The first streaks of dawn were filtering through the trees. The fog and steam rising up from the rich ground combined with the light to put the whole earth in soft focus. Sierra Morgan’s gelding picked his way through the stream. She’d been observing this herd for months now. Their habit was always to overnight by moving water. The stallion was a crafty one. If needed, he could push his band of mares and foals into the water to get away from most predators.
Joker, her appaloosa gelding, stopped to paw and splashed the water in protest of having to wade through the stream instead of using the perfectly good trail that wandered alongside of it.
Sierra reached down and stroked his neck.
“I know, big guy, but I don’t have to dodge spider webs in the middle of the stream.”
Joker snorted his displeasure at her reasoning.
She leaned back and patted his strong, spotted rump. “Shouldn’t be much longer.”
They continued to follow the stream until they rounded a bend. There they were—the big red roan stallion and his herd of thirty-five to forty mares and weanlings. The stallion sniffed the air and caught the scent of Sierra and her gelding. Sierra reined Joker to a halt and waited. The stallion walked toward them and scented the air again. Recognizing the scent as one that had never brought harm, the stallion went back to scanning the horizon for signs of danger.
Sierra nudged Joker with her heel and moved closer. She’d spent weeks getting the stallion used to the idea that she was not a threat to him or his mares. There was a threat, but she wasn’t it. In fact, she was his greatest ally in keeping his herd safe. The government officials involved in the management of the wild horses had once again deemed it unsafe for them to continue to live free. An emergency roundup of several herds, the stallion’s included, had been scheduled for the following week.
If the stallion held true to his pattern. He’d stay basically in this area at least another day. There was plenty of forage, fresh water, and several escape routes. Sierra turned for home. She needed to check on her ailing father. They had disagreed on the fate of the wild horses in their area for years. Sierra had been liberating them from slaughterhouses, unscrupulous rustlers, and for the past decade, government officials, and getting them to freedom since she was in middle school. It had become a passion and a way of life.
Sierra finally headed Joker toward the bank of the stream. The big gelding picked up his pace and climbed a steep bank to be free of the water. Sierra laughed at him. “You know, another one hundred yards and there was a really easy way out.” Joker snorted and then shook his entire body, causing Sierra to grab the saddle horn to try to stay in the middle of his back. “You brat! You are not that wet.” His only answer was another snort.
Joker was something of a prima donna. He only tolerated water in two ways without protest—cold out of his water bucket or warm out of a hose for a bath. It was not to fall from the sky when he was enjoying some down time or to be walked in. After ensuring she understood the depth of his displeasure he started toward home.
Once they hit the main trail, Sierra let Joker pick up an easy lope to get them home. Sierra had left long before sunup and thus Joker had not had time to finish his breakfast. They loped to the edge of the barnyard where Sierra brought him down to a walk. She walked past the large, spacious paddocks and stopped Joker at the barn door. Dismounting, she loosened his girth and untied the mecate from the saddle horn. She led the big horse into his stall, removed his bridle and hung it on the latch next to his stall, and let him resume eating his breakfast.
One of the ranch hands, Farley, found her as she finished untying the girth and was fastening it to the other side of the saddle before removing it. Sierra swung the saddle off only to find Farley blocking the stall door.
“Hey, Farley! What’s…” Sierra stopped midsentence. Farley could barely look in her eye.
“Sierra, where have you been? Ruth’s got everyone looking for you. It’s your dad…”
Sierra put her saddle down on the saddle stand outside Joker’s stall door. “Can you take care of Joker for me?”
“Of course I can…”
Sierra ran toward the ranch house. Her father had been sick for a couple of weeks, but she had been told that with rest and antibiotics he would recover. She burst through the kitchen door.
One look at Ruth—their housekeeper for many years—and she knew. “Is he…”
“No, honey,” said Ruth. “I think he’s been hanging on until you got back.”
Sierra bolted out of the kitchen, through the great room, down the hallway, and into her father’s room.
“Hey, Daddy,” she said with a bright smile she didn’t feel. “I see you have Doc Walker out here. You aren’t going to threaten to shoot him again if he doesn’t give you a clean bill of health, are you?”
The doctor smiled. He’d been present at Sierra’s birth and had watched her grow into the strong, beautiful woman she had become. What Sierra didn’t know was that the doctor feared she would need all of that strength in the weeks to come. Sierra glanced at him. When he shook his head, it hit her like a physical blow.
“Hey, baby girl,” her father rasped, his voice weak.
Sierra sat on the edge of her father’s bed and took his hand in hers. “I’m here, Daddy.” She barely kept the tears and fear out of her voice.
Her father opened his pale blue eyes and searched her face. His expression reassured Sierra that he was pleased with what he saw. “Your mama had freckles too. Hated them almost as much as you.” Sierra’s mother had died shortly after she was born. “I think it’s time for me to go join her.”
Sierra looked again at Doc Walker. He smiled sadly and nodded, indicating her father’s passing was imminent. “Okay, Daddy. I love you. If Mama’s here, probably best not to keep her waiting.”
John Morgan smiled sadly. “I hate to leave you, baby girl, but you’ll be in good hands.” He lifted his hand to wipe the tear that had escaped her eye and was slowly rolling down her cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you more,” she said as her father’s hand fell and he closed his eyes for the last time.
The doctor moved to the other side of the bed and listened for a heartbeat or breath sounds. He put his two fingers on John’s neck searching for a pulse he knew he wouldn’t find.
“He’s gone, Sierra.”
“How? You said…” She turned to look at him, unable to release her father’s hand.
“He didn’t want you to know. He swore me to secrecy. He knew when the end came it would be swift. He didn’t want you to worry.”
“I could have done more; maybe there was a specialist…”
“No, honey, there wasn’t. Your daddy was a practical man.”
Sierra heard Ruth sob from the doorway. “Oh, lord, Sierra.”
Sierra squared her shoulders and placed her father’s hand on the bed beside him. She stood and looked at the doctor. “You’ll take care of him?”
“I will. Why don’t you and Ruth go down into the kitchen and I’ll get your daddy to the funeral home. I’ll let you know when they have him in the van.”
“Do I need to do anything?”
“Not right now. You’ve got a few days. I’ll get all the paperwork done.” He admired her strength. She was definitely John’s daughter, practical even in the face of her enormous loss.
Sierra turned to Ruth and hugged her. Ruth had been with the family as far back as anyone could remember. She had been married to the ranch foreman at one time. But when John Morgan found out she was being abused, he’d fired the man, thrown him off the Flying M and given Ruth a job as his housekeeper and companion to his young daughter. Some said that she and John had been lovers over the years but had never made the commitment formal or legal.
“What are we going to do without him, Sierra?”
“We’re going to go on, Ruth. It’s what Daddy would want. I’ll see if Charlie can’t gather the men and we’ll let them know. We’ll also let them know that nothing for them will change.”
Ruth caught her breath and choked back a sob.
“Nothing will change for any of us. You have to promise me you won’t leave. I can’t do this without you.”
Like Sierra, Ruth squared her shoulders and held back her tears. “I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart. This is my home and you are almost as much my child as you were his.”
Sierra took a deep breath and turned to look at her father a last time. She looked at Doc Walker. “Make sure they take good care of him. And thank you.”
“I will, Sierra. You ladies let me know if I can do anything for either of you.”
Ruth and Sierra wrapped their arms around each other’s waists, left her father’s room, and went back into the kitchen.
Sierra took her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Charlie.
Charlie picked up the phone. His voice told her that her father had kept his secret from everyone. “If your daddy found out you were out about to do something stupid with them wild mustangs, don’t you come to me looking for an alibi,” he joked.
John Morgan did not approve of Sierra’s rescue efforts on behalf of the wild horses of the American West. Like many ranchers he saw them as parasitic in that they contributed nothing but grazed and destroyed the open range. Sierra had tried to get him to agree to take in one of the smaller herds. It was the one thing he’d ever denied her.
“Charlie, you need to gather the men as quick as you can,” she said, holding back her tears.
“Oh, God, Sierra, is it John?”
“I’m afraid so. Apparently, he was a lot sicker than any of us knew. If you could get the guys to gather down by the back of the barn, I’d appreciate it. I’d like them to hear it from me, not seeing…” she stopped, thinking of what she had to say, “…them taking his body away.”
“Shit, Sierra. I sure am sorry.”
“Thanks, Charlie. I’m sorry for you too. I know you and Daddy were close friends.”
“Your daddy was a good man. I’ll get the boys rounded up. I can tell them for you. No need for you to do it.”
“Yes, there is. I’m a Morgan, the last Morgan, and this is the Flying M. They need to know we go on as before.” She ended the call and turned back to Ruth. “I’m going to head down to the barn.”
The day had dawned with dark clouds overhead. As they headed for the funeral the storm clouds put on a display, letting loose with rolling thunder and flash lightning.
Most of the men and Ruth had taken the ranch’s SUVs to the funeral. Sierra preferred to drive her own pickup. She needed a bit of time alone. The past few days had gone by in a whirlwind. She would always be grateful to Doc Walker. As the county medical examiner and her father’s personal physician, he was able to expedite the death certificate and get the body released for burial. Ruth had been her rock. While Sierra and Charlie ensured that ranch business continued on as before, Ruth made the arrangements for the funeral and the gathering after the funeral out at the ranch.
Sierra parked her truck and headed toward those from the Flying M beside her father’s gravesite. Ruth said nothing but took her hand and squeezed it when Sierra joined them. Sierra closed her eyes for a moment to gather herself and squeezed Ruth’s hand in return. She listened as the reverend droned on. She was a bit surprised that he had agreed to speak. Neither she nor her father had been church goers. But Ruth and some of the boys went every week.
Sierra found it hard to take her eyes off her father’s grave. Another warning roll of thunder. She glanced up to the sky to see if rain looked imminent. It looked like it might hold off for another thirty minutes or so. As she brought her eyes down from the heavens they encountered a man who she didn’t recognize, although he looked familiar. His head was bowed as if in prayer and he had not removed his hat—not that uncommon at a graveside service in cowboy country. Then he raised his head and his eyes locked with hers.
What the hell was Ryder Malone doing at her father’s funeral? She’d heard he’d returned to his family’s Crooked Creek ranch sometime last year. His father had a new trophy wife and was more interested in enjoying the fruits of his labor than running a ranch that had been in the family almost as long as the Morgan ranch had been in hers. The rumor was Ryder had come home and taken over the day-to-day running of the ranch.
Suddenly, Sierra realized that the preacher’s droning had ended. People were coming up to offer their condolences. She went through the motions—smiled, shook hands, and heard Ruth remind them that there was a gathering at the Morgan ranch right after the funeral.
“I’m sorry about your dad, Sierra. I know you two were close.”
Sierra looked down to see her hand enclosed in Ryder’s and then up into his pale blue eyes. They had always reminded her of ice. But she recalled that when he was amused or aroused they held a wealth of warmth. She couldn’t really see his hair but suspected it was still on the longer side. He still sported his permanent three-day growth or dark stubble. It suited him.
“Thanks, Ryder. I think I heard you’d returned. Running the ranch?”
“At the moment. I think the bloom may be off the rose with Dad’s latest child bride. He’ll probably be back home soon taking the ranch back over to try to raise enough cash to pay her off… and start looking for my next stepmother.”
Sierra searched his face. There was bitterness there, but a trace of amusement. “You don’t sound too upset.”
“It’s his pattern, Sierra. I’ve been planning for this and made an investment or two that should take me into the next chapter.”
Sierra removed her hand from his. “I’d almost forgotten… you always have an exit strategy so if things get difficult, you can leave.”
“That’s not what happened, Sierra, and you know it.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to do this, Ryder. I don’t want to deal with you.” She turned and walked away.
Ryder watched her walk away. He had convinced himself that she wasn’t as beautiful as he remembered. He was wrong. Fact was his memories of her beauty had dimmed. About six inches shorter than his 6′2″ frame, her heart-shaped face still retained her hated freckles, aquamarine blue eyes, and pouty mouth. Her blonde hair hung in loose waves past her shoulders and she still had the hourglass figure he remembered.
“You may not want to deal with me, Freckles, but your daddy made that decision for you,” he whispered.
Andy, one of the hands from the Flying M and a long-time friend, came up to stand by Ryder. “She didn’t seem happy to see you. Are you coming back for the celebration of life?”
“I’m planning to. I’ll see you there.”
“I’ll save you a beer.”
Sierra walked up to her room and closed the door, leaning against it. Ryder Malone was a complication she didn’t need at the moment. She just had to get through the next few days and her life could go back to normal. Among other things there was that herd of the red roan stallion’s to find again and then move to safety. She hoped to be able to glean some information from some of the other ranchers and government types that would be involved in rounding them up while they were here in remembrance of her father. She meant to keep them well supplied with liquor. She moved away from the door and pulled off the black dress she’d purchased for the funeral.
She heard a discreet knock on the door and Ruth stepped in.
“People are starting to arrive, honey. You’re going to need to come downstairs. Why did you take that dress off? It looked mighty pretty on you.”
“I’ll be down in a minute, Ruth. As for the dress, I did that for you not to embarrass you in front of your preacher at his graveyard. But this is my ranch. I’m going to change into something else and I’ll be down in a minute or two.”
“Okay, well, people will be waiting for you.”
Ruth withdrew and left Sierra to change. She really wasn’t a dress and heels kind of girl. She’d grown up as the only child of an Idaho rancher. She could ride, rope, and shoot better than most men. She’d been moving cattle and learning the business of ranching from the time she was old enough to read a ledger.
Sierra put on a pair of black jeans and a black lace, poet style blouse. She went to tuck her jeans into a pair of black boots and spied the red ones at the back of her closet. Her father had laughed when she’d purchased the candy apple red lizard-skin boots. The boots had become an inside joke between them. Whenever she wanted her dad to laugh or remind him that she was a grownup, she’d wear them. He’d smile, acknowledging that her message was received. The boots and her love of the wild horses were her only rebellions; her father had never understood either but accepted them nonetheless. But today, she didn’t want to be a grownup; today she pulled on the black ostrich-skin boots. Sierra put on a squash blossom necklace and earrings her father had given her for her sixteenth birthday and a concho belt riding low on her hips.
She looked strong, capable, and powerful. Appearances could be deceiving. Sierra took a deep breath, opened the door to her room, and headed downstairs to her guests.
The house was full. Ryder saw that at some point the old man had allowed Sierra to remodel and update the ranch house. It was open, spacious, and airy. The colors were a mix of neutrals with saturated earth tones. He smiled. She’d always had a flair for color and style.
He looked up to see her descending the staircase. A casual observer or someone who didn’t know her well would have thought she was in total control. Ryder wasn’t that man. He knew her all too well. Her control and composure were in tight check. He reminded himself that he needed to watch over her; that was the promise he had made her father shortly before he died.
Ryder smiled. There was a part of him that thought he might enjoy the ensuing fireworks when the will was read. Sierra was not going to be happy… not happy at all. On the other hand, he’d always hated to see her upset, but John Morgan was a persuasive man and he’d brought Ryder around to his way of thinking. Ryder believed that having any portion of the massive Flying M would be more than what was left of Crooked Creek by the time his own father passed away.
The fact was that prior to Ryder’s return, the general feeling in the ranching community was that his family’s homestead would most likely have to be broken up and sold to pay off his father’s massive debt. Ryder had been working hard to get his family’s Crooked Creek ranch back on sound financial footing. But he had hedged his bet, he invested some of his money in other business dealings in the local area. He tried to convince himself that it was because they were sound business deals, but deep down he knew that it was because he wanted another shot at Sierra and the only way he was going to get it was if he was here.
Andy greeted Ryder, handing him a beer. “Think your father will show up?”
“Not sure if he’s back yet. He was dropping off the latest ex-wife somewhere back East. I let him know John had died and he said he might try to get home, but I would have expected him for the funeral.”
“Everybody says you’re bringing Crooked Creek back. Think you can really turn it around?”
“As long as I can keep my father separated from the money. Every time I get it almost back to solvency, he raids the bank account and then just runs through the money. If and when he ever passes, I figure I should be able to salvage at least the original homestead. I’ll be doing good if I can keep the rest of it from becoming a bunch of mini-mansions.”
“Best grazing land is between your original homestead and the Flying M. That’s the part I’d try to keep. Or Sierra might be interested in it. But then again…”
“It’s not what people, or Sierra for that matter, thought.”
“But you left with Debbie.”
“I didn’t leave with Debbie and now I’m back. Have been here for over a year. And this time I’m not leaving. I mean to take what always should have been mine.”
Ryder walked away and headed into the crowd of people who had come to say goodbye. John Morgan had been a hard man, but fair. A man whose word was gold and who believed in giving back more than he’d been given. But he’d also been a man who wanted to control everything… including what would happen after his inevitable death. Ryder knew that John wanted to ensure that the Flying M would continue.
The story was that John Morgan and Ryder’s father had pushed their children into a relationship. It had seemed like a good idea; both families were long-time Idaho ranchers whose roots traced back to the mid-1800s. The Flying M had thrived and prospered; the Malones’ Crooked Creek ranch had managed to stay on an even course until Ryder’s father started going through wives like most ranchers went through saddle blankets. Each one had been more expensive than the last.
The young couple had seemed destined to be together. Sierra had been in love with Ryder forever. She’d followed him around like a devoted puppy from the time they were kids. Ryder had been a young man bent on sewing a lot of wild oats. But once Sierra came of age, Ryder had scooped her up and they had been together ever since. The bad boy ranch kid had become an upstanding citizen overnight—hard working and seemingly devoted to Sierra. Many felt it was a smart move on Ryder’s part. With the way his father was mismanaging the family ranch and spending money faster than he earned it, there was no guarantee there’d be anything left of the Crooked Creek ranch for Ryder to inherit. At least married to Sierra, he could remain one of the most prominent ranchers of the west. But then without a word to anyone, Ryder had upped and left just weeks before the wedding. Word had spread that Sierra had caught him with an ex-girlfriend.
John Morgan’s daughter had a temper and wasn’t afraid to let it have free rein. Having found Ryder with his ex-girlfriend half-naked and wrapped around him, she’d run out of the barn she found them in, grabbed her great-grandfather’s antique shotgun out of her truck, and blown a hole through the windshield of Ryder’s truck. The story was she’d sprayed gravel everywhere when she peeled out and headed for home. A significant amount of time had passed before Ryder had been able to catch up with her at the Flying M and tried to make her understand what she’d seen.
The Flying M had basically been deserted that night. There had been an after roundup dinner and dance at the local Grange. Everyone had been there. There were those who felt that had John been home, he might have been able to help the young couple work through whatever had really happened. Some were quick to believe that Ryder hadn’t changed at all and Sierra had just caught him for the first time. Others, and there were more of those than not, thought there was more to the story. That Ryder had seemed to settle down and been a steadying influence on the volatile Sierra. But they reminded themselves it really was none of their business so didn’t pry.
Ryder had relived the scene over and over in his mind. At first, he had tried to lay all of the blame on Sierra’s temper. But as he’d matured and began to examine his own actions, he had to admit that he could have handled it much differently and much better.
Ryder had followed Sierra once he was able to do so. He tried to confront her on the front porch of the Flying M. Sierra had flung open the door as he stepped up on the porch, carrying the same shotgun with which she had destroyed his windshield. When Ryder closed his eyes, he could still feel and hear everything.
“Damn it, Sierra. You put that gun down and listen to me.”
“Fuck you! No, wait, you already did that with Debbie. I don’t like leftovers.”
It was obvious that Sierra was furious. What he hadn’t realized was that his perceived act of betrayal had devastated her. Her hero worship of him had been easy to spot. She’d tagged along on all of his adventures when they were kids. What he’d not realized was that her feelings had begun to change once she started to appreciate the differences in their genders. Ryder had no way of knowing that he’d become the focus of all her fantasies.
Realizing that it would be easy for her to misinterpret what she’d seen, Ryder tried to get a rein on his own temper. He took a deep breath. “Babe, it’s not what you think. I can explain.”
Sierra brought the antique shotgun up to bear and literally blew the cowboy hat off his head. Ryder knew she was an excellent marksman, but as angry as she was, she could have killed him.
“You nasty-tempered she-cat! Do you know how much damage you did to my truck?”
“Not enough?” she sniped.
Sierra may have been a blonde, but she had the temper of a redhead. More than one boy had found out the hard way that when Sierra said no, not only did she mean it, but she could back it up.
Smiling, she continued, “Less than I just did to your hat! Get the hell off the Flying M.” She lowered the barrel of the gun, took off her engagement ring, and threw it in his face. “And take your fucking ring with you. I never want to see you again.”
Ryder was as strong-willed as the woman with whom he thought he would spend the rest of his life. His instinct told him to get the gun away from her and kiss her until she couldn’t see straight. That was tempered by a relationship philosophy he had recently come across on the internet.
The websites he’d discovered talked frankly about men in this day and age resuming their place as head of the household and taking their partner in hand and enforcing their dominance through loving discipline. That discipline usually included the judicious use of spanking one’s partner when she had misbehaved. Ryder knew that Sierra had never had any boundaries or structure in the way she was raised. He had started to swat her ass playfully and discovered that not only did he like it, but she seemed to respond well to it. But one of the tenets of that philosophy was that the dominant partner needed to be able to control his own temper and emotions and ensure that he was spanking his woman for the right reason. Ryder was pretty damn sure that leveling a shotgun at him and throwing her engagement ring at him qualified.
“All right, Sierra, that’s enough.” He leaned down and picked up the ring. “You put that gun down and put your ring back on.”
“You are going to listen to me whether you like it or not.”
“The hell I will. Get off my land!” Sierra went through the door with Ryder hot on her heels. Ryder followed her through the door, determined to talk to her. When she headed for the gun case to get two more shells, he sprinted across the room and grabbed the gun. “No!” she screamed as she tried to wrestle it back.
“Sierra, baby, please listen to me. I didn’t touch Debbie.”
She shoved him. “Really? And I suppose she just ripped her clothes off and tried to force you? Jesus, Ryder, I know I don’t have your experience but even I’m not that stupid.”
Ryder was finding it more difficult to retain control of his own emotions than he had thought it would be. But, he needed to put an end to this and he needed her to learn that she couldn’t just jump to the worst conclusion and throw a temper tantrum. He grinned as he realized a light bulb had just gone off for him. Suddenly, he completely understood the taken in hand philosophy and why it worked. More than that, he knew it would work for him and Sierra.
Sierra’s ability to throw a tantrum was second to none. He knew for them to have a long, happy, and healthy marriage, she would need to learn that behaving like that was not acceptable. A kind of eerie calm had come over Ryder. Sierra was about to learn that throwing a tantrum or leveling a gun at him would earn her a trip over his knee for a punishment spanking. He grabbed her by the arm and put the gun back in the rack. When she couldn’t pry his hand loose, she leaned down and bit his hand. When he let her go, she made a run for it.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said as he caught up with her. “You apologize to me.”
“Apologize to you? I didn’t cheat on you.”
“And I didn’t cheat on you. You know me better than that. I haven’t so much as looked at another girl since we started dating.”
“So, what? You’re telling me you closed your eyes and that’s supposed to make it all better?”
“Sierra, I haven’t been with anybody since we started going out.”
“That’s because I gave it up so easily. And just kept giving and giving. I guess I thought if I never turned you down, you wouldn’t have a need to fuck anybody else.”
“I didn’t fuck Debbie!”
Ryder had been so intent on getting her to listen, he hadn’t realized that he put himself in a very vulnerable position. He learned the error of his ways quickly as Sierra’s knee connected with his balls. She tried to get away, but he held fast.
“Christ, Sierra! That’s it, I warned you what I’d do to you if you ever lost your temper and went for my balls again! I have tried to talk to you; tried to be reasonable; even tried to see things from your point of view, but I’ve had it.”
A few weeks after they first got engaged, Ryder had prevented her from going to Canada to help a group of rescuers break into a slaughter yard and steal a group of mustangs. In typical Sierra fashion, she’d lost her temper and when she saw an opening she’d tried to kick him in the nuts. She hadn’t succeeded but he’d warned her never to try it again or she’d find herself face down over his knee getting a spanking. Ryder often swatted her behind, but he’d never tried to actually spank her.
Ryder dragged Sierra over to the couch, sat down on it, and pulled her across his lap. He started swatting her jean-clad rump.
“Knock it off, you bastard.” Being face down over his knee had been more embarrassing than it had been painful.
“No. I told you if you ever went for my nuts again, I’d paddle your behind and I mean to do it.”
He continued to spank her but soon realized he was doing as much damage to his hand as he was to her backside. He reached under her and ripped open her fly so he could get her jeans pulled down. He stripped both her jeans and her red lace panties down to her knees and smiled. While he certainly enjoyed her tits and legs, there was something truly spectacular about Sierra’s ass. And when she was working cattle and it was framed in a pair of chaps, it was the stuff of every rancher’s fantasy.
He meant to show her a side of himself she’d never seen. He meant to introduce her to his dominant streak and teach her that she would no longer be allowed to have her way in all things. Surprisingly, he could feel her nipples start to pucker. He wondered if that pool of desire he had tapped into so many times was starting to pool between her legs. This time when his hand connected with the right globe of her bottom, the resulting thwacking sound was loud, but more than that, he knew it hurt.
“Ouch,” she screeched.
Ryder grinned and proceeded to cover her entire bottom with well-aimed blows. It was the first time he’d ever spanked a girl for anything other than play. Watching Sierra’s backside turn from ivory with a sprinkling of freckles to a rosy hue to a deeper red as she struggled to get away was both satisfying and arousing. He found that the sense of calm that had claimed him before he took her over his knee had blossomed into a feeling of well-being and understanding that this was exactly what they both needed. He needed to be able to deal with her temper and tantrums and teach her that she would behave. And she needed to be able to count on him to supply the structure and discipline he realized she’d needed for far too long.
It seemed as though Sierra couldn’t believe that he was actually peppering her backside with hard swats that had nothing to do with play. He was pissed, but in control. He could sense that the arousal she’d felt when he first started had continued to increase despite the fact that her ass was becoming increasingly heated and painful. He knew that at this point her ass had to be on fire and that sitting, and especially riding, was going to be painful for a few days.
Ryder was surprised at how hard he was getting. His cock was swollen inside his jeans and his balls had begun to ache with something not caused by her knee. Her angry cries and curses were now tempered with more aroused moans and sighs. She was still struggling, but he could feel her trying to instinctively rub herself against the rough texture of his jeans. He stopped momentarily and slipped his hand between her legs. The grin became an ear-to-ear smile; it seemed Sierra was as turned on as he.
“That’s better, isn’t it, baby? Wouldn’t you rather I stroke your pussy than spank your butt?” Ryder said in a tone that Sierra recognized was no longer angry but highly aroused.
“You bastard. Let me up,” she said a bit desperately.
Ryder could hear the arousal in her voice, but knew she was trying to convince them both that she was angry. He knew her well enough to know that technically she could have him arrested for assault for giving her a spanking. He also knew that Sierra would never have him arrested. Her pride would never let her admit to anyone that he had put her over his knee and spanked her bottom like a misbehaving child. And she would try to deny, even to herself, that the whole experience had left her wanting.
“Stop it, Ryder. You can’t do this to me.”
“I can and I will. You’ve needed a spanking probably for as long as I can remember and starting tonight I’m going to make sure you get one whenever you need it. So, no, I won’t let you up. I’m going to keep spanking you until I think you’ve learned your lesson about jumping to conclusions and about accusing me of cheating on you.”
With that he went back to administering her punishment. He had to suppress his amusement in the way that she seemed to careen between wanting to derive some kind of sexual satisfaction and trying to get away from him.
“Ryder, please stop. It hurts.”
“Yeah? So did that knee to my balls.”
“I’m sorry, babe. Want me to kiss it and make it all better?” she said in a sultry tone.
Ryder grinned. He’d read that some people who practiced the being taken in hand lifestyle became very aroused even during punishment sessions. The thought was that it wasn’t the giving or receiving of pain that fueled the arousal, but rather the show of dominance and the understanding of each person’s role in the relationship. Ryder felt that, all in all, this first trip over his knee had been an outstanding success.
He was more than ready, willing, and able to move into the aftercare portion of a punishment spanking. Ryder helped her up. As she stood between his legs, he ran his hands under her shirt, squeezing her breasts and pinching her stiffened nipples. He grinned; Sierra was as horny as he was. What had started out to be the worst night of his life was turning into one that he thought would prove to be one of the most epic. Feeling very masculine and dominant, Ryder leaned back, cupping her head to bring it down to his to thrust his tongue deep into her mouth. He was focused on kissing her and playing with her nipples. He wanted her begging for his forgiveness and begging him to mount her and fuck her long and hard.
He never expected her to bite down on his tongue and draw blood. When he yelped and released her, she balled up her fist and punched him in the nose. Ryder was stunned, both emotionally and physically. By the time he’d recovered, Sierra had retreated to the gun cabinet, grabbed and loaded the antique shotgun, and leveled it at him once again.
“Get out and don’t ever come back. If you ever tell anyone what happened tonight, I’ll cut your balls off and feed them to the stock dogs.”
“Sierra …” The cocking of the hammer on the shotgun silenced him.
“Get. Out.” Her voice was devoid of emotion and she enunciated each word carefully.
Ryder had tried over the next few days to get her to talk to him. He’d called, emailed, texted, and instant messaged and got nothing in return. The longer she’d been silent, the more incensed he became. How dare she not believe him? How dare she not even give him a chance to explain?
The longer the silence between them had grown, the more entrenched each became in his or her position. Within the week, Ryder had placed her ring in the family safe and taken a job with one of the Professional Rodeo Association’s best stock providers.