The Third New Book in the Masters of the Castle Witness Protection Box Set

Only 3 days left to go before the release of the Masters of the Castle boxed set: Witness Protection Program. Eight new stories by ten awesome authors, for only $.87 each. This price will only last until the boxed set is released, so hurry and get your copy today!

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Want a sneak peak at the stories inside? Take a look at this one, Tempting Tasha by Tabitha Black!

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Chapter One

Bastard. Rotten, criminal piece of shit scumbag bastard…

Tasha’s entire focus was on one little spot—the back of a man’s head. She was tired, she was hungry, she was absolutely filthy, but she was on a mission, and nothing would stop her until she achieved her goal.

Carmen ‘The Butcher’ Massino—mob boss, drug kingpin, general lowlife—was sitting just a few feet away from her and she would not rest until she had found a way to get the answers she needed.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t yet entirely sure how she was going to go about that.

Come to think of it, she didn’t even know where they were headed. It had all happened so fast. And following someone incognito was nowhere near as easy as Hollywood would have people believe.

Tasha had been in the process of getting a coffee downtown when she’d spotted them entirely by chance—Carmen and his typically tall, dark henchman—on the other side of the street. Without hesitating, abandoning all other thoughts or reason, she’d sidled over and begun to follow them, never imagining that she’d soon find herself on a plane and end up in Ohio, of all places.

A part of her was fully cognizant the whole time, telling her what a mistake this was, how dangerous, that she should do what the cops had told her to and ‘let them handle it.’

But the other part had been stronger; her absolute love for her little brother, William. He’d fallen in with the wrong crowd, had dabbled in drugs, gambling and God only knew what else, and had ended up owing Carmen more money than he could repay. And instead of doing what he should have—asked her for help—he’d tried to deal with it himself.

William had been missing for two weeks now, and Tasha was beside herself. She was certain the wiry, unassuming, dark-haired man sitting in the bus three rows ahead of her was behind her brother’s disappearance (please, God, let him still be alive) and she would get answers if it killed her.

Which, to be frank, was seeming more and more likely the longer this bizarre amateur chase went on.

She ran an exasperated hand through her tangled, matted hair and took a deep breath, wondering where on earth they were going. The scenery flashing by didn’t tell her much. Farmland. What looked like half-grown wheat fields. They were in the middle of nowhere, and she couldn’t imagine why a guy like Carmen would want to take a trip like this, much less ride in a bus. He’d traveled first class all the way until now; on the flight, and the rental he’d hired at Toledo airport had been top of the line. Tasha didn’t know much about cars but she knew an expensive one when she saw it.

He’d almost gotten away from her there, that idiot at the rental place had harped on and on about buying extra insurance until she’d caved and thrust her already maxed out credit card at him—anything to make him just give her some car keys already.

Luckily for her, the scumbag Massino had stopped for a smoke before heading off, so she’d been able to follow him all the way to Granger.

To this bizarre bus full of people who seemed excited, nervous, and happy all at once.

Her stomach gave a tremendous growl, making her jump and reminding her that it had been a long time since she’d had anything decent to eat. Airplane food didn’t count. While Carmen and his henchman had scuttled left into first class, she’d been herded right, to the back of economy with the rest of the serfs. Huddled in her seat, trying not to think about how much the last-minute ticket had cost, she’d been unable to relax for even a second, and her throat had closed up at the mere sight of the pathetic cheese and crackers the staff had been handing out.

What the fuck am I doing here?

Think of William, she reminded herself, focusing once again on the back of Carmen’s greasy head. He was overdue for a haircut, she noticed idly before taking another deep breath and trying to get past the feeling of dread that was like a lead weight in her belly.

William’s not dead. He can’t be. I’d feel it if he was.

Regardless, one way or the other, Tasha was determined to find out what had happened to her little brother. If nothing else, she needed the closure. Otherwise she’d spend the rest of her life wondering.

Besides, it wouldn’t make sense for Carmen to have actually—she could barely form the word, even in her head—killed him, would it? A dead person can’t repay their debts. And no one had found a body. She blinked back the sudden tears that filled her eyes.

He’s a mobster. They don’t usually leave their victims lying around for people to find, remember? Those old clichés… sleeping with the fishes, concrete boots… they exist for a reason. There’s a kernel of truth there. It can’t all be fiction, surely?

William was still alive, she told herself furiously, and she was going to find him if it was the last thing—

The bus came to a shuddering, abrupt halt, jolting her out of her reverie. The doors opened with a hiss and everybody stood up, chattering excitedly. Fumbling for her bag, which she’d placed between her jean-clad knees, Tasha got to her feet and allowed herself to be caught up in the throng of people, cursing under her breath when Carmen disappeared long before she herself reached the doors.

She had not come all this way to lose him now.

Blinking in the sudden bright daylight, she took in her surroundings, and stared and stared. Looming over her, all grey stone and turrets, stood a massive medieval castle of some kind and, considering it was in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, Ohio, it looked pretty damn realistic. A theme restaurant? An amusement park?

What the hell is this place?

Still being jostled along by everyone else who’d been on the bus with her, she followed them over a bridge, under a huge portcullis, and straight into a queue.

A couple of people—members of staff, presumably—sat at tables in the courtyard, chatting with each visitor, handing out folders… and going over paperwork.

Shit.

With the same sinking sensation she used to get at school when a spontaneous test was suddenly announced, Tasha realized that everyone around her was clutching either a sheaf of paper or a folder, which they promptly handed over when they reached the front of the queue.

She was the only one who didn’t have anything. Even that fucker Carmen had paperwork, she realized, spotting him at last.

Damn, damn, damn.

Whirling around, she glanced over at the bus, which suddenly seemed very far away. A couple of people in extremely old-fashioned clothing were unloading suitcases from it.

A tour bus? Was this castle a hotel?

She glanced up again at the enormous stone structure, trying to gauge how many rooms this vast place might contain. Plenty. These people had all obviously booked in advance. Never mind. She’d just make her reservation here, when it was her turn.

Provided her credit card still worked.

The Butcher and his handler were at one of the tables now. The henchman seemed to be doing most of the talking. Next moment, they had vanished.

Crap.

Still, it could be worse. This place might be big, but security seemed pretty damn tight. Plus it was one building, not like she’d have to stalk him all over some unknown town. How far could he possibly get?

Trying not to think about how tired she was, or what her boss would say if—make that when—she didn’t turn up for her shift at the restaurant that evening, Tasha waited until it was her turn.

“Welcome to the Castle. Your application form and ticket, please.” The woman behind the desk had kind eyes.

Tasha took a deep breath. “I. Um. I don’t have it,” she mumbled.

The kind eyes took on a slightly more suspicious glint. “You forgot it?”

“No, I—”

“Wait. Are you registered to stay here as a guest?”

“A guest? No, I—”

“This is guest registration,” the woman said impatiently. She glanced over to where the bus was still sitting beyond the bridge.

Following her gaze, Tasha realized there was another one, a little further ahead.

“Let me guess,” the woman went on. “New hire?”

Not knowing what else to say, Tasha nodded meekly.

“You must have taken the wrong bus.”

No kidding.

Truth be told, Tasha hadn’t even seen a second bus at the station in Granger but, to be fair, all her focus had been on the back of Carmen’s head.

“I, uh, I guess I must have,” she said slowly.

With an exasperated sigh, the woman got to her feet and pointed. “That way. And you’d better hurry up. The Master Butler does not like people being late, especially new hires.”

Wait, who? The people behind her in line were beginning to make little noises of impatience and Carmen had vanished.

With no other choice, Tasha shot them an apologetic look and hurried off in the direction of the woman’s slender, extended finger.

Moments later, she found herself standing amongst a much smaller crowd of people. Whereas the first bunch had looked excited and happy, most of these looked more nervous than anything else and, darting a glance at the tall, regal woman who was doing the talking at the front, Tasha immediately understood why.

“My name is Mrs. Hardwick,” she was saying, “and that gentleman over there is Master Grimsley. If you have made it this far, you are to be congratulated. You have been selected from a pool of many, many applicants. However, this is not the time to relax and think the worst is over. Far from it. This is where the real test begins. This place is about delivering a guest experience unlike any other to our visitors, so we expect nothing but the absolute best from you.”

A slight movement caught Tasha’s eye and she looked over to see the man Mrs. Hardwick had introduced—Grimsley—nodding. Then she realized what he was wearing. A butler’s uniform straight out of the nineteenth century. In fact, he was impeccably groomed, from his sleek, dark hair, tinged with just the slightest bit of grey at the temples, to the tips of his highly polished shoes. And he was holding something behind his back.

What the hell is that? Is that a cane?

Mrs. Hardwick had resumed speaking but Tasha wasn’t taking in the words. Instead she was staring at the long, slender implement poking out from either side of Grimsley’s svelte, imposing figure. Surely that was just for show. They certainly seemed to take their costumes seriously around here.

“… time for orientation. Please follow me.”

Dragging her thoughts back to her current situation, Tasha looked around at whom she assumed must be the other—real—new hires. They were a small group of about twenty, and they all looked immaculate and very, very intimidated. Why? She’d started more new jobs than she could count, but none of her first shifts had ever been like this. Then again, she’d only worked in bars, restaurants and cafés, never in a resort.

And never in a castle.

Suddenly all too aware of her tired, wrinkled appearance, she swallowed hard and followed the group when they started to move. A petite, pretty blonde beside her whispered, “Isn’t this the most exciting thing? I still can’t believe I made it this far! I’m still pinching myself.”

“Was that man holding a cane?” Tasha heard herself whisper back, the disbelief in her voice clear.

The blonde shot her a look of pure astonishment. “His switch, of course! Master Grimsley’s switch is a thing of legend by now.”

“Oh.” Tasha didn’t know what else to say. She’d always thought of switches as things used to turn other things on. Lights, for instance. This place was getting more and more like the Twilight Zone. And Master Grimsley? Wasn’t that a bit old-fashioned for the twenty-first century? Apparently they didn’t just take their costumes seriously but their titles as well.

The blonde was still giving her a funny look so Tasha forced herself to smile. “This place really is amazing,” she said lamely.

“It is. I’m Eden. What’s your name?”

“Tasha.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise. Where are we going now?”

“Orientation, Mrs. Hardwick just said.” Eden gave a breathy little sigh. “I cannot wait to get inside.”

“No talking!” Grimsley snapped.

Feeling somehow like a six-year-old on her first day of school rather than a grown woman who’d just crossed what felt like half the country to interrogate a mobster, Tasha bit her lip and fell silent.

***

While the Dungeon was open twenty-four hours a day, mornings were usually the slowest time, and today was no exception. But there was something in the air, a light buzz of somber tension, and Eamon had caught snippets of more than one whispered, urgent conversation between some of the more established Masters. Including Dominick, famed Dungeon Master and Eamon’s best friend. Which was why Eamon was needling him as they made their first round of the day through the facilities.

“That station has been left in a complete state,” Dominick was muttering, making a note on a little pad he always carried around with him. “Where the fuck is housekeeping?”

“I know something’s going on. Marshall isn’t his usual composed self. Is Kaylee all right?” Eamon tried again. Nothing ever fazed the Master of the Masters and lord of the Castle, Marshall—nothing unless it had to do with his beautiful, very pregnant wife, Kaylee.

“Kaylee’s fine, as far as I know,” Dominick said absently. “And this needs refilling.” He rattled the handle of a nearby condom dispenser.

“So, what the hell is going on? Jackson’s running around like a headless chicken.”

“Christ, I haven’t seen this place in such a state since Travis and Trevor were in their heyday,” Dominick went on, kicking aside some wadded up paper towels with his boot.

Eamon gave a grim smile. The twins had been notorious playboys before they met their delectable Australian wife, Silver. Dominick, on the other hand, had always been a tad serious… but even more so after he met and fell in love with the stunning Maddy. His and Eamon’s ‘guy-time’ together had been severely limited ever since. While they still worked together every day, and often trained together in the gym, there were no longer nearly as many relaxed evenings with a beer after work as there used to be. “I don’t have enough time for Maddy as it is,” Dominick would often say whenever Eamon brought it up, “whereas we work and train together. I do like to spend some time with my submissive while she’s awake, not just staring at her gorgeous back while she’s asleep.”

Personally, Eamon couldn’t understand why anyone lucky enough to be working at the Castle would ever tie himself down to just one lady. A new busload came in every goddamn morning, women of all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and of all ages. It was a baller’s paradise. Why restrict yourself? As far as he was concerned, a Master of the Castle committing himself to just one woman was like a kid only ever tasting one piece of candy in the biggest sweet shop in the world.

You’d never catch me getting like that, he’d often find himself thinking whenever he saw the twins, Kade, Jackson, Sam, Alan, Parker, Reeve, or even Marshall or Dominick with their women. All gooey-eyed and soft.

Eamon didn’t do soft.

Dominick was still muttering, scribbling furiously in his notebook. “Get someone to send a maid down here right away. This mess is unacceptable.”

“Only after you tell me what the hell is going on. Why did Kaylee interrupt our Monday meeting? What was that phone call about? Why did Marshall leave so abruptly? Where did he go?”

“Jesus!” Dominick exploded, finally abandoning his note-making and rounding on Eamon. “Quit with the fucking questions! You’re driving me insane!”

They stood nose to nose, the Dungeon Master and his second-in-command. Dominick was renowned for being intimidating, from his burly, buff body to the signature bullwhip always coiled at his side, he had a reputation for making even the bravest of masochists quake simply by raising an eyebrow. But Eamon was just as tall, just as burly, and just as able to engender slick, helpless terror in a quivering submissive. Not to mention, he was used to Dominick’s outbursts of temper. So he stood his ground and waited patiently for the answers he wanted.

It was a long stand-off. Dominick finally spoke first, no doubt because he was desperate to get his dungeon tidied up as quickly as possible.

“Look,” he said in a low voice, “Marshall’s cousin, Grace, witnessed a murder. She’s being hidden here, at the Castle. Kind of like an in-house witness protection program. While it’s extremely unlikely that the murderer would ever find her here, Marshall is understandably concerned about her safety. This is on a need to know basis, okay? So now you know.”

Eamon took a moment to digest the news. “I don’t know why Marshall is so worried,” he said at length. “The security around here is tighter than a virgin’s ass.”

“It is,” Dominick agreed. “But there were three witnesses to that murder. Two of them are dead now.”

“Oh. Shit.”

“Plus, Grace is blind. Which makes her even more vulnerable.”

“Wait—a blind witness? How does that even work?”

“I’ve told you what’s going on, now will you please, for the love of all that is leather, go and find someone to clean up my fucking dungeon?”

Eamon knew the Master Gaoler as well as if he were his brother, and he knew exactly how far he could push. He’d reached the limit for now. With a scowl, he nodded and turned to hunt down a domestic.

As far as he was concerned, it all seemed like a giant fuss over nothing. There was no way anyone could ever make their way into the Castle without Marshall being aware of it, and besides, how could a blind person ever possibly be a threat to anyone?

Feeling lazy, he took the secret elevator to the second floor and went in search of Grimsley or Miranda, only to find out they were both currently dealing with the new hires who had arrived that morning.

Eamon had forgotten about that.

He wondered idly how many new girls would be starting at the Castle, not that it really mattered. Ever since he’d begun working there, he’d adopted his own strict policy: guests only. Not wanting to risk things getting messy by playing with a fellow employee, he’d always kept them at arm’s length, especially the ones he fancied. Why shit on your own doorstep? Besides, there were plenty of guests to choose from and they always had a set date to leave.

Dominick sometimes teased him about it, suggesting he was scared of commitment. Eamon was inclined to disagree. He wasn’t scared. He was just having too much fun to want to tie himself down.

And while falling in love didn’t make any of the other, committed Masters work any less hard, or any less good at their jobs, as far as Eamon was concerned, they had all changed after meeting their significant others. Marshall, previously unflappable, was now vulnerable where Kaylee was concerned. Understandable, but still. Travis and Trevor no longer partied nearly as hard as they used to, and Eamon missed the old days, where they used to compete to see how many women they could seduce in a weekend. Kade, who’d never bedded the same girl twice, was now devoted to Chelsea. And Jackson was no longer just wrapped around Sara’s little finger but his daughter, Regan Emily’s, as well. While Eamon had to admit the little girl was completely adorable, he never saw his friend anymore—Jackson spent all his spare time in his new home, which Marshall had built behind the Castle to keep the kids away from all the debauchery.

Dominick looked up when Eamon tracked him down in one of the aftercare rooms. “Well?” he said impatiently. “Are they sending someone?”

“In a little while. Grimsley and Miranda are dealing with the new hires who arrived this morning, and the other domestics have all already been assigned other duties for the day.”

“Thank God it’s a slow morning,” Dominick said, fluffing a pillow.

Eamon bit back a smile at the sight. “For you, maybe. I have my first appointment of the day in a few minutes. Forty-six. Brunette. Newly divorced. Apparently, she’s quite the painslut.”

“Lucky you,” Dominick said drily.

“Indeed.”

“Make sure you don’t take her to that pigsty.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the station they’d just checked.

“I won’t. I was thinking stocks, a violet wand, maybe a Hitachi…”

“Just your average Thursday then.”

Eamon chortled. “Pretty much.” He turned to leave, to start getting everything ready.

“Did they give you an estimate?”

“Huh?” Eamon turned back to face Dominick.

“Any idea how long we’ll be waiting for someone to get down here and do some cleaning?”

“Nope. Said they’ll send one of the new hires as soon as orientation is done.”

“Christ. Nothing like being thrown in the deep end. Hope she’s capable.”

“If not, I’m sure we’ll whip her into shape.” Grinning at his own pun and Dominick’s exaggerated eye roll, Eamon left to prepare the station for his first appointment.

 

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Tempting Tasha is only available in the Masters of the Castle Witness Protection Program boxed set. Get your copy today while the pre-order sale price is still in effect!

Also, have you entered to win my special giveaway? Click the picture below for details.

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