The Eighth 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 less than $1.25 each. Get your copy today!
Want a sneak peak at the stories inside? Take a look at Guarding Grace by Katherine Deane and Kate Richards!
Chris Nelson leaned against the wall, waiting for the women to enter from the small bathroom in Marshall’s office.
“Sorry about that,” Kaylee, Marshall’s wife, waddled to her chair, which her husband pulled out for her. “You know how it is.” She grinned and rubbed her very pregnant belly. She was due in eleven weeks and radiated a happy glow. So did the proud papa to be. Chris’ boss.
Marshall smiled as he helped the second woman into her chair. Gorgeous. Tall, maybe five-foot-nine, possessing a willowy figure with perfect curves in all the right places. She beamed up at him from under her dark sunglasses.
“Thank you.” Her voice was pure heaven, making Chris stand straighter.
“All right, now that everyone is accounted for—” Marshall began.
“Wait, you don’t want the rest of the staff here for this?” the new Dom, Stephen, interrupted.
“Thank you, Stephen.” Marshall turned a sturdy jaw and piercing blue eyes toward the newest Dominant at the Castle. “Everyone I deemed necessary to be here is here. Have a seat.”
“Yeah, okay.” Stephen puffed up his chest like he was the big boy on the playground and took a seat next to Grace. “Hey, we don’t wear sunglasses inside, little girl. Take them off.”
What the hell? Before Marshall could say a word—and it looked like he was about to lay into the younger man, hard—the perfect brunette pushed back her chair and swiveled toward Stephen, whipping off her sunglasses to show the most beautiful blue eyes Chris had ever seen. Gorgeous, full of fire. But unseeing. Shit. The woman was blind.
“I wear them so people don’t feel uncomfortable. Does my gaze make you uncomfortable?”
If a blind woman could glare, that was what she was doing. Staring down the young punk whose cheeks were reddening as if he had been chastised for stealing the last cookie.
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Marshall stood, clasped the woman’s hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You okay, Gracie?”
She turned toward him, then frowned and sat back down, leaving her glasses off. “I told you I can take care of myself.”
“Very true.” Marshall nodded. “I’m nodding right now, Gracie. You just can’t see it.”
Marshall continued, “While I agree you can handle yourself in almost any situation thrown at you, and any man…” He paused to glare at Stephen again, whose swagger unpuffed just a little. “You can’t protect yourself from this, and you know it.” He passed around a stack of manila folders. Jackson strode over to stand beside Chris and share his folder.
The room fell silent as they quickly pored over the information. The first section held a set of pictures of a bloody stairwell, followed by one of a body crumpled in the corner. Next were pictures of two more deceased men in different rooms.
“One gunshot, point-blank to the head. The other looks like his throat was cut, correct?” Chris was just there to observe, but hell, he knew these pictures. He’d seen this kind of death before.
“Yeah, how’d you get the second one figured out without seeing the front of the body?” Marshall asked him.
“The blood spray, amount, trajectory, the way the victim is lying.” He glanced at Grace, sitting there so stoically, and wondered how she fit into all of this. “Sorry if I overstepped.”
“No, you’re right in your assessment, and I have a job for you also.” Marshall stood and raised his voice. “Everyone, meet my cousin, Grace Barnes. As you can see, she is in the middle of some very nasty problems.”
Kaylee squirmed next to him.
“You’re telling me a blind chick killed three guys and is hiding out in our Castle?”
Oh God, when would Stephen learn to shut up? Chris felt a tremendous urge to go over and punch the smirk right off the man’s face, but Grace’s fists clenched—she was prepared to take the guy down another notch. She didn’t need to.
Kaylee jumped up and leaned her big belly right into his face. “All right, look. I don’t care if you are a new Dom here or not. Open your mind up for two stinking seconds and think about the possibilities. Does anything else sound feasible besides a beloved, blind, family member going all Xena: Warrior Princess on three innocent people? And for the record, if you really think that’s the case, why are you still sitting so close to her?”
His eyes widened, and he inched ever so slightly to the side. It could have also been to get the tummy away from him.
Marshall gave a small sigh. “Thank you, pet. Now, have a seat before you get yourself all worked up again. We don’t want to stress the baby out, do we? Maybe we should do some more lines later to remember to take it easy.”
Kaylee’s lower lip dropped, and she pouted up at Marshall as she sat. “Wish you could spank me instead of making me do those stupid lines,” she muttered.
“Sorry.” Marshall smiled and pulled her onto his lap to snuggle her into his chest. “No spankings this late in the pregnancy. The doctor said to take it easy after that last test, and I want you both healthy, so I’m not taking any chances. You’re doing lines for now, but don’t worry, little girl. I’m keeping a list for after.”
“You do know women have been having babies forever, right?” Grace turned to him grinning. “And working in fields, exercising, lots of things, right up until the baby comes.”
“You two stop ganging up on me, or we’re going to have a problem.” Marshall’s voice lowered into the tone that made even the strongest Dom flinch and avert his eyes. Kaylee reacted accordingly. Grace shrugged and turned back to the matter at hand.
“My cousin, here, has decided this is a safe place for me to hide out from the man who did these killings. The other two were witnesses to a murder, just like me.”
“But how could you witness a murder? You’re blind.” Stephen spoke up again, his ignorance showing. Why the hell had Marshall hired him last month?
“There are other senses, Stephen.” Grace sighed.
“That’s Master Stephen.”
“Not to me, you’re not,” Grace supplied.
God, Chris could fall in love with this woman.
Marshall took over the meeting again and explained what had transpired the past few weeks—the need to protect Grace, and what they had to look forward to—while Chris observed the confident, yet tired young woman. What was his job in all of this?
“Okay, so, Stephen, you’re going to be Grace’s official chaperone for the next few weeks.”
“What?” Stephen practically jumped out of his chair. “You’ve been giving me shit jobs like this for the past three weeks. I am ready for a real submissive.”
“Sit down.” Marshall’s deep tones oozed venom. “When I say you are ready for a submissive, I’ll damn well give you one. And not a second before. I don’t care who your father is or what he’s done for my Castle. If you call my cousin a shit job again, you won’t have one here. Do you understand?”
Stephen’s eyes widened, and he sat quickly. “Yeah, yeah, okay. What do you need me to do?”
“For all intents and purposes, you two will act like any other normal new couple to the scene. You’re a boyfriend and girlfriend who want to try out the lifestyle while on vacation. You okay with all of this so far, Gracie?”
“It makes sense. You don’t want me to stand out, but do I have to do stuff I’m not comfortable with?”
“Of course not. One second, please.” Marshall turned his attention to Kaylee’s sudden grip on his forearm and had a quick, quiet conversation with her.
It gave Chris a moment to really focus on Grace and her new Dom.
Stephen leaned toward her and whispered something in her ear. Based on the leer and his body language, it was probably something sexually suggestive. Once again, Chris felt the urge to move forward. Just enough to get the guy into a chokehold, maybe choke the asshole right out of him.
“Do I want to get my ass smacked in a BDSM resort while on my pretend vacation? Do I want to have an adventure and check out all the different ways the human body can be pleasured?” Grace’s loud, firm voice halted all conversation in the room. “Do I want to let go and have fun for a while and forget a psycho wants to kill me?” She glared toward Stephen. “Yes, to all of the above. Just not yet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.” She stood. “Kaylee, do you need to go to the bathroom again? It’s been half an hour.”
Kaylee grinned and stood. “Sure. You guys go on without us.”
The two women, arm in arm, strode to the restroom in the corner and shut the door behind them. There went the woman Chris was going to fall in love with. He knew it in his heart.
Grace couldn’t see the pictures they discussed, but she didn’t have to. The details of the murder were firmly entrenched in her mind. Not the visuals—of course not. When Chief Becker had called her into the precinct to discuss the event and danger she was in, he’d vividly—quite vividly—described each murder. It was bad enough that poor man had gotten shot and killed in their apartment parking deck, but Mr. Smith and Mr. Hemsley? They hadn’t done anything wrong at all. Just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like her. They’d both lost their lives. Brutally, based on the descriptions. But Grace? Holy Hannah, she hadn’t even seen anything. But the murderer didn’t seem to have any prejudice against the people in his sights. And Chief Becker said she was next.
She didn’t want to be here. Her cousin, Marshall was really putting himself on the line for her. What if this bad guy found her and hurt Marshall, or Kaylee, or their unborn baby? Grace almost got up and walked out of the room. If she’d had a chance to explore a little, she might have just walked out of the Castle, altogether. Yeah, girl. How many steps is it to the stairwell? How many to get down to the bottom floor? Yes, she needed to go right. She was pretty sure she had been led left when she arrived, but, overwhelmed by the noises and Kaylee’s excitement at meeting her, she’d ignored her golden rule—know everything about everywhere you go—so she was stuck. Plus, where would she go if she did get out of the Castle? She couldn’t remember how often the bus came. Would Marshall send that dork Stephen out after her to throw her over his shoulder and carry her back in? Bet Stephen would love that. Stupid kid was probably barely out of high school, she sniggered to herself. Probably didn’t even have peach fuzz on his soft, smooth skin. Either that or he was one of those guys who liked to wear a beard just because it looked cool. So not her type.
Then there was Kaylee, jabbering a million miles a minute, making Grace chuckle every once in a while, on one side of her, and Stephen on the other. Damn. She wasn’t going far. Not without an escort.
Jackson, the really super tall, beefy guy who’d practically squeezed her to death when they met an hour earlier, seemed nice. Especially for being head of security at the Castle. Weren’t security guys supposed to be angry and mean… and scary? Not him. Jackson had already cracked three jokes since she’d been there.
The only person she hadn’t figured out yet was Chris. He seemed to be Jackson’s friend and stood so quietly against that back wall she could barely hear him breathing.
That was Grace’s thing. Figuring out what people looked like before she touched them. Added bonus points for figuring out what made them tick. If she’d met Stephen out on the street, she would have pegged him for a millennial, rich-boy, gamer with a man-bun. The nasally voice, the way he cleared his throat when he got flustered, the low hum he did when pissed off. Heck, she’d only known him for thirty minutes, but she was calling big time dweebage.
“What do you do when you’re not playing Dom?” Jackson asked from the back wall, and Grace could hear the grin in his voice.
“I happen to be an independent contractor for some of the top gaming companies. My father belongs to the same country club as some of the big guys.” She could hear the pride in Stephen’s voice.
Nailed it. She returned Kaylee’s hand squeeze as Kaylee chuckled under her breath.
“Grace, we’ve put some thought into the different ways we are going to keep you safe here. We don’t want you to stand out.” That was Jackson. His low timbre practically rumbled through the room. He and Chris strode forward to sit at the table.
The heavier man took a seat across and to the right of her. The leaner one, though he was by no means less muscular, sat across from her. That was Chris. The one whose boots barely made a sound, whose breaths were practically nonexistent, but whose bearing immediately brought her senses to life. He smelled like woods and musk. Like a man who enjoyed working outside, the subtle scent of pine and wood and leather wafting toward her nostrils. Then there was his mouthwash. Something crisp and clean but not overpowering. Unlike Stephen, whose loud, hissing mouth breaths were making her lightheaded from not only the nail-on-the-blackboard sound but also the smell. Gawd, floss much?
“Grace?” Kaylee nudged her hip gently.
“It’s okay, you’re expected to be a little overstimulated right now. I was asking what code name you wanted to go by? We’re the only people who will know who you really are. We also are not putting it on paper like everyone else,” Jackson said.
“So, the name is what I go by for the time that I’m here, right?”
“We don’t want to take any chances on someone slipping up and calling you by your name when you leave your guest room.”
“Yeah, I need to eat, and I’ll probably go stir crazy staring at a wall all day.”
Stephen choked on his ice water. It was fun playing with him.
“So, what do you think? Something cool and chic, rock and roll, sweet, fairy tale, sexy…”
“I’ve always had a fantasy of being Cinderella. Maybe Ella? What do you think, Kaylee?”
Kaylee laughed. “It’s perfect! I was afraid for a second there you were going to suggest Cinder Grace, which wouldn’t have worked well at all.”
“Ella’s easier. Yeah, if you’re okay with that, Marshall, I think I’ll go with Ella.”
“Yes!” Kaylee grabbed her hand. “We can be in the princess program together! I’ve been dying to try on the new, sheer maternity ballroom gown Marshall got me last month.”
“I don’t know if I want to do much with the program.”
“It’s okay, Gracie,” Marshall said. “You can do as little or as much as you want. This is just something to give you your wristband so you don’t stand out too much. But it’s up to you.”
“Just consider it, please?” Kaylee said. “They have a masked ball on Tuesday night, and it would be so much fun to go with you.”
“Well, we would be the hottest women there,” Grace said.
“Totally. Wait, Marshall’s flicking me on the thigh again. I think that means I’m not supposed to push you too much. Ow. Stop it—”
“Anyway,” Jackson cut back in with a chuckle. “Now that we’ve got the name and program picked out, we need to talk about the big stuff. First things first.” He riffled through a stack of papers in front of him. “When you leave your room—with your escort at all times—you will need to be blindfolded.”
“Why the hell does she need to be blindfolded? She can’t see anything, anyway.” Ah yes, Stephen. He hadn’t fallen asleep during the meeting.
“Because she’s the only blind woman here and will stand out like a nun in a porn shop if she wears her special sunglasses,” Jackson said, irritation lowering his voice.
A heavy sigh came from the other side of the table. Chris?
“That makes sense. Okay. But won’t I stand out also, if I’m the only blindfolded woman being led into the dining room every day?”
“Gotcha covered there, too,” Jackson said. She didn’t know how she could hear a smile, but she could. When he smiled, his mouth opened wider, which elongated his vowels and his pitch. He continued, “Marshall is going to have different submissives, including Kaylee and some of the others, like my wife, Sara, blindfolded at different times throughout the next few weeks. There will always be other women and men being led through the Castle.”
They spent the next twenty minutes going over the Castle layout, the emergency exits, guest quarters, and what could be expected while staying at the BDSM resort in rural Ohio. Grace was thankful someone had taken the time to put everything into Braille for her. It made her feel a bit more in control to not just count on someone to read everything to her.
“Okay, that’s about everything. Do you have any questions, Ella?”
Kaylee nudged her again. “Ella. That’s you, girl.”
“Sorry. It’s going to take a bit to get used to being called something else.”
“No worries. Just think of it as your very own witness protection program, complete with new name.”
“Yeah, I listened to that movie. Didn’t the leader of the program try to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger and his protectee?” she sniped. Okay, maybe she was getting a bit tired after all.
“It’s okay, we will do everything to keep that movie from playing out with you in the lead role. Besides, we have someone Arnie didn’t,” Marshall said.
“Who’s that?” she grumped.
“Chris Nelson. The best damn team leader and former Army sergeant you’ll ever have the chance to meet. Sitting right across from you and tagging along behind you for your whole stay. Where you guys go, Chris follows. When you go to bed at night, Chris bunks in the room on the other side of your suite. If you even look for a second like you’re in some sort of trouble, he will come into play. And my guy doesn’t play. He fights, he wins. He’s the big guns protecting you.” Jackson clapped the table hard. “Get used to having a shadow. You won’t even notice he’s there. But he will be. And he will protect you with his life.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes. It had been so long since anyone had been quite so concerned about her safety, and it touched her. “If we’re about done, I wouldn’t mind taking a shower and resting for a bit.”
“Let’s get you settled in, then. Work on your name in your mind while you walk, okay?” Marshall leaned over and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead, like he had when she was a kid.
“Got it. Ella. Ella. Ella Ella. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it.” When she stood, she heard three chairs scrape along the floor. Marshall, who hovered near her like he always had when she was younger; Jackson, who was probably being gentlemanly; and Chris, former Army awesome-guy/shadow, who leaned across the table and gripped her elbows gently within his large hands to help her stand. That meant Stephen was still seated, probably with a goofy look on his face.
Maybe the wrong guy was playing close-up bodyguard.
Bio for Katherine Deane:
Katherine Deane is a multi-published, top 100 romantic and BDSM author and romantic at heart. She loves cheese, red wine, chocolate, and snuggling up with her daughters’ kittens while reading a good book. When not reading, or writing, you can find her knitting, sewing, crafting, or doing pretty much anything to keep her hands busy. She has taken over the dining room AKA craft room, much to her husband’s dismay. In one of her books, an energetic “craftaholic” would find herself over her husband’s knee for losing an important document in a pile of bi-cone crystals and mod podge. Her real life, and the people in them, give her plenty of ideas to work with. Katherine has dubbed herself the queen of cheese. Not only is she a former Midwestern Cheese Head; she also loves to incorporate it into her books. In her opinion, all romance deserves at least one cheesy scene that makes you cry.
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Bio for Kate Richards:
Kate Richards divides her time between Los Angeles and the High Sierras. She would gladly spend all her days in the mountains, but she’d miss the beach…and her very supportive husband’s commute would be three hundred miles. Wherever she is, she loves to explore all different kinds of relationships in her stories. She doesn’t believe one-size-fits-all, and whether her characters live BDSM, ménage, GLBT, spanking, or any other kind of lifestyle, it’s the love, the joy in one another, that counts.
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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!