Novel Name : Masters & Lovers Box Set Three

Chapter 8

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As we return carrying trays and pots and mugs, the two barely notice us. They’re sitting across the
table from each other, arms outstretched, their fingertips touching. Michael glowers.

Oh, c’mon…

They’re old friends…

“When you said, I'm here and safe,” Charlotte is saying, “what did you mean?”

His mouth works….

Choosing his words?

“After you left the farm, a man came looking for you, a police officer, or he claimed to be...”

“Yes, Tom told me that.”

“Tom? You've seen Tom?”

“Yes, it turns out he was spying for the people who sent me there.”

Chad’s head jerks back. “Was he indeed? The Blessingmoors people?” She nods, her face falling.
“Jenny…” He slides his hand over hers. “It's alright. When the news broke about that place, all the
pieces suddenly fit together…” He stops speaking suddenly, looking at me and Michael, then back to

“It’s alright,” she says. “They know it all. Both of them.”

Chad gazes at us, nodding slowly, thoughtfully, then continues. "I always knew there was something
you were frightened of. When it came out about Blessingmoors, it suddenly made sense but.... Tom
was spying on you for them? I can hardly believe..."

“He confessed to it. He did it because they were blackmailing him. They had his little sister…”

I nudge Michael with an elbow. “I think we should give them some privacy,” I murmur. He grunts, as
sour-faced as I’ve ever seen him, but follows me out of the room. “Are you going to grow up?” I hiss,
once we are out in the hall.

“And you’re happy about it, I suppose?”

“Yes. I’m happy. In fact, I’m delighted for her. Don’t you think she’s entitled to have friends other than
just you and me?”

“I suppose…”


When we return half an hour later, Charlotte and Chad are laughing and joking. As we enter, he grins,
waving casually in Michel’s direction. “I didn't make the connection. Michael here mentioned he was
married, but he called you Charlotte.” He slips a sly look her way. “Charlotte, eh?”

She blushes. “Alright, alright. So I named myself after a horse. I've been through that one with Tom.
Don’t you start bending my ear about it…”

He turns away to hide his grin. "Still get to ride at all?"

“No, it's not something I've had a chance to do since I left the farm.”

“Really? That's a shame. That's how I fell in love with you, you know.” He glances Michael’s way, then
back to Charlotte. “Until then, I thought we were just friends, but that day I saw you, riding Charlie, I
thought I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life.”

She sniffs and rubs her nose. “Given what followed,” she says, her voice tight, “what am I supposed to
do with that information?”

He leans back in his seat. “I don't blame you. And you'll always be Jenny to me.” His gaze shifts to
Michael. “Don't read anything into this. Marrying Jenny was both the best and the worst thing I ever did.
And she was not responsible for anything that followed from it. I was.” He sucks in his cheeks. “I’m
assuming you do know what happened between us?”

“That your marriage didn’t work out? Yes, I know.”

“Then hopefully you understand that I am so happy to find that she is safe and well. And that she has a
home and a husband. We’re old friends and I’m hoping that can continue.”

Michael, arms across his chest, nods, but the gesture is short and grudging.

Chad considers him for a long moment. “So, what about this trainer’s position? Am I out of a job?”

“I think that would be most unfair,” I say. Michael jerks a look at me, but I continue. “It can only be a
good thing for Charlotte to be reunited with her old friends.”

“I’m pleased to hear it.” Chad watches Michael speculatively, then turns back to Charlotte. “So you've
kept it up? The boxing? Or have you let comfort and safety move to that spreading ass of yours?”

Her eyes narrow. “Want to find out?”

“I think I do.”

Michael stirs…

Trouble brewing?

“Let's head for the gym,” I suggest. “The whole point of the meeting today was for old and new trainers
to settle in together…”

As we head back to the hotel, Charlotte twists, trying to look over her own shoulder, then leans close.
“Am I getting a fat bottom?”

“Only in a good way.”


In the gym, in joggers and vests, the pair circle each other.

He’s taller than her by several inches, muscular, broad-shouldered and with not an ounce of spare on

How long since she last saw him?

Six or seven years?

He would have been almost a boy then…

But for all Chad’s size, he’s light on his feet, graceful.

Easy to see what she saw in him…

And he strikes, his arm sweeping forward to snatch at her. But she blocks it, then swings with a foot to
hook around his ankle. He spins, throwing her, but she rolls and in a single smooth movement is once
more on her feet, feinting with her right hand then punching with her left…

“She certainly has her own style,” I comment, watching Michael side-long. He rumbles. I can’t pick out
the words, but a blue whale somewhere across the ocean probably heard him.

… Chad has her down, his weight bearing on her, but she locks her arms up against his chest then,
twisting, gets first one foot, then the other under him, kicking hard. He jerks away and back, and my
groin flinches in sympathy…

… and she’s up and punching. He’s blocking, parrying then jabbing back…

Are either of them pulling their punches?

Not sure…

Jammed into my back pocket, my phone vibes. It's Richard.

Just arrived. Where r u?

Gym. Move ur ass. U gotta c this

As I turn my attention back to the mats, he has her down again. This time, she tries to lock, but he
nudges her elbows open and his weight drops over her…

He’s got her…

If it were real…

A hand drops onto Chad’s shoulder. Michael pulls him upright, his voice mild. “Shall we see how you
handle yourself with someone nearer your own size?”

Chad’s reply is lazy. “I think we might.”

Charlotte scrambles upright, about to protest, but I jab a finger at her… “Charlotte!”… and point to the
spot next to me. She demurs but I stab at the spot and this time she obeys, scowling as she moves to

“Master…” she hisses. “We've got to stop them. They'll hurt each other.”

I cut her off. “If you think I'm getting between those two, you are much mistaken. Let them get it out of
their systems. You’ll have no peace until they settle it.”

“But it’s stupid…”

“Yes, it is. Nonetheless…”

Two faces appear at the glass panel, peer in and then the doors swing open. Richard enters, Beth right
behind him. He flashes brows at me then frowns, nodding across to where Chad and Michael are
squaring up.

“What's going on?”

“They’re setting up for a practice spar.”

Beth sucks a lip, wide-eyed, visibly gauging Chad. “Oh, my. He’s something, isn’t he…”

Richard gives her an amused glance. “Who is he?”

“That is Chad, Charlotte's first husband.”

Beth’s jaw drops and Richard’s head swings to look at Chad as though it’s on ball-bearings. “What the
hell’s he doing here?”

“Michael employed him as the self-defence instructor.”

A grin like a rising sun washes over his face. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. It’s all come out in the last hour or so when he and Charlotte set eyes on each other.”

“And Michael…?”

“…. doesn't like it one bit.”

Across the floor, the two, fists raised, circle each other. Michael tries an experimental jab. Chad jerks
back then retaliates, grazing past his opponent’s cheekbone.

Richard is adding up the pieces. “So, that’s the man who taught Charlotte to fight?”

“That’s right.”

“I hope Michael knows what he’s doing.”

“Not so sure about that…”

Michael lands a punch, catching Chad on the shoulder, then jolts back as Chad plants his knuckles
squarely on his chin.

“Shouldn’t they be wearing gloves?” asks Beth.

“Yes, they should,” hisses Charlotte. “They’ll hurt themselves and each other like that.” She moves
closer, her body reacting as fists swing and blows land.

They're well matched. Around the same height, both heavily built, Michael perhaps more so, but then
Chad is younger.

Richard sidles close, his lips barely moving as he speaks. “Do you think they see it, either of them? Or

I speak equally quietly. “I don’t think so.”

Beth creases a brow. “See what?”

Richard slides me a look, lips twitching, then says, “Elizabeth, look at them.”

She turns, blank-faced, watching. Richard and I watch her…

Then she spots it. “Ooohhh…”

“I wouldn't have missed this for my own funeral,” chuckles Richard.

“You got it, Beth?” I ask.

She raises a knuckle to her mouth, biting back the laughter.

“So, when Charlotte’s first marriage didn’t work out because he was gay,” murmurs Richard, “… the
man she married second time around was a straight clone of the first…” He presses fingers to his
forehead, shaking with suppressed laughter.

Charlotte turns. “What’s funny?”

We both wipe the smiles from our faces.



She’s not fooled. Giving us a suspicious look, she turns away again.

“You going to say anything?” says Richard from the corner of his mouth.

“Not if my life depended on it.”

But Beth looks askance at us, then sashays across to Charlotte, saying something quiet. After a
moment, Charlotte raises a hand to her mouth, turns and stares at where Chad is landing a blow that
would fell a rhino. We must have missed Michael’s punch on him because blood is flowing freely down
his face, leaving a trail of droplets on the mats. Both men are running with sweat, red-faced and

The doors swing open again and a stranger enters. Slim and with Latino good looks, he says, “Excuse
me, but I’m looking for Charles. Is he…?” Then his eye follows our pointing fingers and his mouth falls
open. “What the hell is he doing?”

“I’m sorry,” I say, “but you are…?”

“I’m Sebastian.” He thumbs towards the blood-streaked Chad. “Charles’ husband.”

Richard bends over double, shaking and hugging his ribs with one arm, the free hand waving
helplessly. Sebastian stares at him then, “What the fuck’s going on here?” he demands. “He told me
this was the introduction to a new job. Not a beat-the-shit-out-of-each-other session.”

“Ah…” I let out a breath. “It’s complicated. You could start by asking who that is...” I level a finger
towards Charlotte.

He shoots a glance at her. “Alright, who is she?”

“She was Chad’s first…” My words stumble… “… partner…”

He glazes. “That’s Jenny? The girl he married?”


He thumbs at Michael. “And he is…?”

“Jenny’s second husband.”

“Ah…” He throws the look that spoke a thousand words to the combatants. “I think I detect a pattern
here.” He inclines a little to me. “Thank you for your assistance. Please excuse me…”

“… My pleasure…”

…. And he bee-lines Charlotte, who turns to him with a puzzled expression. After a muttered
conversation, the light of understanding radiates over her face. They exchange a few more words, nod
and then, as one, march across to the battling pair.

“That is enough!”

“What the fuck do you think you’re playing at?”

Richard reappears at my side, wiping streaming eyes. “Oh, God. If it wasn’t free, I’d have paid to see

Michael and Chad turn to face the oncoming storm. Michael staggers. Chad weaves uncertainly.

Beth taps a toe. “You think that’ll have washed the scent of battle from the air?”


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