Chyanne Saunders stepped off the bus, lugging her twenty-pound suitcase behind her. It had been an eight-hour ride, the air conditioner onboard was broken, and her window was stuck. She was sweaty, smelly, and more than a little annoyed with the way her life was going.
She barely managed to yank her suitcase away before the bus took off, a brown puddle splashing her in its wake.
Now she was sweaty, smelly, and mud-covered.
Still, she gritted her teeth and forced herself to get a grip. She needed this job, or she wouldn’t be here. Who the hell ever went to Kermit, Texas by choice?
“No one but smelly, muddy, dried-up rodeo riders,” Chyanne muttered. She pulled her phone out of her back pocket. There was a map on there that would help her locate the front office without having to ask for help.
The way I look—and smell!—I don’t want to talk to anyone I don’t have to.
But what she saw made her grimace. Her phone battery was at two percent.
Maybe I should go to my room first and get a shower, then plug in my phone, she mused. Chyanne pulled up the tab with the map and tried to commit the picture to memory. Just that simple action made her battery dip lower.
“Great,” she moaned as she shoved the phone into her back pocket. “Fucking fantastic.”
The tally of how much her life sucked kept climbing the farther she walked. She could practically hear her feet screaming in protest, and it was a challenge to keep dragging the luggage while her arms silently shrieked for relief.
She began to swear under her breath as she yanked. “Slow and steady wins the fucking race,” she huffed as she wrestled with the mammoth suitcase. “Yeah, right.”
But despite the sun bearing down on her and the beads of sweat running between her breasts, Chyanne’s attention was diverted by the sound of nearby voices.
Is someone… crying?
Her ears perked up, trying to identify the sound. Hushed whispers… cajoling murmurs… and yep, definitely crying. There was a large stretch of green shrubbery blocking the people from view and she decided to use this to her advantage. Dropping the suitcase handle and forgetting about her luggage for the time being, Chyanne noiselessly crept toward the voices.
“I just… I mean… I know he’s mad, but…” Whatever other words might have been used were drowned out by noisy, gasping sobs.
What the hell?
“I’m so sorry you’re sad,” another voice answered mournfully.
“You know he just wants what’s best for you,” yet another faceless voice added. “It will hurt for a while, but then it will be over, and…”
Chyanne felt her brow furrow as she leaned closer to try to hear. What did that mean? What would hurt?
“You’ll be forgiven and Daddy’s good girl again,” another voice put in.
Okay. What the actual fuck?
Chyanne felt the red hair on her head stand on end. It will hurt… you will be forgiven… Daddy’s good girl…
“I kn-know,” the girl sobbed. “B-but I’m s-so s-sc-scared!”
That did it. On instinct, Chyanne barreled toward them, bursting through the shrubbery and ignoring the stunned looks on the four girls’ faces. Her eyes roved over them until she found the speaker. She was obvious, given the bits of hair plastered to her cheeks and her red, swollen eyes.
“Who’s going to hurt you?” she demanded, mincing toward her. Chyanne didn’t mean to be scary, she really didn’t. She had been told all her life she was abrasive, aggressive, even mean. In her own mind, she was none of those things. What she was, was a protector of people or animals who needed it, even if she didn’t know them.
“Oh,” the crying girl hiccupped in surprise. “Ah, I…”
Chyanne focused all her attention on the petite brunette, trying to make her voice both commanding and caring as she asked again, “Who?”
“Well…” The girl dropped her gaze, then her eyes flicked back up to Chyanne. “My… my… Daddy.”
Even though she’d already heard it once, that had been through whispers from a distance, so she’d half-expected her ears had deceived her. But this… what the hell kind of freak show had she walked into? Despite her brain screaming at her to run away in the opposite direction, she forced herself to breathe slowly and smile. “My name’s Chyanne, what’s yours?”
“B-Betsy,” the distraught girl stammered.
Her smile widened. “Okay. Betsy. Nice to meet you. Now, I’m going to help you.”
Betsy’s bottom lip quivered, her large hazel eyes gleaming with tears. “R-really? You can do that?”
Chyanne nodded. “Really. Now, why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
All at once, there was a sudden din of conversation.
“Oh, Betsy, I don’t know—”
“Excuse me, miss, I understand you’re just trying to help, but—”
“I’m not sure what you heard, but—”
She ignored them all. She kept her attention solely focused on the girl. There was no doubt in her mind Betsy was a victim. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Betsy was not as immune to the girls’ explanations and reasoning, and her eyes shifted to each of them in turn before finally coming to rest on Chyanne again.
Chyanne waited—if she’d learned one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was that you can’t help people unless they truly wanted it.
“He… he’s mad at me,” she said again, looking away. “I… I did something I shouldn’t’ve. I… I know that, but…”
“It doesn’t matter what you did,” Chyanne assured, her voice soothing. “No one deserves to be hurt.”
“He’s not going to hurt her, for God’s sake.”
Betsy’s eyes darted away to the speaker, then back again. “He… he’s going to spank me! Hard! With the thing I hate most in the world!” When she finished speaking, her cheeks were pink and she was breathing hard.
Unable to stop herself this time, Chyanne jumped back as though she’d been hit. He what? It took her a long, silent minute to get ahold of herself as the girls were trying to reason with and reassure Betsy all the while. Finally, she’d had enough and whirled on them.
“Stop it!” she snapped, her voice hoarse and harsh. “I don’t care what she did,” she reiterated, glaring at each of them in turn. There was a blonde, another petite brunette, and a tall, willowy woman who seemed the least intimidated by Chyanne. It only made her glare harder. “No one deserves to be… to be…”
“Paddled!” Betsy wailed, once again bursting into tears and proceeding to bury her face into her hands.
That was it. Chyanne had heard enough. Whipping her phone out of her back pocket, she typed in her password and unlocked her phone. She could feel eyes on her, and her ears perked at the sudden quiet.
“What are you doing?” one of the girls asked as Chyanne pulled up the phone app.
“What any one of you could have done—should have done.” She looked up long enough to aim a glare at each bystander, minus Betsy. Then she turned her attention back to her phone and dialed.
And then, to her shock and horror, her screen turned black. Noooo! her mind wailed while aloud she let out a stream of curses that a seasoned sailor would have been proud of.
When she looked back up, every eye was on her and most mouths were gaping open in shock.
Guess they’re not used to bull riders—foul language and a hot temper is just part of the gig. Suppressing a sigh and trying to hide her disappointment, she pocketed her useless cell phone and looked at Betsy.
The poor girl’s eyes were full of tears and her lower lip was quivering. That was all it took for Chyanne to forget her own troubles and focus on the petite brunette.
“Listen,” Chyanne appealed to her. “We might not have much time. I want to help you, I do, but now that my phone’s dead…”
Betsy blinked furiously and a tear dripped onto her cheek. “I k-knew it. It’s p-pointless. I-I’m doomed.”
Impulsively, she grabbed onto the girl’s arm, giving it a shake. “You are not doomed, you hear me? I’m going to help you, but you have to tell me how.”
Betsy splayed her fingers and peeked out at her, sniffling. “The paddle. It’s kept in N-Nate’s o-office.”
We’re finally getting somewhere. “Okay. Where, exactly?”
Chyanne blocked out the noise of the other women’s protests and focused on the start-and-stop of Betsy’s guilty whispers. When the girl had finished, she clasped her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Listen to me, Betsy. Are you listening?”
The other girl, wide-eyed, nodded.
“You have nothing to feel guilty about. Understand? Nothing. I’m going to get that paddle and he’ll never use it on you again.”
“B-but if you g-get ca-caught—”
She gave a single, firm shake of her head. “Not happening. Not today, padre.”
Betsy offered a tentative smile, the first she’d shown since their strange meeting, what, five minutes ago? Ten?
Whichever it had been, Chyanne took it as her sign to put words into action. Before anyone could say anything else, she whirled on her heel and flounced off in the direction Betsy had given her. As she walked, her mind was spinning.
What the hell kind of place did I come to? I never thought I’d see the day other women would defend abuse. That alone made her seethe with anger. But she couldn’t focus on that, she had to concentrate on what she’d promised. First, destroy the paddle, then call the police. Chyanne continued to make a mental list as she trudged inside the building and down a hallway. She moved quickly, slinking along the shadows cast by large oaks, and up to the office door.
She was fueled with righteous fury and wasn’t scared at all, even though Betsy’s warbled warning replayed in her head: If you get caught… if you get caught…
Chyanne shook it away irritably, determined to focus on what she needed to do. She was pressing herself against the wall, forcing her breath out slowly until her pulse calmed as much as it was going to. Then she peeked inside the window.
There was a man sitting at the desk, staring at a paper in front of him, but otherwise, the office was unoccupied.
Even though she’d kind of expected it, Chyanne still felt her heart seize in her chest. Shit. What now?
For the first time since embarking on this recon mission, she took a good look around. She had never heard of Discipline Ranch before seeing their want ad for a rodeo rider. And she wasn’t one for research, so she’d shot off an email to the boss, Nate, and when he’d asked for her resume, she’d sent it with crossed fingers and toes. Once he’d offered her the job, she’d booked her bus ticket without a second thought.
Now she was ruing her own ready-fire-aim instincts and thinking she should have done some investigating first. She tended to do things without thinking—it was kind of her MO. And now that she was here, promises having been made, she had to swallow the first beginnings of regret and figure out a way to keep her word.
Once she was inside, the first thing she noticed was that the hallway was not super well-lit. The second thing she noticed were barrels stacked artfully a couple of feet away. Almost as soon as a semblance of a plan formed in her mind, her feet were moving. She shoved the first barrel she could reach with all her might and like the fastest moving game of dominos she’d ever seen, they all tumbled after one another with a startlingly loud clanging crash. They were headed straight for the open door—that was the last thing she saw before she was back in motion, swinging herself up to safety and into an overhead cubby. As soon as she was in the small, cramped space she could see that it hadn’t been used much. Or, rather, she could feel that as the rough spun silk of spider webs slinked across her skin.
I think I’m going to be sick.
Chyanne pressed a fist to her mouth and tried to focus on her breathing just as the office door swung open.
“What the hell was that?” the man asked no one, hands on his hips.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him. Is he the abuser?
“Damn Littles,” he muttered under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear from her hidden perch. Then he looked right to left.
Go left… go left… she prayed silently.
In the end, he must have heard her prayers because he took off running in that direction.
Exhaling shakily, Chyanne swung down, hitting the floor harder than she’d expected. Wincing, she darted inside the office through the door he’d left wide open.
Paddle… I’m looking for a paddle…
But as soon as she saw the wall behind the desk, she froze. Her mouth dropped open, and time just seemed to stop as her eyes took it all in. It was a bit… much. No, it was a bit crazy. More than a bit, actually.
“Holy shit,” she breathed as she stared at the wall. There was a paddle, all right. In fact, there were more than a dozen paddles, and that wasn’t all. There were hairbrushes of all shapes and sizes. There were thick, polished rulers, and a long-handled crop with two flails artfully arranged to be a bridge above all the other implements.
What the actual…
Focus, Chyanne, focus! He’ll be back any minute, and if he finds you here…
She swallowed hard and the knots in the pit of her belly clenched at the thought. It was just what she needed to jolt herself back into action. Dread was the fuel that propelled her forward, and as much as she wanted to tear that whole wall of horror down, she forced herself to concentrate.
What had Betsy said about it? She searched her memory while standing in the front of what was clearly the section of wall dedicated to paddles. There were small ones, medium-sized ones, all made of different materials and varying widths. Then her eyes found the one right above the rest—a gargantuan plank of wood polished to a sinister shine.
That has to be it.
Decision made, Chyanne stood on her tiptoes. But even with that added height, she still couldn’t quite reach.
“This is so not my day,” she muttered to herself, looking around.
The cowboy she’d seen leaving the office wouldn’t have needed a step stool, but how was she going to get it?
She could practically feel the seconds ticking by and with each passing one, her anxiety inched higher. Finally, Chyanne realized she’d have to stand on the chair to get the boost she needed. She pulled it over, wincing at the necessity of putting her dirty boots on the soft brown leather.
With the added height her fingers easily closed around the paddle. She pulled it free of the peg it rested on and hopped down off the chair. She barely remembered to push it back under the desk before she broke into a run. Arms pumping, chest heaving, she sprinted, not looking around or stopping for anyone. There was a large barrel on its side in front of the door and she didn’t even pause—she simply jumped, flying over it and bracing as her boots hit the pavement.
By the time she was back with the girls, she was out of breath, but grinning so widely her mouth hurt.
“Ohmigosh!” Betsy clasped both hands over her mouth, but her eyes were wide and sparkling. “You got it!”
“I can’t believe it,” the blonde murmured in awe.
“You’ve got balls, I’ll give you that,” the tall, wiry brunette said, though her tone was far from complimentary.
Chyanne didn’t care. Victory always felt a little bit sweeter when you showed up a hater or two. She hefted the paddle above her head and Betsy began to squeal, jumping up and down.
“Thank you so much! You have no idea! Thank you, thank you!”
She allowed herself to be hugged by the grateful Betsy while she laughed. “Hey, this was just part one.”
The other woman stepped back, eyeing her curiously. “What do you mean?”
“Did I or did I not promise he’d never hit you with it again?”
“Yeah, but…” Betsy trailed off, her cute button nose wrinkled adorably. “What are you going to do?”
“Just watch.” She winked, held the paddle high, stepped toward the tall shade tree, and took aim.
“Wait! No! You’ll get in trouble!”
There was a chorus of like-minded protests from all around her, but Chyanne ignored them all as she swung with all her might. When it connected with the trunk of the tree, it sounded like a gunshot, and her entire body reverberated painfully with the force. But the paddle was still intact.
She turned to Betsy, open-mouthed. “That monster hits you with this thing?”
The other girl’s eyes were wide in a suddenly peaked face. “Not that hard!”
Shrugging, Chyanne lifted it again and repeated the swing. This time, she was more relaxed and it didn’t hurt as much as the first one. To make matters better, a long crack was now running down the paddle.
“Almost got it!” she announced cheerfully to her onlookers.
“Wait, please don’t—”
“You don’t understand—”
“If someone sees—”
Deaf to their protests, she whacked it one more time and she whacked it good. The crack splintering through the wood widened, and a bit of wood on the end fell completely off.
“Yes!” she cheered loudly, raising it high above her head. She took in the frozen, shocked expressions around her and it made her laugh. Did they not get it? Did they not see how incredibly awesome she was? “All your troubles are over now! You didn’t think I could do it, but I did! Three cheers for Chyanne, let’s hear it, ladies! Hip, hip—”
“What is going on here?” a deep voice boomed.
Instinctively, she dropped the paddle and whirled on her heel. Chyanne prided herself on keeping her emotions off her face. Generally, it was something she was exceptional at. Right now, in this moment, it was a hard fought battle to look nonchalant as she faced the giant who had spoken.
And he was a giant. Most men were taller than her, but he was easily 6′7 and his body was massive. Arms thick as telephone poles and laden with eye-catching, colorful tattoos. She was staring at the fire-breathing dragon coiled around his bicep when he snapped his fingers, forcing her to look at him.
“I asked you a question, little girl.”
Chyanne forgot to be afraid and bristled at both his word choice and his tone. “I may be little, but I’m not afraid of you!”
“She sure doesn’t sound afraid,” another manly voice remarked.
That was when she noticed the giant was flanked on either side by other men. One was the cowboy she’d seen earlier, and the other was looking at the paddle at her feet.
“Where did you get that?” he inquired politely.
She lifted her chin and met his gaze head-on. “I took it.”
“Yes, I gathered that.” His conversational tone took on a bit of an edge. “That wasn’t my question.”
Chyanne, feeling the first fissure in her composure, looked to the girls. One looked squirmy, the brunette was standing with her arms crossed, her expression matter-of-fact. One looked sympathetic, but Betsy looked downright terrified.
“Who is he?” Chyanne mouthed to her.
Betsy answered aloud in a trembling voice, “H-he’s my daddy.”
Chandler Harding had only been working for Discipline Ranch for three months, and as a rookie, he was still learning the ropes. Still, he’d been there long enough to know that this wasn’t a typical day. The tiny redhead holding the paddle had caused quite a stir.
Betsy was crying and blubbering an explanation to her daddy, Blake, and their boss, Nate, was watching the whole affair with an assessing gaze.
It didn’t look like anyone was in charge of the feisty copper-top, so he folded his large, tattooed arms over his chest and leveled her with his gaze. She’d literally been caught paddle-handed, but even without that piece of evidence, the guilt on her face made it obvious she was the one behind the current shenanigans. Still, he said nothing, sizing her up, letting her squirm.
When he did speak at last, it was in his booming, most authoritative voice. “You wanna tell me what you think you were doin’?”
Oh, she had some fire to go right along with that red hair of hers, he could tell that right off. She was glaring at him through narrowed eyes, completely unaware of the trouble she was in. Or maybe she knew and was giving him the sour puss face anyway.
He’d never tell her, but he respected a woman who stuck by her naughtiness even with the consequences looming. It made her more than a little intriguing, to say the least.
“I was stopping a horrible injustice, from the sound of it.”
He arched a brow, not turning his head even when there was a tittering of conversation behind him.
“Quiet,” his boss, Nate, ordered sharply.
All of the females fell silent once more, causing the one he was watching to shift uneasily. Oh, yeah. She might not have the full picture of what she had done, but it was beginning to take shape for her.
“You have some splainin’ to do, Red,” he drawled.
Her scowl returned full force and her brow furrowed into angry ridges. “My name’s not Red, and I don’t have to tell you shit!”
There was a collective gasp behind him, and Chandler could practically feel the doms on either side of him clench their jaws.
But not him. He tended to stay pretty calm in situations like these. He had his training in the Marines to thank for that. He had continued to hone that skill after his time in the service by becoming a police officer for the last decade. And now, ready for a change in career but not quite ready to retire, he’d found his way to Discipline Ranch.
It was a place for a certain kind of people, and he could tell this poor girl didn’t have the faintest clue. That was the question looming largest in his mind: Why was she here when she obviously had no idea what she’d gotten herself into?
“What is your name?” he asked, calm and level.
Her eyes only narrowed even further until they were tiny slits. “Not tellin’,” she spat at him, the words followed by literal spittle.
“Who is this girl?” Blake—Betsy’s daddy—hissed at Nate.
“I hate to admit it, but I don’t actually know,” Nate murmured back for their ears only.
Chandler felt his curiosity creep higher. I guess there’s a first time for everything. “You need to tell us what you’re doing here and what’s going on,” he explained in his most soothing tone. “Otherwise, we’re going to have to escort you off the premises, but we’ll have to call the cops first.”
The redhead considered him through her squinty view and he could see the tension tighten in her shoulders. “Chyanne Saunders,” she said at last, hurling the words at him like they were meant to be an insult.
“Why does that name sound familiar?” Nate pondered.
Instead of turning to his friend, Chandler kept his gaze on Chyanne. “And why are you here, honey?”
He’d chosen exactly the wrong words based on her bristling tone when she answered, “I am not your honey!”
“Okay.” He held up his hands in a ‘surrender’ gesture. “My mistake. Why are you here, Chyanne?”
She relaxed the tiniest bit. “I was hired to ride in a rodeo.”
This time, he couldn’t help but turn to Nate, the question on his face. Her? She’s a tiny slip of a thing!
Nate’s brows shot up in evident surprise, and then he nodded. “That’s where I know the name. She signed on for the program I’m trying to start.”
“Which means…” Chandler mused.
“Which means she signed the Ranch contract,” Blake said, the first to voice the realization they were all coming to.
Chandler arched a brow, and Nate gave him a nod. “Okay,” he muttered to himself, turning back to Chyanne. “Listen, sw—” He bit back the word as he saw her hackles rising. “Chyanne, it sounds like all this has just been a big misunderstanding. What we’re going to do right now is head back to Nate’s office, have a cup of coffee, and have ourselves a talk.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” she declared, looking like an angry, trapped cat.
He weighed his options. He could pick her up and heft her over his shoulder without any problems, but that generally wasn’t the way he liked to do things. He preferred for everyone to be on the same page and more or less in agreement. Question was, was there any way to get Chyanne there?
“All we want to do is talk,” he tried again.
Chyanne hmphed at him, but he could see the slit of her eyes widening, her countenance softening.
Will the mountain lion turn into a house cat after all? Here, kitty, kitty…
“Sure,” Blake muttered beside him. “Talk.”
Blake hadn’t meant for her to hear him, but she did and turned into a tightly coiled ball of resistance from that one word alone.
Chandler had never had an urge to hit another of the doms at the ranch… until now. But he’d save his rage for the other man for later. Right now, the only one he could afford to focus on was Chyanne, who looked like she was considering her fight or flight instincts very seriously.
“Get the other girls out of here,” he muttered out of the side of his mouth.
“You got it,” Nate answered. “See you in my office in thirty—with or without her.”
He nodded and did nothing but look at Chyanne as Nate summoned the other ladies. They went without a fuss, most giving a glance or two to the fiery redhead. They all looked sympathetic.
Veronica, however, only had eyes for Chandler, and stopped right in front of him. “If she’s been hired as an independent contractor, then the same rules don’t apply to her.”
He arched a brow. “Have you looked over her contract, Miss Winthrop?”
She made a face that would surely have earned her ass a resounding slap had her dom, Thomas, seen. “You know that Nate handles all the contracts himself.”
“Exactly.” He gave her a pointed look.
She rolled her eyes.
“All I’m saying is she clearly didn’t come here on purpose for… you know. Kink reasons.”
His right brow inched higher to join his left. “Kink reasons?” he echoed, barely stopping himself from laughing.
“Oh, you know what I mean,” she hissed, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Careful, Veronica,” he warned. “I don’t think you’re in trouble… yet. How ‘bout we keep it that way?”
She looked like she would respond, but at the last moment thought better of it and began to flounce off.
He grabbed her arm, halting her. “Hey. I know I’m new here, but Nate hired me and trained me himself. Trust me to do the right thing, okay?”
Veronica flicked him up and down with her best assessing gaze, then shrugged. She still didn’t say anything as she tugged out of his grasp and continued walking past him.
He’d only been here six months, and he knew the other girls were still waiting and watching to form an opinion of him. Nate had warned him when he’d been hired that Discipline Ranch was a tight-knit community, and it would take time to become a member of the family.
That was okay by him. In every job he’d ever had, he had to learn how to take his lumps and wait to be accepted. This was no different.
Except it kinda is, he couldn’t help but muse as he watched the tiny rodeo rider. She had inched away from him, and she was pacing, pretending to be unaware of his presence, but sneaking him little glances every now and again when she thought he wasn’t looking.
In the Marine Corps, he’d worked closely with a group of men to protect the most vulnerable. Sometimes they met the people they protected, but it was rare. Mostly, they snuck in and won the battles, then left as silently as they’d arrived.
As a cop he’d still protected and served, but more often than not, that meant sending criminals to jail.
Here, as a dom of Discipline Ranch, he still protected and served, in a sense. He still dealt with ‘criminal’ activity that he got to punish himself. But it was more intimate and vulnerable than anything he’d experienced up to this point.
He still wasn’t sure if he liked it or not, but for now at least, it was his job.
“Listen, Chyanne, I understand that this must be a bit of a shock to you.”
She whirled on him, her whole face contorted with anger and fear. “A bit? A bit? Try a whole fuckin’ barrel of shock.”
“Language,” he admonished.
And that little red-haired spitfire looked at him and laughed. Laughed, like it meant nothing at all.
Okay, she was even making his palm itch at this point, but Chandler forced himself to stay calm. “Here at Discipline Ranch we do not accept foul language.”
“Ha. From women, you mean.” She put her hands on her hips and glowered.
Ah, so fight won out in the end, I see.
“From anyone,” he countered.
“That’s not true,” she snapped. “I heard him cuss before. Nate, or whatever you call him.”
He considered her, wondering once more what to do with this tiny package of dynamite. Maybe he should have carried her caveman-style to Nate’s office after all. Maybe he still would. “None of us is perfect, of course. You don’t know the rules here, so I was cutting you some slack, but now you know this one. And if I hear you cuss again, there are going to be consequences that I promise you won’t like one bit. Do you understand?”
Chyanne’s pretty porcelain face was so scrunched up he couldn’t see her emotions. But he saw the moment she opened her mouth, and read her lips even before the words “fuck you” reached his ears.
Damn it all to hell, Chyanne thought as she faced off against Goliath. Damn me for applying for that stupid job, for getting on that fucking bus, and coming to this godforsaken ranch! But most of all, damn that useless piece of shit phone! If it hadn’t died, none of this would be happening! She could feel the dead hunk of metal practically burning a hole in her back pocket.
As she saw his jaw clench and his hands ball into fists at his sides, she knew she had about a second to take it back. To say she was sorry.
Except she wasn’t. She wasn’t sorry, and nothing would change that.
He moved toward her, slowly, but with such a large stride that he’d almost reached her before she began to back away.
He’s big, but I’m fast. And she was. She’d made a career out of being fast. A very high-powered one, before she’d ruined everything.
I needed this job, this chance… but fuck it. I’m not gonna hang around and be a pincushion for Goliath.
Chyanne backpedaled for all she was worth. She was picking up momentum and distance between them—enough to where she thought she’d be able to turn and make a true run for it—when her foot caught on a branch and she began to fall.
Quicker than anything she’d ever seen, Goliath’s arm whipped out and he grabbed hold of her wrist. He pulled her up until she was steady on her feet once more. Then they were chest to chest, and she had to tip her head back to stare up at him.
“Um… thanks,” she muttered, puzzled by his action. Why would a man who abused women care if she fell or not?
His lips curved. “So, you do have manners. Good to know.” Then he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder like she was a bag of flour.
Before she could even process what was happening, she heard a sound like thunder. Then she felt a smack explode against the seat of her jeans.
Her protest was cut off by another loud smack.
She was wriggling against him, trying to escape even before she felt the stingy, prickling sensation his hand had caused. “Stop it!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
But he and his mammoth hand paid her no attention. Instead, she got another equally stingy spank to the back of her jeans.
“Stop!” she demanded, twisting for all she was worth and trying to earn her freedom. “Let me go!”
“Not a chance, spitfire,” he chuckled.
“My name isn’t—” But her furious protest was once more cut off by several sharp spanks.
The pain was building. Chyanne had never felt anything like it before. This prickling, angry heat. One more smack, and she’d… she’d…
“I’m sorry!” she shrieked, surprising even herself after his hammer-like hand had punished her once more.
Instantly, she was set down on her feet. Then he was kneeling—taller than her by half a foot even with his knees on the ground.
His hands were holding hers and his blue eyes gazed into hers as he asked, “Are you really?”
It was the look in those eyes—serious eyes for a man so huge—that made her own fill with tears. Again, she surprised herself, and though she tried to blink them back, they came anyway.
Goliath reached up with a giant paw and wiped away her tear. “Are you really sorry?” he asked again.
“Y-yes,” she admitted, biting down on her traitorous, trembling lip.
Her eyes widened. “Wh-what does that mean?”
“I want you to prove it.”
She considered this. Considered him. She had known him for all of five minutes, and he’d spanked her. Then, at the first sight of contrition, he’d knelt at her feet. This is a strange, strange place. In more ways than one.
“Okay. How do I do that?”
“I want you to walk with me. Don’t make me drag you kicking and screaming, or carry you.”
She nodded. “Okay. Where are we going?”
“To Nate’s office.”