Master of Freedom
MOUNTAIN MASTERS & DARK HAVEN, BOOK 7
Detective Atticus Ware gave up his beloved Idaho to start again in the mountains of California, close to his imprisoned brother. He has a rewarding job and friends, but the experienced Dominant wants more than the Do-Me submissives who flock around him. He needs a woman who will give her heart as well as her body.
Virginia, “Gin,” is damn good at her challenging career as a prison psychologist. However, one problem inmate is mired in misery and unable to overcome his guilt at causing a friend’s death.
To clear her mind, she joins a friend’s kinky backpacking excursion, planning to hide in her tent during the evening BDSM pursuits. But Atticus lures her into the activities. She’s read about BDSM, but submission under the hands of a powerful Dom is beyond anything she’d imagined. She doesn’t trust men, doesn’t want a relationship, and yet…wants more from him.
Finally, Atticus has found the woman he wants in his life. In his bed. In his cuffs. But she’s not only his brother’s therapist, but also works in a prison. How can he tolerate his woman walking into danger every single blasted day?
Gin knows she has no future with Atticus Ware, but still, hope is rising in her heart.
PRAISE FOR THIS SERIES
"Cherise Sinclair is an absolute master at her craft. I'm blown away EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. she releases a book. I can never get enough of her beautiful complex characters and her emotionally driven storylines. … Master of Freedom was no different. I absolutely DEVOURED this book!" ~Shayna Renee's Spicy Reads
"Holy hell, talk about one hell of an ending!" ~Read-Love-Blog
In the twilight, Atticus Ware finished rubbing down Festus. He turned the buckskin into a roughly constructed corral with the Mastersons’ pack animals.
A long stretch eased the ache in his shoulders, and a slow breath cleared the shadows from his mind. Sometimes even a small mountain town like Bear Flat contained too much civilization. At intervals, he needed to escape, to inhale the crisp, clean air, to hear the thud of horse’s hooves on a dirt trail, to watch an eagle soar over the evergreen forest. Nature kept his spirit whole, no matter how depressing the world he worked in became.
A job in law enforcement could be fucking grim.
A scent drifted to him, and his eyebrows went up. Was that bread baking? Here? There was no oven available.
As he crossed the mountain meadow, he noticed new green sprouts were poking up through the dead brown grass. A gurgling stream crossed through the valley, under a split-rail fence, then behind the row of one-room log cabins. Just past the cabins was the roof-only “pavilion,” holding the bricked-in grill on the left, a fire pit in the center, and several rustic picnic tables. Two outhouses hid in the trees.
Everything looked good. The Hunts and Mastersons had done a fine job turning Maud’s Creek meadow into a permanent spring camp. And it worked extremely well for BDSM classes.
On Friday—yesterday—Jake and Kallie Hunt had brought their students up; last night, the new Doms should have received their first lessons. Tonight, Atticus would take the couples further into the lifestyle.
Nothing was as fun as teaching bondage. And, despite the still chilly evenings, the fire pit should give off enough heat to let them have fun.
He dumped his sleeping roll and saddlebags in an empty cabin and strolled toward the pavilion. With any luck, coffee might still be on the fire. Damned if he couldn’t use some. Although this was his day off, a massive car accident in the early hours had all hands on deck, even a detective.
His mouth twisted. Ugly scene. Flashing lights, blood black on the pavement, twisted wreckage. All because some asshole decided his manhood might take a hit if he admitted to being too intoxicated to drive.
Struck a little close to home, dammit, because he’d kept envisioning his brother as the belligerent drunk and their friend Ezra as the white-sheeted body on the ground.
Sadness moved through him. He missed them both. Ezra had grown up on the neighboring Idaho ranch, one year younger than Atticus, two years older than Sawyer. The three had run wild as youngsters, until Atticus had been forced to grow up early. But once Sawyer had reached high school, they’d all fought together, rode rodeo together, even scored women together.
Now Ezra was dead, and Sawyer was deteriorating in prison with a DUI manslaughter conviction.
Idaho seemed very far away.
“You all right, Atticus?” Jake Hunt called from the pavilion.
He blinked and shook himself. Staring like a statue at the bubbling creek. Dumbass. “Just moving slow.”
As he stepped under the pavilion roof, he glanced at the fire pit. It was already giving off a good amount of heat, as was the grill. “How many people am I teaching tonight?” he asked Jake.
Jake Hunt and his brother owned a forest lodge catering to alternative lifestyles, including BDSM. Partnered with the Mastersons’ wilderness guides—one of whom was Jake’s wife—they occasionally conducted instructional camping trips. “Only three couples, all married. A great group.”
“Good enough. They ready for bondage?”
“They’re looking forward to tonight.” Jake tossed a steak on the grill. “I tried to find you a decent partner, but the submissive already had plans.”
“Jesus, Hunt, I told you I’d find my own subs. Is butt out not in your vocabulary?”
“Nope.” Jake grinned, then sobered. “Logan and I are damn well going to find you some better submissives since you don’t seem capable of doing it yourself.”
“Butt out, Hunt.” He’d heard that married women often set up their girlfriends, but matchmaking wasn’t a word that should be used in the male zone. Ever. “Got any coffee?”
“Should be some left.” Jake nodded to an old-fashioned percolator on the grill and returned to tending the sizzling steaks. In the ashes to one side, foil-wrapped potatoes formed silvery mounds. More coals buried a Dutch oven.
Atticus sniffed. Fuck, that smelled fine. “Did Kallie make bread somehow?”
“Not a chance.” Kallie approached from the rear. The tough, little black-eyed brunette—like a Hindu version of Tinker Bell—hugged him firmly. “Good to see you, Atticus.”
“And you, half-pint,” he said, just to rile her some.
She hated being called short, and her fist hit his belly with a solid thump.
Enjoying her, he gave an exaggerated grunt of pain and bent over holding his stomach.
A low giggle came from someone else.
Straightening, Atticus saw a woman next to Kallie. About five-five. Gorgeous green eyes held flecks the same golden-brown as the freckles sprinkling her cheeks. A long braid of dark auburn hair rested on one softly curved breast.
Very, very nice.
Her gaze fell in a beautifully unconscious display of submission.
“Hi there.” He waited to smile until she looked at him again.
Red touched her pale skin. “Hello.”
“Virginia, this is Atticus,” Kallie said. “He’s the bondage instructor tonight.”
“Virginia.” Atticus held his hand out.
“It’s Gin, please. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Her slow, liquid drawl made him think of mint juleps and mansions. She gave him a crooked smile, the right side higher, creating a tiny dimple at the corner of her mouth.
“Same here.” Her delicate fingers were decorated in a subtle silvery blue. Did she wear matching undies under her dark blue jeans—ironed, no less—and a form-fitting green thermal Henley? He’d bet the brand-new clothes were bought just for this trip.
Why did he find that charming?
Didn’t matter, since she wasn’t available to play. The only women here had come with their partners, and he wasn’t a man who poached.
Gin’s heart beat disconcertingly fast as the man studied her with intent gray-blue eyes.
After a second, she realized he still held her hand, and she jerked hers away, then flushed. Smooth, Gin. But the way he’d touched her… Could a man express sexual interest by holding a woman’s hand? Without moving?
But his hand had been warm, the palm and fingers extremely hard and callused. And big too. Wasn’t it strange how when his hand had engulfed hers, she’d felt safe?
He was over six feet tall, and the battered cowboy hat added more inches. Some men wore hats to cover up baldness, but his thick brown hair reached past his collar. His face was angular, his nose long, and a neatly trimmed beard accented the square strength of his jaw. He could have stepped from one of the cowboy movies she loved.
The men who’d tamed the west wouldn’t have any trouble taming a woman…and neither would this one. A shiver ran through her.
His eyes narrowed. “Are you cold, sweetheart?” he asked softly, his voice low and rough.
Like she’d admit he’d made her shiver? “Yes.”
“Virginia.” His disapproving expression made her stomach plummet. “First lesson for tonight: be honest. Even—and especially—when the answer makes you uncomfortable.”
Her mouth dropped open. “B-but, I’m not—”
“I know you’re not my submissive to correct, but I’m an instructor. Both your Dom and I must be able to trust you to tell the truth. Alright, pet?”
“Yes. Of course.” She took a step back. “But I—”
His eyes, stern and intent, zinged every thought from her head. “No buts.”
“I… Would y’all kindly excuse me? I need to make the salad.” She walked with dignity to the cooking table, knowing she was totally fleeing. But why? Over the years, she’d managed the criminally insane, convicts. Teenagers even. And now she ran from a perfectly normal man?
Only he wasn’t normal at all. He was…unsettling.
Off to one side, Kallie had her hands over her mouth, smothering laughter. And Jake was grinning. Well, honestly. Couldn’t they have corrected the man? Gin shot them a scowl, which made Kallie laugh louder.
As she chopped vegetables, she tried to concentrate. Except…he was watching her, that cowboy Dom. The feeling shivered over her skin and up her spine until she had to put the knife down before she took off a finger.