Mischief and the Masters by Cherise Sinclair

  Max’s gut tightened. “Jesus, no.”

  Alastair leaned over Max’s shoulder to read. “Kassab has Rainie?”

  “Wait. Uzuri’s crossing toward the cars. Toward a black van. That might be Rainie at the rear.” Releasing Max, Dan narrowed his eyes. “Why isn’t Rainie moving? Is she tied to it? Is that why the threat?”

  Max scowled. Once Kassab grabbed Zuri, he’d take off. However, he’d also drive away if he felt threatened—like if Max and Dan ran out of the building toward him.

  Dammit, what was the little sub thinking?

  Alastair gripped his shoulder. “Uzuri will try to stall.”

  Light bulb moment. Of course, she would. She’d know they’d come after her. She would do what she could. Max edged into the lobby far enough to assess the parking lot. The van was parked so the rear faced the hospital. If Kassab was in the driver’s seat, the only shot possible would be through a side window.

  “Yeah, she’ll stall.” Max glanced at Dan. “Alastair and I will draw his attention on the left. You go to the right. If we can get the drop, we will. You take a shot if you have one.”

  Phone to his ear, calling for backup, Dan nodded.

  Expression grim and determined, Alastair met Max’s gaze.

  “We’ll get her, cuz. Let’s go.” Fear-sweat slicked his palms as Max led the way across the lobby. When the entrance doors slid back, he and Alastair sauntered out. Cold, hard rain slapped at him. The wind whipped his hair as he turned to the right.

  There was the van in the line of cars. It’d been pulled far enough forward to block the space in front, too. The clever bastard. He’d be able to drive forward instead of backing out. The white exhaust showed the engine was running. “Let’s use that umbrella of yours.”

  Alastair opened up his huge umbrella, covering them both.

  A glance at the hospital door showed Dan was coming out. Max stopped. “Hold, cuz.” Every cell in his body wanted to charge Kassab and get Uzuri back. Instead, he waited.

  Turning his collar up against the rain, Dan moved past.

  SLOWLY, UZURI WALKED up to Rainie and patted her shoulder. “Hey, girl.” Maybe she could remove the collar?

  No. A shiny new padlock locked the collar and attached the chain to the D-ring.

  “’Bout time you got here, you stupid-ass cunt.” The hammering rain and the gusting wind almost drowned out the rasping voice.

  But not quite. The vile satisfaction she heard turned her skin icy cold and her mouth dry. Her feet wouldn’t move.

  “Get in here, bitch.” His shout probably couldn’t be heard by anyone more than a few feet from the van.

  A whimper escaped her.

  Again, Rainie jerked her head and made a muffled sound past the duct tape. “Run.”

  Leave Rainie to die? Never. The fear didn’t recede, but she could move again. She was shaking so hard the ground itself felt wobbly. Pacify him. “On my way. Sir.”

  Stall. Her Doms would come; she knew it. She had to make sure Jarvis stayed here. I have to do this. Ever so slowly, she moved past Rainie and climbed into the back of the van, scraping her knees on the rough edge.

  She remembered what Max had said. “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.”

  Just watch me, Sir. When she pushed to her feet, her head brushed the ceiling. The sliding side door was open on the left, and a series of lightning flashes illuminated the inside. The cargo van was empty except for a long truck toolbox along the windowless right wall. Rainie’s chain ran across the floor and was padlocked to a metal bolt above the toolbox.

  Light glinted off the shaved scalp of the man in the van. A wave of fear froze her in place. Oh, God, no. Seeing him again was like walking into a nightmare. Bullet head, thick neck, bullish build. Ragged jeans and a stained black tank.

  The low ceiling forced him to crouch slightly. He was tossing a pistol from hand to hand.

  She couldn’t pull her eyes from it. A gun. He had a gun.

  “Yeah, there you are. Uppity bitch. Think you’re too good for me. Too smart for me.” His face twisted, his top lip lifting in a snarl. “Sent me to prison. Who’s smart now, cunt? Been driving down here for months, an’ you never caught on. Did ya like the dead mouse?”

  “I’m here, Jarvis. What did you want?” She stood out of his reach, so terrified she could hardly breathe. Please come now, Sirs.

  “Fucking stupid, aren’t you? I want you. And now I got you.” His laugh was an ugly, grating sound. Straightening slightly, he shoved the pistol under his belt in back.

  And lunged for her.

  She jerked back, instinctively blocked and moved sideways, and somehow, her foot thumped him hard in the knee.

  “Bitch!” He didn’t go down.

  Not hard enough. Max’s voice reprimanded her. “Hit me like you mean it.” Jarvis turned toward her, and she stepped in and punched him in the eye with all her might.

  “Fucking cunt!”

  Her momentary victory ended when his fist caught her in the cheek and knocked her against the passenger seat.

  Pain seared across her face, and she shook her head. In the dark van, she heard him move and stuck out blindly. Her fist slammed into his stomach.

  He grunted.

  She ducked sideways.

  His backhand caught her shoulder instead of her face—and still sent her to the floor. He kicked her in the belly, curling her into a ball of pain.

  She gasped for air, hurting, hurting.

  At the rear, Rainie tried frantically to climb in. Hands restrained behind her back, she couldn’t boost herself in.

  Grabbing Uzuri’s shirt, Jarvis yanked her up and threw her toward the toolbox. Her hip hit the metal edge with a tearing pain. Half sprawled across the box, she lifted her legs and kicked and kicked. She got his thigh, his knee, his—

  He slapped her, knocked her back, and grabbed her wrist. A handcuff closed over it.

  With her free hand, she punched him in the mouth, felt his teeth against her knuckles.

  “Fucking bitch.” Grabbing her hair, he slammed her head against the van wall, once, twice.

  Stunned, dizzy, hurting, she collapsed onto the toolbox.

  “I’m gonna enjoy slicing you into pieces. Goddamn cunt.” Roughly, he cuffed her other wrist, and she realized the heavy chain padlocked to the van wall ran between her arms—and then out to Rainie.

  “There you go, you stupid slut. That’s how I like you.”

  The toolbox was cold beneath her thighs. Dizzily, she closed her hands around the chain for support. Stall. “You’ll never get away with this, you dumbass.” She kicked him, unable to get any leverage. Knowing he’d hurt her. Fairly certain he wouldn’t stab—or shoot—her. Yet.

  His backhand whipped her head to one side.

  The pain… Oh God, it hurt. As blood trickled hotly down her chin, fear rose like a conflagration inside her, and she cowered away from him.

  “That’s more like it. Don’t fucking call me names. Ever.” Straightening, he grabbed her hair again and yanked her head back and forth.

  Her rain-soaked hair, so carefully rolled, tucked, and pinned, fell down in her face. The slap of wetness on her burning cheek sent her anger flickering back to life.


  A lightning bolt lit the van and showed her Rainie still standing outside the back door.

  Must. Keep. Going. Pain or not, fear or not. “Courage is endurance for one moment more.” Her Doms were coming. And, although the fight had seemed to last forever, it probably hadn’t been more than a couple of minutes.

  She couldn’t let him get in the driver’s seat. What could she do?

  Scream? With an empty parking lot and hammering rain, no one would come. He’d drive away.

  Seduce him? Hysterical laughter welled up in her. He wouldn’t believe any seduction, not now.

  Talk? He liked to talk.

  “Jarvis.” She
put a trembling whine into her voice. Or maybe it was already there. “Let Rainie go. I did what you said. Please.”

  “You are the stupidest cunt.” Sneering at her, he pulled his pistol from behind his back and walked toward the rear of the van.

  “No. No—don’t shoot her.” Uzuri struggled to stand.

  And from beside the toolbox came a tiny whine. A lightning flash revealed a small nose poking out of the shadows beside the toolbox. A tiny tongue licked her ankle. What was a puppy doing in the van?

  She gently pushed the puppy back in the shadows. Hide, baby.

  Near the rear, Jarvis looked out the back door.

  Just outside, Rainie stood still, shivering with cold. When she saw Jarvis, her chin lifted.

  “Think you’re brave?” He pointed his pistol at Rainie. “Don’t move, bitch, or it’ll be bang, bang, bang.”

  Uzuri caught her breath, trying not to cry, trying not to scream. He would shoot Rainie, given the slightest reason. Hurry, Sirs.

  Jarvis walked back, grabbed Uzuri’s handcuffs, and yanked. “Good enough. You can sit and watch your big bitch bounce along behind the van. Watch her die.”

  Uzuri fought to get a breath. “You bastard. Don’t you—”

  “Yeah, she was a damn good lay.” Max’s voice came from somewhere close. His words were slurred, his voice loud enough to be heard over the rain. He sounded drunk. “For a black girl. What was her name? U-Zur-something?”

  “What?” Eyes widening, Jarvis spun and jumped to the open side door.

  Fear iced through Uzuri as he held the pistol next to his leg. Max, oh God, Max. He’ll shoot you. Get away!

  And if Max was out there, so was Alastair. For her. No, no, no!

  Panic was a rising tide, ripping her thoughts to shreds as she frantically yanked at the chain that kept her from attacking Jarvis.

  The lightning flashed, and her gaze met Rainie’s.

  Rainie, still standing outside the van. Chained.


  Fingers trembling, Uzuri reached up and yanked the bobby pins from her hair.

  DELAY, ALASTAIR THOUGHT. There was a car between them and the black cargo van. They were near enough to be heard, not close enough to spook the bastard. He angled the umbrella to keep their faces in shadow without obstructing their view of the van.

  The inside of Kassab’s vehicle was dark. Occasional lightning flashes showed movement inside. A man stood in the open side door.

  “Fuck, that’s a pistol he’s holding.” Max raised his voice again. “Shoulda been there, buddy. The bitch could fuck.”

  On the other side of the van was a lighter blotch. Was that Uzuri’s pale shirt? She was in a line behind Kassab. Alastair wanted to curse. Max couldn’t shoot without a high risk of hitting Uzuri. Dan would have to find a clear shot somehow.

  Push the man’s buttons, Max had instructed—and Holt’s story had given them a few. “I do like dark meat.” Alastair spoke loudly and slurred his words in an imitation of Max’s drunken act. “You’re a lucky bastard. Did U-Zur-something enjoy herself?” He tossed Max the verbal cue, knowing his cousin would run with it.

  “Oh, hell yeah, she enjoyed.” Max puffed up his chest. “Said I had the thickest cock she’d ever seen. Loved all over my dick, and hey, she sucks cock like a Hoover vacuum.”

  From the corner of his eye, Alastair saw the form in the van straighten. The fish was hooked. He slapped Max’s back. “Way to go. God knows you’re big enough to make her happy.”

  Max roared with laughter, authentically enough that probably only Alastair could hear the tension under it. “She sure appreciated my repertoire. Most bitches do, you know.”

  Alastair tried to drag out his response. “What do you mean?”

  “Gotta do more than missionary, ya know. Seems some idiots think fucking is only climbing on and pumping. Dumbasses.”

  Alastair could feel the waves of fury from the van. However, Kassab hadn’t moved. Was standing right there in the door. Dan should be in position about—

  “Holy fuck, does that guy have a gun?” The man’s yell from the other side of the van said Dan must have been spotted. Bloody hell.

  Max cursed and reached for his weapon.

  “Bastards!” Kassab raised his pistol.

  Max slammed into Alastair, knocking him into a car.

  The sharp crack of Kassab’s weapon was followed by a metallic smack when the bullet hit a vehicle.

  Even as the van’s side door slammed shut, Max dashed toward the driver’s side.

  Rainie. Alastair raced toward the back of the van.

  The van’s engine had been running—and the bastard floored the gas. The van shot forward.

  Alastair raced after it.

  Another pistol fired. Louder.

  The van veered—sloppily—to miss an oncoming car and turned to the left. Fishtailed.

  Max fired.

  The roar of the engine halted. The idling van slowed to a snail’s pace.

  Alastair grabbed the swinging back door, fearing to see Rainie’s body.

  No body.

  No Rainie.

  No Uzuri, either.

  The back of the van was empty.

  Alastair turned and looked around. No bodies on the pavement.

  The passenger door opened. Dan reached up and turned on the overhead light. He shook his head at whatever lay hidden from Alastair’s view by the driver’s seat. “Hell.”

  Max opened the driver’s side, and his face tightened. He glanced back at Alastair. “You can’t help here, cuz. It was a head shot.”

  As Alastair turned away, Dan asked, “Where’re our girls?”

  That was an excellent question.

  PUPPY IN HER arms, Uzuri huddled against a tire, shaking and hurting. Was it over? Fear for her men was a cold stream running through her veins. She’d heard the crack of firearms. Were they hurt? Nevertheless, after hearing Max and Dan’s rants about civilians injured in shoot-outs, she knew to keep her head down.

  “Uzuri!” That was Alastair’s voice. He was alive.

  She whimpered in relief.

  Rainie rose from where she’d been crouched. “C’mon, girlfriend, sounds like the war is over. That dickheaded douche-bag of a dipwad is done.” After gathering the long length of chain in loops over one arm, she held out her hand. Her wrist showed bleeding abrasions from the ropes Jarvis had used to tie her arms behind her back.

  Uzuri had scraped her fingers raw undoing the knots. Of course, they’d both been hysterical right then. What was probably only minutes ago seemed like hours. She secured the shivering puppy, gritted her teeth as the handcuffs bruised her wrists, and grabbed Rainie’s hand.

  Rainie pulled her up.

  Pain. Pain everywhere. Her stomach and right leg and shoulder hurt like…like a lot. And her hip, too. Her face.

  And it didn’t matter at all. Why hadn’t Max called out? Where was he?

  Limping, she hurried after Rainie. As she exited the row of cars, she looked toward Jarvis’s black van. It’d moved, was in a regular lane.

  A ways from it, Alastair walked on one side, Dan on another, obviously searching the parking lot. Her Alastair was all right. Thank you, Lord.

  And there—there was Max, too. Both her men. Her legs weakened at the rush of relief.

  Max spotted her. “Zuri!”

  She broke into a halting run and met him partway, thumping into him so hard she knocked him back a step. His arms closed around her, painfully, all iron muscle and strength—and safety. Here. Here was home.

  Half crying, her face buried against his hard chest, she realized his cheek was against the top of her head as he murmured endearments and curses. “Fuck, you scared the hell out of me.” “I love you.” “You should be spanked.”

  Her giggle came out high and hysterical, but better than totally sobbing. She lifted her head and saw that Dan had Rainie held close against him with his phone in the other hand. Probably calling Jake.

  A step away fr
om Max, Alastair was waving down the police cars streaming into the parking lot. Seeing her looking at him, he opened his arms.

  After pushing the puppy into Max’s arms, she fell against Alastair, shaking against his solid frame. So warm. The rumble of his voice in his chest was the most comforting sound in the world. She breathed in his wonderfully masculine scent as he cuddled her even closer.

  “I was so scared for you two,” she whispered. So scared.

  In fact, more scared than she should have been. Scowling, she pulled back, and her voice came out high and angry. “What were you thinking? You practically asked him to shoot you!”

  Alastair’s deep laugh boomed out. “We needed time to get Dan in place—and to keep him from taking off with you.” He squeezed her back against him, kissing her firmly.

  “Wouldn’t it figure some concerned civilian had to poke his nose in,” Max muttered.

  “Is he…” Uzuri glanced at the van.

  “He’s dead, sweetheart,” Alastair murmured.

  Uzuri leaned her forehead against his chest. Dead. She would mourn the loss of Jarvis’ life, maybe someday. All she could feel right now was relief.

  Dan was talking to Rainie, sounding even gruffer than normal. “You were chained to the van. When it took off, I figured we’d find you…”

  Find her dead.

  The thought made Uzuri shake harder.

  “Me, too.” Rainie’s attempt at a laugh came out a strained rasp. “But Uzuri picked the padlock holding the chain to the van.”

  “She what?” Dan turned to look at her.

  Rainie nodded. “She got the lock off—and was running toward the door as the van took off.”

  “I fell right out of the van,” Uzuri grumbled. Some graceful heroine she was. With handcuffs on and the puppy in her arms, she couldn’t catch herself at all.

  “Picked the lock?” Dan asked. “Where the hell did you learn how to do that?”

  “Ben showed me.” The day she’d been so delighted to get into her Sirs’ bags seemed years in the past. She held her wrists out. “I couldn’t get the handcuffs off.”

  “Picked the lock. Brilliant.” Alastair hugged her hard enough to squeeze the breath from her body. “And brave.”

  Max nodded. His pride and approval were enough to set up a small sun inside her chest.

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