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Authors: Ava Lore

Tags: #alpha male, #analingus, #submission, #the billionaire's muse, #domination, #strong heroine bdsm, #rimming, #body painting

His Masterpiece

BOOK: His Masterpiece
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His Masterpiece (The Billionaire's Muse, #5) (A BDSM Erotic Romance)

by Ava Lore

Published by Brittle Divinity Press, 2013.

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

HIS MASTERPIECE (THE BILLIONAIRE'S MUSE, #5) (A BDSM EROTIC ROMANCE)

First edition. February 15, 2013.

Copyright © 2013 Ava Lore.

Written by Ava Lore.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Chapter Fourteen

I cried from the moment we entered Turkish waters, and didn't stop until I was released from custody.

I don't remember much of what happened after I lost sight of Malcolm. Tears made the world blurry and unreal, and in my chest a black hole had appeared, a terrible, unbearable void that would not let me go. My very bones seemed to creak under the strain of withstanding the crushing gravity of a heart collapsed, and I sobbed out my agony.

Malcolm, who I fought so hard to save—I'd saved him. And I'd lost him. And I didn't know what to do about either of those things. My brain had been bleached by the sun, all my rational thoughts faded, leaving behind only the blinding white feeling of loss and longing. I didn't want to be separated from him. Not yet at least. It wasn't time. I wasn't
ready.

Outside of my head, the Turkish Coast Guard was the first to deal with me, and after I sobered up and looked back on it I felt sort of sorry for them. People shouted at me in Turkish and English, demanding to know where the guns were stockpiled, but of course there were no guns. At least, I hoped not. The small part of me who still distrusted everyone, who never let her guard down, wondered, briefly, if Malcolm had been playing me the whole time and there were, in fact, stockpiled guns on board.

But if there were, they were stored in another dimension. The Coast Guard found nothing. To their credit, they covered me in blankets after it became clear I was having some sort of mental breakdown and stopped shouting at me for the same reason one doesn't shout at toddlers—it just makes them cry harder. They left me alone until we landed and the US took over.

That wasn't quite as pleasant as getting shouted at. The FBI—or CIA or
someone,
it was never quite clear to me—interrogated me several times, though they got nothing from me. Thankfully I wasn't being charged with a crime. Quite the opposite, it seemed, as Malcolm's list of sins now included kidnapping as well as fraud and embezzlement, and no one would listen to me when I told them I had been on the boat of my own free will. I may have been incoherent with grief, of course. That might have had something to do with it.

Eventually I just stopped trying to talk.
Never talk to the police.
That had been drilled into my head for ages. Good advice. I clammed up and hummed aimless tunes, whatever I could think of while staring into the distance. Acting crazy had worked for Malcolm. Maybe it could work for me too.

Then Felicia came to my rescue.

––––––––

It didn't even take her twelve hours to get to Turkey and take me home. She had probably been en route even before I knew that my time with Malcolm had come to an end. Money can do a lot of things, and when she showed up with a small army of lawyers, my release was quick and painless.

She didn't say anything. Just hugged me and handed me a bundle of my clothes, brought straight from my apartment, and I dressed myself before we left for the airport. The old familiar feel of jeans and a t-shirt and one of my comfortable old hoodies sliding over my arms and hiding my face from the world calmed me, and I finally stopped crying.

I hadn't been wracked with enormous sobs the
entire
time, although that I certainly had been completely incoherent with depressing regularity, but even when I was speaking or humming or forcing myself to think about something else entirely—such as how the orange blankets the Coast Guard had given me totally clashed with my skin tone—huge tears had welled up and spilled down my face. It was only when I was wrapped up in my own clothes, with my best friend, in her private car heading for home that the tears finally slowed to a stop.

A tense silence descended as I wiped my face vigorously. I could hear the horrible rattling sound my chest made every time I took a breath.

Felicia sat next to me in the back seat and watched me, her face full of sympathy and concern. I hate to be worried about. I knew she was waiting for me to say something.

I sniffled and wiped my nose on my hoodie sleeve. A disgusting smear of snot shone on the cuff when I took my hand away. I didn't give a fuck.

"Well," I said at last. "That sucked."

Felicia sighed and shook her head. "Which part? The kidnapping or the international interrogation?"

I didn't even have the energy to shoot her a glare. "There was no kidnapping," I said wearily. "I wanted to be on that boat. You think anyone could make me do something I didn't want to?"

She shrugged. "I don't know, Sadie. Knowing you... no. But everyone has a breaking point. I thought... I thought, what if he really
was
crazy? What if he pulled a... a weapon on you?"

A knife.
The words hovered above us. He could have pulled a gun, yeah. But that was never what I feared the most. Felicia knew my past. She knew me before all my scars had been hidden. Tattoos cost a lot of money. She'd helped me pay for some of them.

“No weapons,” I said with a sigh.
None except emotion.
“But it was... intense.”

She regarded me for a moment. “Yes, I see that. So... you went on his boat, without telling anyone, and sailed around aimlessly in international waters for shits and giggles.”

I was so tired I could hardly think straight. “No, it was to get away from the police.”

Her intake of breath was so sharp it hurt my ears. “So... you knew about the embezzlement and fraud when you agreed to get on his boat with him?”

I started to feel like I was being interrogated all the more.
“Yes,”
I snapped. “I mean... no. It's not like that. Malcolm's being framed. He's not embezzling his company, and he's not committing fraud, and he
definitely
didn't kidnap me."

For a moment I thought she was going to shut me down completely, but then she closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I believe you," she said. "At least, I believe you believe him."

I made a frustrated noise. "It's his personal assistant. Or secretary. Or whatever. That guy is the one defrauding the company. Don Cardell. Malcolm said he had proof."

“I see. If he had proof, why doesn't he just hand it over?"

"Because!" I said, annoyed. "He doesn't want to betray Don. Supposedly he's like a brother to him. He was just planning on getting caught by the feds and then
killing himself
instead of turning Don over. Don's the one who's framing him."

It had made sense when Malcolm had explained it to me. Perfect sense. But as I watched Felicia's face, I realized that it was just as crazy as I had first thought.

Was
Malcolm crazy? Really crazy? Paranoid, or... or bipolar or sociopathic or something? He had to have been telling me the truth... right? He had no reason to lie.

Had he really been betrayed... or was Don the one telling the truth, exposing his corrupt boss to the world in the name of justice? And if they were like brothers why was Don only Malcolm's secretary?

I was so
tired.
I'd believed Malcolm when we were together... why was doubt creeping in now?

My doubts were reflected in Felicia's frowning. "Sadie... Why would anyone remain loyal to someone who's framing them?"

I pitched forward and buried my hands in my hair. "I don't know. Because he's almost as damaged as you?"

That was a low blow. Felicia had her problems, and they all involved remaining loyal even when there was no reason to be so. I didn't look at her.

When she spoke, her voice was quiet. "Do you really think he has proof?"

"He told me he did."

"Did he tell you where he put it or hid it or kept it?"

I sighed and shook my head. "No. Up until we were boarded I was pretty sure he was just going to off himself and it wouldn't have mattered after that.” I looked out the window, wishing I wasn't listening to myself say these things. I sounded like a naïve sap who had fallen for a con man.

Then I remembered.
The vase.
He'd told me I could have the vase I had broken. But that didn't make any sense either. Why would he give
that
to me? Why not tell me where the proof was hidden with his last breath as the helicopters drowned out our voices and the men in jackboots closed in?

What the hell was Malcolm playing at?

“He said I could have something of his,” I blurted. “He didn't tell me about where he kept the proof, but he told me I could have the vase I broke at the auction.”

“The Qing dynasty one?” Felicia asked. “It was beautiful, but why would he give you a broken vase?”

“I have no idea. I don't even know where it is.”

“In his house, maybe?”

I shook my head and it turned into a nod of sleep for a split second. I caught myself and forced myself awake. “No... I think he moved all his stuff out to storage.”

“What? Why?”

I felt a faint smile on my lips. “He said it was because he'd decided to kill himself the night of the auction, but that when he laid eyes on me he decided to live for a little longer.”

God. It sounded stupid when I said it. Felicia thought so, too.

“Oh,
Sadie...”

“I
saw
all his shit getting carted out,” I said. “I saw it when I went to see him... Jesus. I don't even know." I passed a hand over my face, feeling the puffiness of my eyes and lips. "How long were we gone?"

"About three weeks," she said.

Three weeks? Jesus.
Jesus.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. "Christ, I'm tired."

"You should be," Felicia said. "You've been through a lot. Why don't you try to rest?"

I yawned. "Won't we be at the airport soon?"

"Yeah, but if you don't wake up I'll ask Ihsan here to carry you." She gestured at our driver, who was extremely hot and who gave me a smile in the rear view mirror that under any other circumstances would have been devastating and cause for a case of spontaneously combusted panties. But I just didn't feel it. I missed Malcolm.

No, more than missed him. Needed him. He'd thought I was his muse, but in a weird way he had been mine, inspiring me to step out of my life, the comfortable, safe niches I had built for myself. I liked safe. I liked comfortable. He had been neither, and yet there was a promise with him... with time... we could be something greater than what we were now...

I didn't even return the nice driver's smile, instead electing to cross my arms over my chest and slump in my seat, turning to glare out the window like a sullen teenager.

"I can walk," I told Felicia grumpily, but I'd been awake for almost twenty draining hours and I was asleep before I'd finished talking.

––––––––

I woke up on a chartered plane over the Atlantic, twisting on the couch and reaching for my gun that wasn't there. Felicia sat in one of the reclining chairs on the opposite wall of the plane, her eyes closed, her perfect, lovely face angelic in repose. The drone of the plane buzzed around me. We were alone except for each other. I sat up and looked around, trying to shake the cold feeling that stole around me, telling me to find a weapon, any weapon, but we were on a plane and weapons were few and far between. For the first time since I'd boarded Malcolm's yacht, I felt truly unsafe without it. Naked. Haunted.

What if he comes back?
I'd told Malcolm. It was the first time I'd ever told anyone my deepest fear. The fear that not even death would keep the ghosts at bay. Putting it out in words didn't rob it of its power at all. It just made it creepier.

My father. The root of my problems. He used to come into my room late at night, after he'd tried to drink the voices away. Sometimes he stood by my bedside and babbled, long weird strings of words that made no sense, demon names and Bible verses. Other times he would say nothing. Just stare. And sometimes he would cut me.

Not often. Not too often. Just often enough.

To let the evil out.

I still dreamed bad dreams and woke up in cold sweats. If I'd been able to keep a dog in my apartment on my shitty schedule, I would have had the biggest, meanest dog that ever lived. I'd have fed it steaks and kept it on my bed, just in case.
Just in case.
I had a gun instead, and cold comfort it was, though it was comfort all the same.

But Malcolm... in the middle of the ocean with him, with his hands on my body, the sun warming me, the sea breeze whipping my cares away, all our problems left behind on the shore... with Malcolm my fear had faded. I retained the habit, but there had been no drive behind it.

The betrayal of my family, my father's insanity, my mother's inability—or unwillingness—to keep me safe, had faded in the bright sun, in the warm breeze. The bones of the past bleached out at sea and crumbled to ash in the fire of our mutual desire.

Now that Malcolm was gone, I wasn't safe any more. And if he had been telling the truth about his secretary, there was one more person out in the world looking to destroy, to betray. If Malcolm had been telling the truth, he wasn't safe, even in jail. Hell, I probably wasn't safe.

What if Don suspected something? What if he
did
know Malcolm knew about his betrayal? What if he thought
I
knew where Malcolm had hidden his proof of Don's malfeasance? What if
he
knew where to find the evidence? He'd known Malcolm for a lot longer than I had. If anyone guessed accurately, it would be him...

No. No, I had no proof of any of that, had no proof even that
Malcolm
had been telling the truth, either. All I knew about Don was what Malcolm had told me, and what small things I had learned while I spoke with him on the phone, and he hadn't given any indication that he thought Malcolm had figured him out. Had he?

...Shit, I'd been too drunk to remember properly. Mostly I had a vague impression of being shouted at for no good reason and treated like I didn't have two braincells to rub together.

He's not crazy.

The words came floating up to me from the depths of my memory.

Oh. Right. Now I remembered. He'd thought I was a woman hoping to exploit a rich but vulnerable man for her own gain. Not only had he
thought
it, but he had said it out loud. Admittedly he had been under quite a bit of stress at that point, what with Malcolm allegedly skipping the country right before all his plans were to come to fruition...

BOOK: His Masterpiece
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