I’m twenty-five years old and I’ve never been kissed.
You’d think I was a troll living under a bridge.
I’m not. Though I might eventually turn into one.
I’m told I’m beautiful. Smart enough to hold an intelligent debate. I think I might even be funny—at least I make my cousins laugh. I donate to charity, sing on key, and always let people with fewer items go before me at the checkout.
I’m a catch.
According to my virgin status, apparently, I’m not worth the work it takes to get to me.
I’m a never been touched, never even been kissed, virgin.
It’s not because I haven’t any interest in dating. I have plenty—the proof is sitting on the shelves of my overwhelmed bookcase, the boards straining beneath the weight of my vast collection of romance novels. I even started taking the pill a year ago, just in case the stars align as I’m walking down the beach alone under the moonlight and some stranger were to randomly sweep me off my feet.
Which would never actually happen considering the constant supervision I’m under.
I’m untouchable. Literally. Rapunzel had a better chance of getting a man, locked in that tall stone tower of hers.
Who’s to blame?
My overprotective, over-involved male family members. They’ve been beaver blocking me since my sixteenth birthday. Any interested man who even looks my way gets a death glare from one of my broad-shouldered, heavily armed relatives. One deep clearing from my cousins’ throats and the suitors scatter.
So far, everyone has heeded the warning and gone about their way. As they probably should—my cousins are dangerous men. But where does that leave me? Destined to die alone? A ninety-year-old woman lying on my death bed, wondering what it feels like to be kissed?
Perhaps I should just give up.
Realize I don’t stand a chance and join a convent. Become a nun like my Italian Catholic great-aunt. The very idea has tears springing to my eyes. Because that life is—so—not—me. I long to be loved. To feel pleasure. To have a man’s strong hands stroke me in the most intimate way. Have his hard, throbbing—
I startle from my thoughts, falling off the daybed situated in the picture window overlooking the Aegean Sea, and tumble to the floor. This window is my favorite place to daydream, but now I’ve found myself so far in my fantasies I’ve lost track of time. Again.
Sasha is standing in my doorway, hands on her hips, her long dark ponytail swishing back and forth as she shakes her head disapprovingly at me. “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be packing.”
“I’m coming!” I call out, pulling myself up from the floor and brushing off my clothing. I should have been finished hours ago and once again I’ve wasted too much time fantasizing about love instead of focusing on the task at hand. I begin tearing through the drawers of my dresser, throwing blouses, skirts, sweaters into the opened trunk that sits at the foot of my bed.
“Here, let me help you.” Sasha storms into the room and starts taking down garments from my closet. Her toned body stretches up on tiptoe as she pulls down handfuls of hangers. She’s folding great piles of clothing neatly in half and sliding them into the trunk. She tosses me an exasperated glance. “You’re going to be late.”
“The story of my life,” I groan. I make my way over to my dressing table and take a seat in the plush velvet chair. I open the drawer, sorting through my makeup. I leave her to the clothes and focus on packing my beauty supplies and jewelry. I fill my gold sparkly makeup bag to the brim then give the zipper a good hard tug. Finished with the task, I shut the drawer. “When am I not late?”
“Well, it didn’t matter much, before. But now you’re keeping Dante waiting.” Her dark eyes lock on mine and her brows raise. “And if I were you… I wouldn’t.”
“Dante can wait. He has no jurisdiction over me.” My tone is confident but inside I’m thinking about the way he locks his chiseled jaw when he’s displeased, and nervous butterflies take flight in my stomach.
Sasha moves from the closet, joining me. She puts a hand on my shoulder, her eyes catching mine in the reflection of the mirror above the dressing table. We could be sisters with our dark hair and olive complexions—hers thanks to her Greek heritage, mine from my Italian ancestors. She gives me a long, hard look. “Adrianna. Dante’s never been tolerant of tardiness, and now he’s a lead Bachman—about to be the third in charge. You know better than to disregard him like this. These men don’t get into power by waiting around for people. They demand respect and you know exactly how you’ll be handled if you don’t show it.” She turns and leaves me, heading over to my shoe collection.
A flush creeps into my cheeks at her insinuation. The thought of Dante ‘handling’ me makes a queer lightheaded feeling cloud my mind. My fingers wrap around the dangling chain of a necklace I’m leaving behind. I arrange my face into a mask of confidence and turn over my shoulder to disagree with her. “Just because the husbands in this family spank their wives does not mean that Dante will be laying a finger on me. Rockland would kill him.”
She’s kneeling on the floor, rifling through sandals. She raises her perfectly manicured brows—the ones I’ve recently waxed for her—and says, “Are you sure about that?” Something in her gaze, or perhaps that smug little smile crossing her pretty face, has me second-guessing my statement. My mind turns over her simple question and that look on her face—it has my insides growing cold. The little hairs stand up on the back of my neck and over the goosebumps of my arms.
I stare at her. “Sasha. Is there something you know that I don’t?”
She gives a noncommittal shrug. Goes to the second closet, turns her back to me, and starts sorting through my boots. She changes the subject. “You know, you could have been packing for days. You’ve known about this trip for months.”
“I’ve been busy.” I stand from the dressing table, makeup bag in hand, and go to my bookshelf, running my fingertips gently over their worn spines.
“Doing what? Painting your nails? Daydreaming? Reading those smutty books you love so much?” She tosses me a look that makes my hand drop to my side. “You can’t take them all, you know.”
“I guess I have been a little distracted.” I cross the room and toss the makeup bag on the desktop, exchanging it for my latest read. My fingers wrap around the book and I bring it closer. My eyes devour the cover, that delicious shiver running through my core at the sight of the buff, in-charge man on the glossy front. I run my finger over his bare chest. Grabbing my purse from the hook beside the desk, I carefully bury my latest book boyfriend in the bottom of the bag.
Sasha’s lecture continues. “You’ve known this day would come for three whole years now. Brett Bachman’s third and final annual memorial service after his death is a huge deal and the family’s been planning it practically since the day they laid him to rest. The one where you and all of your many, many family members will travel to Radio City Music Hall in New York and have one big happy reunion. It’s not exactly something that could have slipped your mind.”
“I know. I know. I guess it’s just the part after that that I’ve been so overwhelmed by. And you know what I do when I’m overwhelmed…”
She stops going through the shoes and sits down on the daybed. She pats the seat beside her. “Come here.”
I grab the makeup bag, tossing it into the trunk as I cross the room. Reaching the daybed, I plop down beside her, my heavy purse bumping against my thigh as I do.
She throws her arm around my shoulder like a big sister might. “You want to move to New York, Adrianna. It’s your dream. You’re just experiencing some very normal nerves. You’re going to love America and the Village. Trust me. If Carter and I weren’t trying to hatch a little one,” she pats her flat stomach, “I’d still be there.”
I groan and roll my eyes. “Oh, yeah, just the image this frustrated virgin needs right now. You and your workout-obsessed husband, now even more gorgeous with that sexy tattoo all over his stone-hard chest, spending all your hours trying to procreate.”
She laughs, blushing prettily. “It has been fun. I’m going to have to go double time just to fill up the hours when you leave. I need something to keep from missing you when you move.”
Her words make a sad tug tear in my chest, and only heighten my nerves about leaving. I nudge her in the ribs. “I’m going to miss you, too. The Parish has become my home, and the weather here in Greece—it’s so beautiful. But I’m excited to be with Rockland and Tess and have one of those fantastic row homes all to myself. And the nightlife in the big city! The clubs, the restaurants… the shopping.”
She lets out a long moan. “The shopping. God, how I miss the shopping.” We laugh.
The Parish, where we currently reside, is an island off the coast of Greece. And only members of the secret mafia Bachman family know of its existence. Needless to say, there isn’t a mall in sight. And no place for a twenty-five-year-old virgin to get laid. In New York, I might actually stand a chance of having a boyfriend.
Sasha looks at her watch, hopping up from the daybed. “Oh, shit, look at the time! We’ve got to get you out of here. Speaking of shopping, just forget the rest of the stuff we didn’t pack. You can buy anything your heart desires when you get there. Let’s get this thing closed and get you on your way.”
“Getting that thing closed is going to be impossible.” I move to the trunk, helping her to latch the metal buckles. Satisfied with our work, we sit on top of the vessel and share a final hug.
She pulls away, her hands resting on my shoulders as she locks our gazes. “My flight goes out only one hour after yours. I’ll be right behind you.”
I kiss her cheek. “Thanks, Sasha. For everything.”
Hand in hand we leave my room. I give it one final glance, then take a deep breath, assuring myself I’m ready for this monumental move.
I leave Sasha to finish her own packing. I take my time saying goodbyes to the ones who won’t be joining us in New York. I take one last stroll down the beautiful beach, unsure of when I’ll be back here next. Realizing the time is passing too quickly, I make my way toward the jet.
Lost in thought, I’m surprised to find I’ve walked all the way to the family tarmac. Now I’m making my way up the stairs of the family aircraft. This is only my second time flying, the first when Rockland sent the jet to pick me up from our remote village in Italy. The plane has rows of seats on either side, two wide, and a long aisle running down the center. I’m trying to find an empty spot amongst the single men, the brothers of the brotherhood, who are headed to the Village with us. A few openly smile at me. Others ignore me.
Near the back of the plane, I find a row that’s empty on both sides. Four seats total and little privacy—just what I need on this long flight. I plop down in the cushy window seat, gathering my overflowing purse on my lap.
My gaze rises to the aisle of the aircraft to find an angry Dante storming his way toward me. Instinctively my buttocks tighten beneath me at the sight of his stormy eyes and clenched jaw.
He strides down the aisle, straight to me. Standing what looks to be about six foot two. Rippling muscles. Black short-sleeve tee-shirt with the brothers’ tattoo peeking out and winding around his giant bicep. Shaved head, clean-shaven face, and startling green, gemstone eyes.
He’s quite intimidating.
My stomach twists in knots as I find him hovering over the empty seat beside me. His eyes are burning into mine, his disapproving scowl makes my cheeks burn. I find my gaze dropping to my lap.
Please don’t sit here. Please don’t sit here.
He unceremoniously drops his giant body into the seat beside me. He growls, “You’re late.”
Before I can answer, he’s yanking the strap of his black bag from his massive shoulder. He slams it onto his lap, tugs at the zipper. From the bag he pulls a notebook with a brown leather cover. There are pens neatly arranged in the front pocket of the bag, and after careful consideration, he chooses a black ink fountain-tipped pen. Opening the cover, he begins scribbling furiously onto the pages.
“What are you doing?” I ask, peering over his shoulder and trying to get a look at the words he writes.
He shoots me a look that makes my heart beat harder in my chest. I back away toward the window. He pulls the notebook toward his chest. “Nosy, and late. Tsk tsk.”
I want to roll my eyes but something in the set of his stone jaw tells me it’s not my best idea. So instead, I play nice. “Journaling?”
“If you must know, I’m channeling my anger.”
“What anger?” I open my purse, rooting through my belongings for my lip gloss.
“The infuriation I feel when a frivolous little girl keeps me waiting—keeps the brotherhood waiting—and delays our flight. Our plane should have arrived an hour before the other, now it will be late. Thus putting the entire itinerary off course.”
I finally find the gloss. I twist the cap and slide the pink shimmer over my lips. I casually throw it back into my bag and flash him a smile. “Oh. So… anger at me?”
“Ding ding. She’s got the correct answer, folks. What’s her prize?” He slaps the cover of his journal shut and stuffs it back into his bag. Slides the pen into the correct pocket. He crosses his massive arms over his chest and leans his head back, sighing. “This is going to be a long flight.”
“You’re telling me.” Nothing like a cross-the-globe jaunt seated next to Mr. Grumpy-pants. He’s so huge even in the enormous plush leather seats of our private jets, I’ve got no elbow room. His big, round shoulder is pressed into my arm and I can feel the heat radiate from his body. Smell his scent—which is actually quite pleasant. Clean and crisp. I might even enjoy the feeling but not from someone so outwardly hostile toward me. He’s too close. I shove my elbow into his massive forearm. “A little space, please?”
He shoots me a glare. “Keep your hands to yourself and I’ll keep my hands to myself. If I can manage. A man only has so much tolerance before—”
I know what he’s insinuating and I’m putting a stop to it. “Touch me and you’re dead. Rockland would kill you. Or have you forgotten that I happen to be the baby, and only girl, slash, favorite cousin of the head of the family? We grew up together. He’s practically my big brother.”
Dante’s eyes catch mine. My insides feel funny, my knees a bit weak as his emerald eyes light from within. A smile stretches out over his face and my breath catches in my throat—it’s not a friendly smile. It’s a dangerous one. His words numb my mind as he tosses them out to me. “Who the hell do you think asked me to accompany your flighty little ass to the Village in the first place?”
His smile deepens as, to his pleasure, he watches the recognition cross my face as I realize that the man who I thought would protect me from this brute was the very same one who had ordered Dante to be by my side now.
Thanks a lot, Rockland.
My fingers tighten around the handles of my purse. I hiss between clenched teeth, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m surrounded by the brotherhood. The entire family is going to be in New York. What on Earth would I need you for?”
“To keep you out of trouble. As of right now, I’m not to let you out of my sight for a second. Rockland’s orders.”
My stomach drops. Rockland has ordered me a babysitter. And of all the men available, he chose the most severe one possible. I sigh, slumping down in my seat. My heart feels heavy in my chest. All plans of losing my virginity melt right out of my mind. Disappointment fills me. I’m never going to find myself an eligible bachelor with this refrigerator around, being massive and watching my every move with his glaring eyes. “Are you sure there hasn’t been some kind of mistake? A simple miscommunication?”
His brow knits as if talking to an imbecile. “Rockland’s made me number three. I don’t think he’d have chosen me if I was prone to mistakes or,” his features twist in disgust, “‘simple miscommunications.’”
I’ve no time to respond because now there’s a beautiful, impeccably dressed attendant standing before us. Holding a glittering tray dotted with filled champagne flutes. She smiles sweetly, asking, “A bit of bubbly for your journey?”
“You’re an angel! I’ll take two, thanks,” I say, reaching over the wall of muscle beside me to retrieve the glasses from her. I plan to down the first one like a shot. Sip the second one—in two gulps.
A big hand stops me, pushing my arm back against my chest. Planting my back against the seat. “None for her.”
My mouth gapes in protest, waiting for Dante to say he’s joking. I look to the attendant. She shoots me an apologetic glance. She gives Dante a curt nod, says “Yes, sir,” then continues traveling down the aisle.
Sadly, I watch as my champagne disappears down the aisle. “What was that for?”
His eyes are now trained on his phone screen. He murmurs, “That was for the elbow. I think you’ll find out soon enough I’m not a man to be trifled with.”
He’s barely paying me attention. I know he’s not going to reconsider, but I can’t seem to stop myself from arguing. “Be reasonable, Dante. I do not want or need your protection or your misguided guidance. What I need is a glass of champagne. I’m a grown woman, for God’s sake.”
His gaze turns to me. One brow raises. “Then why are you whining like a child?”
Heat rushes to my face. Anger tightens my chest. “You are… infuriating!”
I want to kick him beneath the seat. Dig my heel into the toe of his boot. Which would be totally useless as it’s probably steel-tipped. Instead, I cross my arms over my bag and huff, “Fine.”
I lean my head against the seat, closing my eyes in defeat. “Fine. You win. You may escort me to the Village.”
He snorts, “Like you have a say in the matter?”
I ignore his taunt. Sit up and throw my index finger up in the air. “But once we reach New York, you are to leave me alone and mind your own business.”
I’m surprised by the noise rising from his chest. He’s chuckling—Dante Bachman is actually laughing? I’d have thought he didn’t have the ability. I turn and stare at him. His eyes are lighter, he looks years younger, maybe even handsome when he’s laughing. But his amusement only serves to make me furious. “What? What the hell do you find so funny about me telling you to mind your own business? Once this flight is over, your jurisdiction ends.”
“That’s good. Oh, that’s rich.” Finally, he stops laughing and gives me a long gaze. He contemplates my face for a moment and when he speaks, his tone is softer. Gentle almost. His brows raise at me, curious. “You don’t know? Do you?”
I throw my hands up in the air. “Know what?”
“Seeing as you’ll be the only single woman in the entire Village, and don’t have a husband to look after you, Rockland’s made me your bodyguard. Permanently. He’s enacted the hierarchy.”
I stare at him in shock. My mouth gapes open.
Hierarchy—the word tumbles around in my mind, making my thoughts feel cloudy, my head light. Then the clouds part and anger rumbles in. I’m livid.
I’m going to save our enemies a lot of trouble.
Because as soon as I arrive in the Village, I’m going to kill Rockland.
Pushing the thought from my mind, I lean my head back on the headrest and try to ignore Dante. My eyes wander to the sky outside the tiny airplane window and moments later, I’m deep in thought.
My goodbyes will be a bit easier than they would have, had I been moving to New York any weekend other than this one. Most of the Parish family members will be in New York for six days to attend the memorial of my cousin, Brett. He was a member of the Village branch of the Bachmans and though I was very young when he left our village and I didn’t know him well, I would be in attendance as well as anyone that shared even a hint of DNA with him. After someone in the Bachman family dies, we hold a memorial service for them, every year, for three years after their death. The first two are small and private, the third being a big blowout party for extended family.
So I’ll be in good company when I arrive. Then the Parish family will fly back and I’ll be left to sort out my new life in the Village. A couple of the single men from the Parish brotherhood will be making the move and will stay in New York, but I’ll be a new Beauty in the New York pond of Bachman women.
Rockland, my cousin and now head of the Bachman family first introduced me into this secret society a few years ago. Drawn by the glamorous world of the billionaires, I was also touched by how they spend their wealth. Helping people. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Robin Hood was my favorite cartoon movie as a child and when he explained the setup to me, I was instantly hooked. Sure, they are as deadly as any mafia this world has ever seen. But they aren’t greedy and holing up their spoils for only their own enjoyment. They spread their good fortune.
The family originally began with the Village, in New York. Bachmans began buying up the land in the late eighteen hundreds. Once the entire block had been procured, they slowly built the businesses on the streets, forming an empty square behind them. The backs of the buildings were all built with no windows on the backside, and secret doors in the back, for preparation of the Village. Once that was all in place, they were ready to build homes. The rows of homes were built in the early nineteen hundreds. Each one has a kitchen and laundry on the main floor, living room and office on the second, and master bedroom on the third. Entirely surrounded by a gray stone wall, it’s the size of a full city block. Behind the backs of the windowless buildings that surround it are dozens of black gates, secured with a black panel that can only be opened with a thumbprint.
The businesses and shops that form the square are all owned by Bachmans. All with their own secret closet in the back of an office, a storeroom, a coat closet. They all have blocked exits, accessible only to the family. The gates are wide enough for our cars and each car is programmed with a sensor that automatically opens the gate.
It’s the hub of the business transactions. The place where our ties to the outside world are bound. It’s adults only, long working hours, and lots of partying. Or so I’ve heard.
Rockland left the Village eight years ago to start the Parish. He paid a generous sum to have the government continue to list the island as uninhabited. He enlisted trusted family members to begin the community with him. They started off with only a few boats purchased from priests of a tiny Catholic chapel, hence the name Parish. From there, word spread amongst the worthy. The Parish grew fast, men traveling hundreds of miles to find Rockland and pledge their lives to the Bachman brotherhood. Myriad people with an eclectic mix of talents. Carpenters, bankers, gangsters, chefs. Some because they wanted the peace and security our lifestyle brings to their wives, their marriages. Others seeking fortunes to send back to their poorer villages, enamored by the Robin Hood nature of our crimes and willing to lay down their lives to bring elderly relatives prosperity.
Families with children either live in Greece, at the Parish, or the American suburban offshoot of the Village in Connecticut, the Hamlet. Bronson was the head of the family, residing in the Village when I first moved to the Parish. Recently his wife Paige gave birth to a son named Thomas. When Bronson found of his wife’s pregnancy, he moved to take over the Hamlet, bringing my cousin Rockland from the Parish back to run the Village.
It would have been a difficult transition for Rockland, leaving his people, if he wasn’t so head over heels for his woman, Tess, who will never leave the Village. Her blood runs Bachman and New York City. She’s a fiery redhead whom I love, and has broken tradition by becoming the first woman to be a leader in the family. She’s currently second in charge, under Rockland.
When women join the family, they pledge as wives their submission. The men pledge their dominance and protection, marking the woman with their dagger—a necklace with a pendant of a sword, symbolizing the man’s devotion and willingness to lay down his life for her.
And in all three branches of the family, each woman has a willingness to be punished by her husband. Both parties swear it keeps the balance and harmony found only in our family… but it’s a tough pill for me to swallow. Of course, I’d love a man to tie me up and ravage me… I think. I might even be into playing with handcuffs or a little BDSM. But to be spanked by a man for being naughty? I’m not sure I can wrap my head around that one.
I inch away from the giant man beside me, blushing at the thought of what the big brute would do to a naughty girl.
Charged with being the third ranking officer for the family mafia?
Piece of cake.
Charged with keeping the flighty baby cousin of the head of the family in line?
She’s young, smart, witty… and drop dead gorgeous. She’s five foot nine, and half of that height is her shapely legs. Glossy jet-black hair runs down her back. She’s perfected this little laugh and sassy flip of her hair over her shoulders. Drives the younger guys wild. The bone structure of her face has been likened to that of a Madonna. Dark perfectly arched brows, cheekbones to the high heavens, gliding down to draw attention to her full, glossy lips. A classic Italian beauty.
Who has no idea how beautiful she is. Or the effect she has on men.
Men I am magically supposed to keep from yearning for her. Sure, I can keep them away in proximity, but I can’t control the way they lust after her.
I seem to be the only single male immune to her charms.
Yes, she’s got an amazing body, a sharp mind, a quick wit. But she’s constantly late. Never met a deadline. Has no idea what a hard day of work is. Been coddled and spoiled since the day she was born. A daydreamer, always floating above the clouds. Or spending lazy afternoons basking on the shore, her nose stuck in one of her silly romance novels.
If I’m Type A, Adrianna is Type Z… the furthest from my kind possible.
And so, I was the only logical choice in the brotherhood to guard her.
It’s not that I don’t like her. Quite the opposite. I’ve observed her around the Parish. She’s kind, thoughtful. She loves animals, playing games with the children. She’s the only one who can lighten our leader’s stoic nature. She makes him laugh. I would find her to be as charming as everyone else does if she had a little taming. A few healthy boundaries, consequences for her whimsical, forgetful ways, a few trips over my knee, and she’d no longer infuriate me.
Alas. It’s not to be. Not yet, at least.
We have a hierarchy in the brotherhood. One put in place to protect our women. When a woman marries into the family, her husband is her protector. A man second to him is named, should her husband perish. But it’s only been enacted once. Recently in fact.
The man we are flying to the memorial of, Brett Bachman, was Rockland’s blood brother. He died three years ago. Rockland, next of kin, became responsible for Brett’s widow, Tess. At first, she was fine, needing him only to get through the funeral, the first memorial. The second year after Brett’s death, she began to spiral out of control, going down a dark tunnel of drinking and depression. Bronson enacted the hierarchy. Rockland moved in with her. Cared for her. Got her back on her feet. And they fell in love with one another.
I don’t fault Rockland for falling for Tess. She’s the kind of woman I usually find myself attracted to. Self-assured, hard worker. Devoted to the cause. Confident, knows her beauty. Dressing to accentuate her curves, bring out the highlights in her red hair. Calculated and cunning. A power player. She’s a tigress.
And Adrianna, a butterfly. Flitting about her day, clueless of the repercussions of her actions. Which is why she needs me.
If a woman is single, then a man is named. A placeholder, if you will, until the woman finds herself a husband. (The dominant/submissive dynamic in our family lends itself to a sexually charged environment—no one stays single for long.) And I’m Adrianna’s placeholder.
Rockland’s made me promise him to hold off punishing his precious cousin as long as possible. I check my watch. Let’s see… I’ve made it thirty minutes so far. I think I’m doing pretty damn good.
But now, she opens her purse. Her belongings scatter about. Lipsticks rolling down the aisle, papers fluttering to the floor. A book lands heavy in my lap. She’s too busy collecting her things to notice.
I lift the book, turning it over in my hands. There’s a picture of a ripped, shirtless firefighter on the cover. He wears nothing but black jeans and a helmet on top of his head—perfect attire for fighting fires. His chin juts out cockily, the title stating, The Burning in her Loins. I want to laugh. I pick the book up, flipping through the pages while she’s picking up her makeup from the floor.
I begin to read aloud, “His fire was hot. So hot. And she was burning for him. Between her legs the heat ravaged like a wildfire.” I wave the cover in front of her. “Is this really what you’re reading?”
She sees the book and freezes. Her face is a mask of horror. “Where’d you get that?” she asks, snatching it from me and burying it in the bottom of her bag.
“It landed on me. When you clumsily dumped your purse all over the place.”
“Never you mind. Some people like romance.”
“Romance? You call that romance? It’s nothing but trash. You want a real romance? Read a classic. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre—”
Her brow creases. “You’ve read those?”
I shrug. “A few years ago, I had some extra time on my hands. Decided to read as many classic novels as I could. I printed a list of the top one hundred and started with the first one, which was Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre was number four.”
“How far did you get?”
“Maybe fifty? I lost count. My free time ended and I went back to work.”
“You don’t strike me as a reader.”
“I don’t have time, now, but there’s one thing I hate. Time wasting. I don’t take a single second on this Earth for granted.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Surely you let loose sometime.” She’s searching between the seats for lost items.
I ignore her questions and begin picking up the papers that fell from her purse. My eyes graze over the clutter. With every tattered document I secure, my anger rises. “Driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, travelers’ checks? You just keep all this important paperwork stuffed in the bottom of your bag? Unbelievable. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”
“Hey! Give those back.” She snatches at them and I block her, holding them in my hands.
“I’ll give them back when you learn to properly care for them. Besides—you won’t be going anywhere without me. Now will you?”
She shoots me a look of despair.
“That’s right. I’m going to be your new shadow.” I make a neat stack of her papers. Pull my binder out from my bag. Find an empty file. Slide them safely inside. Take out a pen and neatly mark the tab with her name. Adrianna. I put my bag down beside me. Rest my head on the back of the seat and close my eyes. She sits beside me, fuming. I want to laugh. This is only the beginning. She has no idea how much her life is about to change.
I tap my fingers on the arm of the seat, eager to take off already. What’s the holdup? I give her a long look. Now she’s staring out the window, ignoring me. “I’m going to go see what the delay is. I’ll be right back. Don’t move.” She gives me a snort in response. Not good enough. I reach out, grab her delicate chin between my fingers and turn her to face me. A pretty blush rises in her cheeks at my touch. “How about a Yes, sir?”
Her eyes widen, getting a glassy look to them. Breathily she whispers, “Yes, sir.”
I give her one last look, then make my way to the front of the plane. I talk to the men and find there’s a problem with a cargo crate. One Rockland will be expecting us to arrive with in the Village. I’ve got to keep my eye on her so they’ll have to figure it out without me. After they assure me everything’s under control, I go back to my seat. Adrianna has her head leaned against the window. Her eyes are closed as if she’s sleeping but my gaze lowers to her hands.
They are clutched tightly around her purse.
“Looks like we’ll be taking off, soon,” I say. She pretends she hasn’t heard me. As if in the three minutes I’ve been gone she’s fallen asleep. I slide into my seat. Whistle a casual tune as I pick up my bag. Take out my binder. Open my folder marked with her name.
I look at her. I catch her peeking at me through one squinted lid. It quickly snaps shut and she moves her body further toward her window, tightening her hold on her purse and sighing as if in a restful dream.
“Sleeping Beauty. Where are the documents?”
She murmurs something unintelligible. I lean over, pry one of her eyelids open with my fingers. Peer into her very alert pupil. I repeat myself. “Where are the documents?”
She sits up, tries to act startled. “Hmm? What do you mean?” To elaborate her act, she stretches her arms above her head and yawns.
I take the opportunity to snatch her bag from her lap.
She’s clawing at me and I shoo her away like a pesky fly. She says, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing? A gentleman never goes through a lady’s purse!”
“Good thing I’m not a gentleman.” Bingo. There they are, crumpled in the bottom of her bag. I take them out. Smooth them. Slide them into my folder. Latch the binder and replace it in my bag. I stand, tossing her purse and my bag in the overhead compartment and latch it securely.
Her big round eyes gaze helplessly at the cargo holder above her head. “Hey! Give me back my bag. I need that for the ride.”
“You’ve lost your privilege to carry a purse, I’m afraid.”
She looks at me, stunned. Her mouth hangs open, void of protest. She’s in shock, but not as shocked as she’s about to be.
I continue my lecture, saying, “And you’ve earned yourself a spanking.”
It takes a moment for the idea to set in. Delighted, I enjoy the look of horror on her face as she realizes what’s about to happen. She’s pressing her back against the window. Trying to make as much distance between us as possible. She hisses, “You wouldn’t dare!”
“Disobedience has immediate consequences.”
“Don’t you touch me!”
I lean down, my face inches from hers. “Stand up and get yourself to the back of the plane. Right now.”
“No way!” She crosses her arms over her chest. Her gaze nervously scans the crowd to see if anyone is witnessing this embarrassing display.
“Do it now, or I’ll punish you here. Right here. In the middle of this plane. With all eyes watching.”
She studies my face, calculating if I’m a man of my word. Apparently, what she sees there convinces her I’ll do as I say. Which I will. Slowly, her face turning a light rosy shade, she inches past me, careful not to touch me. I step back into the aisle, allowing her to pass. She juts her chin in the air, trying to maintain some shred of dignity, and marches bravely past the handful of seated brothers to the back of the plane.
I follow her, watching her round ass swish beneath the fabric of her loose cream-colored dress. An ass I’m going to take a lot of pleasure in punishing. She reaches the dead end, unsure of where to turn. I hold the door to the oversized, luxury lavatory for her. “In here.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Have you found me to be the joking type?”
She eyes me warily. Then eyes the room. “But in the bathroom? It’s so… humiliating.”
“It’s the only private place. Would you prefer—”
Before I can finish my statement, she eyes the seats full of brothers and disappears in the lavatory.
I enter behind her, locking the door. She’s facing me, her hands braced on the sink behind her. “You don’t have to do this, you know. I am sorry. I understand the importance of keeping the documents secure, now.”
I cross my arms over my chest and her gaze contemplates the size of my biceps. “That may be true, but you don’t understand the concept of obedience.”
“To be fair, you never said I couldn’t take them back.”
“Do you really want to be making this silly argument, right now?” My hand casually goes to the buckle of my belt.
Her eyes widen and she swallows hard, seeming to have trouble with the simple act of breathing. Or speaking, it turns out when she responds with a long string of stutters, “I… ah… um…”
“Let me guess. Never been spanked before?”
She bites her bottom lip and those wide doe-like eyes stare up at me, adorably terrified. It hardens my cock. I ignore the surge below my waist and grab her arm, turning her around so that she’s pressed against the sink, facing the mirror. I hold her there. Her fingertips dig into the sides of the counter, her lower stomach pressed into the edge. She’s frantically looking at me in the mirror and suddenly she’s full of fight, saying, “I’ll scream, I’ll call for the brothers, I’ll—”
“Honey. They all know who’s in charge. You think they’ll come to your rescue? They’d only come to watch.” That snaps her jaw shut. “Now, be a good girl and take your punishment like a lady or you’ll find we have other ways to punish naughty girls. Ways you don’t want to know about.”
There’s a hint of terror in her face and she swiftly becomes compliant. So she’s heard whispers from the other women about our sleek metal plugs. “Yes, sir.”
I’m surprised by her submissive words. Coming from her high, lilting voice, they cause more discomfort as my balls rise to the occasion, constricting with lust. Her dark hair falls over her face as she stares down at the sink. I tuck a strand behind her ear and say, “Look up.”
I want her eyes on the mirror. Watching her own reactions to the punishment as well as seeing me spank her. She calculates my intentions and in her cheeks is a lovely pink. She’s biting her lip and shifts her weight on her feet, squirming.
The tango that goes on between a dominant man and a submissive woman—there is nothing sexier in this world. And with a woman like Adrianna the only way to earn their full obedience, submission, the traits we need in order to keep them safe in this dangerous world, is by powerfully mastering their bodies.
I’m going to enjoy this.
My hand comes down hard on her full bottom. It lands with a satisfying slap, her flesh jiggling beneath my palm. Her first ever spank. It’s my privilege to administer this—
She releases a deep moan, right from the center of her core. I catch her gaze in the mirror and her lids are heavy, her brown eyes are filled with lust. I was not prepared for her response. She should be fighting, begging, crying for me to stop.
Not teetering on the verge of an orgasm.
My cock pulses, my trousers getting tight. Who knew hidden within this little bookworm was a wild cat waiting to be unleashed? Never mind her heated response—I’ve got to focus on the task at hand. Reddening her ass. Teaching her a lesson. Breaking through the pleasure to the real pain… the pain that will have her thinking twice before she chooses to disobey.
I strike again, much harder this time. My open palm lands on the center of her right cheek with a loud smack, her plush derriere jiggling on impact.
“Ow!” Her face flies over her shoulder. She’s looking at me in disbelief. “That hurt!”
“You’re getting the idea.” I bring my hand down again, same spot but on the left side. Even harder. She jumps, her hands going to protect her now stinging bottom. I easily trap both of her wrists in the loop of my hand. “Tsk, tsk, darling. No blocking.”
There’s a wild look in her eye as she finds my gaze in the mirror. “I… I… I’m sorry!”
It only took three spanks and she’s starting to get the message. But I’m afraid there’s too much at stake to not teach her a proper, thorough lesson. Best to start the trip off with a red ass and a few tears than have her later disobey me and risk her safety. I tighten my hold on her wrists, pinning them safely out of range on her lower back. I slap her ass, my palm moving upward, delivering a nice stingy smack to the underside of the curve of her right butt cheek. Then do the same on the left. I pick up a steady rhythm, right, left, right, left. Soon, my palm is warm and tingling.
Her eyes squeeze shut tightly, her head lolling back. A whine is rising in her throat. “Oooooooow!”
I can’t help but think what a naughty little girl she looks like, her hands trapped, dancing from tiptoe to tiptoe, her light dress swishing. Time to see that beautiful ass bared.
I lift that pretty little skirt, tucking it into the waistband, exposing white cotton panties. The sight makes my jeans further tighten. I spank that curvaceous naughty little bottom a few more times over her virginal panties. She’s squirming and whimpering. My fingers of my left hand wrap tighter around her wrist. My right hand goes to the waistband of her panties. She freezes. In the mirror, her wide eyes reflect back her horror.
Slowly, I peel those panties down. I can see the tan lines from her bikini bottoms she wears on the beach. Her beautiful creamy flesh is pink where I’ve spanked it.
She shudders, a low “Nooooo” escaping her lips.
Now I switch to hard, flat-palmed paddle-like spanks in the center of those bare gorgeous globes. Picking up my speed, keeping that rhythm. Right side, left side, right side, left side. Enjoying the satisfying sting on my palm. “This is nothing. Just my bare hand. Imagine if you were stretched out over my lap. Your panties down around your knees. My leather belt whipping your plugged ass.”
She gives a gasp, her eyes locking on mine. “No. No! I’ll be good. I promise. I’ve learned my lesson. Pleeeeease…”
She’s squirming and pleading and I’m just trying to decide if she’s had enough or if I’m going to take my belt to her when I hear a sound that makes every muscle in my body rigid.
I snap her panties into place. Flip her skirt down. Grab her shoulders. Turn her toward me. Lock gazes with her. “Stay here.”
She gives me a nod, her eyes wide from the sound of the blasts.
I give her one quick glance over my shoulder. There’s a pain in my chest at the thought of leaving her, but I’ve got to see what’s happened and I know she’ll be safer in here. “Don’t move, Adrianna.”
I push the lavatory door open without making a sound. I scan the cab—it’s empty. I creep to our seats and noiselessly open the overhead compartment. Pull my bag from within. Throw it across my chest. Open the leather flap and slide out my gun. Unlock the safety and cock it. There’s a sound behind me and I whip around, gun pointed and ready.
To find Adrianna’s face, blanched white, her hands over her mouth.
I lower the gun, rush to her side. “I told you to stay!”
“I… I’m sorry. I just… I couldn’t stay in there by myself.”
I wrap my arm around her. She’s shaking. There’s no way I’m leaving her now that I know I can’t trust she’ll stay out of harm’s way. “Shh. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Just stay close by my side.”
She nods and I pull her in closer. Her delicate scent reaches me. Roses.
I lead us to the rear exit of the plane. The door’s been unlatched and it’s partially open. Pushing Adrianna behind me, I ready my gun. Keeping my face hid as much as possible, I survey the scene outside the front of the craft.
The brothers from the plane are scattered. There’s men I don’t recognize, running around the cargo of the plane. More shots are fired. I can’t be sure but it looks like Rockland wasn’t the only one after that cargo we were taking to New York.
I only have one thought in my mind.
I’ve got to get her to safety.
I look to my right; the rear of the jet is quiet. There’s no one back here where we are, all the action being concentrated at the front of the plane. I pull her next to me, wrap my arm around her once more. “Listen to me.”
Her eyes find mine. They’re wide with fear. I reach out, smooth back her tousled hair. “Stay right by my side. If I tell you to run, I want you to run as fast as you can into the woods. Stay along the edge where you can see the shore. Run until you get back to Rockland’s house. Get inside and set the alarm. The damn thing’s a fortress. You’ll be fine until I can get to you.”
She stares at me, unable to respond. Her lower lip trembles.
I give her ass a sharp slap. “Adrianna. Answer me. Tell me you’ll run to the house if I tell you to run.”
The spank wakes her from her fearful stupor. She nods, saying, “Yes, Dante. I understand.”
“Good. Stay close.” I open the exit door just enough to get us through.
A hand shoots toward us. Grabbing at Adrianna. Her scream tears through me. Adrenaline rushes through my bloodstream. My body moves without thought, defenses coming to me as easily as breathing. My fingers circle around his wrist removing the vile hand from Adrianna. I watch his face twist in horror as I bend his hand backwards, the snapping sound of his bones breaking filling me with satisfaction. He falls to the floor in agony, clutching his mangled appendage. My right hand wraps around Adrianna’s face, covering her eyes. With my left, I pull the trigger, ending the life of the scum who dared to touch her.
She doesn’t make a sound.
I whisper into her ear, “You okay?”
She gives a trembling nod. Her eyes are wide, flashing with fear, but she remains calm.
The chaos continues, leaving us the perfect cover to escape. I’m torn—part of me wants to ambush the intruders, help my brothers. But all Bachman men know the safety of the women is number one. They will have to fight without me.
I’ve got precious cargo to protect.