He deliberately kept his expression stern and unyielding as Merewyn scrambled to her feet and followed him to the door of the dwelling. Her meek compliance was encouraging. Mathios picked up his cloak from the chair where he had left it and slung it around his shoulders. He picked up another, Vikarr’s, and tossed it to the girl.
“It is chilly outside. You will need that. And some shoes.”
She looked down at her feet, bare but for a pair of well-worn stockings. She rushed back to the pallet and retrieved her footwear from beside it then returned to present herself before him.
So far, so good.
“Where are we going?”
Ah, questions at last. “The barn.”
“Oh. But, it is in ruins. Why…?”
“Come.” He was not about to debate his plans with her. Mathios strode through the door without a backward glance, and started to march around the cottage to where the barn stood at the rear. The girl was correct of course, the barn had been derelict when they arrived. But no longer. He would not have gone to the trouble and expense of purchasing a cow had he nowhere to safely house the beast. In the weeks since he and his men had arrived here they had made substantial repairs to the cottage and outbuildings. The barn now sported a roof that was intact and reasonably weatherproof, stalls for livestock, as well as space for storing the grain they had acquired. The repairs were not complete, but the building would suit his purpose now.
Mathios reached the door and pulled it open. Merewyn trotted behind him, her expression one of amazement.
“It is mended.”
“Yes, mostly. Inside, please.” He gestured for her to pass him.
Inside, the roof of the barn was supported by three central poles arranged at equal intervals down its length. It was divided into two halves. The portion closest to the outer door now housed the cow who regarded them solemnly as she chewed on her straw. The goat skipped about in the pen alongside. Her shrill bleating grated on Mathios’ ears. He was not fond of goats but had agreed to the purchase as he was assured the milk would be good for Connell. Mathios strode past both animals and expected Merewyn to follow.
She did not disappoint him.
The far end of the barn offered storage. A half dozen or so bundles of hay were stacked at one end along with a few sacks of grain. The rest of the space was open. A bucket stood by the pole in the middle, just as he had instructed.
Mathios turned to the bewildered girl. “You will remove your clothes.”
“What?” She took a step back, away from him. “No, I will not. Surely—”
He injected a steeliness into his tone and fixed her with a look that would quell the most hardened of his warriors. “You will do as I say. I require you to be naked for this.”
“We can accomplish what must be done with just you and me present but if need be I can invite others of my men to lend their aid. Do you require my men to join us in here and strip you in readiness for your switching, or will you do it yourself?”
She gaped at him, her pretty mouth forming a startled moue as she weighed her options.
“Well, Merewyn, shall I summon Hakon or Ormarr to assist us?”
She shook her head and started to remove the cloak.
Satisfied that his instructions were to be carried out, Mathios strode past Merewyn intending to check the contents of the pail. He had asked Olav to ensure that a bundle of fine switches be prepared in his absence, all stripped smooth to make sure no sharp twigs remained. Once ready they were to be left in a bucket of water to ensure they remained fresh and supple. No sooner had he moved from his position between her and the door than Merewyn seized her chance. The wench turned on her heel and she fled.
Fuck! He cursed under his breath and went after her.
Of course, her ill-fated efforts gained her nothing. Mathios reached her in a few strides. He caught her about the waist and carried her the rest of the way to the door, then he pressed her against the heavy oaken portal as she wriggled and fought to escape him. Mathios allowed her to resist him for a few moments, enjoying the feel of her slim body squirming against his, but they had work to do. Using one hand, he caught her wrists and pinned them above her head. He turned her around so that she faced him, only to have her attempt to bring her knee up and deliver what would have been a singularly painful blow. He tightened his grip on her wrists and leaned in close.
Still she struggled, her panic mounting. This had to stop.
He leaned in so his mouth was close to her ear, then he kept his voice low and even when he spoke to her. “Merewyn, calm down. You do yourself no good by fighting me.”
“I cannot… You… you…”
“Hush, and listen to me.”
“Let me go. Please, I am sorry, I will never—”
“Merewyn, look at me. And listen.” His tone was implacable but not harsh. Mathios used his free hand to cup her chin and force her gaze up to meet his. “There, that is better, Now, are you ready to hear what I have to say?”
“I cannot…” Her expression was one of pure terror.
Mathios decided a fresh tack was required. He released her wrists and gathered her close in his arms. He stroked large, slow circles on her back and held her against his chest until she stopped shaking. Only then did he attempt to reason with her again.
“You can do this. You have earned this switching, and you will accept it. You are not a child, you are a woman grown and I know you can conquer your fear and get through this. It will soon be over.”
“But, I have never…”
He smiled at her. “Now that surprises me, but there must be a first time for everything. Let us hope you do not give me cause to repeat this lesson then.”
“I will not, I swear. There is no need to… to…”
“Ah, but there is. You need to understand the consequences of disobedience and I am confident that a smarting bottom will prove most instructive in that regard. You will remember what I am about to do to you, and perhaps be deterred from contemplating similar foolishness in the future.”
She was weeping in earnest now, though her frantic struggles of earlier were reduced to occasional shudders. Sensing she had ceased to fight him, he stepped back to lay his hands on her slim shoulders. She looked up and met his gaze.
“This will hurt. It is intended to. What you did was dangerous, both for us and for you. It must not happen again, or anything remotely similar and I intend to punish you now to ensure that is the case. But once we have finished here, it is done with. This unpleasantness will be in the past, we need not speak of it again.”
“But, you will hurt me…”
“Yes. I will. Though I will not harm you. I have never sought to do you harm and that has not changed, even now.”
Her brow furrowed, she appeared perplexed by his promises. “How will I not be harmed? You said you would take a switch to me.”
He grinned. “I suspect it will require more than one switch to properly make my point, but I will take care not to injure you. Nor will I force you to endure more than you can bear. Your punishment will end, when I am satisfied you are truly contrite and have learnt your lesson. You will walk away from it.”
“You do not mean to kill me?” Her beautiful brown eyes were wide, her expression hopeful now, though still perhaps a little disbelieving.
He smiled, and on impulse leaned down to kiss her forehead. “No, I do not. I have never said that I intended that.”
“I thought… I thought…”
“You were wrong. So, now that we are clear what is to happen here, are you ready? Can we continue? The sooner you submit to this, the sooner we can return to the cottage and enjoy our evening meal.”
“Do you swear not to beat me to death?”
He smiled again. “Yes, I swear it.”
“Then, I will try.”
He nodded his approval. “You will have marks, but they will fade. There will be no scars, no blood.” He paused, then, “Do you trust me, Merewyn?”
She blinked, appeared to be considering his question. At last she managed to reply. “I want to trust you, Viking.”
“Then I shall settle for that.” He stepped away, removing his hands from her shoulders. “You were about to remove your clothing, I believe.”
He took her hand and led her back to the far end of the barn. She allowed him to return her to the spot where she had stood before her ill-judged attempt to flee, her gaze apprehensive but no longer panicking. Mathios leaned against the central pole, his arms folded as he watched her.
“Please do not keep me waiting, girl.”
“N-no… I am sorry.”
Her stockings and threadbare shoes went first, then the cloak. Her fingers shook as she fumbled with the fastenings on her woollen tunic and apron but soon they also lay in a heap on the floor. The loose cotton undershirt was the last garment to be removed. She stood before him, naked and shivering.
He took his time in perusing the vision of loveliness now revealed. He had seen her body before, of course, but on those occasions she was either unconscious, or partially concealed in her bath. His view now was unrestricted and he meant to enjoy it. Her nipples were stiff and hard, no doubt due to the chilly temperature in the barn. They reminded him of deep pink berries and tipped her pert little breasts beautifully. He imagined closing his lips around one of those sweet buds and sucking. Hard. Would she squeal, he wondered? Or maybe she would arch her back and beg for more.
Her body was slender, perhaps too much so, but not lacking in curves where it mattered. Her hips flared, her waist dipped seductively, her stomach was softly rounded. He ached to explore the feminine contours, to acquaint himself with every slope and swell, but now was not the time. Even so, he savoured this opportunity to scrutinise his captive Celt and reaffirmed his previous conclusion. She was truly perfect. He wanted to lay his hands on her, to take his time in caressing and arousing her, to taste and feel and sample every lush curve, every delicious hollow, but he must wait. He had more pressing business to attend to.
He swung the cloak from his own shoulders and tossed it on top of the heap of her clothing then stepped away from the post. “You will come over here and place your hands on the pole. I require you to lean forward and bend over, to lift your bottom up high for me.”
She hissed in a breath and remained rooted to the spot.
“Merewyn, you will obey. At once.” He gestured toward the post. “Move.”
She could not have shifted more slowly had her feet been made of lead, but eventually she stood before the post. Tentatively she reached out and rested her palms on it.
“Lean forward,” he commanded. “You know what is required.”
She made what could at best be described as a token effort. Merewyn bent at the waist but just sufficient to rest her forehead on the pole. She gripped the timber hard with her hands, her knuckles whitening under the strain.
“You can do better than that, girl. My offer to summon Ormarr and Hakon to lend their assistance remains open.”
She emitted a little sob as she leaned properly forward, her rounded buttocks now raised and presented for his attention. Still Mathios was not satisfied. He gently laid his hand between her shoulder blades and pressed her upper body until she sank lower.
“Hold on to the post, hug it if you wish, and spread your legs for balance.” He stood back in order to properly assess her position. “Yes, that will do. I have no wish to tie you to the post as that would be less comfortable for you, but I will do so if need be. I require you to remain still, in that exact position, until I tell you that you may move. Is that quite clear?”
“Y-yes, yes, I understand.”
“Then you may tell me when you are ready for me to start.”
She closed her eyes and flattened her lips against her teeth. Mathios selected a switch from the bucket where several had been prepared and left to soak for his use. He examined the slender branch and was satisfied it would meet his requirements admirably. Olav had done well. He shook the droplets of water from the smooth branch and cast an appreciative glance over Merewyn’s upturned, clenching buttocks as he did so. His little Celt really did have the most delightful arse, made for spanking.
“Merewyn? Are you ready?”
She managed a swift nod and tightened her death-like grip on the post.
The first stroke was relatively light, but still she let out a sharp hiss and went up on her toes. He had known she would. Mathios allowed her a few seconds to regather her senses before he laid the next stripe across her other cheek. Two pretty, crimson streaks now adorned her creamy flesh.
The next half dozen or so were delivered in rapid succession. Merewyn jerked and cried out with each one, but she held her position perfectly. He was proud of her resilience. Now it was time to become serious.
Mathios applied more weight as he continued to strike her perfect, peachy arse with the switch. The branch became frayed so he discarded it and selected a fresh one. Merewyn groaned, she was sobbing now, her cries more shrill as each spank fell. Red wheals crisscrossed her buttocks and he paused to lay his palm over them. The flesh was already starting to swell, he felt the heat rising from her punished skin. He curled his fingers to press harder and she cried out.
“Please, do not…”
“I will touch you as I see fit during your punishment. Your body is mine, to do with as I please.”
There was no further protest from Merewyn. He caressed her bottom, his touch gentle. He continued until she stopped wriggling and remained motionless under his hand. It did not escape his notice either that her pretty cunny glistened with her juices. He had no doubt at all that he was hurting her, but her arousal was undeniable. Such were the vagaries of feminine sensuality, and Mathios for one had no complaints.
He resumed his stance to continue the switching. Merewyn stiffened but did not shift.
The next few spanks were hard and sharp. She screamed with each one and panted between the strokes. Her pussy swelled, her juices pooled and dampened her inner thighs, her bottom glowed a beautiful bright red. Mathios required yet another fresh switch in order to continue.
By the time he had ruined the fourth switch Merewyn’s cries had become hoarse, her voice cracking under the strain. She no longer clenched her bottom in anticipation of each stroke. She had ceased to fight the agony of her punishment. Rather she relaxed, allowed the pain to flow through her body and surrendered fully to his discipline.
It was enough. Mathios dropped the switch and did not reach for a replacement.
“We are done here. You may stand up.”
Slowly, painfully, Merewyn straightened though she still clung to the post like a long-lost lover. She wept, her thin shoulders jerking with her sobs. Her bottom and upper thighs were a glorious tapestry of reds, purples, pinks, though the skin was not broken. He had taken care, as he had promised. The wheals were livid and angry-looking in the immediate aftermath of her punishment though Mathios knew the worst of the sting would soon dissipate. He turned and strode away.
“Do not leave me. Please… please stay.”
Her voice was ragged, her plea one from the heart. Mathios grabbed his cloak from the ground and was back at her side in two strides. He draped the cloak over her shoulders.
“I am going nowhere. I just went to get you this. You are cold…”
“No, I am not, I…” Despite her words she clasped the cloak around her and started to sink to her knees. Mathios caught her and swung her into his arms. He carried her to where the hay was stacked at the end of the barn and laid down on it, still holding Merewyn. She settled against his chest and clung to him, her fingers clutching the front of his tunic. “I thought you were going to leave me here. I did not want to be alone.”
“No,” he murmured. “I would not do that. I have punished you and you took it well. Now we are done, and I will take care of you.”
“I am sorry. So sorry…”
“You do not. I need to explain…”
“I accept your apology, for the mandrake.”
“It is not that. Or, not only that…”
“Oh? What then?”
“I disappointed you. I did. Did I not?”
“Yes… perhaps.” He was guarded now, reluctant to examine his own peculiar discomfort at this admission but he would not lie to her.
“I wish I had not done that. I… I want you to like me.”
“I do like you.” He could be honest about that, at least.
“How can you? After what I did. After… that.” She gestured toward the now abandoned post, the tattered branches strewn at its base, the bucket that still contained several fresh switches.
“It is over now, I said that. And I do like you. I am proud of you.”
“Proud?” She raised her ravaged face to peer up at him. “Why? What have I done to make you proud of me?”
He shrugged. “There are many reasons. I am proud of the way you accepted your punishment just now. You were scared, I know, but you managed to find courage and fortitude. I am proud of the way you have survived here, alone, taking care of your baby. Even when you were ill, you went out to seek food for him, did you not?”
“It has been hard, but you did not weaken. You managed to survive.”
“I do weaken. Sometimes.”
“But even so you must have found the strength to continue, since here you are.”
“I suppose that is true…” She turned to him and snuggled closer.
Mathios held her, understanding and relishing the intimacy that bloomed between them. A spanking, especially on the bare, was a deeply personal experience for both participants, quite visceral really. It was usual afterwards for the recipient to cling to her master, to express contrition, to seek forgiveness. And it was his responsibility to provide what she sought.
“Mathios? Is that your given name?”
“May I call you by it? Your men do not.”
“To them I am Jarl. It means leader in our tongue. You may use that, or my name if you wish.”
“I will use your name. Thank you.” She was silent for a few moments, then, “Your men, they are angry with me also.”
“They have cause to be, but they will accept your apology if it is honestly given. They know that you have paid for your mistake.” He chuckled. “They will have heard you, you may be certain of that.”
She groaned. “How can I say I am sorry? No one but you understands my language.”
“I will help you. It will be all right.”
He kissed her hair. “You are most welcome, little Celt. Are you ready to go back now?”
She did not respond.
He tipped up her chin with his fingers. “Merewyn?”
“Do we have to return at once?”
“You do not wish to leave here? You are sore and it hurts to move, perhaps?”
“No. At least, not just that. I feel… unsettled.”
“Unsettled?” He waited for her to expand on her statement.
“I feel that there remains something unfinished between us. I am tense, my stomach churns. I feel… I feel…”
“Remember the bathtub?” he prompted. “Is it like that?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “But that would be perverse. I cannot seek pleasure, not when… when… You brought me here to punish me, not to—”
“You have been punished,” he reminded her. “If you now desire to be pleasured you have only to request it.”
“I cannot.” She breathed the words, barely audible. “It would be wrong. You are a stranger, not my husband, nor even my betrothed.”
“I am a man who can make you feel good, if you but ask me.”
She fell silent, the only sound her soft breathing against his tunic. Mathios knew well the value of patience. So he waited. And was rewarded.
“Please make me feel good again.”
What on earth had possessed her? Merewyn could barely comprehend what she had done. The instant the words were out she knew she should recall them, swallow them again as though she had not spoken. But she did not.
Instead she allowed this fierce Viking chief to tilt her face up to meet his kiss.
Mathios’ tongue pressed against the seam of her lips and Merewyn opened her mouth. His tongue speared inside to tangle with hers. They performed a strange and intimate dance, one of tasting and caressing and sucking until she was breathless, the air catching in her throat. At last he lifted his head to break the kiss, and peeled the cloak away from her shoulders.
Before, she had been mortified by the weight of his scrutiny. Now, Merewyn relished it. She lacked experience but was convinced she discerned approval in his heated cerulean gaze as he bared her breasts again.
“So pretty…” he murmured before lowering his head to take her engorged nipple between his lips. He squeezed it, then scraped his teeth against the turgid bud. She writhed in his arms, loving the sensations he evoked yet she was vulnerable too. He could hurt her. He had said he would not do her harm, but he so easily could. He was a Viking, and they were dangerous.
“Please…” She uttered the word, unsure what came next. Did she want him to stop or continue? Her body took the decision for her. She arched her back and thrust her breast up against his mouth.
Mathios increased the pressure. He sucked her sensitive tip at the same time as he pinched the other between his thumb and forefinger. It hurt, and it felt so good she could have wept with the delight of it. Merewyn’s senses were in chaos, her responses a bewildering fusion of need and fear.
Impelled to touch him, she reached for Mathios. She clung to his shoulder, tunnelled her fingers through his hair. It was silky, softer than she had imagined. She closed her eyes and allowed her senses to reach out, to accept whatever he offered.
Mathios released her nipple and Merewyn experienced a sharp pang of disappointment. She opened her mouth to plead with him, to beg him to please not stop, to never stop, but the words died in her throat when he traced a path of kisses down her stomach. He paused at her belly to lick and to press open-mouth kisses against her flesh. It felt sublime. She tingled between her thighs. He moved on, further, deeper, edging toward that place he had touched before. It was her most secret place, the spot where pleasure lurked, where desire and arousal might be unleashed. He knew of it, had found it with ease as though he knew her intimately, knew all her private yearnings.
Mathios shifted from under her and Merewyn winced as her punished bottom pressed against the hay. The discomfort was short-lived, or irrelevant. Mathios opened the cloak fully and spread it out beneath her, He placed his hands on her knees and gently pushed them outward, spreading her thighs. Merewyn gazed up at him. She knew what he would do, how he would touch her now and she wanted it more than she could recall wanting anything before. She needed his touch more than she needed her next breath.
He smiled, then lowered his gaze to peruse that most private place. She was embarrassed, the flush crept up her face from her chest. She felt the mortifying heat of it, but could not, would not stop now.
She wanted him. Wanted this.
He slid his fingers through her slick folds, then smiled at her. “So wet, my Celt. I think you like to be spanked.”
She shook her head. Surely such a notion was impossible.
“It hurts, I know, but after…” He stroked her quivering cunny.
She cried out in sheer delight, thrust her hips up toward his questing hand. He slid one long finger inside her and she moaned in surprised pleasure. This was a new sensation, one she had not experienced before in the secluded privacy of her pallet. He drove his finger in and out, slow at first, then harder, faster. Merewyn revelled in the unfamiliar sensation, her inner muscles contracting around him.
“So tight,” he murmured, “and so hot.”
“Please, that feels so good. I want… I want…” She had no idea what she might want but surely this Viking did. His mastery of her senses had been unerring thus far.
“I know,” he replied. “Soon. But first…”
He shoved both hands under her bottom to cup each tender cheek. She was sore, it hurt. She cried out but he just chuckled. “A reminder of who is master here. Do you not agree, little Celt?”
“Yes,” she breathed, loving the raw sensuality of the moment. “Yes, please.”
He lifted her bottom from the hay and used his thumbs to part her inner lips. Then, as she watched in utter incredulity, he lowered his mouth to her cunny and he started to lick.
Oh, sweet Jesus and all the saints! Her breath left her body in a whoosh. Merewyn gasped, fighting for air. She was flying, weightless. He drove his tongue into that place where his finger had been just moments before, swirled it around as she moaned in delight. The pad of his thumb found her pleasure bud and stroked there, and Merewyn wondered if she might expire from the sheer joy of it. Was it too much for her heart to bear? Surely no one, no one ever before, had felt as she did now. Her senses reeled, her body was no longer hers.
This was beyond heavenly. This was paradise on earth.
The climax rushed at her, spiralling from deep within her core. Her inner muscles clenched and spasmed, she could see the stars although she was sure her eyes were closed and she let out a shriek of surprised joy. Mathios continued to stroke and lick and drive his tongue in and out of her cunny, drawing the sensation out, forcing her to experience the tumultuous release again and again until she was fully spent.
At last it was over. She lay limp, draped over the cloak like a damp rag.
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