When I arrive, he’s waiting by the private elevator in the parking deck. The last time Max Iver saw me, I was wearing heels. This time I show up in a t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and Keds. I didn’t think to ask what I should bring. It seemed presumptuous to bring an overnight bag, so I threw a few things into a backpack I’ve slung across one shoulder.
“It’s good to see you, Jill,” he says as the elevator door opens.
I don’t reply. What can I say?
We walk down the hallway in silence. This time when he opens the door to 1A, the view through the huge windows is a twinkling nighttime cityscape. He motions to the sofa again, and I sit as he pushes a button that sends opaque shades descending between the panes of glass, obscuring the view inside and out. We’re closed off from the world now. It’s just the two of us, alone.
“Why did you decide to come back?” he asks.
“Do you want the answer that will feed your ego, or the truth?”
“I have less of an ego than you may imagine. And while you’re in my charge, I’ll accept nothing less than the truth.”
In my charge. The words send a shiver through me.
I tell him I don’t have a choice, that my roommate is kicking me out for losing my job and that my mother won’t take me back.
“Consider that a blessing,” he says. “You don’t need to be around anyone with a drinking problem.” He grows quiet. “But now that you’re back, what do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did I tell you would happen?”
“I don’t know.”
He sits down beside me. “What did I tell you would happen?”
I could pretend that I don’t remember, but the truth is, I do. I just don’t want to say it.
“You said there’d be… consequences.”
“Tell me, Jill. What kind of consequences did you have when you lived with your mother? When you did something you weren’t supposed to do?”
“It depends.” I answer slowly, wondering where he’s going with this. “If it was a note from school, she’d yell and tell me I’d never amount to anything. If it was something really important to her, like forgetting to pick up her cigarettes, she’d slap me across the face.”
“So you were punished, but never disciplined.”
“What’s the difference?” I ask.
He smiles patiently. He’s crossed his long legs and is drumming the fingers of his huge hand on his knee in silence. Finally, he answers.
“Punishment is more about the punisher venting their anger. Discipline is about teaching. Did you have any friends who were disciplined?”
He’s luring me in again. And of course I did. I grew up in a small, conservative town.
“Yeah,” I said. “Some of my schoolmates were lucky. They had good parents.”
“And when they disappointed them?”
My throat goes dry. I don’t want to say what happened to them. But I don’t have to. He says it for me.
“Did they get a spanking?”
I feel my tongue dart out to nervously wet my lips. I drop my eyes. “Yeah,” I say. “That was kind of standard.”
“And how did their relationship with their parents, who disciplined them, differ from your punishing mother?”
“They…” I look up at him. His expression is relaxed, kindly. I feel encouraged to answer. “They still loved them. I guess because they felt like it was for their own good…”
“That’s exactly right,” he says. “And that’s exactly why I’m going to spank you.”
“Wait… what?” I say, and find myself laughing at the impossible suggestion. But then I realize he’s not laughing, and this isn’t a joke. My laughter fades into awkward silence when I look up at him. His expression is stern.
“I told you there would be consequences, Jill, and I’m going to do what any good daddy would do if his little girl put herself in danger. I’m going to take you across my lap, pull down your blue jeans, take down your panties, and spank your bare bottom until you’re sobbing and sorry.”
I open my mouth to reply, and at first nothing comes out. I find my voice as I rise. “No,” I say. “You’re not going to do that.”
He takes my arm. “I am,” he says. “And you’re going to put yourself over my knee and accept it.”
“Why? This is bullshit.”
“Because you agreed to come back, and if you try to leave I’m going to make your life incredibly difficult. You need this, Jill. You need this to get to the next step, which is forgiveness.”
“You’re threatening me?” I ask, images of the tape fresh in my mind.
“I’m helping you,” he says. “Now bend over my lap.”
I’ve never been spanked in my life. Spankings were something other kids got—kids whose well-intentioned parents chose moral instruction over drinking before noon. I know he can easily overpower me. I’m one hundred seventeen pounds; he’s at least two hundred forty, and still built like the linebacker he used to be. He’s not forcing me, at least not physically, but we both know he doesn’t have to. What he could do with those tapes is a lot worse than a few smacks on my backside.
It feels awkward, crawling over his lap. I look back and he glances at me. His face is still scary-stern, and I could easily be a naughty adolescent lying across her daddy’s lap for our size difference. I swallow nervously as my pelvis makes contact with his muscular thighs. My bottom is sticking up in the air, and there’s a fluttering in my lower belly, and then lower still as I feel the weight of his huge hand on my upturned buttocks. I gasp at the sensation.
“Why are you about to be spanked, Jill?”
This is ridiculous, I think, but my position is both awkward and vulnerable. Arguing is not an option, not with my bottom offered up for the first spanking of my life. My heart is hammering in my chest; my butt cheeks clenching under the weight of his hand. I’m scared, but also strangely curious. Surely he’s not going to really hurt me. Surely this will only be a symbolic punishment. Surely it won’t be as severe as he warned.
How wrong I am. How terribly wrong. I feel him shift, see his arm rise in my peripheral vision, only to descend a split second later in a burning blow that drives me forward.
“Fuck!” I cry out. “That hurts!” I immediately try to rise, but his muscular arm goes around my waist, pinning me against the ridged muscles of his midsection.
“Spankings are supposed to hurt,” he says, and the room resounds with the crack of his huge hand landing once more across the lower middle of my bottom. I cry out again. And again. And again. Each blow increases the burning sting that seems to burrow into my skin through the fabric of my blue jeans. Hot tears sting my eyes. I bite my lip, determined not to give in to the wail I feel building in my chest.
“Let me go, you sick motherfucker!” I say. “I’m done with this. I want to go home. Fuck you. Fuck the tape. I don’t care what you do!”
My angry words are ignored. I feel his hand go under me, feel him unsnap and unzip my jeans. This is certainly not symbolic. He is making good on his promise to bare my bottom, and I begin to thrash and kick. If I were hanging over his lap rather than having my upper body supported by the huge sofa, I could bite or scratch his leg. But I can’t turn back. All I can do is flail and curse and threaten to call the police, threaten to have him arrested for assault although we both know I’d be too humiliated to report this on the heels of all that’s happened.
And didn’t I bring this on myself? Draping myself over a stranger’s lap is one more bad decision in a string of bad decisions. But blame doesn’t lessen the panic and humiliation of having a strong hand grip the waistband of my jeans and drag them down. Max Iver does this deliberately. He’s been methodical in landing solid blows that have the entire lower portion of my bottom throbbing with fiery hurt. He’s methodical now as he arranges the top of my jeans just below my knees.
“Don’t! Don’t!” My plea is plaintive as he reaches now for the waistband of my panties. I’m mortified as I realize I grabbed the first ones I could find after my shower today—the ones with the Wonder Woman logo on them. Is it my imagination, or do I hear him chuckle a bit as he tugs them down to join my jeans?
“Jill, stop fighting,” he says, his booming voice rising above the sound of my cries. The sound of it freezes me in place. I’m whimpering.
“Don’t,” I say. “Don’t spank me on my…”
“Say it,” he says.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
“Please pull my pants up.”
“No.” He rests his hand on the bare skin of my buttocks and there’s a jolt of pain as he gives my injured skin a little squeeze. But there’s another jolt, more jarring, between my legs—a sweet stab of arousal deep in my pussy that sends a flutter through the core of my lower abdomen. I groan, in shame this time. I can feel myself getting wet, and I’m mortified. I squeeze my legs together as tightly as I can.
“Oh, no,” he says. “Spread your legs, Jill. I want them open for the last half of your spanking.”
“Pervert!” I cry, but he ignores the insult.
“Open your legs.”
Four blows land in rapid succession on my thighs, and I see stars.
“Open your legs.”
I thrash on his lap, ignoring the command, and am rewarded with four more blows. I know this will go on until I comply, so with a moan of abject embarrassment, I part my legs.
“Wider,” he says. “Wider.”
I begin to sob as I part my legs to the limits my restricting lowered jeans will allow. I can feel the cool air of the room on my pussy, which feels wet and warm.
“I’m going to give you ten on your bare ass,” he says. “And afterwards, we’re going to have a little conversation about your behavior, and forgiveness. And if you are the least bit defiant, you’ll find yourself back over my knee for more, understand?”
I nod, crying softly. I can feel the dam of tears about to break. I don’t think I can get through this without losing it, and I’m right.
The open-handed smacks on my already tender, now bare bottom are so much worse. He’s positioned me now so that I’m raised up by a knee he’s strategically placed between my thighs, keeping them open. The blows are searing. By the fifth one, my bottom feels ablaze with pain, and I know he can see my now soaking wet pussy between my bright red cheeks.
And just as I feared, I lose it, my sobs becoming infantile bawls. They are the cries of a helpless little girl, a bad little girl finally getting the spanking she had coming for so many years. They are also the cry of a woman who’s hit rock bottom, a woman who knows she can’t fix what’s wrong on her own.
When it’s over, I feel the blood rush to my head as I am raised to standing.
“This way,” he says, and I trip behind him, hobbled as I am by my jeans and panties, to a corner of the room. “Stand here. Keep your nose in this corner.”
Is he serious? Why do I even ask? Of course he is. He just spanked me like an errant child, so it really should be no shock that he’d double down on the experience by standing me in a corner.
In a small way, I’m grateful. The solitude gives me a chance to collect myself. My bottom is pulsing with heat that I can feel when I sneak my hand back to rub my punished nates. I don’t look back. I don’t know where Max Iver is. Is he watching me? God, what an image I must present, especially if my bottom looks half as red as it feels. I think of the video.
“Are you taping me?” I blurt out, suddenly worried.
“No,” he says. “Come here, Jill.”
I turn, and he is on the sofa, watching, but he’s not holding his phone. I reach for my pants so I can pull them up before walking over.
“Don’t,” he says. “That’s my job.”
I shuffle back over, cupping my hands over my pussy as I walk. When I reach the sofa, I can’t look at him.
“Turn around, honey,” he says, and when I comply I feel him carefully slide my panties back up, then my jeans. The pressure of them against my skin causes me to wince.
He takes my hand then and lowers me to the couch.
“It’ll hurt worse to sit tomorrow,” he says. “I’ll give you a pillow.” He pauses. “Look. I know I’m a stranger to you. I know this may feel confusing and weird. I know you may even think I’m a pervert. But I think over the next few days you’re going to get a clearer picture of me. And of yourself.” He shakes his head. “You made quite the impression on me in the few minutes I saw you at Brinkman Advertising last week. I thought you looked smart, and pretty. And I guess I made an impression on you since you showed up at Serrano’s on Saturday night and recognized me through your drunken fog.”
“Do I even want to know what I said? I only remember telling you that you were hot.” I sniffle pitifully.
“You were definitely turning on the charm, but I laughed it off by pretending to know you, by telling my friends we knew each other and that you were quite the joker. Then I took off with you under the guise of catching up…”
“…and you took me to the hotel,” I finish for him.
“Yes. I took you to the hotel. I’ve never seen someone so drunk, or so lost. All I could think of was protecting you, of getting you somewhere safe. And I wanted to know why you’d done this to yourself.”
“So you interviewed me.”
“That was all,” he says. “I didn’t touch you.”
“You violated me just the same,” I say tearfully. “You took something from me. You took my… my thoughts… my secrets… can’t you see that?”
“Yes.” His admission surprises me. “But are you going to sit here and tell me a part of you wasn’t looking for somewhere safe to put them?”
I think of the night Becky pulled me from a bar after I tried to crawl onto a stranger’s lap. I have only a vague recollection of the event, but I remember more of how it felt, that longing to be held, to be protected from myself as I was losing control.
“Maybe,” I acknowledge. “But if you wanted to help me, why did you get me fired?”
He shakes his head. “That was unintentional. I came in there wanting to like that presentation. I could tell you had no recollection of what happened, and I wanted to part giving you something positive. But business is business. The ad was good, Jill. If you’d not lost your temper, I’d have told you so. It just wasn’t good for my company.” He pauses. “And it told me something about you. The imagery told me that your need for a daddy, that’s not just something you feel when you’re drunk. It’s always below the surface. That ad? You targeted that at yourself.”
I stand, crossing my arms, and turn away. “So you’re a psychologist now?” Even as I ask the question, I recognize the truth in what he says. How could I have not seen it?
I turn back to him and he stands and walks over. “As long as you keep ignoring this unmet need, you’re going to try and drown it in drink. And one of these nights, it could lead to your being raped or murdered. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to take care of you, Jill. I’m going to give you the guidance and correction and care you’ve been missing all these years. And you’re going to let me.”
There’s a ferocity to his words, a commitment I don’t feel like I deserve. Warmth washes over me. I feel the lure of what he’s offering. Protection. Safety. He’s not asking me if I want it. He’s taking it out of my hands. The independent woman in me should be offended, even outraged. But the flutter I felt over his knee has returned. I’m responding to what he’s saying not just emotionally, but physically.
“And now we come to the part where you ask for forgiveness,” he says.
“I already told you I was sorry, Mr. Iver,” I say.
“Call me Max,” he replies. “And this isn’t about me.” He takes my hand and leads me to a table against the wall. There’s a mirror over it and I’m facing myself. My blue eyes are puffy and red-rimmed. Tear tracks have dried on my flushed cheekbones. I’m staring at a penitent.
“You’re going to ask her forgiveness,” he says. “For every bit of blame and every negative thing you’ve ever told yourself about Jill Stafford, every lie you fed her that made her rush to the bottle. You’re going to ask her forgiveness, and put the blame where it belongs, honey, and that’s on the parents who let you down. Especially the son-of-a-bitch who shook you off his leg when you were four years old.”
I’m crying again, but this time my tears are a release as I look at myself with fresh eyes.
“It’s not her fault,” Max urges. He’s behind me, his hands on my shoulders. “Go on. Tell her.”
“It’s not your… my… It’s not my fault,” I say.
“Your parents were fucked up, baby. They wouldn’t take responsibility, so they blamed you for their failings. You understand?”
I nod. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” I begin to sob, feeling the pain I’ve bottled up seep out of me like a toxin. “I was just a little girl. Who the fuck does that to a little girl? I just wanted to be loved and tucked in. I just wanted someone to teach me right from wrong, to… kiss my boo-boos…” I stop, gasping heavily between my sobs. Max is supporting me from behind, leaning down to steady me. “All I ever wanted was to be loved.”
“That’s it,” he says. “Let it out…”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m sorry I took all the blame. I’m sorry that I’ve spent nineteen years beating myself up since the day my dad walked out. I’m sorry that I never recognized that someone made me this way. I’m sorry that I wrecked every job, that I lost my best friend, because I tried to mask my pain. I’m sorry I brought myself so close to being a lush like my mother.”
“Forgive yourself now,” he says.
But I can’t. I open my mouth, but now that I’ve listened to the list of self-harm, I feel as unworthy as my parents for abusing my inner child, for beating her up.
“Do it,” he says, and I look into the mirror and see want etched on my face, a desire to be unburdened of this load.
“I forgive you,” I say. “I forgive myself.”
“Come here.” Max turns me to him, and moving into his embrace feels natural. He doesn’t say anything, and when the tears start this time, he pulls me closer so that my face is buried against the softness of his cashmere sweater. His chest underneath the sweater is hard and warm, the arms around me hard and strong.
“Does that feel better?” he asks, when I’ve sobbed myself past tears into gasping little hitches of breath. The circle of his arms opens, and he gently pushes me back so he can look at me. He produces another handkerchief from his pocket, mops my face with it, and then holds it over my nose and directs me to blow.
I nod, because it does.
He picks me up then, cradling me in his arms, and walks through his penthouse apartment to another room. “Lights, thirty percent,” he says, and a soft glow fills a beautiful bedroom with soothing pastel walls and a white bed with the softest duvet imaginable. Max lays me down and wordlessly undoes first one shoe, and then another.
Then he lifts me to sitting, which hurts, and pulls back the cover. I lie down, cocooned in warmth so comforting that I almost forget the soreness from the spanking. The vortex of emotions he’s put me through has left me exhausted, and even though I’m not in my pajamas I find myself drifting into sleep almost instantly. My last thought before slumber overtakes me is that I’ve never felt so safe in my life.
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