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Keeping Their Baby by Korey Mae Johnson – Sample

Chapter One

Sophie was absolutely fuming in the back seat of Charlie’s SUV, nearly trying to make everyone in the car’s head explode with the power of her mind. She had never been so angry with her ‘family,’ or rather her three lovers, and their blasé attitude was making her feel even worse.

She kicked the seat in front of her suddenly, lashing out.

“I can promise you, Sophia, that if you keep this up, you’re going to get that pretty little bottom of yours spanked on the side of the road,” her girlfriend, Liz, threatened her in response. Liz’s eyes sternly locked with Sophie’s with help from the rearview mirror.

It wasn’t as if Sophie hadn’t been complaining all morning. Surely everyone knew how she felt about going to a spanking ‘party,’ whatever the hell that was, but Sophie still fumed, “Why not? You’re already set on embarrassing me to death!”

“Hm,” Josh said in his regular amused tone. “I think she might be onto us…”

“Josh, don’t crack jokes,” Sophie groaned, rolling her eyes and easily keeping even the smallest trace of a smirk off her lips. She knew it was Josh’s habit to break her out of bad moods with a joke, but it simply wasn’t going to work today. “I don’t understand why you guys can’t all just go without me.”

“Sophia,” Liz replied tersely, “there are a good amount of age-players there, and it’s good for you to socialize with other littles. Having others to relate to is important.”

Sophie took exception to the idea that Liz was setting her up on a ‘play date’ with other people who let their lovers and partners treat them like children. Surely looking into the mirror when she was wearing a diaper and a onesy was already more ageplay ‘company’ than she could tolerate.

Not that anyone would see her in her onesy, but it would be bad enough. Sophie had been dressed up in a little blue Lolita dress with lacy knee-high stockings and black Mary Janes. Her hair had been pulled into pigtails.

She fortunately wasn’t wearing a diaper, either, but the lacy pink panties were plenty ridiculous and got her to an intense level of humiliation on their own. How her partners could bear the idea of parading Sophie in front of others like this was simply mind-boggling.

“I think there’s something wrong with all your brains!” she snapped, but knew there was something probably wrong with her brain, too. After all, when they treated her like a child, including spoiling, coddling, and punishing, it made her as aroused as a cat in heat.

“Look, I don’t care if you enjoy yourself or not, Sophia,” Liz told her curtly, her patience clearly running out. “But if you’re not the good little girl I know you are, then you’re going to regret it.”

Sophie’s cheeks flushed. If she got a nickel for every time she was issued a spanking threat, surely she’d have enough money for a trip to the moon by now! She hadn’t even been living in their house for a full year, yet—nine months, tops—and she was positive that in that short amount of time she’d been spanked more often than most any five people got spanked in their entire childhoods put together. It didn’t seem to matter that Sophie was an adult; she’d be nineteen in only a short couple of months.

Not that she was ever treated like it. Oh, how she’d kill just to be let alone to be an eighteen-year-old for a day; she was beginning to fantasize what it’d be like just to laze around in her sweatpants all day while eating Chunky Monkey from the carton and watching reruns of The Walking Dead

She brooded for a while longer; when Josh tried to squeeze her hand she snatched it away from him. Josh, who was normally her ally, didn’t seem to be on her side about all of this. In fact, he’d given her a less-than-desirable lecture about how sometimes people have to do things they don’t want to do and then pretend they like it for the happiness of others. Apparently, she had chosen the short straw that weekend, and was the one making the sacrifice.

“I can’t remember the last weekend where we could just hang around in sweatpants and watch TV,” she muttered, shoving her elbow against the window and leaning on it. “Does television still exist, by the way? Or is that obsolete like the beta player?”

“Try behaving,” Charlie replied very sharply, breaking his hour-long silence as he drove, “and then you’ll get to see what a reward feels like.”

That hurt a little. Sophie wasn’t bad; she thought of herself merely as tough, maybe even a little bit crass. As far as other girls her age were concerned, she couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. Nobody else had a thirty-three-year-old ex-football player who would upend them over his knee for any mistake, poor decision, or dirty look.

She hadn’t liked Charlie at first. She didn’t like his overbearing ‘Daddy’ play, the way he hovered over her, the firm tone in his low voice. She didn’t like it right now, either. Still, strangely she had come to almost appreciate him on most days. Daddy Charlie was firm and strict, but he was patient and went out of his way to see that her needs were taken care of, whether physical or emotional. For someone who went through the first eighteen years of her life without anyone giving a damn about anything about her, it was hard not to treasure that sort of regard.

Although she wanted to say something snappish along the lines of, ‘If you don’t stop being a prick, maybe then you’ll get to see what my foot up your ass feels like!’, she repressed that urge. She really didn’t want Charlie to pull over and spank her on the side of the road, and she knew he would if he thought what she said was too crass or disrespectful.

Instead she said, “I don’t understand why you’re being so mean to me,” which sounded pouty, because it was. She hoped that she could make the hulking man feel bad about bullying her.

“Because you’ve been whining nonstop since we told you about the party, and you’ve succeeded in giving me a headache,” he enlightened with exasperation. “You’re going. Get over it. We’re not turning the car around. Now sit in your seat correctly, please.”

She glanced defiantly towards the front of the car until she brought one of her feet from underneath her butt, which is how she’d been sitting in the seat. She didn’t see how it mattered how she sat, but the air in the car seemed tense somehow, and she realized she was walking on eggshells.

“I promise it’s not that bad,” Josh said from next to her. “You’ll have a great time. I thought they sounded a little weird at first, too, but now I look forward to them. Not just because of the play, either. It’s nice to hang out with similar-minded people that share your weirdness. It’s like having a tribe.”

“I’ve really never had the itch to hang out with people that like spanking.”

“That’s because you weren’t interested in it until a year ago,” Josh replied. “You’re fresh blood. You’re just nervous! Don’t worry, though. Uncle Josh will protect you.” He reached over, squeezed her knee, and then tried to wink at her.

She didn’t believe that for a second. She had a feeling that she wouldn’t see him after the first five minutes of their arrival. Josh was gorgeous—that was more fact than opinion—and he was a horn-dog with a sex drive that could put most rabbits to shame. Not to mention that he was a switch—he liked to be spanked as much as he liked to spank—and his interests were far broader than Charlie’s were.

She sighed. Scratch that—she wouldn’t see him after the first three minutes.

The topography was becoming quite foreign; they were driving through Nowheresville. She’d lived in Boston her entire life until she moved only forty-five minutes outside the city limits to live with Liz and the Hobbes brothers in Duxbury, and she hadn’t known there was this much uninhabited land anywhere on the East Coast. There weren’t even suburbs around—just trees.

Unexpectedly, the car made a left-hand turn into the forest, where they quickly came upon a manned guard booth. Sophie pressed her knees nervously together, hoping that the man wouldn’t look in the back seat and see that she’d been dressed like a little doll. Charlie dropped his name and offered his ID before the gate in front of them was opened and they were allowed entry.

She expected that maybe they’d come across the house in short order. They didn’t. They drove another seven minutes; apparently the people throwing the party were pretty well-to-do. “How do you guys know so many rich kinky people?” Sophie asked with more disdain than curiosity. She didn’t even like how rich Liz, Charlie, and Josh were. She had become a bit of a reverse snob, since her real family had survived mainly on welfare, housing assistance, and food stamps.

Liz exhaled before replying as they pulled up to a gigantic farmhouse in the middle of a valley, “We don’t seek them out, Sophie. It’s just that more affluent people with money can afford to go to more events like this. The more events someone goes to, the more friends they’ll find and the closer they can get to them.”

“Well, enjoy,” Sophie said. She didn’t want to play ‘the other half’ today to a bunch of rich snobs that owned enough land to establish their own country. “I’m not getting out of the car.”

Liz slowly turned her head and raised an eyebrow to Sophie at this challenge, while Charlie parked and turned off the car. Without a word, Liz got out of the car and opened Sophie’s door, which was just behind hers. Sophie held onto her seatbelt tightly with both hands. “How bad do you want this spanking to be?” Liz demanded, looking like she was in no mood to wrestle Sophie out of the car.

“I’m willing to sit here and play on my phone for the next four hours,” Sophie replied, goosebumps on her arms rising as she saw Charlie exit the car and stride around to her side like a man with purpose. Why couldn’t they understand that they could go and have fun without her?

“You’re not going to want to sit anywhere by the time I’m through with you, young lady!” Liz reached over to unlatch Sophie’s buckle and Sophie slapped Liz’s hand away so she could fold her body over the buckle. Once again, she had made a misstep and had crossed the line.

Josh was a bastion of patience as usual, so even though he was still next to her and able to pry her fingers off of the buckle if he truly wanted to, he merely covered her hands with his and said, “Sophie, let go.”

“No!” she snapped, decided.

Liz was pulled back finally by Charlie, who leaned over her and effortlessly wrestled Sophie’s hands away from the buckle and then grabbed her upper arm firmly and yanked her out of the car.

She grabbed the door on the way out. “Sophie, don’t make a scene!” Charlie demanded.

You’re the one making a scene!” she gritted.

“Oh, enough!” Liz, with a huff of frustration, stepped forward and picked Sophie up and toted her on her hip with only one arm circling around Sophie’s waist. Sophie was ripped off the car door with ease, mainly because she couldn’t help herself from trying to cover her panties by reaching back and trying to pull her skirt further down with both hands. This position was extremely revealing!

“Charlie, grab my purse,” Liz ordered calmly, as if Sophie wasn’t kicking her feet and throwing her arms around at her side. “Her hairbrush is inside of it.” Liz turned and walked toward the house.

“Mommy, no!” Sophie cried shrilly. Certainly Liz, who demanded that Sophie call her ‘Momma’ or ‘Mommy’ despite the fact that Liz was only fourteen years her senior, wasn’t actually going to spank her in public… Was she? Sure, that sort of threat was issued from time to time, but normally it was one of the few empty threats her family carried in their arsenals.

She looked up as Liz toted her up the stairs towards the house and saw that a crowd had formed. Sophie flailed harder, still to no avail, but Liz just found a bench to sit on nearby, right there on the wraparound porch.

“You can’t spank me in front of strangers!” Sophie gasped as Liz put her feet on the deck and quickly began yanking her over her taut thighs. Sophie could swear that she heard chuckling from the audience. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “You shouldn’t spank me at all!” she snapped, frustrated now that nobody seemed even close to helping her current plight. “You’re always making me do stuff I don’t want to do! It’s not fair!” She was able to rally her struggle and hopped back up to her feet.

Liz merely grabbed hold of her upper arm and held her steady, eventually maneuvering her so that Sophie’s legs were pinned between hers. Then Liz boldly reached her hands up Sophie’s skirt and grasped the hem of her panties. Sophie reached down, startled, and squeezed Liz’s hands, crying, “No!” When Liz looked up at her with angry eyes, Sophie bravely hissed, “Don’t.

Liz softened slightly, which calmed Sophie enough that she nearly felt dizzy from the strain of struggling. Liz sat up straighter and she squeezed Sophie’s hands back. “Sophia Lynn, when was the last time I forced you to go anywhere only for my own benefit?” she asked firmly.

Sophie looked down at her feet, still upset, but there was something about Liz in full-blown ‘Mommy mode’ that made Sophie feel like the baby Liz obviously thought she was being.

“I’ve never done that, have I?” Liz continued. “I’m always looking out for my babygirl first and foremost, aren’t I? Most things I make you do, you end up liking so much that I have to pull you away from them just to get you home.”

“But…” Sophie moaned, wincing. She was eyeing the porch’s decking to avoid eye contact while she struggled to grasp a point to argue on.

“Sophia, look at me.” Sophie held her breath and, since she knew there was nothing for it, looked at Liz. Butterflies in her stomach swarmed when she saw the embarrassed and exasperated expression on Liz’s face. “Have I ever allowed you to throw a tantrum?”

“I didn’t throw a tantrum,” Sophie defended, her tone slightly pleading, because Liz was right—Sophie couldn’t get away with tantrums. She pouted, “I just wanted to stay in the car.”

“Sweetheart, if you go back into that car, it will be because Daddy or I sent you there. You’ll be sitting bare-bottomed in the back seat with no games, no phone, and then Daddy will see to you when we get home. Do you want that?”

Sophie’s eyes rounded with fear and she shook her head with fervor. Bad as Mommy’s spankings were, Daddy’s were worse. The last thing Sophie wanted was to make Charlie feel like he had to actually curb her behavior, because when he felt like that he could resort to ‘punishment weekends,’ which in the past had been pretty horrible.

“Good.” Liz straightened her back again and seemed much less hostile. “Now, we’re going to get this spanking done, and then you’re going to go and be my good girl for the rest of the day.” With that, she pulled Sophie’s panties down to her knees with one quick, firm yank. Sophie, mortified, tried her best to pull the front of her dress over her bald vagina.

Sophie’s eyes began to cloud with tears and her lip began to tremble even as Liz pulled her back over her lap. “I don’t want a spanking,” she choked out miserably. She curled her arms around Liz’s calf, trying to brace herself for the sharp feeling of Liz’s hand.

“Here you go, hon,” Charlie said somewhere above her head as he handed something over to Liz.

“Thank you,” Liz said sweetly to him. A couple of giggles sounded from around them, and then Sophie felt something cold rest against her bare bottom.

It was the goddamned hairbrush. Sophie hated that hairbrush above most evil things in the modern world! “Mommy, don’t!” Sophie begged desperately, already reaching back to try to cover her bottom from the eyes of everyone watching.

Liz pinned Sophie’s hand to the small of her back and brought up the hairbrush, landing it with a loud ‘crack’ right in the middle of Sophie’s bottom. The pain such a benign, non-medieval instrument like the hairbrush could inflict always shocked Sophie. She screeched and kicked her feet as much as she could, despite her panties still being bunched around her knees. “No!”

Another spank and then another had Sophie squealing. With horror, she realized that the crowd on the porch was only getting larger and louder as people commented on what was occurring. Probably her screams were alerting all the spankos in the house that a real not-to-be-missed spectacle was happening just outside. The humiliation was enough to make her mind spin, but the biting pain of the oval hairbrush was sending Sophie into despair. “Mommy!” she cried. “Please!”

“That’s right, sweetie. I’m the mommy, aren’t I? So you telling me ‘no’ doesn’t make sense, does it, young lady?” There wasn’t even the slightest trace of sympathy anywhere to be found in Liz’s tone.

“I said I was sorry!” Sophie gritted between wails.

“I’m sorry, too, because I certainly don’t want to put my baby in pain!” she assured as she hammered down the hairbrush with one ‘pop!’ after another. “I don’t like giving my little girl discipline spankings. I don’t like my little girl complaining and moaning all the way up here, either! When was the last time you gave us that much attitude? It’s been a long time now, hasn’t it?” Her words were punctuated by another round of horrible, stinging swats that seemed to jar even her muscles. It probably didn’t help that Sophie was clenching her bottom cheeks, but she couldn’t force herself not to.

“Yes!” Sophie admitted, reinvigorating her efforts to squirm off of Liz’s lap.

“And why did you stop giving us so much attitude until today?”

“Mommy, please!” Sophie’s voice cracked. She tried her best to pretend they were back at home, in her bedroom, with no witnesses to this punishment or lecture.

Her pretending wasn’t working very well.

“Because Daddy and I don’t stand for it, do we? I should have tanned your snarky, stubborn little fanny before we were out of Boston’s city limits!”

Sophie began to sob, unable to hold it back. Her nose was beginning to run, her eyes were blinded by tears, and her breathing was now unsteady hiccups. Utter misery achieved!

“Why did you think we’d put up with it today?” Liz continued.

“I don’t know!” Sophie squealed between sobs. She didn’t know what she needed to say or do or feel to get out of this position, but she decided that her pride, and what she wanted her day to be like, wasn’t worth this. “I don’t, Mommy, I’m sorry! Please stop! Please! I’m so sorry!”

Liz finally stopped and put the hairbrush down on the bench next to them. Sophie couldn’t catch her breath between sobs, she couldn’t get herself to stop, and the pain in her bottom felt like it was throbbing deeply into her flanks. She was grateful to be let off Liz’s lap so she could breathe a little easier, even though she was less than happy about the audience, who watched Liz pull her panties back up to her waist, which surely looked ridiculous.

Immediately, Liz pulled her onto her lap, hugging her arms tightly around Sophie’s body and rocking her as she cried. Sophie felt a kiss on top of her head. There was chatting around them now; casual, non-concerned, friendly chatter.

Suddenly, Charlie was kneeling down in front of her and pressing a handkerchief to her face. As usual, Sophie put her hands up to receive it, but Charlie gently batted down her hands and said, “Alright, cupcake. Blow.”

Sophie blushed, hesitated, but then took a deep, trembling breath and did as she was told if just so that her breathing could begin to calm. Charlie cleaned up her face like she was a child too young to do it herself. “Take deep breaths, babygirl,” he instructed over her dry sobbing and hiccupping. Through her fresh tears, he appeared concerned.

She shook her head. She didn’t want to breathe. She wanted to crawl into a pit somewhere and die.

“Elizabeth, your babygirl is just the cutest thing!” said a woman’s voice in a country drawl. She spoke of Sophie like she was some prized cabbage that Liz had grown in the backyard. “She responds so well. I can never get mine to cry.”

Josh was suddenly picking Sophie off of Liz’s lap, even though the snuggling wasn’t quite over. It was as if he knew how tender Sophie felt from inside out. “I need some bunny lovin’,” he said, as if he was excusing himself for stealing a toy that Liz was playing with. Without any further ado, he toted her easily over one of his shoulders and walked off with her in tow.

Apparently, he didn’t need Sophie to love on him. Josh wanted to love on her. He walked her down to a secluded place around the corner where he put her down on her feet in front of a soft chair. He quickly sat down on the chair and then held up a bag of ice and patted his knee with his other hand. “Bottoms up, bunny.”

She looked around for witnesses. “You’re gonna put ice on it?” she asked, knowing how strange it would look to anyone passing by.

He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t like bruises on my baby,” he reminded. “If wood’s used, you get ice. I don’t care if they want you to feel it for a while or not.”

She shrugged. “Getting iced kinda hurts,” she mentioned.

“Talk to God about that. I didn’t make science, but science says that ice helps keep the swelling down.” He very gently tugged her over his lap.

She felt him yank her panties up towards the center rather than pull them down. She wondered if this looked less or more silly. Josh must have liked his view, because after applying the ice to her swollen cheeks, he toyed with her panty-covered folds by rubbing his fingers across the area back and forth. “You’re turned on, aren’t you?” she guessed with a sigh.

“After that? Fuck, yeah. It’s like watching Hera spank a naughty Aphrodite…” Josh assured her with a small chuckle in his voice.

A smirk crossed Sophie’s face of its own accord. Even though he was one of the people who dragged her there, and was therefore partially responsible for her ass getting beat in public, it was impossible to stay mad at Josh.

Besides, he was allowing her bottom some well-appreciated numbness.

“I just like to keep this part of myself private,” she told Josh, bringing a hand up to her cheeks to wipe the tears off her face.

“Yeah, but if you keep it private, how will we get to show you off?” Josh retorted. She could hear his smile on his lips. “Be open-minded! You might be surprised. This place is like an adult Disneyland.”

“Oh, yeah. I bet.” She’d never been to Disneyland, of course, but she had a feeling this was nothing like the teacup ride.

The ice was beginning to feel very uncomfortable, now. Her bottom went from cold, to numb, to cramping. “Okay, Josh—let me up?”

“Nope,” he refused smoothly. “I’m not getting your ass cold ‘just because.’ It’s called bruise prevention.”

She grumbled and soon heard steps heading towards them. She craned her head to see who it was, but Charlie’s voice brought an end to the mystery. “Hey, Josh—you’ve been summoned.”

“By who?” he asked with a curious, sly drawl.

“The man of the house,” was the casual reply. “Something about pony girl examinations and you.”

Sophie nearly expected to be dumped off Josh’s lap so he could run towards the party host. Although Josh didn’t become an OB/GYN simply to do naughty medical play any way and anyhow that he could, it was definitely a major perk. Yet she remained on his lap. He merely made a content sigh and said, “I love coming out here.”

“Want me to take over?” Charlie offered.

“Depends if that’s what my bunny wants,” Josh replied. “I was thinking about taking her down, working on a coloring book, and helping her get into her ‘little space.’”

‘Little space’ was what happened when her brain shut off all her willingness to act like an adult. She wouldn’t have believed it could happen until she met Josh, but he always seemed able to turn it off and on at will.

Charlie had been able to get her into that mental space as well, and even more deeply, as if the giant guy could hypnotize her, but he didn’t have such an easy time of it like Josh did; Charlie was no less strict with her when she was acting like a child than when she was acting her age. The possibility of getting soundly spanked for any mischief often had her putting on the brakes.

Charlie stepped into a place where she could merely turn her head to look at him. “What do you think, babygirl? Want to let Daddy cheer you up?”

Her first reaction was to grip her fingers into Josh’s leg and not let go—whenever she felt vulnerable, like after being humiliated, she just wanted to be coddled and held by someone who loved her. Eventually she remembered that Daddy also fit that description, and so did Mommy—even though it was her fault she felt vulnerable to begin with… “Okay,” she allowed, her tone still petulant.

“If we trade places, then I don’t want you cheering her up,” Josh clarified firmly. “You need to be holding ice to her for the next ten minutes. I don’t want her going black and blue.”

“I know how to use ice, thanks,” Charlie replied flatly.

“I know you know how, but yet you still never seem to use it,” Josh lectured, but was already guiding Sophie back to her feet and standing up.

“Look, I know how to care for my little girl!” Charlie rebuked gruffly, puffing out his chest. “I don’t need advice.” He pulled Sophie closely to him as if displaying dominance over her.

Josh snorted, not wanting to touch the bait to argue further, pinched Sophie’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, and kissed her mouth. “Don’t have too little or too much fun,” Josh teased her, grinning.

“I don’t think having too much fun will be a problem today,” Sophie sighed despondently, slouching.

“We’ll see…” he said, winked, and then wandered off towards the front of the house.

She turned around and looked up at Charlie, who put the ice down next to him on the floor, where he promptly forgot about it. “How are you gonna cheer me up?” she asked curiously.

His gruff countenance quickly melted into a relaxed expression. He grinned and put his arms out and she braced herself for being picked up like a doll, as he was wont to do with her. He held her on his hip, like one might do with a small child. Indeed, she knew she looked like a child next to a massive guy like him. Even Liz trumped her height by more than a foot. She barely even reached the height of Charlie’s chest.

“Well, first I’m going to get you a cookie,” he said, because sometime during the last year he’d discovered that she had a sweet tooth that couldn’t be satisfied and used it often to get into her good graces, “and some apple juice, and then I’m going to give you exactly what you wanted to do all day.”

She blinked at him, confused by his statement. “What d’ya mean?”

Apparently, he meant that she could watch a movie or two, the difference being that she’d watch those movies with other littles. Probably he assumed she would fall into ‘little space’ just by being around people who were already in that mindset.

On their trek across the ginormous home, Charlie still got his way; he introduced her to too many people to count. The house was quite packed with people, and everyone she was introduced to had seen her spanked and was congratulating her on it… As if she had just been performing.

She would have been severely annoyed at all of this, but as Charlie toted her around, and she began to look around her to watch what was actually happening, she was stunned.

There were lots of ‘littles’ at the party, boys and girls, probably as many as twenty of them, all running around, pulling pranks, speaking in cutesy voices or playing games, and there was a constant sound of slapping from spankings. Sophie watched in wonderment as a thirty-five-year-old wearing a schoolgirl uniform—one that looked remarkably like the one Sophie wore on the weekdays, at her actual school—got a caning. By the look of things, she was in seventh heaven.

Sophie had received fun ‘good girl spankings’ from her family before, but what she was witnessing wasn’t what she’d received for fun; the cane looked like it was getting used quite hard. Still, the girl was having a whole lot of fun, anyway; her eyes were closed in absolute bliss.

“Here we go.” Charlie set her down and gestured her to sit down on a plush rug with four other littles who were watching an old Disney film. He didn’t seem to notice that all four girls looked over at Sophie with disdain, but Sophie caught it. She was returning the looks with eyes full of confusion as Charlie promised to fetch her a juice.

As soon as he was gone, the other littles rolled their eyes and quickly scooted away from her. Within a minute, they all began to talk to each other, inviting each other to find a four-person board game to play, not even making eye contact with Sophie.

In no time at all, Sophie was sitting on the floor in front of the television by herself. She tried to shake it off—after all, it wasn’t as if she’d ever been very popular—and forced herself to relax.

Minutes passed, and she didn’t see Charlie return with her juice or anything else, and so she turned her body to look behind her. She realized that three adult men were now sitting on the sofa behind her, ogling her like she was a tasty morsel.

She spun her neck back around and watched the movie, feeling more uncomfortable than she’d ever been.

“Hey, honey,” one of the men behind her finally said, getting her attention again. He was probably in his fifties, with a pot belly and combed-back graying hair. He patted his lap invitingly. “You wanna come sit on Uncle Duane’s lap?”

She gulped and eyed the room again for signs of either Liz or Charlie.

“Come on, little girl,” he cooed, putting a theatrical stern face on. “Do what you’re told or else you’re going to get a few more spanks from Uncle Duane.”

She didn’t quite know what to do—was it normal to say ‘yes’ to spankings from complete strangers? Because as she looked around, she didn’t see anyone refusing. Some girls were already getting spanked by different partners than they had been twenty minutes ago.

“Maybe later, Uncle Duane,” she said, getting up. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“You can use it all by yourself?” he asked, winking at her.

She blushed and glanced nervously at the floor. “Daddy said I could…” she said awkwardly.

“Alright. Come right back, then,” he allowed, still playing the ‘adult’ role with her.

She nodded and walked quickly to find a bathroom that wasn’t in use. She closed the door behind her and locked it. “Oy,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes. “Creepy.”

“Who?” the bathtub asked.

Sophie shrieked and jumped back towards the door, startled to realize that there was somebody behind the shower curtain. She moved towards the bathtub and reached to pull the thick curtain aside.

There was a girl in her early twenties sitting there in overalls, a pink t-shirt, and pink Converse sneakers. She had her black hair curled in pigtails like Sophie’s, with bows to match her shirt and shoes. She didn’t look up; she was looking very intently at her cellphone, where she was apparently playing a very intense video game.

“Who’s the creeper?” the girl asked, still not dragging her eyes upwards.

“Creeper?” Sophie repeated this new word with confusion.

It seemed like the game ended or she put it on pause, because bright green eyes were staring at her suddenly. “Yeah,” she replied. “You know. Creepy dudes.” She looked her up and down. “You’re Charlie Hobbes’ new little, right?”

She nodded, then raised an eyebrow. “How’d you know?”

The girl shrugged. “You’re the only new girl at the party. I know everyone else,” she answered casually. She looked around. “Need to pee?” she asked, jerking her thumb over her shoulder.

Sophie’s cheeks pinkened. “No… I was just…” She eyed the floor, thinking of a reason to lock herself into the bathroom.

“Looking for an escape?” the girl guessed, crossing her legs and putting them up on the other side of the tub. “What do you think I’m doing? I hate crowds, and every time Daddy throws a party, it’s wall to wall in here!”

Sophie frowned. “I should probably go, then…” she muttered, mostly to herself.

“Not if you don’t want to,” she replied simply, even with a warm smile. “I’m Dani, by the way.” She stuck out her hand.

Sophie grinned and shook it. “Sophie.”

“First party?” Dani guessed.

Sophie nodded.

“Oh, boy,” Dani said, rolling her eyes theatrically and then shooting Sophie a sympathetic grin. “I thought Charlie, at least, would be bright enough to sort of prep you for all of this. It’s a circus out there! I absolutely hated my first year of going to parties. You a spanko, vanilla, or a convert?”

Sophie had heard of two of the three options—her family constantly talked about keeping most of their kinky lifestyle away from vanillas.

“What’s the difference between spankos and converts?” she asked, sitting down on the edge of the porcelain tub.

“Spankos are born, converts are made,” was Dani’s prompt response.

“Oh,” she said, nodding. “Definitely a convert… but I think I’m kinkier than spanko, know what I mean?” Sophie didn’t even know what she meant. She hadn’t thought about what she liked and what she didn’t like about her lifestyle except that she knew if the spankings or the ageplay itself stopped, she would feel empty inside.

“Totally. Hey, at least you’re not vanilla, or else you’d hate these parties forever. You’ll be fine once you start drinking the Kool-Aid.”

“There’s Kool-Aid?” Sophie asked, raising her eyebrows. In return she got a cynical look.

“It’s a cult joke. You know, drinking the Kool…” Dani waved off her attempted joke, which Sophie wasn’t close to understanding. “Never mind,” Dani sighed and then shrugged. “What I mean is once you embrace it, you’ll totally do well. It’s all about knowing what to expect—a circus!”

“So… if you don’t like crowds, why do you throw parties?” Sophie couldn’t help but ask.

Dani rolled her eyes again and pressed her hand to her chest. “Me? No, no. I don’t throw parties. Daddy throws parties. He’s social, but can’t stand dungeons. Too many negotiations and too many dungeon masters larping around like they’re the biggest cheese ever. But he’s loaded, as you might have guessed, so he just throws his own. If you think this is weird, you should see when they’re doing the pony competitions.”

She frowned. “Like horses?”

Straight-faced, Dani only said, “No.”

“Oh, like pony girls. Right…” She nodded, blushing from the embarrassment of her own stupidity. It wasn’t as if she didn’t know where Josh had disappeared to.

Dani gave a laugh and then stood up from the empty tub and straightened her overalls. “Come on, I’ll give you the grand tour,” she said, taking Sophie’s hand in her own and pulling her towards the door.

“I don’t think…” Sophie began, but Dani was stronger, adamant, and had her arm. Sophie surrendered and followed behind her.

As soon as they left the bathroom, they saw a woman on the bed, naked, being flogged with a multi-tail leather flogger by two men, while she was stretched out, arms over her head, looking like she was getting a massage. “Floggings,” Dani explained, gesturing towards the whole scene with her arm as if she was showing her something behind ‘curtain number one.’ She waved her hand. “It looks like a glorified carwash, but they’re really sensual. Guys with any rhythm normally realize that being a good flogger is the best way to get a woman to take all her clothes off,” she added, loud enough for the men who were currently flogging to hear her.

“Damn straight,” one of the floggers agreed with a grin, not breaking his rhythm as his flogger hit the woman’s shoulders clear down to the backs of her calves. The woman thrust out her bottom more in response to the pleasure. “This is a sort of sensation play more than anything else,” the man added with almost a professorial air.

“Right, he’s right,” Dani assured, and then pulled her from the room, saying, “Let’s see what’s behind Door Number Two!”

“Where do you think Liz is?” Sophie asked when she was pulled out onto the second-floor landing. She quickly scanned the crowd and didn’t see either Charlie or Liz.

“Oh, shit! Elizabeth Button’s your mommy, isn’t she?” Dani said, slapping her forehead with awe. “Wow. I’m a total Liz fangirl. Nobody scolds like Liz—she can have you crying before the spanking even starts. Total mind-fuck. You’re so lucky!”

Sophie wouldn’t have ever called herself lucky when they’d gotten there an hour ago. She was still sulking deep down from the public discipline she’d been subjected to, not to mention that, because Daddy of course didn’t continue to ice her bottom, she was surely black and blue by now.

“I bet she’s in the basement—that’s where all the heavy femdom stuff is. Here, let’s go see,” Dani drawled in a conversational sort of way, as if femdom was old hat to her.

Sophie’s eyes widened. She hadn’t ever been able to see Liz do what Josh would call ‘femdom.’ After nine months, she hadn’t ever been invited to watch, and in fact the ‘Dark Room,’ which was the room in the basement that Josh and Liz would do their play in, and most of their sex, was always locked. It was locked when they were inside, locked when they weren’t, and where the keys were, Sophie had no idea… she’d certainly scoured the house for those keys a time or two, but so far, they had eluded her.

“Yeah, that’d be cool,” Sophie said, shrugging her shoulders as if she didn’t really care.

At the bottom of the stairs, in a heap of coloring books, bows, ribbons, and lollipops, was a lazy crowd of littles. Dani stopped pulling on Sophie’s hand and waved at the group. “Hey, guys,” she greeted them cheerfully.

The group of girls looked up at both Sophie and Dani, and then mumbled out unenthusiastic ‘hellos.’

“Hey, don’t get too excited or anything!” Dani mocked, putting her hands on her hips. “What happened to my hugs?”

As if they were a school of fish, moving together as one, the group simultaneously shrugged. Finally, one girl asked her, seeming to make a point not to even look at Sophie, “Do you wanna play hopscotch outside, Dani?”

“Outside’s good. What do you say, Soph?” Dani asked, shrugging as she turned to Sophie, who was trying to smother her disappointment about not going straight downstairs.

“Um, it’s probably better that she doesn’t play,” said one of the girls, who had curly dark hair and was hard to place in age—she could have been in her forties or fifties. “It’s better with a smaller group, you know?” She reached out to grab Dani’s hand, looking like she meant to physically pull her away from Sophie.

Sophie felt the urge to sniff her own armpits, wondering if she smelled bad or something. Sophie was no stranger to being snubbed, but this had happened extremely quickly, and Sophie hadn’t even talked to them. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and stepped back, ready for Dani to abandon her as well. She felt a knot of disappointment; she knew she wasn’t going to be popular or fit in, but she had never repelled someone so strongly and so quickly before. She had hoped that she had just imagined their disdain of her when she had sat next to them during the movie, but it was clear: for whatever reason, the other littles didn’t like her.

Dani evaded the other little’s grab for her hand and instead grabbed Sophie’s sleeve at her shoulder and said to the girls, practically holding her up and looking severe, “Wait just a second, since when did we decide to Rudolph the new girl?” she asked pointedly.

“We’re not Rudolphing her,” another little assured. “Five’s just sort of a crowd.”

“Well, that’s a load of bullshit,” Dani snapped, and ignored the gasp from the others. “Spit it out. Did she literally piss in your Cheerios or something?”

“Nah, Dani. It’s totally cool,” Sophie said, walking backwards and away from Dani. “You can totally go on and stuff. I’m fine on my own.” She didn’t want to walk into the femdom room by herself, but she knew that forcing her presence on a group wasn’t going to be fun for anyone, and demanding reasons of why someone didn’t like her was just asking for a good proverbial slap in the face.

“You can’t even understand what she’s saying!” one little whispered none-too-quietly to another, who gave an agreeing nod. “Who talks like that?”

Sophie blinked at the girl, feeling a little slapped around already. She had a feeling the problem was deeper than her Southie accent, but the comment hurt. Josh had said that her accent was adorable, though, and her high school friends had never complained about it, either. Although the kids she went to school with were an extremely honest bunch, they’d said that her accent wasn’t too tough on the ears, since her voice wasn’t nasally or sharp like some other Southie women’s were; she couldn’t remember a time that someone couldn’t understand something she’d said.

Dani now looked appraisingly at her, looking her up and down as if trying to see the faults that were apparently so obvious to everyone else, then she looked around the room.

“Really, go on. I’m cool,” Sophie said, and Dani frowned.

“Why don’t you go down and I’ll be with you in no more than a half an hour?” Dani suggested, and Sophie nodded. She didn’t believe that Dani would do much talking to her later; she’d probably go outside with the other littles and they would get her to see whatever they saw.

In moments, she found herself alone again. She felt tears stinging the corners of her eyes but then held them back. She didn’t want to be known as someone who’d create drama. Especially not here, in this community; her family cared more about the opinions of these people than the opinions of others. All someone had to do was inform them that their little was a basket-case who would lock herself in a bathroom and cry, bringing down the party, and she was sure they’d start looking for someone else to fill her role.

She sat on the bottom of the stairs and looked out. Distantly, she could finally see Charlie. He was spanking a full-grown woman, one who was enjoying it, and he certainly was as well. She was grown up, and pretty, though not as gorgeous as Liz, perhaps—but certainly attractive.

Sophie felt her cheeks flush with jealousy, but instead of going up there and doing anything about it, because that would also make her look too possessive, she sat down and opened a coloring book.

“Little girl,” a man said, approaching her with a firm countenance. She looked up and saw a middle-aged man with blond hair and green eyes looking down at her as if disappointed. “What did I tell you? No playing games until your chores are done.”

She felt her heart race. The man wasn’t ugly; in fact, he was clean and attractive enough, but she didn’t know him from Adam. “What?” she asked, even looking around her, figuring that he had to be talking to someone else, but she was the only one there.

“Don’t ‘what’ me,” he scolded her. “We’ve been at this time and time again. How many times have I told you that you need to clean your room before you can make more messes?” He gestured around at all the coloring books, crayons, markers, and colored pencils that the other littles had abandoned on the floor when they went outside to play.

“But I only—” she began, her throat going dry.

“No excuses.” He reached forward and took a solid hold of her wrist before pulling her up and sitting down where she had been, before proceeding to pull her over his lap in a fluid, skilled motion as if he’d pulled girls over his knee a million times before. “I’m your daddy, and I make the rules, don’t I?” He began to lift her skirt.

Her mind went blank. “But—” She felt a smack on the back of her panties that caused her to squeak.

“No buts!” he went on sternly. “I’m looking for a ‘yes, Daddy,’ or else this bottom is going to get red before we even get started! Do you understand, young lady?”

She swallowed and uttered, “Yes, Daddy,” but she was terrified. She didn’t understand; she hadn’t done anything wrong. This man wasn’t her daddy; he wasn’t anything to her. She didn’t even know his name!

Then she realized that she was in the middle of… a scene. She’d read about scenes nine months ago when Liz had given her what was essentially an ageplay manual. Sophie hadn’t heard her family talk about them, at least not around her, and she didn’t think she’d ever been in one. Her life was really one long scene, as far as she was concerned, and even when she wasn’t in ‘little mode’ her family didn’t treat her very much different than when she was.

“Now we’ve talked about you cleaning up your messes before, haven’t we?” the man asked.

“No,” she replied promptly, because they never had.

No?” Suddenly a flurry of spanks cracked down on her poor, swollen bottom. “Do not lie to me, young lady. You know we have! We’ve talked about this a million times, so don’t lie. I will happily wash those lies out of your mouth with a piece of soap! Is that what you want?”

“No,” she whined, realizing that she had to go along with this. It was her first scene after all, and she didn’t want to have a bad reputation for reprimanding anyone in the community for spanking her at a spanking party.

She had never been so upset at her family than she was now, just for being pulled into this kicking and screaming. Why didn’t they just let her make some decisions for herself? She wasn’t actually a child! Why didn’t they just leave her at home? This feeling in the pit of her stomach, and not just her bottom, was their doing.

Smack! She squeaked and he prompted, “No, Daddy, I don’t want my mouth washed out with soap?”

“No, Daddy, don’t! I’m sorry! Please! Please, no more spanking!” she begged, trying to squirm away from him, but he was at least as strong as Liz, which meant that she wasn’t going to get very far.

“I’m sorry, baby, but we haven’t even started. Good daddies make sure their little girls are well disciplined and that they know when to play and when to clean their dirty rooms. Now, I’m going to pull your panties down—”

“No!” she squeaked, bucking her body upwards, but then she was pressed back down.

Yes,” he assured her, “and then I’m going to turn your naughty, lazy little bottom a bright red, and then you’re going to be a good girl who does what their daddy has told them to do a dozen times. I’ve been patient with you, baby, but you’ve made me realize that I’ve been far too lenient.”

He pulled down her panties and Sophie clenched her teeth down, trying not to cry out and call too much attention to herself; she figured that’s what had gone wrong before. She was the one doing all the caterwauling that brought people’s attention, and that’s why so many strangers had looked at her bare bottom as she was punished.

Besides, this man didn’t have any hairbrushes in his hand, and he didn’t look anywhere near as strong as Charlie was. After nine months of getting spanked, she should be able to take this one quietly.

“It looks like your mommy gave this little bottom a good hard spanking!” the man admonished, inspecting her bottom. Sophie dropped her head, flushing miserably. “Well, well! Aren’t we a naughty girl today? I thought that spanking would have been enough to get you to behave!” He began to spank her then, and it was hard, so hard.

It was harder than Charlie’s, which made no sense! It felt like she was being flat-out beaten! She suddenly began to squirm like a wild animal, screeching, and when the man subdued her by pinning her hands behind her back, he continued.

For a moment, she tried to tell herself that it couldn’t go on long, and she would live through it. She’d been in lots of pain before, and she lived. After about twenty spanks, however, she realized that she couldn’t bear it any longer. She was out of ‘Please, stop’ and ‘I’ll be good!’ and he didn’t stop. He seemed to like this show, and he really seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight with an entertained crowd beginning to form. Now all she had was a scream.

She was sure this would get him to stop beating her so hard, because she wasn’t a quiet screamer, and indeed everyone in the room was looking at her now, but he continued, until finally she heard Charlie’s voice from a distance. “Hey, Jake! Hey, let her up!”

Jake didn’t hear him, apparently, because he spanked three more times before Charlie grabbed her arm and spun her off Jake’s lap.

She pressed her face immediately into Charlie’s stomach, and his arms wrapped tightly around her, petting her hair and trying to soothe her. “Fuck, Jake. She was screaming!” Charlie boomed.

“I thought that was just her reacting,” Jake defended, his voice sounding both humiliated and shocked. “She wasn’t safe-wording.”

She felt Charlie’s body tense. “I…” He swallowed and she heard him say, “I might have forgotten about telling her about safewords… We don’t use them at home at all.”

There were a lot of murmurs. “Oh, Jesus!” Jake suddenly cried. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t… Is she okay?”

“Don’t worry about it, Jake,” Charlie rumbled. “I’ve got her.” He picked her up into his arms and she hid her face on his shoulder and sobbed as he brought her to a quiet place on the porch outside.

“Honey, honey, look at me,” he said, sitting her down on his lap. He gently pulled her away from his shoulder and tilted her chin up so that she could look at him through a shiny swath of tears.

Her mood turned sharply to anger, and she could see a red cloud of rage. She reached out and slapped him, hard, in the face, and she got off his lap and began to walk down the steps and towards the immensely long driveway before her hand began to sting.

“Sophie, stop,” Charlie demanded somewhere behind her.

She didn’t even know where she was going, but damn it, she wasn’t going to stop. She was too angry, and she felt sick to her stomach with humiliation, tension, and bald fury. Charlie grabbed her by the elbow and she quickly turned to whack him away from her. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me again! Ever!” she screamed at him.

His eyes widened for a moment in complete shock but then they narrowed as he sized her up, heat flooding his cheeks. “We need to talk,” he said. His voice was patient but she could tell that nothing but frustration was bubbling underneath.

“No, we don’t. I’m going home! Find someone else to be your friends’ punching bag.” She turned up the driveway, and continued to walk away.

Charlie stood and let Sophie go for about thirty feet, and that was only so she could stomp out some of her anger. He hadn’t been slapped in the face since college, and certainly it’d never been for a justifiable reason. But Sophie was hurt, and despite what he wished, it was his fault.

He jogged up to her, closing the distance between them, and then hauled her over his good shoulder. She fought and smacked her little fists against his back for a while, but eventually her cries of anger became heartbreaking sobs. He adjusted her lower on his shoulder and she wrapped her arms around his neck and cried on his shoulder again, noisily. He already felt his t-shirt getting wet. He put a hand over her lower back and rubbed soothingly.

“I know, sweetheart. I know. You have a right to be angry,” he told her, carrying her back up to the porch and returning to the padded chair way off the normal flow of traffic. He sat down in it, and this time, he just held her.

He pulled out his cellphone. He felt bad about ruining Josh’s fun, but he knew that if he didn’t tell Josh that Sophie was this upset, then Josh would be mad as hell. He texted him: You’d better come back to the house.

Josh didn’t respond, but he was jogging up to the house from the stables within three minutes, before Sophie had even looked up from his shoulder. He was worried, of course. He stood awkwardly and watched Sophie just being miserable and Charlie could see that Josh’s heart was breaking for her, and he didn’t even know what had happened yet. “What’s wrong?” he asked gently, as if she could be easily startled or upset again.

“She just had a really bad scene,” Charlie explained. “Jake played with her, and you know how he plays. But Sophie couldn’t tap out because I didn’t explain safewords to her… I just forgot that she didn’t know.”

“Oh, sweetie…” Josh knelt down next to Charlie and put a hand on Sophie’s knee. Sophie didn’t even look at Josh, refusing to move her eyes from Charlie’s shoulder. Josh looked at Charlie at that point. “Why the fuck did you let her play with Jake? You know he’s a hard player!”

“I was in the middle of my own scene. I heard someone crying loudly, but I didn’t think it was her! I stopped my scene when I heard someone screaming, just to see what was wrong,” Charlie explained.

“She was screaming?” Josh echoed, horrified. A grim look of resolve crossed his face. “I’m gonna go kick his ass,” he proclaimed, balling his hands into tight, white fists.

Charlie was known as the family hothead; he had rarely seen Josh pissed off enough to want to start a fight… At least not with anyone but himself. Now he had to call him back. “Josh, cool off. That’s not helpful.”

Josh was already halfway to the door, but stomped back.

“It’s not Jake’s fault, it’s mine. I didn’t tell her any of the rules around here. She was a sitting duck. I put her with a group of littles in front of the television, and then I went to get her a snack… but then I got waylaid by about five girls and I just forgot what I was doing, or where I was going. I figured Sophie would be fine, at least until the end of the movie, and that she’d make friends easier if I wasn’t around…”

Josh was clearly getting angry again. “Goddamn it! You were supposed to fucking take care of her! You didn’t even let me fend for myself at my first party, and I was twenty-four and over twice her size!”

“I didn’t think she’d play!” Charlie repeated.

“He just… I just…” Sophie sniffled. “I didn’t want to play. He just came up and pretended that I was bad and that he was my daddy, and then I realized that we were already in the middle of a scene…”

Charlie pursed his lips, although this was how some of the tops played. They felt their reputation preceded them and that it’d been so long since anyone didn’t want to play with them, that they’d stopped asking.

Honestly, Charlie had been guilty of the same thing in the past. Jake had probably seen Liz spank Sophie, thought that was a play spanking and that Sophie played hard, so he showed her hard.

Josh, who didn’t seem interested in thinking very rationally right now, stood up and began to walk back into the house. Apparently he wanted to show Jake that he, too, was a hard player.

Charlie put Sophie down on the seat and then rushed to grab Josh before he could get far. He had to use both arms to even slow him down. “Fucking let go of me!” Josh gritted, obviously pissed and already getting odd looks from the few people that had been milling around the doorway.

Charlie aggressively, yet very quietly, told his brother, “Josh, I need you to take care of Sophie right now, not make a big scene. Trust me, I know Jake, and this was a bad move, but he’s not a bad guy. He was horrified when I told him that she didn’t know any safewords.”

Josh’s nostrils flared but some of the fighting spark left him. It looked like he was finally beginning to let rational thought rule once again. He took a deep breath and then let Charlie lead him back to the porch. Sophie was still there, watching the screen door with wide eyes as they both came back out. Josh knelt down in front of her and said, “Baby, I am so sorry. You wanna show me what he did?”

She shook her head, her cheeks flushed. She wiped some of her tears off with the back of her hand.

“Okay.” Josh didn’t look amazingly happy with that answer, but he probably would have said ‘yes’ to anything Sophie wanted at the moment. “Do you want to go home?”

Sophie nodded.

“Alright. I’ll go get Liz,” Charlie volunteered. He didn’t want to play anymore, anyway, after all that. “Anybody you want to say goodbye to?” he asked Sophie, figuring that she had to have made some friends, at least, in the hour she’d been there. There were over a dozen littles there, and he’d dropped her off in the middle of several of them.

Sophie once again erupted in a sob.

Charlie didn’t know what that was about, but he scrubbed his palm over his forehead and headed back into the house to hunt down Liz. When he was only ten feet through the door, however, he could see Liz coming towards him. “What happened?” Liz asked him. “Is Sophie hurt? I heard she freaked out during a scene.”

“Yeah, news travels fast,” Charlie murmured. “She didn’t freak out,” he assured, and then proceeded to tell her what happened.

Liz was predictably stunned. “Oh, God…” she said, pressing her hand to her chest. “It’s all my fault. I was so busy just trying to get her here, I didn’t tell her anything… Poor baby…”

She just stood there for a moment, with her hand on her heart. Charlie guessed she was trying to get out of the haze of guilt, the same one he was still walking around in, so she could go outside and be calm and in control.

That’s when Dani came up, looking very awkward. “Hey, Charlie, I—”

“We’re really busy right now, Dani,” he said, figuring that Dani was just trying to ask him for a scene. She was twenty-two, and therefore had been the baby for the last couple of years at these sorts of parties, until Sophie was pulled into their world.

“I heard Sophie was really upset,” Dani said, twining her fingers in front of her. “I sorta feel responsible…”

Elizabeth raised one of her dark, perfect eyebrows. “Why on Earth would you be responsible for her having a bad scene with Jake?” she asked, confused.

Dani’s eyes glazed over for a moment with confusion. “What? I thought she was all upset because she was snubbed! She had a bad scene with Jake? How? Jake’s amazing!”

Charlie put out his hands, not knowing what issue to address first. “We neglected to tell her anything about safewords, and she’s a light player.”

“Oh…” Dani grimaced. “Man… She okay?”

“What do you mean she was snubbed?” Charlie immediately asked, especially because he didn’t really know if Sophie was okay, but at the moment, if he was to take a guess, it’d be ‘no.’

Dani shrugged. “I sort of bailed on Sophie, but it was to help her out—I was gonna explain that when I got back. I wanted to see why the hell the other littles hated her so much—and they weren’t exactly discreet about their feelings. All I can figure out is the other girls think she’s eighteen and that small on purpose.”

What?” Liz asked. “What do you mean they hate her? They don’t even know her! We’ve only been here for an hour!”

Dani shrugged again. “It sucks, but you really don’t understand how bitter those girls can be in this group. This isn’t as open as one of the national parties, you know. These girls are really cliquish. I think the only reason they accepted me is because it’s Daddy’s house. See, if she was only small, they’d probably hate her because they want their daddies to be able to pick them up that easily. If she was only pretty, they’d hate her from getting too much attention. If she was only you guys’ little, they’d hate her, because everyone wants to be you guys’ little—you’re all smoking hot.” She pyramided her hands together and explained, “You see, you’re looking at the rare trifecta of acrimony.”

Liz’s mouth fell open; Charlie knew she was going to be ranting and raving about this little dialogue for weeks. Although he was also broiling with anger, he was still happy that Liz’s rage was directed at someone other than himself for once.

“Thanks for the investigation, Dani,” Charlie told the girl, squeezing her shoulder as he passed by. “Can you tell Michael that we had to take off?” he asked, since the last thing he wanted to do was track down the party host and create more of a stir than he already had.

“Yeah, of course. Tell Sophie that I’m sorry, ‘kay?” she said, watching them leave with a guilty, sympathetic expression that was surely meant for Sophie. Charlie grabbed a couple of bottles of cold water from an ice cooler on the way out.

He watched as Liz marched up to Sophie and then brushed the girl’s hair off of her forehead and kissed her cheeks. “I love you, baby,” she assured her. “Thanks so much for coming with us; we’re sorry we put you through that. Let’s go home, alright?”

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