shirt and buttoned it up, then grinned. She wasn’t that small, but Max’s huge shirt made her look like a child in a big brother’s clothes. The sleeves ended inches below her fingertips.

  After rolling up her sleeves, he rose. “You may use the facilities alone, if you promise to call when finished, so I can assist you out of the room.”

  “I can walk by myself.” Her mouth set in a stubborn line.

  Relief washed through him. She was starting to feel more herself. “That isn’t an option I offered, now is it???

  After a second, she sighed. “All right.”

  Wasn’t it amazing how a full bladder could hasten accord?

  He helped her stand, put the toilet cover up, and left her to complete the rest herself. She’d be hurting, but that task she could accomplish.

  And then he’d tuck her into bed. The thought of her sleeping peacefully under his roof was quite pleasing.

  It was interesting his cousin had agreed so readily to give her shelter. Despite Max’s protestations, he wasn’t immune to the little submissive’s appeal.

  * * * * *

  YELLOW HEADLIGHTS CAME at her, straight for her, but Uzuri’s feet stuck to the pavement as if someone had glued her pumps down. The car slammed into her. The pain. Screaming, she flew—

  She woke, gasping for air.

  Her hand was clutching something soft. A blanket. She wasn’t on pavement, but was lying on something soft. A glow from her left revealed a bathroom with a nightlight.

  Oh. She was at Alastair and Max’s house. The crack in the curtains showed only darkness outside, and the bedside clock said it was eleven at night. When she rolled over, she had to stifle a moan. An hour had been long enough for every single bruise and sore spot to stiffen.

  Gritting her teeth, she sat up. Her right shoulder and hip hurt, her left hip was even worse, and the scrape on her forehead burned. Her head felt as if someone was rhythmically wringing the brain tissues inside. But she needed to pee. Needed water. Needed to move. Carefully, she eased out of bed and limped into the bathroom.

  While she was washing her hands afterward, she discovered that someone—some saint of a person—had left a glass, an unopened toothbrush, and a travel-sized tube of toothpaste on the counter. As she painfully brushed her teeth, she wished he’d left her a massive bottle of aspirin, too.

  She winced at the sight of herself in the mirror. Talk about a disaster. The side of her forehead was bruised black, her abraded cheekbone was swollen, and her complexion was a dismal muddy color.

  Her eye makeup? Omigod. She saw where Alastair had wiped the streaks from her cheeks. Rather than a clown, she resembled a zombie. A slutty zombie.

  That, at least, she could fix. Gingerly, she washed her face.

  At a noise, she opened the bathroom door. Alastair stood in the bedroom.

  As his gaze ran over her, she was suddenly too aware of the shortness of the flannel shirt and how her breasts wobbled against the thin material.

  He smiled. “You do look better, although I’d hoped you’d sleep all night. Since you’re awake, would you like to come downstairs for a bite of something—or should I bring it up here?”

  Have a Shadowlands Master running up and down the stairs to serve her? The thought was an outrage. “I’d like to go downstairs. Please.” If she could manage without breaking her neck. Her aching head felt as if her skull was stuffed with cotton batting. Her legs seemed to be attached to someone else. Or something else. Maybe a penguin.

  How in the world was she going to drive home?

  “Downstairs, it is.” When she reached the door, he wrapped an arm around her waist. Rather than frightening her, his size and strength were comforting as she limped down the stairs.

  He settled her in a buttery-soft leather recliner in what he called the television room and tucked a soft, beige-and-bisque-colored afghan over her bare legs. Bending, he put two fingers under her chin, lifted her head gently, and studied her face. “You appear to have a headache.”

  She nodded carefully.

  “Then a pain tablet will come with the food.”

  “Oh, yes. Please.”

  “I’ll be right back.” After kissing her cheek, he disappeared into the kitchen.

  She put her hand to her cheek where the warmth of his lips lingered. Why was he being so nice?

  Head aching, she gazed around at the room. It was beautiful with a high ceiling, heavy crown moldings, and tall, arched windows. Beige Venetian plaster on the walls served as a backdrop for the rich brown couch and chairs. A dark red and brown area rug in a western design covered the gleaming hardwood floor. Elaborately carved bookcases ran the length of the far wall. A widescreen TV unabashedly took up the other wall with the furniture arranged to view it. This was a cozy room designed for movies and popcorn, sports games and beer, or even a good book and hot chocolate.

  Alastair carried in a tray with wine, water, toast, and soup in a mug. He set everything but the wine on the end table beside her. “You get nothing fancy until we see how your stomach handles food. But you need to eat something before taking a pain med.”

  “Thank you, doctor.” She’d tried for a wry tone of voice, but it came out sincere instead—because she truly was grateful. She picked up the heavy mug, sipped, and smiled at the familiar taste. With every heavy snowfall, Mama had made tomato soup. The memory was comforting, even as the soup’s warmth melted away the last of the cold inside.

  She sighed and tried the bread. The heavy grain toast was buttered and hot. Perfect. “This is a beautiful room.”

  “We like it.” Picking up the glass of wine, Alastair sat on the couch to her right and stretched out his long legs. He’d changed into casual khaki pants and a short-sleeved, tan shirt. His feet were bare, and even his toes were long and elegant. “Combining two homes gave us plenty of options. This room has mostly Max’s furniture.”

  “It looks like Max.” The seams of the leather recliners and couch were studded with antiqued nail heads. Masculine to the nth degree.

  Alastair grinned. “My furniture edges toward the Victorian period. Max’s is more traditional western U.S. We’ve both traveled and returned with knick-knacks from everywhere. Merging everything has been interesting.”

  Western and British. Black and white. “Um. How did you and Max… I mean, you’re black and Max is white. You’re from England, and he’s American.”

  Rather than being offended, Alastair looked amused. “My mother’s black, British, and loves volunteering in poverty-stricken countries. She met my father—he’s white—when he’d flown to the Philippines to provide disaster relief after an earthquake. They apparently clicked.”

  Uzuri nodded. Death and disaster. Perfect ingredients for a passionate affair. “But they didn’t stay together?”

  “No. When I made my presence known, they married, but Mum is a city girl, through and through. My father and Max’s father own the Drago ranch in Colorado and are ranchers to the bone. The marriage simply didn’t work.”

  As close as he and Max were, his father must have gotten custody. But, no. “If you grew up with Max in the States, why do you have an accent?”

  “I spent a lot of time flying back and forth. I attended school in London and spent every summer vacation on the ranch.” He smiled. “Mum used the childfree time for her volunteer work.”

  “Oh.” She glanced around the room again. Max had only been in Tampa since summer, and she’d heard Alastair bought the house before that. Although it had been dark when she arrived, she’d seen that the cream-colored brick house was an Italianate style with a square center tower and probably well over a hundred years old. It was about as classic and conservative as a man could get. She’d bet the antique, beautifully carved bookcases were Alastair’s—yet they were perfect in this room. “Confining yourself to all one style can be boring.”

  She didn’t do that herself. Her business attire started with a stylishly classic suit or dress. Then she’d add a colorful scarf and shoes, signature necklace or belt to show her individuality within the confines of what was permissible in business. She did the same with her hair—restrained enough for business, natural enough to satisfy her own needs.

  As Uzuri ate and looked around, Alastair quietly drank his wine. His silence was…undemanding, exerting no pressure to try to fill the quiet. The old house felt peaceful, too, as if it had seen its share of drama and not much ruffled it any longer.

  There she went, getting all fanciful.

  She swallowed the last bite of
toast. “That was just what I needed. Thank you. And thank you for uh…breaking me out…of the hospital.”

  “It was our pleasure, pet.”

  “If you tell me where my car is, I’ll get out of your hair.”

  “You’re not in my hair. I enjoy your company.”

  That made her feel all warm and happy, even if she didn’t believe him.

  He tilted his head, listening to something. “For the answer in regard to your vehicle, I believe Max is home.”

  A door shut, and footsteps sounded in the foyer.

  “In the TV room,” Alastair called.

  Max appeared. With his sport coat off, his pistol was on full display. He really was a police officer, wasn’t he?

  As his gaze ran over her, a smile lightened his harsh face. “Nice shirt, baby.”

  She looked down. The shirt she wore was an aged blue flannel—not Alastair’s style at all. He’d given her one of Max’s shirts. “I…”

  “I like you in it, princess.” He glanced at Alastair. “I need to shower and change. I’ll be back shortly.”

  Before she could ask about her car, he disappeared. Alastair leaned forward and handed her an oblong white pill. “Before he returns, let’s get that pain under control.”

  Ugh. She hated taking pills. However, she swallowed it dutifully. Anything to relieve the headache.

  Within a few minutes, Max returned, clad in blue, cotton drawstring pants and a white, V-neck T-shirt. On him, the casual look was incredibly sexy.

  Beer in hand, he took the other chair and leaned forward to study her. “How’re you feeling?”

  “Really, not too bad. I’m fine.”

  He glanced at Alastair and raised a brow. “Doc?”

  “Fine might be overstating matters, but she suffered mostly bruising and road rash. The headache should ease by tomorrow. The limp might take longer. She’s lucky not to have a broken femur.”

  “No shit.” Max took a long pull of beer. “For your car… What with the rain and being a Friday night, the roadside assistance companies are backlogged. Dan and I would have changed the tire ourselves if you’d had a spare.”

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