Mischief and the Masters by Cherise Sinclair

  With an effort, she gripped the cell and made her tone very firm. “We can change the plans, yes, but not for tomorrow. Come here and I’ll cook you supper.”

  The silence on the phone was frightening, but he didn’t yell at her. Her fingers relaxed slightly.

  Finally, he repeated, “You’ll cook? For me?”

  Her lips curved. “Yes, Sir. For you. Here.” If he was reluctant, she shouldn’t give him any decisions. “I’ll expect you at seven.”

  Silence again. Then… “All right.”

  As she hit the END CALL, her insides felt as frothy as a storm-churned bay. With renewed anticipation, she turned back to the closet.

  So…what should she wear for a quiet, Friday night date?

  * * * * *

  ALASTAIR KNOCKED ON the door of Uzuri’s duplex, wondering how he’d ended up agreeing not to cancel the date. For such a polite submissive, she had some smooth moves.

  She opened the door, a sweet sight in a royal blue blouse and cropped khakis. Even her shoulder-length hair looked casual, parted on one side and combed out. She gave him a long, assessing look. “You look awful.”

  “That’s not how my dates usually greet me.” He tried to smile. “I’m sorry about tonight.” He should have stayed home and not subjected her to his grieving.

  “Oh, Alastair.” She took his hand, tugged him in, closed the door, and wrapped her arms around him.

  Surprised, he stood for a second before pulling her tighter against him. She was all female curves and quivers, and heartwarmingly alive. He hadn’t realized it, but he needed that hug more than he could say.

  Without speaking, she simply leaned into him and held him. From inside, he could hear the music of Libera, their clear voices flowing into a soaring hymn.

  Eventually, he managed to let her go. “Thank you, sweetheart. I needed that.” He leaned down to kiss her forehead.

  “Come.” With surprising boldness for this little submissive, she took his hand and pulled him into her small living room.

  The typical off-white walls and neutral beige carpet of a rental served as the backdrop to a dark green couch, green and blue upholstered chairs, and a random mix of brightly colored pillows. Two glasses of wine stood on the coffee table. The fragrance of olive oil and garlic drifted from the kitchen.

  On one wall, framed prints from fashion shows were hung in an asymmetrical, yet balanced array over a hanging shelf holding… He tilted his head. Barbie dolls?

  Indeed they were. In designer clothing, the dolls were lined up like the photographed models on the wall. “What are these?”

  She followed his gaze. “Oh, I sometimes use the dolls when showing sales associates how to pull together a complete look. Although the computer is easier, some people like to play with their hands, and dressing the dolls works better for them.”

  At the end of the shelf was a doll that looked much like Andrea. It wore a wedding dress and stood next to a larger, male doll in a tux. Clean-shaven, shaggy brown hair, green eyes—a Cullen look-alike. The doll was holding a flogger behind its back. Alastair snorted. “Is this going on the wedding cake?”

  Uzuri burst into laughter. “Can you imagine her grandmother’s reaction? No, no, no. It’s a little wedding present—a private one.”

  “You’re quite good at this, pet. Have you been doing it long?”

  She brightened at the compliment. “When I was little, I sewed clothes for my Barbies. Since they never looked like my African-American friends or me, I painted them and restyled their hair, too. Since Mama was proud of being Louisiana Creole—mostly Haitian—I learned to make ethnic clothing.”

  Creole. From Louisiana? He frowned. “I thought you were from Cincinnati.”

  “Daddy and Mama lived in New Orleans until he got stationed in Ohio. He was in the Air Force.” Sadness shadowed her face. “He died in some training accident before I really knew him.”

  “I’m sorry, love.” To erase the sorrow from her eyes, Alastair pointed to a doll that looked like Michael Jackson and raised his brows.

  Uzuri laughed. “Some of my college tuition came from selling one-of-a-kind celebrity dolls on eBay.”

  Interesting. She had a wealth of creative talent, didn’t she? And she positively glowed when talking about her hobby. “Should I ask if other Shadowlands Masters have dolls?”

  “Don’t you dare tell Master Sam. Don’t you dare.” She actually took a step back.

  “Shhh.” He cupped her cheek and watched her pupils dilate at his touch. “Your secrets—all your secrets—are safe with me, Uzuri.”

  Her lips parted.

  Unable to resist, he bent and took her mouth, contenting himself with a gentle, far-too-short kiss.

  When he released her, she stared at him, and pulled in an audible breath. After a moment, she took his hand again and pulled him over to sit beside her on the couch.

  Brave little submissive.

  She picked up a glass and handed it to him. “I didn’t know what kind of wine you like, but we’re having pasta, so you get Chianti.”

  He took a sip, smiled, and took another sip. “Very nice.”

  “Alastair… Um, Sir.” She made a frustrated sound. “What am I supposed to call you?”

  “Ah.” Her question was a typical one. Submissives always wanted to please a Dominant by doing everything right. “Max and I are easygoing about how we’re addressed. We prefer Sir when we’re in scene.”

  Her brows drew together. “Not Master? Or Master Alastair?”

  He touched her cheek. “The title has ugly associations for some. Although I’m pleased to be awarded the status in the Shadowlands, and I don’t mind being called Master, I’m not particularly fond of it.” He grinned, remembering Max’s face when Z called him Master Maximillian. “Max prefers Sir.”

  Uzuri nodded, then her forehead puckered again.

  He traced a finger over the perfect, elegant curve of her eyebrows. “Another question?”

  “A date isn’t a scene. Or…is it?”

  So many worries. She truly did pull at his heart. “You’ll know when we’re in a scene.” He smiled slightly. “Also, since I’m a sexual Dominant, I want respectful address during those times as well.”


  He stroked her cheek and noted the increased warmth from her flush. “In everyday life, if you feel in a submissive mood, I never object to being called Sir.”

  Her worried expression faded as she took that in. In fact, she looked pleased. Yes, they were on the same wavelength. She picked up her glass and drank some wine.

  Leaning back, he stretched out his legs and did the same.

  After a minute or so, she turned to him. “Can you tell me what happened today to make you so”—her head tilted—“sad?”

  Compassion. Seeing it in her eyes was like stumbling across a life-giving river in the desert. He was parched.

  However, talking about the tragic aspects of his profession wasn’t something he did. Over the years, he’d learned to absorb the losses, hide the pain, and get on with life. The trouble was, the longer he was a doctor, the more difficult it grew to bury everything. Rather than the calm woodland of youth, his mind had become a cemetery, studded with graves marking sorrow and anger and frustration. “Nothing to speak of, pet.”

  A small brown hand settled over his. “Tell me, Sir. Please.” The most respectful demand he’d run into.

  He sighed. “Uzuri, it’s not something you want to know. It would only hurt you.”

  To his surprise, her chin lifted. “Perhaps. All the same…it also hurts to be shut out.”

  Those were his own words tossed back at him. He studied her. He’d seen her put aside her own fears to help Max.

  And now him. She was stronger than he’d realized.

  He turned his hand over and curled his fingers around hers. “I’m a pediatrician,” he said softly. “I love it. Children are filled with energy and joy. They’re open and loving and delightful.”

  She nodde
d. “I saw you with Grant and Connor last summer. They adore their ‘Doctor Dragon’.”

  His smile at the name faded quickly. Beth’s boys were orphans, had been through heartrending abuse and neglect, and somehow survived with their enthusiasm for living unabated. Although their past would undoubtedly return to haunt them, Beth and Nolan would be there for them.

  Some children weren’t as lucky.

  “Alastair?” Uzuri squeezed his hand, bringing him back to the present.

  “Even children get AIDS, you know.”

  She nodded, sadness in her gaze. “I know.”

  “I had a four-year-old. She’d had treatment and was doing well. Unfortunately…”

  “What happened?”

  His lips tightened. “Her grandmother is the caregiver; however, the woman is…” He sighed. “She can barely cope with her own life. She has some mental problems, abuses alcohol, and is on disability. She stopped giving the medications and didn’t notice the signs of an increasing viral load.” He wanted to yell. To kick something. To let out his anger that someone—anyone—could be so blind. “It was too late when she brought the child in.” Multiple organ failure.

  “Were you still seeing the little girl?”

  He shook his head. “Specialists had taken over her care, and many patients skip seeing their regular doctors when they’re buried in specialists. Since she was still listed as my patient, the hospital notified me when she was admitted. She died a few hours ago.”

  Uzuri’s eyes filled with the tears that Alastair could not shed. “I’m so sorry.” She wrapped her arms around him again.

  Sympathy and understanding, freely given. Such precious gifts.

  UZURI DIDN’T KNOW how to comfort a man. Oh, if he’d been one of her BFFs, she’d know. They’d talk everything out, over and over, and cry together and rage, and pull out the alcohol and talk some more. Maybe make chocolate chip cookies or brownies. Simple and straightforward.

  However, her daddy had died when she was little. She had no brothers. She didn’t know men.

  Alastair bottled up his feelings even more than she did, and his story simply broke her heart. Pushing him to talk had felt right. Maybe submissives shouldn’t nag at Doms, but he was a man, too. A wonderful man with an aching heart.

  And hey, he and Max had forced her to discuss her problems, and their sympathy had helped.

  Talking had helped Alastair, too. As she held him, his arms tightened around her. His breathing changed and deepened, as if he’d only been taking small breaths…like those she’d taken when her ribs were bruised.

  His heart was bruised.

  Arms around him, she rubbed her cheek against his soft green button-down shirt, breathing in his clean, masculine scent. Despite the strength of his arms, she felt no fear that he’d hurt her. He was always incredibly controlled. Always polite. Always reserved. He was the pediatrician for the children of many club members, including Master Z’s daughter, so he must be superb. He’d volunteered with Doctors Without Borders, which said to her he was a good person. She hadn’t realized how deeply he cared about his patients.

  Eventually, his arms loosened.

  When he kissed the top of her head, she realized she’d forgotten all about him being a man. She hadn’t even been nervous about hugging him.

  “Thank you, sweetheart.” He straightened, his reserved manner back in place, and picked up his glass of wine. He considered her for a long moment. “You look better. Have you returned to work?”

  She almost smiled. This wasn’t a man who would stay vulnerable long. In fact, she felt as if she’d been given a gift, that he’d let her see a piece of his soul. “Today. It’s been a week, after all.”

  “Ah. Was the person who flattened your tire at work?”

  “No.” Uzuri moved her shoulders uncomfortably. “Carole and another sales associate were fired Tuesday. There are rumors going around about the reason.”

  “Why do I have the feeling you haven’t set anyone straight?” With a thumb and forefinger, he stroked his beard as he watched her.

  She looked down.

  “Are you going to press charges?”

  “No. They lost their jobs. That’s enough.” Why she felt guilty about them didn’t make any sense, but she did.

  “You have a soft heart, pet. I’m not quite so forgiving. I’ll need to see how well you’re healing before I decide.”

  She moved her arms. “I’m moving fine. See? All healed up.”

  “Mmmhmm.” Sliding closer to her on the couch, he ran his hands down her arms and set her skin to tingling. Then he started to unbutton her blouse.


  His gaze met hers. “Is anything on the stove going to burn?”

  She swallowed. The pasta wasn’t on yet. The sauce was in a slow cooker and could stay there for hours. She shook her head.

  “Excellent.” He undid another button. He’d done the same thing in the bathroom at his house, only that time, his eyes hadn’t been filled with heat.

  Her heart crammed into her throat. “Sir. Please.” She covered his hand with hers, making him stop.

  “Uzuri,” he said softly. He lifted her chin with his fingers. His eyes were level. Controlled. “Are you seriously objecting? Or is this from habit?”

  “Um…” Which was it? The warmth shimmering across her skin certainly wasn’t fear. Nevertheless, to want him so much? Oh, it did make her anxious.

  Yet, she’d promised herself she’d strive for courage. Okay. Okay. She managed to uncurl her fingers from his hand. “Habit. I’m…nervous. I’m sorry, Sir.”

  His sensuous lips curved in a smile of approval. “Nervous is fine, especially since I’m going to push you a bit. If there’s anything you don’t enjoy, you tell me. Is that clear?” Without waiting for her answer, he resumed unbuttoning her blouse.

  She had to swallow before she could answer. “Yes, Sir.”

  He pushed her shirt off her shoulders, and the cooler air wafted over her bared skin.

  With a hum of appreciation, he trailed his fingertips over the top curve of her breast above her lacy blue bra. “I like your underwear…and how you fill it out.”

  Like a newly lit sparkler, sweet tingles danced outward from his touch.

  He undid the front catch of her bra, pushed it off, and lifted her to her feet. Still seated on the couch, he pinned her between his long legs as he undid her khakis and tugged them to the floor, leaving her dressed only in her blue thong. It too dropped past her knees to tangle around her ankles.

  She’d stripped in the Shadowlands. Often.

  This felt entirely different.

  As she stood there, stark naked, he leaned back and looked her over in a Dom’s assessment. After a slow perusal, he twirled his finger for her to turn.

  As she shuffled in a circle, an embarrassed flush rolled upward into her face. With each second that passed, her pussy was dampening, her heart rate increasing, her breasts tingling.

  “You’re healing well. Good.”

  He’d only wanted to check her bruising? Disappointment coursed through her. She was getting aroused, and he wasn’t interested in her that way at all. Humiliation held the sting of a thousand bees. Her voice snapped out. “Well, I’m so happy you approve.” Bending, she grabbed her khakis.

  When he set a foot on top of her pants to prevent her from pulling them up, she glared. “Damn you, let go!”

  “I’m not sure why you’re angry, pet, but you know you can’t speak to me that way.” His British accent added a measured formality to the mildly disapproving tone. “Perhaps it’s well we get this out of the way so you can stop fearing what I’ll do if you annoy me.”

  Leaning forward, he gripped her arm, moved a leg to her left—and yanked her face down over his knees.

  “What are you doing!” Her kicking feet got tangled in her pants.

  “The Masters discussed you, you know.” As his ruthless palm between her shoulder blades pinned her down, he massaged her bottom. “Whe
n you joined the Shadowlands, Z said you weren’t to be pushed—which meant you’ve never received more than a few easy swats. Any bondage was very light. Your reprieve ended last week, little miss.”

  “What?” Uzuri couldn’t believe how the evening was going. First, she’d been rude to him—which she almost never was. Now, he planned to punish her? For that?

  His hand smacked her bottom lightly, a forewarning of things to come.

  “Wait. No.” She got one foot free of the tangled clothing.

  “You’ve told everyone you don’t like any pain.” His voice stayed easy as he smacked her slightly harder. “But no Master has assessed your boundaries. We’ll make a start on that tonight. You may use red as your safeword if you need it.”

  Although she tensed in anticipation of the drowning, horrendous panic, it never arrived…because he’d given her a safeword.

  With a steady hand, he pressed down on her back, forcefully enough she couldn’t escape. Not cruelly. His palm smacked her bottom, slowly and regularly, each blow as precisely measured as a surgeon’s, each impact carefully calculated to sting and fade before the next.

  The burn spread and began to hurt. As she squirmed helplessly, her world, everything around her, quaked. He wasn’t going to stop. She had no control over what was happening. He was totally in charge.

  Her fingers dug into the carpet as the unfamiliar feelings ran through her.

  “Spread your legs, Uzuri.” The command was quiet.

  Gulping back pleas, she parted her knees.

  “More, pet.”

  “Please. I don’t like this.” She inched her legs apart. Her bottom burned.

  “Shhh.” His long fingers slid between her thighs, stroking over her wet—very wet—pussy, and the jolt of heat that shot through her was like nothing she’d felt before.

  He made a low sound of pleasure before circling her clit with one finger. She could feel the nub swelling, tightening.

  Then he removed his hand and resumed spanking her. Harder, much harder. Smack, smack, smack.

  “You will speak to Doms politely, Uzuri.” His quiet, resonant voice held a note of steel. “Or you will be punished like this.”

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