Playing Hard to Master

Playing Hard to Master

by Sparrow Beckett

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698198531
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/20/2015
Series: Masters Unleashed , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 238
Sales rank: 72,787
File size: 576 KB

About the Author

Two writers in two countries transform into the super writing duo, Sparrow Beckett, each night after wrangling their housefuls of children and pets. They trade the cape and colorful tights for tattoos and cups of coffee then set out to create a world where readers fall in love with heroes and the women who willingly go to their knees for them. Their books are the products of two kinky minds who don’t take themselves too seriously. They are the authors of the Masters Unleashed series and the Masters of Adrenaline series. They also write solo books under the names Sorcha Black and Justice Serai.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Morning shift sucked, and not in the good way. Covering Morgan’s maternity leave at the salon was proving more difficult than Everly had anticipated. It wasn’t just the double shifts that made her feet ache and loathe heels for life. The worst part was having to drag her sorry ass out of bed early to open the hair salon.

As a hairdresser, she was expected to look her best—full makeup, hair styled, cute shoes, etc. Getting dolled up at eight a.m. sucked major monkey balls. Maybe eight in the morning wasn’t early for most people in the working world, but she really, really wasn’t a morning person.

The bells above the door jingled at ten o’clock sharp, signaling her first client was here. Who made a hair appointment at ten in the morning, other than a senior citizen? From the back of the salon, she spotted the guy.

He was no senior citizen.

His frame filled the doorway, making him look like he was there to conquer the salon and enslave its women. Under his fitted shirt, muscles bulged. From this distance, she couldn’t make out his facial features, but his body was enough to either scare her or send her libido into overdrive. Sometimes the line between the two blurred.

She moved up to the desk and glanced down at the appointment book. Ambrose Langly. Interesting name. Not common around here. It sounded foreign and exotic. Almost too dignified for the thuggish guy making his way to the desk.

Ugh. If he was another one of the university snobs, she’d pass him off to Willow after this appointment. But even from a distance, he didn’t look like he belonged in a university. Maybe a WWE wrestling ring. Or prison.

Shaking off a shiver of fear, she put on her best cheerful expression, reminding herself that appointments meant money. Then she walked out from behind the desk to greet him. Mama needs a new pair of fuck-me boots.

“Ambrose?”

His forehead creased when he caught sight of her. “Yes.”

“Hi! I’m Everly.” She stuck out her hand, noticing the purple polish was chipping. She made a mental note to touch it up later. It matched the streaks in her hair.

Ambrose took her hand and politely shook it but frowned. “Nice to meet you.” He peered around the salon briefly then sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”

Okay, then. Maybe he wasn’t a morning person either. “Sure. Come on back.” She waved him to her station, and he followed. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m a groomsman in a wedding,” he mumbled behind her. “The bride will kill me if I don’t look presentable.” He almost sounded sulky.

She chuckled then gestured to her chair. He sank into it, dwarfing the standard hairdressing chair.

Standing behind him, she hit the foot pedal and brought the chair down so she could actually reach his head. “What is it about weddings that make people so crazy?”

“I have no idea. The groom, who’s my best friend, has even started his own Pinterest account. It’s like I don’t even know him anymore.”

She swung the cape around his neck. “I’m guessing you don’t want your favorite sports team logo shaved into the back, then?”

He laughed. “No. Not my style anyway. Just trim it, nice and neat.”

The man had a beautiful head. What would it look like if he grew his hair out long? Even at the short length, she could tell it was a light shade of blond, which matched his light complexion. Combined with his size, she wondered if he had Viking heritage. She chuckled inwardly, picturing him sweaty, holding a sword, an army behind him ready to obey his commands. Vikings would make good Doms. And this guy looked like he could give a mean Dom-eye.

Good Lord. Since when did clients make her imagination run so wild? The combination of not getting laid in a while, ovulating, and her biological clock ticking shot her sex drive through the roof. Maybe she’d hit the dungeon tonight and see if she could find a play partner. It’d been a while—there might be fresh meat she hadn’t scared off yet.

After plugging in her clippers, she made her way back behind him. “So do you have to wear a tux and everything?” By the casual look of his jeans and T-shirt, and the Roman numerals tattooed on his thickly muscled forearms, he didn’t seem like the type who liked to dress up.

“Yup.”

“I’ll bet you clean up nice.”

His answering smile was sinful.

Her cheeks heated. Why had she said that? Flirting with certain customers was normal, and brought better tips, but flirting with this guy seemed . . . dangerous. “I mean, you don’t seem like the suit-and-tie type.” She paused to readjust the clippers.

“Not really. And being in a suit at the beach should be against the law.”

“Destination wedding? Those drive me crazy. My friend Nikki got married in Punta Cana six months ago, and she invited me. Who has money to go to Mexico at the last minute?”

He grunted, and she gathered he didn’t want to say anything disloyal about his friend.

“She used to have her head on straight, until she started dating a rich guy. It really changed her. Now she’s a typical rich, stuck-up asshole.”

He opened his mouth then shut it and nodded stiffly. “Yeah. I’ve met my share of those.”

Smiling, she turned the clippers on and started his haircut. Since he probably couldn’t hear her over the noise, they fell into silence as she worked. A while later, she stopped then turned the chair toward the mirror.

“What do you think about the length? Is it short enough?”

He barely glanced at it before he said, “It’s fine. I trust you to make me look good.”

As if he needed her help with that. But his brush-off gave her pause. “I know you don’t care as much, but what would the bride think?”

His brows rose and he gave a longer look. “As long as it’s even, I think she’ll be happy.” He shifted in his seat as if ready to dash for the door.

“Hold up, there, cowboy. Not done yet. I still have to even out the front and sides.” She switched to the smaller clippers then circled around to his front. “Stay still and—”

“What’s this?” With a smirk, he pointed to the small tattoo she hid under a thick bangle bracelet. “You a kinkster?”

So he knew the symbol. Most people thought the tattoo was just a pretty filigree design, which was how she’d planned it. It was a very subtle nod to BDSM.

“None of your business.”

“Relax,” he said quietly, interest in his eyes. “I am too. You don’t have to be embarrassed.”

She flipped her hair. “I’m not. You just caught me off guard.”

An awkward silence hovered over them. She wasn’t in the habit of apologizing or acting ashamed for who she was, but some people didn’t understand BDSM. They thought it was about abuse or sexual perversion—not about emotional connection and, for her, just plain fun.

“Are you in the scene around here?” Ambrose said, breaking the tension.

“A little.” She was glad the salon was empty. Having this conversation all hushed in front of nosy coworkers would have spelled trouble. People got fired for less. “I go to The Catacombs once in a while. You?”

“I haven’t gone in a long time. I don’t remember seeing you.”

“I’m not very memorable.” She chuckled like it was a joke, but it fell flat. Maybe because there was truth there.

“No.” He narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing her face. “I would’ve remembered you.”

She squirmed under his gaze. He was a definitely a Dom. Was he single? Could he handle her? If it was just about size, he could definitely manhandle her plus-size figure easily, but did he have the mental stamina to keep up with her? Most Doms didn’t like brats, but tough shit, because that’s who she was, and she’d sworn back when she broke things off with Scott she’d never change for a man. Or a woman.

Trying to ignore him and do her job, she turned on the small clippers and leaned down to even out the front of his hair on his forehead. The buzz was quiet enough to talk now, but she wasn’t sure what to say. This whole conversation, here at work, was throwing her off her game. Kink talk happened in the bedroom or the club, not in the salon.

“Do you know Banner?” he asked.

When his head wobbled, she held it still with her free hand.

He kept talking anyway. “He used to play there. Before he settled down with his Kate. That’s who’s getting married the day after tomorrow.”

“No, I don’t think I know him.” She finished the front then moved to the side to work around his ears.

“What about Konstantin?”

That rang a bell. Images popped up of a playboy with dark eyes, a Russian accent, and a girl under each arm. She chuckled. “I’ve heard of him.”

He smiled. “He’s my other best friend.”

“Cool. So we must travel in the same circles. Weird we’ve never met.”

“Yeah. Weird.”

How could she ask if he was single without sounding desperate? Rejection stung like a bitch, and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with that this early in the morning.

“So, who are you bringing to the wedding? Do you have a date?” Fuck. She could’ve kicked herself. Way to not sound desperate.

“No. I’m single at the moment.”

“Me too.” Fuck again! Why had she said that? It wasn’t like he’d asked. God, she was usually smoother than this. He was messing with her head.

“I was thinking of heading to The Catacombs tonight, actually,” she ventured. Maybe she could still salvage this. “To see if I can find someone to play with. It’s been a long time.”

“Really?” His brow quirked.

“Yeah. I’m hoping there’ll be some new people. I’ve played with almost everyone and scared all the usuals away. Poor little things.”

“You haven’t played with me.” Their gazes met in her mirror, and the blatant dare in his made her bite her lip.

She paused, then smirked. “I doubt you could handle me.”

Chuckling, he shifted in the chair. “Well, that’s a challenge if I ever heard one. Are you a switch?”

“I’m a brat.” It sounded like a warning. Maybe it was one. She was tired of too-serious Doms trying to crush her spirit and turn her into something she wasn’t. And she was tired of the newbies letting her walk all over them then storming away all butthurt when she wouldn’t cooperate.

“I enjoy brats.”

She snorted. “That’s what they all say. They change their minds when you tell them they should use their pretty mouths for things other than lectures.”

He barked a laugh. “You’ve actually said that?”

She answered with a cocky smirk.

“You might be a sorry little girl if you get too much of what you’re asking for.”

Oh fuck. A rush of heat pooled in her pussy, making her knees almost buckle. She pictured it—spread out on a bed, legs wide, Ambrose between them, making her scream for mercy.

She realized she’d frozen with her clippers in midair, staring at their reflection. After setting the clippers down, she cleared her throat. “You don’t believe in playing nice?”

“I can when I want to. But there are times when I don’t want to be nice. Are you the kind of sub who needs a mean Dom to make you into a good girl?”

“I’m the kind of girl who likes a Dom to have a sense of humor.”

He arched a brow.

Reluctantly, she added, “And to sometimes . . . convince me to be good. Once in a while. When the mood strikes me.” She gave him a sidelong glance.

“Cocky little thing,” he muttered, shifting in his seat again.

She wondered what he kept having to shift down there. But he wasn’t rolling his eyes or sighing at her teasing. Maybe he wasn’t like the others. She wished there was a tactful, smooth way to ask if he wanted to play.

“You’re going tonight?” he asked, rubbing his clean-shaven chin.

She nodded.

“Maybe I’ll go too. We could talk more. If you want.”

A small, giddy smile pushed through her mask of confidence. “Okay.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” She realized she sounded like a parrot and gave her head a shake. Way to look like a smitten idiot. “I mean, I’m done. What do you think?”

“Sweet.” He turned his head this way and that, but he was looking at her, not his hair.

“How much do I owe you?” he asked while she unclipped the cape.

“Twenty-five.”

He fiddled with his wallet while she brushed off his neck. Frowning, he looked up at her. “Do you have change?”

“Not much. It’s early still.”

“Okay.” He handed her two twenties.

“Oh. Umm.”

“Just keep it.”

“No, I can’t. It’s too much.”

He waved his hand. “Buy me a drink tonight and we’ll call it even.”

That seemed fair. “All right.”

“Good girl.” He winked.

Bastard. Damn, he was hot. She placed a hand on her hip and glared, trying not to crack a smile. He rose from the chair, reminding her of his size. Hot in a thuggish, terrifying way.

“Ooooh,” he said, pretending to be scared. “Evil eye. You sure you’re not a switch?”

She shrugged. “I suppose I could be for the right person. You interested in trying?”

“No. I’m one hundred percent dominant.” As a second thought, he added, “But I’m only interested in playing. Not a serious relationship.”

Wasn’t that just her luck? All the good ones had commitment issues. The fiasco with Scott should have kept her on guard when it came to relationships, but sometimes she still wore her emotions on her sleeve. “That’s fine. I’m not looking for long-term either.” Her uterus said otherwise.

“Great.”

“Great.”

“See you tonight?”

“Yup.”

He smiled wickedly. “See you tonight, Everly.”

Ooh. He remembered her name without being reminded, and the sound of it on his lips made her shiver.

She tossed him back a saucy grin. “I’ll be there around nine. You might want to take a nap first.”

His brow quirked, and for the first time in a long time she wondered if she was in over her head.

Chapter Two

Ambrose usually avoided The Catacombs. As BDSM clubs went, it was tolerable, but the owner went for an edgy, dark warehouse look that reminded Ambrose too much of work. Some of the warehouses they delivered to had a similar vibe, minus the bondage equipment.

Konstantin didn’t like it there much, either, but it was the only place in town to play if they didn’t feel like hosting a party. He’d offered to come along as his wingman. Kon’s current girlfriends, Anna and Sindee, had just fucked off to the washroom together, which meant he might get a word in edgewise. It was hard to have a conversation with Kon when he was covered in women, but then, that was his natural state.

“Are you sure she’s going to show?” Kon asked in his thick Russian accent. He may have moved to America when he was eight, but the accent had never faded. As a kid, he’d hated it and tried hard to get rid of it, but as an adult he’d decided he no longer gave a shit.

“No, she may not.” Ambrose chuckled. “She gave me a haircut and the next thing I knew we were in the middle of this bratty verbal sparring match. After I left, maybe she realized I’m not what she wants.”

“What woman wouldn’t want a goon as a play partner?” Konstantin mocked. “You have the intimidation factor going for you, even though you’re hideous.”

“I’m not that intimidating.”

Konstantin barked a laugh. “Anna was too terrified to speak in your presence for weeks.”

“Bullshit. With the crazy shit you’re into, I doubt Anna is afraid of much.” Ambrose leaned back in his chair and watched the crowd, looking for Everly. Hot, bratty, smart, with curves that made his palms itch to touch her. She was even mouthier than Shae had been.

What would she wear? If she showed up dressed like a schoolgirl he’d be a lost cause. Real schoolgirls did nothing for him, but a kinky girl dressed up as one . . . giving him the come-hither look . . . add some pigtails . . .

Then, like magic, there she was. Purple lacy corset, the same shade as the streaks in her hair, a short black flared skirt. Funky leggings, and boots that would suit a dominatrix. Fuck. The girl was full of attitude, and it made him crazy.

The girl was bad news.

Konstantin had been speaking but paused. “Ambrose, stop!”

His words pulled Ambrose up short, just as he was about to get to his feet and go to her.

“What?”

“I can tell you just spotted her. Get that look off your face or you’ll scare her.”

What the hell was he talking about? “What look? I don’t have a look. I’m just going over to say hi.”

Kon snorted. “You look like you’re going to throw her on the bar and fuck her. Try to be less obvious.”

“Obvious usually works just fine for me.”

Konstantin grimaced and waved Ambrose away. “Then, for your sake, I hope she doesn’t scare easily.”

She hadn’t seen him yet. He rose and pushed his way amiably through the crowd while thinking about Kon’s advice. He tried looking friendly instead of intense, but when people started flinching away from him, he guessed it wasn’t working. It’d been too long since he’d fucked a woman on a bar. Or against a wall or on a bed, for that matter. Plenty of women had tried, but for the past few months he’d cut himself off. No wonder he couldn’t manage an expression other than horny. This was the first girl he’d been seriously attracted to in a long time.

His track record had sucked for the past couple of years.

Shae had left him first, and then Kate. Shae had been his, though, and so he’d given himself permission to be a moping ass about her leaving him. Admittedly, it was so long ago now that maybe it was just a habit.

Kate, on the other hand, was his best friend’s slave and soon-to-be wife. Half falling in love with her when he was trying to get her and Banner back together had, in hindsight, been stupid and self-destructive. He’d known they were going to patch things up eventually, but sleeping with Banner’s exes had become so second nature that he’d fallen into the same old pattern. He seemed to have an involuntary attraction to dysfunctional relationships.

Everly’s back was to him. She was watching a bound and suspended sub writhe and scream as she was tickled by a grinning Dom. Although he was close enough to touch Everly, he watched her watching the scene, enjoying her expressions and reactions. A perfume company could make a fortune selling her pheromones.

Don’t think about fucking her on the bar.

Damned Konstantin. Like he needed any more ideas about what he’d like to do to the poor girl.

He moved up beside her instead of touching her shoulder to get her attention. There was no knowing if she had triggers, and he didn’t want to fuck this up.

Almost immediately, she turned her gaze to him, but had to look up to see his face. He hadn’t realized how much taller he was.

Her eyes rounded, and for a second he was worried she was going to run away screaming.

“Oh . . . hi!” Her laugh sounded slightly nervous, but then she smiled and drew him away from the scene.

“Hi. See something you like?”

“Um . . .” Her cheeks turned pink enough to notice even in the low light.

“I meant the scene you were watching.”

She laughed loud, a rippling sound that made him want to laugh too. “For a minute, I thought you were fishing for a compliment.”

He snorted. “Yes, well, I have major self-esteem issues because my friends are always reminding me that I’m ugly. I have to ask pretty girls to feed my poor, starving ego.”

“Aww . . . poor little ego. I would pat it for you, but I’m not that kind of girl.” Her impish grin suggested that if he played his cards right, he might change her mind.

“I was wondering if you were actually going to show up.”

“I said I would. If I weren’t interested, I would have said no.”

She shifted her stance, wincing a bit then looking down at her shoes. He knew enough about fashion to guess the heels were probably uncomfortable. Where were his manners? He wasn’t doing a good job impressing her. “Do you want to sit down? I’m at a table with Konstantin and his women.”

“Sitting sounds good.” She smiled.

They went back to the table, where Ambrose introduced the three of them. After a few pleasantries, Kon and his girls wandered off to play. As they left, Konstantin passed behind Everly and gave Ambrose the thumbs-up.

Idiot. Some wingman. He was making things a little obvious, leaving them alone so soon.

“So how was the rest of your day?”

“Oh, you know. The usual. Cut a million people’s hair, got a few tips. Then I went home and took a bath, and now I’m here.”

“No dinner?”

She snorted. “You look so horrified.”

He thought of the herb-butter-rubbed prime rib he’d had earlier. “You don’t understand how much I love food.”

“Do I look like I miss a lot of meals?” Everly laughed. “Don’t respond to that. It’s a trap.”

Honestly, she looked edible. It would probably be creepy to tell her that though.

“So you’re a foodie?” she asked.

“That’s putting it mildly.”

“Yeah, I’m not in a position to eat out a lot, but once in a while it’s nice.” She grimaced. “You know, if the people who can afford to eat fancy soufflés and lobster tails every night gave even a little bit of that money to antipoverty organizations, we could probably give every homeless person somewhere to live. I mean, don’t they care that there are people starving while they gorge themselves on caviar and fancy wine?”

Whoa. He agreed in a noncommittal way. If they ever hooked up, her hating rich people could be a problem.

Her words had given him a twinge of guilt. It wasn’t his fault he had money—well, actually, it was his fault. But he wasn’t ashamed of having done well. Making it big in the shipping industry was a mix of luck and hard work. He treated his people fairly and paid them a lot better than any of his competitors. They had benefits and he gave a shit about them—he even knew most of them by name, and he sucked at names.

“Do you know that some big corporation is trying to shut down the free medical clinic on Bloor Street? They don’t want them as neighbors because apparently it’s bad for business.” She shook her head in disgust. “They can take their canapés and shove them up their asses.”

That sounded . . . unpleasant, and definitely not his kink. “You’re involved with the clinic?”

“Not that one in particular, but a few of the others. I just try to get involved when I hear stories like that.” Her eyes gleamed, and for a moment he saw Everly’s serious side. “I help circulate petitions and that sort of thing. It’s hard to get to protests because I usually work evenings.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I work whenever I’m needed, so my schedule is all over the place. I’ve never been to a protest before though.”

“You should go to one sometime. Life is too short to sit on the sidelines and wait for other people to fix things.”

Okay, maybe this girl was too good for him. He didn’t usually think much past his employees and his family and close friends.

She smiled. “Sorry, I get intense sometimes. If I’m boring you, feel free to say so, or think about football or something. So what do you do?”

“I work in shipping.” For once he was glad his line of business was a conversation ender.

“So you . . . ship things?”

“Yup.”

“You drive long distances?”

“Sometimes. I mostly do the paperwork end of things now.” He tried not to laugh as her eyes glazed over. “I drive once in a while, if there’s no one else available.”

Her mouth opened then closed again, and it looked like she was struggling to think of something polite to say about his boring job.

“So how long have you been into the lifestyle?” Ambrose asked, feeling awkward. He didn’t generally agree to meet up with women he hadn’t met several times in passing first. This felt like a job interview.

“Um, always? It’s hard to nail down. I convinced my first boyfriend in high school to try D/s without even knowing what it was. I bratted to get a rise out of him, but he was too nice. No one ever really satisfied me that way when I was younger. As an adult, I finally started to do some research and learned what BDSM was. That’s when I found my way into The Catacombs. It’s been an adventure trying to find someone I click with since then. You?” She swept her hair back from her shoulder, and the bare skin it revealed made him wish she weren’t sitting so far from him.

“I’ve always had my fetishes, but I never did anything about them until I was in college.” How much to tell her on a first date? It had been complicated. “Freshman year, one of my profs seduced me. She was into some things that . . . weren’t my kink. But when we split, I talked the next girl I dated into being dominated.”

She inched closer, until their knees were almost touching. When she sat, her skirt had ridden up slightly, and he tried his best not to gawk at her shapely legs. As for the cleavage that showed when she leaned forward . . . well, he was only human.

“Do tell! What kinks did she have that you weren’t into?”

Ambrose sighed. Most girls waited to ask until at least the third date, but this one was bold as brass. Even on a third date he usually got away with being vague. Something told him it wouldn’t work with Everly.

“Maybe I’ll show you sometime.” He winked, hoping to throw her off.

“Oh, you own a strap-on?”

Surprised, he barked a laugh and swatted her leg.

“You missed my ass.” Her smile was a dare. “I told you, most Doms find me hard to handle.”

Leaning back in his chair, he looked her over but this time didn’t try to hide it. “I doubt I’d have much trouble handling you, but that’s pure speculation at this point.”

They stared at each other. Maybe it was creepy to make eye contact for so long, but he was incapable of looking away. Adrenaline started to buzz through him. God, he wanted to punish her, hear her beg, feel her underneath him. Was Everly feeling the same connection? Her slanted amber eyes reminded him of a cat, and they seemed to hold the same independence. This wasn’t a submissive who needed a Dom to define her. She wasn’t afraid to show her strength.

She broke the silence first. “I guess we’d have to play together to figure that out.”

“Now?” Crap. This girl had him off balance. He needed to get that under control.

“Well”—she shrugged—“unless you need to find your balls first.”

Fuck. His hand itched to grab her by the hair and teach her to be more respectful, but with brats there was a fine line. Sometimes when they wanted to get a rise out of a Dom, the Dom had to ignore their sass to keep the upper hand. Although nothing was more fun than teaching a bratty girl a lesson in manners.

Calm the fuck down, idiot.

“What’s your safeword?” Why did that sound like a creepy pickup line?

“We’ll use ‘red’ for now.” She raised a brow. Was she surprised he’d kept his cool?

“Fair enough.”

The way her eyes narrowed suggested she was waiting for him to make a move. “Are we doing this now?”

“Yes.”

“Are we going . . .” She gestured vaguely at some vacant equipment along the walls.

“No. I prefer not to use the equipment here. For now we’ll sit and talk, and if you sass me, I’ll deal with it accordingly.”

“Is this the part where you try to lure me back to your private dungeon?”

“No. Dungeons are so limiting. I believe in free-range beatings.”

She snorted. “Are you sure you’re not a brat?”

“Doms are never brats,” he said with mock disdain.

Everly settled beside him on the overstuffed couch and looked at him impatiently. “Now what?”

Now straddle me and settle yourself on my dick. “Now we have a polite conversation, like well-behaved adults.”

She leaned in, looking up at him. Mischief lurked in her gaze. “I’ve never been a well-behaved adult, and I doubt I could role-play one well enough to be convincing.”

“Not into role-play?”

“Well . . . I didn’t say that.”

Such a naughty kitten. He fought the urge to coax her into his lap so he could pet her. Behind her, he caught a glimpse of Konstantin and his girls coming back, but his buddy spotted the tension and steered them away to another part of the club before they reached the table. Maybe he was going to be a decent wingman tonight after all.

“What do you like to play?”

She shrugged. “It depends. If my partner can’t hold up his end of things, I’d rather not role-play at all. If he’s good, he could talk me into playing almost anything. I’m not into animals, bodily waste, or anything that causes permanent damage though.”

“What about pain?” Ambrose draped his arm over the back of the couch, and without hesitation she tucked in against him. A warm protectiveness stole over him, and he let his arm curve around her shoulders.

“I like it in moderation. Having my ass beaten until it bleeds isn’t a turn-on for me though.” She smelled like a dessert he wanted to put in his mouth and savor. “I like fun and hot BDSM, not cranky BDSM. If a Dom doesn’t like laughing or my bratting, then he isn’t a good match for me.”

There was a wistfulness in her tone that suggested it was an ongoing struggle for her to find partners that suited her. He identified with that feeling a little too well. Most of the girls who took a shine to him were well-behaved submissives who wanted strict Doms who would call them on any breaches in conduct. Ambrose liked to laugh too much for that kind of responsibility—it wasn’t in him to be a rule-monger, and he resented having women expect that of him. So fucking boring.

He also resented women who expected a collar from him after a few good dates. Shae had made him gun-shy, and he didn’t like to feel rushed. Honestly, he doubted any other woman would suit him like Shae had.

Maybe Kate would have, but he’d known from the beginning that wouldn’t go anywhere. Still, it didn’t make it sting less.

“There’s a difference between disciplining a girl and breaking her,” he said. “Some men can’t handle a sub who has a personality of her own, but girls who are always well behaved bore me. Where’s the challenge in that?”

“Do you like disciplining?” she asked sweetly, gazing up at him with a feigned innocence that made his cock twitch. “I get into a lot of trouble, but no one wants to teach me to mind my manners.” Her lips curved into a half smile, daring him.

“And what kind of trouble does a sweet little thing like you get into?”

She blinked up at him. Her plump bottom lip disappeared into her mouth for a moment and came out glistening. What was worse—that he already wanted to kiss her, or that she seemed to be wanting the same thing?

“I sass a lot, I ignore rules if I don’t like them, and sometimes I squirm away or kick when I get a spanking.”

He let his lips hover over hers for a moment, and watched in fascination as her sexy golden eyes drooped shut.

“Do you, now?” he murmured, just loud enough to be heard over the people laughing and talking around them. “I think I know how to deal with a young lady like you.”

“You do?” She opened her eyes again. “People don’t understand that I misbehave to be fun, or because I like being punished. Or they think I’m just playing at being submissive and not the real deal. The last Dom I had wrote out a list of rules. As a joke, I doodled on the page and made happy faces in some of the letters. He was so offended that he wouldn’t play with me anymore.”

He made a sound of disapproval. “Some Doms just don’t get the dynamic. Not everyone is equipped to deal with a little vandal. You just wanted to play.”

Everly nodded. “What would you have done?”

He pulled her knees toward him and shifted her legs over his own. She settled there as though it had been her idea.

“Well, it would depend on whether or not I was offended. It’s pretty hard to offend me, so you might have gotten what you wanted, or you might have gotten what I wanted.”

She scrunched her nose in mock offense. “Hey! That doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“It would be for me.” He grinned at her wolfishly, and she smacked his chest. “Do that again and you won’t like what happens.”

She cocked a brow. “Maybe I would.”

“You could try it and see.”

The wheels in Everly’s head were turning so loudly he could almost hear them. Did she really want to test him this early on? What would she do?

As for himself, Ambrose sorted through his options of how to deal with a brat he barely knew. He wasn’t going to treat her quite the same way he would if they were sleeping together. If he came on too strong, he might scare her off—and at this point he was too intrigued to chance that.

When the penny dropped, he saw it happen. Mischief lurked in her gaze and she raised her hand, threatening to smack him again.

“Are you sure?”

She bit her lip, then swatted him.

Of course.

Taking a firm grip on both of her upper arms, he pulled her to her feet and walked her across the room, where he positioned her face-first in the corner. She tried to back away, but he held her there, moving one of his hands to take a firm grip in the back of her hair, close to the scalp.

She gasped and tried to struggle away, but he didn’t allow it.

“Did I warn you not to hit me?”

There was a sound of disgust, but no safeword. When she tried to pry his hand out of her hair, he smacked the back of her thigh hard enough to make her squeak.

“Be good or I’ll make you like this less.”

“As if you could!”

“If I tucked up your skirt and pulled down your leggings, it might be more embarrassing.”

“I’m not afraid of you. I’ve got underwear on, so do your worst.”

Ambrose chuckled. This girl was perfect. His dick was so hard, he wished he could fuck her up against the damn wall.

“I could pull those down too. Then everyone in the room could see what a bad girl you are and get to see your bare ass.”

Everly swallowed hard enough for him to see the movement of her throat. “I don’t even care.” The words were almost a whisper.

“Maybe I’d spank you while I held you here, and everyone could admire your sweet red cheeks.”

She groaned and shifted where she stood. “Go away. I’ll stand here and take my punishment, but you should shut up now.”

His hand tightened in her hair and he pulled her up onto her toes.

“Ow, ow, ow!”

“Should you be telling me to shut up?”

She didn’t answer. Ambrose growled in her ear and gave her a little shake.

“Answer me,” he barked.

“No,” she said, her tone sullen.

“No, what?”

“No, Sir.”

He lowered his hand so she could stand flat-footed again. “I’m going to let go of you now, and you’re going to stay here like a good girl, aren’t you? Because if you don’t, I’ll do exactly what I said.”

“You wouldn’t!” she gasped.

“Try me.”

God love her, she pouted at him. So many nasty, horrid things he wanted to do to this girl. Slowly, he let go of her, ready to grab her if she bolted.

She stood stock-still.

“See? You can be a good girl when you have the right incentive.” He smoothed her hair back into place, and he could feel her seething.

If she was hating this, though, she wasn’t safewording or telling him off. Instead, he was getting the impression that she liked it and didn’t want to.

“You’re evil,” she said to the wall.

“Maybe a little.”

“No, I mean full-on, mustache-twirling, tie-the-girl-to-the-train-tracks evil.” Her vehemence was adorable.

“Pout at me again. It turned me on.”

“Fuck you, Sir.”

“I thought you just said you didn’t like me, and now you want to fuck me?”

Something that sounded suspiciously like a laugh escaped her. “I never said I didn’t like you. I said you’re evil. There’s a difference.”

This one. This one he wanted to take home and play with. A thinking sub with a sassy mouth and a sense of humor—someone who wanted to be forced to be respectful. His home office rose to mind, along with the big wooden desk. He’d lean her over it, spank her, lecture her. And she would be completely impossible.

Ambrose moved up beside her and grabbed her hair again. She whined and looked up at him with round, nervous eyes. There was a spark there, showing it was an act. She wouldn’t be so easily cowed.

Against his own good advice, he kissed her. When she kissed him back, she whimpered into his mouth. It didn’t feel like she was acting.

He pulled back and looked down at her momentarily dazzled expression, wishing like hell he weren’t leaving town for a few days. Being social at the wedding was going to be hard with this little brat wreaking havoc in his head. “Are you ready to be a good girl for me now, Everly?”

There was a moment where he could actually see her throw off the submissive responses he’d won from her. Instead of pissing him off, it excited him. Just how much dominance would it take to keep her subby? If he ever got her into subspace, how long until she fought it off again?

Mischief sparked in her gaze.

“I don’t know.” She smiled up at him sweetly. “If I’m a good girl, do I get a treat?”

*   *   *

The ocean breeze stirred the white sheers covering the bedroom window. The scent of cool, salty ocean had Ambrose wishing they had time to go for a swim. But no such luck.

“Does my tie look straight?” Banner stared at himself in the full-length mirror in the corner of the hotel room.

“Yup, but your best man doesn’t.” Rook snickered. Konstantin laughed and high-fived Banner’s younger brother.

“Lads, this isn’t the time for tomfoolery. We’re in the middle of a necktie crisis.” Ambrose pointed at Banner. “Look at that man! We can’t send him to his fate looking like that. Kate would leave him at the altar and I’d be forced to marry her, myself.”

Banner arched a brow at him. “Fuck off. You had your chance.”

Ambrose shook his head. “It was always you she wanted, the silly girl. There’s no accounting for taste. Personally, I find you repulsive. And you can’t even cook.”

“I may not be able to cook, but I keep her mouth busy.”

“Hoooo, heyyyyy. TMI. No roughing the listener.” Rook pretended to clap his hands over his ears, but the teenager rarely missed anything. “I still think you should have gone with a bowtie.” He shook his head in disapproval.

“A bowtie is too formal for a beach wedding.”

“It’s your wedding. If you want a bowtie, I’ll go out there right now and mug a concierge.” Konstantin cracked his knuckles. His accent made him sound dangerous, even though he was joking. Maybe.

“Stand down. Ixnay on the bowtie idea. Kate likes a regular tie.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard all about how much she likes you in a suit.” Konstantin laughed. “Your dry cleaning bill must be enormous.”

“Like his dick,” Ambrose shot back.

Rook snorted then went to Banner and straightened the offending tie. “You know, if you guys are into each other, you should probably call off the wedding. We’re keeping Kate though.”

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Playing Hard to Master 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A don't miss with the perfect amount of sizzle and romance. Hot in all the right places....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series. Don't miss out on reading these books. You will be glad you did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the read so much. Racing to book three.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sexy
KittyKelly28 More than 1 year ago
As posted on The Smutty Kitty reviewed by KittyKelly 3 out of 5 Licks Finally the next chapter in the Masters Unleashed series has arrived. Immediately after finishing Finding Master Right I was chomping at the bit for the next in the series. While Playing Hard To Master didn't rock my world as much as the first one, it is still a great addition to the series. Everly is a bratty little sub who loves challenging her Doms. Not all Doms enjoy a bratty girl but I loved reading the dynamics between the two. Ambrose was willing to give her a firmer hand when needed and give her a bit of a longer leash to let her have some fun too. The only thing I really disliked about the book was Everly's attitude toward rich people. She had a rough past and she is a hard-core activist so she is very passionate about helping others. While I loved her passion she was so prejudice against the rich that she made Ambrose feel really bad about his success and guilty about having money. Ambrose is a good guy and helped his employees a lot. I liked that Everly helped him find ways to help others in need too, I just don't like the way it all happened. Overall I liked the book, but it didn't have that same captivating way about it that I had with the first one. The setup for the third one is interesting. I'm not sure how it's going to work out but I'm looking forward to taking the ride with Sparrow Beckett.