Mischief and the Masters by Cherise Sinclair

  As she picked up her drink, she remembered something she’d wanted to ask. “Whatever happened to the pond’s water lilies? Weren’t there more of them last week?”

  “The pup happened.” Max nodded at the dog who’d fallen asleep at Rainie’s feet. “We were eating breakfast out there yesterday. Hunter noticed the goldfish…and decided to go fishing.”

  Jake, the veterinarian, snorted. “German shorthaired pointers and water. You can’t keep them apart.”

  “Oh, no.” Uzuri could just imagine.

  “I think the goldfish are still sulking.” Max looked up as Alastair entered the room.

  Alastair’s gaze was unreadable. “Max, you have a visitor, I’m afraid.”

  Uzuri blinked. That was an awfully negative way to announce a visitor.

  “Yeah?” Max rose.

  A blonde stepped into the room, saw Max, and flung herself at him. “Oh, darling, I’ve missed you so much.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head in his shoulder.

  The odd sensation in the pit of Uzuri’s stomach was…dread. With an effort, she blanked her expression.

  The two looked as if they belonged together. The tall, slender blonde was extraordinarily beautiful with refined features and thick, wavy hair that fell perfectly into place. Her turquoise silk dress set off blue eyes that were swimming with happy tears.

  Max had a girlfriend.

  Why did I think he was interested in me? Feeling as if she was intruding on an intimate reunion, Uzuri glanced at the other guests. “Perhaps it’s time to call it a night and leave them alone.”

  “I don’t think he’d agree.” Gazing at the couple, Rainie frowned. “That man is one unhappy camper.”

  “What?” Uzuri looked over her shoulder, and her jaw went slack.

  Face dark with anger, Max yanked the woman’s arms from his neck and took a step away.

  “Max.” Hurt filled the blonde’s face. “How can you treat me like this?”

  “Maybe because I don’t want to see you, hear you, or speak to you?” His voice was raw and rasping. “I’ve told you enough fucking times—there is nothing between us. Why the hell do you think I moved here?”

  “Oh, my darling.” After a glance at the people in the room, she put her hand on his chest. “Let’s go somewhere private and talk. I’m sure—”

  “No, Hayley.” His icy gaze met Uzuri’s. “See, darlin’? Men have stalkers, too.”

  Uzuri blinked. Omigod, this was his stalker? The woman who’d driven him from Seattle?

  Max sighed. “Sorry, people. This isn’t what we invited you for.” He nodded to Hayley. “All right. Let’s go in another room.”

  No. Just no. Getting Max alone was the woman’s ploy. Jarvis had done the same, setting up situations where Uzuri would capitulate to avoid a scene.

  When Hayley latched onto Max’s arm, swift, hot anger flooded Uzuri’s veins. That female needed to learn how nasty a “spectacle” could turn.

  Jaw set, Uzuri stalked across the room, pushed between Hayley and Max, and used a hip to knock the woman back. Riding her anger, Uzuri snuggled up to Max and wrapped her arms around him as if she belonged there.

  To her surprise, he pulled her even closer—and she couldn’t help but notice the sheer power and strength of his body.

  Unwilling to face his undoubtedly appalled expression, she rested her cheek against his chest and asked loudly, “Is this that horrid bitch you told me about, Max?”

  “What?” Hayley looked as if she’d been slapped.

  Uzuri felt a moment of sympathy, then it disappeared. Stalkers deserved to be embarrassed.

  Behind Hayley, Alastair nodded at Uzuri and soundlessly voiced, “Go on.”

  All right, then. She frowned at Hayley. “You weren’t invited to our party and never will be. Get a clue, girl. Go away and don’t bother us again.” Each pronoun implied Max and Uzuri were a couple. Our party. Us.

  After a small flinch, Hayley narrowed her eyes.

  Uzuri activated Rainie with a lifted eyebrow. Her longtime partner in prankster play leaped into the fray. “It seems they don’t teach manners on the West Coast. Is everyone in Seattle this skanky?”

  Uzuri sniffed. “I certainly hope not. Max wants us to visit there next spring.”

  Sally said to Vance in a loud whisper, “I can’t believe the way that woman came on to Uzuri’s man. That’s so trashy.”

  Hayley scowled at Sally and Rainie, and her glare could have clawed the clothes from Uzuri’s back.

  When she turned to Max, her smile and voice were sweet enough to rot teeth. “Darling, you can’t possibly prefer that…person…to me.”

  Max’s arm felt like iron around Uzuri’s waist and didn’t loosen. His gaze on Uzuri, he brushed her cheek with his knuckles and said softly, “In every way I can think of, I prefer Zuri to you.”

  Of course, he only said that to shake Hayley, and still Uzuri felt his declaration right down to the tips of her toes. She couldn’t look away from the possessive heat in his gaze.

  His eyes filled her world.

  Somewhere, Hayley was protesting. Whining. “No. Max…but we… Max.”

  Max’s lips touched Uzuri’s. Firm, yet tender. Demanding, yet gentle. Overwhelming. When the ground under her feet disappeared, all she could do was hold on. To him.

  Sometime later, he lifted his head and kissed her lightly. “Mmm.” After a second, he looked up.

  Uzuri glanced over her shoulder.

  Hayley had a hand over her mouth. Her expression was one of utter shock.

  Behind her, Alastair lifted an amused eyebrow at Max, before setting his hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “You are unwelcome here. I will show you to the door.”

  Hayley resisted, her gaze flickering between Uzuri and Max, then her shoulders slumped in complete and utter defeat. Without a sound, she followed Alastair out of the room.

  MAX STARED AFTER the woman who had made his life hell in Seattle.

  He couldn’t believe she’d simply walked out. How many times had she intruded on his nights out and embarrassed his date? She’d never abandoned the field…until now.

  The resignation in her face indicated this time she was actually gone for good.

  Then again, no woman had stepped into the war as Uzuri had. No woman had ever openly taken on Hayley, not only battling her, but also humiliating her.

  And when Hayley had asked him how he felt, no one could have missed the ring of truth in his voice.

  In his arms, Uzuri squirmed slightly and pushed against his chest.

  Max grinned. Nope, he wasn’t going to let her get away—not unless she seriously wanted to escape. A Dom shouldn’t make assumptions.

  Alastair walked back into the room, his dark face set in the frown he usually wore for incurable illnesses, tough crossword puzzles, and people he hadn’t figured out. When their gazes met, Max looked down at the little submissive. He tightened his arms and nodded.

  Alastair’s frown disappeared. Slowly, he smiled.

  Message received.

  To hell with seeing where things would go. Things would go as they ordered—forward.

  We’re keeping this one…if she wants to be kept.

  * * * * *

  “OKAY, BEAT THIS. Sneezing while putting on mascara.” As Max’s laugh rang out into the quiet night, Uzuri frowned. Quiet night? She looked around the dark patio. Where had everyone gone?

  After Hayley had left, people had abandoned the living room for the kitchen and patio. More wine had been opened as the others shared various ways dates had gone sour.

  Then, somehow, she and Max had started comparing notes on their most traumatic teenage moments. Omigod, she’d thought getting the dreaded red spot from a heavy flow was humiliating—not that she’d shared that experience. He’d totally won with his account of acting in a Shakespearean play and getting a boner. In tights.

  But—she scowled. How had she missed noticing she was the last remaining guest? She vaguely remembere
d Rainie and Jake had said goodbye. When had Sally and her Masters left? Where was Alastair?

  Uzuri frowned at the bottle on the table. How much had she had?

  “Something wrong, princess?”

  “Everyone else has left.” She sat up on the long lounge chair. “Although I implied to Hayley that I live here, I don’t, and I need to get home.”

  “Uh-uh.” Max grinned. “You need to stay so you didn’t actually lie. Isn’t that considered a sin or something?”

  “I’ll risk it.”

  His voice held a Dom’s edge. “You were told to bring an overnight bag. Did you?”

  “Yes, Sir.” How had she forgotten that she’d planned to stay? Then again, it wasn’t Max who’d told her to pack a bag. “Where’s Alastair?”

  “The doc got tired. He was up early this morning for rounds at the hospital so he took Hunter and went to bed.”

  “He’s gone?” Uzuri stiffened.

  The tiny solar lights in the foliage and the three-quarter moon overhead lent enough light to see Max’s amusement. “Yep. There’s only the two of us left. Scared, baby?”

  When he rose, tall and powerful, his broad shoulders blotted out the moon.

  Too big.

  But under his even, steady gaze, her fear slid away. Instead, a shiver of excitement ran through her and increased when he sat on the lounge recliner beside her. The sound of water splashing into the lower pond blended sweetly with Celtic Women’s lilting music from inside the house.

  Leaning down, Max slowly lifted her arms around his neck and then captured her lips. Oh, the way he kissed. Not soft or teasing, but out and out possession.

  If she could have merged into his body, she would. His thick hair teased her arms, and she reached up to run her fingers through the cool silkiness. Pulling him closer, she let her tongue dance against his—and he took more.

  When he lifted his head, his breathing was faster. “Fuck, you can kiss, princess.” He traced a finger over her upper lip and down to her lower. “I’ve had carnal dreams about this mouth of yours.”

  Even as a flush washed over her skin, she imagined taking his cock in her mouth, sucking on it, teasing it. Heat pooled in her core.

  “And ever since you showed up tonight, I’ve wanted to do this.” With one swift pull, he undid the halter ties at her neck and bared her from the waist up. The breeze from the bay wafted over her exposed breasts, and she gasped.

  When she tried to cover herself, he shook his head. “No, little subbie.” He bracketed her wrists with one big hand and secured them over her head.

  “Max, you—”


  Oh, heavens, she recognized that look. That tone. He’d slid into Dom mode.

  Every bone in her body went limp in utter surrender. “Sir,” she whispered. What had she planned to say?

  “Mmm. These are as pretty as I imagined.” Casually, as if he had the right, he fondled one breast, lifting it in a warm, callused palm as if to weigh it. His thumb circled the peak. Slowly. Gaze on her, he smiled as if he could see the way her body was heating.

  Her nipples peaked with a tightening, aching feeling.

  “Look at you,” he said softly. He leaned forward and took her lips in a lazy, drugging kiss, sensually exploring her mouth, even as he gently rolled her nipples, first one and then the other.

  A slow pulse wakened between her legs, and she rubbed her thighs together. No. She shouldn’t be feeling like this. As guilt swept over her, a sound of protest escaped.

  He eased back, his gaze intent. After a long perusal, he said softly, “You look torn, darlin’. Tell me what’s wrong.”

  “This isn’t… I was with Alastair this week. I can’t—this isn’t right.”

  “Of course. I understand, princess.” He released her wrists and sat up, his hip against her thigh. “I thought this might happen. A lot of women don’t want a relationship with more than one man. How about I take you upstairs to Alastair—or, if you’d rather, I’ll drive you home.”

  He held her hand gently, and his thumb stroked soothingly over the back. His entire body language had changed, his intense sexuality buried. He meant what he said.

  “I didn’t want two men,” she said.

  “It’s all right, Zuri.” He started to rise and she pulled him back down.

  “I’m not done.” Her voice held a snap, and she pulled in a breath. “Sorry, Sir.”

  An eyebrow went up. “Actually, I like knowing you can hold your own. Good for you. Go on.”

  “I misspoke. I meant that—in the past—I had never considered being with two men.” Hadn’t that been somewhat shortsighted? “At this point, I’m not sure of…anything. I don’t even know how this works.” She should have asked Sally some questions.

  “How what works?” Max asked gently.

  “Well, Alastair was with me. By himself. Now you’re here and he’s gone.” She motioned between the two of them. “This isn’t a…a threesome, right?”

  His chuckle was dry. “Gotcha. What you have to remember is that every polyamorous relationship works differently.”

  “Um. Okay. Have you done—had—this before. Outside of the club?” The words certainly weren’t falling easily from her lips.

  “Actually, yes.”

  Her eyes went wide, and he snorted.

  When had he done a…whatever this was called? “I thought you and Alastair hadn’t been together since college.”

  “That’s right. College was where we discovered BDSM and sharing. In our senior year, we rented a house, and our submissive lived with us. Although we enjoyed our time together, none of us was serious. We all went in different directions after graduation.”


  He traced a finger down her cheek. “In the service, I was married for a short while.”

  He’d been married? The thought was oddly annoying. Of course, someone as sexy as he was wouldn’t stay single.

  Only he wasn’t married now. “What happened?”

  “Nothing earth-shaking. Shallow as it sounds, I fell for her beauty, but didn’t know her. Most of our marriage, I was overseas fighting while she pursued her career in business. We ended up with nothing in common. She’s a good woman. The trouble was—the things she considered important were nuisances to me. To be fair, she considered me to be on the overly rigid side.”

  Overly rigid? A Marine—and a cop? Well, duh. Uzuri’s attempt to muffle her giggle was ineffective. As for his wife… “She was high maintenance?”

  His grin was quick and white in the night. “Fucking unbelievably high maintenance.”

  Uzuri stiffened. So was she.

  “No, darlin’, you’re not like her. Her makeup went on before she’d even leave the bedroom. She’d never hug a dog or let one lick her chin. Ever.”

  “Oh.” The warmth in his gaze washed over Uzuri, erasing the hurt she’d felt.

  “Your appearance is important to you—I get that.” His hand caressed her face. “But pups and people rank higher on your priority scale.”

  Well, of course. However, she understood what he meant. Actually, she’d met men who were as self-absorbed.

  He continued, “Even when I was first married and happy, I still missed what Alastair could have brought to the relationship. Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t open to polyamory. Actually, she was disgusted when she found out Alastair and I had shared a woman.”

  Being shared by two men. Why had she ruled it out completely when Sally had mentioned it before? Right now, thinking of being with both Alastair and Max was a little anxiety provoking, but not disgusting or terrifying. “So, um, how does it work?”

  “Depends on the needs and desires of everyone involved.”

  Oh, that didn’t tell her much. Did everyone share equally? “So, are you and Alastair bi?”

  Rather than take offense, Max laughed. “Nope. Would’ve been easier, actually, but our hormones don’t bounce that way.” He lifted her hand and nibbled on her fingers, sending tingles u
pward. When she shivered, his lips curved. “We like living together, like threesomes with a submissive, and like one-on-ones with her, as well.” A dimple showed in his cheek. “Alternating works fairly well.”

  Her mouth opened at his blunt explanation. And excitement bubbled inside her at the thought of herself being the submissive on a bondage table at the mercy of these very experienced, very focused Doms. Or she’d be with Max one night and Alastair the next. Her jutting nipples ached, demanding to be touched again.

  Max put his fingers under her chin and held her gaze. “So, princess. Should I take you home now? Or upstairs to Alastair? Or do you want to stay here?”

  Her voice emerged in a whisper. “Stay.” Her muscles tensed. Oh, what had she done?

  “Relax, Zuri.” His eyes crinkled. “Tonight—or anytime with Alastair or me—you’re expected to tell us if something isn’t working for you, whether it’s a position, a man, or a relationship.”

  The worry inside her relaxed. “Okay.”

  “Good. In case you need it tonight, your safeword is red.”

  “Safeword?” Like in a scene?

  “Yeah, princess. A safeword.” A second later, he’d pulled her arms over her head and secured her wrists to the top bar of the recliner.

  MAX WATCHED THE little submissive’s eyes widen as she tugged ineffectually on her wrists. After a second, she asked in adorable outrage, “What kind of people have Velcro straps attached to their lounge chairs?”

  “Doms, baby. Doms.” He was enjoying how the arms-overhead position put her beautiful breasts on display. Smiling, he palmed both. How did her breasts manage to be so firm and so soft at the same time? He tugged at one nipple and watched it bunch into a tighter, smaller circle until the peak jutted out.

  “Beautiful Zuri.” He leaned forward and took her mouth, hard and thorough. As he deepened the kiss, he felt her stiffen again. He sat back and studied her. Her shoulders and arm muscles weren’t tight. She wasn’t pulling at the restraints. It wasn’t the bondage making her fretful. “Talk to me, baby.”

  “I—” Her gaze was averted. Hmm. Her nipples were still erect, her color slightly deeper, darker. She was aroused. He wasn’t scaring her, and the bondage definitely turned her on.

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