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Protecting His Own Part 10

Grant stared, unable to talk.

Nolan didnt move. Just waited.

Say yes, Grant. I want a bridge. Connor waggled the dinosaur.

Yes, Grant whispered.

Figured. I always liked the bridges, too. Nolan selected another arched piece and handed both to Grant. Put those together while I find the braces. Bridges need support so they dont fall down.

After some consideration, Grant got the two pieces snapped together to show when the man looked over.

Good work. Heres another to add to it.

Connor crawled closer and set a shiny black train engine on the track. Choo-choo. Choo-choo.

Grants chest felt all warm as he took the next piece"and his lips curved up in a smile.

Chapter Seven.

IN THE MORNING, Beth woke to the lovely scent of coffee. Yawning, she turned over to snuggle against Nolan. But he wasnt in bed, which she should have known if she smelled coffee. She must have slept late. Not a surprise since her sleep had been rather broken up last night.

At bedtime, snuggled down in the same bed, the children had seemed so young, so lost. Exhausted from playing in the pool, theyd fallen asleep before she finished reading the second story. But, walking out of the room, shed felt as if shed left her heart behind with them.

All night, shed worried they might wake up and be afraid and had kept checking on them. Somewhere around four a.m., when shed started to slide out of bed again, Nolan had growled at her"half-laughing"and gone himself. Returning, he told her if she got up again, hed spank her. And as long as she was awake, he might as well take advantage of it. Hed fucked her senseless.

Afterward, shed slept like a log.

Sitting up, she stretched long and hard and smiled at the sounds of giggles from the kitchen.

All her worries seemed to have dissipated"for the moment"like fog on the water. The low rumble of Nolans laughter joined the childrens. Could anything sound lovelier? Obviously, everything was under control. Of course, with her Master in charge, what wasnt?

As she slid her legs out of bed, she realized the coffee scent was so strong because a steaming cup sat on her bedside tablealong with two donuts.

Picking up the coffee, she took a sip and sighed happily. I love you, too, Master.

AFTER BETH HAD eaten breakfast, Nolan spent a few hours at work. He was stuck doing paperwork rather than visiting job sites since hed promised his worried little submissive that hed take it easy for another day or so.

He scowled at the piles of paper on his desk. Invoices, orders, and new hires. Jesus, had his office staff saved up this shit for him all summer?

By midafternoon, hed convinced himself Beth would need backup. When he told his secretary he was leaving, shed laughed and announced it on the intercom. From the happy screams from down the hall, the front receptionist had won an office pool on how long the boss would last.

Jesus. He pointed a finger at his silver-haired secretary whod been with him since he started the company. You are fired.

She only grinned. Yes, sir. Ill make a note of that.

Shaking his head, he grinned back and headed home.

At home, the house was quiet. While munching a peanut butter cookie, he listened to a message on the blinking answering machine, then headed in search of his young crew.

High shrieks led him to the pool, and he paused to enjoy the sight. Yeah, this was what hed envisioned when hed built the pool and patio. The screams of excitement, the trills of laugher, the water fountaining high in the air from a scooped hand.

In short cut-offs and a blue halter-top, Beth was teaching the boys to dog paddle. Excellent.

Nolanman! Welcoming cheers and his submissives happy smile greeted his arrival.

He sat on the edge, laughing when Connor came over to hug his leg. Beth, did you go over the safety instructions again? Theyd been too tired last night to listen.

Yes, Sir. She pointed to the children. Can you tell him what we covered?

Grant started. Never go by ourselves to the swimming pool.

Or lake, Connor chimed in. Gotta have a grownup.

Good. Nolan motioned to the concrete around the pool. Great place to play tag, isnt it?

No, Connor told him, eyes wide. Its slick and too hard. Its a no-no.

Beth had made a good start. Good job, men. You learned well.

Come n play wiff us, Connor invited.

Fucking tempting, but hed get sucked into playing toss-the-munchkin-in-the-air, which was how he ended up overusing his shoulder yesterday. But, damn, when they giggled uncontrollably, it was a fucking kick. Not this time, but tell you what, when youre done playing, well make a run to pick up some fried chicken. Save Beth from having to cook.

She gave him the stare a million mothers had undoubtedly perfected. One that said she knew he was using her as an excuse to indulge in junk food.

He grinned at her. Ill even fetch someone some extra biscuits.

Oh, well then. Her gorgeous blue-green eyes lit with humor.

She was something, his woman was. Despite all shed been through, no matter how many times she was knocked down, she struggled back to her feet. The way she savored lifes essentials showed shed learned what was important. Maybe her gardening career"a life spent tending to beauty and immersed in nature"had given her that resilience. I almost forgot. You have a message on the machine. Andrea hopes youll come back to the self-defense class on Monday.

She looked away, pretending to watch the children.

Ah-huh. Shed told him the lessons made her feel more capable and stronger. Why had she quit? When the boys started tussling for the floating ball, he held his hand out. Come here, pet.

She put her hand in his, but still didnt meet his gaze.

You enjoyed the lessons. Said they helped, he prompted.

Her sigh was resigned. I stopped when I was feelingoffbecause of the medicines I was taking for the treatment.

His teeth gritted together. Shed gone through hell without him. Yetsince when had Beth let physical weakness slow her down? And?

The next answer came slower. I was having some nightmares, and the class made them worse.

Because I wasnt home.

Her steady gaze met his. You cant babysit me all the time.

He could damned well try. I dont consider being with my wife babysitting. He considered her for a moment. Since Im home now, what about returning?

She glanced at the children. I think Im going to be kind of busy.

I can take a long lunch on Monday.

Well Finally, her nod came, firm and heartening. Okay. Yes, Id like to go back.

Go where? Grant stopped playing, and worry drew his brows together.

Fighting class, Nolan said.

Grants eyes lit. I can fight. The boy threw a sloppy punch and almost nailed his brother. I can kick ass.

I see, Nolan said solemnly. From Beths concerned frown, he had a feeling the kids would eventually have to curtail their more colorful language. Hell. He should, too. Shall we have our own fighting class while Beth is at hers?

What? His sweet little submissive stared at him in alarm. You cant teach them to fight. Connor isnt even in school yet.

Best time to learn. My pa started us off right about his age.

Beff, were going to kick Cass. Connor beamed at her before asking Grant, Who is Cass?

Oh my God, Im outnumbered, she muttered and shot Nolan a glare. Theres way too much testosterone in this house.

Yep. Hell of a deal.

As the kids lunged after a foam noodle, he heard The Yellow Rose of Texas wafting from the house. The doorbell. Last month when visiting, his brother had programmed in the tune as a joke, and Nolan hadnt gotten around to changing it. Besideshed always liked the song.

You Texans. Beth snorted. I guess I should be grateful you dont decorate with dead animals, antlers, and cowboy lamps.

You are a lucky woman. And hed make sure she never visited his Uncle Bubbas place. He rose. Ill get the door. Were we expecting someone?

Alastair was going to come over.

Alastair Drago. Now why was the new Shadowlands Master visiting?

He opened the front door to two men. One was a tall black man attired in a button-down, white shirt, and tan slacks. The cavorting puppies on his tie meant he was in need of psychiatric help"or he was a pediatrician. Nolan nodded. Good to see you, Drago.

And you, as well. Shifting his doctors bag to his other hand, Alastair indicated the man in jeans and T-shirt beside him. I believe you met my cousin Max Drago the other day at the station He works homicide with Dan Sawyer.

We met. Nolan studied the man as they shook hands. An inch taller than Nolan, thickly muscled, cobalt blue eyes. His military bearing was accompanied by the intense focus of someone whod learned the need for constant situational awareness. Probably a war vet. Appreciate your help in the interview room.

Im glad you saved them from the dumbass social worker. Max had a firm grip. Since Alastair was coming, I butted in. I wanted to see how the boys are doing.

The little men get to you, dont they? Come on in. Theyre in the pool. Nolan led them through the house, pleased to see scattered toys in the great room. That was the way a living room should look.

Wrapped in beach towels, Beth and the home crew were in chairs on the patio.

Alastair, its good to see you. Beth smiled at him before turning to Nolan. I didnt get a chance to tell you. Z asked him to check the gash on Connors back.

Here? Why not at the doctors office?

Z said the children would feel more comfortable in a less clinical setting. Noting the boys wary glances, Alastair took a chair across from Beth and set his bag beside him.

Why is that cop here? Grant whispered to Beth with his gaze on Max. Is he going to take us away?

Nah. Im not here for you guys. Dont even have a weapon. Max nodded toward Alastair. The doc there is my cousin. After he checks you over, were headed for the beach to get supper.

When he dropped into a chair, both boys relaxed. Youve got a nice place here, King. I like the lake.

Nolan leaned his shoulder against a pillar. Me, too. Its quiet, something to be savored after a day at a construction site.

I bet.

Nolanman builds houses, Connor announced. Big ones.

So I hear. Max raised his eyebrows. Nolanman? Like Iron Man?

Connor nodded firmly. He saves people.

And hes better than Iron Man, cause he doesnt need armor. Grant bounced in his chair, obviously ready for Nolan to start performing incredible feats of rescue.

Jesus.

As the boys regaled Beth and Alastair with their favorite Iron Man scenes, Nolan told Max, Theyll figure out soon enough Im no superhero.

A corner of Maxs mouth lifted. Maybe. However, Im still pretty sure my father is close kin to Superman. The laughter died from his eyes. He had a cancer scare this year. Shocked the hell out of all of us that he really might be mortal. But when the time does come, I figure hell show me how to pass on with grace and style.

Mine is like that. In fact, when he had a family, he hoped to be as fine a role model as his pa was. Although, I wasnt much impressed with his style when he was tanning my ass.

Same here. Maxs hearty laugh caught the attention of the boys, and he said, I see youve been swimming. Is Red here treating you all right?

Connors face screwed up in indignation. Shes not red. Shes Beff.

Ah. The cop smothered a laugh. I stand corrected. My name is Max. He nodded to his cousin. And hes Dr. Drago.

Alastair smiled at the boys. Im a kid doctor. I hear Connors back got banged up?

Grant shifted uneasily. What are you gonna do?

Chapter end

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