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Mischief… Mayhem… That’s Maisie!
In the first two books of The Earl’s Acceptance, we met Maisie, Quinn’s irrepressible sister and Mandy’s sister-in-law, best friend, and occasional partner in crime. This final book in the series tells Maisie’s own story; her adventures as a free-spirited young woman with a voracious appetite for fun.
If there was trouble anywhere in the county, she could find it, said her brother Quinn.
The ‘M’ in her name stood for Mischief, not Maisie, said others.
Now she’s married to Michael, her childhood sweetheart, a hardened and disciplined RAF fighter pilot who tamed the skies and came home with medals.
His new mission might be the most difficult yet. What will it take to tame his new wife?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains elements of power exchange and domestic discipline.
Maisie couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t known Michael. They’d played in each other’s nurseries when their families visited or simply when their nannies took them for what we call today playdates. As they got older, they’d climbed trees together and then fallen out of them again, they’d tumbled off banisters and even into a stream, they’d stolen little treats from the kitchens and hidden from their nannies. If Maisie was often the driving force behind the escapades, Michael was a more than willing participant. The adults would shake their heads and frown and sometimes even scold, but Maisie was a bit spoiled, and Michael wasn’t his father’s heir, so leeway was given.
By the time Maisie was in her teens, there was an assumption that she and Michael would marry some day. She was the youngest child and only daughter of the Earl of Morleton, and he was the second son of the Earl of Larchmont, and it seemed a good match all around.
After Maisie’s oldest brother Quinn, the viscount, went against tradition and married Mandy Stuart, a young woman from Texas, Maisie started to see things differently. Quinn’s marriage was not a comfortable arranged one but rather was based on romance and passion. She’d never seen that in her world before, and she wanted the same for herself.
By that time, she’d been engaged to Michael for several years, but he was away serving as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, something many later-born sons of peers chose to do. When she got restless and started considering breaking off the engagement, Quinn got her to share her feelings with him and then gave Michael good advice: Forget about the little girl you played with and focus on the beautiful and sexy woman Maisie had become.
Michael heeded his advice, and his renewed attentions won Maisie over. She would marry the handsome pilot when he came home to stay.
The wedding was a grand affair. The Earl of Morleton had only one daughter, and he intended her celebration to be a proper one. The church overflowed with relatives and friends of the two families, and there were probably more titles present that day than there were hymnals. Mandy was her sister-in-law’s Matron of Honor, but she was almost six months pregnant and beginning to show, so Maisie chose a dress style for her that hid the tiny bulge.
After a fantastic reception in the ballroom at Dunfirth Hall, the estate house where Maisie had grown up, she and Michael left for a honeymoon on the Mediterranean coast and the Greek Isles. They had several years of mostly absence to make up for, and they set to doing it with great gusto.
Michael had always been handsome and more rugged than his older brother, Logan, the viscount, and his pilot’s training had added a hardened virility that Maisie found fascinating. The knowledge that he’d been trained in survival and knew how to stay alive in a hostile environment or even how to kill a man with his bare hands sent a little shiver down her when she lay with him and studied his face.
He still had his fun-loving side and could kick back and relax or make love for hours with Maisie, whose enthusiasm for life made her a passionate partner in bed, but he’d matured. There was a firmness in his face and a self-confidence in his voice that hadn’t been there when he first went away, but hurling through the sky alone at 1500 miles an hour in a twelve-ton high-tech machine loaded with missiles can make someone grow up quickly.
He was no longer just the youngest child, the ‘spare’ in the heir-and-a-spare peer hierarchy. He was a man who had been trained into a code of honor and who could defend himself and those he loved. While Maisie had stayed home and amused herself, often in a way not that different from when she was younger, he had undergone strenuous training and lived a disciplined life, and, when he came home again, it was as a man who knew who he was and what he wanted from life.
When they returned from their honeymoon, their relationship was on firm footing again. They enjoyed each other’s company and had a dynamic sex life. The future was looking good.
Maisie and Michael were living in his parents’ home, Carlton House, while one of the smaller houses on the estate was being renovated for them. Michael’s quarters in Carlton House were spacious, and the two of them frequently dined in their own apartment rather than with his parents. Right now they were there in their own small dining area having breakfast.
“I’m not taking my own car this morning because Stanley’s going to look at it,” said Michael as he poured himself more coffee. Stanley was in charge of the estate’s vehicles.
“What’s the matter with it?”
“The heater doesn’t always come on.”
“I can look at it for you,” Maisie volunteered.
Michael looked at her with surprised amusement. “Is there something I don’t know about your skills, Emmie?”
When they were children playing together, they’d nicknamed each other ‘Em’ and ‘Emmie,’ in honor of their names both starting with the letter M. Maisie only occasionally used ‘Em’ in speaking to Michael now, but he still more often than not affectionately called her ‘Emmie.’
“I expect there’s a lot you don’t know about my skills,” she replied, giving him a provocative smile.
“You’re probably right, but let’s leave tending my car to someone who actually knows about cars.”
“I know about cars,” she replied indignantly. “Stanley shows me things when you’re not around.”
Michael looked at his irrepressible new wife sitting across from him and smiled knowingly. “I suspect he shows you things to keep you out of other mischief, not to turn you into his assistant.”
“That doesn’t matter. The point is that I know things.”
“I’m sure you do, but I’d prefer that Stanley be the one to look at my car.”
Just as Maisie was getting ready to argue further, Michael’s phone rang, and by the time he was done with the call, which was from his brother, Logan, Maisie was on a call of her own.
Michael got up, gathered a few things, and then came back to kiss Maisie goodbye, so she pressed her phone against her body and put her face up.
“Be good,” he said as he kissed her and then kissed her again.
“Bor-ing!” Her voice went up and then down again, and Michael shook a playful warning finger at her before turning to leave.
Maisie finished her call and then considered the day ahead of her. Maybe she’d go riding. She’d really be glad when Mandy had her baby so they could go riding together again.
As she was heading out the door, she spied Michael’s keys on the hall table, so she tucked them into the pocket of her riding jacket ‘just in case’ before going happily on her way. She rode for over an hour, and then, as she was walking back to the house, she saw Stanley get in one of the estate’s vehicles and drive away.
Suddenly remembering the keys in her pocket, she looked around and saw Michael’s sleek red BMW sitting in front of one of the garages. Stanley had just left the estate, so maybe she’d have a look at the heater herself. She knew exactly where the wires were, because she’d seen Stanley fix a heater once before, and it would be fun to watch Michael eat his words.
She smiled as she climbed into the car and moved it to a less conspicuous spot around the back of the garages. Then she removed her riding helmet and went back to the garages for a few items she’d need—a flashlight and a small set of tools that Stanley kept there for her.
She got back into the car and restarted it and then began turning the heater on and off. That’s strange, she thought. It comes on every time for me. She tried it again several times but with the same result: It came on perfectly every time.
She frowned. She was well aware that these kinds of problems were always the same—they behaved perfectly once you wanted someone to check it out. She’d just have a look anyway, because it might be something really obvious, like a loose wire.
She lay on her back and wiggled herself far enough in between the steering wheel and the pedals that she could see the wires behind the dash panel. Hm-m. . . there was something hanging down that maybe shouldn’t be. She gave it a little tug and the whole thing came off in her hand. Well, that’s obviously a problem right there, she thought as she took the handful of wires and laid it on the seat.
She peered up once again to see what else she could see and then took a long screwdriver and poked around a bit. A metal cap fell off, and, nodding knowingly, she picked it up off her chest where it had landed and put it on the seat with the wires. Then she wiggled out again and sat down on the edge of the seat to examine the parts she’d collected.
She had no idea where the wires went or even if they were important, and the little metal cap could go to anything, so she set them over in the passenger’s seat and then started the car again. Well, she would have started the car, except this time, when she pressed the starter button, there was silence—complete and utter silence. It didn’t even sound like it was trying, it just sat there tranquilly.
I guess the wires must be important, she thought as she picked them up to study them. She could see a couple places where they had connectors on the ends, so, with the wires in one hand and the flashlight in the other, she wiggled back into her place on the floor and shone the light up to hunt for a place to reconnect the wires. After a bit of searching, she did manage to hook the wires to some open connectors, and, feeling satisfied with herself, she wiggled out again and sat in the driver’s seat. The metal cap was still in the passenger seat, so she tossed it into a tray in the console before pushing the starter button again.
Pfftht… pfftht! A very unfriendly crackling came from behind the panel, accompanied by a few sparks visible where she’d just been lying. Maisie stared in dismay at the results of her efforts. Maybe she’d better let Stanley handle this one. She reached to turn the car off again, but it went silent on its own first, leaving only the smell of something burned.
“What the devil are you doing?”
Maisie jumped. Michael! Where did he come from?
She slid out of the driver’s seat and found herself looking at a very angry man whose eyes were shooting the same kind of sparks that his stupid car had just been doing.
“I asked you a question, Emmie. What are you doing?” His voice was a far cry from the happy-husband one who’d bid her goodbye only a few short hours ago.
“Well, I was trying to fix your car for you—and you’re welcome—but it’s got a lot bigger problem than just the heater.”
“Does it now?” Michael’s voice had a hard edge to it that Maisie didn’t appreciate. She’d tried to do something nice for him, and this is how he repaid her.
“Yes, it does, and it can just sit here and play dead for all I care!” She picked up her riding helmet and started to walk away, but Michael reached out and took hold of her arm, spinning her back around to face him.
“Did I or did I not tell you to leave the car alone?” he asked, staring at her sternly.
“No, you didn’t. You never said that. You said you’d prefer that Stanley fix it, but that’s not the same as telling me to leave it alone.” She flashed him a smug look, and for a minute he actually thought she might stick her tongue out at him.
He was furious, but he didn’t intend to stand in the middle of a public space and have an argument, so he simply said, “I don’t suppose it occurred to you to check with anyone before attacking my car?”
“Very funny. I didn’t attack your car. I treated it very gently.”
“So gently that it ended up throwing off sparks?”
“It’s not my fault. You already admitted it had a problem.”
“Yes, Emmie, it had a problem, and Stanley had already fixed it. It was sitting here fixed and ready to go, and now god knows what you’ve done to it.”
“You know what, Michael? I’m not going to listen to you get mad at me when I was only trying to do something nice for you. Fine, it didn’t work out the way I planned, but it’s the thought that counts, and my thought was a good one.”
With that she turned and ran towards the house, and this time Michael let her go. As he watched her disappear around the corner of the large building, his thoughts were troubled. He loved her upbeat nature and her perpetual optimism, but she was as lacking in discipline as she’d been when she was six. She was like a small cyclone that moved through each day, bringing excitement and disaster in equal measure.
Suddenly an image from their wedding day came back to him. As he and Maisie had been leaving the reception, her brother, Quinn, had shaken his hand and said with twinkling eyes and a look of mock commiseration, “Good luck, Michael!”
At the time, he’d taken it as big-brother teasing, but maybe Quinn had meant exactly that: Good luck!
He and Quinn needed to have a man-to-man talk really soon.
When Michael entered their apartment, Maisie was nowhere to be found, so he pulled out his phone and called her, but it went to voice. Frustrated, he called the kitchen and asked them to send up some lunch for both of them, and then he sat down to read some messages. When Maisie didn’t answer a second call, he dialed Boyd, the butler.
“Do you know if Lady Maisie left the estate, Boyd?”
“I don’t believe so, sir,” he replied. “I saw her walking towards the copse a bit earlier.”
While he waited for lunch, he sat and thought. He was starved or he’d go find Maisie himself, but he’d wait and see if she came back soon. She was one of a kind, no doubt about that, but sometimes she just went too far, like this morning. It wasn’t only the fact that she’d damaged his car, it was her attitude. She’d fried his electronics and then, rather than apologize, had acted as if he should have been grateful.
She had a big heart and meant well, but it was time for her to grow up. Her thirtieth birthday was approaching, and she was still acting like a spoiled teenager—or younger! Maybe he should send her off to Officer’s Training School and give her a dose of true discipline. Smiling at the image of Maisie running amuck on a military base, he remembered the movie Private Benjamin and suspected that Maisie in uniform would make Goldie Hawn look like General Patton.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door, and, when he opened it, a houseman rolled in a cart with dishes from which heavenly aromas were emanating.
“Shall I serve, sir?”
“No, thank you, Keith. I may wait a minute or two and see if Lady Maisie turns up.”
He tried Maisie’s number once more, and this time she answered.
“What do you want?” It sounded almost surly.
“What kind of way is that to greet your husband—a very patient husband, I might add?”
“What do you want?” This time it sounded less strident and more like a regular question.
“I’m sitting here in front of a cart loaded with food that smells wonderful. If you don’t get yourself back here very quickly, I can’t guarantee there will be anything left for you.”
“Don’t eat it all! I’m hungry.”
“Then I’d suggest you come home, because, as soon as I hang up, I’m going to start eating.”
“Michael! It’s not polite to start by yourself.”
“It’s not too polite to hide out when it’s mealtime, either. See you soon or see you hungry.”
He hung up and tried to resist the scent of herbed chicken and freshly baked bread. Then he surrendered a little. Since he had no way of knowing if Maisie was coming or not, he helped himself to a still-warm slice of the bread, spread it liberally with butter, and then closed his eyes in pleasure as he took a large bite and savored it. Their cook, Agnes, was an artist in the kitchen, and he knew he was lucky to have always eaten great food.
Well, not always. His years as a pilot had been a rude awakening in the culinary field. There had always been more than ample food—mounds of it, in fact, but the quality simply couldn’t measure up to Agnes’ masterpieces. When he had come home on leave, he’d looked forward to her cooking almost as much as he had to seeing Maisie and his family.
“You’re eating!” Maisie exclaimed reproachfully from the doorway. She’d come in so quietly he hadn’t heard her.
“Only the bread, but you need to wash up quickly, or I’ll move on to the rest.”
She shot him a dark look but left again to wash the morning’s dirt off her hands and face. Soon she was back and sat down to a plate that Michael had dished up for her while she was gone. They ate for a few minutes in silence, and then Michael brought up the subject on his mind.
“Emmie, you can’t keep carrying on the way you did this morning. You can’t just shoot off and do whatever crosses your mind without first stopping to think.”
“But I did think,” she objected, a small pout on her face. “I thought I could do something that you’d think was unusual.”
“Oh, believe me, if that was your goal, you succeeded admirably,” he answered, chuckling in spite of himself. “I can honestly say that watching you destroy my electronic panel was more than unusual. Emmie, you caused a lot of damage to the car. Stanley’s not sure he can fix it himself. He may have to send it to a BMW dealer to try and rescue it.”
“That’s what happens when you get a German car instead of a British one.” She helped herself to a slice of the bread before Michael ate it all.
“That’s an interesting take on the matter, but it doesn’t address the fact that you simply barged ahead and started messing with things you didn’t understand, especially since you knew I’d expressed a preference for Stanley to do the work.” He looked at her seriously for a minute and then added, “And let’s not forget that the work had already been done. If you’d bothered to ask someone before you absconded with my car, you would have known that.”
“Why are you carrying on like some out-of-sorts schoolmaster?”
“Because I’m trying to make a point, Emmie, and you need to hear it. You know I love your fun side, but there’s a difference between adult fun and immaturity, and too often what you do falls into the second category.”
“Well, thank you very much. You’re just a barrel of fun today, aren’t you?”
“I’m not trying to be fun right now. I’m trying to make a point. It’s time for you to start thinking before you act. That’s all that’s necessary—think first, act second. It’s a magic formula that works like a charm.”
“I’m not looking for a charm. I like things the way they are.”
“Well, I don’t, Emmie,” he said, looking at her seriously. “There have been several times lately when your behavior was over the top. You need to rein it in.”
“Or what?” she demanded, her jaw jutting out.
“Is that really what you want?” he asked, surprised, a small frown on his face. “Do you want me to sit here and name potential consequences?”
“No. I’d like you to sit there and talk to me like the old Michael—you know, the fun one I used to hang out with.”
“The old Michael grew up, Emmie, and you need to, too. I still want us to have fun—a lot of it, in fact, but it needs to be responsible fun, like we had on our honeymoon—fun that doesn’t hurt anybody or anything.”
Maisie looked at him for a minute and then jumped up and stood at attention. “Yes, sir!” she said as she snapped a salute—her version of one, at least.
“Better.” Michael looked amused.
“Well, I hope you took a picture, because it’s the last time you’ll be seeing it.”
“Come here, Emmie,” he said as he pushed himself back from the table and patted his leg.
“My god, woman, can’t you just do something without a long discussion?” He watched her for a minute and then spoke again. “You know, I may be using my leg wrong. Has anyone ever put you over their knee instead of on it?”
Maisie looked at him with outrage but didn’t answer, so he continued.
“Did you know that, when we were little, I used to get punished all the time because of you? It was like a recipe that was followed over and over: Be with Maisie, follow one of Maisie’s crazy ideas, get punished at home later for doing the crazy thing with Maisie.”
“No one made you do what I wanted.”
“I know, but I did, and I paid for it. I think it’s the paying-for-it part that you’re not familiar enough with. Did you ever get punished for any of your escapades?”
“I don’t remember.”
Michael looked amazed. “You don’t remember if you ever got punished?”
“I didn’t say that. I thought you were talking about things I did with you.”
“All right, how about everything, not just with me. Did you ever get punished for things you did?”
“Someone took away your favorite hair ribbon?”
“Very funny. I got spanked sometimes.”
“Not very hard, I’d wager.”
“A couple times I did, from Quinn.”
“Yes. He has this thing about behaving.”
“Well, I may just borrow a page from his book, because I think paying the piper a few times would do you a world of good.”
“Michael, if I’d wanted to join the military, I would have done it when you were in the Air Force so we could have seen each other.”
He looked at his watch. “I’m sorry, but I need to get back to the office now, Emmie. Logan and I have an appointment. We can talk about this more later.” As he got up, he popped one more small piece of a sweet called tablet into his mouth.
“I don’t really want to talk more about it.”
“Probably not, but we’re going to anyway.” He walked around the table and kissed her. “Don’t forget we’re eating with my parents tonight. Lyndsay and Cuthbert are going to be here.”
“Oh, god, that’s all I need!” She took her finger and pushed the end of her nose up in imitation of his sister, Lyndsay, the oldest of the three siblings. Lyndsay was married to the firstborn son of a marquess, making him an earl and her a countess, a fact she never let Maisie forget.
“Well, consider it a chance to practice the new maturity you’re going to be radiating.”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”
Michael gave her a long look. “Remember what I just said about knees. They can be used more ways than one.”
With that as a parting shot, he hurried out of the apartment, leaving Maisie to mull over his words. What was going on? Was Michael serious or just pulling her leg?
That night at dinner she suffered through Lyndsay’s endless tales of how important her husband and her father-in-law were. She didn’t say much, but she did roll her eyes a few times, and Michael caught her once and shot her a disapproving look.
Finally, they were back in their rooms for the night. She kicked off her shoes with a vengeance and demanded, “What is the matter with your sister? Your parents are nice, your brother is nice, you’re okay most of the time, but your sister! Was she like that when she was young?”
Michael ignored her question about Lyndsay and focused on the part about him. “I’m just okay most of the time?” he asked as he wrapped his arms around her. “Is that your final word on the subject?” He moved his fingers to indicate a tickling motion.
Maisie laughed. This was the Michael she loved, not that boring lecturer from lunchtime.
“It’s like a B-minus,” she said, still laughing. “That’s not bad.”
“I’d better be an A-plus or you might get to try out the knee option sooner than you planned.”
“Ew-w, I’m so scared.”
There was no way Michael was going to let that stand without ‘retribution.’ In a flash, he was on the edge of the bed and had pulled her over his left leg into a very vulnerable position.
“What’s my grade?” he asked, looking at the inviting albeit fully-clothed backside staring him in the face.
“F!” Maisie was nothing if not intrepid.
“Wrong answer.” He pulled her skirt up, revealing skimpy panties. “Try again.”
“Have you never played strip poker, Emmie?” he asked, chuckling. “You don’t have the clothing to move at the rate you are.” He slipped his hands under the elastic on her panties and then pulled them down, having to lift her up a bit and tug where she was lying on them. Once the little silky panties were almost to her knees, he eyed the luscious bare cheeks displayed so prominently over his leg.
“What did you say my grade was again?”
Maisie paused. The clothing was gone, so what came next? “A solid gentleman’s C,” she replied with a little less bravado.
Smack! It wasn’t a hard hit—it barely stung at all, but it still surprised her. For all the hours the two of them had spent exploring each other’s bodies, Michael had never even pretend-spanked her. He’d done other things to that part of her body, but he’d never slapped it.
“Do you want to check your grade book again, Mrs. Kerr? I think you were reading the wrong line.”
Maisie giggled slightly. They both knew where this was going to end, but she had to decide how hard to make Michael work for it.
“Oh, look. I was right in the first place. It’s a B-minus.” She closed her eyes and waited for it.
Smack!! It was a bit harder than the first, but still not really serious. She instinctively clenched her cheeks but laughed to herself. She suspected he was surprised at her holding out this way.
“Do you need glasses, Mrs. Kerr? I’m going to ask you only once more. What is my grade, and I suggest you look very carefully at your grade book before answering?”
Maisie turned it over in her mind. She was not in an advantageous position to haggle, but she so hated giving in too soon.
“Mrs. Kerr?” Michael laid his strong hand on the lower part of her cheeks as a reminder that he was waiting. “Your final answer, please.”
Mandy took a deep breath—a breath of willing surrender.
“A-plus!” she sang out.
“Ah-ha! I knew it all along!” Michael quickly rolled her off him and onto the bed, where he kissed her. “You’ll never know how lucky you are that you found that final A.”
Maisie laughed. When they were good together, they were very, very good. “I’m going to shower now, flyboy. Do you want to come?”
“I do indeed. I’ll be there in just a minute.”
As he watched her take off the rest of her clothes and walk into the bathroom, his thoughts were on today’s events. Most of the time she was a fantastic companion, but he needed to take a stronger stand about those other times. He’d realized that today. She needed a firmer hand, and he had no problem providing it. A few minutes ago he’d been only playing with her, but one day soon she’d cross the line again, and then he planned to take her over his knee for real. It was the best thing he could do for their marriage and for her.