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Protecting His Own Part 2

Nolan checked the chairs outside the areaand found Beth and Jessica. He set his unfinished beer on a table for the staff to pick up, crossed his arms over his chest"winced at the pain"and studied his woman.

Curled into a corner of a leather couch, his little subbie wore jeans and a plain white T-shirt. No makeup. Her long, red-brown hair was yanked back with a scrunchie. Jesus, shed normally dress up more than this to pull weeds.

When she jumped at a mans shout from a nearby scene, Nolan knew her nerves were shot. Yet the few times theyd managed to talk, shed insisted she was fine.

Shed lied to him.

As he was swallowing that unpalatable fact, she glanced around the room. Her gaze went past, stopped, and snapped back to him. Her hand went to her mouth. Master? And then she tore across the space and slammed into him so violently he rocked back on his heels.

Fuck, that hurt.

Didnt matter.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tighter. Finally.

Youre here! She squeezed him with arms that were too thin, but beautifully muscular, and he bent down to inhale her strawberry-lemon scent. His own sweet, spicy treat.

Her lips were soft, urgent, and giving as she pressed up against him so closely not a hairs breadth of space remained. Damn, hed missed her.

As footsteps moved away, he realized Jessica had tactfully left them to their reunion.

Eventually, he pulled backand frowned. His friends had nailed it. Although Beths face was flushed with excitement, the dark circles under her eyes showed clearly.

Not noticing his study, she patted his short beard. What is this? I almost didnt recognize you.

Didnt take the time to scrape it off when I got home. With Native American ancestry, he didnt grow much of a beard. Shaving at the job site had been too much trouble for what was mostly scruff.

She traced the beards edge along his jaw. I kind of like it, she murmured.

Ill leave it for another day for you.

Her hand paused, and her forehead furrowed. You look awfully tired, my Master.

Long flight. As he ran a finger over her cheek, he noted how the bone was more pronounced, and he tilted her face up. Shed always been slim, but shed dropped several pounds. She hadnt had it to spare. Concern edged his voice. Little rabbit, whats going on? You look like hell. How much weight have you lost?

Her flinch conveyed he should have gone easier. Maybe so, but every time theyd managed a connection, hed asked her how she was. And every time, shed said, Im doing okay. No problems.

Im fine. She lifted her chin. Working outside when its this hot kills my appetite.

Does it now? Aaaand that would be lie numbersomething. She was just piling them up. Hed swat her ass, but she lacked the padding now to take a good spanking. Instead of doing a scene, Id better feed you.

I Okay. Her eyes held disappointment"and relief.

Relief? His eyes narrowed. First, hed get some food into her and then hed take her home, and itd be come-to-Jesus time. A long talk was overdue, one where shed be nice and close. She might have evaded his questions over the phone, but her body couldnt lie to him.

Putting an arm around her, he guided her toward the bar.

HE WAS HERE. Her husband and Master. Her life.

Yet, even as Beths heart danced with happiness, her worries kicked in. Because, tired or not, Nolan was devastating. Over the summer, his dark tan had deepened. His arms were corded with muscle, and his shoulders had grown even broader. His postcards had mentioned hed done a lot of the work on the project in addition to supervising.

A leather tie bound his shoulder-length, straight black hair. With the rough beard, black T-shirt, and black jeans, he looked like a dark warrior. A deadly one.

She looked like hell.

It was true, too. Darn it. And he didnt like skinny females. Submissives always gossiped about the Doms, especially the Shadowlands Masters, so over the years, shed heard everything about Nolan. Like the fact that all his numerous women before her had been lushly curvy with big boobs and wide hips"everything she wasnt. Her weight loss made it worse. Instead of a fertile valley, she resembled a rocky ridge top, unwelcoming and dry. Barren.

No, dont start down that path. Shed never been abundant and he loved her anyway. Now he was home, shed regain the weight shed lost.

However, she could never regain the hope of carrying his babies, and grief was a cruel wind through brittle grass. No. Not now. Her Nolan was home. With a shake of her head to dislodge the despair, she ran her hands up his chest just to reassure herself of his reality.

He flinched.

Shocked, she stepped back. The brighter lights of the bar area revealed harsh lines beside his mouth. His eyes were tiredand haunted. She set her hand on his arm. Nolan, whats wrong?

A corner of his mouth edged up. Guess we can talk about that later, as well. First"his tone held the iron edge of command"I want you to go fetch a plate of food. If its not as much as I think you should have, were going to have words.

A shiver ran through her. Oh, shed missed the rumbling authority of his voice. Missed him. Yes, Master. Her voice came out husky, and the corners of his eyes crinkled.

Once youre fed, Im hauling you home. After we talk, I figure on fucking you all night.

The way his black eyes turned to molten lava made her insides flutter. Then she remembered and bit her lip. I Its the wrong time.

Disappointment dimmed his gaze. Hell. Wrong time of month? Did I lose track of the days?

He hadnt. She was off-schedule because of the hormone treatments. Im sorry. While flowing, she was always uncomfortably tender down there, and he wouldnt hurt her in such a way.

Im sorry, too, sugar.

She licked her lips, contemplating alternatives like giving him a blowjob and indulging in the sheer intimacy of kissing and licking his thick cock. Instead, maybe I could Mmm. He ran a finger over her lower lip as if considering putting her mouth to good use, but then he traced the hollows below her eyes. You need a good nights sleep, I think.

Even with the joy of his return, she could feel tiredness dragging at her limbs. He hadnt missed it.

He, too, was exhausted. She lifted her hand and repeated his gesture, touching the dark circles under his eyes that showed despite his tanned bronze skin. Odd. Nothing usually wore him out like this. So do you.

Yeah. For now, go find some food so youll have enough strength to survive tomorrow. As he turned away, she noticed how stiffly he moved. He started to lean on the bar, winced, and straightened.

This was more than exhaustion. Youre in pain. What happened?

Just pulled my shoulder.

Just? More than just. If hed banged himself up, hed make a joke about it, not lookhaunted. I think theres more to it.

His shrug obviously hurt, and the lines beside his mouth deepened. Her name came out a growl. Beth.

She put her hands on her hips and scowled. Nolan.

His lips twitched. The rabbit takes on the lion.

She waited. Hed taught her how effective silence could be.

Hell. Thought lil rabbits were supposed to be timid, not ornery. Fatigue thickened his Texas drawl. After a second, he sighed and gave in. We were on the roof. One of my crew had a heart attack. I tried to catch him. Failed.

The single word held a wealth of anger and guilt. Carefully, she put her arms around him. Oh, honey. Is he badly hurt?

The heart attack got him.

Oh, God. Oh, no. Im sorry. So, so sorry. She flattened her hands on his back, trying to give comfort, helpless to fix this kind of pain. Of course, he was hurting; her tough Dom thought he should be able to save everyone. There was nothing you could have done about a heart attack"and you still feel guilty, dont you?

His silence answered her question. She stood quietly, holding him, her face against his chest, and after a minute, he rested his cheek on top of her head, taking the comfort she offered.

To help him in any way was a joy. You got hurt then, too?

Yeah. Caught hold of a rafter and messed up my shoulder.

Caught hold of a rafter. How close had he come to falling? Her heart skipped a beat as shock chilled her skin. He could have died down there. Without her. She shoved away her first reaction"to yell at him"and her second"to burst into tears"and settled for holding him and feeling his tense muscles relax. Thank goodness, he was home where she could watch over him. Im so glad youre all right.

Me, too. Eventually, he kissed her head, pulled back, and tapped her cheek. Go. Fetch some food before you disappear altogether.

Yes, Sir.

She put a sandwich on the plate, added Nolans favorite peanut butter cheesecake bites, and realized she was actually almost hungry. As she walked back, she felt lighter. After she ate, they could"She jerked to a halt.

Her Master, her husband, was hugging a woman.

When they broke apart, Beths happiness was ripped right out by the roots. The woman was a walking, talking example of lush fertility. Around five-eight and all curves. Her fire engine red corset made the most of her voluptuous breasts, and her matching red stilettos were so sexy that Ben, the door guard, had let her keep them on. A thick mane of mahogany-colored hair hung long and loose. Her heavy makeup accentuated wide, dark brown eyes and plump lips.

Somewhere, a Playboy magazine was missing its centerfold.

Alyssa, its good to see you. Nolan still held the womans hands.

Fear seeped into Beths thoughts like a cold mist as he continued. How longs it been? Five years?

Six. We moved to New York six years ago. Alyssas lips quivered. Last month, Master u-uncollared me.

Ah, hell, sugar. Im"

Hey, Beth, Cullen called from the bar. I see Nolan found you.

As she smiled a shaky greeting for Cullen, Sir turned and saw her. Releasing Alyssa, he held out his hand. Feeling scrawny and ugly, Beth let him draw her forward. Beth, this is Alyssa. She used to be a member here.

From the devouring"and familiar"way the woman gazed at Nolan, shed scened with him. Enjoyed him. And shed recently lost her Dom. Uneasiness sprouted next to Beths sympathy.

Alyssa, this is my wife, Beth.

Wife? Alyssas flush showed she realized the rudeness of her incredulity. Uh, congratulations, Master Nolan. Its a pleasure to meet you, Beth.

If Beth felt green-tinged, no one in the world needed to know it. Its nice to meet you.

Nolan glanced at the plate of food Beth held and nodded in approval before popping a cheesecake bite in his mouth. Thank you, sugar.

His pleased hum might have warmed her if a chill hadnt been edging through her defenses. Youre welcome, Sir.

After taking the plate from her, he stretched to set it on the bar top"and winced.

Bad Master. Frowning, Beth took the plate back from him. Stop using your arm.

He snorted.

Are you all right, Master Nolan? Alyssa asked in a soft voice.

Just strained my shoulder at work.

May I check it, please, Sir?

Sure.

Alyssa ran her fingers over Nolans biceps and up over his shoulder, probing gently. There is some swelling and tightness. It would be my pleasure to work on it if you would permit.

Work on it? Beth asked carefully.

Im a physical therapist. I can get it loosened up and healed faster.

Nolan leaned against the bar. Arent you here on vacation?

No. I came down for a class at the college. Alyssas eyes filled. I needed to get away from New York.

Fresh sympathy tugged at Beths heart. She couldnt imagine a world without Nolan in it. Im so sorry, Alyssa.

Thank you. Alyssa turned to Nolan, and a desperate need leaked into her voice. Please, Master Nolan. I miss being able to serve.

He shook his head. No. I dont need"

I think its an excellent idea. Beth had to force the words out. But Sir was hurting, and maybe, if a therapist ordered him to take it easy, he wouldnt overdo and strain his shoulder further. If therapy would help, thats what should happen, Master.

His frown turned gentle, and he ran a finger down Beths cheek. Ive missed your bouts of bossiness.

The warmth in his gaze sank deep inside her, melting the icy worry.

Turning to Alyssa, he nodded. Id appreciate the assist.

Wonderful. The therapists face brightened. Do you still live in the same place?

Beth stiffened. This submissive had been to the house? Their house? Like coarse sand, anxiety grated along her nerves.

Yeah, Nolan said.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Why dont I visit and see how your shoulder is doing? Alyssa said. If nothing else, I can give you some exercises to help keep it from freezing up.

Chapter end

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