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Jungle Dance: Lessons in the Amazon by Erin Ballantyne – Sample

Jungle Dance by Erin Ballantyne

Chapter One

Zara Stryker sat back on her heels and watched while a red-breasted robin at the far end of the garden plucked up a worm and flew it up to her chirping babies in the plum tree. She surveyed the freshly planted flowerbed with satisfaction. Richard should be home soon and would surely compliment her first attempt at gardening.

Richard. Her husband! Even after six months of marriage, the word ‘husband’ still felt delicious on her tongue. Soon, they would celebrate the one-year anniversary of meeting. She smiled, wondering how many couples could claim that they met on board a tramp steamer off the coast of Africa and then fell in love while stranded together on a deserted island. It would certainly be a story they would enjoy telling to their children. Hopefully, she would be able to get pregnant soon. She closed her eyes, imagining a little boy with Richard’s stunning deep blue eyes and wavy dark brown hair, or perhaps a little girl with light blue eyes and long blond hair, like hers.

The faint ring of her mobile jerked her out of daydreaming mode. Cocking her head to one side, she tried to recall where she had set down her phone. On the next ring, she jumped up, bumped into the wheelbarrow, and dashed up the steps to the porch of their little cabin, rubbing her knee.

Her phone was on the small, white cast-iron tea table, underneath the gardening magazine that she had been looking at. She picked up the mobile and saw that it was Richard. He often phoned her between his lectures at Oxford University, and she looked forward to their brief chats. Breathlessly, she answered, “Richard? Hi!”

She heard his chuckle before he asked, “Been running, my love? You sound out of breath.”

“Haha! Yeah, actually, I was. I was in the garden and had left my phone on the porch. I had to run to get to it in time. The garden has fresh, new flowers, by the way. But how are you? What’s up?”

“Excitement! That’s what’s up. Pure excitement!”

She could almost see him grin, and she laughed at the boyish enthusiasm he was exuding, even though he was ten years older than her twenty-six and often quite serious. “What are you so excited about?”

After a dramatic pause, he said, “National Geographic magazine wants to send me to the Amazon!”

“Really?” she squealed. “That’s wonderful!” She smiled, remembering how she had initially called him ‘just’ a photographer, not realizing that he was a zoology professor as well as a published, professional photographer.

“Yes! The magazine wants me to shoot pictures of rare species in the rainforest.”

“That’s so exciting! They called you right out of the blue?”

“Yes. They know I taught a course on rare species and, having used a few of my shots before, they asked if I could do it. I said that I would check with you first before giving my final acceptance.”

“Yes, yes! Of course you want to accept! What a wonderful opportunity!”

“I think so. We worked out that I would depart from here the second week of July. I’ll have everything cleared up from Trinity term by then.”

“Oh, yes! And we’ll still have plenty of time before you have to report for Michaelmas term in October. Oh, I’m excited! I want to start packing my things right now!”

There was a moment’s silence before Richard said quietly, “I’m going alone, Zara. They are sending me to a very remote region of Brazil that would be far too dangerous for you.”

“Too dangerous?” Her voice rose to a squeak in surprise and outrage. “Oh, no, you don’t! You’re not going without me! If you go, I go. And that is that!”

“I’ll be home in an hour. We’ll talk then.” His tone brooked no argument.

“Okay,” she agreed, having learned the hard way that he detested arguing over the phone.

After exchanging goodbyes, Zara clicked off thoughtfully, her mind whirling at the rate of one thousand rpm. Brazil! She had never been there, and the thought of a jungle adventure beckoned irresistibly.

All thought of mulch and flowerbeds departed, and she went inside to grab her computer. Ten minutes later, her eyes flitted excitedly from one beautiful rainforest picture to another. Both her excitement and her determination were building.

“I must go there,” she said aloud to herself. “I need to go with him.”

Zara knew that direct opposition would never move her iron-willed husband once his mind was made up. There were no illusions about who was in charge in their marriage. However, at times he could be won over with diversionary tactics. All she needed to do was to outsmart him.

A quick snack of strawberries and lemonade followed by a brisk shower boosted Zara’s mental energy. Drying her long legs furiously, she winked at the lightly tanned reflection with pale bikini lines. War! I’ll get dressed for war!

With a burst of inspiration, she flung open the wardrobe in the bedroom and retrieved the short red dress that Richard loved. He always said it made her look cute. After carefully applying makeup and dabbing perfume behind her ears, she grinned wickedly into the mirror and then reached under her dress and slid her panties off. Richard often lightly swatted her backside, and she couldn’t contain her chuckle at his coming surprise at feeling no ‘knickers’ beneath her dress.

After quickly making sure that the front room was tidy, Zara rushed outside and put away the wheelbarrow and gardening tools, wishing that she had thought to clean up her mess before putting on her nice dress. Thankfully, the flowers had all been watered and were looking fresh and new. She took a broom and swept a bit of dirt from the steps. Then she found a small vase, cut some bluebells and daffodils from the garden to arrange in it, and placed it on the cast-iron table. She stood back to admire the scene, knowing that Richard would appreciate her efforts. They often liked to sit out on the porch to enjoy the evening sun while looking out over the garden.

Zara dashed inside to get a glass of sherry for Richard and was just carrying the glass out to the porch when she saw Richard’s big Jaguar slide to a halt in front of the house. The tall, sexy man who got out was dressed casually in jeans and a leather jacket. Zara smiled at him, admiring his athletic build and thinking him the most handsome man alive.

* * *

Richard enjoyed the throaty hum of the V12 engine as he allowed it to idle for a moment before shutting it down. Getting out of the car, he spotted Zara busying herself on the porch. She looked stunningly sexy in that dress. Her blond hair, shining with health and vitality, was flowing loosely over her shoulders, the way he liked it.

As Richard got out and looked across the garden at Zara, he felt an incredible surge of affection. Thinking himself the luckiest man in Europe, he watched her set the glass down next to the flowers on the little table and rush toward him in that graceful way of hers, fairly floating along the path. In her youth, she had been a ballerina, and it showed.

Richard set his briefcase down and moved to grasp Zara around her slender waist. Her arms flew up to clutch his neck. He swung her around with joy, intoxicated by the heady perfume mix of her clean body and beautiful hair, flowing free. He liked to tease that her thick, long hair would suffocate him in his sleep, but he loved it like this. Sniffing appreciatively, he sighed in contentment.

After a long, lingering kiss, Richard affectionately slapped her bottom and set her down. He stood still for a moment as it registered that she wore no knickers. Laughing and swatting her again, he said with a wink, “You cute little minx! No knickers, hmm?” He delighted in hearing her squeal and in seeing her face light up in pleasure at his look. She pirouetted away as his hand moved to spank her again, and he let her dance out of reach for a moment.

Zara whirled back around for another kiss and then picked up his briefcase and started for the house. Richard walked behind and was enjoying the gentle sway of her hips when she invited him to sit down and enjoy some late afternoon sun along with his sherry. She carried his briefcase inside and returned a minute later, carrying a small dish of strawberries and a cutting board with a small assortment of cheese and crackers. She dropped a curtsey. “A small repast for my lord,” she said with a seductive smile, licking her lips and batting her eyes at him.

Quick as lightning, his hand shot out and pulled her down onto his lap, feeling her taut bottom though the thin material of her sexy dress. Life was very good. With one arm around Zara, he picked up his glass and sipped the sherry appreciatively. He was so blessed to have this girl as his own. When she snuggled in to him and rubbed her bottom against him, he couldn’t hide his reaction. She giggled and pressed in to wiggle even more, the cheeky girl. Although he knew that she was trying to soften him up about the trip to Brazil, he figured that he might as well fully enjoy her efforts. His answer would still be no.

* * *

Zara snuggled into Richard, enjoying the warmth and comfort of sitting on his lap. It was her favorite place to be. Well, outside of being in bed with him, she thought, grinning and thinking back to their lovemaking last night. She guessed that he was in as good a mood as possible, so she decided to fire her opening shot.

“I am so proud of you for landing this contract. I’m so glad that they recognize how wonderful you are.” She placed her hand gently on his cheek and rubbed it before kissing him gently on the lips. “What a marvelous opportunity to see the most beautiful sights on earth.”

“On the contrary,” he began, pausing to initiate the next kiss, “the most beautiful sight on earth is sitting right here on my lap.”

Zara playfully pushed a hand against her husband’s chest. “Oh, Richard, you say the sweetest things, but be serious a minute. I’ve been looking at beautiful pictures online, and the Amazon is simply an amazing place.”

“Yes, it is,” he agreed. “It’s an amazing and dangerous place.”

“Yes, an incredible place.” Her hand caressed his back, and then she continued, “I’ve been researching safety concerns, and it’s not really so dangerous. Besides, we encountered all kinds of danger when we were stranded on that island, and we survived.”

“True,” he said, “but only because we had no choice. This time we do have a choice, and there’s no way that I’m going to deliberately place you in danger.”

“But I read that if a tourist stays with a guide who knows about the dangers, she’ll be fine.” She rubbed her hand appreciatively over his muscular chest and smiled at him. “Aren’t you an expert on this stuff? Surely you would protect me.”

“Zara, I’m going to be far too busy working to be worrying about you and getting you out of scrapes. This photo assignment is a big deal.”

Zara pushed herself off his lap, put her hands on her hips, and glared at him angrily. “And I’m not a big deal?” When she saw him stiffen and take a quick breath, she lowered her arms and decided to switch back to sweeter tactics and backtrack a bit, so he wouldn’t put his foot down. “Okay, I know that I’m important to you, honey, but I can also be important to you on this trip. I know your photographic gear and can carry things, hand lenses to you, and do all kinds of things to help you. See, you need me to come.”

He shook his head. “No, my sweet.”

“What do you mean, ‘No’? What if you got sick or hurt? You can’t go alone! You need me!”

“My contact in Brazil has already found me a guide for the area. His name is Pedro, and he’s one of the best, I’m told. He and his assistant will be with me at all times, so I won’t be alone. You are staying here!”

She looked at him with barely suppressed outrage over his attempt to dismiss her, but did her best to infuse her smile with the right mix of seductiveness and sweetness. “Richard, I can’t do without you for that long, and in any case you do need me to help you.”

He shook his head decisively. “No. I’m really sorry, but the answer is no. I cannot take that risk with you. It isn’t just the dangers of the rainforest. There are also drug cartels operating not far from where I’ll be photographing, and they may well see this as an intrusion. I cannot take you with me, and that is final.”

Zara knew better than to confront him outright, although she had no intention of letting it go. “Okay, we have some days to think on it, and you might change your mind when you realize how much you would miss me.”

Richard smiled gently and said, “I need to organize a plethora of details for this trip, so I’m going to go work for a bit.” He brushed his hand through her hair and then went upstairs to the room he used as a home office.

Zara stared after him. Why did her husband have to be so confidently in charge? Some of her friends were attached to very pliable men, while she was married to a stubborn alpha male who expected her to obey him. Deep in her heart, she knew that she had married him precisely because of that, but she was not going to admit it now.

She looked over at her computer and went to turn it back on. A few minutes later, she had the requirements for visiting Brazil and was able to print out a Visa application form. Since she still had an American passport but was living in England, she would need to use a special service to expedite the processing, but it should be done in plenty of time.

The websites all seemed to recommend getting malaria and yellow fever vaccines. She remembered how sick Richard had become on the island and didn’t want to take any chances. Feeling a bit deceitful, she called up the clinic they used, and at 8:30 the next morning, she kissed Richard goodbye and left in her little VW for her appointment. As she pulled back in the garage after getting her shots, she noticed that the big Jaguar’s spot was empty and wondered where Richard had gone. It was his day off, and he had been busy with preparations for the photo assignment.

When she walked into the kitchen, she saw the note he had left. “Gone to clinic for shots,” it read. She blanched and forgot to breathe for a minute. Why didn’t I go to a different clinic? The people at the clinic knew them both. Hopefully, no one there will mention it to Richard! She decided that there was no sense worrying. If he found out, she would simply explain that he needed her with him in Brazil. Surely he would listen to reason. But when she heard the V12’s growl, she blanched all over again.

As Richard walked in, Zara searched his face for hints and greeted him somewhat hesitantly. When he simply kissed her and walked through to his study, she breathed a sigh of relief. They must not have said anything. She put that worry out of her head and began preparing a nice lunch for them, thinking all the while of how to approach Richard again about the trip.

Half an hour later, Richard called out, “Zara, we need to have a few words!”

His stern tone made her legs quake involuntarily. Maybe it was nothing. Perhaps the overdue library books? Richard had a thing about responsibility and returning things on time. She took a deep breath and walked over to his study.

Richard was stretched comfortably behind his desk in his big chair and motioned to the chair opposite him. She felt a bit intimidated, like a schoolgirl in the headmaster’s office. To her annoyance, she began to fidget and even started scuffling her feet.

He seemed to look at her rather pensively for a minute. Then he said quietly, “Why did you need vaccinations?”

She sat up straight, feeling guilty for a moment, but then decisive. “Because I want to go. You need me! Anything could happen! And I don’t want to be parted from you.”

“We’ve talked about that, Zara. I know that you’re disappointed. Believe me. I’m going to find it hard to be apart from you.” He smiled at her. “You are my very life! I don’t even know how I’m going to manage without you by my side, but it’s too dangerous. I just can’t expose you to the risks. This is real jungle, and there is a real drug war that could escalate at any time.”

She leaned forward on her chair, begging him with her eyes. “But I need to come with you!”

Richard straightened almost imperceptibly, and his voice grew tauter as he said decisively, “No, Zara.”

She jumped up and leaned over his desk, preparing to launch into another appeal, but he held up his hand, and the look on his face caused her to sit back down.

He looked at her sternly and said, “My mind is made up. If you do not obey me in this, you will be spanked.”

Her mouth dropped open, and she stared at him, disbelieving. Yes, he had spanked her when they were stranded on that island, but that was when she had put her life in danger. The only spankings she had had since returning were the fun kind that they both enjoyed and a few warning swats when she got too sassy. Her bottom began to tingle at the memory of what a ‘real’ spanking felt like. Surely he wouldn’t? “But, but, you can’t! We’re in civilization now! There are neighbors! What if someone heard? You just can’t!”

“I most certainly can, and I will.” His voice had become steel. “I’m not going to change my mind. And if you try to disobey, there will be severe consequences. Is that clear?”

Zara shivered a little in spite of her determination to make up her own mind. However, when his eyes held hers, she felt herself nodding, even though she was not agreeing in her heart.

The next day, when Richard left for the University, Zara phoned Mrs. Heston next door and asked if she could have some packages delivered there as a surprise for Richard. Then she looked on her computer for suppliers of protective clothing and placed some orders, putting in Mrs. Heston’s address.

She felt a little guilty about the deception, but there was no way she wanted to risk Richard’s ire again. She dismissed pangs of conscience with the reasoning that it was all for Richard’s good, to protect him from harm. After all, his protectiveness stemmed from misplaced chivalry. She was a grown woman, a CPA with a master’s degree, and fully able to make decisions for herself. Yes, the Amazon was a dangerous place, but so were London and New York City, where she visited often. He was simply being pigheadedly overprotective and didn’t realize how much he would need her.

* * *

After dinner the next evening, while Zara went to clear away the food and whip some cream for their strawberry shortcakes, Richard pulled out his laptop computer and sat at the dining room table, musing on all the things he needed to do before going to Brazil. He went to outdoors suppliers, settled on some gear, and paid for it. The transaction reminded him that he needed to transfer some funds to his travel account.

He usually had Zara handle their finances, because she was so good at it, but this was simple enough. He caught her eye and winked at her before running up their financial home page. She flashed him a brilliant smile in return. What a beautiful woman I’m blessed with! What more could a chap want? He grinned, looking forward to more than one kind of dessert that evening.

His eye caught a double debit against one of the stores he had bought from. He sat forward, intent now while checking the amounts. The one from today matched what he had just ordered, but there was another debit from yesterday that was higher. Odd! Did Zara already order supplies? How would she know what I need?

He called to Zara, “Honey, could you come here for a minute?” He motioned for her to come over by the computer and pointed at yesterday’s entry. “Do you know what this is for?”

Her face reddened as she looked at the screen, and she stammered, “Umm, could I look into it later, when I have more time?”

Richard heard her uncertain tone and looked up. He saw the blush and pulled her onto his lap. “Okay, now tell me what’s going on,” he commanded.

She squirmed on his lap and turned slightly away before saying, “I, umm, I ordered some gear.”

“You ordered some gear for me?” he asked in amazement.

“Umm, no. For me.” She looked at him now, pleading desperately with her eyes. “I wanted to come, and I thought I could convince you at the last minute, so I ordered gear to have it ready just in case you were to say yes.”

He stared. “But I had told you no. It simply isn’t safe!”

“I know you did,” she said miserably, “but I really, really want to go.” Then her face turned mutinous. “In any case, I’m not a child, and I can decide for myself if something is dangerous or not! I’m tired of your high-handed bossiness!” She got up off his lap.

Richard sighed. He supposed that every marriage reached this point eventually. He had been enjoying the sweetness of being married to Zara and hadn’t wanted to rile her up, so he had let many things slide. But this was a direct challenge to his authority, and she was about to find out the hard way that he would not tolerate defiance. In decidedly measured tones he issued a command. “Go to my office.”

Zara’s mouth went dry, and she stared at her stern-looking husband. “To your office?” she repeated faintly.

“Yes. Now, if you please.” When she still hesitated, he started to rise, looking rather menacing. She took a step back.

“I’m going,” she said hastily, turning away. With slumped shoulders, she walked to his den, not even bothering to turn on the lights. What she had done suddenly seemed very wrong. She stood uncertainly in front of his desk for what seemed like several minutes.

The light turned on. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t want to look at him.

He said, “Sit on that chair and think about what you did and how it might affect our marriage.”

She sat, feeling worried that she had done some irreparable harm to their marriage. With an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, she wondered what he would do. Squaring her shoulders, she looked up to search his face as he stood, hands on hips, looking at her intently.

He finally broke the silence. “Zara, you not only disobeyed me intentionally, you issued a direct challenge to my authority in our marriage. You thought that you could manipulate me into having your way. I love you more than life itself, but I cannot let this go. You would not respect me if I did, and I simply cannot live that way.”

She shrank back in her seat, wishing that she could melt into the carpet.

He sat down in his chair and rolled it back. “Come here.”

Her hands went to her breast, and she shook her head when she fully realized what he intended. “No, Richard, please, no! You can’t!” She looked around wildly, “This is your office, not the bedroom. And… and we have neighbors! What if they heard? I’m sorry! And—”

“Zara! Obey me.”

She stood and stared at him with wide-open eyes. Her feet began to shuffle forward, until she stood at last in front of him, now finding it hard to breathe, her heart thumping.

“Take down your pants.”

Her eyes flew even wider in shock. “But Richard, I… I…” Her voice trailed off, but when he stood up decidedly, her hands went hastily to the front of her jeans. She fumbled with the button and then pushed them down a few inches, pausing to look at his eyes again. They looked so hard that she stepped back in trepidation. With an involuntary gulp, she pushed the jeans past her hips, carefully leaving her panties in place.

He motioned for her to move them down too. She swallowed again, and her thumbs went slowly to the waistband, her eyes never leaving his, hoping against hope that he would change his mind. He nodded, and she pushed inch by inch, revealing her femininity slowly. They had been married for six months, and he had seen her completely nude hundreds of times, but somehow, pushing down those panties made her feel more naked than she had ever been in her life.

* * *

Time seemed to stand still as Richard waited for Zara to obey. He sensed her vulnerability and fear, hearing the sound of her somewhat ragged breathing and taking in her flaring nose and quivering chin. Looking lower, he admired the curly triangle on her mound and noted the jeans bunched around her thighs, the blue denim contrasted by delicate, lacy white knickers.

He felt some sympathy for her. It could not be easy for Zara to submit to him in this way. When he had first met her, on board that doomed ship to Madagascar, she had been a fiercely independent young woman. Even on the lifeboat with him, she had been trying to issue orders and insist that she should be the leader since she had a management degree. He remembered her shocked look the first time he had taken her over his knee. On the island, he was forced to take action to protect her from her impulsive disregard for her own safety. Spanking had seemed to be the only thing that got her attention and made an impression.

Now, it seemed that a spanking was needed to remind her of her promise to ‘love, honor, and obey’ him. ‘Obey’ being the operative word at present. Before they were married, she had willingly agreed to submit to him as head of their home, whilst he had agreed to love her, to lead her, and to protect her. The arrangement had worked well so far, and he instinctively knew that it was the only way they could hope to achieve domestic harmony. A direct challenge to his authority must be answered before it caused damage to their relationship.

Richard watched the emotions flit across Zara’s face, as she nervously stood before him. Finally, he reached out a hand and took her wrist, bringing her in closer. A sob escaped her as he gently tugged her forward. Her soft thighs made contact with his. Then he pushed her all the way down and clamped her bare hip in his left hand. After resting his hand for a moment on the strong curve of her buttocks, he resolutely lifted his hand and snapped in the first swat, going for maximum sting.

* * *

Zara gasped as pain engulfed her bottom. She could not remember it hurting like this. She twisted for a look at his hand. “Ow! That hurt! What are you using?”

“Just my hand for now.”

“No way! That hurt too much for just a hand!”

He had the audacity to chuckle. “Just experimenting a bit with a loose elbow and wrist. Thank you for confirming the effectiveness of this particular technique.”

“You’re experimenting on me? What are you, crazy?” She squirmed to try to get away, but he held her firmly in place.

“What I am is determined to teach you not to defy me.” His hand cracked down in a volley of spanks that had her squealing.

“Okay, okay! I’m sorry!”

“Good! You should be sorry.” He delivered another volley of swats, paying attention to one bottom cheek and then the other.

“Owww!” They fell randomly, faster and faster. She wriggled desperately to escape the hand that was raining fire down upon her defenseless behind, but the clamp on her hip was like steel, and she could not escape.

Finally, after she resigned herself to her fate, the spanking stopped. His hand caressed her heated curves, and then he sat her up on his lap. She buried her face in his shoulder and sniffled, feeling very close to crying.

Zara felt in awe of her husband and a little shocked; she remembered feeling a little shy like this after he had spanked her on the island, too. Snuggling into him, she felt the sting dissipate a bit and with it went the feeling of being intimidated. Surprisingly, she knew that her determination to be with him had somehow survived the onslaught of the spanking.

After he stood her up at last, he ran his hand over her bottom as if inspecting the damage. She felt herself blushing again. She had difficulty understanding how that, during their lovemaking, he had looked even more and she had not blushed, and yet now she felt embarrassed.

He gave a last slap on her bottom. “Ow!” she cried involuntarily, rubbing the spot.

At his nod, she hastily pulled up her panties and jeans and backed away to escape to the bedroom. After closing the door, she looked in the mirror to see how red her bottom was. Actually, not too bad! It was definitely red and still very hot, but there wouldn’t be any bruises or anything. She stretched out on her belly and gave in to the thoughts and emotions swirling around in her head. There were many thoughts of love and admiration, but her determination to go with Richard hadn’t waned.

The spanking really hadn’t been that bad, not nearly as bad as she had feared. Perhaps Richard knew deep down that she was right? She convinced herself that he needed her. There was danger, he had said. Well, then he needs me at his side! It was worth taking a spanking to be there when he needed her.

Later that night when they lay together after making love, she knew that she was right. They needed each other and could never part. Just before sleep, her hand went subconsciously to her bottom to give it a rub.

* * *

The next weeks flew by for Richard as he finished up the term of teaching at Oxford and made preparations for the trip. He ordered some heat- and motion-sensing camera triggers and other equipment for photographing in the rainforest. He also conferred with the magazine and researched back issues on the Amazon to make sure that he wasn’t duplicating work that had already been done there. Going over the plans in his head, he carefully reviewed and checked his preparations.

Richard awoke early on the day before leaving and looked down at his beautiful wife. Her hair was spread on the pillow and one arm was thrown out in sleep, creating a lovely picture of innocence. He smiled tenderly at her, feeling deeply thankful for his wonderful, unique, spirited, delightful, precious bride. She was leaving for New York this morning, and he would miss her. He chuckled soundlessly at the memory of how the freshly spanked Zara had so nicely asked him the next day if she could “Pretty, pretty please, with a cherry on top,” visit her parents in New York during his absence.

He should wake her soon, as they would leave for the airport in just over two hours. At least she was all packed and ready to go. Zara was a meticulous packer. It seemed like she had packed a lot for this trip, with two full bags plus carry-on. He smiled, remembering how little they had had during their first time on the island. They had never really been separated since then. This was going to be the first parting for them, and he dreaded it.

Again, he thought about his decision to go alone, and he still felt it was the better plan. Perhaps if he found the situation to be safer than he expected, he could arrange for Zara to join him. Matheus, his contact in Brazil, was his guide’s brother and had assured Richard that it would be possible for Zara to join him later. Flights went out weekly from the international airport at Manaus to the small city of Curitiba, where he would meet his guide. From Curitiba, it was only a day’s journey by boat to get to his guide’s base camp. If that didn’t work out, he and Zara could go again when he wasn’t on assignment and would be able to focus his attention completely on her.

* * *

On the way to his layover stop at Miami, Richard thought again of Zara and felt a bit lost without her. He was amazed at how dependent he had become on her and how bereft he had felt when she had winged away to New York the day before. Thinking of her brought a smile to his lips. In his mind, he could see her over his lap and feel her body react to his punishment. There was no doubt in his mind that she had learned her lesson. He felt a bit bad about her disappointment and hoped that she would really enjoy the visit with her parents in New York. The drone of the big jet put him to sleep, and he dreamed of his feisty girl.

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