The Seventh New Book in the Masters of the Castle Witness Protection Program

The new exciting addition to the Masters of the Castle boxed set, Witness Protection Program, is now live. Eight new stories by ten awesome authors, for only $1.25 each. Get your copy today!

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Want a sneak peak at the stories inside? Take a look at Capturing Cassandra by Piper Stone!

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Chapter One

“Please. Please don’t kill me!” His deep baritone voice, strangled by terrified sobs filtered into the almost empty warehouse. Positioned on his knees on the broken concrete floor, blood dripped from his mouth and nose, products of an earlier beating.

“Mr. Timmons, it seems we have a problem,” Sebastian Roberts stated, enunciating his words. He glanced across the perimeter of the shadowed space, eyeing the row of oil drums lining the long wall. “You seem to have forgotten that you owe money, a hefty amount I might add, to the Sanduchi family.”

“I’m trying to pay what I owe. I swear to God, I’ll have something next week,” Mr. Timmons blubbered, gasping for air.

“Shut the fuck up!” The soldier issued a series of hard kicks across the face and into the man’s gut, laughing before jerking Mr. Timmons’ head in to an awkward position.

“Enough!” Sebastian abhorred this kind of Neanderthal violence, preferring a clean kill, but his boss subscribed to the old school methods of torture. Crouching down only two feet from the weasel, he inhaled, resisting gagging from the stench of piss. He gave the goon a single look, one that made certain his orders were followed, before turning his attention to the twitching ball of flesh. “Unfortunately, Mr. Timmons, you’ve been given three extensions, at least one too many in my humble opinion.”

Mr. Timmons sniffed, his eyes growing wide. “But I have money coming in next week. I promise. I swear to God on my mother’s grave.”

Sebastian had heard every excuse during his tenure, growing weary of the constant overhaul of those seeking salvation from the most ruthless crime family in New York. “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.” He moved to a standing position, giving another one of the hired guns a nod.

“Anything. I’ll do anything,” Mr. Timmons squawked.

“I know that you will.” He watched as the second goon removed the lid from one of the barrels, clanging his gun against the side in order to garner a reaction from the soon to be dead man.

“Oh!” Mr. Timmons whimpered, his body crumpling.

Rubbing his palms together, Sebastian gently guided Mr. Timmons to his feet, wrapping his arm around the man’s shoulders as he walked him in a wide arc before heading to the open barrel. “You said you anticipate money coming in next week. Is that correct?”

“Yes. Yes, sir. Top of the week. I swear on my mother’s grave.” Mr. Timmons’ eyes enlarged, his jaw falling slack as he glared at the barrel.

“Well, then you might have a chance, especially if we’re talking early in the week,” Sebastian half whispered, keeping his tone of voice nice and even, almost sweet. When they were within a foot of the oil drum, he gave Mr. Timmons a squeeze on his shoulder. A single authoritative glance was all he needed, and the two goons snagged the smaller man from the floor, shoving him feet first into the barrel.

“No! No!” The screams echoed in the wide-open space. Mr. Timmons struggled, but was no match for the power of the two men.

The soles of his shoes clicking on the concrete as he walked, Sebastian paced an area in front of the drum, rubbing his index finger across his lips. “I’m no expert with regard to suffocation, but I suspect that if you take very shallow breaths during the course of the next several days, it’s possible, granted a minute chance, but possible that you could survive. I’ll make certain that I have someone come and check on you.” Grinning, he cocked his head as he gave Mr. Timmons a solid smile. “Nice doing business with you.”

He didn’t wait until the deed was finished. He simply walked toward the exit, whistling when the screams were muffled as the lid was pounded into place. “Goodbye, Mr. Timmons.”

God, he loathed this shit, no matter his appearance to everyone else. He liked to think he was an ethical killer, eliminating only those who were already horrible human beings. How many times had he thought about leaving the organization, finding work anywhere else in the world? The truth was ugly. If he even considered breaking his contract with the Sanduchi’s, he’d end up tortured, his body washed up on the Jersey shore. He was locked in for the time being.

Less than twenty minutes later, he’d parked his car in his usual spot, far removed from any of the other customers. He needed a little R & R after getting his hands dirty. Knowing the owner of the posh club certainly had its perks. He was in the mood for entertainment, as well as a tall Canadian whiskey, and not for interference from anyone, including patrons of a kink club.

Sebastian breezed past the bulking doormen, heading straight for his usual table. Within thirty seconds, a drink was placed in front of him, the demure waitress his favorite. The exclusive and very private club allowed him continued anonymity, a requirement in his business. Only three of Mr. Sanduchi’s employees knew of his existence and they would be erased if Sebastian’s privacy was so much as disturbed. He chuckled at the thought, bringing the thick crystal glass to his lips. The taste was magnificent after the rough night.

This was his one free evening to himself. The next assignment was taking him out of town, to a castle nonetheless. Well, what the hell. He was in the mood for escaping the dark and ugly streets of New York, if only for a little while. Tonight, perhaps he’d indulge in carnal activities. Yes, the thought brought a quiver to his balls.

Sebastian had particular tastes and the majority of women would find them unappealing, if not downright disgusting. His tastes were considered sadistic, far too dominating, even in certain BDSM circles, making him careful about his choices, or trusting anyone. He sipped his drink, enjoying the atmosphere until a vibrant crimson dress caught his attention. The exquisite piece was body hugging, accentuating full breasts, a thin waist and long legs, the kind of legs meant to wrap around a man’s waist.

“Fascinating,” he said under his breath, watching her almost glide through the room. He’d never seen her before, which made the mystery a wonderful aphrodisiac.

The collar around her neck indicated she was ready for playtime, submission to be exact, and he could tell every red-blooded man in the room was hungry for what she had to offer. He studied her for almost ten minutes, the way she mingled, respectful in her actions yet in control of herself. She was, by far, the best looking submissive in the room, her eyes shimmering from the metal flakes clinging to her porcelain skin, her long eyelashes and scarlet lipstick, the color accentuating full lips. Even her dazzling copper colored hair, pinned in a tight bun, was desirable. She was beautiful.

She was also out of place, unescorted. Club Noire was known for catering to the upper echelon of society, but experienced participants only. The guests were all hand selected by the owner, a discerning and influential New Yorker. The lovely woman was obviously searching for someone, if not to break free of her confining mask, hence the garish makeup. He snickered and fingered the rim of his glass, rubbing the tip around in lazy circles. An ingénue to consider playing with, teaching, training.

Capturing.

The thought was delicious indeed. One night would be enough. At least for now. He’d never fallen for anyone, submissive or otherwise. He enjoyed taking and tasting but refused any entanglements. The bitter involuntary sigh reminded him that he was also hungry for a change in life. Given the abusive requirements laid out by the Sanduchi family, he refused to bring a woman, or anyone, for that matter, he cared about into the mix. They’d become an immediate target, the attachment a known weakness to exploit for any reason.

When she disappeared into the crowd, he was unable to resist, taking his drink and following her, his cock now throbbing, aching. He hadn’t experienced this reaction in quite some time. Remaining in the shadows, he trailed behind her as she moved from room to room, her eyes wide with delight. When she slipped inside the pony play area, he was forced to admit he was intrigued. He studied her for some time, the way her hand brushed across her neck, an obvious nervous habit. She remained in the back of the room, her eyes fixed on the Dom centered in the middle of the room. A flogger in one hand, he was parading his pony around the room proudly, whipping her naked ass for the slightest infraction.

Sebastian took another sip of his drink, able to see by the woman’s reaction that she was fascinated but frightened. Perhaps this was too much to begin with. He inched closer, until he was directly behind her. Inhaling her perfume, the exotic scent filling his nostrils, he envisioned his particular methods of training. He would enjoy breaking her down to a basic level, providing discipline as well as pleasure, but only if she was a very good student.

She tensed, as if knowing he was standing only a few inches away, yet a smile curled across her lip. The woman didn’t fidget, nor did she cower, two traits he abhorred. Additional points in her favor.

“You seem quite interested,” he stated as he lowered his head, allowing a single hot breath to cascade across the back of her neck.

Her breath skipped, her lips pursed. “Very much so.”

“You are submissive.” Sebastian fingered the leather collar surrounding her neck, a rather crude leather piece unbefitting her gorgeous attire.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, you can be trained.”

She darted a quick glance in his direction, blinking several times. “I’d like to be, sir.”

“And you’re not owned?” He had to admit, he was more than curious.

“No, sir. I’ve been told I’m… difficult, untrainable.”

Her statement brought a chuckle to his lips. “All women are trainable. The method used is the key.” He allowed his finger to travel down her neck to the area just above her spine. Electricity shot through him, forcing his balls to swell.

She remained quiet, only the slightest moan escaping her mouth.

“I believe you require a very firm hand, harsh discipline and strict rules. You crave the darker side of kink, being captured and caged, your body used while enjoying the taste of ecstasy.”

Shuddering, she nodded before answering. “Yes, sir.”

“Training takes time, effort and location. I can only offer you a taste of discipline tonight. Is this something you desire?”

“Very much so, sir.” Her words were whispered, the lilt captivating in sensuality.

“What is your name?”

She licked across the seam of her mouth, as if buying time. “Winter, sir.”

“Lovely. A woman as warm and beautiful as you should have an equally stunning name. Follow me, Winter.” Sebastian didn’t look back to see if she would follow. He prided himself on being able to read people, especially women. She yearned for an experience she’d only read about in horrific books depicting S & M as easy to understand. Being welcomed into the club was the first step. The owner must consider her worthy. He moved in absolute silence toward a more suitable location, the room known as punishment to the regulars. Taking her hand, he led her inside, securing a location in the back before placing both hands on her shoulders. “Watch and learn.”

Winter was wide eyed as the first demonstration was given, a masked Dom securing a woman to a steel ‘X’ cross, her naked body quivering as the shackles were placed around her wrists and ankles. The rubber ball gag positioned in her mouth was no doubt to keep her screams from interrupting the others during playtime.

Sebastian was well aware certain rooms within the club were more for show than any aspect of true BDSM, but he’d always enjoyed the various acts, if only from afar. He’d never brought a submissive to this location, or to any for that matter, and certainly never engaged in play. Why, tonight, was he breaking his own rules? The question was intriguing.

As the first strike was made, the six-tailed leather piece slicing across the young woman’s buttocks, Winter whimpered, blinking several times. When the second and third were issued, she clamped her mouth shut, tilting her head in order to catch every aspect of discipline.

“Can you see yourself tethered to the cross, succumbing as I wield a leather strap, punishing you for various infractions?” He was able to see her hardened nipples, outlined given the thin material of her attire. He wanted nothing more than to pinch and twist, giving her a taste of pain. The things he imagined doing to her were some of his darkest visions, his deepest desires.

“Yes. Sir.” The words said with conviction, she swallowed hard, her lower lip pouting.

Rubbing the palm of his hand down her spine to her ass, he cupped and squeezed, enjoying the electrifying sensations in his hand. His fingers tingled, longing to strap her naked ass, her breasts and thighs. He could envision her beautiful nipples clamped, a silver chain dangling between her legs. He tapped on her ass twice before crawling the material of her dress past her thighs, rubbing her naked ass cheeks. A simple ‘G’ string was placed between the cheeks of her rounded ass, the lingerie alluring. He traced the line of the thin lace, wiggling his finger between her ass cheeks. “Tell me, are you wet?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Open your legs for me.”

Obeying instantly, she didn’t utter a sound as he slipped his hand between her thighs, savoring the heat.

Sebastian eased his finger past the elastic, flicking the tip back and forth against her pussy lips. “Wet and hot, just like you would be every day.”

She sagged against him, one hand fluttering to her mouth.

The flogging continued, dragging their attention back to the engaging performance. He smacked her ass with his hand the second the leather strap hit the girl’s behind, following with a second and third, the cracking sound muffled by the murmurs of approval.

Winter swayed forward and backward, her eyes closing. “Oh!”

“Watch for me. Pay close attention. One day, I will direct you to remove your clothes and tie you to a similar cross and on that day, I will leave welts on almost every inch of your body.” He smacked her several additional times until the audience began to applaud. What she would never know is that he was extremely observant, knowledgeable regarding body language as well as certain tendencies.

He also knew two things and only one he had the opportunity to handle.

One, Winter was on the hunt for certain prey, her occupation? Law enforcement.

Two, one day in the not so distant future, he would own her.

***

“Asshole! I am going to personally hunt this man down and put a bullet in his brain,” Cassandra Wright stated outright. Quite frankly, she didn’t care who heard her exclamation. She was pissed. No, she was enraged to the point of losing her diplomacy, perhaps even her rationality.

“You’re not entirely certain he was even at the club.”

Her partner would have to make fun of her, especially given she’d insisted on going to the BDSM club alone and without backup. She paced the area in front of her desk. How stupid of her to allow a man to entice her, even for a few moments. God. What had she been thinking? “I know Slice was there. I could feel him, almost taste him. The creative bastard.” She glared at Tom, longing to wipe the smug expression off his cherub face.

“Getting a little personal about a criminal asshole, aren’t you?” Tom leaned over, lifting a single eyebrow. “Or maybe we should say, Master Dom?”

“Very fucking funny.” She’d followed information about the elusive criminal and expert assassin for two years. Two long years of being one step behind. Known as Slice in both the mafia underground as well as among law enforcement, he’d never been arrested, photographed or seen outside his illustrious circles. His real name wasn’t known, a sticking point in the craw of every law enforcement officer. The Sanduchi family kept his identity top secret, a brilliant method of keeping his enemies on their toes. How many murders had the FBI attributed to the highly skilled assassin? One too many.

“Hey, you did something that no one else has thought of. You went to the devil’s lair. More than I can say for any of the other agents,” Tom stated, giving her a nod of respect. “Besides that, you were able to get your freak on.” Taking a giant step backward, he held up his hands, laughing as two other agents overheard, chuckling from behind their desks.

Cassandra gave him a death stare before glancing down at her notes. At this rate, she’d retire before catching another lead. Her thoughts drifted to the stranger, the mysterious, alluring man who’d managed to slide past her mask of steel, finding the very women inside she’d kept secret her entire life. Longing to be a submissive, perhaps even a slave, had been her greatest fantasy for some time. She snarled and continued pacing the floor. After his untimely departure, she’d found and grilled the owner of the club as to the man hiding behind his own mask.

The club owner had maintained a friendly relationship with their office, but she was well aware the man was a snake. He’d sell his own soul for capital if necessary. However, at least he’d been somewhat forthcoming given her grilling session.

The sexy stranger was simply a regular with particular tastes and she must not have fit the mold, according to the pinch-faced man who hadn’t taken kindly to her forceful demeanor. She’d Googled the name provided, finding enough to convince her he was merely another rich man preferring play things in his life, much like his yacht and expensive cars. And she’d allowed herself to be caught in a moment, forgetting all about her job. Never again.

Then why was her little voice nagging her?

“Uh, don’t look now, but I think the boss wants to have a word with you.” Tom nodded to the person in charge. Sheila Applegate was one of the most formidable women the majority of agents had ever come in contact with.

Seething, she darted a glance in the director’s direction, trying to accumulate the right words to appease the Ice Queen, as she affectionately called the statuesque blonde. “My day is now complete.”

“And it’s only ten in the morning,” Tom quipped.

She shot him the finger as she grabbed her iPad, heading toward the director’s office. Once inside, she closed the door automatically, exhaling in order to control the edge. “I’m certain you’d like an update.”

Sheila gave a harsh look before walking to the window behind her desk, folding her arms and peering out at the skyline. “I understand that hunting and locating Slice is primary on your agenda.”

“He is a wanted man, responsible for killing at least twelve individuals that we know of. He’s cunning, intelligent and no doubt harboring an agenda for his next planned assassination.”

“Said like stating a resume.” Sheila shook her head. “Granted, word on the street is that he’s been very active as of late, reducing the gambling population in a significant manner.”

Cassandra let out a long breath. “How many bodies?”

“Only two have been found, along with a member of the Gambini family and all three attributed to this assassin’s particular method of killing.”

Skilled in various weaponry, his preferred method of killing was a knife; hence the nickname garnered several years before. He enjoyed the up close and personal aspect over a gun or various other weapons. “And no new leads?”

Chuckling, Sheila turned. “Well, there has been a significant amount of chatter, a few of our illustrious informants providing information. I wouldn’t have thought anything about what I heard, except, the data came from three different sources.”

“Interesting. No one has talked in months.”

“I know, which makes this daunting and dangerous. It’s come to my attention that Slice has been directed to perform a particular assassination. This one is considered high profile and could lead to certain difficulties.”

“Okay. Who are we talking about?” Her interest was piqued.

“Carmen ‘The Butcher’ Massino.” She smiled, lifting a single eyebrow.

“What? Are you certain?” A notorious hit man, the fact another mafia gun was out to take his life meant The Butcher had crossed a line or was a danger to his organization.

“As certain as I can be. As you are well aware, Mr. Massino has also been a thorn in our side for years. His planned demise could prove to be… interesting.” Sheila snickered.

Cassandra walked closer to Sheila’s desk. “A mob assassin taking out another mob personality? This is unusual.”

“Not necessarily. The number of victims, including several witnesses that Massino has clipped over the last few months has increased. Some say The Butcher is out of control, creating certain difficulties for other mafia families. From what I’ve heard, there was a messy operation recently, several witnesses left and all because of The Butcher’s carelessness.”

“The Butcher is slipping,” she mumbled, taking in the information.

“Evidently. Slice’s anonymity makes him very useful in certain ways. He takes out a rival with little or no fanfare and the Sanduchi family strengthens their hold on New York, perhaps sliding down the East Coast. The kill will no doubt be blamed on some other organization that has nothing to do with the Sanduchis, possibly starting another turf war. Brilliant, if you ask me. Plus, in various eyes, including some agents with the FBI and even the CIA, Slice will look like a golden boy, redeemed.” Sheila whisked her hand in the air, providing a moment of utter drama.

A golden boy, her ass. The man was ruthless in his executions. There was nothing redeemable about the asshole. She thought about the ramifications, shaking her head at the very thought. “Why did you want to see me?”

“There is information that this assassination is going down in the next few days. Further, we have reason to believe that the hit itself is taking place at the Castle. I have the file on a recent case. Already several of the eyewitnesses have turned up dead in mysterious and, I might add, horrific manners. The Butcher is trying to clean up his mess. The last remaining possible witness is no doubt a target of our illustrious Butcher. The thinking is that this young lady may be using the location as secure grounds. She has a formidable family, in other words, members of the Castle itself. Safety behind stone walls.” Sheila waited, her face pensive.

“A castle? What castle?”

“Not a castle, Cass, the Castle, an exclusive BDSM resort located in Ohio. Have you heard of it?”

Her thoughts drifted to what she knew about the kink community. “I don’t think so.”

Sheila slid a paper file across her desk. “Well, time for you to read up on the location. Supposedly it’s one of the most well-known kink resorts in the country. They’ve got a website, brochures, ads posted everywhere, including Fetlife. Anyone with the funds can buy a vacation here, but they’d better have a lot of it. I was on the website at least an hour this morning. It’s expensive.”

She fingered the file, her nerves on edge and she wasn’t entirely certain why. “And you’re telling me this information because?”

Moving from behind her desk, she stood within two feet of Cassandra. “Because, I’m placing you on a particular assignment. This one is top secret. Only necessary personnel will know you are being assigned this case. Called in a favor or two to secure a ticket we didn’t have to pay for out of department funds. You are the perfect candidate.”

“Excuse me?”

Sheila had a smug look on her face. “I’m aware of your visit to Club Noire last night. The concept could have worked, if you’d been able to catch Slice in action. However, your visit, given what you’ve learned, suggests that he has a penchant for BDSM. Actually, there are a number of circles that consider Slice a Master Dom and I’m certain you’re aware of what this status means.”

Was she being scrutinized, even chastised for her particular proclivities? If anyone found out, her career could be ruined. “I’ve done significant research on the BDSM community, if that’s what you mean.”

“Excellent, then this might be your perfect opportunity to catch him, literally in the act.”

Cassandra held her breath, her mind reeling. “You want me to go in as the FBI? I doubt they’ll talk. I mean, seriously.”

She chuckled before shaking her head. “I want you to go in undercover as a submissive, seeking training from experts.”

Bile formed in her throat, her heart racing. “I don’t think I can do that.” Visions popped into her head, the most incredible vibrant images of being tied to a cross, her body whipped, taken and used, submitting in every manner as required. She blinked several times, beads of sweat sliding down the back of her neck. “Sheila, I…”

“You are the only person who can handle this, Cass, and you know it. There is no other way of infiltrating the Castle. The owner is not particularly friendly to outsiders. Even the town of Granger has a distaste for the facility being in their midst. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I expect you to be a team player. Besides, everything is already set in motion. The Castle takes new arrivals only once per day, a 10:00 a.m. bus that picks up at a local coffee shop. To make sure you’re on it, given tomorrow is Friday, you’ll be taking a red-eye flight tonight. I’ve taken the liberty of including your current medical records in the file and there’s an accountability waiver that you’ll need to sign and present upon checking in.”

“You’ve thought of everything,” Cassandra huffed.

The flash of her eyes stated in no uncertain terms to take this seriously. “If my informant is correct, then Slice will indeed be a guest, perhaps already having arrived at the illustrious location. I’m certain there will be other law enforcement officers carrying out undercover roles as well. I know you. You can smell a cop from a mile away. I’d maintain your role at all times, refusing to trust anyone. Read up on the area, the Castle has a hell of a website and they’re pretty free with their information and requirements. Pack your clothes and get ready to leave. And yes, that’s an order.”

Terror ripped through her, creating a wave of nausea. There were no worries about opening up to some outsider. That wasn’t in her nature, let alone she’d been burned on one too many occasions on various assignments. This case wasn’t about just being undercover. This was about finding the frightened and yearning woman inside. Unable to focus, she gripped the file, fighting back tears. “I’ll do my best.”

“I’m certain you will. Just remember that this assignment is extremely dangerous. You could have not one but two assassins in the same location. Be careful. I don’t want to lose you over this. You’re far too valuable. If there is a single hint that your cover has been blown, I’ll pull you off this case.”

Cassandra nodded, her mind reeling.

“Certain modern conveniences, such as cell phones, are only allowed in certain locations within the Castle; however, I expect you to keep me updated. Call me after you are settled. I’ll do what I can to find out more about the remaining witness and you’ll have everything I know about Massino’s messed up hit.” Her smile faded, her expression stoic. “By the way, inside the folder is some paperwork for you to fill out immediately, an email address for you to send the information.”

Cassandra absently wiped perspiration from the top of her lip. “What kind of paperwork?”

Shrugging, Sheila walked back around her desk, obviously uncomfortable. “Likes. Dislikes. Tolerations. Kinky shit if you ask me, but you have to maintain the role. I’ve already sent everything else they require, including your picture. You need to handle the rest.”

“I’ll take care of everything right away.”

“Good luck. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

As she walked out of Sheila’s office, she realized for the first time in her life that she could be freed from the very chains she’d suffered her entire life.

This could be a new beginning.

Or, this could mean her death.

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Bio for Piper Stone:

Piper Stone writes in several genres including erotic romance, Domestic Discipline, spanking, Domination and submission and traditional romance. She has a love of the non-traditional, preferring to create worlds that defy the imagination. Wine and sous vide cooking are only second to her love of golden retrievers and you might find all three nestled in the pages of a book or two. She has several releases coming from Blushing Books including Truth or Dare, Dirty Little Secrets – His Hidden Girl and Power Exchange – Becoming.

You can find her at:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Piper-Stone-573573166169730/

Twitter – twitter/piperstone01

Email – piperstonecreations@gmail.com

Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/piper-stone

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorpiperstone/

Have you got your copy of the Masters of the Castle: Witness Protection Program box set yet? What are you waiting for? Eight brand new Masters of the Castle stories–novels and novellas for less than $1.25 each. Get your copy today!

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The Sixth Book in the New Masters of the Castle Witness Protection Program

The new exciting addition to the Masters of the Castle boxed set, Witness Protection Program, is now live. Eight new stories by ten awesome authors, for only $1.25 each. Get your copy today!

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Want a sneak peak at the stories inside? Take a look at Harboring Holly by Raisa Greywood!

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Chapter One

 

The expanse of Lake Erie stretched out ahead of their plane as they approached the airport. The port city of Toledo was a dark blight on the western shore, its rust belt heritage evident from the smokestacks spewing polluted steam into the air. Barges and container ships crossed the open water, competing for space with small pleasure craft.

In the seat next to him, Carmen tapped a nervous hand on the armrest of the first-class seat as the pilot announced their approach. Flint wanted to laugh. His unwanted companion was a nervous flier. A flight attendant walked by, collecting trash in preparation for landing.

“Hey, sweet thing, bring me another bourbon before we land.” Carmen scratched at the beard he’d grown to disguise his appearance.

The woman’s eyes tightened, but she smiled. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Colombo. We’ll be landing in about fifteen minutes, and FAA regulations—”

Beads of sweat bloomed on Carmen’s forehead and he swiped at them with a shaking hand before turning a murderous glare on the beleaguered woman. “I don’t give a fuck. Bring me a goddamned drink!”

Flint interrupted the brewing fight. While he wouldn’t mind watching Carmen deal with airport security, they didn’t have time. Leaning over to whisper in Carmen’s ear, he said, “Boss, if you get arrested when we land, we won’t be able to do what we came to do. There’s going to be a bar in the airport.”

Carmen slumped against his seat and growled. “Fine. Whatever.” His fingers dug into the leather armrest as the flight attendant made her escape. “Fucking hate flying.”

Flint spent the entire approach and landing in a state of bliss. Entertainment at Carmen’s expense was a rare and heady thing, and he savored every second of Carmen’s distress. If he had his way once Carmen was incarcerated, he’d stuff the slimeball into a coach seat, chain him to the armrests, and let him fly to New Zealand and back for the rest of his life.

Too bad it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

To Carmen’s sweating relief and Flint’s disappointment, the pilot touched down smooth as silk. Flint didn’t say a word when Carmen downed several double shots in the closest bar. Maybe he’d sleep for the drive. They’d have plenty of time to make the bus to the resort.

As they approached the rental, a man Flint didn’t know crept between adjacent vehicles, his head bent low to disguise his face. Carmen hurried toward him and accepted a small black duffel bag. Carmen handed him some money and the man disappeared as silently as he’d come.

“Who was that?”

Giving him an evil grin, Carmen said, “Just an acquaintance delivering a few gifts that would have been awkward to travel with.”

Well, shit. Flint had hoped Carmen would have a more elegant solution for Grace, or at least something he might be able to counter. But no, Carmen had to make things difficult, as usual. At least it would be quick. Carmen wouldn’t waste time torturing her. And if Grace Barnes was guarded well enough, maybe it would give him some time to figure out a way to protect her without blowing his cover.

He made a note to give the delivery boy’s description to his handler with his next report. “I’ll load our bags.”

“All but this one. I’m going to give you a present once we’re in the car.”

“Thanks, boss.”

As Flint settled into the driver’s seat, Carmen rummaged in the black bag and asked, “How long until we get there?”

Flint glanced down at the GPS. “About an hour if traffic behaves.”

“Okay.” Carmen produced a Glock nine-millimeter and handed it over.

Flint tucked the gun into his jacket pocket. “Are you sure you want to register us as a couple? Dunno how I feel about that, boss. I don’t want people thinking I swing that way, and I don’t want to be cock blocked if a girl catches my eye.”

Truthfully, Flint didn’t care if people thought he was gay. There was nothing wrong with it, but the persona he’d created would object.

Carmen snorted and punched his arm. “We’re not going to fuck, you moron. We’re going to off Grace Barnes and leave when our weekend is up.” He shuffled through the registration paperwork Flint had printed for him. “Besides, it says we can change our program for free. If either of us finds a piece of strange we like, we can do that.”

Flint took his eyes from the road for a second, watching as Carmen’s eyes went flat and cold. He shivered, knowing Carmen was focused only on killing Grace Barnes. His gut clenched, knowing she would pay the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He could do nothing to stop it. Grace would be another piercing somewhere on his body; the only memorial he could afford for a woman who would die for doing nothing wrong. He would get a sapphire to match her sightless blue eyes.

“All you have to do is keep your eye on the ball. No pussy is worth fucking up what we came to this godforsaken state to do.” He settled deeper into the seat, crossing his arms over his chest. “Now leave me the fuck alone so I can take a nap.”

“Yes, boss.”

Flint was thankful for the silence as he completed the drive. Carmen dozed through parking in the secure lot in Granger, only rousing himself when Flint returned from Starbucks with two cups of coffee.

Carmen complained about the bus. He complained about the service dog a few rows ahead of them. The pooch was clearly very smart and growled at Carmen as they passed to take their seats. It made Flint wish he had a dog treat, though it was bad form for a stranger to offer food to a service animal.

Flint ignored Carmen’s whining. The skinny little fucker complained about anything that didn’t involve curbside limo service and top shelf booze. He imagined Carmen riding in a bus with grilles covering the windows. Fuck, what he wouldn’t give to see that, but he had to be patient and wait. Despite two years of service, and a year in Carmen’s inner circle, he hadn’t found the source of the guns or any concrete evidence of the flesh trade.

The bus took them through verdant farmland. Wheat fields commanded the landscape, the grain tall with ripening seed heads. Small patches of woods surrounded the fields, filled with maples, horse chestnuts, and straggly oaks. The scent of black earth, fertilizer, and sunlight crept into the bus’s climate control and he inhaled the sweet fragrance.

It was a shame that such a peaceful place would host a murder. Maybe more than one if Carmen thought anyone recognized him.

A high stone wall came into view as the bus trundled down a lane and a half of macadam farm road. Black cameras winked at him from trees and Flint nodded his approval at the security measures. This was a place he could enjoy, if not for the circumstances.

The bus stopped at the foot of a drawbridge crossing the moat. Carmen grumbled as he stomped off the bus, following the herd of happy couples and more than a few singles across the bridge and under a magnificent iron portcullis. A podium surrounded by white folding chairs was set in the huge courtyard. To his left, admission tables awaited under a shaded canopy.

Carmen pasted a smile on his face, the expression cheerfully unnerving as he went through the registration process. Flint followed behind, receiving his own welcome packet a few moments after Carmen had his. Following the guests ahead of them, they seated themselves in plastic chairs close to the back.

“This is so fucking stupid,” Carmen muttered as a tall woman mounted the podium and began to speak.

“We gotta listen, boss. You said we need to focus on—”

“Shut the fuck up, asshole! I know what I said.”

Flint shut his mouth and watched the woman on the podium, though he had no real interest in what she was saying. None of the rules or safewords mattered to him. He had no intention of playing.

When she’d finished speaking, he stood up and followed Carmen across the courtyard toward the Castle. Some rich fucker with more money than brains had set up an exact replica of a medieval keep, complete with blacksmith, stables, and all the other shit that went along with the illusion.

The craftspeople working outside were fascinating, though. He wished he could stay a while and visit. The blacksmith sat on a stool, carefully setting rings into a chainmail corset. Damn, he could see Holly’s ample tits spilling over the metal chain, the unforgiving metal pushing her succulent flesh above the…

Flint pushed his burgeoning arousal down. Now wasn’t the time, especially since Holly Dansen was well and truly gone. With luck and a kind God, he’d never see her again.

He followed Carmen through the double doors at the top of a set of stairs, the heels of his dress shoes clicking on the marble floor. When the crowd in front of him stopped, he looked at his surroundings. The Castle was impressive. Erotic art decorated the walls, showcasing a sweeping staircase. Grecian pillars stood equidistant from each other, stalwart sentinel over the assembled guests. Windows allowed natural light, illuminating the lavish décor.

The scent of chocolate tickled his nose and he turned to face the source of the decadent odor. A wooden sign over an open door proclaimed ‘Maybe’s Candies.’ Ignoring Carmen, he took a brief respite from his duties and bought a cake pop. The clerk winked as she handed him the treat.

Nibbling at the rich cake coated with the best bittersweet chocolate he’d ever tasted, he returned to Carmen.

Carmen’s eyes lit up as a young woman in a short black skirt scurried past them, her feather duster aloft as she swiped at erotic statuary. He took a step toward her, his gaze hungry as he watched her ass twitch. “Will you look at that?” he asked, his voice low and malicious. “Tender meat.” He shook his head and sighed. “Damn, I wish we weren’t here on business.” Gesturing with his chin, he said, “Let’s get this fucking tour over with. I want a nap and dinner before we take care of things.”

Flint heard a feminine gasp behind him and spun around. Mismatched eyes wide with shock and terror met his and he froze.

Nobody but Holly had those astonishing eyes, one green and the other blue. Nobody had those legs, or those heart-stopping curves. And nobody could run that fast to escape. Mentally, he urged her on as she dashed up the stairs, praying she disappeared before Carmen saw her.

How had Holly ended up here? And how the fuck was he going to keep Carmen from recognizing her? His mind whirled, centering on a very dangerous plan. Grace Barnes was still in terrible danger, but he’d be goddamned if he let Carmen hurt Holly. With luck, his plan wouldn’t cost him his badge. Or their lives. And just maybe he could get Grace to safety, too.

“You go ahead, boss. I’ll catch up. Just need to hit the head.”

***

Holly scrambled to escape, knocking over a vase painted with a woman on her knees. Though she hadn’t recognized him from the back, she’d know Carmen Massino’s nasal voice anywhere. How had he found her? It didn’t matter. His henchman, Mario, had already spotted her, and it was only a matter of time until they went hunting. The dormitory for the Maids was just a few steps away. She’d grab the bag she always kept packed and disappear before Carmen could get away from the tour.

She ran until she slammed into a hard chest covered in black wool. Heavy arms caught her and she gasped out a breathless scream as she struggled to escape. She raked at her assailant’s face with her nails, but he turned and she caught the skin over his collar. He let out a vicious curse and swept her feet out from under her then carefully lowered her to the floor.

“Holly!”

Her lungs ached as she fought for air. Master Grimsley pressed her to the floor and stroked her back, waiting until she could draw in a full breath.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, tilting up her chin to force her to look at him.

She drew in a lungful of air and tried to control her shuddering body. There was no way she was going to tell Master Grimsley about Carmen. He’d call the police, and Carmen would know exactly who had ratted him out. Worse, Master Marshall would fire her without a single thought. Not that she blamed him; keeping drama out of the Castle was his duty. “Nothing, sir. I’m perfectly fine.”

“Bullshit.”

“It was just a tiny panic attack, sir. I’m fine.” She wanted to cry when her attempts at believable excuses fell flat.

Master Grimsley arched a brow and pressed a white handkerchief to the bloody scratch she’d left on his neck. “I beg to differ.” His expression softened and he stroked her hair, brushing a curl behind her ear. “What’s the matter? Has one of the guests hurt you? Let me get security—”

“No, thank you, Master Grimsley. I’m fine.” Holly tried to be still as she lay under his heavy hand, but wasn’t sure she was managing it. “May I get back to work?”

Master Grimsley’s expression was speculative as he wiped the bleeding scratch on his neck. “Very well, Holly.” He stood and held out a hand to help her up. “You may have fifteen minutes to collect yourself. When you return to your duties, stay on the first floor where I can keep an eye on you, please. I will also be mentioning this incident to Mistress Hardwick and Master David.”

She nodded, keeping her head lowered. It had been too much to ask that he believe her stupid story. She might have managed Mrs. Hardwick, but Master David was another matter entirely. “Yes, sir. Thank you.”

She turned to leave but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. She shivered at the touch, her body still amped up with adrenaline.

He handed her the feather duster she’d dropped in her haste to escape. “One demerit for breaking the vase. I’ll have someone clean it up while you collect yourself.”

“Thank you, Master Grimsley.”

He nodded, squeezing her shoulder once before leaving her alone. Damn it. Tears welled in her eyes and she brushed them away with a shaking hand. It was going to kill her to leave the Castle. She’d made so many good friends here, and the Masters and Mistresses were kind and careful, though sometimes a little scary. She didn’t even mind the punishments. Most of them were more funishment than punishment anyway.

Despite her fear, her pussy clenched as she thought about the times she’d gotten partnered with guests. She loved serving, especially with Master David in the Gorean program. He was stern and rarely smiled, and she loved teasing small grins out of him when she performed well. Being a kajira was her favorite thing. She loved the objectification, the slight pinch of humiliation as she obeyed her Master, and adored being a vessel for pleasure. Sex wasn’t always part of her duties. Many times, a Master’s desires only extended to having a pretty slave at his beck and call, and she’d served couples more than once.

Angry tears filled her eyes and she kicked the leg of a bench positioned between two large plants. Damn Carmen Massino to hell! Why did he have to take everything good from her? First her best friend Ashley, and now the Castle. Fuck!

She’d wanted so badly to go to the police when Carmen shot Ashley. But he had too many dirty cops on his payroll, and she knew she wouldn’t have lived long enough to file a report if she’d done something so monumentally stupid.

Watching that hole bloom in the middle of Ashley’s forehead still gave her nightmares. Carmen’s placid smile as he shot Ashley for refusing to sleep with him woke her up screaming.

And that idiot of a henchman, Mario! He’d just stood there and watched Ashley die, then told Carmen he should find a skinnier girl without weird eyes. She kicked the couch again, her fury raging. It was one thing to be a psychopath, but did he have to be rude about it? Mario Ricci should be wearing a yellow Minion suit, for fuck’s sake.

Maybe her eyes were a little unusual. Heterochromia iridum was rare, especially her green and blue combination. They were not weird. And she was not fat! Well, okay, maybe she had a little extra padding on her ass, but her tummy was flat and she exercised regularly. She was fit and healthy, and loved her curves.

And why did she care what a stupid thug thought about her? He’d just stood there while Carmen shot Ashley! He was no better than Carmen. Worse, even. How did he sleep at night? Her brain must have gone offline completely if she was thinking about that loser Mario when she should be making tracks to an airport. His opinions didn’t matter. He was every bit as nasty and amoral as Carmen.

She swallowed down the growl boiling in her throat and continued toward the Maids’ dormitory, ignoring the fleeting desire to spill her story to Master Grimsley and Master Marshall. They deserved an explanation as to why she was quitting her job without notice. She would just have to figure out a lie and hope for the best. Once she left the Castle, Carmen would follow and her friends would be safe.

No one stopped her as she walked toward the dorm to collect her escape bag. She’d need the money she’d stashed away to buy a new identity. Her old car would get her to Toledo. She’d sell it there and buy a ticket on the first plane out of town. It didn’t matter where it was going. Using her key card, she let herself in as her friend Stacey from the Salon trotted down the hallway toward her.

“Wait up, Holly!”

Though she didn’t want to waste the time, she pasted a smile on her face. Stacey was so sweet, Holly couldn’t be mean to her.

“What’s up?”

Stacey rested her hands on her knees, panting as she tried to catch her breath. “You’ve been requested by a guest for a Gorean program this weekend. He’s going through the tour now, so you have time to get to Wardrobe.”

“I…” Dammit! She couldn’t say no. Stacey would know something was wrong. Though they could refuse to serve a guest, it wasn’t common, and a Castle employee would have to have a compelling reason. Any employee could refuse if the program violated their hard limits, but refusing a Gorean program when everyone knew that was her favorite would toss up red flags all over the resort.

Stacey kept speaking, not noticing Holly’s hesitation. “He’s cute, too. His name is Miguel.” She frowned and bit her lip. “Well, that’s what’s on his registration, anyway. Lord only knows what his real name is.” Her contagious grin reappeared. “But he’s gorgeous, so who cares what he calls himself, right? You’ll love him. He’s got short dark hair and brown eyes, and the sweetest little soul patch.” Fanning herself, she added, “I just want to bite it. And that pink earring is cool.”

“I—”

Leaning forward, Stacey pecked Holly’s cheek, her lips soft and warm. “I have to run. I’ll see you later.” With a wave, she disappeared down the hall.

No. God, no. She’d been too slow! If she hadn’t wasted time sitting on the floor feeling sorry for herself, she’d already be gone. Her knees gave way and she collapsed on the nearest bed. The minute Stacey mentioned the pink earring, Holly knew exactly who had requested her.

But she didn’t know why. Obviously, Mario was planning on killing her. Why else would he request her out of all the other Castle subs? It would give him and Carmen plenty of opportunity to torture her, but they had to know they would be the first suspects when someone found her body.

Maybe they intended to remove her from the Castle, but when all three of them went missing at the same time, the police would look at Mario and Carmen first. There were too many cameras for them to escape detection. Carmen might own the police in Wabasha, but she was pretty sure he didn’t own the ones in Granger.

The electronic lock on the door clicked, making her flinch. Holly stood as it opened, smoothing down her skirt. She needed to stay calm and not panic. Maybe Carmen and Mario were here for some other reason. She’d been so sure nobody had seen her peeking in the door as Ashley was murdered. If someone had found out two years ago, she wouldn’t be breathing.

Nadu, Holly!”

Okay, maybe she should panic a little. She dropped to her knees, spreading them open with her hands resting on her thighs. Master David looked furious, and she cringed at the thunderous expression on his face as he stomped through the doorway. Though smaller in stature than several of the other Masters, Master David was imposing and he didn’t suffer fools or a disobedient kajira gladly.

His white dress shirt was pristine, the cuffs rolled to reveal corded forearms lightly dusted with hair. Tight black jeans clung to his hips and an astonishingly biteable ass. A crop hanging from his belt loop swung back and forth as he walked.

“I know you aren’t purposely disobeying a Master’s order, kajira Holly.” He squatted down in front of her and gripped her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Do you have an explanation for why your pretty ass isn’t already in Wardrobe?”

“I…” Her voice trailed off as she stared into his angry brown eyes. Dark skin tinged red with fury stretched tight over his high cheekbones and his unsmiling lips were thin.

“Master Grimsley told me about your incident. It’s fine if you aren’t well enough to accept the Gorean program this weekend, but you should have come to me immediately. The guest will have to choose someone else, and it would have been polite for you to give us enough time to find a replacement.”

“No, sir. I’m fine.” She swallowed hard. “I mean, I…” Dammit! What could she say that wouldn’t raise his suspicion? He was already pissed, and she quivered at the anger in his glittering eyes. “Yes, sir. I just needed a moment to recover. I was on my way to Wardrobe when you came in.”

“Good girl.”

He stood up and took a step backward. The flush of pleasure from his praise faded when he unhooked his crop from his belt. She held in a sigh and lowered her head, knowing she was going to be on the receiving end of that wicked implement. Master David did not believe in demerits. He preferred to deliver punishment immediately following a transgression.

“Slaver’s Kiss, Holly. You must learn that punctuality is a virtue.”

“Yes, sir.” She lifted her ass off her heels and bent forward until she could rest her cheek on the floor then put her hands behind her neck. Her short skirt rode up, exposing her backside. Her thong would present no barrier to Master David’s crop.

It was Master David’s favorite position for punishment. She spared a brief, waspish thought that she should have just gotten into Slaver’s Kiss when he walked in the door.

Then again, if she was going to die this weekend, a cropping from Master David was a good sendoff. At least she’d die with a smile on her face. He never asked his kajirae to count, nor did he tell them how many whacks they’d get. He wasn’t unfair or overly harsh, though. The punishments he delivered always fit the crime. Holly had been around long enough to know she’d get five or maybe ten, and he’d give her a short cuddle before calling her a good girl.

Yep, it was going to be a jolly fare thee well and fuck right off to this mortal coil.

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Bio for Raisa Greywood

Raisa is an up and coming author of romance with a dark and naughty twist. Her heroes are sometimes flawed but always the alpha in the room, while her heroines are atypical and can take anything those bossy alphas dish out.

She is the winner of the 2017 “Ignite the Flame” contest sponsored by Central Ohio Fiction Writers in the Paranormal category. The one thing that Raisa most loves is tipping tropes on their ears and making fun of them. She also adores alliteration.

She’s lived all over the world but currently resides in the Midwestern United States with her husband, two irascible cats, and a big bay rescue horse.

Check out Raisa’s newest release, Bastard’s New Baby, available now at all your favorite retailers. You can find the buy links at:  https://raisagreywood.com/books/bastards-new-baby/

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The Fifth Book in the Masters of the Castle: Witness Protection Program

The new exciting addition to the Masters of the Castle boxed set, Witness Protection Program, is now live. Eight new stories by ten awesome authors, for only $.87 each. This price will not last much longer, so hurry and get your copy today!

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Want a sneak peak at the stories inside? Take a look at Controlling Carlie by the fabulous BJ Wane!

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Chapter One

“You know what I want, little one.” He pointed to the sofa. “And what to do. Present that ass for me.”

As always, that dark, commanding tone sent a delicious shiver of anticipation rippling down her spine. Her hands went to the hem of her short skirt and hiked it up. Keeping her eyes leveled on his bright green, enigmatic gaze, she hooked her thumbs into her panties and slowly lowered them to mid-thigh, no further. He liked it when she left them on. Turning, she bent and braced her hands on the seat of the sofa, her back tense as she waited with bated breath for what he would do. Was he in the mood for her pussy, or ass tonight? She never knew, and he rarely let her know beforehand.

“Sir?” she asked, her voice a quiver of both longing and unease when she heard the telltale sound of his belt being pulled off. She tightened her buttocks, preparing for the lick of pain against her flesh, and the pleasure she never failed to reap from it.

His wide palm cupped one buttock and squeezed. “You’ve been so good today, little one, you deserve a reward. Five swats with my belt. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, yes, please, Sir.” She quit questioning why she enjoyed his dominance so much, how she could find such pleasure from the pain, and his pleasure in delivering it. It was what it was, and he had always been the one, the only one, she could imagine giving up herself, her very soul to.

“I do love hearing you beg.”

The swoosh of the folded-over, wide black leather always preceded the strike, and she curled her fingers into the sofa to brace for the slash. He didn’t begin with a slow warm-up, like he would if he was intent on giving her a long session. Instead, the first strike delivered a fiery hot streak blazing across the middle of her butt. She sucked in a deep breath and waited… waited… there. The heat made its slow way down to her pussy, warming and dampening her sheath with the throb of arousal.

“Oh, God,” she moaned upon the next blow which landed right below the first. “Please.” How pathetic was it, she was already so needy for him he’d reduced her to begging?

“That’s my girl,” he crooned with the delivery of the third swat. With one finger, he traced over the ache and pushed gently, drawing another moan from her. “Pretty. So pretty, I find myself hard-pressed to wait much longer to fuck you.”

“Then don’t,” she tossed back, unable to hold back an impish, teasing grin.

He huffed out a laugh and snapped the leather just under the curve of her buttocks, on that ‘oh, so sensitive’ skin that damn near sent her face down on the cushion. “That’s what your impatience will get you.”

By the time he finished the fifth and last stroke and dropped the belt, her ass was a mass of pulsating, heated flesh, much like her pussy. A hard thrust of three fingers deep inside her drew her to her toes, a few deep plunges with strategic glides over her clit sent her whirling toward a climax that he stopped short of exploding with his sudden withdrawal.

“Not yet.” With a wet glide up her crack, he pressed against her anus. “Deep breath and push out.”

She didn’t need his instruction but cherished it anyway. It proved he looked out for her, cared enough to make sure she was prepared for whatever he did, and always would be. Breaching the tight rim of her back hole, he entered her with two of his pussy-dampened fingers, forcing her to blow out the deep inhale he just told her to take. Then his cock nudged her seam, sliding between her slick folds with the ease of a knife through softened butter.

“Fuck, but I love being inside you.”

Not as much, couldn’t possibly be as much as she loved having him inside her, she thought as he set up the familiar rhythm of shafting her vagina while finger-fucking her ass at the same time. A cry spilled from her lips as his driving plunges sent her down to her elbows, leaving her hips elevated higher, and making it easier for him to deliver those downward thrusts even harder and deeper.

More… more… more… she chanted inside her head while she spiraled out of control and the darkness behind her closed eyes lit up with the sparks of pleasure sweeping her body. How could anything feel so good, how could she crave this, him so much…

“I wish I knew.” Carlie Simms saved and closed the file then swung her gaze from the computer to stare out the window of the small book store she managed. When writing those scenes, she always pictured herself in the place of her character, submitting to the only man she ever fantasized about in that way. Just how long was she going to put her life on hold for a man who refused to see her as anything but a little sister? The bad part was she couldn’t blame him. With her mousy brown hair, boring brown eyes and short, round figure, she wasn’t someone who made men pause for a second look. And Luke Montgomery, well, he’d always drawn women’s eyes like a damn magnet, and she assumed he still did.

She didn’t even know if she was submissive or not, into kink, or how much kink. Her sex life had always been as pathetic as the way she pined over Luke, month after month, year after year. She’d always been better at seeing to her own orgasms than the few men she’d allowed into her bed. But in her dreams, Luke always drove her to the highest peaks by using methods she’d only read about and heard about through the local BDSM club grapevine.

It had been over seven months since he’d returned for a visit to Granger, Ohio, the small hometown they’d both grown up in. His frequent calls, texts and e-mails to check up on her were never enough to appease her craving to see him, talk to him in person, to just be near him.

“God, I’m pitiful.” Rubbing her brow, she heaved a dispirited sigh and glanced around the still empty book store. The Saturday morning regulars would be in soon to check out the week’s new releases, those who still preferred paperbacks, and she always looked forward to chatting with them. She read everything from historical romances to nail-biting suspense to gory horror and currently waited with gut-clenching anxiety to hear whether her last erotic mystery submission would be accepted by one of the biggest publishers in New York. Books were all she’d had to keep her company since Luke moved to Maryland after joining the FBI. Between writing her own fantasy-filled stories and selling others, she’d lived in a vacuum of other people’s lives for far too long, always waiting, hoping for a sign she could be more in his eyes than Evan’s little sister.

Carlie’s heart still ached when she thought of her brother. At the tender age of thirteen, she had thought nothing could be harder than losing her mother, leaving her twenty-year-old brother, Evan, as her guardian. They’d spent those first months dealing with their grief and anger by lashing out at each other, then found it easier to cope by clinging together. His death in a car accident ten years later almost destroyed her. If it hadn’t been for Evan’s best friend, Luke, she wouldn’t have made it through that dark time. She never imagined she would later resent the close bond the two had shared since grade school that made Luke promise Evan he would always look out for her and protect her like a sister should anything happen to Evan. Her brother had been gone five years now, and she still missed him as much as she craved to be more in Luke’s eyes than the little sister he never had.

The bell over the door pealed and Carlie looked up, smiling when her best friend, Jana breezed inside. “Whew! It’s going to be another hot one,” Jana commented, strolling over to the counter and leaning on her arms to gaze down at her. “Please tell me your smoothie machine is working.”

“Yes, I had it fixed a few days ago.” Nudging her glasses back up, Carlie rose, stretched, then turned toward the industrial blender, asking over her shoulder, “What kind?”

“Banana. Have you heard anything yet?”

Jana was the only one who knew about her writing, the only one she let read her work and whom she trusted to keep it quiet. Even though everyone in town knew what went on up at the Castle, few would ever admit to being a guest for fear of self-appointed morality-enforcers showing up on their lawns. Carlie was a private person and didn’t want anyone to know about her writing, at least not until she’d been accepted. If that ever happened, she’d be glad to shout it out herself.

“No, but it’s only been a month.” She peeled a banana and tossed it in with the yogurt and fruit juice. “What’re your plans for today?”

“Well, in about an hour, I’ll be on the bus up to the Castle for the night. When are you going to be ready for some hands-on research? Thanks.” Jana took the cold drink from her and brought the straw to her mouth with a sigh.

“Maybe soon. I don’t know.” That had been Carlie’s standard response for years now. The truth was, she feared reality would never live up to her fantasies, that BDSM wasn’t her thing because the only one she could ever imagine herself doing anything kinky with was Luke. Even though he’d been a Master at the Castle for years, he’d never hinted she held any appeal for him other than as a friend and the girl next door he promised her brother he’d look out for.

“Right,” Jana drawled. “That line has gotten old. Someday I’ll talk you into it, wait and see.” The door opened again, letting in a blast of August heat along with two customers. “I gotta run.” She grabbed a romance off the new release rack and plopped down money for both the book and smoothie. “I’ll come over tomorrow and fill you in. You’ll be so jealous you won’t be able to wait until your next day off to go.”

Carlie smiled at her persistent friend. “Seems I’ve heard that line before.” She waved her off, eying the eager bounce to her step with a wave of jealousy. She didn’t need to hear any more about Jana’s experiences at the Castle to stir her interest in something she’d never had the guts to try. Until she could imagine herself exploring the kinks the BDSM club was well known for with someone other than Luke, who showed no interest in her that way, she wouldn’t humiliate or disappoint herself by caving to curiosity.

By the time five o’clock rolled around, she was more than ready to head home. She’d sold more smoothies and cold drinks than books, which wasn’t unusual. If it weren’t for the trade-ins and the on-line sales of used books, she doubted the store would stay open. The owners, Maggie and John Klein, opened the small book store and café over thirty years ago. They closed the café when they retired and hired her to run the rest, leaving only the drinks, cold in the summer and hot in the winter, for customers to indulge in when they came in.

Carlie walked the few blocks to her residential neighborhood, and as she turned the corner onto her street, her eyes automatically went to the house next to hers, Luke’s home. Her shoulders slumped in disappointment when his sporty, black Mazda remained absent and the house showed no signs of anyone being home. Why she continued to look for him, she didn’t know. He always told her when he would be coming back to Granger for a visit, and had mentioned just last week, the last time she’d heard from him, that he had no plans to return anytime soon.

Strolling up the walk to the front porch of her two-story Craftsman, she noticed the weeds amassing in her gardens, but didn’t have the energy to mess with them tonight. After changing clothes and pouring a tall glass of iced tea, she sat on her front steps to enjoy the quiet evening before trying to come up with something for dinner. A squeal of laughter drew her gaze down the street where the neighbor kids were riding their bikes. Her lips curled at the corners as she recalled a spill she’d taken on her own bike when she’d been six. Both knees were bloody scrapes, and she’d lifted her tear-soaked face to see thirteen-year-old Luke leaning over her with a concerned look, a lock of ink-black hair falling over his forehead.

“Let me help you, little one,” he said as he wrapped his hands around her arms.

Carlie couldn’t help it, she giggled, her heart turning over at the soft look in his green gaze. “Evan says I’m fat.”

“Big brothers are supposed to tease little sisters.” He brushed off her shorts then lifted her bike. “I’m sure you can find a way to get even with him. You better go in and have your mom wash those scrapes.”

He tugged her hair then jogged back over to his front yard where he’d been mowing. Carlie sighed, falling in love and vowing to marry her knight in shining armor someday.

Carlie scoffed now, thinking about what an idiot she’d been for mooning over a man for so long. She knew if she ever needed anything, all she had to do was pick up the phone and call Luke. After Evan’s death, he’d stayed with her for over a week, helped her with funeral arrangements, sleeping in Evan’s room so neither of them would have to be alone with their grief yet. And one night, he’d held her in her bed while she cried her heart out, staying with her until morning, his tall, hard body curved around hers. It had been after that night that her fantasies had taken a turn toward kink.

Then out of the blue, a month later he’d come over to tell her he’d found a place in a small town in West Virginia less than an hour’s drive from Washington and would be moving there permanently. The gleam of excitement in his eyes was something she’d never seen before. The only time since that he hadn’t seemed thrilled with his career had been at the beginning of the year when he’d returned for a brief visit.

She’d hardly seen him during that week and figured he’d spent most of his time at the Castle. Along with the jealousy eating away at her had been concern over the bleak expression in his eyes and the angry tone in his voice when she’d asked him how work was.

“I hope to God you never learn first-hand just how low some people can sink, little one.” He nudged her glasses up with one finger, saying, “You keep looking at the world out of your rose-colored glasses. There’s nothing wrong with that, regardless of what others might think.”

He had been happy during his Christmas break the month before that. He and his father, who lived in a retirement community now, invited her for dinner and Luke had appeared to be in good spirits then. She never learned what happened in the weeks following that caused the change in him, and he still refused to talk about it. With a sigh, Carlie pushed to her feet and went inside. No use sitting there pining over what could never be.

***

Oh. My. God!” With a squeal, Carlie pushed back from her computer, jumped up and did a jig around the den. “They loved it! Woo hoo! I’m going to be published!” With an exalted laugh, she scooped up her phone and pressed Jana’s number. Had it really been just three days since she told her friend she didn’t expect to hear from the publisher for weeks? “I’ve been accepted!” she sang into the phone the second Jana picked up.

“Are you freaking kidding me? I’ll be right over.” Carlie looked at her buzzing phone and shook her head. What would she have done all these years without her best friend?

Checking her wine supply, she pulled out two bottles from the small wine refrigerator that had been a birthday gift from Luke, the only other person who knew her as well as Jana. Well, maybe not quite as well as Jana did. He wasn’t aware of her interest in exploring BDSM with him as her Dom. He still told her she looked at the world through rose-colored glasses, wanting to see only the good in people. That may be true, but she’d rather do that than turn a blind eye to what was right in front of her, like he’d done with her.

Shaking her head, she shoved aside thoughts of Luke, and the urge to call him and tell him her news. The advance royalty check mentioned in her letter of acceptance took her by surprise and gave her even more to think about. Maybe it was time she gave some thought to moving away from her home town and starting over somewhere else, somewhere constant memories of her black-haired, green-eyed neighbor who would always look upon her as Evan’s little sister wouldn’t haunt her on a regular basis.

“Tell me you’ve already ordered pizza,” Jana demanded the minute she breezed inside Carlie’s house and hugged her with a squeal. “I’m so thrilled for you!”

“Thanks, Jana, and yes, I’ve ordered pizza with the works and have the wine ready to pour.” Turning to the counter, she didn’t stint filling the two glasses before handing one to Jana with a clink and a toast. “To the big check in the mail that will help me start a new chapter in my life away from Granger.”

“What? You’re thinking of leaving?” Tears filled Jana’s blue eyes and Carlie hugged her again.

“Not far, I promise.” She stepped back and sipped her wine, leaning against the counter. Two months ago, she finished her kitchen remodel, changing everything by adding a black, grey and white, multi-colored glass backsplash to the refurbished white cabinets and grey-marbled quartz countertops, as well new black-stainless-steel appliances. Her contractor had even turned a never-used closet into the walk-in pantry she’d always wanted. With the kitchen completed, her house updating projects were finished, something she’d been working on for over two years. It seemed a shame to sell it now that the house she grew up in reflected her taste and style from top to bottom, but the desire to get away, work on new memories instead of wallowing in old and longing for something, someone she would never have pulled stronger than the nostalgia of her past.

“I’m researching small towns in Pennsylvania, close to both New York and Ohio.”

“Not running off to the big city?” The relief on Jana’s face tugged at Carlie’s conscience. She would miss being able to see her friend whenever she wanted.

“No, I’m a small-town girl, just like you. You could come with me. Nursing jobs must be fairly easy to get.”

Jana shook her head as Carlie knew she would. “No. I’ve been with Dr. Sheldon for ten years and he’s been good to me. Besides, I love it here.”

Carlie snorted. “You love the Castle, you’re not fooling me.”

“That has a lot to do with it. Speaking of which.” She strolled over to Carlie’s desk and booted up her computer.

The doorbell chimed, and Carlie questioned on her way to answer it, “What’re you doing?”

“Pulling up the Castle’s application. You don’t have much time if you’re going to be on the bus with me come Friday. They’ll need a health report, among other things.”

Carlie paid for the pizza, shut the door, plopped the box that smelled so good on the counter and marched over to her desk. “I never said…”

Jana whirled on her with fire in her eyes. “No, you just tossed out you’ve gotten your big break and you’re leaving. Now it’s my turn to throw something at you. We’re going to celebrate your contract by you spending the weekend at the Castle. I read the book you’re currently working on and it’s filled with your fantasies, the same ones you’ve been having for years. If you’re serious about moving, I may never get another chance to talk you into exploring what I know you will love. Besides,” she added, throwing out her trump card, “you owe me since you’re the one leaving me here all alone.”

Okay, so that line did generate a frisson of guilt, but Carlie narrowed her eyes, took a big bite of pizza and swallowed before replying, “First, you’re never alone. You can, and have had, any guy you ever wanted, and you have a lot more friends than I do, most of them members at the Castle. Second, you’re right, it is time I explored those fantasies.” The utter shock on her friend’s face would have been comical if Carlie’s stomach hadn’t bunched into a knot of nerves, leaving her to cringe on the inside. She meant it when she said it was time she indulged in the kinks she wrote about, if for no other reason than gaining first-hand knowledge for her writing. But the mere thought of submitting to a man other than Luke left her cold. He’d been the only one she wanted for most of her life and she couldn’t see that changing before Friday, or even before she started her new life elsewhere. Still, she could suck it up and fake it for the sake of friendship and in the name of research. She hoped.

“Well, it’s about time, girlfriend. I figured we’d have to go through both bottles of wine before I talked you into agreeing. Let’s eat, then I’ll walk you through the application.”

“You’ll be there, right?”

“You bet, but after we go through orientation with the other guests, you’ll be assigned to a room and a Dom. I’ll ask for our rooms to be side by side. We can keep in touch by calling or texting each other from our rooms or the Media Room. But,” she warned with a shudder, “don’t get caught with any modern-day devices outside those two places. There’s a strict rule of keeping with the medieval time-period.”

Carlie mentally shook her head, trying not to second-guess what she’d just agreed to. Watching Jana fold her five-foot-six, slender body onto a stool at the counter as she grabbed a large slice of pizza, she envied her metabolism that allowed her to pack away those calories without gaining weight. With her blonde hair and blue eyes, she’d been turning men’s heads since her sixteenth birthday, making Carlie even more aware of her short, round figure and plain coloring. Indulging in her fetish for brightly colored framed glasses continued to be her one concession to drawing attention on herself. If she had to wear the damn things, at least she could have an array of styles and colors to choose from.

After downing her glass, she refilled it and plunked down next to Jana. “Okay, eat, drink and sign me up before I change my mind. And if I don’t like it, or my Dom, I just may take a spanker to you.”

Jana giggled. “Sorry, I don’t swing that way, but if you decide you do, I’ll introduce you…”

Carlie held up a hand. “Don’t go there. I’m having enough trouble as it is.”

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Bio for BJ Wane

I live in the Midwest with my husband and our standard poodle mix.  I love dogs, enjoy spending time with my daughter, reading and working puzzles.  We have traveled extensively throughout the states, Canada and just once overseas, but I now much prefer being homebody.  I worked for a while writing articles for a local magazine but soon found my interest in writing for myself peaking.  My first book was strictly spanking erotica, but I slowly evolved to writing erotic spanking romance with a touch of suspense.  My favorite genre to read is suspense.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3420232.B_J_Wane?from_search=true

https://www.instagram.com/bjwaneauthor/

bjwane@cox.net

http://bjwane.blogspot.com/

https://twitter.com/bj_wane

https://www.facebook.com/bj.wane

Buy Links:

https://www.amazon.com/BJ-Wane/e/B014361LC2

http://blushingbooks.com/index.php?l=product_list&m=480

Get your copy today before the price goes up!

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The Fourth in the Masters of the Castle Witness Protection Boxed Set

The new exciting addition to the Masters of the Castle boxed set, Witness Protection Program, is now live. Eight new stories by ten awesome authors, for only $.87 each. This price will not last much longer, 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, Freeing Fawn by Golden Angel!

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Chapter One

“One last job, and then your debt will be paid,” Don Lenzo said. Sitting across his massive desk from her, his presence dominated the room without even trying. Even the bodyguards who were off to the side didn’t impinge on her senses with the same kind of warning as the don himself. He smiled almost delightedly as he broke the good news, but Fawn knew his warm brown eyes were a lie, the cajoling quality of his tone a trick. While he wanted to appear a jolly Santa Claus type, he could turn cold and mean in an instant.

She’d seen it happen too many times to count, even if his icy anger and calculated violence had never been directed at her. She was careful never to provoke him, which was why she didn’t remind him that it wasn’t really her debt, it was her father’s. Unfortunately, her father was now slowly dying in a nursing home and had no way to pay his debt, so it had fallen on her.

The mob didn’t make allowances for health problems.

Her father had gotten in deep with them when she was a young girl and they’d been happy to utilize his skill as a master thief and burglar for their own purposes. Fawn had been raised to the craft as well, something she now resented her father for. All she wanted was a normal life, but that was hard to have when the mob had her on call.

One last job…

When Don Lenzo said something, he meant it. While he may be a mobster—head mobster—he was honorable about his agreements. Which meant she would finally be free.

Wariness gripped her, because by her calculations, it was unlikely she would be able to pay off the last of the money her father owed with just a single haul… unless he wanted her to steal the Hope Diamond or something. In which case she was probably fucked and going to jail so it really would be the last job, but not in a way that would benefit herself or her father.

“What’s the job?” she asked.

Don Lenzo smiled, looking almost grandfatherly. His dark brown hair was sprinkled liberally with grey and he had plenty of laugh and smile lines among his wrinkles. Which made his next words all the more disturbing, even though she knew his cheery face hid a completely ruthless personality.

He pulled a folder off of the top of a stack and set it down on the desk between them, flipping it open to reveal a photograph of an imposing dark-haired man with a soul patch on his chin. While he wasn’t bad looking, there was also something greasy looking about him. Maybe it was his hair. Still, she didn’t quite understand why she was being shown a picture of a man.

“I need you to kill him.”

She’d been automatically reaching for the photo, but at his words she snapped her fingers away and pulled back as if burned. Wide eyed with shock, she stared at him, unable to believe what she’d just heard.

“You… what?”

Still smiling – which was so incredibly creepy considering the topic of conversation – Don Lenzo leaned back, his expression almost indulgent. “I will explain. I need to send a message to this man’s boss, as he recently interfered in my business. However, this man – Mario Ricci – is very good at what he does; the men I would normally use for a job such as this haven’t been able to get close to him. I think a woman, one who is obviously not an experienced assassin, will have a better chance.

Also, as we reach the end of your debt, I want to ensure you have good reason to keep quiet about the dealings we’ve had over the years. There are many things the feds will forgive, but murder is not one of them. So. I need this man dead and I need to ensure your silence. This way, I kill two birds with one stone.”

The silent menace beneath his cheerful explanation made Fawn feel sick as she realized what he wasn’t saying.

It was this man’s life… or hers.

She should have realized leaving the mob wouldn’t be as easy as completing her jobs and then moving on to live a normal life. Anxiety and fear churned her stomach, a nauseating mix that made sweat break out on her forehead.

“Now don’t look so scared, little Fawn,” Don Lenzo said, using the nickname he’d given her long ago when her father had brought her to meetings with him. Before she knew what he was. He used to give her candy. The concern he now pretended just made her feel even sicker. “I have every faith in you.”

Flipping the folder closed, he pushed it towards her. Her hands shaking, knowing she had no choice, Fawn picked it up with nerveless fingers. Either way this was very likely going to end in her death. Running wasn’t an option – Don Lenzo would just kill her father and she couldn’t live with that on her conscience, not knowing she had a chance to save him.

“He’s a bad man, Fawn,” Don Lenzo said, his voice soft, almost cajoling. “You’ll be doing the world a favor by getting rid of him. He’s hurt a lot of people.”

Strangely, that did actually make her feel a little better – at least about the idea of killing someone. It made her feel a lot worse about her chances. But… there was a reason Don Lenzo was asking this of her. She believed him when he said the others he’d sent before hadn’t managed to get close to the man. Mob men were paranoid, but they did tend to have one weakness; they often underestimated women.

She was a thief, a very good one, not a killer but… to free herself and her father, to start her normal life and know she was safe from both her past and Don Lenzo’s own paranoia about whether or not she’d talk… she would do this. She had to.

“Where am I supposed to find him?” she asked, trying to treat this like any other job, but her voice sounding odd, as if she was hearing it from a distance. Yeah, she was definitely not okay.

“Everything’s in that folder there,” Don Lenzo said, nodding at it. “You’re going to a place called the Castle.”

***

The Castle – where ‘no’ meant yes and ‘onion’ meant no. It was an honest-to-goodness Scottish castle, moved from Scotland to the middle of Ohio, and it was every bit as impressive as it had been described to him. So was the man currently staring impassively at Dane from behind a large, mahogany desk. The Master of the Masters. Rumor had it that a subbie never left this room before being spanked. Dane believed it.

Having an FBI agent badge to flash impressed a lot of people, but not Marshall Leaf, owner of the exclusive BDSM resort known as the Castle. Dane had heard about it but never visited, although his partner Luke Montgomery actually worked here in between cases. Luke had encouraged him to visit before, but Dane had always been happy at his home club in Washington DC and hadn’t felt the need.

Now he wished he had, because convincing Master Marshall that he should be allowed on site, undercover as one of the Castle employees no less, when he’d never met the man wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Actually, it had felt a lot more like an interrogation. At one point he’d even wondered if they might be able to call the man in on some questioning sessions in the future… he’d be damn good at it.

The Castle was obviously his passion, maybe even his baby, and he was protective of it. Dane didn’t blame him for that at all, but he desperately needed onto the Castle grounds. He and Luke had been hunting the man known as Carmen ‘The Butcher’ Massino for months and they’d seen firsthand exactly how brutal the man could be. The bodies of his victims occasionally haunted Dane’s dreams, especially after he’d seen the aftermath firsthand not long ago. Marshall’s cousin Grace was now in Carmen’s sights and there was no way the man was going to leave a loose-end open.

It was the first loose-end Dane and Luke had been able to grab onto almost since they’d started chasing Carmen. Hunting him was basically a fucked up, brutal version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and the clues were guns, drugs, and bodies. His last victim in particular, Susan Mills… she’d been their witness against Carmen and finding her mutilated body had impacted both Luke and Dane deeply.

Marshall was convinced that Carmen would never make it past the Castle’s admittedly impressive security, but he also didn’t know Carmen. The man was more slippery than an eel and a master of disguise and fake identities. This was where Grace was and so this was where Carmen would be, Dane could feel it in his gut and so could Luke. And when both of them felt something, they were rarely wrong. Grace Barnes was in deadly danger and neither of them was willing to let her down. They hadn’t been able to save Susan, but they were damned if they wouldn’t be in position to save Grace.

So Dane had patiently sat through Marshall’s interrogation, answering all his questions – even the ones he knew Marshall had already thoroughly questioned Patrick Murphy, owner of the BDSM club Dane belonged to back home, about. Marshall obviously wasn’t leaving anything to chance and Dane respected that.

“All right,” Marshall said, practically growling the words. “You’ll do. Which program in the Castle do you want to join?” He looked Dane up and down with an assessing eye. “You’d make a good pirate.”

That was part of the Castle’s requirements – everyone was in costume and playing a role. Something which would suit Carmen perfectly and Dane… well, he was probably going to struggle a little. Role play had never been his strong suit, but he was willing to do whatever he needed to in order to catch his bad guy.

“I was hoping maybe I could familiarize myself with the grounds and the players before I chose,” he said, a little hesitantly.

To his relief, Marshall nodded. “That’s probably a good idea if we’re going to make sure you blend in.”

The Castle owner gave Dane a sharp look, his blue eyes like lasers, probably trying to assess just how well he was going to blend in. While he seemed resigned to having him there, he obviously wasn’t entirely comfortable with the situation, no matter what recommendation Dane brought with him or how knowledgeable he proved himself.

Fortunately for Dane, before Marshall could resume interrogating him – which seemed all too likely – there was a knock on Marshall’s door and it opened immediately. Dane was even more relieved to see Luke entering. Backup at last.

“Good to see you again, Luke,” Marshall said. “Dane and I have gotten acquainted—”  Well, that was one way to put it. “—and he’s convinced me he has enough experience he can blend in with the Masters and subs this weekend. I still don’t like it though.”

“That goes without saying,” Luke said, before glancing at Dane. He sent his partner a rueful grin to let him know he’d survived. “Welcome to the Castle, partner.”

“Thanks, I think,” Dane drawled.

“This guy would have to be Houdini to get past my security. Grace is safe here, I’d bet my reputation on it,” Marshall said, venting his obvious frustration.

Dane bit back the response on the tip of his tongue—as far as they should all be concerned, Carmen might as well be Houdini. He let Luke answer though; the long history the two had together would make his words far more meaningful than anything Dane could say.

“Don’t underestimate him,” Luke replied, his voice deepening slightly with emotion. “I did that once and showed you the results. I won’t do so again, even if it puts our friendship, and my membership here, at risk.”

Marshall’s lips tightened.

“Luke’s right.” Dane decided to speak up now, seeing the man swaying just a touch after Luke’s testimonial. “Carmen is about as bad as they come, literally no conscience.”

He could see the resignation in Marshall’s eyes as he sighed. The door opened again and all three men turned to look at the newcomers. A pretty brunette, petite and curvy and looking like she might give birth any minute, came in with the woman he immediately recognized as Grace Barnes. While Luke greeted the brunette—whom Dane quickly realized was Marshall’s pregnant wife, Kaylee—Dane took the opportunity to study Grace in person as she sat down on one of the settees.

She seemed calm, despite the situation, which was good. Nervous, but not fearful. At least not outwardly. Her head turned slightly, tracking the people talking, and if he hadn’t known she was blind he might not have guessed it immediately.

“Grace, Agents Montgomery and Morgan are here. They’re just going to introduce themselves, let you hear their voices so you’ll recognize them if need be,” Marshall said, his tone full of a gentleness he definitely hadn’t shown Dane. Marshall’s wife took a seat next to Grace and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

Luke moved first, striding to the settee and placing his hand on Grace’s shoulder. “I’m Agent Montgomery, or Master M, Grace, whichever you prefer.  I’m just one of several people who will be around to ensure you stay safe, even though the odds of Carmen finding you here are slim to none.”

Dane winced. Neither he nor Luke really believed that, but it was better if Grace remained calm and unafraid. They weren’t really worried she would let her guard down; no matter how many reassurances she was given.

“Thank you,” she said softly. “I appreciate everyone’s concern.”

Stepping forward, Dane lightly touched her hand. “And I’m Agent Morgan, or Master D, Grace. It’s nice to meet you, although I wish it were under better circumstances.”

He really did too. Even though this was their first chance at Carmen in months, he would never have willingly chosen an innocent to be drawn into the man’s web. Catching Carmen was their priority, but Dane would be damned if he allowed the woman in front of him to be hurt while they did so.

A small smile curved Grace’s lips and she tilted her head up towards him. “Thank you, both of you.”

A few minutes later they were dismissed from the Master’s office. Without the spanking the subbies got before they were allowed to leave.

***

Holy mother of cannoli, what had she gotten herself into this time?

Fawn’s head felt like it was spinning when she finally set down the folder Don Lenzo had given her. It hadn’t just provided information on her target, who was the right hand man to some guy named Carmen and presumably the man Don Lenzo wanted to send the message to, it also had a full information packet on the Castle along with her reservation to the place.

Yeah. Don Lenzo’s explanation of “it’s a specialized resort” before dismissing her from his office had been more than an understatement, it had been misleading. BDSM? Masters and submissives? Littles? Ponies? Everyone dressed up and playing a part while spending the weekend in an actual 15th century Scottish castle complete with a dungeon and gaolers? Oh, she was so in over her head.

She’d barely had time for a few one-night stands here and there during the past few years between trying to keep her own head above water, her dad in the long-term care he needed, and fulfilling the mob’s demands. Now she was supposed to go find and kill some guy who was going to be at a sex resort getting his freak on?

Even worse, some of the stuff in the brochure… well, it kind of appealed. A lot. How was she supposed to do the most harrowing job of her life when she was distracted by… all the things? The naughty, dirty, kinky, fascinating things that were already succeeding in distracting her from the fact that she was supposed to kill a man.

Or maybe there was some part of her that wanted to be distracted. That wouldn’t surprise her either.

Of course, the fact that she couldn’t even remember the last time she’d masturbated didn’t help. Just reading the brochure had made her nipples tingle and kicked her libido up… all while she was planning an honest-to-goodness assassination.

Groaning, she put her head down on her kitchen table and gently banged her forehead on the hard wood.

“I’m so fucked.”

And not in the good way that the Castle advertised.

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Freeing Fawn 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!

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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The Second New Masters of the Castle Book in the Witness Protection Boxed Set

Only 6 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, Embracing Eden by Maren Smith

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Chapter One

 

There were twenty of them—newly-hired employees all dressed in civilian clothes, lined up in equal rows of ten to either side of the hallway. Well, not a hallway, per se. More of a dead end with a closed door labeled ‘Security’ on one side and another labeled ‘Janitor Only.’ The third and last closed door was both the entrance and the exit. It also had a self-imposed guard standing sentry in front of it, one dourly-dressed Mrs. Hardwick, who was easily the tallest woman Eden had ever seen in her life and which—now that guards were involved—actually made this less of a dead end and more of a prison. That in turn put a whole new title of authority on the grim and stoic butler standing at the head of the narrow room. Grimsley was his name, Master Butler was his title and yes, it matched his 1800s Victorian uniform. He was warden over them all.

“I can be your best friend,” he started off by saying. “Just know, if you don’t do as I tell you, when I tell you, I can and will make you all wish you’d never met me.”

He was more than a little scary to Eden, and she tried hard not to look directly at him. The last thing she wanted was to find herself pinned in the cool darkness of his unfriendly stare. And yet, as he strolled between the rows, she couldn’t stop herself. She stole a peek—looking up and up and up. God, he was so tall. By more than a foot, he towered over her, a man not yet past his physical prime, with just a hint of salt sprinkled through the pepper of his dark hair. Forced to guess, she’d have said he was in his late forties. And he was lean, trim. So incredibly slender and wiry that it was a wonder he did not live in perpetual terror of a good, stiff breeze.

“I have zero patience for nonsense,” Grimsley said, capturing her wandering attention even as he passed in front of her. “Nor do I have a sense of humor.”

The coolness of his stare found her and damn if her knees didn’t try to buckle. In her nervousness, she tried to smile. And because she did stupid things when she got nervous, she almost waved at him too, except his frown chose that moment to deepen, quelling the urge.

As if he were speaking directly to her, he said, “Give me twenty-four hours and I promise, you will come to hate having me as your boss.”

Eden believed him. Her knees believed him too; they tried to buckle again, but she stiffened herself. Scary as he was, she was a Little Maid now and she was excited. How could anyone not be? She’d been hired by the Castle! A BDSM resort the likes of which her imagination could scarcely comprehend! She’d been pinching herself ever since she got the callback letting her know the job was hers and she could start on Thursday. This Thursday. Today’s Thursday. She squirmed, every nerve dancing with the thrill of just standing here, even if her new boss did look like a slightly older version of the evil butler in Downton Abbey. From the starch of his collar, to the shine of his black shoes, and all the way back up again to the way his big hands clasped the lithesome rattan switch behind his back—the Castle could not have picked a better man to play the part of ‘stern, unyielding butler.’

Oh, yes. Eden believed him.

The lady to the right of her, however, snorted. She immediately rolled her lips, but wasn’t quite successful in muffling her rude laughter.

Startled, Eden looked at her.

So did Grimsley. Having almost returned to the head of the room, he came straight back to them. He stopped directly in front of both the woman and Eden. His gaze did not warm, and he absolutely did not smile.

Gradually, the woman beside Eden lost all trace of rude amusement. She rolled her lips again, but her unease became palpable the longer he stood there. Was he waiting for something? To Eden it looked like he was waiting.

“What?” the woman finally said, when it became clear he might intend to stand there forever if something didn’t happen.

Frowning, as if his silence had been a test and the woman had just failed it, the Master Butler turned away. “Mrs. Hardwick,” he said, summoning the tall woman from her sentry post at the main entrance.

The crisp echo of that tall woman’s shoes as she came down the aisle to join them made all the fine hairs on Eden’s arms stand upright. “Yes, Mr. Grimsley.”

“Terminate this woman’s employment and see her removed from the premises.”

Jaw dropping, the woman gasped. “What? Are you serious?”

“Come along, dear.” Taking her by the arm, Mrs. Hardwick pulled her out of line, despite the instant show of resistance the other woman made when she dug in her heels.

“Now wait just one minute!” The woman’s brow furrowed, her shock giving way to anger. “You can’t do that! I didn’t do anything!”

“Come along, dear,” Mrs. Hardwick said. “You signed the paperwork. You know we have the right to revoke your employment at any time, for any reason, during your probationary period.”

“But this isn’t fair! I didn’t do anything!”

“Next time, don’t laugh.” Mrs. Hardwick escorted her from the dead end hallway, and the door softly closed on the other’s continuing protests, growing softer the farther they receded.

Grimsley cleared his throat.

Snapping her eyes from the now closed door, Eden found herself once more pinned in the stone of the Master Butler’s stare. He was standing so close to her, right in her bubble of private space. Him and that switch, the one still clasped behind his back. Her bottom clenched, an involuntary squeeze that had never in the history of domestic discipline ever succeeded in making the target area of anyone’s behind smaller or safer from harm.

Eden held his unyielding stare, determined not to look away. Or fidget. Fidgeting would be worse. She wanted this job. She’d wanted it from the moment she’d learned a place like the Castle existed. To be able to live openly as a submissive, in just about any fantasy scenario that she could dream up, constantly surrounded by other submissives and experienced, knowledgeable, take-no-sass Masters (just like this one; be still her beat-skipping heart), Eden just could not imagine life getting any better than that.

She couldn’t bear to lose it now; not to a momentary slip of inattention.

“I’m so very sorry, Sir,” she blurted, fingers twisting in the folds of her jeans. Locking her attention on him, she was determined to keep it there from now until he dismissed them… if he didn’t fire her first.

Grimsley tipped his head. “For what are you sorry?”

Eden’s chest felt too small, too tightly constricted. Her heart was struggling to find its rhythm. “Because I got distracted. It won’t happen again.”

“Won’t it?”

Eden couldn’t tell if she was supposed to answer or not, so she kept her mouth shut. She didn’t relax until Grimsley turned away.

Addressing the rest of the group now, he continued with their orientation. “You are not guests. You aren’t here on vacation. When you misbehave, break the rules, defy my commands, or brat me, I won’t put you over my knee and spank your naughty bottoms.”

Just the thought of it sent a peculiar fizzling sensation, like soda pop, spreading under her skin, out all across Eden’s backside. It was all she could do not to rub, if only to stop that distracting feeling from spreading any further.

“I am your supervisor. For the next ninety days, it is my job to make sure you learn what you need to know in order to work here in a safe, sane and responsible manner. If you fail to follow protocols and procedures, I will fire you. Act like a troublemaker and I will treat you like one—meaning, you’ll be gone. Annoy me and don’t bother re-applying. I will have you banned for life. Raise your hand if you are at all confused about what I’ve just said.” Grimsley put one hand in the air, but no one else moved.

“Splendid,” he said, and Eden could all but hear this chapter in their orientation process closing. In the silence that followed, it was as loud as the slam of a metal gate. Strolling up the hallway, he opened the door Mrs. Hardwick had exited through some moments before. Though she had not yet returned, when Grimsley stepped aside, four men and two women filed in around him. “Show of hands, who are my Masters-in-training?”

Four of the nine men raised their hands.

Without being asked, one of the men who had just entered stepped forward and Grimsley introduced him. “This is Master Brody, he oversees the Stables here on the Castle grounds. This is where you will start your training. You will answer to him, he will answer to me, and whether you advance your training by proceeding to a different program later on will depend entirely upon how well you apply yourself to this one. I should think it goes without saying that mistreatment of any Pony in our Stable, or any submissive anywhere on the property, is grounds for immediate dismissal.”

“Dismissal nothing,” Brody growled. “I’ll fucking skin you alive.”

Brody beckoned, the Masters-in-training followed, and Grimsley summoned the next group. “Who are my Mistresses?”

Several women raised their hands, coming forward when he beckoned and gestured to a very submissive looking woman in a drab grey, head-to-toe maid’s uniform. Her head was bowed, her hands clasped loosely before her.

“Mrs. Hardwick will be responsible for your training, but as she is busy with another matter at the moment, Miss Evelyn will show you to your rooms and then to Wardrobe. Again, you will answer to Mrs. Hardwick, who will answer to me, and whether you continue to work here or not will depend on how studiously you apply yourself to learning how we operate and how well you treat those around you. We haven’t much patience for those with queenly attitudes.” Turning to the silently waiting submissive, he said, “Evelyn.”

“Please follow me,” the maid said. She led them away, leaving twelve people including Eden behind with Grimsley, three other men and a woman.

“Submissives?” Grimsley asked, raising his hand.

Eden’s hand was in the air before the thought fully occurred to her that, being as the dominants were already out of the room, who but the submissives could be left? She startled when she looked left to find the two people standing there were the only new-hires who had not raised their hands.

Eden was still trying to puzzle through what came after Dominant and submissive—switch, maybe; did that deserve its own course of training?—when she heard Grimsley clearing his throat. The harshness of the sound was heavy with disapproval. When exactly the Master Butler had come back down the hallway, she didn’t know, but once more he was planted directly in front of her, frowning that dark and dangerous scowl. The tip of his rattan switch could be seen, bobbing out a silent warning behind his back as he adjusted his grip on it.

She swallowed hard. “Sorry.”

He tipped his head, studying her with the kind of intensity no submissive wanted from any Dominant.

“One more time,” he said slowly, “for the hearing impaired.” He pointed and, following the direction of his finger, she realized she was the only submissive still in the hallway. Everyone else was gathered just outside the now open door with the last newly-arrived woman assigned to be their escort.

Dressed in an overtly sexy French maid outfit, the woman stared at Eden as if she’d lost her mind. Just inside the door were the three remaining men. The burliest stood with arms folded across his bulging chest and the black t-shirt that declared him to be ‘Chief of Security.’ His eyebrows arched as he waited for her to get her act together. The shortest of the men had his hand clapped over his eyes. He was laughing at her. And the third… oh, hell, the third was Master Marshall himself. She recognized him from the Castle’s online brochure.

Oh crap, and she’d just missed her cue. Again.

“I swear, girl…” Grimsley growled, snapping Eden’s attention back to him. She clung to her own fingers, her knees shaking, her stomach dropping all the way to her toes.

The Master Butler directed her gaze to his, pointing at his own eyes and the growing impatience snapping in the dark brown depths. “Focus,” he warned, then pointed toward the other submissives. “Go.”

Blushing furiously, positive the moment she turned her back he was going to swat her with that switch, Eden nevertheless reached the others unscathed.

“This way,” the woman said, beckoning her to join them in the outer hallway.

“She’s going to be fun,” the chuckling Master said.

As the door was closing behind her, she heard Grimsley answer, “She’s not going to last the probationary period, I guarantee you that.”

As the door bumped shut, Eden’s heart sank. She wanted to cover her burning face with both hands. What was wrong with her sometimes? Why did she let herself get distracted like that? Instead of impressing her new employers, she’d left them with the impression that she was a bubblehead, at best, and at worst, an idiot. Either way, the only impression she’d left on the Master Butler was to get rid of her!

She had to make amends. She had to apologize and somehow make him believe she was serious about being here. Otherwise, all she could see was herself spending whatever time she had left here making mistakes under Grimsley’s microscope. The very next one could send her home, too. Oh, the pressure!

“Miss?”

Jumping, Eden found herself once more standing alone. The Little Maid who’d been charged with the submissive group had relocated everyone farther up the main hallway. The rest of the group was gone, presumably they’d filed through the door she was now holding open while she was waiting for Eden.

“Are you coming?”

“I have to use the bathroom,” Eden said quite truthfully. That always happened when she got into trouble. It was like her bladder lost all track of itself the second she got scolded.

“Oh.” Half turning, the Little Maid pointed further up the hall. “Go all the way to the corner and take a right. The nearest guest bathrooms are across from the Medical Play offices. But then you have to come right back here, okay? Otherwise I’ll be in trouble, too, and you know how everyone says the bark is worse than the bite? Yeah, well, anyone who says that hasn’t felt Master Grimsley’s switch. I guarantee his ‘bite’ is ten times worse than his bark ever could be. Trust me.”

Tucking a hand behind her, the woman indulged in a remembered rub before disappearing into the conference room along with the rest of the submissives. Eden was left alone in the hallway, caught between a reluctance to put herself in any position where she might have to find out exactly how that felt and the most perplexing submissive curiosity to do just that.

No. She recoiled, actually shaking her head at herself. No, the last thing she wanted was rouse that man’s ire any further than she already had. She wasn’t a bad girl. She wasn’t a brat, and she got no pleasure out of getting in trouble for real. Fake trouble, that was something else. Fun ‘punishments’ that mimicked the real thing but with erotic undertones, those were far more her speed, and that was not this.

That was not anything associated with Master Grimsley.

Following the other woman’s directions, Eden made her way to the bathroom. She found the medical rooms first. Soft whimpering sounds let her know at least one of those offices was in use, but she managed to sneak into the bathroom without encountering anyone. They hadn’t got as far through the orientation process as picking up their uniforms in Wardrobe. Although that was probably coming up next, considering how Mrs. Hardwick had made a point of saying it was against Castle rules to be caught anywhere on the grounds in civilian clothes, and also considering how she was already in trouble, the last thing Eden wanted was to break any more rules.

Fortunately, she didn’t spot anyone hanging out in or around the bathroom. Most importantly, nobody spotted her either, and soon she was hurrying right back to her point of indecision, caught between two doors—one of which took her back to her group, and the other sealing her out of that dead-end area where Grimsley and the other Masters were still talking to the two people who didn’t qualify either as dominants or submissives. Although she couldn’t hear what was being said, the low exchange of masculine voices could easily be heard. Her hand on the door latch, Eden was about to rejoin the other submissives when the errant thought popped into her head: If Grimsley was still with them, maybe she ought to wait for him to come out so she could apologize. It couldn’t hurt to try, right? She really, really wanted this job. If she could make him understand that, then at the very least a promise to do better might help her wriggle back into his good graces.

Which might not happen if he caught her away from the rest of her group, but which absolutely would not happen if he wasn’t even still a part of Master Marshall’s private meeting.

Tiptoeing to the door, not wanting to disturb whatever the Masters were doing on the other side, Eden very quietly cracked open the door and stole a quick peek.

“You’ll need a master keycard,” Marshall was saying as he handed one to each of the new-hires. “With this, you’ll have access to every part of the Castle, including the guest rooms. Although, frankly, while I understand the importance, I still have a problem with that. We’ve got you in the Little Maids program, which gives you the best chance of slipping in and out with the rest of the cleaning staff without attracting too much attention, but badges must be kept hidden. I cannot emphasize enough how disruptive it would be if anyone found out I have police snooping through the Castle in search of a killer.”

Eden’s whole body sparked, icy shock zipping up her spine and down the backs of her tensing legs. Killer? What killer?

“What about the dog?” the man asked.

“I have made allowances for service animals in the past,” Marshall said slowly. “We occasionally get guests suffering from PTSD, seizures, or a few other impairments.”

The man and woman—police officers both—looked at one another, then back at Marshall.

“Well,” the woman said wryly. “I can’t be blind, but I am wearing a hearing aid.”

“For security and insurance purposes, I’ll need to provide you with an escort.”

“Uh,” the male officer spoke up. “No offense to your Master Jackson—”

“None taken,” the burly chief of security said from mere feet in front of Eden’s door. The fine hairs up her arms and across the back of her neck raised all over again.

“—but we’re not going to be undercover for very long if we’re seen going in and out of rooms with someone with ‘security’ emblazoned across their chest.”

“No, I realize that,” Master Marshall said. “It’ll have to be someone who won’t readily be identified by our regulars. And then, of course, there’s the problem of my being seen with you. Everyone who comes here, first time or not, knows my face. Plus, no offense, but I have a business to run. I have appointed Master Eric as the liaison between you and myself, not to mention the other officers who have been arriving all morning long.”

“Other officers?” The woman snapped a look to her partner.

“Yes,” Marshall drawled, his tone clearly stating he wasn’t happy about it, either. “Master Grimsley heads the Little Maids program, so he will be your direct connection to the Castle. If there is anything you need, please do not hesitate to ask either him or Eric. If it is within our power to do so, I have made it clear they are to accommodate all requests.”

Struggling to digest the shocking information she’d just overheard, Eden cracked the door a little further, but accidentally bumped into something solid. Shit, Jackson. But no, a Master she assumed to be Eric popped his head out from behind the door and looked  at her through the crack. It was a toss-up which of them was more startled, but then the latch ripped out of her hand and regardless of what her intentions had been at the start of this, all hell broke loose.

“Well, look what I just caught,” Master Eric announced.

Eden tried to run but his heavy hand clamped onto the back of her neck, yanking her into the room and the uncomfortable spotlight of everyone now frowning at her—the police, Marshall, and of course, the Master Butler, who looked furious.

She was done. There was no apologizing for this, especially after Grimsley caught her by the ear, hauling her onto her tiptoes as he took her away from Eric.

“I’ll take care of this,” he said. Eden believed him now too; his expression thunderous, he looked even scarier than before.

“Wait,” Marshall said, before even she could.

Grimsley stopped, one hand on the door and the other tightening its grip on her ear. She could feel the tension in him. It was almost as sharp and painful as his twisting hold.

“Ow, ow, ow,” she whispered, coming up as high as her tiptoes would allow. She caught his wrist, but his grip did not relax. Neither the one on her ear, nor the one holding fast to both the door latch and his lethal-looking switch. She saw it from the corner of her eye when his thumb stroked about an inch above the rim of the leather-wrapped handle, a caress of anticipation, but she wasn’t anywhere near as afraid of that as she was of being fired. Especially since she wasn’t a snoop. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop; she’d meant to apologize!

Fat chance anyone would believe her now, though. She wanted to cry.

“We can’t fire her.” Marshall rubbed his eyes and sighed.

“Watch me,” Grimsley returned, but the burly chief of security stopped him.

“No, he’s right,” Jackson said.

“The minute she steps foot off Castle grounds, we’ll have no way of keeping this quiet. Word of this will spread through Granger like a draught fire. Then the first incoming tour bus will bring it right back here. If Carmen is here, not only will he know we’ve got undercover cops in the Castle, but all our guests and future guests would too.”

“There goes our billing as a safe place to explore BDSM,” Jackson agreed.

“There goes our billing as a safe anything,” Marshall replied. “What do you want to bet the first review that gets posted will be a demand to know why we were open and operating with a potential assassin in our midst?”

“We only just got here and already our investigation is shot to shit,” the frowning male officer muttered, folding his arms across his chest and glaring at her.

“We could arrest her,” the female suggested. “We can’t hold her indefinitely, but it could give us a few days. Unless you want to press charges, but I don’t think there’s anything you can get her for that she won’t immediately bond out of. So, then you’re back to not keeping this quiet.”

Eden was hurt. “I won’t say anything. I-I didn’t mean to—”

Grimsley twisted her ear, bringing her dancing that much higher onto her toes. “I,” he growled, “have had enough of you.”

“Wait,” Marshall said again. Frowning at her, he shot the two officers the same dark, considering glare, then looked at the floor, and finally, he looked back at her. “She’s been through Orientation.”

With slow reluctance, Grimsley answered, “Yes.” His hold on her did not gentle.

“So she’s signed the confidentiality clause. She can’t legally talk about anything she’s seen or heard anywhere on Castle grounds.” Marshall glanced at Eric.

“That’s no guarantee,” Jackson scoffed.

“No kidding,” Eric agreed. “She’s listening at keyholes. Her morals are already questionable. You really think the threat of legal action will be enough to hold her to what she signed?”

“But I won’t—” she protested.

“Silence,” Grimsley hushed, glaring at her.

“But—”

He turned on her with such warning in his dark stare that Eden promptly shut her mouth. “I am not going to tell you again,” he said, dangerously soft.

As if she wasn’t there at all, Marshall turned to Eric. “Did you or did you not just get done telling me you wanted no part of babysitting the bomb-sniffers?”

Eden startled all over again. “Bomb?” It had to be the only word in the whole of the English language capable of making her forget Grimsley’s warning. At least until he shifted his grip from her ear to the back of her neck. Spinning her bodily around, he put her nose to the wall.

The back of her neck crawled when he stepped right up into her bubble of personal space. Her back, shoulders, hips… bottom, all the pertinent parts of her were suddenly bumped right up against him as he growled, “Did I tell you to hush?”

Eden swallowed hard. She’d been caught doing something she hadn’t really meant to do. It wasn’t fun or funny, and yet from the moment he stepped right up to her body and the hard press of him bumped into her back, a hum of awareness began to tickle through her insides. Her nipples tightened. A single, languid thump pulsed all the way down through her womb and into the crease between her thighs. The heat of his exhaling breath steamed the side of her neck and Eden shivered all over.

“The Daddies are talking, pumpkin,” Master Eric added, and then to Marshall, said, “Yes, I definitely told you that.”

“We don’t need babysitters,” the female officer snapped. “It’s not the first time we’ve been undercover, either.”

“It’s your first time here,” Marshall dryly replied, before turning his attention back to Eric. “Rather than recruit yet another person we’ll have to tell, why not take advantage of the volunteer who already knows? If she violates the confidentiality clause—”

“I won’t viol—” Eden jolted back onto her toes when Grimsley swatted her. Her face burned, her bottom stung in a perfect duplication everywhere his open hand had touched her, and Marshall continued as if he’d never been interrupted.

“If she violates the clause while she’s working here, we’ll have a far easier chance of tracing it back to her. Whereas, we haven’t a prayer if she’s out wandering around Granger. A guest is far more likely to help us prosecute her than anyone in that town.”

It was painful how little they thought of her. Even knowing she’d given them no reason to think any better, it still stung. She couldn’t even contradict them because the second her mouth opened, Grimsley pushed her so close to the wall that the tip of her nose touched the stone. How mortifying. How humbling. How weirdly arousing, too, especially where her bottom still stung. He didn’t let go once she was in place, either. Instead, Grimsley held her like a recalcitrant, unrepentant toddler, who had to be forced to accept the consequences of her misbehavior.

And that was after he’d swatted her, which instantly threw this whole situation into the realm of the surreal. Not only was this the worst first day of any job she’d ever had, but she could also now check getting spanked by the boss off her fantasy bucket list.

“All right, then,” Marshall decided. “You’ll need to get to Wardrobe so you can blend in. You’ve got your room assignments, yes?”

“Yes,” the male officer said.

“Splendid. Then from now on, consider Eden your own personal escort. Do what you feel you need to, search anywhere and everywhere, but I ask that she be with you if you enter any employee’s or guest’s private rooms. If you fail to honor my request then I will have you both removed from the premises.”

The female officer opened her mouth, but the male silenced her with a motion of his hand. “You’re the boss,” he acknowledged. Taking his partner’s arm, he escorted her from the room, with Eric following not far behind.

Grimsley kept his hand on the back of Eden’s neck until she heard the door bump softly closed again. She was now alone in a room with three Masters and no other witnesses. Eventually, the Master Butler released her and stepped back. The fine hairs prickling across the nape of her neck, she made herself turn and face them.

“I don’t like not being able to trust the people around me,” Marshall told her.

Frustration exploding, Eden almost threw her hands up. “But I wasn’t trying to spy,” leapt right to the tip of her tongue, only to die there without being spoken. Because it didn’t matter what she’d meant to do; meant or not, spying was what had happened, and now they all thought she was horrible. In their place, she’d have thought so too. Her shoulders slumped.

“I’m giving you a second chance.” Marshall caught her shoulder, giving it a squeeze that was at once both reassuring and re-enforcing for the warning he added when he said, “Don’t make me regret this decision.” He looked to Grimsley. “She’s all yours.”

Security Chief Jackson followed Marshall as far as the door. Pausing at the threshold, he glanced back long enough to ask, “I suppose I could take care of this if you’d really rather not. I know you’re busy.”

“Yes, I am.”

Fizzling cold sank through Eden’s chest, squeezing in around her lungs and making it very hard to breathe as she looked up into the Master Butler’s face. His dark eyes were unforgiving; his expression closed.

“I’m very busy,” he said, the edges tight with anger. And yet, very little of that anger made it into his voice when he said, “Thank you for the offer, but I have every intention of handling this matter myself. And trust me when I say, little Eden and I are about to have a thorough conversation.”

Oh—her fluttering heart actually skipped a beat—crap.

 

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Embracing Eden 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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The First New Masters of the Castle Book in the Witness Protection Boxed Set

Only 7 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, Taming Terri by Rayanna Jamison and Allysa Hart.

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Chapter One

Throwing the ball as hard as she could, Terri O’Connell watched with a smile as her K-9 companion Champ leapt to his feet and took off in chase of it. It was their day off and starting the morning with exercise was not her preference, but Champ needed it, and if she was honest with herself, she could stand to shed a pound or two. Her cell phone chimed in her pocket, and she smiled to herself. The obnoxious ringtone was the one she reserved for Nick. Nicholas Caruso was her partner and best friend. At the station, he was the one man who treated her like she deserved to be part of their unit, and she loved him for it.

She looked at the message and froze, frowning in confusion. Why would the captain need to see me on my day off? Dread filled her stomach as she went over every mistake she had ever made at work, which was a short list, if you could even call it a list. Champ nudged her hand with the tip of his wet nose.

“Sorry, boy, playtime is over. We’ve got to go see the boss.”

Champ groaned, and she laughed. Either he had perfect timing or he understood every word she said to him. She believed the latter, but Nick always teased her about it, so she kept the conversations with her pup to a minimum when he was around.

The two jogged to the car and headed home to freshen up. Terri needed to look her best to face the captain, plus she wasn’t a fan of Nick seeing her out of sorts either.

***

“You wanted to see us, sir?” Terri asked, more timidly than she planned. Why did this man intimidate her so much? Captain Blackwell of the Garfield Heights Police Department wasn’t mean, but no one would call him friendly either. He was all business and built like a brick wall. At 6’4”, he dwarfed all of the officers in the precinct.

“Where’s Nick?” The captain ignored the question, looking past her for her partner. She tried not to let it annoy her too much. It made sense that whatever it was, he would want to speak to them both at once, but the slight felt like the same blatant sexism she dealt with daily.

“I’m here, Cap.” She jumped at the sound of Nick’s voice and held back the urge to elbow him in the gut. He loved to make her jump, even kept score.

“Seventy-one,” he whispered as he slipped between her and the door to take a seat across the desk from their boss. He set his coffee mug down in front of him and her purple travel cup in front of the other empty seat. Terri sighed. At least he had a few redeeming qualities. Champ stayed by her side and sat when she sat. She absentmindedly reached her hand out to rest on his head. His presence kept her calm and helped her focus. She couldn’t imagine life without him.

“I’ve got an assignment from Granger for the three of you,” the captain announced, setting a file in front of them. Granger was a small town, about thirty minutes south of Garfield Heights. The precinct there did not have the resources to employ their own K-9 unit.  “Grace Barnes. She is the key witness in a high priority case involving the assassination of Denton Walding. Harvey Cabena and Winston Ollington were the only two other witnesses, and they have since been killed. Apprehending Carmen “The Butcher” Massino is imperative to ensuring the safety of the only remaining witness. Ms. Barnes is currently hiding out near Granger.” He pulled an information packet out of the back of the file folder and set it on top.

Terri reached out and took it, staring at the photo of the stone castle on the front. It didn’t seem like the most inconspicuous place to hide out, but it was definitely an impressive piece of architecture.

“What is this place?” she asked thumbing through the papers, just as Nick hissed through his teeth beside her.

“It’s a sex resort of some sort. Dungeons, whips, and chains. All that kinky shit.”

Her mouth dropped open in surprise, and she stumbled to gather her thoughts, but her next question had gone right out of her head as soon as Captain Blackwell said whips and chains.

“Why would Ms. Barnes hide there?” Nick recovered more quickly than she and took over the line of questions. She eyed him incredulously, waiting for her knight in faded blue denim to take over and protest, to tell Cap where to shove it and that they were absolutely not about to go undercover at some sort of kinky sex resort. No way, no how. To her utter horror, Nick did nothing of the sort. He didn’t even look the tiniest bit upset or apprehensive about the assignment as he waited for the captain to answer.

“The resort, if that’s what we are calling it, is owned by Grace’s cousin, Marshall Leaf. He seems to think he can protect her better than witness protection, so here we are, giving up our own officers to cover their asses.”

Incredulous, Terri spaced out and stopped listening to the conversation. This had to be some sort of nightmare. Nick loved to prank her. Had he somehow gotten the captain to go along with this epic falsehood and help him? That had to be it, didn’t it? It had to be, because a kinky BDSM sex resort in rural Ohio… That couldn’t be a real thing… could it? How? Weren’t there laws against this kind of thing?

“Earth to T,” Nick whispered, nudging her arm.

“Sorry, I just can’t even believe this is for real.”

“Believe it, O’Connell,” the captain blustered, smirking at her in a way that made her sick to her stomach. “The district attorney wants the bomb squad present, but Leaf will only allow it if you remain inconspicuous as to not interfere with the other guests. You, Nick, and Champ need to get in there and blend in somehow. I don’t care how and, quite frankly, I would rather not know, but your mission is to keep the girl safe. Leaf will give you access to the entire building. Your job is to make sure that no outside weapons enter the premises. With vacationers coming and going every day, Champ is going to be very busy, and you two need to stay on top of it all.”

“Champ can handle it,” Terri assured, reaching down to give her buddy a scratch behind the ears without taking her eyes off the paperwork in front of her.

“It’s not Champ I’m worried about; it’s the two of you. You especially. Don’t mess this up, O’Connell.”

Irritated at the unfair attitude, she glanced at Nick again, waiting for him to stick up for her like he usually did. Nick didn’t so much as send a sympathetic glance in her direction as his attention bounced between the captain and the info packet sitting in his lap. She scowled. What was with him today?

“How are we supposed to blend in? We know nothing about a place like this, and a dog is not exactly inconspicuous,” Nick questioned, staring intently at the captain.

“Damned if I know,” the captain bristled. “That’s your job.” He turned away from them, looking as if he was already finished with the conversation. “Fill out the paperwork and fax it to Leaf tonight,” he instructed, gesturing to the file folder in Nick’s lap, “and then be ready to leave tomorrow morning.” With that, Captain Blackwell nodded smartly and exited the room, yelling across the station as he left. Terri turned to Nick and pinned him with an accusatory glare. How could he possibly be this calm? Going along with this ridiculous assignment like it wasn’t the most asinine offensive job that they had ever been handed. “What the hell, Nick?”

Nick just shrugged, tapping the thick folder against his leg as he sipped his coffee. “Looks like we better get reading. We have less than twenty-four hours to come up with a plan.”

***

“What on God’s green earth are you laughing at?” Terri demanded, stomping over to him with her hands on her hips. “There is nothing funny about any of this. It’s serious.”

He held back a chuckle. This was precisely the reason he hadn’t tried to introduce her to kink when they were dating. He had known exactly how she would take it. But this wasn’t their love life, this was a job, and he was going to enjoy it. If he happened to change her mind in the process, that would just be the proverbial icing on the cake. Either way, vacationing at the Castle had been a dream of his for many years. He hadn’t ever thought he would be visiting there under these circumstances, but he would take what he could get.

“You aren’t acting very submissive,” he teased with a wink. “Might want to work on that.”

“Oh my God, I hate you so much right now.” Her cheeks tinged red, and her eyes sparkled with emotion, but he couldn’t tell if it was embarrassment or anger. “I’m not a doormat. How am I supposed to act like one?”

Sighing at her misconception, Nick clicked his tongue against his teeth and shook his head. He had been mid-daydream about her bent over a spanking bench in the dungeon two minutes ago, but with the way she was acting, and her reaction to the situation, a daydream was as far as he was gonna get, it seemed. “You need to do some research. You’re making assumptions, and something like that could blow our whole cover.”

Terri wasn’t ready to listen to reason. “Why else would someone bow to a man? If I would have known exactly what Cap was sending us into I would have told him to shove it.”

“Sure you would have.” He rolled his eyes. Terri put up with a lot in order to prove her worth to Cap and the other guys at the station. It pissed him off because she was worth more than several of them put together. “It’s only pretend, T,” he spoke evenly, reminding himself as well as her. “It’s a job, and Champ and I will be with you the whole time.”

She fell heavily into the chair across from him and huffed. He bit back a smile. He wasn’t stupid enough to tell her, but she looked adorable when she pouted. “This is not what I signed up for, Nick.”

Her obvious reluctance and disdain for the Castle and the assignment as a whole irked him. “Knock it off. This is exactly what we signed on for, and you know it, T. Think of it this way, once this is over and that woman is safe, you will be proud of yourself, and you will earn more respect from the asshats at work.”

Her head rocked back against the chair with all of the dramatic flair of a spoiled teenager. “Fine-uh. But there is no way in hell we are going to participate in any of that shit.” She sat up and glared at him. There was something in her eyes that gave him the smallest glimmer of hope. Defiance, but there was something else, a hint of a challenge maybe? Nick suppressed a smirk. He wasn’t one to back down from a challenge, no matter how small.

“You better be a good girl then, because I’m not going to let you make me look bad.”

Her eyes widened, and her throat quivered as she tried not to gulp at the implication of his words. She stared at him in silence for a full minute before she recovered. When she did, her eyes narrowed into tiny slits, and her lips pursed in anger. “That’s enough out of you!” she sputtered. “How do you know so much about this crap anyway?”

He hesitated for a split second, wondering how much to reveal. He needed her to go on this job with him, so honesty was the only choice he saw. He shrugged nonchalantly and gave her a guilty-looking half smile. “Well, I was a teenage boy at one time, and between my hormones and technical skills it wasn’t impossible to find things on the internet.”

“Back during the time of dial-up?” She squealed, her voice making the sounds of a computer connecting to the web.

“Yes, brat, dial-up and no Wi-Fi. Can you imagine?”

He was only a few years older than her, but she never let him forget it.

“The horror!” Her sass and smile were back as she dramatically threw the back of her hand across her forehead and let her head fall against the back of the chair again.

“Enough dramatics, brat. You need to look at all this stuff with me and answer these questions so I can send it to Leaf.”

Her cheeks puffed out, and her lips curled in disgust. Her eyes couldn’t have rolled any farther back into her head if she tried. “I really couldn’t care less. It’s all Greek to me. You fill it out, and I will just play my part.”

“That’s not how this works. I need a little cooperation at least,” he growled.

“How about I make you some of your favorite pizza, and you just take care of it?” She clasped her hands in her lap and tilted her head. It was the sexy-as-fuck batting of her eyelashes that did him in.

“Oh, now you’re playing dirty.” He shook his head. It wouldn’t be too difficult to fill it out for her. He knew her well enough to answer most of the information. The rest he could match to his answers. “Fine, but if there isn’t extra cheese and pineapple, we will be having a practice spanking session right after dinner,” he teased, only half joking.

“Try it,” she murmured with what was an obvious dare. “I will kick you in the balls.”

He knew her well enough to know that she probably would and wanted her enough that he just might risk it, he mused to himself, watching as she stomped to the refrigerator and started throwing ingredients onto the counter.

He laughed out loud. “Don’t tempt me,” he countered, just to watch her squirm before turning his attention back to the paperwork in question. He finished the second page and started on the third, when she cursed loudly, interrupting him. “Fuck!”

He looked up to see her rummaging in the cupboard, obviously agitated. “What’s wrong?”

She slammed the door closed and turned, pinning him with an accusing glare. “I’m out of pineapple.”

A loud burst of laughter escaped from him before he could stop it. “Wait, where are you going?” he asked as she stomped by him.

She looked all kinds of pissed as she tugged her purse off the hook on the wall. “To get some damn pineapple, where the hell do you think?”

“You know you really should clean up your language,” he advised with a smirk. “The other subbies are going to think I’m soft.” The look she gave him told him she couldn’t give a damn about what he or anyone else at the Castle thought. “Put your purse down. I’ll go pick up some pineapple.” He couldn’t hold back his laughter as he walked by and kissed her on the head on his way out the door.

She glared at him. “I hate when you do that.”

“I know.” He winked and walked out to his car, still chuckling over the damn pineapple as he turned the key in the ignition and backed out of her driveway, lost in thought.

The way he was feeling right now, this weekend would either be pure magic or pure hell. He could expect one thing and hope for the other, but what he couldn’t do any longer was deny the fact that he was in love with her. The writing had been on the wall for a while now. They had dated on and off over the years, but he had never been able to bring himself to fully admit his feelings or let his bedroom proclivities be known. Ultimately, his secret had probably been the catalyst that tore them apart, but they had remained friends, growing closer as time went on.

Nick sighed heavily as he pulled into the small grocery store in the center of town. It was time to fish or cut bait. If he didn’t fess up, she would move on and find somebody else. It would kill him.

He thought about the Castle and all of the possibilities it opened up. If he was ever going to show the real him, that would be the place to do it. Besides, she knew him well. His dominance wouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, would it? He sat in the car for a moment before entering the store, pondering the dynamics of their relationship. She definitely defaulted to him when they weren’t at work. She seemed to have an innate need to serve and please those around her. It was evident in the little things she often did, like making his favorite pizza or bringing him leftovers after she ‘cooked too much for herself.’ She made too much on purpose, but he would never complain or even point out how often she did it.

In turn, he loved taking care of her. Bringing her coffee when she dragged her butt into work in the morning, buying her lunch when she refused to eat because of some new fad diet she was trying. He loathed her diets. No matter how many times he reassured her, her self-image was terrible, and she was constantly on some kick about ‘shedding a few pounds.’

Huffing to himself, he got out of the car and strode into the store. “Just for that, I’m also buying dessert,” he mumbled to himself.

She could not resist pistachio ice cream, especially if they had it in her favorite brand. He walked down the aisles grabbing what he needed and then headed to the beer cooler. How could he fully enjoy his special pizza without beer?

He got in line to pay and his cell phone chimed. He looked at the screen and chuckled. It was a text from Terri.

I’m locking the door and not letting you in unless you have ice cream and beer.

I have a key.

I will burn your pizza!

Calm down, brat. I’m already in line. You will have to deal with what I got.

Just remember, your pizza’s life is on the line.

He shook his head and pocketed the phone. He loved her fire and sass. There were definitely times he would have liked to tip her over his knee and spank some sense into her, but she would never have let him. Not until this trip at least. She wasn’t going to have a choice in the matter any longer. He would make sure of that.

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Taming Terri 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 Allysa Hart’s and Rayanna Jamison’s special giveaway? Click the picture below for details.

Ally's Kindle giveaway

Meet Piper Stone

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Coming August 7th, the next thrilling story in the new Masters of the Castle box set: Witness Protection Program.

Capturing Cassandra by Piper Stone

She’s longed to submit to a powerful man. Her choice? The assassin she’s hunted for years.

He’s cunning, he’s wealthy and he’s dangerous. When a mafia assassin is tasked to eliminate another, assuming the role of a Master within the Castle, he’s prepared for just another assignment. That is, until he meets the woman selected to become his submissive. Beautiful and intelligent, she’s also his nemesis, an FBI agent hunting him for years.

What she doesn’t understand is that after this weekend, she will belong to him.

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Excerpt:

Sebastian breezed past the bulking doormen, heading straight for his usual table. Within thirty seconds, a drink was placed in front of him, the demure waitress his favorite. The exclusive and very private club allowed him continued anonymity, a requirement in his business. Only three of Mr. Sanduchi’s employees knew of his existence and they would be erased if Sebastian’s privacy was so much as disturbed. He chuckled at the thought, bringing the thick crystal glass to his lips. The taste was magnificent after the rough night.

This was his one free evening to himself. The next assignment was taking him out of town, to a castle nonetheless. Well, what the hell. He was in the mood for escaping the dark and ugly streets of New York, if only for a little while. Tonight, perhaps he’d indulge in carnal activities. Yes, the thought brought a quiver to his balls.

Sebastian had particular tastes and the majority of women would find them unappealing, if not downright disgusting. His tastes were considered sadistic, far too dominating, even in certain BDSM circles, making him careful about his choices, or trusting anyone. He sipped his drink, enjoying the atmosphere until a vibrant crimson dress caught his attention. The exquisite piece was body hugging, accentuating full breasts, a thin waist and long legs, the kind of legs meant to wrap around a man’s waist.

“Fascinating,” he said under his breath, watching her almost glide through the room. He’d never seen her before, which made the mystery a wonderful aphrodisiac.

The collar around her neck indicated she was ready for playtime, submission to be exact, and he could tell every red-blooded man in the room was hungry for what she had to offer. He studied her for almost ten minutes, the way she mingled, respectful in her actions yet in control of herself. She was, by far, the best looking submissive in the room, her eyes shimmering from the metal flakes clinging to her porcelain skin, her long eyelashes and scarlet lipstick, the color accentuating full lips. Even her dazzling copper colored hair, pinned in a tight bun, was desirable. She was beautiful.

She was also out of place, unescorted. Club Noire was known for catering to the upper echelon of society, but experienced participants only. The guests were all hand selected by the owner, a discerning and influential New Yorker. The lovely woman was obviously searching for someone, if not to break free of her confining mask, hence the garish makeup. He snickered and fingered the rim of his glass, rubbing the tip around in lazy circles. An ingénue to consider playing with, teaching, training.

Capturing.

The thought was delicious indeed. One night would be enough. At least for now. He’d never fallen for anyone, submissive or otherwise. He enjoyed taking and tasting but refused any entanglements. The bitter involuntary sigh reminded him that he was also hungry for a change in life. Given the abusive requirements laid out by the Sanduchi family, he refused to bring a woman, or anyone, for that matter, he cared about into the mix. They’d become an immediate target, the attachment a known weakness to exploit for any reason.

When she disappeared into the crowd, he was unable to resist, taking his drink and following her, his cock now throbbing, aching. He hadn’t experienced this reaction in quite some time. Remaining in the shadows, he trailed behind her as she moved from room to room, her eyes wide with delight. When she slipped inside the pony play area, he was forced to admit he was intrigued. He studied her for some time, the way her hand brushed across her neck, an obvious nervous habit. She remained in the back of the room, her eyes fixed on the Dom centered in the middle of the room. A flogger in one hand, he was parading his pony around the room proudly, whipping her naked ass for the slightest infraction.

Sebastian took another sip of his drink, able to see by the woman’s reaction that she was fascinated but frightened. Perhaps this was too much to begin with. He inched closer, until he was directly behind her. Inhaling her perfume, the exotic scent filling his nostrils, he envisioned his particular methods of training. He would enjoy breaking her down to a basic level, providing discipline as well as pleasure, but only if she was a very good student.

She tensed, as if knowing he was standing only a few inches away, yet a smile curled across her lip. The woman didn’t fidget, nor did she cower, two traits he abhorred. Additional points in her favor.

“You seem quite interested,” he stated as he lowered his head, allowing a single hot breath to cascade across the back of her neck.

Her breath skipped, her lips pursed. “Very much so.”

“You are submissive.” Sebastian fingered the leather collar surrounding her neck, a rather crude leather piece unbefitting her gorgeous attire.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, you can be trained.”

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About Piper Stone:

Erotic romance author penning passionate dark and dangerous suspense and thrillers.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/piper.stone.3344

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorpiperstone/

Piper’s Blog: https://darkdangerousdelicious.wordpress.com/

Maren's Giveaway

Sign up for my newsletter to be entered to win my Release Day Giveaway. Already signed up? Sign up again and be entered to win twice!! Winner will be drawn on August 7th!

Meet Golden Angel

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Coming August 7th, the next scintillating story in the new Masters of the Castle box set: Witness Protection Program.

Freeing Fawn by Golden Angel

FBI agent Dane Morgan comes to the Castle to save a life. Fawn Pike is there to take one.

Something about the raven-haired beauty catches Dane’s attention right away – but is it suspicion or desire driving his actions? Their scenes together are incendiary, their attraction overwhelming, but with the lies building between them, even the Castle’s magic might not be enough to give them a happily ever after.

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Except:

Fawn had to clench her jaw to keep from begging Master D to come back and keep touching her. Granted, she’d gotten kind of tense when he’d first taken her corset off, but only for a few minutes. Casual sex was the only kind of sex she’d ever had but it had still been a bit of a shock to be totally vulnerable, spread out, and naked in front of a man she’d just met an hour ago. Then she’d gotten over it once he’d started to touch her, his hands caressing down her back…

Watching him move over to the wall with all the naughty torture implements, she’d realized that, of course, he’d want to do more than just touch her with his hands. That’s what the Dungeon program was about. That’s what she was supposed to want.

Hopefully he didn’t choose anything too awful, because this was definitely entirely new territory for her.

When he picked up a leather flogger with a lot of long, thick strands, she realized she had no reference for knowing what was too awful. But surely he wouldn’t go right in with something severe, right?

Turning, he saw her expression and smirked. Looking like a leather god, he walked forward, circling around her again.

“What are your slow and stop words?” he asked as he moved behind her again.

She felt all of her muscles tensing and then relaxing again, because she couldn’t hold them tensed.

“Yellow and red, Sir,” she replied, her voice a little hoarse.

“Good girl.”

Leather lashed at her skin, striking her between her shoulders, and she cried out, more in surprise than pain. It didn’t hurt exactly, but she didn’t quite know how else to describe the sensation either. The leather strands thudded and they stung a little but the feeling went deeper than that. She also hadn’t expected them to fall on her upper back.

The next strike hit where she expected – on her exposed ass – and she found herself wriggling at the sensation.

Then her upper back again… then back down to her ass…

There was a rhythm to it, one which was almost hypnotic and Fawn found herself falling into it. Her body felt like it was humming, her entire back starting to tingle, and somehow that just made her wetter and hotter than ever.

“Oh…” A deep shudder went through her as her mind seemed to shut down. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she didn’t have to think, didn’t have to plan, didn’t have to worry… she could just feel. And it felt so good.

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About Angel

Angel is an international Amazon best-selling author, an unashamed nerd, and a self-described bibliophile with a “kinky” bent who loves to write stories for the characters in her head. If she didn’t get them out, she’s pretty sure she’d go just a little crazy. She is happily married, old enough to know better but still too young to care, and a big fan of happily-ever-afters, strong heroes and heroines, and sizzling chemistry. She believes the world is a better place when there’s a little magic in it.

Find Angel Online!

Amazon → http://amzn.to/2DplX3X
BookBub → http://bit.ly/2G68e3O
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Facebook → http://bit.ly/2Ds7c0e
Website → http://bit.ly/2wczWv7

Meet Maren Smith

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Coming August 7th, the next long-awaited story in the new Masters of the Castle box set: Witness Protection Program.

Embracing Eden by Maren Smith

Intimacy was vulnerability, and vulnerable was something Grimsley would never be.

He was tall; she was tiny. He was neat, tidy, orderly; she was… not. His life was focus without deviation and relentlessly managed by the ticking of his pocket watch; she was chaos, from the curls of her unruly hair to her little bare feet, and if she got distracted and walked into him one more time, by God, he was going to bend her over the first sturdy piece of furniture he saw. For a man who shunned intimacy, getting Eden into his arms was fast becoming all he could think about.

They say opposites attract. When it came to Eden, attract was far too tame a word…

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Excerpt:

Crossing the room to his desk, he adjusted the long tails of his uniform and sat down on the front edge. Laying his switch across his thighs, he clasped it in both hands. “Come, Eden. Stand before me.”

Her head was bowed. She touched her hands to her face, but it wasn’t until she turned to obey him that he saw the watery glint in her eyes and realized she’d been crying.

Those were genuine tears.

Like the internal snap and twang of some great rubber band, Grimsley felt the reverberating hum of something—some dark and massive thing that had lain dormant within him for so long now that he could not readily identify it—awaken. A wave of prickling nerves rolled up his back, through his chest and down his arms into his fingers, abruptly stilling the restless way he kept gripping at the switch he held. He almost shivered. A lesser man might have, but all Grimsley did was watch as she crept in tiny steps to stand before him.

She kept her head bowed, as if she couldn’t bear the shame even to look at him. Sniffling, picking at the cuticle of one finger until it reddened, she was every inch of her the picture of remorse. Startled as he was by this, he was still wondering how much of this was genuine when she at last raised her head and asked, “Before you start yelling at me, can I say just one small thing first?”

Frowning, Grimsley tapped his thumb against his switch. Any Dominant who could not get his point across any way other than by raising his voice was, in his opinion, a poor excuse for a Dominant. “I don’t yell at anyone.”

“Before you get mad at me, then.”

He was already that, but he gestured for her to proceed.

She looked at him with those wide, blue eyes of hers, her face an open mask of such sadness and regret, and yet to have her suddenly clasp her hands and drop to her knees right there at his feet was the last thing he expected. Shocked as he was, he almost stood up, but that long-dormant thing inside of him reacted first. It seized him, locking into every tense and startled inch of him, holding him captive while she damn near burst into tears.

“I am so, so sorry!” Eden cried. “I know you won’t believe me, but I didn’t mean for any of this to happen! I’m not a nosy person; really, I’m not. I just wanted to apologize and see if we could start over. Because, you see, I want this job so badly. I’ve never wanted any job like I’ve wanted this one. If you could just please—”

“Hush,” he said, the softest command. It shook him like thunder.

Eden not only snapped her mouth shut, she covered it with both hands and dropped all the way to the floor to sit on her heels. She gazed up at him with great, tear-filled eyes. Grimsley stared back, every inch of him humming, damn near shaking.

He dared not trust himself to react. He could not remember when any woman had, of her own volition, prostrated herself before him. He couldn’t remember when anyone had clasped their hands to him and pleaded. His Maids usually ran one of two gambits—either they were service driven and never deliberately misbehaved, or they were mischief driven. A frown of displeasure was discipline enough for the former; demerits and the threat of having to service any Dom who asked in the Rainbow Room kept the latter in line. And although it wasn’t uncommon to hear pleading while he rolled up his sleeve and readied his switch, no one got down on their knees.

Not like this girl did, with her hands clasped and her blue eyes pleading and her bottom lip trembling in a way that sent zinging shocks straight through the core of him and down into his cock.

“Stand,” he ordered, rising now himself. He should put distance between them, but his feet rooted him where he was.

Unclasping her hands, she balanced herself before rising, and God help him if she didn’t look right at home with her face mere inches from his pelvis. She licked her lips—God. Help. Him—and stood.

“Look at me,” he said, when she didn’t right away.

There was no guile in her eyes. She was sad, worried, and genuinely seemed sorry. Studying her carefully, Grimsley slipped closer. He searched her face for the slightest tell-tale glimmer of excitement, eagerness, or lust, the slightest hint that she might be getting off on the idea of being in trouble.

There was none.

His cock tightened. He wanted to recoil, but his body wouldn’t let him, and when he at last managed to speak, he hardly recognized the hoarseness of his voice. “If you ever violate the rules of this household or embarrass me like that again, when next you enter my office you will do so with your panties in your hand. I promise, you won’t leave again without receiving one hell of a reason to cry. Do you understand me?”

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About Maren:

Fortunate enough to live with my Daddy Dom, I am a Little, coffee whore, pain slut, administrator at my local BDSM dungeon, resident of the wilds of freakin’ Kansas (still don’t know how I ended up here) and submissive to the love of my life. An International and USA Bestselling Author, I have penned more than 120 novels, novellas and short stories, and am the author of the Masters of the Castle series.

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