Mischief and the Masters by Cherise Sinclair

  “Damn, baby,” Max said. “You’re more tenderhearted than is good for you.”

  She was, indeed.

  AT THE SWEET words, Uzuri took a long happy breath. They liked her and worried about her—and Max was combing out her hair. Happiness was a warm glow inside her, despite the subject of their conversation.

  “Is there an alternative?” Alastair asked.

  “Well, maybe. I suggested they meet with the sale associates and explain the problem. I even I told them I’d talk to the staff and explain what had happened with Carole.”

  Max’s cynical expression resembled her boss’s.

  Management had said no, but she’d persisted. “They eventually agreed, but said I was in charge of it all. The meeting. The threats. The explanations. Everything.”

  “Ah.” Amusement lit Alastair’s eyes. “Are you feeling like a sacrificial lamb?”

  “Kind of,” she muttered. “I’m not sure I can get the sales staff to understand how their behavior affects the entire store. Everyone. The future.”

  “Show them? Graphs and all that?” Max asked.

  “They’re not people to be influenced by graphs.” She shook her head. “Maybe I can show them that people aren’t always the way they see them, and that a person they neglect today might turn into a person they’d make a huge commission on in the future. There’s no doubt that if a customer feels neglected, she’ll never return to Brendall’s.”

  As Max worked on her hair with small tugs, she simply enjoyed the feeling. When he turned her head to get to a new section of hair, she noticed her three dolls on the fireplace mantle. The Zuri-doll held a pot. The Detective Dragon had a scrub brush. Apparently, it was her turn to cook tomorrow with Max doing kitchen cleanup.

  The dolls. She’d used them at work in the past to demonstrate mix-and-match outfits. Of course, dolls wouldn’t sit well with the staff in this mood. But…maybe real people would.

  She straightened, getting a reprimanding tug from Max. “If I had a line-up of real people of various economic levels and different ethnicities, maybe I could show the sales force that rich doesn’t always look rich.”

  “Sounds like a plan,” Max said.

  “But the meeting is Monday. How in the world am I going to find examples? I mean—you can’t hire people like that.”

  Alastair snorted and asked softly, “Do you have any friends, Uzuri?”

  “Of course I do.” She stopped. “Oh. I do.”

  “You appear to forget their existence far too often.” Alastair looked at Max in one of their unspoken exchanges.

  A very ominous exchange. She shivered.

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  HOME FROM WORK the next evening, Uzuri walked outside to the patio. She’d expected to find Alastair swimming laps. Instead, he stood out in the backyard beside a patio table. His polo shirt clung to his wide shoulders and hard contoured pectoral muscles, even as the emerald color brought out the green in his hazel eyes.

  At his feet, two king-sized sheets of rubber were spread on the grass. Intrigued, she left the patio to join him. “What are you doing? What is that?”

  “We decided to play an active game this evening.” He poured something out of a jar onto the rubber. “You need a day off from working out, but the self-defense lessons will continue.”

  Was that why Max had let her sleep in this morning? And no weight lifting? “A day off sounds great.”

  Catching a summery fragrance, she saw a tub of coconut oil on the table next to a squirt bottle and MP3 player. Wariness sparked to life. The Doms had interesting ideas of what might constitute a game. “Does this game have a name?”

  His dark beard framed his white smile. “I don’t think so. You may begin by stripping down. All the way.”

  She stared at him. “We’re outside.”

  “Indeed. However, the privacy fence was built for a reason.”

  When she didn’t move, his warm hazel eyes cooled. “Now, little mischief.”

  Uh-oh. Alastair had more patience than Max, but the amount wasn’t inexhaustible. “Yes, Sir. Sorry.” She unbuttoned her red, silk crepe drape blouse, laid it to one side, and continued with her black pencil skirt and undergarments until the sultry breeze wafted over her entire body.

  He smiled. “You are one beautiful woman, Uzuri. Come here.”

  Standing next to him, she felt dwarfed by his size.

  Wearing only cut-offs, Max sauntered out, carrying one of Alastair’s canes. His gaze moved over Uzuri, and hunger darkened his blue eyes. “I think I’m going to like this game.” He tossed the cane in the grass beside the sheeting.

  A cane? She turned to Alastair. “I don’t like pain.”

  “We know, pet.” He pulled off his shirt and unzipped his shorts. “That’s why it makes an excellent incentive. Step onto the sheeting, please.”

  An incentive? That didn’t sound good at all. Her fingers dug into her palms as she backed onto the rubber square, avoiding the two-foot wide puddle of oil in the center.

  On the other side of the sheeting, Max had also stripped. The inverted triangle of brown chest hair couldn’t conceal his thick pectoral muscles. A tantalizing line arrowed over a hard six-pack and down to his thick and fully erect cock.

  Omigod. Sex outside and during the full light of day? Was that even legal?

  It took an effort to pull her gaze away. Did the sunlight make an erection look bigger—or was he growing?

  Alastair was now naked—and erect—as well. With a slight smile, he touched the MP3 player attached to the small speaker box, and the music from the game Call of Duty filled the air with its martial strains.

  Was that supposed to be sexy?

  Without a word, Alastair picked up the tall bottle from the table and squirted the contents over her breasts.

  “Sir!” She swiped at the oil running down her body. “What are you doing.”

  “Getting you ready.” He tossed the bottle to Max who sprayed her back and legs.

  Oh. My. God. They were insane. She crossed her arms over her oily breasts and glared. “White boy, you may need a tan, but I don’t.”

  Max snorted and ignored her. “This is a type of role-play. The sheeting is your ‘bedroom’—and where you’ll be when you’re attacked by an intruder.”

  “What?” Role-playing a helpless female versus an intruder didn’t sound like fun at all.

  Alastair tapped his foot on a wide green line on the rubber sheeting. “Green marks the door, which is the only exit.”

  Was she allowed to refuse this game? She pursed her lips. “What about windows? All bedrooms have windows.”

  He ignored her. “You have to escape the bedroom within three minutes.” He pointed to a kitchen timer, which lay in the grass. “If you fail, the intruder will give you at least five strokes with the cane, although if he’s in a bad mood, he might keep going. After caning you, he’ll enjoy himself anyway he wants before the clock starts again.”

  Despite the humid evening air, a chill crept over her skin. “But—”

  He held up his hand to keep her silent. “You, however, have a friend.” Alastair smiled slowly. “Friends can be useful. If the pain—after five swats—is too much, you can call on your friend for help.”

  Max’s arms came around her from behind, giving her a momentary sense of security. Until he said, “Do you understand, Zuri? You don’t like pain, so ask for help from your friend. And darlin’, fight hard. No eyeball gouging or biting, but use your fists. Bruises and black eyes are acceptable.”

  Her mouth felt dry, and a shiver ran over her.

  Alastair continued. “If you should need something else”—in his dark face, his eyes lightened with amusement—“ask your friend for that, as well. Whatever happens, whatever you need, ask your friend.”

  She swallowed. “Who’s my friend?”

  Alastair crossed his arms over his chest. Considering he was naked in his backyard, he should look foolish. Instead, he looked lethally powerful, like a lege
ndary African warrior. “For this first round, Max is the intruder, and I am your friend. Then we’ll switch roles.”

  She was positive that switching roles didn’t mean she’d ever get to be the friend or intruder.

  Max released her and pointed to the pool of oil in the center of the sheeting. “Kneel there, princess.”

  “Princesses don’t kneel.”

  Her sass earned her a raised chin and a sinking feeling in her belly. Moving to the center, she dropped to her knees. At least the coarse St. Augustine grass under the sheeting made a nice padding. She should be grateful the game wasn’t on the cement patio.

  To her surprise, Max went down on one knee on the edge of the clear oil. She’d have a fair chance to escape.

  “Ready?” Alastair picked up the kitchen timer and hit the start button. “Go.”

  Before Uzuri could move, Max lunged for her. Grabbing her, he pulled her through the lake of oil, laughing as he swatted her ass.

  With a shocked shriek, she shoved him away.

  He yanked her back—and smacked her thigh. Harder. “Fight me, bitch.” His words were an ugly low rasp. “Or else.”

  Fear swamped her, totally swamped her, and she froze.

  “Uh-uh, Zuri.” Max’s deep voice washed over her. Familiar and safe. “Use your fear. Hit me, princess.”

  She looked up into his concerned blue eyes, hearing his words from their training sessions: “Going into a fight, you know you might get hurt, but baby, I want you fucking determined that you’ll be the only one standing at the end.”

  As the paralysis faded, she shoved at him. Weakly.

  “Wuss.” He batted her hand aside with a growl of annoyance. “Hit me like you mean it.”

  She tried to scramble away, and he yanked her onto her back. And then he dragged her by one arm to the center of the sheeting. Her head was in the puddle of oil. Her hair!

  With a yell of outrage, she rolled up onto her knees and punched him in the shoulder. Hard.

  “That-a-girl!” He blocked the next punch and rolled her onto her back again. His palm slapped her thigh, making the skin sting.

  “You-you-you!” She kicked him in the gut, rolled over, and scrambled toward the exit. But her feet slid right out from under her, and he pulled her back by one ankle. His hands slipped on her slick skin, and she yanked her foot away and tried to escape again.

  Ding-ding-ding. The timer went off noisily.

  “Now there’s a pity. You lose. Looks like I get to beat on you,” Max said.

  Despite his light tone, she could hear misery mixed with determination. He didn’t want to hit her.

  But he did.

  Flattening her on her belly, Max put a knee in the center of her back, picked up the cane, and gave her five fast strokes.

  She sucked it up, breathing through the pain, although tears filled her eyes. That was five. She tried to push up, expecting him to be done.

  His weight stayed on her. After a couple of seconds, he hit her again. Paused. Again.

  She screeched a protest. “What are you doing? It was only supposed to be five.”

  “Five minimum.” His voice was rough. Tight. “I continue until I get tired or until someone makes me quit.” He hit her again, harder.

  She’d have bruises. Tears ran down her cheeks. He wasn’t going to stop. Panic unfurled ungainly wings.

  A pause. He hit her again. He’d go and go…“Until someone makes me quit.”

  Someone. Alastair had said, “Whatever you need, ask your friend.” She turned her head.

  Alastair stood at the edge of the sheeting. Worry and concern and determination were in his eyes.

  She tried to say something. Couldn’t.

  With another slap of the cane, more burning pain streaked across her bottom.

  “Please. Please help,” she whispered. “Alastair, help.”

  His expression didn’t change, but approval radiated from him. “Intruder, halt. No more caning.”

  The knee moved off her back, and she pulled in a breath.

  “Aw, hell, I was starting to have fun.”

  Max was such a liar. His expression was tight. Unhappy. Then he tossed the cane into the grass—and flipped her onto her back.

  She stared up into his intense blue eyes, seeing them lighten.

  “Now, subbie.” He fondled her slick breast and teased the nipple. “Open your legs as wide as you can.”

  “What?” At the look she got, she amended hastily, “Yes, Sir.” Honestly, she’d been a trainee. Why was she having so much trouble doing as they said?

  She inched her legs open, feeling the breeze hit her damp pussy, feeling the sun’s warmth. Well, that explained it. She was having trouble because she was outside—not in a properly designated scene area in the Shadowlands.

  She looked at the set of his jaw and opened her legs wider.

  The other reason she was anxious was because of these Doms. At the Shadowlands, other Doms had been careful with her. Hadn’t pushed her. These two utterly confident Masters deliberately made her nervous, shoving her out of her so-carefully arranged comfort zones.

  If she hadn’t been the one to ask them to help her, well, she might have hated them a little.

  “That’ll do.” Max lay down between her open legs…and simply started licking her pussy. With each slow slide and wiggle of his tongue, a zinging pulse of electricity zapped through her. The increasing throb of need ramped up until she was squirming.

  Chuckling, he stopped, leaving her right on the edge of an orgasm. The second the need faded, he drove her back there with a lick and rub over her clit.

  For long, long minutes, he kept her on the pinnacle, past enjoyment to where arousal became pain, to where her desire turned into desperation and anger.

  The sound she made through her gritted teeth was ugly.

  “Have a problem, baby?” He swirled his tongue over her clit again. And stopped.

  “I need…” Tears sprang to her eyes. How could he do this to her? She’d thought he liked her.

  “What do most people do when they need something and can’t get it themselves?”

  She looked at him blankly. Then…ohhhh. “Ask your friend,” they’d said.

  Turning her head, she saw Alastair. His arms were crossed on his chest. He lifted one eyebrow.

  “Please, Sir, I…”

  “What, Uzuri?” he asked softly.

  Why was asking for help so difficult? What if he said no? What if he didn’t think she was good enough? Omigod, how insane were those thoughts? She clenched her hands. “I…I…I want to come. Can—will you…”

  But what could Alastair do?

  “Good enough.” Alastair tilted his head toward Max. “She’s been a good girl. Get her off, please.”

  Max slanted her a look. “You’re lucky you have good friends, Zuri.” His gaze held hers as he let her absorb his comment. She had good friends.

  Actually, she did. And she shouldn’t have such trouble asking them for anything. Sneaky Doms with their game to teach her to fight and ask for help.

  His lips curved. “You’re catching on. Well, your friend wants you to be rewarded.” His head lowered, and his lips closed over her clit, and his tongue went to work, lashing across the trapped, swollen nub. Hot and wet and irresistible.

  With uncanny skill, he pulled her away from the precipice, drove her farther up the mountain toward a climax—and shoved her off.

  Devastating pleasure ripped through her like a massive ball of lightning, expanding in sizzling eruptions of sensation. “Aaaaah, ah, ah, ah.”

  When his hand holding her hip slipped, his forearm came down on her pelvis, pinning her to the ground as he sadistically wrung every last spasm from her.

  She lay on the sheeting, sweaty, oily, and exhausted.

  Max held out a hand. “Time for round two.”

  “What?” Her hand felt limp in his strong one as he pulled her to a sitting position.

  “I get to be your buddy this time.” H
e rose and walked off the rubber.

  If he was her “friend,” did that mean Alastair would be the so-called “intruder”?

  In answer, Alastair walked forward and went down on one knee in front of her. “Kneel, mischief. Remember, you have only three minutes to escape.”

  Seriously? She shook her head. “But—” Her bottom still hurt from Max’s caning—and Alastair was the sadistic Drago. And he’d have a cane. Her heart hammered as he pointed to her spot on the rubber sheeting.

  With a low whine, she knelt in position.

  Max started the timer. “Begin.”

  This time she totally lunged toward the marked “exit,” and almost, almost made it.

  With a laugh, Alastair dove forward and seized her ankle. Slick with oil, it slid from his grasp, and she gained another few inches. Her fingertips were on the green line when he landed on top of her like a ton of bricks.

  Flattened, she yelled in anger, and the minute his weight was off of her, she tried to run again. And got nowhere.

  “Jesus, hit him, Zuri.” Max’s voice came from the side.

  At the pointed command, she threw a punch.

  Alastair gave a grunt as her fist impacted his stomach. “No help from the sidelines unless she asks.”

  She got in one more punch.

  “Bloody hell.” he grunted. “Good job.” He blocked the next and grabbed her, putting her belly-down on the sheeting.

  Ding-ding-ding. The timer went off.

  He shoved her legs apart and knelt between them, actually putting a knee on the back of her thigh to pin her down.

  Instinctively, she strained against his hold. She was helpless. “Koulangèt!”

  “That one of those Creole words?” Max tossed Alastair the cane.

  The damn sadist whacked her five times right over the place she’d been hit before.

  Okay, she shouldn’t take the name of Christ in vain, but still…ow, ow, ow.

  He didn’t even pause before administering a sixth smack across the backs of her thighs.

  “Pike twa!”

  “I don’t know what you said, young miss, but it didn’t sound polite.” He swatted her again.

  Fuck you in English wouldn’t sound better.

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