He tried not to seem too excited in fear of giving the strange woman the upper hand, and smiled suavely at her as he sipped his martini. “My dear,” he began in his velvety voice, “you don’t have to be the one to promise me anything. You will beg me to take you any way I like if I decide to follow you home.”
The woman pouted, but pressed her silky thighs together and leaned in toward him, seeming to adjust her body enough to let him look down her shirt clear down to her belly button. The orbs of her breasts, restrained by a low-cut bra, tantalized him.
He, in response to this obvious ploy to tease him, left her swooning by remaining as standoffish as an aristocrat. The tactic never failed.
Earthside was deliciously insane. Especially nowadays with women barely dressed at all as they waited outside of prestigious nightclubs, hoping their lingerie-in-lieu-of-a-true-dress would get them in. The music was overly loud and chaotic and the atmosphere of the world had the likeness of a dark and industrial gothic novel. To add to it all, the world was safer now, making women bolder; one could walk anywhere at any hour of night and still see perfectly with the light shining down from the fluorescent lamps above.
Moriarty loved it this time, this world. He would never really admit as much, but his day off was most always spent on Earthside where he would purr inwardly as women bought him drinks and would afterward invite him to their homes. No commitment needed; the girls were very free with themselves and expected him to be gone when they awoke, and more important, they were sexually liberated. They wanted to explore their bodies, explore his body… Watch him exploring theirs…
There was no fear of consequences anymore. Everyone was on birth control, and if they weren’t, condoms were dispensed conveniently in the public restroom. Moriarty had never seen an ardent necessity of birth control himself, specifically since he was an immortal. Being such, he could heal quite speedily from any illness and he could not impregnate a mortal. But now he could experience this type of freedom with others.
It was certainly something his employer, Ashcroft Medwin, would never understand—the bad-tempered and very visibly scarred wizard might as well have been a eunuch for as often as he’d had sex in the last century.
“Oh,” the woman said, listening to the music of the band that had just come on. “I love them.”
Moriarty listened and knew that if any music could drag him out of ‘the mood’ it was that rubbish. Grungy hip-hop—disgusting. Luckily it was very, very difficult for him to be broken from the mood once he was in it. He played with the hem of the woman’s short skirt before pushing it up her thigh.
She let out a small moan and parted her legs for his diligent fingers to roam up the smooth skin of her thighs. This woman did not care at all that they were in a bar in the middle of a crowded room filled with noise and heat. His every touch made her purr, every rub made her writhe.
Bingo. No panties. Thank heavens for Earthside.
“And let’s give a hand to our virtuoso, mates…” the guitarist said from the stage, gesturing behind him. Moriarty did his best to ignore the man, and hoped that his current ‘toy’ was ignoring the performer as well. “Kresley Kylemore.”
That was the fakest name Moriarty had heard in a while. He glanced up as a hip-hop violin solo started, already annoyed at the distraction, and saw a freckle-faced girl with large, round eyes and a familiar grin lift her violin up to her chin.
“Don’t stop touching me,” the woman begged, grabbing onto his trousers desperately with her manicured hands.
Moriarty had actually stopped touching the sex goddess under his palms. He couldn’t help it; he wasn’t easily shocked, but his mouth was hanging open with shock nonetheless. He had never expected for Charlotte Grimm to turn up here of all places. That damned witch had turned his employer’s world upside down when she’d dropped off the face of the Earth well over a month ago.
He didn’t recognize the girl right off the bat, either. Charlotte had changed her hair color from a muddy clay color into a golden blond. Her dress was even more ridiculous than usual too, though probably because all of her clothing had been sent to Ashcroft’s tower when she had stopped coming by. Ashcroft had hoped that she would come back to him to regain possession of her things, but the ruse hadn’t worked.
Not that Charlotte would have gotten her wardrobe back even if she had returned, since Moriarty had felt he had to burn the majority of it—it was too hideous to exist. Though Charlotte’s stylistic standards were never high; right now, Charlotte was wearing a blouse held together by goddamn paperclips.
“Touch me,” his woman purred in his ear.
Moriarty obliged, although he was now deep in thought.
Should he pretend he hadn’t seen Charlotte and enjoy the rest of his day off? Maybe have this woman and possibly a couple more before returning to the tower? Or should he just go up on stage and drag the little brat home by her ear?
His fingers brushed sensually into the woman’s upper, inner thighs. That’s right—no panties. Alright—option one, it was. Ignore Charlotte. She was still in England, at least; not too far from home. Ashcroft would soon hire someone else to track her down anyway.
Moriarty was now finger-deep in the chit with a tongue in his ear, and he was anxious for it to continue. “My flat’s just down the street,” the woman simpered. She flashed her sexy smile at him.
“How utterly convenient,” he was just about to say when his tie was grabbed and he was being led out of the bar.
Ah, dominant women. Earthside was full of them—women with confidence, women with control.
He had the unfortunate countenance that would attract a dominant woman from across the room. Which was very fine for many other men, but Moriarty had the veneer that made women think that he wasn’t as masculine as he considered himself. He wished like hell he could be the dominant one in bed. Every now and then he yearned to pin a woman down and take her from behind—especially after spanking her bottom bright pink…
It didn’t matter. Within a couple of hours he was spent with the woman anyway, and came stumbling out of the woman’s flat as she slept. He walked into the cold night air of Cambridge and back toward the club.
He took a shortcut back through an alley, and heard voices in the fire escape above him. “You played great tonight.”
“Thanks,” replied a familiar voice. Moriarty’s eyes rolled upwards. “So did you.”
“I know,” the male voice chuckled. “Hey… Do you want to get a cup of coffee? Or maybe just go back to my place?” the man’s voice asked.
“Um… No, thanks. I’m actually gonna turn in soon.” Charlotte blew smoke out of her mouth, twirling a cigarette around in her fingers.
“You’re sleeping in the dressing room again?” he asked. “I thought you’d found a place!”
“Um, yeah, but I packed my suitcase this morning. I woke up with a rat on me.”
“A rat on you?”
“A—Rat—On—Me,” Charlotte drawled slowly. “It was like this—me, blanket, rat. And it just turned its head to look at me, like, ‘What?’ Like, I was in his bed or something.” She shook her head. “I can just see the newspaper headline now: ‘American goes to England, dies of the plague.’”
The man’s voice laughed. “Well, sleep at my place, then. No rats. I promise.”
Except a big one. You, Moriarty sneered, understanding that the man was just trying to lure Charlotte into coming home with him to seduce her.
Maybe it was a protective notion, but he had gotten to know Charlotte very well over the last summer. Not that she was very likable; she was stubborn, racy, and extremely naïve. But her long list of negative aspects aside, Ashcroft was completely infatuated with the girl. The wizard would never admit to as much, probably wishing himself to be too good of a man to fall for a girl who was supposed to be his ward, but facts were facts: Moriarty had been Ashcroft’s loyal servant for seven hundred years, and Moriarty had never seen Ashcroft so addled by a woman before.
Suffice it to say, now Moriarty was thinking again about just dragging her on back to the Otherworld. After all, she was homeless and she wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to this guy forever. Eventually she was going to go home with him and give up her virginity for a warm bed, a decent meal, and a bar of soap.
That inevitable move would make her one of the most pitiful witches in history. Her ancestors used to call typhoons and winds to bring whole armies to their knees, yet there Charlotte was—sharing her bed with rodents.
“No, thanks. I can manage,” Charlotte replied simply.
The man, who Moriarty recognized as the lead guitarist, shrugged his shoulders. “Suit yourself,” he muttered, hauling his guitar over his shoulder and stepping down the dirty metal stairway. The guitarist walked right past Moriarty, who was pretending to search for a cigarette in his pocket. “Frigid bitch.”
Moriarty watched the man turn the corner, leaving him and Charlotte alone together in the alley, and Charlotte still seemed completely unaware of Moriarty’s presence. He saw her flick down her cigarette butt before turning like she was going back inside. That’s when he made his move.
He was a Huxian—he spent the first century of his eight-hundred-year existence as a fox. He was quick, agile, and sneaking up on her right before she was able to open the back door of the club was uncommonly easy for him.
“Good evening, Lady Charlotte,” he said in her ear after he reached in front of her, clamping his hand over her mouth and a firm arm across her body. He dragged her back down the escape this way. He heard her muffled, angry cries underneath his hand. She was trying her best to bite him, but he didn’t let her.
He only let her feet touch the ground when they had gotten off the fire escape. Then he took a tight grip on her upper arm as she desperately tried to twist herself out of his grasp. “Moriarty, goddamn it, let me go!”
“No,” Moriarty sneered. “Master has revoked your Earthside privileges, my dear. You’ve worried him.”
“Moriarty, let me go or else I’ll scream! This isn’t funny! Let go of me!” She tried to kick at him and wrench away, but he just turned and hauled her over his shoulder with as much effort as he would use swatting away a mosquito. “I don’t wanna go back to Ashcroft! I don’t wanna learn magic anymore!” she whined like a bratty four-year-old who was being hauled off to preschool.
“You’ve spent far too much time on Earthside, my girl, if you think anybody gives two damns about what you do or do not want to do anymore. Besides, it’s better that I found you. Ashcroft was preparing to send trackers after you. They’re not so gentle.”
“This isn’t comfortable, Moriarty! Stop—Ow!” He dumped her into the backseat of his car. She rubbed her head where she’d bumped up against the far window. As she clumsily tried to adjust herself, he whipped off his belt, then leaned in to bind her hands with it.
She started screaming, although nobody was around to hear her. Once she was properly unable to escape from the backseat, he walked toward the driver’s side like a man strolling through the park.
She sat up and kicked at his seat as he drove. He put up with it for about sixty seconds. “Do you want me to come back there and bind your feet, too? Because I’m doing that after I give you a good hiding. And that’s before I hand you off to Master Ashcroft. You’ve ruined my evening. I should be onto my second woman by now.” He turned his eyes back to the road.
“Well, let me apologize,” she seethed. Moriarty knew that she hated to be threatened with spankings—especially since she’d taken off as soon as his master had tried to threaten her that way. “I’m sorry to spoil your weekly fuck-fest.”
“Apology not accepted,” he growled. “I don’t know what you were thinking by running away. We’ve given you everything, all the comforts you could ask for, and you just take off without a note?”
“Oh, I left a note,” she reminded.
“I don’t know if writing ‘Fuck off, love, Charlotte’ on the refrigerator with chocolate sauce constitutes as a note,” Moriarty argued. “Bad form is what it was. Your family is humiliated and worried, and Ashcroft is worried, angry, and insulted…”
“I don’t care what Ashcroft thinks! He’s a bully. And I don’t care what my family thinks, because they’re not my actual family.”
“They love you like a daughter, and they raised you from infancy, you spoiled brat,” Moriarty snapped, glancing back with judgmental eyes. “I’ve known several people who were a lot worse off. They spoiled you recklessly.”
“And then they handed me to Ashcroft—the most bad-tempered wizard in the universe.”
“You’ve made him bad-tempered,” Moriarty replied tersely, but he could hardly deny her claim. Ashcroft was bad-tempered since she’d come upon the scene.
Ashcroft had actually been excited about his new apprentice being the last known alive Byndian witch. His hopes might have been too high. His only apprentices thus far had been archivist wizards—his own different race of wizard—and even then, he had rarely taken on apprentices at all. “You make everyone bad-tempered,” he added.
That was probably also true. Charlotte could be unbearable and annoying.
“He has no right forcing me to go back there,” she added aloofly. “Let me go.”
“Where do you get off?” Moriarty found himself asking. “You know perfectly well he has the right. You’re the last Byndian—you have to keep your race alive or else your power will fade out of existence with you. And your guardians signed you over to Ashcroft, besides. He’s in charge of your protection and your education.”
“Only because they forgot what century we live in!” she argued. “They just can’t sign me over! People don’t do that anymore!”
“You signed, too,” Moriarty reminded simply. “In silver ink.” Silver was sacred to wizards. “Your handwriting. I’ve read the document—you’ve signed over your protection and education as his concern. You’re quite officially his apprentice. You’ve given him rights over you.”
“Under duress,” she finished. He looked into the rearview mirror and arched an eyebrow at the term ‘duress.’ “I was guilted into it!”
“You mean you were, for a brief shining moment, understanding the responsibilities to your birthright,” he rephrased. “And then you turned back into a brat.”
“Stop calling me that! I still have some rights left, you know! I have dreams! That’s why I left.”
“No, you left because you were lazy. You forget, my dear girl, that I was there. Ashcroft was finally putting his foot down with you.” More so, Ashcroft, after a whole summer of nothing but her showing up late and not doing a thing he said, had run out of ideas of how to get her to work and finally threatened to thrash her if she didn’t start becoming more responsible and if she didn’t improve. She responded by trying to weasel out of her apprenticeship contract.
“He was a jerk the whole way through. He’s always yelling at me.” Moriarty saw her bottom lip pout and her eyes scuttle to the floor by her feet.
“He never yells,” Moriarty sighed. At least, Ashcroft hadn’t yelled at her; not yet, anyway.
“He nags. I’ve never done anything right.”
“I can agree on that,” Moriarty replied quickly, not surprised—or concerned—at the stricken expression that flashed across her face.
Moriarty knew that she had it all wrong. Ashcroft was merely doing a ‘tough love’ act, as he’d done with his male apprentices—and they were all archivists, which meant that they lived for study as he did. The Byndian witch, strictly bred by generations of wizard folk with the attention spans of gnats, was quite different. Where Ashcroft’s other apprentices had taken his negativity and had tried harder to appease him, Charlotte was more the type to just flip the bird and give up on the whole ‘being a witch’ thing, as if it were optional and not her race.
She gritted her teeth at Moriarty and stared quietly out the window, watching them leave the city and head out toward the country. “Just so you know—I was better off sleeping under a bridge.”
“My ass,” Moriarty snapped. “You were not. You were just too stubborn to crawl back and ask for forgiveness, a warm bed, and a warm coat.” He shook his head, hoping she didn’t say anything so stupid to Ashcroft, who might actually have taken offense to such nonsense. “I hope you get a warmed bottom as well, for your trouble.”
Even in the dim light of the car, Moriarty could see her blush with embarrassment in the rearview mirror. “Shut up! Don’t say that! What’s wrong with you?”
“You’ve left me with a very surly employer for the last six weeks!” he replied. “That’s what’s wrong with me. Also, it does anger me that someone that had been given so much could just toss it away and hole up in a dressing room with weird hair and hideous clothes.”
“That was, like, temporary.”
“Yeah? And when was, like, the last time you ate?” he threw back, mocking her Californian dialect.
She considered this, but then didn’t respond. His heart wrenched—when was the last time she’d eaten? “I was doing fine,” she said quietly, sounding angry, yet surrendered.
So, she really couldn’t take care of herself at all. That must have been a bitter pill for her to swallow. He could just imagine her curled up in the freezing autumn air in a rat-infested, closet-sized apartment, with only a violin and whatever she snagged from her apartment before leaving to make a living with, and obviously it wasn’t as easy to make money being a musician as she’d hoped. She had to have been even more stubborn than he had considered to not have come crawling back by now.
There was silence in the car for the rest of the drive, and Moriarty was becoming very pleased with himself that he was dragging her back. Finally, in the middle of a field, he slowed down to park the car. As he put the brake on, he turned his head toward the backseat. “Alright now—”
Charlotte elbowed him on the lip and ripped out of the car.
Oooh! He couldn’t wait to deliver her to Ashcroft!
“Urgh! Damn her,” was what Ashcroft Medwin normally panted as he was spending from his own hand. It was frankly embarrassing. He had so seldom been urged to give himself relief before he’d met Charlotte. Now, he sometimes did it twice a day—something he hadn’t done since he was a teenager. It was the only thing that helped him think straight. Sometimes he felt dizzy from how fiercely he desired her.
He never realized that there could be someone so damn arousing. No, not just arousing, but appetizing in a way that made him actually hunger for her. Her scent, her looks, the way she moved, or walked, or bent over, and even the way she scowled at him when they were arguing had made him hard as a stone. Now, just thinking about her made him hard.
He hated this; she was his apprentice, for God’s sake! His student. He shouldn’t feel this way about her. It was indecent.
Even if she was the worst apprentice ever. He never met a woman so insulted by being told what to do. In one way, it might have been because she was so young. She was only nineteen—she was a baby, and thus acted like a stubborn child. At the same time, he couldn’t help but wonder if the apprenticeship should have started when she was even younger and more impressionable.
He’d asked to start her apprenticeship when she was thirteen, but her foster parents balked, saying she wasn’t mature enough to survive in the Otherworld and that she was too disorderly to be sent to a great wizard like Ashcroft. They only signed her over to him when she’d finished human schooling and when they’d finally lost any and all hope of her growing to be any more orderly or more mature, and so finally surrendered to Ashcroft’s pressure.
He hadn’t actually seen her until that last summer and thus had no idea what to expect. He certainly hadn’t expected someone so damn beautiful that she would make him miserable with desire.
“I should have treated her differently,” he had snapped to Moriarty after she’d disappeared. “I should have worn out her perfidious little bottom for her long ago!”
Moriarty had just shrugged and bitten into the apple he was eating without the slightest sign of concern about him, as was usual. He didn’t easily get upset over anything. “Why didn’t you, then?” he had asked, chewing.
Moriarty was Ashcroft’s closest friend, servant, and confidant—a man who had fought next to him in countless battles and had served him well for centuries… and Ashcroft still didn’t want to give him an honest answer to that question.
Unfortunately, the honest answer had been that the idea of spanking Charlotte was so damn arousing that it frightened him.
“She makes me so damn angry sometimes, I’m afraid of losing control with her,” he said instead, making it sound like he was really just afraid of spanking her to death.
“Come now, master,” Moriarty doubted openly. “A little bottom smacking never did any girl that sort of harm. When we get her back, you should really make a pact to be more firm with her. It would be the kindest thing you’ve ever done. She’s been spoiled enough. You’re the master, not her.”
Of course, that comment had only left Ashcroft feeling like he’d failed Charlotte. He’d only shaken a stern finger at her when she’d shown up late and left early and did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Obviously, she couldn’t care less if he was disappointed with her.
He had finally decided he was going to change his tactic and become more firm with her and enforce some measure of discipline… about the same time she had seemed to decide she’d had enough of him altogether.
As if that was her decision to make! She and her guardians had signed a contract, and the contract was binding.
And she was the last of her kind, if that wasn’t the icing on the cake! She was the last remnant of a proud race; one that nearly didn’t exist. Her kind was mostly killed off by Merlin’s War and outside enemies centuries ago. Charlotte, to his knowledge, was purposely bred by a mother and father who couldn’t even stand each other, but slept with each other just to further their race. Shortly afterwards, Charlotte’s father and mother were found and both killed off one after the other, although they had both been in hiding for centuries.
Miraculously, Charlotte’s foster parents, simple herb wizards who had been watching over her mother in secrecy, arrived on the murder scene in time to rescue the child growing in the Byndian witch’s belly, ready to be born, and raised that child as their own.
Ashcroft was the only wizard left outside the Byndian faction who knew any of their spells and was able to use them. The task of teaching the last Byndian the spells most powerfully harnessed by her race was a task that befell his shoulders alone. And she acted like a surly little girl who didn’t want to go to school.
The first week with her had been promising, simply because she had been in good spirits and had a good attitude, but it didn’t last.
She was a funny girl—she was constantly singing, dancing, humming, and playing around with simple spells like an excited two-year-old when she thought he wasn’t paying attention. Just God save the man who tried to make her challenge herself.
He walked over to the desk to dictate a letter that he’d been meaning to write; to hire some trackers to find her and bring her home, which was now his tower abode. Obviously, he wasn’t going to allow her to abide on Earthside any longer; she’d just run away again at the very next sign of upset.
He’d done enough waiting. There had been no sign of her, no contact, and she hadn’t come around to so much as claim her things. Something horrible had probably happened to her by now.
He had been entrusted with her safety, her life, her education… and now she was probably lying dead in a ditch somewhere. He had failed himself, failed her parents, failed her race, and failed her. And frankly, before her, his record of failing at anything was very slight.
Just as he pooled wax and was pressing his seal into the letter of parchment, he could hear a distant sound coming from the window.
“You’re cutting off my circulation! This is just unnecessary!” a female voice huffed angrily.
Charlotte? It couldn’t be. Ashcroft walked to the window to see a dark figure come up the path and into the gardens.
“You hit me in the damn mouth, I chase you down, and then you try to kick me in the crotch? Oh, it’s necessary,” Moriarty seethed in return. “I’m close to strangling you.”
Now that the figure was coming more into the light, it was clear that it was Moriarty hauling a floundering Charlotte by a tight arm slung around her waist, carrying her weight on his hip. Ashcroft’s eyes widened with amazement as he pushed away from the window and rushed toward the main foyer.
“This isn’t comfortable!” Ashcroft could still hear a frustrated yell chime outside.
“Good! I hope it’s painful, too!” was Moriarty’s gritted reply as he opened the doorway into the foyer, just as Ashcroft was finally at the bottom of the stairs, trying to look serious and not too excited. But when Ashcroft took his first good look, his jaw nearly dropped out of his mouth. Her skirt was so short it crawled halfway up her ass in the back, exposing her black panties for his eyes to feast upon.
And then Moriarty dumped her unceremoniously onto the stone floor of the foyer in a heap. She rolled over and sat on the floor, panting, her eyes narrowed into slits filled with fury. She leaned over to try to hit the back of Moriarty’s knee, but he stepped easily away from her, dabbing his bleeding lip with his shirtsleeve at the same time. “I found her for you,” Moriarty informed Ashcroft, waving at Charlotte and not looking at all happy about his discovery. “And she’s as charming as always.”
“Go fuck yourself, Moriarty!” she hissed, apparently looking for a fight. “I hope your balls shrivel up and die.”
“Charlotte!” Ashcroft barked, which silenced her immediately. He had never yelled at her, but he was swirling with emotion and agitation. She looked up at him, her eyes round, but her posture extremely pouty. He bent down and grabbed her upper arm, pulling her to her feet. “Where have you been, girl?” he demanded.
“Away,” she snipped.
Moriarty was happy to answer for her. “She was playing in some band for cigarette money. I doubt she has a dime to her name. She’s been sleeping in the dressing room of the singles’ club I go to.”
Ashcroft looked down at her, holding his breath with the mere image of her distress. Her face flushed from Moriarty’s words, validating them. “I told you—I was doing fine.”
“She hasn’t even eaten today,” Moriarty snapped, looking accusingly at her. “Tell him!”
Ashcroft didn’t want to hear it; an angry guilt seared through him as he watched alarm and humiliation glint through her eyes. “Moriarty, that is enough,” he decreed, and then dismissed him. “Thank you for your services. Goodnight.”
Moriarty dabbed at his lip again, looking like he was still angry from being assaulted, but forced himself to bow to Ashcroft slightly, saying, “Goodnight, master.” With that, he lifted his chin and walked up the stairs to retire for the evening.
She squinted at Ashcroft. “Nice of you to sic the dogs on me,” she snapped angrily. “Or whatever he is… your lover.”
Ashcroft forced himself to breathe, because right now his lungs didn’t seem to work voluntarily. His relief was over, and he was realizing, with a bit of fear, that he had strangled people to death with his bare hands without reaching the level of anger he had with Charlotte right now. He felt like he had to literally push himself to keep from slapping her; every bit of frustration he had ever had with her boiled quickly back to the surface. “Charlotte,” he growled, “you are deep in trouble already. Stop digging.” He grabbed her upper arm tightly, turned, and led her up to his study.
“In trouble?” she balked as she was pulled along. “Why? Because I won’t get down on one knee and worship you?” She obviously had no idea how angry he was. “Well, think again, buster! That’s never been me. You can take all this magical voodoo shit and all that ‘this is your destiny’ crap and shove it right up your ass for all I care!”
He didn’t respond; just hauled her up the stairs and propelled her into the study before shutting the heavy oak door behind him. “What I marvel at,” he began, “is how completely selfish you are.”
She tensed and cocked her head to the side as if he were a spider she needed to squash. “Say what?” she replied, putting her fingers across her chest. “I—I’m selfish?”
“Yes,” he said with a singular nod.
“I’m selfish?” she echoed again. “Well, like, excuse me for living! In case I haven’t made it very, very clear to you, let me attempt to make it crystal.” She slowed down her voice and said, apparently as pedantically as she could manage, “I don’t want to be your stupid apprentice! I don’t care about anything you do. I don’t want to learn what you have to teach me. You’re a bully, Moriarty’s an ass, and my parents are, like, complete morons—”
An argument started then, and one he wasn’t used to. Neither party took a single breath as they argued over the other.
He raged, “I don’t know how you can even begin to disrespect your parents after doing all that they’ve done for you. They’ve never raised a hand to you or let you know a moment of grief,” he lectured. All he could remember from when her foster parents had taken her on is how worried they were that the evil forces that had killed her parents would come after them as well. Yet they raised her, anyway. “If you—”
She didn’t miss a beat, continuing on with her sentences without pause, only getting louder and louder, her voice’s volume matching his own, “—and all of you are living in the wrong century. You’re all so damn backward that you think you can keep me here like an indentured servant—”
“—had the slightest measure of respect, you would thank them. They saved your life, and they only want the best for you. Now I’m the only one that can provide what you need. You have powers that nobody will be able to wield with the power you can develop! I’m the only person who can teach them to you, but you’re so cocky you’d rather throw it all away so that you don’t have to answer to anyone.”
“—that you have the nerve to threaten like I’m some child! Your arrogance is so legendary that you could do reality TV. And no,” she replied when she saw his mouth open again, surely to repeat what he’d just been arguing, “I’m not cocky. You’re the damn cocky one. You’re so stubborn you don’t even know what to do with yourself when someone dares not to kiss your ass—!”
Ashcroft was very much used to being the most important person in the room wherever he went. The sensation of being talked over was not one he had ever gotten used to, nor did he care to ever become used to it.
The lights in the room flickered and darkened, and then the room shook slightly, causing her to jump back with confusion before she closed her mouth, silent.
“I think we need to start over,” he said with a low, gravelly voice. “Either you stop this childish squabbling and take a seat so that we may have a discussion, or you can continue to harangue me whereas you will end up listening to me while over my knee.”
She opened her mouth, horrified, and then closed it again. She swallowed deeply and then seemed to again find her courage enough to speak. “We’re not discussing anything; you’re attempting to lecture me,” she clarified. “If you were listening, you’d know I don’t appreciate being threatened by you.”
He ground his teeth. Yes, she was attractive even as a blonde—her turquoise eyes always seemed to glisten all the bluer when she was angry. But he wouldn’t let her put him off this time. He had argued with great kings of elves and men and had earned their respect, and damn it, he would have it from a teenage girl! “I’m not threatening you, I’m promising you! Things are going to change around here, young lady. I mean it—I deserve and demand your respect.”
“Well, all you’re gonna get from me is the bird,” she assured, and flipped him off as she turned heel to attempt to storm out of the room. And there was a long moment where he watched as she walked away from him, standing still and swallowing his most furious emotions.
But when he did move, just about the same time as she had approached the door, he moved fast.
He grabbed her upper arm tightly in his hand before he yanked her over toward an armless chair in his study. She let her shoes dig into the floor until he turned and wrapped an arm tightly across her chest and continued to drag her so that her toes couldn’t even reach the floor at all. Her little feet kicked around violently. “Ashcroft! What—you can’t—you won’t—I won’t—”
He sat down and threw her over his lap like she was a ragdoll, even though she was surely trying her damnedest to get up onto her feet. He made sure that her efforts were fruitless—he crimped her legs underneath one of his own, hampering her kicks, and then put her scratching hands behind her back until she was fully pinned down. “No!” she cried. “You can’t! I’ll bite you!”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. This could always get worse,” he replied between gritted teeth. Her lily-white, smooth little bottom squirmed back and forth before he even brought his hand down. The edge of her skirt stopped mid-bottom in this position.
What was she wearing and why? He’d never seen anyone dressed so scantily, and in truth he hadn’t even believed Moriarty when he was telling him about girls dressing like this! Maybe it wasn’t just in his mind—maybe Charlotte really was a damned tease!
Slap. His first stroke landed square in the middle of her bottom, and she went completely rigid when he’d done it, making only a loud gasp. He forced himself not to let his hand linger across her hot skin and began to spank her sharply and rapidly.
It seemed like she was determined not to cry or squeal, but those plans went to hell after the first minute. She suddenly began to give a panicked sort of squirm and then gasped in a cry, letting out an Oooh–h-h! noise. “Stop! Stop!” she finally said, every word getting louder and louder. “You’re hurting me! Stop it! It hurts!”
“It’s supposed to hurt,” he growled, continuing on.
“Stop it! You’re insane! I’ll tell…. I’ll call…” Her words died out as she seemed to figure out that there was nobody in authority over Ashcroft that she could possibly know of—indeed, the only ones in the universe above him were the collective wizard’s circle and God himself. He could hear her tongue lag as she comprehended how at his mercy she was.
“I’ll kill you!” she said, and when he spanked harder in response, she gave a sob. “You’re killing me!”
After that her words became more or less nonsensical. Mostly just shrill cries resulting from every flash of pain she encountered from his hand. Once she began to really cry in a more quieted fashion, the spanks slowed down until they came to a complete stop.
He finally let his hand rest upon her bottom—the heat of her reddened skin could be felt through the thin dark cloth of her panties. She hung wearily over his lap, sniffling and squirming resignedly. “So do I have your attention?”
For the first time probably since he met her, he knew that he actually did have her undivided attention.