The bath had not been a pleasant experience. First the two nurses had dumped bucket after bucket of cold water over Avin’s head as she stood on an iron grate. She could hear the water hit the flagstones below as it slid off her pale body.
Next came the scrubbing. She knew the rough brushes they used were from the stables. She knew this was intentional. Avin could see the women exchanging satisfied grins as they scrubbed her delicate skin until it was pink and pained.
Next came her hair. The long blond tresses fell to the middle of her bottom, and Avin had to restrain herself from pleading when the nurses debated chopping it off. When they reluctantly decided that doing so might anger their king, they sat on either side of Avin and yanked the mats out of her tangled locks.
After that, a tub was brought in and Avin was allowed to soak. She was even given a real cake of soap—not because she deserved it, one nurse pointed out, but because she was to be presented to the king, and it would not do to have her smell like a garbage heap. They’d laughed at this.
Despite the warmth outside, the circular tower room was cold, so a fire was built. Avin was wrapped in a woolen blanket as her hair dried. The nurses were to the side of the room, listening as they fussed over which gown to select. Nothing too fancy; she was no longer queen. Nothing high-necked. Her collar must be visible at all times. No undergarments. Xander had been specific. They giggled over this, too. He’d made it clear that should he want to beat her bottom, nothing should be in the way.
Avin turned her eyes from the spiteful women to study the room she would now call home. Her furnishings were Spartan. There was a simple feather bed with a small table beside it, a plain oak wardrobe, and a stand with a wash basin and a privy.
No tapestries adorned the stone walls of her new quarters. No rugs warmed the stone floor. The stool she perched on was the only seating.
As a child, Avin had known this room at the top of the tower existed, but never felt the desire to visit the chamber that served as removed lodging for disgraced royals, highborn prisoners, or the occasional eccentric cleric who preferred solitude. When she was six, a childhood nurse had told her of a maid who’d flung herself from the room’s single window after being impregnated and abandoned by a knight of the realm. Two years later, Avin had been playing in the courtyard when she’d glanced up at the tower to see what she thought was a sad, pale face staring down from the window. The specter had disappeared, and ever since she’d been afraid of the room, imagining it as dark and frightening and full of sadness.
Now the only sadness she felt was her own. She looked to the window. What would it take to jump, she wondered, then realized she could not, even if she wanted to; the window was newly barred, no doubt in expectation of her arrival.
“We’ve chosen this dress.” One of the nurses was walking over, holding a drab gown of simple cut and coarse fabric. The other tugged Avin’s arm and she stood as they forced the garment over her head and stepped back.
Avin stood silently as they stared, and felt a small tingle of victory at the disappointment in their expressions, for she knew what they were thinking: even in this simple gown, she still looked regal. She was a royal born, and nothing they did could diminish it.
The nurses locked the door behind them when they finally left, and for the first time since Avin could remember, she was alone without the noise of urgent news, disloyal advice, and voices that mocked and threatened. Now there was only the crackle of the fire in the grate and the sound of water dripping from the parapet.
She moved her slim fingers to the crown now collaring her neck, and she remembered the day it had been put there. She’d been nearly as numb then as she’d been when it was locked around her neck this very day, and had felt no less trapped by it, no less betrayed.
She’d been crowned on what should have been the day of her arrival at Ravenscroft on the arm of her new husband, Lord Xander Gawen. Their marriage was to have been a show of unity binding two houses and two former rivals—King Leon Grey and Lord Reginald.
But on the eve of her wedding, she’d learned the horrible truth of why her father had pushed her toward marriage with the intense young man she’d first feared, but had grown to love. Avin had been bait in a plan to lull House Gawen into a union King Leon never intended to take place.
Wine had flowed freely at the festivities the night before the wedding, and the complacency of King Leon’s guests—which had included Ravenscroft military leaders—had made them ripe for attack. The king was soon celebrating not a wedding, but a military victory.
But the crushing defeat that had King Leon doubling the size of his kingdom and driving Lord Reginald and his son’s army into the southlands also succeeded in crushing his own daughter’s heart.
Wild with despair, Avin had been desperate to make amends, pleading with her father to at least get word to Xander to let him know she had nothing to do with the plot. But King Leon had coldly told his daughter to stop her crying. There would be other suitors, he said—better ones now that his kingdom was larger—and that she should waste no tears on a man who now hated her as much as she loved him. The Gawens, he assured her, blamed both of them.
A day later, while exploring his newly expanded kingdom, her father had fallen from his horse. By nightfall, Avin had been crowned queen in his stead, and believing Xander despised her, the new queen of Windbourne vowed to never love again.
Winter arrived with unexpected ferocity that same day, freezing the land along with Avin’s heart. She vowed to protect both, diverting wealth into a military buildup she felt was necessary to protect Windbourne from an invasion. She raised the height of the castle walls and prepared to carefully ration her kingdom’s stores as she waited out the cold and trained her army.
But the fates had other plans. In the past, winters had been short. This time, the season held fast. Food supplies rapidly dwindled, much of it going to feed the hungry troops. Grief and fear gripped the land as food became scarce and game fled the surrounding forests.
A chunk of ice broke free from the parapet and crashed past the window. It struck the ground just as the door behind her opened. Avin turned, saying nothing when she saw Xander standing there, a plate in his hand.
He did not address her as he shut the door. Avin turned away, but could still feel the weight of his gaze, just as she felt the weight of the collar around her neck.
“You’re thin,” he said. “Too thin. When did you last eat?”
She wanted to answer him with a retort, to ask him if he expected her to be fat. Isn’t that what he’d led her people to believe? That she’d been dining on rich food as they’d starved? But she didn’t say that.
She recognized the warning in his voice, remembered the bite of the cane. The welts were still tender. She did not want more.
“I can’t remember.” It wasn’t a lie. She’d lost her appetite long before the castle stores had dwindled down to maggoty potatoes and moldy bread.
“Then it’s time to break your fast. I have summer fruits from the south,” he said. “And cold pheasant.”
He placed the plate on the bedside table and walked over to where she sat on the stool. Avin did not meet his eyes as he hooked his finger in the crown around her neck and lifted her to her feet. She did not fight as he led her to the bed, where he pushed her to the floor in the same kneeling position he’d made her assume in the throne room. She kept her eyes on the floor as he sat down on the bed in front of her.
“Eat.” It was an order. She looked up to see him offering her a bite-sized morsel of the food.
“You can force me to kneel,” she said. “But understand this. I will die before I eat from your hand.”
“Eat.” He did not waver, did not move his hand. “You need to eat, and I will not allow you to refuse.”
Avin looked at him, her eyes softening. She parted her lips and leaned forward.
“That’s it,” he said. “That’s my obedient little—aaahhh!”
His thick forefinger was caught between her teeth as she fell limply to the side, her full passive weight pulling his hand down as he tried to draw it from between her clenched teeth. Avin saw the king raise his balled fist and closed her eyes in expectation of a crashing blow to her face. But it didn’t come. Instead, he scooped her up, placing her in his lap. She scrunched her eyes tighter as she felt his hand on either side of her cheeks, squeezing until she had no choice but to part her teeth and release him.
She knew she’d broken the skin; she could taste his blood on her tongue as she’d tasted her own when she’d bitten her lip in the throne room during her first punishment.
“How’s that for helpless?” she hissed.
His response was to silently shift her until she was facedown over his lap. Avin felt his broad arm go around her waist in the familiar grip that used to send pulses of delicious dread through her. From her view she could see the plate and its uneaten food lying on the floor. This would not go unanswered; she knew that.
She tensed and waited, this time for the flat of his hand to land a burning blow across the fullness of her bottom. But Xander was silent as he jerked up the hem of her simple dress. Somehow this was worse. He was taking his time, holding her, allowing her to realize that she was indeed helpless, lying there with her dress hiked up, her bottom bared to his gaze. The room was silent save for her ragged, anxious breathing. But he was calm. It unnerved her.
“If you’re going to beat me, just get it over with,” she said.
“Queens give orders. Slaves take them.” He paused. “Apologize for biting your king.”
She felt him lean forward.
“Apologize,” he said again.
He’d made her kneel in the throne room, but she was determined she would not apologize. Then she felt it—the blindingly hot streak of pain impacting the lower portion of her bottom.
“Owww!” She’d not meant to scream and looked back to see what he’d struck her with. His arm was raised, and she could see he’d used his own shoe, the wide leather sole as hard and broad as any strap.
“Apologize to your king.”
She was writhing on his lap. “Let me go!”
He brought the slipper down again. And again. And again. The sounds of the leather cracking against her skin reported off the stone walls, and in spite of herself, Avin heard them joined by the sound of her own wailing. And somewhere above it all, the king’s stern command.
“Apologize. Beg your king’s forgiveness.”
With each blow, her bottom grew more tender. This was, she knew, a spanking designed to break her. But she resisted, absorbing the pain that triggered the memory of past correction by the same hand—sweet correction that had ended with gentle rubs until his fingers slipped lower into her wet, throbbing pussy.
There were no such rubs today, but her pussy still clenched with little spasms of forbidden pleasure. But from what? His domination? Or from the heady thrill of seeing how strong she was in the face of it? She knew the answer, of course, and as Xander spanked her white bottom to a deep red, she found herself filled with fury—not at him, but at her own weakness. Her body remembered what it was like to be overwhelmed, and even if her heart was closed to him, at her physical core she still craved her former lover’s dominance. Avin clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms, seeking to focus on that pain instead of the sweet agony building between her legs as his hand finally came to rest on her throbbing mounds of flesh.
When Xander finally lifted Avin to her feet, she was gasping heavily and crying. But hers were not the tears he wanted. They were angry tears, and through them she shot him a look of bold defiance.
For a moment, he just looked at her. Then he shook her so hard she felt her teeth chatter.
“Why?” He roared the question.
She glanced down at the injured finger on the hand that gripped her. It was starting to swell. She wondered if it had hurt his hand when he’d spanked her; she hoped it had.
He shook her again. “Tell me!”
“Isn’t that what you expected?” she asked through angry sobs. “For me to bite the hand that offered me what I needed? To take your caring and turn it on you? Isn’t that who you think I am?”
“It is who you are,” he said between gritted teeth, and she surprised them both then by laughing through her tears. It was a maniacal laugh, the laugh of a woman perversely amused at the irony of her situation.
“We were to be married,” he continued, looking at her with disgust. “You toyed with me. Played with my affections. Pretended to submit. And all along, it was just a game.”
Avin did not respond. If he truly thought her capable of such deceit, he didn’t deserve her submission. He’d never deserved it.
“It’s not a game anymore, is it?” he asked.
It never had been a game to her. It had been a game to her father, and she’d been a pawn. But she wasn’t going to tell Xander that. He wouldn’t believe her anyway.
The king spun Avin around and she felt him lift the hem of the gown and reach around to tie it across her in the front, leaving the back open. Avin felt her face flame scarlet. She could feel the cool air of the room on her burning haunches.
“Let’s take a walk,” he said.
Avin didn’t have to ask where she was going. She well remembered his earlier promise to display her punished bottom from the castle window. Even now as they descended the spiral stairs down to the main hall, she was filled with dread. The disdain of people she’d been tricked into serving stung her pride far more than Xander could ever sting her bottom. Her father had regarded Windbourne’s simple, superstitious subjects with the tolerance a nurse might show a slow child. But her Ravenscroft enemies had exploited the simple beliefs of her people to have them blame her for something that was not her fault. They’d made her subjects believe she’d brought the winter that froze the crops and killed their children. They’d smuggled in summer fruits along with the promise that the young warrior who’d provided them would return spring if they would accept his rule. These simple, desperate people did not know that spring had arrived in the south and would make its way to Windbourne no matter who was the ruler. They believed in his power and promises. In their desperation, they had turned on her, betraying her.
When they reached the balcony, Xander roughly turned Avin so that her back faced the gathering crowd. “People of Windbourne,” he said. “I told you I would bring humility to the woman who selfishly ruled you. Today, she has started that journey. Behold the marks of her punishment.”
There was a roar from below, and Avin closed her eyes, feeling her face flush as scarlet as her bottom. Behind her, the crowd cheered, but she ignored the sound, focusing instead on the last of the ice that melted to fall like a teardrop from the highest parapet to the ground below.
This content is linked through SNP’s Newsletter! Don’t miss out on all the free content! It doesn’t stick around long! Add your email below!