A sound caught Rachel’s attention and she glanced out the window. Her heartbeat picked up like it always did at any strange noise, but once again, looking out into the dark night, she exhaled in disappointment and let the curtain drop.
He wasn’t here. It wasn’t him. It was just another sound.
She walked back into the kitchen and poured a glass of water, took a sip, and set it on the counter next to the ever growing pile. It had been more than a year since the night Elijah had brought Marcus back home. More than a year since Marcus had said goodbye and left again. More than a year and she still held on to hope. Stupid hope.
Her eyes felt hot with tears. The doorbell rang and she quickly wiped at the one that had escaped, slipped on her jacket, and headed to the front door.
“Hey! You ready to go?” It was Lisa, someone she knew from work.
“Yeah, just a sec, let me grab my purse and keys,” Rachel said, waving to Walter who sat in the driver’s seat smoking his cigarette, turning the music up. She went back inside, collected her things, and turned on a lamp in the living room. They’d likely be back pretty late and she hated to walk into a dark house. She then locked the door behind her and climbed into the backseat of the old model Corvette. It reeked of cigarettes and pot and she had to roll her window down even though it was late December, freezing cold, and snowing.
“Here,” Lisa said, passing back a joint.
Rachel hesitated but then took it, bringing it to her lips. She spared one glance into the woods across from her house before inhaling deeply. Walter pulled the car out onto the street as she closed her eyes and sat back.
When her cell phone rang a few moments later, she didn’t bother to look at the display. It would be Elijah or Kayla checking on her. Again. She was over it.
* * *
Kayla hung up the phone and turned to the sleeping baby in her arms. Clarissa was almost four months old now. Her hair was coming in slowly but for the most part, she was still bald. She had Kayla’s eyes but her personality was wholly Elijah. Kayla buttoned up her shirt and stood. Clarissa made a small noise and turned her head, a drop of milk sliding from the corner of her mouth onto her cheek. Kayla touched it, wiping it away, then brushed the backs of her fingers over the baby’s soft face, her slightly open mouth. Her breath was warm and she hardly stirred when Kayla walked her into her bedroom to lay her in the crib. She tucked her in, kissed her forehead, and turned on the night light before leaving the room, keeping the door just slightly ajar.
She checked her watch—a little after ten.
She and Elijah had rented a house about half an hour from where Rachel lived. Ever since their return with Marcus and then his subsequent departure, they had both felt the need to be closer to Rachel. Rachel put on a brave face the last few months, but both Kayla and Elijah had been watching her and neither missed the destructive path she seemed determined to travel.
She picked up her phone intending to try Rachel again but changed her mind. She had promised herself to give Rachel space. Rachel was working through her disappointment in her own way. Neither Elijah nor Kayla liked it, but Kayla knew they needed to respect Rachel’s privacy. Marcus had been away for more than a year without a word. As angry as that made Kayla, she knew it hurt Rachel to know he chose to stay away. Whatever Marcus was working through though, in Kayla’s eyes, it didn’t excuse his coming back into her life only to disappear again just weeks later.
She went into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea when her phone rang. Looking at the display, she smiled and hit answer.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey yourself,” Elijah answered. “How are you?” Elijah was on his way back home after a work trip took him out of town.
“I’m good. Tired but good. And missing you.”
“Is Clarissa sleeping?” he asked.
“I just put her down for the night. Well, for the next few hours at least.” At four months, the baby still woke at least once a night to feed. Kayla loved the time with her but it was absolutely exhausting, especially when Elijah was away and she was on her own.
“It’s going to take me a little longer to get home with the snow, but I should be there before she wakes up for the next round. If you get a bottle ready, I’ll feed her and you can sleep.”
“Okay, I’ll have one ready, but wake me up anyway. I miss you.” He’d been gone for the week and she wasn’t used to having him away for so long.
“Go get some sleep. I’ll be home before you know it. One question for you though, have you heard from Rachel?”
“No. Not since you left. I just tried her again but she doesn’t pick up her phone. I went over there yesterday but she wasn’t home. I’m guessing you’ve had no luck either?”
She could almost hear the worry on the other side of the phone. “No.”
“And nothing from Marcus.”
They were both silent for a moment and the thought that something had happened to Marcus, that maybe he wasn’t able to keep in touch, nagged at her and she knew it was on Elijah’s mind as well.
“I’ve left three messages and am wondering if we shouldn’t just give her some space at this point,” Kayla said.
“I don’t know what’s going through her head,” Elijah said. “I’m not sure it’s space she needs. I think she’s had too much of it already.”
Kayla knew what Elijah was thinking. He’d said it before—he loved her like a sister but as far as he was concerned, it was time for her to let the past be the past and start behaving like a responsible adult again. He had smelled pot on her the last time they’d visited and she had lied about it. Two things he could not tolerate. When he had confronted her, she had been less than friendly and it had taken all Kayla had to get him out of there before World War III began. But now she was wondering if that was what she needed after all. A firm hand to guide her, at least until Marcus returned.
If he returned.
“Go get some sleep. I’ll go see her tomorrow,” Elijah said.
“Okay. I’ll put Clarissa’s bottle in the fridge. Hey, be careful driving.”
“I always am. Good night, hon.”
They hung up the phone and Kayla carried her cup of tea into the bedroom. She turned on the baby monitor, slipped on one of Elijah’s t-shirts, and climbed beneath the covers. She was asleep before her head even hit the pillow, not even tasting the tea that sat steaming on the nightstand.
* * *
The ringing of her cell phone woke her abruptly from a deep sleep. Kayla picked it up, looking at the clock displaying the time. It was just past eleven at night.
“Hello?” she said, not recognizing the phone number, instantly worried something had happened to Elijah.
Kayla sat up, suddenly wide awake. “Rachel? Is that you?”
There was a sniffle on the other side. “Yes, it’s me,” Rachel said, obviously crying.
“What’s happened? Are you okay? Where are you?”
“I’m… I’m at the hospital. I’m sorry for calling so late but I didn’t know who else to call. Elijah’s going to be really pissed if he finds out.”
“Oh my God, what happened? Are you okay?” she asked again.
“I’m okay. I just… there was a car accident and… I don’t have much time. My cell phone died and I’m on a pay phone. I’ll tell you everything when you get here. Can you come get me? I don’t want to spend the night here. And I can’t tell Elijah. Please?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll be right there. Which hospital?” she asked, knowing all along she should call Elijah. To wake Clarissa and take her out at this time of night in this weather was not smart. But Rachel was right, Elijah was going to be pissed, and the fact that Rachel had called her at all—didn’t that mean something?
* * *
Rachel hung up the phone and waited, thinking over the events of the night. Walter had seemed fine even if he was a little high. He was always a little high. They’d gone to one club but had left to see a different band at another. By then, he’d had a few drinks and probably shouldn’t have been driving. But none of them were in any condition to drive and the fresh snow falling didn’t help. On their way out of the parking lot, he’d hit the gas instead of the brakes and rammed his car into a tree. The police had come along with an ambulance. Walter would be charged with a DUI and although no one had gotten seriously hurt, they were all taken to the hospital to be checked out. Lisa would spend the night with Walter but Rachel was free to go and she wanted to go home.
When the doors opened to the waiting area and she saw Kayla walk in with the baby carrier slung over her arm, her pajamas peeking out from under her coat and her boots dusted with snow, Rachel could only feel guilt.
“Oh, God, Rachel,” Kayla said when she spotted her, her expression desperate. She walked fast to her and wrapped her free arm around her. “I’m so glad you’re not hurt.”
Rachel hugged Kayla back, unable to stop the tears that came. “I’m sorry I had to call you like this in the middle of the night. I just didn’t know what else to do.”
Kayla stood back and looked her over, eyeing the bandage on her forehead.
Rachel touched it. “It’s nothing.”
“Was he drunk? The driver?” Kayla asked, sounding more concerned than angry.
Rachel could only look at the linoleum floor and nod.
“Christ,” Kayla said, looking at her with pity.
“I’m sorry. I don’t really know… Kayla, I feel totally out of control, like… I don’t know. Everything is so different now. I thought if I knew… what if…” He’s dead? She stopped, unable to say the words aloud, the emotion too overwhelming.
Kayla gathered Rachel to herself again and Rachel let her. “It’s okay, we’ll figure it out. Let’s go home.”
* * *
Clarissa was bawling by the time Kayla pulled into the driveway of her own house. It took her a full hour to return home after dropping Rachel off. The roads were slippery and when she switched off the engine, Kayla exhaled, relieved to be safely home.
“Shh, it’s okay, baby. Shh…” she coaxed, feeling flustered at Clarissa’s unending cries. As she climbed out of the car, headlights turned onto the street and drove toward her house. It was Elijah.
She stood like a deer in the headlights, caught, her heart racing.
He was going to be mad. And that was an understatement.
“What’s going on, Kayla?” he asked, climbing out of the car and rushing toward them. “Is everything okay?”
“She’s hungry,” Kayla said.
“What are you doing out here? Where were you?”
She looked at him then dropped her gaze to the baby.
She could feel his eyes on her for a moment. Once he’d assessed nothing was wrong, he spoke again. “Let’s go inside, get her fed,” he said, turning her and leading them into the house.
Kayla settled on the couch and Clarissa latched onto her breast while Elijah brought over a cup of water for Kayla to drink.
“Rachel called after I’d fallen asleep. She’d been in a car accident,” she said.
“An accident? Is she okay?”
Kayla nodded. “Yes, she’s okay. I picked her up from the hospital and took her home.”
“You went out on a night like this? Why didn’t you call me to get her? Christ, Kayla, the roads are pretty bad, you could have been hurt. Clarissa could have been hurt.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” she said. “She just sounded so desperate. She didn’t want you to find out.”
“Too late. Go on.”
Kayla told him what she knew and Elijah sat quietly listening. Once Clarissa was finished drinking, he took her and held her up to his shoulder. Rubbing her back, he stood and walked her to her bedroom. After a few moments, he returned.
“Tell me something, if I hadn’t come home when I had, would you have told me?” he asked.
She looked up at him. “Rachel didn’t want you to know,” she began.
“Would you have told me?” he repeated, cutting her off, his tone just a hair different.
She dropped her gaze and shook her head. “No, sir,” she said, slipping into her role easily. He hadn’t punished her in over a year and she knew now without a doubt that he would punish her for this. She remembered the pain of a spanking but the look of disappointment on his face was worse. “I’m sorry.”
“Stand up,” he said, sounding like a disciplinarian, reaching for the buckle on his belt.
Her heartbeat picked up and her belly felt tight.
She slowly rose to her feet as he pulled the belt out of its loops and doubled it over in his hand, gripping the buckle in his palm.
“Bend over the arm of the couch, pants and panties down.”
“Do you have to?” she asked, knowing the answer.
“Do you think I shouldn’t?” he replied, raising his eyebrows. There was no humor in his expression.
She would have lied to him if he’d not driven up when he had. She would have done it to protect Rachel but that didn’t matter. She would have lied to him. Not to mention the fact she’d put Clarissa and herself in danger driving on a night like this.
She eyed the belt once more, then moved to stand where he’d said. She reached for the waistband of her pajama pants and pushed them down. She then did the same with her panties.
“Lower,” he said when she bent over.
She reached back and pushed them down to around her knees. She then bent back over the arm of the couch and placed her forearms on the seat. She waited, eyes wide.
Elijah moved to the side of her and pushed the shirt farther up her back as her pants and panties slid farther down her legs.
“Take your legs wider,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” she said, taking them as wide as possible with the pants pooled around her ankles as they were. She remembered well the sting of the belt.
“Tell me why I’m going to punish you,” he said, not touching her. That was the worst. There was no caress, no softness. She was to be punished.
“Because I put myself and our baby in danger and because I would have lied to you.”
She didn’t even have time to register that he’d swung when the first stroke landed.
“Ah!” she couldn’t help but call out when the leather seared a burning stripe across her bottom.
He struck again, twice in quick succession.
“I won’t tolerate lying Kayla,” he said before landing another one a little higher this time. “You know better than that.”
He struck again moving lower now, hitting her sit spots twice, three times, four times. She tried not to make any noise but sound was pushed from her with each blow. Tears stung her eyes as the belt stung her bottom.
“And you’re not helping Rachel by covering up for her.”
“No, sir. I know that. I’m sorry. Ah!”
The next lash landed on the crease between her bottom and her thighs and Kayla couldn’t help but straighten, grabbing her burning behind, rubbing.
“Down, Kayla. We’re not done yet and you know better than to get up before you’re told.”
She glanced at him.
“Ten more if you’re down now. Otherwise we start at one.”
“Ten?” she couldn’t help but ask, glancing at him.
“You’re right. Too easy. Make it fifteen.”
She opened her mouth but knew better than to speak. He would only add on strokes. She resigned herself to it as best she could, wiped at her tears, and bent back over the arm of the couch.
Some spankings were foreplay. This was punishment. The difference was incredible.
She thought she remembered the pain, but she did not remember it like this. It had been so long since she had been punished and he hadn’t used his belt in ages.
The first of the fifteen landed.
“One!” she called out.
He struck again, as hard as the last, again across her thighs.
“Two,” she managed, covering her face with her hands. “Three!”
Twelve to go.
The next two he delivered hard and fast so she barely got the numbers out. By the time they reached ten, her hands were fisted on the seat of the couch, and she was trying hard to hold her position while sweat dripped from her forehead.
“You would have been done if you’d done as you were told and stayed bent over. Remember that. Five to go and these will hurt.”
The eleventh landed and she rounded her back, clenching her buttocks, shifting from foot to foot. How was it possible these hurt even more?
“Eleven,” she said through her tears.
“Hollow out your back and unclench your bottom. You know better than this.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, but the unclenching was hard.
“We’re getting back on a maintenance schedule, Kayla. Every Friday night,” he said as the belt cut into her.
“Twelve.” What had he said? She couldn’t get beyond the pain of her punishment for his words to register.
The next two strokes came so fast after each other that she barely had time to count. The last caught her across the tops of her thighs and she let herself fall forward for a moment before resuming her position, knowing he’d want her to remain as she was until he dismissed her. “Fifteen,” she said, quietly sniffling.
She didn’t look up when the belt landed on the couch in front of her. It was over, her punishment.
She sucked in a breath when she felt his hand on her buttock, caressing what she knew were welts. “You’ll feel these for a few days, I think,” he said, touching another one. “If you ever lie to me or even think about lying to me again, no matter your reason, the belt will be a warm up, is that clear?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” she managed, crying now not only for the pain but for the fact she’d broken his trust. “I’m sorry.”
He left her there for a few moments as he walked to the kitchen and drank a glass of water. He then walked behind her and his hand was on one burning cheek, spreading her open. She heard him unzip his pants and for as much pain as she’d been in moments ago, for as humiliating as her position was, her pussy reacted.
His other hand was on her other cheek and he pulled her cheeks wide. He then pressed the huge head of his cock against her pussy and pushed hard. She groaned, his cock too thick and her passage too tight after nearly a week without sex. He didn’t stop though and he didn’t move gently. Instead, he pushed her deeper into the couch, gripped her hips, and fucked her hard, coming quickly after several powerful thrusts. When he pulled out of her, she stayed bent over, feeling semen leak out of her and drip down her thighs while listening to him zip his pants.
She remained as she was while he stood behind her. She looked up to watch him walk into the kitchen but dropped her gaze when he tore off several paper towels and returned to stand behind her, wiping at her tender thighs, cleaning her. He discarded the towels, taking his time to return to her. All the while, her bottom throbbed.
“Pull up your pants and panties and straighten up,” he said.
She did and turned to look at him.
He put his hands on either side of her face and kissed her tears. She leaned into him while he held her.
“I know you meant well, but you know better,” he said.
She nodded, her face still in his hands.
“I don’t ever want to come home from a trip and have to punish my wife first thing again.”
“You won’t have to, I promise.”
“Good,” he said, pulling her in for a tight embrace as he rubbed her back. “I love you, Kayla. If something had happened… I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“I love you too, Elijah.”
“Come on, let’s go get some sleep.”
“Am I forgiven?” she asked.
He nodded. “I can’t stay mad at you,” he said, hugging her once more.