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Protecting His Own Part 21

Id buy another monitor. Im not going to give up abusing my poor lil subbie. He massaged her ass and chuckled at her squeaks and whimpers. Damn, she felt good. Her little ass was rounding out as she regained her weight. Since Connors stomach growled about every three to four hours, she no longer missed meals.

He studied the way the moonlight streaming in the windows brought out the lighter strands of red-blonde in her hair. You are so fucking beautiful, he murmured.

Tears filled her eyes.

It was both delightful and frustrating she never saw herself that way. Someday, hopefully before we end up in a nursing home, youll accept a compliment without being surprised. Youre beautiful, Beth.

So are you, Master.

Beautiful? Now, thats purely an insult.

She giggled. A noise came from the monitor, and they listened as one of the children stirred, muttered, and fell back asleep. Im going to really miss them if they leave.

Yeah. Nolan stroked her hair. Losing them would hurt like hell. What do you know about their grandmother?

Just what I told you Drusilla said. Her mom was such a fanatic that Drusilla ran away. She made an unhappy sound as his cock slipped out of her.

And Price told you to consider the source. He does have a point. Addicts arent always honest.

True. Curling up at his side, Beth laid her head on his shoulder. His snuggly submissive. But what if she told me the truth? After all, the kids were badly shaken after meeting their grandmother.

Connor had gone back to wetting the bed; Grants moods had deteriorated again. Or they simply dont do well with change.

Her mouth set stubbornly. But Price totally blew off any idea the grandmother might not be perfect. Since shes near kin, he wont do more than a basic background check"and I doubt shes been in jail.

Price was an asshole. No question there. Nolan stuck a hand behind his head and studied the ceiling. If the grandma is all right, the boys will get to grow up with a blood relation. Thatd be a good thing, even though wed miss them.

Yes. Beths low answer held a foreshadowing of grief.

He rubbed his knuckles over her smooth cheek. Remember religious doesnt mean crazy. You attend services off and on. Kari and Andrea are pretty involved with their churches.

This is true. But Drusilla called her mother a fanatic. Said her mom whipped her when she was disobedient. I dont want our boys there.

A fanatic. If true, not good. In pursuit of their unreasoning beliefs, a fanatic would flatten anything in his or her way"including children. How truthful had Drusilla been? We owe it to the boys to make sure theyll go somewhere nurturing. If Price isnt going to check out Grandma, perhaps we should.

Yes. Id feel so much better if we knew what kind of a person she is. With a bounce, Beth shot up and planted her hands on his chest. Hey, tomorrow, Anne is meeting us for lunch after our self-defense class. Shed help.

Anne had been a private investigator and bounty hunter before joining Galens firm. Good choice. Ill tag Galen and Vance and get Dan onboard, too. Vance still worked at the FBI; Galen had left the Feds to start a company specializing in finding the lost. As a cop, Dan could access local records.

Okay. Beth lay back down beside him, and her slender body relaxed. Weve got a plan.

Chapter Eighteen.

THE AIR WAS fragrant with the scent of pizza, and Beth pulled in an appreciative breath as she led the way into the Italian restaurant. She took a seat at their favorite corner table. I love this reward for going to the martial arts class, even if most of us couldnt stay afterward this time.

Anne pulled her chair out, grimaced, and pulled it out farther before sitting. At five months, she finally looked pregnant. Well, I dont deserve a reward, but Im going to pig out on pizza anyway. Now the nausea is gone, Im starving all the time.

You know, youve got an Im-pregnant glow, Beth noted. And Bens got a Daddy glow.

I swear, he gloats over every fraction of an inch I gain, Anne said. And when he saw the baby on the ultrasound? He teared up.

Aww. Sliding into a seat, Sally laughedbut she had tears in her eyes, too. Youve made him so happy, Anne.

Eyes reddening, Anne pointed her finger at the brunette. Dont make me cry, or Ill sic your Masters on you.

With a flash of dimples, Gabi dropped a pile of menus in the center of the table and took a chair. At one time, youd have flogged her sassy ass yourself, Mistress.

Anne sniffed. That happy day will come again. In the meantime"as Ben constantly tells me"I have to delegate.

Uzuri took a chair and set a market-sized, red-striped tote bag on the floor. Since her visit three weeks ago, the last remaining Shadowlands trainee had dutifully attended self-defense classes.

Beth planned to talk with Holt and see when Uzuri would finish the bet requiring her to take self-defense. Another bet might be in order to keep her coming.

Sally noticed the brightly colored tote, and her eyebrows lifted. Interesting combination of styles, girlfriend.

This is true. Uzuri glanced down at her impeccably fitted, pale blue suit, bone heels, and matching clutch. The department store executive could have been a model for business clothing. I brought the bag for Beths little demons.

Demons? What say you? My babies are angels. Beths lips tipped up. Last week, the boys had wheedled Uzuri and Sally into playing with them in the pool. Shed never heard Uzuri laugh so hard. Butwhats the occasion?

I know Connor and Grant might not stay with you, but there was a back-to-school sale in the childrens department"and I get an employee discount. Im merely human; how could I resist? Uzuri handed over the bag. Its a good thing you dont have girls. Their clothes are even cuter.

Beth pulled out sturdy shorts, two adorable T-shirts with stripes, others with cartoon character graphics for Connor and superhero figures for Grant. How perfect. Youre the only person I know who can figure out sizes at a glance.

I started in retail in the childrens department. Uzuri patted the shirts. Theres nothing too flashy, and I checked the county dress code to make sure the graphics were okay"nothing immoral, offensive, or unlawful.

Oh my God, I hadnt even thought about dress codes. More things to study up on. These are awesome. Thank you so much! Beth jumped up to give her friend a hug.

So, how is it going with Connor and Grant? Gabi asked. And with you?

Youre such a social worker. And shed given Beth the perfect lead-in to what she had to ask. But Im glad you asked, because I need a favor from you guys.

Every single woman at the table immediately nodded.

I havent even told you what I need. Dont cry, dont cry. The thickness in her throat was making it difficult to speak. Nolan and I want to keep the kids.

Yes! Sally shouted. Gabi and Uzuri cheered more quietly. Anne said, Excellent.

My girl gang. When shed married Kyler, hed driven away her friends. Beth had a feeling these women wouldnt have given her up so easily.

No crying, Anne warned. You make me cry, and Ill whip your ass. Fucking hormones. Her disgruntled tone made Beth giggle instead.

So, whats the favor? Gabi asked. Who do you need killed?

Oh, girl, youre hitting too close to the truth. Beth scowled. You know that jerk of a social worker, Price? He wants to hand the children over to their grandmother.

Beth laid out the facts, piece by piece, and saw nods of understanding. She finished by telling them, Price called this morning. The boys will have an overnight with the grandmother on Thursday.

Who knew old lard-belly could move so fast? Sally said. Soyou want to know if grandma is a sweet, cookie-baking cuddler or a rabid bitch.

Interesting summary. Um, yes. Trouble is, I dont know her complete name.

P.I. Anne and hacker Sally exchanged smug glances. They were both employees of Galens I-can-find-anything company. Not a problem, Anne said. Ill research her past. Sally, you comb through her finances.

Sally gave her a mock salute. Aye, Maam.

Digital background checks are good, but for this, we also need personal information. What shes actually like. Anne frowned. Conducting interviews with her friends and neighbors might be tricky, since you dont want the woman"or Price"to know were investigating her.

Considering how much hiring weve done this year, Im excellent at interviewing, Uzuri offered. But I dont know how to be sneaky about it.

Gabi smiled. Actually, this is excellent timing. Some of Marcus boys are selling cookie dough to get money for their boys club. The Sensei and Gabis Dom spent a lot of time with teens needing a helping hand. Gabi continued, Once Anne gives an address, Uzuri and I and the boys will sell cookies all over Grannys neighborhood and get all the gossip.

Perfect. Anne looked around the table in approval before her gaze turned to Beth. Weve got your back.

Threats from the Mistress or not, Beth couldnt help herself. She burst into tears.

GRANT TRIED NOT to scowl as he listened to Grandmothers boring voice. He hadnt wanted to visit her today. Hed wanted to stay with Beth; theyd been having fun.

Although Nolan had gone to work, Grant and Connor had talked Beth into playing soccer with them. She was really fun and fast, and shed showed him cool kicks and said he had a talent. But, then, theyd had to stop and get ready for the Price guy to bring them here to Grandmothers house. They had to sleep here tonight, too.

He checked through his eyelashes, wishing shed stop reading from that book. His knees hurt. Why wouldnt she let them sit on the couch to listen to the Bible stuff?

She kept talking, on and on. Her house smelled funny, too, kind of like the stuff Beth used to get the white towels whiter.

Connor curled his cold fingers around Grants hand. I want to go back to Beffs, he whispered.

Grandmother heard him, and when she stared at them, her gray eyebrows came together, and her eyes were like a gators. She didnt like him or Connor"or Mama, either. She said Mama was bad and had run away. She said they were probably bad, too. And they hadnt even done anything.

Squeezing Connors hand, he looked down at the floor. Shed told them to keep their heads bowed.

Connor had started squirming a while ago and would start crying soon.

Grant wanted to cry, too.

THAT EVENING, BETH sat with Nolan at the kitchen island. A stack of paper sat in front of them. Outside, a gull cried shrilly, and low voices came from the lake where the neighbors were twilight fishing. Inside, the only noise was the hum of the refrigerator. The house was too quiet with no childish giggles. No silly bickering. No funny Connor imitations of baaing sheep or mooing cows.

The farm animal toys had been a hitas were the zoo animals, the racecars, the noisy spin-the-wheel games, and everything else. She shook her head ruefully. The kids bedroom had already contained toys for Nolans nieces and nephews. That number had exploded. She and Nolan had, perhapsokay, definitelyoverindulged in buying things.

But so had their friends. Linda had swung by with a miniature corral and horses set, saying, Sam and I saw this and thought of the kids. Or Rainie whod bought stuffed poodles for their veterinary clinic promotion and wanted the boys to have some.

Kari had delivered a grocery sack of childrens books from her schools used book sale. I thought itd be an easy way for you to find out what they like. Andrea had appeared with a humungous box of Legos her younger relatives had outgrown.

If the strict grandmother kept the boys, would she let them have all their new toys? The thought dragged Beth right down into the morass shed been avoiding. Were they truly going to lose Connor and Grant?

Hey. Nolan pulled her against his solid frame and kissed her temple. Easy, lil rabbit. Dont surrender before the war is over.

His gaze held as much sadness as hers and"for him"she managed a smile. You soldier-boys are sure full of battle analogies.

On the contrary, sugar, my entire vocabulary comes from X-box games.

Doubtful, since although he loved playing silly video games with Grant, hed said no war games for kids. After a sip of lemonade to wash away the blockage in her throat, she pulled the papers forward. So many reports. So much time and effort. We have awesome friends.

Yep. He scanned the first page. Sally says theres nothing of interest in the financial area. Mrs. Ada Brun retired a couple of years ago from a secretarial position. She lives on a tiny pension and social security. Has a small savings account. Makes heavy donations to a fundamentalist church and their missionary fund.

A good church-going woman with time to devote to the children. Beths heart sank. Were screwed.

If shell be good to the kids, well have to be content.

I know. But, oh, she missed them so much already. Nonetheless, they had to hope the woman was a good one.

She checked over Galen and Vances report. No criminal record, no arrests, not even any parking tickets. Had borne one child. Husband had died when Drusilla was in the mid-teens, which might be one reason the girl had run away. Nothing interesting in the Feds information.

Gabi and Andrea report the woman goes to church and missionary meetings and prayer groups. She has had some minor squabbles with the neighbors over the years. Has no boyfriend or lover and keeps her house clean.

Shes a saint. Beths heart sank. They were going to lose the children. She knew it.

GET UP NOW. The bare overhead light came on.

At the sound of his grandmothers voice, Grant sat up in bed and blinked. The window didnt show any sunshine through the curtain. Is it morning?

Yes. Didnt you hear me calling you? Grandmother walked into the room. We will have a Bible reading before breakfast.

Grant rubbed his knees, still sore from the long bedtime prayers.

What is that? Her eyes narrowed, and she crossed the room to pick up a roll Connor had pocketed from dinner. Food is served at meals, no other time, and it certainly isnt kept in bedrooms. Taking the roll, she walked out of the room.

Hoping Connor wouldnt get upset, Grant glanced over at his brother.

Still sound asleep. Last night, Connor had cried for Nolan and Beth for a long time. Grandmother had given them no bath, no story, no lullaby. Just on-the-knees prayers and lights flipped off as she left the room.

Grant was a big boybut hed missed having Beth tuck the blankets around him and kiss his cheek. And sing her lullabies. Listening to her felt like floating in the pool. But now, the thought of her and Nolanman was a painful ache under his ribs. He slid out of his side of the bed. We gotta get out of bed, Connor.

While Connor was still yawning and rubbing his eyes, Grandmother returned. I said, wake up. She yanked the bedding down and let out an angry scream. You wet the bed! My good mattress is destroyed. You horrible boy. With a grip on Connors arm, she dragged him out of the bed, slapping his wet bottom over and over.

Screaming in pain, Connor struggled frantically.

Chapter end

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