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Protecting His Own Part 11

I wont know until I see whats wrong. Alastair motioned to Beth. Can you and Connor come over here?

Smart. Best if the big doctor stayed sitting. Since Connor would be standing, he wouldnt feel trapped. And Beth would be right there.

When Beth took Connors hand and pulled him out of his chair in a matter-of-fact way, he obediently followed. The tyke would probably follow Beth right into hell if need be. Nolan sure as fuck would.

Lets do it this way. She hugged the boy to her and pushed his towel down to bare his back to the doc.

Ouch, Alastair said mildly. You have a nice gash with bruising around it, Connor, but its healing. He glanced at Beth. There is no sign of infection. Swimming is fine, for short periods. Stay too long and the scab will become water-logged and scrape off too easily. He caught Connors over-the-shoulder gaze as he pulled a stethoscope from his bag. I brought this to prove Im a doctor. Can I listen to your heart if I let you listen to Grants?

Connor studied the device, decided it wasnt a needle, and his lips tilted up. Kay.

Excellent. Take a big breath.

The doc had some serious kid skills, and the exam"for both boys"went smoothly. Grant even answered questions while Alastair checked his bruised face.

As the doc stowed his medical gear away, Nolan realized Beth had deliberately gone swimming with the boys. They were wearing only shorts, and their battered torsos were easy to assess. The myriad of yellow and purple bruises created a vivid testimony of how theyd lived.

Maxs face had gone so deadly that Grant was giving him worried glances.

Nolan cleared his throat, caught the cops attention, and nodded toward the boy.

Catching the hint, Max stared at his feet for a second, and when he looked up, all anger had disappeared.

Relaxing, Grant returned his attention to where Alastair and Connor were playing a counting-fingers game.

Any information you can share about Drusilla? Nolan asked the cop quietly.

Not much. Found the boyfriend. According to him and the neighbors, shed been bingeing on crystal meth since leaving the shelter.

We heard shes still in a coma, Nolan said.

True. The docs arent giving any percentages there. Might still recover, might not. Shes all of twenty-seven and could well die of a stroke. Maxs mouth twisted sourly. I hate that fucking drug.

Yeah. Twenty-seven. After talking with Grant, he knew shed been a decent mother before life"and meth"twisted her. Now, her sons would live with the ugly memories of her addiction for the rest of their lives. Dammit.

My professional opinion is that you both are healthy lads. Alastair rose and picked up his bag.

Good to hear, Nolan said.

Alastair nodded. They need to see a dentist soon. And their immune systems are probably not up to par, so you might have more than the normal number of kid illnesses.

Beth stood and smiled at him. The house call is very appreciated, Doc.

He looked down at her, the tenderness and worry in his gaze obvious. You still appear a bit off, love. Dont make me lecture you again. You should pamper yourself as well as your menfolk.

Her lips curved up. Pamper myself? And what kind of Domly advice is that?

Mine.

What the fuck? Feeling more than a mite uneasy, Nolan frowned and put an arm around Beths shoulder in a deliberate claiming gesture. His voice came out cold. Where did yall do thislecturing?

With a frown, Max glanced between them, then walked back to the children. A second later, Connors giggles were joined by Grants quieter laugh.

Alastairs puzzled gaze turned toward Beth. We talked when she was at my house.

His house? Nolan stiffened. When was this, Beth?

The day after you came home from Africa. I told you I was seeing him. Beths eyes narrowed in thought. I do remember you were half-asleep while I was talking. Maybe you missed it?

Missed what?

Im doing the landscaping at his house.

Well, fuck. A client. The new one shed gotten up early to meet.

She giggled. Precisely.

Beth. Alastairs expression was disapproving. He also asked about the lecture.

Nolans gut clenched when Beth flushed. But she simply sighed. The day I met him, I wasunhappy. Id planned to wait until you were feeling better before telling you aboutmy summerbut he made me promise not to delay. Beths face turned redder. It didnt matter; you dug out the information, anyway.

Nolans lips twitched. Hed learned early in their relationship that fucking her worked better than any truth serum. And hed been an idiot. I see. Okay, then. He met the other Doms level gaze. I appreciate your care with my submissive.

Alastairs smile was white in his dark face. Since you didnt know shes our landscaper, I can understand your concern. I respect how you addressed it immediately.

As they escorted the cousins to the door, Nolan shook his head. Concern be damned"hed overreacted. Because his first wife had been a liar and a cheat. Apparently, Beth wasnt the only person to have lingering problems bequeathed from an ex-spouse.

Chapter Eight.

MONDAY AT NOON, Beth walked out of the hot sun and into the coolness of the martial arts studio. The center of the long room held a few college-aged students counting their push-ups in Japanese. Supervising them, the sensei saw her and gave a formal nod.

When Master Marcus had told the studios owner about the Shadowkittens teaching themselves self-defense, hed offered them free space in his dojo"and when he wasnt tied up with his regular classes, hed assist with theirs. Hed taught them some pretty sneaky moves.

Hey, its Beth! Andreas voice came from the far side of the dojo. The other three women over there turned and waved.

Beth grinned. It was nice to be back. Carrying her shoes, she walked around the perimeter of the mirror-walled room, inhaling the scents of sweat, the cleansers used on the mats covering the floor, and a hint of sandalwood incense. After tossing her shoes in a cubby, she joined her friends.

Girl, its been a long time. Slender, black-haired Kim gave her a hug.

It really has. Ive missed you guys. Beth couldnt stop smiling.

When Andrea leaned down to kiss her cheek, Beth asked, How go the wedding plans?

Mierda. The guest count grows bigger and bigger"because mi abuelita insists on having everyone she knows, and she knows everyone in Tampa.

I bet she does. Andreas tiny grandmother was a force of nature. Youre doomed, honey.

Oh, I know. Weve already had to reserve a larger building for the reception. Cullen says we should fly to Vegas and just do it. Andreas light Spanish accent grew stronger with her obvious exasperation.

He sounds like Anne. Shes been pushing for a quickie ceremony with Ben. Beth looked around. Where is she, anyway?

She was involved in a missing teenager search and couldnt get away, Kim said, but shell join us afterward for pizza.

Oh good. Beth bounced a little. I want to see the evil Mistress baby bump.

Shes so cute. With shaggy, strawberry blonde hair and wide, brown eyes, Gabi was Beths height but much curvier. Perhaps because she was a victim specialist, she gave the warmest hugs. Im so glad youre back. And I hear you have changes in your life.

Oooo, gossip. Sally used her hips to edge Gabi away far enough to give Beth a happy squeeze. Spit it out.

Before Beth could speak, Gabi said, We saw Dan and Kari last night and heard that Connor and Grant from the shelter are staying with Beth and Nolan.

You have the two cuties at your house? Pulling her brown curly hair up into a twist, Sally tried to talk around the scrunchie in her mouth. I thought they went home with their mom.

Shes in the hospital. Price said they were searching for relatives.

Andrea shook her head. Those poor babies. They must be so scared.

They are. But theyre settling in. Beth smiled. Nolan came home to be with them while Im here. And since Im in fighting class"she used air quotes to emphasize the word"he promised theyd have their own lessons at home. Theyre thrilled, especially Grant.

Hes quite the little man, isnt he? Andrea slid down into the splits.

Oh, he is. Sometimes he acts as if hes Nolans age. Beth noticed a pretty black woman hovering in the door. Hey, Uzuri is here. Somebody grab her before she changes her mind. Since the beginning, theyd tried to get her to the self-defense classes, and shed never come once.

Im on it. Sally trotted around the perimeter of the room, avoiding the small class. She latched onto Uzuris arm and dragged the prankster to the group.

Uzuri, at last. Gabi hugged her. I didnt think youd ever join us. Whyd you finally cave in?

Because of Holt. Uzuri pouted. Hes an annoyingly rah-rah Rowdies fan, so I bet him that San Antonios Scorpions would win the game. Would you believe the Rowdies slaughtered my team last week? Stupid soccer.

I like that he forced you to be here, though. The new Master is making his influence felt. Andrea waggled her eyebrows. Is he exerting his efforts in other ways?

Uzuris skin darkened with a flush, but she laughed. No, Ms. Gutter Mind. Were friends"with occasional benefits and scenes"but nothing more. Theres no zing. You know, like some guys justdo it for you and make your pulse go rat-a-tat?

A chorus of agreement came from the other women, who had Doms of their own.

Sally grinned. Yeah. Ive got two of them who do.

Blondie, I cant even deal with one man. Never in a bazillion years, would I sign on for two at once. Seeing the shelves, Uzuri stored her purse and the loose shirt shed worn over her hot pink tank top. Beth gave her lightweight beige jeggings an admiring look. Trust Uzuri to find awesome workout gear.

Lets get started so we can get some pizza afterward. Sally pointed at the mat. Uzuri, stretch out like Beth.

Uzuri sank gracefully down onto a mat and started stretching.

Beside her, Beth pressed her forehead against her knees, feeling the pull in her leg tendons. Darn it. Shed lost her bet with Nolan. Last spring, shed been sure Uzuri and Holt would fall in love. They were so cute, him all biker-tough, tanned, and dark blond, her so stylish, dusky skinned, and black-haired. At the club, Uzuri scened with him all the time. Shed bet Nolan that theyd end up together.

Sir had disagreed. He thought Uzuri scened with Holt because he didnt push her, not because she wanted him as a permanent Dom. And her Master had taken the bet.

Unfortunately, when shed offered a week of oral sex as the stakes, Sir had laughed, since he could simply say, Blowjob, darlin. Now, anytime he wanted. As the loser, she would have to bake two pies every week for a month. So unhealthy. Bad enough she made him cookies all the time. Those, at least, contained oatmeal and nuts. Pies were pure sugar and fat. Damn sweet-loving Dom.

I was rather hoping you and Holt would get together, Gabi told Uzuri. But Im glad you and he are on the same page. When Gabi put her palms flat against the floor, her voice grew muffled. Its not so great if one person is in lust and the other one isnt. I remember when I was head-over-heels for one guy, but he looked at me and saw only the extra ten pounds I can never shed.

Complaints came from the others about the proverbial ten pounds that could never be lost.

Well, at least she didnt have that problem, Beth thought, gripping her ankles. Quite the contrary, which was why Nolan kept pushing food on her. Stretching harder, she stared at her muscular, bony thighs. In fact, since he returned home, her Master had been constantly nagging her to eat. Did that mean he didnt like the way she looked? After all, at one time, hed preferred his women soft and curvy.

Soft and curvy like Alyssa was. Beths mouth twisted. Yesterday, Alyssa had been at the house for Nolans therapy, once again when Beth wasnt home.

Had she pressed those big breasts against him? Had he enjoyed it?

No. She was falling into foolish Kyler-induced self-loathing. Stop. Shed conquered these self-doubts before. She would again.

As for Alyssa? Nolan hadnt asked her to do therapy; Beth had. His shoulder was getting better, so it was a good decision.

Enough angst. Time to kick Cass, as Connor would say. Beth rose. Im ready to toss some punches around.

Over here, Zuri. Andrea pulled her off to one side for beginning lessons while Beth joined the others, working on blocks and kicks.

The blood started to hum nicely in Beths veins. Grinning, she easily blocked Kims punch and kicked toward her knee, stopping before she made contact. Shed missed this. Working out with her friends, doing self-defense, made her feel stronger. Braver.

Eventually, though, all of them should work out against guys. Sparring with girlfriends was a lot different from facing down a big guy. When that abuser and his friends had attacked Beths friends, Uzuri said shed frozen up completely.

Beth had a feeling she would have done the very same thing.

Chapter Nine.

THROUGH HER OPEN door, Beth could hear giggling from downstairs. Candyland had been a hit, and the boys were playing another game while she made phone calls. With a smile, she listened to the private adoption lawyer reiterating how the process would work: A pregnant woman would choose Nolan and Beth out of the pile of prospective parents. Theyd cover the womans bills and hospital fees. Papers would be signedetc. etc. Lawyers loved all that paperwork, didnt they?

Thank you, Beth said. We look forward to hearing from you when there is news.

As she swiped the END CALL, she glanced at the crossed-off numbers on her list. Last night, she and Nolan had seen a baby in the online files, so Beth had called the adoption agency today only to find the newborn already had a waiting list of interested people. Darned if the same wasnt true with every single baby in the Florida system.

She wrote up her notes of the conversations for Nolan and set the pen down. Time for some fun.

Chapter end

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