The rest of the trip, she brooded over her failure to see her sister. More and more it seemed to her that it was all Jarod’s fault. When he turned the carriage down the lane to his parents’ house, it lit the fuse that had been sputtering for quite a while. “Where are you going? Why don’t you take me home?”
“Where do you mean? To your house?”
“Yes. Why not?” Addie demanded.
Jarod shook his head. “We’ve talked about this before. Too many sad memories for you there. We’re getting a fresh start.”
“But I don’t want to stay with your parents. Not when we have a perfectly good house standing empty.”
“Fine. You want to go to your old house? That’s where we’ll go.” He took the next alley that led from the main street into the little lane where Addie’s family home nestled quietly among the trees and shrubs now winter barren. “That’ll probably suit me better anyway. I won’t have to explain to my mother what I’m about to do. She might fuss.”
Addie was instantly on the alert. “What do you mean?”
Jarod pulled the buggy up behind the modest structure and set the brake. “I’m going to paddle your fanny, of course. What do you think I’m going to do?”
“Now, Jarod—” She turned to jump down from the buggy, but he was there to catch her before her feet reached the ground.
He slung her over his shoulder without missing a beat. “I’ve been patient. We’ve only been married one day and I didn’t want to start off like this, but sweetheart, you’ve crossed the line once too often. I can’t overlook it this time.”
“Overlook what? What are you talking about?” Perhaps she knew, but she would never admit it, even to herself. He had such a tight hold on her legs that she couldn’t move them, but still she struggled to roll off his shoulder until he gave her bottom a hearty smack. Clutching at his shirt to steady herself, she hissed, “You took me out and spanked me the night of our engagement party! That’s not what I call overlooking!”
“I thought that would settle you down, and it might have, if things hadn’t gotten so crazy right afterward. That’s why I held off. I could see how a girl might misbehave, in light of the circumstances.” With his free hand, he opened the door and let them in. Kicking the door closed behind himself, he crossed the room and set her down on one of the straight chairs that sat in front of the cold fireplace. There was no other furniture in the room since the girls had sold anything of value soon after their parents had died. Jarod towered over her, glowering down with a look that teetered between sympathy and exasperation. His large hand circling her wrist was enough to help her resist the temptation to run. “But enough is enough. I’m going to spank you. Stand up so I can sit down.”
He tugged on her wrist and she reluctantly complied. “Jarod, really! This isn’t necessary,” she argued pertly. It was hard to keep up her rebellious attitude as he flipped her over his knee, but she did her best.
“Didn’t I let it slide when you barged into that jail and sassed every authority there?”
“They deserved it.”
“And I was patient when you threw a book at a lawman.”
“I threw a book at your best friend.” Addie tried to stand up, but he deftly flipped her over again and clamped one immovable arm over her waist, pinning her to his lap.
“But only because he was a lawman. Didn’t you know that if he had come to stop us, we would have had to give up on the plan? I told you it was his idea in the first place.”
“Well, he didn’t seem very happy about it. I thought he had changed his mind.”
Jarod obviously wasn’t paying any attention to her reasoning. His hands were busy keeping her in place and moving her clothes out of the way. “And if he had, I would have felt obliged to do things his way, but he stuck his neck out to help us and you tried to run him off! You wouldn’t listen when I told you to come down with him. But I let that go, too. With this afternoon’s stunt, however, you’ve gone too far. I see now that I can’t give you an inch, so I’ve decided I’d better give you the ruler.”
“No, Jarod, not that!” He had used it on her before, over her petticoats but it had still stung. Lying over his lap like this, with her bare bottom on display, she couldn’t stand the thought of that thick old ruler of her father’s striking her tender backside.
“Yes, that. But I can tell you’re not ready to fetch it like a good girl, so I’m going to start like this.” She didn’t have to wonder long what he meant. His hard palm smacked down on her bottom with all the fervor of a new and passionately indignant husband.
He had never spanked her on the bare before but she had been under no illusions how it would feel. She had known it would hurt even worse than his chastisement did when he left a petticoat down to protect her modesty. Now she was his and nothing shielded her secrets from his sight… or his ire. The heat and sting built twice as fast as they ever had. “Ouch!” she squealed, all her efforts to remain silent proving vain. She couldn’t hold back her cries as he peppered her bottom with swat after stinging swat.
As she shifted and squirmed, he spanked whatever portion of her rump was uppermost so that soon every inch of her bottom was in flames. “Just tell me when you’re ready. I’ll let you up so that you can fetch the ruler.”
“Me? Fetch the ruler? Never!” she shouted, but when he grasped her seared flesh in his warm hand and gave a gentle squeeze, she had time to gasp and reflect. This was even worse than she thought. It gave her the chance to realize how embarrassing the situation truly was. He expected her to submit to him so thoroughly that she would even participate in her own pain! She was his, thoroughly and completely, to do with as he would. The thought, far from making her feel small or enhancing her embarrassment, gave her a strange sensation of security. Still, she struggled against the surrender that bobbled on the edge of her imagination. If she gave in, what would be left?
“Your figure is so lovely,” he noted tenderly as he rubbed her bottom. Some of the sting abated as he went on. “You are so beautiful. There’s a lot better things I’d rather be doing with my time. If you weren’t so stubborn and foolish, we could get to them.”
“Then why not let me up?” she panted as her breath returned to normal.
He changed his hold, using his upper body to shift her forward on his lap and one hand to pull one buttock up and taut so that he could slap the tender crease just beneath it and down onto her upper thigh. He gave the same treatment to the other side while she howled. “Because what you did could have been dangerous! We don’t know what those people are capable of, and there you went, all by yourself to provoke them! Waltzing right into the coliseum like a gladiator without a sword or shield. And for what? No good purpose was served! We had a plan and you threw it out the window! All by yourself, never giving me another thought.”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” she wheezed. The discomfort of his new method of spanking was different, more painful and even more embarrassing than his normal chastisement. She could feel his complete control over her. He was showing her in no uncertain terms that he would do whatever he had to in order to keep her from doing things he felt were dangerous. He was usually so loving and considerate of her in every way. The shock of the change made it even more embarrassing. She just wanted it to be over, wanted him to go back to treating her like a princess. Suddenly she realized that she would do whatever it took to make that happen. No matter what, she would find the strength to comply.
He placed both his palms over her bottom as if to hold the heat in. “Are you really? Are you ready to fetch the ruler?”
She nodded, her tears making her not trust her voice. She couldn’t stand it if it wobbled or she let out a sob.
He applied another set of searing slaps to her bottom. “I need to hear an answer.”
“Yes, I am,” she sobbed, suddenly sure that whatever she sounded like, whatever weakness she might show, he would still love her, still take care of her, still cherish her.
“Are you sorry you did something dangerous?”
“Yes, I am. I won’t do it again!” she cried, this time unashamed of her tears.
“All right,” he said on a sigh. “Go fetch the ruler.”
Addie stood up, rubbing her backside vigorously. Upright and out of his reach, her composure began to return and along with it, some of her independence. “But you already spanked me. I’m sorry!”
“I know you are. After that spanking I just gave you, you should be.”
“And I won’t do it again.”
“I know you won’t. Not if you don’t want to be turned over my knee again. You’ll do your best to mind me from now on, right?”
“Yes, of course,” she agreed readily, relieved that he wasn’t going to make her go get the ruler.
“So start now. Do as I tell you. Go get the ruler.”
“Oh, Jarod!” Addie felt like crying again. Her feet would hardly move where she told them to as she dragged herself to the kitchen where the ruler was kept. She remembered the old days, when there had been a desk in the study. The ruler had lain in the top middle drawer, very handy for all kinds of uses. She had even thought that once or twice she saw a look of dread come over her mother’s face when she’d been told to bring the ruler to her father. At the time, she hadn’t known what it meant, but she did now.
Since they had sold most of the furniture, much of the desk’s contents had been scattered around the kitchen in old flour barrels and cracker tins. The ruler fit nicely beside the door, handy for when they were sewing or knitting and needed accurate measurements. As she took the ruler down from its nail, she remembered the first time Jarod had used it on her. They had been arguing in the kitchen and he had snatched it off the wall and applied several hard swats to her skirts. They had gotten her attention and increased her respect for him tenfold. Now here she was again. Hadn’t she learned her lesson? He wasn’t a man to be trifled with or, truth be told, would she want him to be.
She had always dreamed of finding a man strong enough to protect her and support her through life’s hard times. Well, she had found him all right, or he had found her, and here she was paying the price for having forgotten that Jarod was man enough to make her mind him… and give her cause to be proud to be his. But was he proud of her? Not today he wasn’t. But after he finished, it would all be over and he would never mention the incident again. He had proved that often enough. Best get it done, then. Gripping the ruler more firmly in her hand, she quickened her steps.
When she opened the door she found him facing away from her, looking out the window, but obviously he heard her. “I want you to take that ruler and go stand in the corner.”
“What? Why?” He had never made her stand in a corner before. It made her feel his authority even more keenly, but she had to protest. “Let’s just get this over with.”
“You need time to really think about what’s going to happen and why. Go on now, and hold that ruler in both hands. I want you to study it and think about what it’s going to feel like on your bare bottom.”
Addie got in position but held the ruler loosely while she looked, wishing she were anywhere else in the world.
“Addie, what did I say? Maybe you’re not as ready as I thought?” He came up behind her and, tucking her skirt into the neck of her shirtwaist, smacked her bare backside smartly.
“All right! All right! I’m looking! See?” Addie took the piece of wood in both hands and held it up in front of her eyes.
“That’s better. Now stand there and consider how much better off you’d be if you had just acted right in the first place.”
Addie waited, looking at the implement in her hands. She knew it would sting and hurt, but even worse was the thought that it really was her own fault she was in this predicament. Jarod had been more than patient. It was only because he cared so much about her that he was going through all this bother just to correct her and everything she was doing was only making it harder for him. She decided right then to quit fighting him and cooperate. After several minutes, he called her over.
“Come on over here. Give that to me, then bend over and grab your knees,” he instructed. When she had complied, he pushed her skirts up and out of the way again. “You’re already nice and red. You’ll remember this lesson tomorrow. Only five more, just to make sure.”
He placed the first swat in the middle of her backside. The shock of the pain raised her up on her toes as she gasped. The second swat was lower down, making her bend her knees as if to block his aim. “Straighten up. Back in position, sweetheart. There’s a good girl. Just three more.” He patted her back. She hoped he would rub a bit of the sting away, but instead he tapped the ruler on her backside until she complied.
The next two swats fell quickly, almost in the same location, high on her thighs. She couldn’t keep her hands from reaching back and rubbing fiercely as her breath shushed in and out.
“None of that! No rubbing. Do you want me to start all over?”
Addie whipped her hands back into position on her knees. “No, please! I couldn’t help it! It hurts so much!”
“Just one more. You’re such a good girl. Show me you can mind me. That’s the way.” One last time he brought the ruler down onto her bare flesh. She was sure her skin had to be deep red and would hurt far into the night, but she stayed still until he spoke again. “You can straighten up.”
He held her then, patting her back and helping her skirts fall back into place. That contact with the heavy woolen material intensified the heat, but she didn’t dare rub at the aching spots or hold her clothing away from her body. The sooner she began to act normally, the sooner her embarrassment would end.
Eventually, he stepped away and handed her the ruler. She looked at him doubtfully. “Do you want me to put it away?”
“No, I want you to bring it with us. We’re going back to my parents’ place.”
About to protest, she looked up at him, but her arguments died on her lips. The last thing she wanted was to earn any more of his correction. She had nothing new to add. He had listened to her over and over again, but decided as he thought best. She would have to trust his judgment.
Once he had her settled in the buggy, he asked, “Is there anything else you want to bring with us for tonight? I’ll go back and get it for you if you can tell me where it is.”
“I would like my other knitting bag,” she said quietly. “It’s in my room beside my bed. I could go get it myself.”
“No, you stay right here. I’ll get it.” When he returned with it, instead of handing it to her, he placed it under the seat and released the brake lever. When she reached for it, he put one hand on her arm. “No, sweetheart. You’re going to carry that ruler right there in your lap, just like that all the way into the house.”
“But Jarod!” she pleaded. “It’s too embarrassing. Everyone will know what you just did to me!”
“A man spanking his wife is nothing unusual, Addie. But if you don’t act all sheepish and sulky, no one will see that ruler and think immediately of punishment. In fact, what people think shouldn’t matter, but if it does, all you have to do is act like nothing is wrong and… well, nothing will be wrong. Do you see? It’s all in your attitude. If you sulk and pout, I’ll know we need to use the ruler again later tonight.”
“No, no! I won’t pout. I promise!” And Addie realized she meant it. He was right. If she acted like everything was fine between them, then that’s what everyone would believe. And indeed things were fine between them. As it always did after a punishment, Addie’s love for Jarod blossomed into a heat that surprised her with strange stirrings of longing. For the first time, she finally had some clue as to what they meant.
“There’s my girl. See? Nothing to worry about. I won’t mention it again if you don’t give me cause to, agreed?”
“Agreed.” Suddenly, Addie couldn’t wait to get home.
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