Inside the manor, a young woman stood in the middle of the large dining room. Her hands were rigid at her sides, her small fingers curling into the fabric of her thick cotton house dress. Her large cerulean blue eyes narrowed as they focused on the man in front of her.
The man in question gazed down at the remains of a large serving plate that the young woman had thrown in his direction. Luckily, he was able to dodge it before it collided with his face. His dark eyes, framed by a stern square face, rose to rest on the small, angry woman before him.
They were standing about ten feet apart. He calmly stepped around the pile of white and gold shards so that he was directly in front of the small woman. Her blonde waves fell in front of her ocean blue eyes as she glared up at him.
They stood silently, showing no acknowledgment when a couple of servants rushed in to clean up the mess.
It was the wife who eventually broke the silence. “You’re impossible.”
“I hardly see how allowing you to settle in before we start work is impossible,” the man countered.
“How long do you suppose one needs to settle?” his wife countered hotly. “We have been married for several moons now. I have had more time to settle than I can stand.”
“Celeste—” the man began.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t say my name in the same way you would a child’s,” his wife interrupted. She pushed her hair out of her eyes as she said this. “If you refuse to train me, then—”
“Believe me,” now it was her husband’s turn to interrupt, “I intend to train you. Human possession is an ability that requires intense focus and control. There are very few of us left, and your training will come when I feel you are ready for it. You are being impatient. Even if it has been nearly a year since our wedding, I sense that you have not settled into your role.”
“And what is my role exactly, Tarik?” Celeste demanded, failing to keep her tone level. She said the man’s name as if it were a curse; a bad taste in her mouth.
Tarik’s usually serious facade broke at that. His lips curled upward into a smirk. “To obey me.”
He wasn’t surprised when his wife’s large eyes widened in disbelief before immediately narrowing again into two cold icicles.
“You’re wrong,” she bit out through clenched teeth. “I may have vowed to obey you when we wed, but that is not my only role.”
Tarik was having a difficult time hiding his amusement. Although he knew the answer to his next question, he wanted to hear her response. “What do you believe your role is here, Celeste?”
He could tell from the expression on her small face that his wife had not been expecting that question. She took a moment to compose herself, inhaling sharply before answering. “You know exactly what it is that I’ve come here to accomplish,” she ground out. She whipped her head to the side in the direction of the two older women servants who were still cleaning up the shattered dish remains. “How long should it take to clear up one small mess?” she demanded.
“Our apologies,” one of them said, bowing her bonnet-covered head respectfully.
“Celeste!” Tarik barked, making the two small women cower together. “That is no way to speak to the help.” He watched in angered amazement as she simply lifted one shoulder in a careless way.
The two servants quickly gathered the rest of the shards before scurrying out of the dining room and into the kitchen, leaving the couple alone.
Celeste leaned against the large wooden dining room table, suddenly exhausted. She held her glare on the man in front of her. She noted that his dark, almost black eyes had somehow darkened further as he regarded her. She refused to look away from him.
“I don’t appreciate the obscene amount of disrespect you’ve been showing lately,” he said finally when it was clear that she wasn’t going to speak. “I expect better from you as my wife.”
“Well, I don’t appreciate how you mock me!” his wife shouted. “You know exactly why I agreed to marry you. Or have you really deluded yourself into believing that I have feelings for you?”
Tarik’s eyes narrowed. “Bring yourself up to our room, Celeste,” he ordered, his tone deadly. “It’s time you were punished for your horrendous actions.”
Celeste planted her feet into the hardwood floor. She crossed her arms. “No.”
Tarik just shook his head. “Then I have no reason to train you,” he concluded. He turned to head out of the room. “How can I teach someone who refuses to listen?”
Something in the young woman snapped as she watched her husband head toward the door leading into the den. In a blind rage, she snatched another dish from the dining room table and brought her arm back to hurl it toward the man with all her might.
This time, there was no crash. Celeste cried out with frustration as her arm locked in place, the plate still clutched in her hand. She tried desperately to move it, but it was as if the nerves in her right arm were completely severed from the rest of her body. She kicked her feet stubbornly and flailed her left arm in vain. She continued to struggle until she saw the look on her husband’s face.
Tarik’s expression had morphed into a stern mask as he waited patiently for her to stop struggling and screaming. He was pleasantly surprised when she completely halted her wiggling and a resigned look spread across her face.
Celeste bowed her head, knowing full well that fighting against her husband’s power was futile. The invisible force that held her captive was like a vise, gripping her with a cold firmness that brought tears to her eyes.
She refused to let them fall.
She looked up when the man spoke. “I’m going to let you go and when I do, you are going to calmly set the plate back down on the table.” He said this through his teeth, his dark eyes blazing.
Celeste clenched her own teeth together, the resignation in her gaze disappearing briefly as her eyes filled with loathing. “Very well,” she said evenly.
The young woman couldn’t understand how the man could show no sign of using his ability. He stood, completely still, with an iron-like hold on her arm. When the nerve freeing sensation was gone, she let her limb fall. Without breaking eye contact with Tarik, she slowly set the plate back on the table.
“Good,” he said, his tone curt. “Now bring yourself up to our room.”
Celeste stood her ground. “Don’t forget why I married you, Tarik,” she seethed. “I agreed to be your wife in exchange for lessons in controlling my ability. How can I obey you if you refuse to fulfill your side of the bargain?” She watched calmly as her tall, dark husband slowly made his way across the room to stand in front of her. He easily towered a foot above her, if not more. She refused to show how intimidated she was and did her best to ignore the chill that went up her spine when he pinned her with a death stare.
“You’ve said your vows, Celeste,” Tarik reminded her, his tone hard. “Whether I choose to train you or not, you are going to submit to me, starting now.”
Celeste gasped when her husband grabbed her roughly by the upper arm and propelled her toward the stairs. He ignored her yelling and kicking and dragged her up to their room. He pulled her roughly, using one hand to throw open the wooden door at the top. He threw her onto their large bed.
“I have been patient with you,” he exclaimed. Then, without warning, he flipped her over onto her stomach and brought his open palm down hard onto the seat of her floor-length skirt, making her cry out. Tarik stood up and headed toward the door. Without turning, he said, “You will wait for me here. I plan to punish you thoroughly for your blatant disrespect.” With that, he exited the room, leaving her alone on the bed.
Celeste burst out the front door, tears dripping off her face and staining the thin fabric of her blouse. Her eyes shifted to her reflection in the window. Her hair was a tangled mess, her clothes rumpled. She shook her head furiously, making her golden locks flail around her.
She walked briskly across a small field to a line of stables. A white pegasus whinnied at her when she approached, its long face hanging over the side of its stall door. The animal trotted in place, seeming to know that they were going flying. Celeste couldn’t stay there another minute. She shivered delicately with the need to feel the wind kiss her cheeks and adrenaline rush through her veins as they took to the sky.
After her pegasus, Alethea, was freed from her harness and walked out of the stall, she spread her wings out, ruffling her feathers. Celeste let out a breath that she hadn’t realized she had been holding and nuzzled the pegasus’ cheek with her own. She gazed into the beast’s large, dark blue eyes. The amount of love and understanding she saw in the two pools was enough to bring tears to her eyes. It was a genuine love the young woman rarely saw within human eyes.
Celeste mounted her steed. She never used a saddle—it just felt like a barrier between their flesh. It seemed to help them feel the trust they had with each other. She grabbed at Alethea’s white mane, tugging gently to signal her to prepare to take off.
Despite recognizing her husband’s voice immediately, she refused to turn. Urgently, she tapped her horse’s sides with her feet, causing the beast to race off toward the forest. Celeste laughed gaily as they ran, bouncing on top with each gallop.
“Let’s get out of here, Alethea!” she exclaimed over elated giggles. Alethea whinnied in response before stretching her white wings out wide, the silky feathers ruffling lightly in the breeze. The familiar weightlessness overwhelmed Celeste as they left the ground, bringing tears once again to her eyes. She wrapped her arms around the animal’s neck, digging her fingers into Alethea’s mane as they ascended.
It was only then that Celeste glanced back at her husband. He just gazed up at her. The stony expression would have been unreadable to most. She wasn’t fooled, however. She had seen that expression before.
He was angry.
She cringed, expecting to feel his power overwhelm her and pull them from the sky. She knew he could do it. He could have easily stopped her from leaving but he didn’t. How could that have been? She heard the anger in his tone, so why did he let her leave?
She shook the thought away. There was no need to worry about that. For now, Celeste was where she wanted to be—up in the sky, where both she and Alethea were safe and could be themselves. As they ascended above the treetops, Celeste felt Alethea slow down to a more comfortable speed. The pegasus floated lazily and Celeste loosened the grip she had on her and relaxed, the wind ruffling her hair gently.
Celeste didn’t know how much time passed by as they drifted through the clouds. Nothing bad could happen to her up here, she thought. She was safe.
Just then, something whistled past, nearly striking Alethea in the head. Celeste sat up in alarm and whipped around as the arrow disappeared behind a cloud.
Alethea whinnied in distress. Her big blue eyes darted around wildly, searching for the source of the attack.
Celeste’s breath caught in her throat. Memories of her parents warning her about people attacking her for her abilities flooded her mind. They had instilled fear in her in order to protect her.
That fear also came with a fierce determination, however. She could live in fear all she wanted, but where would that leave her? She was tired of being treated like a little girl who needed to know fear. She wanted more of a life than to live in hiding.
She shook herself out of her stupor and signaled Alethea to dive.
The pegasus obeyed immediately and dove toward the trees. Celeste shrieked when two more arrows whistled past her head.
“Faster, girl!” she yelled, pressing herself flat against Alethea’s fur.
Once they were on the ground, Celeste leaped off the pegasus and stood very still, listening, trying to hone in on possible sources of the arrows. That’s when she felt it, the tiniest sense but she was sure there were at least three, possibly four humans, not too far from her.
She shut her eyes, finding it easier to call upon her powers without distraction, and focused on the tiny pieces of energy in the distance. A stone’s throw away was all she could manage in one instant. She realized though that the energy felt slightly stronger than it had just moments ago.
They had to be moving fast. And they were moving fast in her direction.
Celeste bolted back toward Alethea and leaped onto her back before urging her to sprint in the opposite direction of her attackers.
Celeste whimpered fearfully as she listened to Alethea’s rapid footsteps mixing with the thumping of her racing heart. Sweat appeared on her brow as she clutched onto the pegasus. Alethea raced through the trees, causing Celeste to have to duck to avoid the onslaught of incoming branches.
Celeste normally led Alethea with incredible skill and prowess, but now felt herself struggling to concentrate as fear overwhelmed her.
A dark shadow flashed across her vision. Alethea whinnied in shock and rose up on her back legs. Celeste shrieked but was able to hold onto the rearing pegasus. Her eyes darted to the side, following the dark shadow.
It was her husband.
Tarik, as dark and brooding as ever, brought his own black horse to a halt when he saw Celeste. His young wife stared at him dumbly, her hair mussed and her eyes wet with tears.
He badly wanted to kiss her, but he needed to get them to safety.
“Celeste!” he called out. He gestured with his eyes to the side, guiding his black horse to turn in a random direction.
She knew exactly what he wanted her to do, and she stayed close to him as Tarik’s horse broke into a sprint. Celeste was grateful for Alethea’s health and strength. She kept up with Tarik’s muscular steed with ease.
After what had to be several moments of speeding through the trees, Tarik’s horse slowed down to a trot. Alethea did the same, settling into a nice pace beside the stallion.
“Did we lose them?” Celeste asked, her voice shaking.
“Yes,” Tarik answered. “They still think you’re heading north, so they will do the same.”
Something in his tone cued her in on something. “You were waiting for me…”
He nodded. “I knew you would run this way. It was the perfect way to lead them away from the manor.”
“What if I hadn’t?” she wanted to know.
He gave her a sidelong look. “I knew you would.”
Celeste ignored that. “How did you find me?” she demanded instead. “There’s no way you could have sensed me all the way from the manor. Were you following me?” She yelled the last part. She was relieved when she saw him, but she felt humiliated at the same time to have been caught in danger.
Without looking at her, Tarik replied, “You underestimate me.”
“I underestimate you?” Celeste sputtered in disbelief.
“You forget I have trained with Fagin for over twenty years, Celeste,” Tarik reminded her, unable to keep the impatience out of his voice.
“But we’re nearly twenty miles from the manor,” she protested weakly, feeling nauseous. In her shock she had pulled on Alethea’s reins, bringing the animal to a halt.
“Fifteen,” Tarik corrected evenly, making Celeste flush. He continued, noticing she needed an explanation by the lost look on her face. “I let you go because I knew I could sense you for a while. Once your presence started to disappear from my senses, I started to follow you.”
“How far can you…” She trailed off, feeling sick to her stomach.
“About ten miles,” he said simply.
It was a bit much for Celeste. She was exhausted and overwhelmed. Plus, she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for several hours. She cursed inwardly when her vision blurred slightly. She teetered a bit, threatening to fall off Alethea.
“Celeste!” Tarik called. “Hunter!” he ordered, urging his horse forward. Hunter shot forward, stopping at Alethea’s side as his master swung an arm out to steady the young woman.
“I’m fine!” Celeste protested weakly, attempting to shove the man away. She looked up in alarm when a growl left his throat.
“Not only was it irresponsible to go out this far, but you endangered yourself even further by not taking any food or water.” Before she could argue, Tarik had an arm wrapped around his wife’s waist and was lifting her onto Hunter so she was sitting in front of him.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, her voice raising an octave as she struggled against him.
Tarik responded by grabbing both Celeste’s wrists in one hand and using his other arm to wrap around her midsection, pressing her back against his chest. He bent down so he could speak directly into her ear, his voice low and filled with warning. “I would stop struggling if I were you. You are already in enough trouble. Now, we are going home. You are not well enough to ride on your own so you will ride with me. Understood?”
Celeste’s eyes narrowed at his tone. “You will not speak to me that way!” she bit out, resuming her struggles. “Let me go this instant!”
Tarik almost smiled when his wife’s eyes widened at the sternness in his voice. She stilled against him and he let the severity of his order sink in for a couple of moments before he ordered Hunter into a paced trot.
“But Alethea—!” Celeste started to say but stopped when she looked back and saw Alethea was following them closely.
“She’ll follow,” Tarik assured her. He looked back at the pegasus and made a beckoning noise in the back of his throat. To Celeste’s shock, the animal trotted beside Hunter and kept his pace.
“But Alethea never listened to anyone but me,” she said with amazement. “She didn’t even obey my father.”
Tarik glanced at his wife’s horse curiously before responding. “She senses that I only have her master’s best interest at heart.”
Celeste had no response to that.
“You could have been killed.”
Celeste barely suppressed an eye roll as her husband led her up the steps to the manor by her upper arm. They had been silent the whole ride back. Tarik wouldn’t allow her to fly Alethea, even after he gave her a drink and she became well enough to do so. He calmly explained that that’s how the attackers spotted her in the first place—she had been flying up where she was basically on display. It was safer to ride on the ground.
In order to keep Celeste from flying off on Alethea, he ordered her to ride on Hunter with him. He had her sit in front of him so he could ensure she wouldn’t try running off again. Alethea followed them dutifully all the way back, only grunting her disapproval every once in a while.
It was nearly dark when they arrived back at the manor. Tarik put both Hunter and Alethea in their stalls before leading his wife inside. As soon as he shut the door behind them, she pulled away from him.
“Why didn’t you just use your ability to overpower me?” she demanded to know.
Tarik blinked at her, surprised by her outburst, before answering. “Would you have wanted that?” he asked, his tone measured.
“No,” Celeste answered immediately.
Tarik nodded. “That’s exactly why.”
He watched as his wife’s eyes widened. He smiled gently at her before his expression grew hard once more. “You disobeyed me once again,” he intoned. “That’s twice today and I have yet to punish you for the first time. Go up to our bedroom and wait for me.”
He raised an eyebrow at her when she didn’t move. He studied her as she stood, rigid and stubborn, her little hands balled into fists at her sides. He was suddenly reminded of the first time they met. She had only been eight years old, a child. He had been eighteen, a brooding young man. Her parents had begged Fagin to introduce them and he obliged. He remembered her back then, small and fragile, clinging tightly to her mother’s skirts but with a stubborn expression on her tiny face. He had scolded her for not greeting his master properly, calling her ungrateful.
He had expected her to cry, wanted her to even. Instead, her large eyes had narrowed and filled with a hatred more intense than he had ever seen before.
More than anything, he remembered being startled at seeing himself in those hateful blue eyes.
Now, looking at his wife, his Celeste, he still saw a lot of that little girl in her, despite her being more than twelve years older than she had been then. He couldn’t help but pity her. He pitied her for the way her parents tiptoed around her when she was living with them. They loved her but he could tell that they overprotected her more out of fear than out of love.
He pitied her, but even more so, he loved her.
He refused to make the same mistake that they did.
With that resolve in mind, Tarik glared down at Celeste, his expression unyielding. “If I am forced to repeat myself, you’ll find yourself thoroughly thrashed until you willingly obey me and bring yourself to our bedroom. Then, and only then, will your punishment actually begin.”
If possible, she stiffened further. “Don’t you dare.” The order came out as a hiss. “I’ll make you regret it.”
Tarik just shook his head, slugging off his coat and hanging it. “You’re the one who is going to have regrets, my dear.”
Celeste didn’t even have time to scream when her husband grabbed her by the arm once again and began striking the back of her skirt with his open palm.
“Tarik!” she shrieked, struggling violently. “Stop it right now! I swear—Ow!”
Her husband ignored her and continued to bring his hand down onto her bottom. He looked around. It was difficult to do this while she was standing. He caught both her wrists in one of his hands and used his other hand to push against her back until she was bent at the waist. Then, he continued his onslaught, a little harder than he had been seconds before.
Tarik was just about to land another slap when his hand froze. He gazed down at his wife. Had she even realized she had done it? She was breathing heavily and continued to struggle violently.
“Celeste.” She froze and turned her head to look at him.
“What do you want,” she bit out.
He almost smiled and darted his eyes to his hand, which was still in the air, ready to strike. “Do you realize what you’re doing?”
She gazed at his hand, her brows furrowed in confusion. Her eyes widened a little as she realized she had activated her ability and she concentrated hard on his other hand, the one that restrained her.
Tarik watched her with interest, the way her brow furrowed as she focused. He noted the way her muscles tensed and her lips pressed together.
She was extremely cute.
His eyebrows rose in surprise when he felt the slightest tingle in his left arm, the one restraining his wife. He purposefully relaxed his own ability, wanting to feel the extent of hers. He could tell by the way she tensed up that moving her even slightly would cause her to lose the hold she had over her power. She could never survive on her own. He barely needed to muster any of his own energy to free himself from her hold on him.
He would have fun training her.
“We’ll get you to that point,” he said. Celeste stiffened when her husband activated his own ability ever so slightly to break her hold on him. Then his palm landed a few more times, successfully warming her backside. The moment her hold on him broke, he extinguished his own. He needed her to trust him and restraining her that way wouldn’t accomplish that.
“I know you had qualms about marrying me, Celeste,” he went on, continuing to spank her slowly and deliberately. She squeaked and cried after each smack, but he could tell by her posture that she was hearing every word. “Your parents forced you to marry me. That doesn’t mean that I won’t respect your needs and wishes. I fully intend to be a respectful spouse but you must do the same. You may have been forced into this marriage, but you are still my wife. You agreed to obey me and I will be obeyed.” He paused to take in the state of his poor wife, already overwhelmed by the smacks over her skirt.
She was in for a real surprise.
“Are you ready to go to our room and accept your punishment now?” he asked, helping her stand. He reached out to smooth her hair, which was a bit mussed at this point.
Celeste gazed up at her husband through her eyelashes. Everything about this situation was telling her to run but where could she go? Her parents would only send her back to him. Plus, he could easily track her down even if she was lucky enough to get away.
She also made a promise. She was resigned to that. She needed to learn how to control her abilities. Not just for her parents but for herself as well.
She let out a breath before nodding, very slightly.
Tarik did his best to hide his shock. He stepped to the side, signaling for his young wife to pass him and bring herself up the stairs to their bedroom. They walked up the steps in silence, the only sound being their footsteps on the wooden stairs.
When they reached the door that led into the room, Tarik stepped in front of her to open the door. Celeste stepped into the room and stopped, staring straight ahead as her husband shut the door behind them.
She waited, her body suddenly numb and refusing to obey her. Her eyes wandered over to the window. Sure, it was the second story but she was sure if she jumped and bent her knees as she landed, she’d be fine.
Tarik eyed her as she stood frozen in the center of their bedroom. Her whole body was stiff with anticipation, her shoulders slightly raised. He moved toward her and placed a gentle hand on the small of her back. She immediately pulled away, frowning at him with dark eyes.
“Don’t be afraid,” he requested, taking a step to close the space between them.
“That is an unrealistic request,” she practically spat. “You are going to beat me and are asking me to not be afraid?”
“I’m not going to beat you,” he denied. “You disobeyed me. You are going to be punished.”
Celeste looked away. “I see no difference,” she said simply, before her face hardened, mouth tightening. “You’ve already assaulted me once in the living room. Leave me be.”
Tarik didn’t answer and instead moved past the young woman so he could sit on their bed. “Come here, Celeste.”
She did as she was told, but with hesitation. She made her way over to her husband with slow steps. When she reached him, she stood rigidly, staring down at the floor, her hands once again squeezed into fists at her sides.
Tarik stared at her for a moment before placing a hand beneath her chin so he could raise her eyes to meet his. He almost smiled at the young woman’s expression. Her eyebrows were furrowed, her blue eyes weary.
He chose his next words carefully. “As your husband, arranged or not, I have a duty to keep you safe. As my wife, you agreed to allow me to do so. Obeying me is a huge part of that.”
Celeste attempted to pull away but Tarik kept a firm hold on her chin.
“You disobeyed me today. I have no choice but to punish you.” He took a deep breath before he gave his command. “Lie across my lap.”
Celeste just stared at him, her eyes widening. Her cheeks burned with shame as she pictured herself in the juvenile position. She had to remind herself that she agreed to this and that refusing would be harmful to what little dignity she had left.
Tarik watched, both amused and fascinated by his wife’s internal struggle. Slowly, she moved to his right side before lowering herself across his thighs, her upper body supported by the bed. He reached for the hem of her skirt before lifting it up and out of the way, revealing the young woman’s underwear.
“Tarik!” she gasped, beginning to squirm a bit.
He ignored her and raised his right arm before bringing it down sharply onto his wife’s rounded bottom. The long undergarment went to just above her knees and was made of a thin material that Tarik imagined wasn’t offering much protection. His hand came down with a loud crack. His wife cried out after each one, pointing her toes and wriggling from side to side.
After a couple dozen smacks to the seat of her underwear, Tarik decided to move on to the next phase of her spanking. He paused in his smacks, allowing his wife to recover just a little bit.
Celeste looked over her shoulder. He had stopped striking her. Was her punishment over? It must be, she thought. Her posterior was beginning to sting and ache terribly.
“Are we done?” she asked quietly, trying and failing to keep her voice steady.
She winced when Tarik shook his head. “Not quite,” he said gravely before slipping his fingers into the waistband of her last layer of protection.
“No! Please!” Celeste cried out. Finally, the tears of embarrassment she had been trying to hold back fell from her eyes as the thin fabric was pulled down to her knees. The chilly night air kissed her bare cheeks as she squirmed.
She gasped at the first smack that landed on her bare skin, the sound of flesh on flesh loud as it rang off the stone walls and into her ears. She was wiggling violently at this point, forcing her husband to wrap an arm around her waist to keep her over his knees.
“I will never allow you to place yourself in danger, Celeste,” Tarik scolded, punctuating each word with a firm swat. He almost lost his resolve when he saw the cheeks of her backside over his knee. There was no sign of bruising but both cheeks were a uniform red.
He took in the state of his wife. She was shaking, her breathing ragged from her unending struggles. She was almost at her limit but Tarik could tell that she could take a bit more.
“We’re almost done, Celeste,” he announced, patting the maroon globes with his large hand. He couldn’t help but notice how appealing it was to watch them bounce and squirm as he struck them.
“I can’t take anymore!” she wailed pitifully, turning her head hard to look up at him with large, wet eyes.
“Yes, you can,” Tarik said, trying to sound reassuring. “I know you can. You’re a strong young woman, stronger and tougher than you appear. However, that does not mean that you are invincible and I hope this punishment is teaching you that.” With that, Tarik brought his large, callused hand down harder than ever on the sensitive under-curve of the angry red bottom before him.
Celeste began to kick earnestly, struggling and nearly rolling off her husband’s lap.
“Celeste!” Tarik scolded harshly. He caught her flailing legs with his strong hands and shoved them down so her feet were touching the floor. He then threw his right leg over both of hers, successfully pinning her down.
“Tarik, no!” she cried, trying in vain to free herself.
“Submit to your punishment,” he ordered simply, landing two swats to her upturned rear, one on each cheek.
Celeste sobbed, tears running down her face and dripping onto the bedspread. She resumed her struggling when her husband continued his onslaught on her thoroughly chastised flesh.
Tarik slowed the smacks when he saw that her bottom was a dark red now, threatening to bruise. He didn’t want to do that to her.
He would save that for more serious offenses.
Celeste let out a pitiful howl and went limp over the strong man’s thighs. Her small body shook as she sobbed into the blanket beneath her face.
As soon as he felt his wife’s body relax underneath his hard hand, Tarik placed a couple more smacks on the fullest part of her buttocks before stopping. The hand that had just been chastising her now went up to rub her back.
Celeste didn’t move right away. She stayed where she was, her skirt up and her undergarments so shamefully resting at her knees, the white cotton framing her crimson backside. When she finally recovered enough to become aware of the hand that was resting on her back, she cried out in anger before rolling off her captor’s thigh. She landed hard, her battered bottom hitting the wooden floor. She backed away, angry and ashamed, to the far wall and put her back against it, unwilling to meet her husband’s calculating gaze.
Tarik wasn’t at all surprised by her reaction. In all honesty, he had actually expected a lot worse. He wouldn’t have been shocked if the small woman had run out of the room, yelling hateful words at the top of her voice.
“I love you, Celeste.”
Tarik watched her expression carefully as he said it. He noted the slight widening of her eyes before she composed herself and simply stared up at him, her blue orbs still red-rimmed from crying.
She blinked once before looking away from him. “You don’t know me,” she bit out finally. “How can you claim to love someone when you don’t even know who it is you’re loving?”
“Love isn’t just about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
That had not been the response the young woman had expected. She glared at the floor, willing it to open up so she could run off again.
“I don’t love you, Tarik.”
Celeste watched when the man’s expression became unreadable. His dark eyes glazed over, hiding what was behind them. She tried to keep her own face free of emotion but she couldn’t ignore the pain that shone through Tarik’s shield for just one second.
That second was enough.
“But I don’t hate you,” she continued. She sighed heavily, her hands shook slightly at her sides. “I’m sorry that I can’t be a better wife to you…”
“You can learn!” Tarik cut in earnestly. “I admit that I haven’t been the best husband either, Celeste. We can learn together.”
“You misunderstand me,” she said quietly, her hand moving to fiddle with the hem of her dress. “I’m sorry that I can’t be a better wife to you because I really don’t want to be.” She paused to let that sink in before continuing. “We’ve been married for a little while now and I’ve tried to love you, I really have! I tried, but it’s just not working.”
Tarik’s eyes widened when his wife’s eyes once again began to fill with tears.
“It’s alright,” he told her. He moved to join her on the floor. He lowered his eyes so that they were level with hers. “As long as you are my wife, I will always have your best interest at heart. I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Celeste averted her eyes to the side, her face heating up for reasons she didn’t understand. She looked up when her husband sighed.
“I hope you can learn to love me,” he said softly, his tone sincere. “It may take a while but I’m willing to wait.” He stood up then. Celeste watched him silently as he moved to the door. He opened it, paused, and then looked back at her. “I understand that you probably don’t want to be around me after I punished you, so I’ll sleep in one of the guest rooms tonight.”
She looked away again. “Thank you,” she murmured, barely above a whisper.
He nodded, then, “Celeste.”
She met his eyes, immediately regretting it when she saw how intense his gaze on her was. They focused unyieldingly on her. “Tomorrow,” he began, pausing to make sure he had her attention before continuing. “I think it’d be best if we started your training. We’ll start first thing in the morning.”
He left her then, smirking a bit when he caught a glimpse of her shocked expression as he shut the door behind him.