The next afternoon, Tabitha received a text from Neal.
Have to work late again, sorry. Want to meet me at the community center later for a little fun?
Great. Come by around 9 p.m.
Do I need to bring anything?
Just your sexy self.
She grinned, loving how he always made her feel so desirable. Overall, things had been so tense between them lately, with him working so much and her resistance to the move. It would be nice to spend some time together doing something fun.
That evening Tabitha fixed herself a quick frozen dinner and read a couple of chapters in her book before sprucing up her makeup and heading over to the community center.
It wasn’t snowing, so she decided to walk. The stars shone bright overhead and her breath created wispy clouds in the cold night air. When she got to the community center, the door to the building was locked, so she walked around the side of the building and tried another door. Locked.
Ugh. It was too cold out to be stuck outside. She pulled out her phone and texted Neal.
Where are you? Doors are locked.
Sorry about that. Be right there.
She stood outside shivering, trying not to get too irritated. Within a couple of minutes, Neal opened the door to the main entrance. “Sorry, babe. I didn’t know all those would be locked.”
“It’s okay,” she said, giving him a hug. “What are you doing over here so late?”
“I’ve been fixing a broken pump. Got it working about twenty minutes ago.”
“A pump? To what?”
“The hot tub.” He raised an eyebrow mischievously.
“They have a hot tub here?”
“Yes,” he answered gleefully. “And I just got it working again.”
“So was this your master plan, daddy? To get me over here to get me in the hot tub with you?”
“How’d you guess?” He chuckled and held out a hand to her.
She took it and allowed him to lead her through the building to the area outside. About fifteen feet away from the pool, which was covered, was the hot tub. It looked beyond inviting with the swaths of steam rising up into the cold night air. “But you didn’t tell me to bring my suit.”
Neal dropped her hand and started stripping off his clothes. “Who needs a suit?”
Tabitha’s eyes bulged. “Neal! You can’t do that!”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Someone could see us!”
“Where? No one’s here. The place is locked, as you saw.”
“Did you lock it again?”
She looked around. There was a fence around the pool area that had a few visually open spaces in it. “If someone was walking by, they could see,” she protested.
“No one’s going to be walking by. It’s a Monday night. People are inside, watching football.”
“They might be walking their dog or something.”
“Well, then they’ll be watching their dog and not us. No one is expecting anyone to be over here so they won’t be paying any attention.” Stark naked, he stepped into the water. “Oh, baby, this feels good. You’ve got to get in here with me.”
She frowned. It did look amazing, but she hated the idea of someone catching them naked in the hot tub.
“Don’t leave me hanging, princess. Get out of those clothes and get your ass in here now!” His tone was playful and firm at the same time.
“Alright,” she said reluctantly, “but if we get caught, you’ll have to get me out of this.” She took off her boots, her coat, then her pants and sweater. Finally she removed her underwear and bra and hugged herself tight. Damn, it was cold!
“It’s a deal,” he said and reached out a hand to help her in.
She hopped in quickly, and her ankles and calves thrilled to the water’s heat, although she immediately wished she’d taken it slower. The difference in temperature shocked her system. Her nipples had been so erect from the cold that she’d thought they might fall right off if a brisk wind blew by. Now, as she immersed herself in the bath, everything felt so hot she almost swooned.
She eased herself onto the seat next to Neal, and he enveloped her in an embrace. “Ahhh!” she said, settling in and letting the warmth of the Jacuzzi course over her. “This was a good idea, daddy.”
He positioned himself so that he was facing her, between her legs, and she wrapped her arms and legs around him, drawing him close. His body felt so good next to hers, the warm waters swirling around them, so she couldn’t help but purr out loud. “Mmm.”
“Oh, Tabitha, you feel so good. I need you so much.” As if to echo his sentiments, his erection pushed against her opening.
“Now daddy,” she said primly. “It’s one thing to get caught skinny dipping in the community pool, but it’s quite another to get caught doing that. They might kick us out of Little Haven for doing that!”
Ignoring her, he pushed his cock inside her. “Shhh! If you’re quiet, no one will ever know.”
He filled her then, and she felt more and more bliss with every inch he gave her. She wrapped her legs around his waist and encircled his neck with her arms. The buoyancy of the water made his movements more fluid since she felt light as a feather, and he seemed to be deeper inside her than usual.
His hands rested on her middle and he bobbed her up and down on his cock, while he simultaneously took possession of her mouth with his. The water felt slick against her skin and the steam only added to the decadent sensuality of the encounter. She loved the way it sluiced up against them with every thrust.
Holding him tight, she took his earlobe between her teeth and bit down lightly. “Oh, such a tiger! Has my baby been feeling neglected?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes, daddy.”
“I’m sorry. Really sorry, baby. Let daddy show you how much he’s missed you.”
She nibbled on his bottom lip and jutted her chest forward into his. Reading her signals, he dropped his head to her breasts and kissed and suckled them. She laid her head back onto the side of the hot tub and luxuriated in his attentions. “Daddy, you feel so good.”
He continued fucking her and kissing her neck. “I’d spank you, but I’m afraid there’d be too much splashing.”
She laughed. “You can spank me later. Just keep fucking me.”
“You feel incredible,” he said, driving into her again and again until finally their passion burst in the form of a simultaneous climax that left their bodies clinging to one another, neither wanting to let the other go. As they snuggled in each other’s arms, Tabitha traced her finger over the stubble of his beard and giggled. “I hope nobody finds us and kicks us out.”
“They are not going to kick us out,” Neal said, squeezing her tight.
He was right. A man so dedicated to his job was difficult, if not impossible to find. The powers-that-be at Little Haven would find him almost impossible to replace. A feeling of guilt churned in her belly. She’d been putting off telling him, but she just couldn’t continue the ruse anymore. The people of Little Haven had come to count on him. Hell, she was even starting to feel comfortable here. She couldn’t keep lying to everyone.
Shifting in his arms so she could look at him, she blurted out, “Neal, I can’t stay here.”
He scrunched his brows quizzically. “You need to go back to the house? That’s okay.”
She shook her head. “No, I mean I have to go back to Chicago.”
His eyelashes fluttered wildly as he blinked several times. “I don’t understand. Why would you have to go back to Chicago?”
She closed her eyes and rubbed her face with her hands, wishing the whole situation would vanish. But when she opened her eyes again, her problems were still staring her in the face.
“Why, Tabitha? What are you saying?”
“Daddy, you know I never wanted to come here,” she whined.
He stood up and she could see that vein throbbing on the side of his temple. “Then why did you?”
“Because I didn’t want to lose you!”
“Well, it looks like that’s going to happen anyway.”
She felt as if she’d been kicked in the gut. “Daddy, please don’t say that. We can just go back to Chicago together. My boss is holding my job for me.”
“He’s holding your job for you? So you never intended to live here with me… This whole time you’ve been lying to me.”
This was what she’d been afraid of, that he’d find out that she’d been holding out on him. She wasn’t sure what she expected, but nothing she’d imagined was as awful as the look of hurt in his eyes as he stood there now questioning her.
“I tried,” she mumbled.
“You tried? What did you tell your old job—that you were just taking a vacation?”
“A leave of absence,” she admitted miserably.
“A leave of absence,” he repeated, nodding his head in irony. “I should have known. You agreed to come here way too easily. I should have known I’d never be as important to you as your job.”
“But that’s not true…” she pleaded.
“Oh, it is most definitely true. And it’s sad. It’s just a fucking job, Tabitha, and you’re going to throw away all we have for a stupid job.” He shook his head and climbed out of the hot tub.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Back to work.”
“But you can’t stay here. Plus it’s freezing and you’re wet.”
“I’ll find a towel in the clubhouse,” he said dismissively and started putting on his clothes.
“But…” She started to get out of the hot tub. Bam! The cold air hit her like an uppercut to the circulatory system. “But, daddy, you’ll go back to Chicago with me, won’t you?”
He whirled on her. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Hell, no. I’m staying here. I’ve got a good job, a nice house, a nice life.” He said that last part slowly as if he were speaking to a five-year-old.
As she stood there, naked and shivering, something inside her gave way. She hadn’t considered it a real possibility that he would stay here. “Really?” she snapped. “You’d stay in a community for daddies and little girls without a little girl? That’s absolutely ridiculous!” As soon as she heard the words come out of her mouth, she realized that she was the one who was being ridiculous. If Neal stayed there, it would take no time for him to find a replacement for her. She’d seen how some of the littles in the community looked at him. He’d be in their houses, fixing things, and before she knew it some little brat would have defected from her home team and joined team Neal.
“I feel at home here. This is where I belong, Tabitha. I wish you felt the same way.”
“So what? You’re just planning on replacing me with the next little girl with pigtails who comes along?” Her voice rose shrilly and she hugged herself, dripping icy droplets onto the concrete.
He handed her a pile of her clothes. “No, princess, it’s you who I want. You are who makes me want to get up in the morning. You are who makes me want to be the best man I can be—you! Everything I do is for you—for us.”
She stomped her foot. “But what about me? What about what I want?”
He shrugged, lost. “I don’t know. I hoped you could be happy here.”
She curled her lips into a snarl. “Well, I can’t!” The goosebumps on her skin were starting to ache. She needed a towel in the worst way, but she was too determined to make a stormy exit to stop and search for one. She threw her sweater over her head and pulled one leg then another of her pants on. Her teeth chattered as she scooped her undergarments and her boots off the pavement and marched toward the gate leading to the neighborhood street. Neal would follow her. He always did.
She crashed through the gate in a huff, and when she got to the street she leaned up against one of the cars parked near the clubhouse to put on her boots. Her soaking wet locks threatened to turn to icicles, while her soggy feet squished in her shoes, and her wet skin slid uncomfortably against her previously dry clothing. She cringed at how uncomfortable she was, and her pussy throbbed from the hard fucking Neal had just given her.
Hurry, Neal. Hurry.
But after a few minutes, the truth finally hit her.
He wasn’t coming.
Maybe this time she’d truly lost him. She hugged herself tight in a futile attempt to ward off the cold, and with a whimper, she trudged back to their empty house.
When Tabitha woke up the next morning, she looked over to find his side of the bed untouched. Maybe he slept on the couch. She got up and searched the house, but found no sign of Neal. He hadn’t come home. A pit of dread formed in her stomach and she reached for her phone. With shaking fingers she texted Neal.
Where are you?
Then she waited with bated breath for him to respond.
Slept on the couch at the rec center.
What are you doing?
Unsure how to make things right, she texted back a sad face emoji. His response came only moments later.
We’ll talk later. Gotta go.
For the rest of the day Tabitha sulked around the house trying to distract herself, but all she could think about was the rift between her and Neal.
The knot in her stomach tightened, and she decided to distract herself with some good, old-fashioned retail therapy. She called Bailey and they made a plan to go on a marathon shopping trip the next day. The biggest mall in America, maybe even the world, was only a few hours away, and they’d been dying to take a trip there.
Determined to do something productive, she sat down to do some online banking, and then realized she’d forgotten to bring in the mail the day before. Their mail had been forwarded, but there hadn’t been much yet, only a slow trickle of letters and bills had begun to arrive. They’d yet to receive a bill for their satellite TV service at their new address. She wondered if it had come the previous day, so she threw on some clothes and went to the mailbox.
Tabitha had been outside only a few seconds when Agnes’ door opened. Tabitha looked up to find the older woman striding toward her. “Good morning,” Agnes said enthusiastically.
“Good morning,” Tabitha responded, waving the two small white envelopes she’d just retrieved from her mailbox in greeting, neither of which turned out to be the satellite bill.
“What are you up to this morning?” Agnes asked.
Tabitha shrugged. “Paying some bills. Maybe organizing a drawer or two, putting in some shelf paper…”
“Sounds fun,” Agnes said sarcastically. “Hey, what about your job? Neal said you had a real high-powered job working for one of those big financial companies back in Chicago.”
Tabitha nervously played with the hem of her shirt, rubbing it between her fingers. She wasn’t about to get into the job conversation with Agnes, who seemed to have a pretty big mouth. “Uh, yeah. I don’t know about high-powered, but it was high-stress for sure. That’s one of the reasons we moved here.”
“Yep, lots of people move here to get away from the stresses of fast-paced life in the big city.” Agnes shook her head as if pitying those in possession of that foolish notion.
“What—you don’t think it works, living here? It doesn’t help your stress?” Tabitha was surprised at Agnes’ reaction. Usually Agnes made it sound like Little Haven was the answer to everything.
“It is a great place to live if you want to reduce stress, but life is full of stressors no matter you live. Stress will always find you if you’re not careful, that’s all I’m saying. Are you gonna look for a job around here?”
Tabitha nodded. Another lie, she thought and hated herself for it.
“I don’t know how I’d find a job myself if I didn’t have the daycare. Everything is on computers these days. My grandson is even going to college online. Doesn’t even have to report for class in person except for a few times a semester. Can you believe it?”
“Yeah,” Tabitha responded absently. It felt her brain suddenly imploded. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? She must have been too caught up in going back to Chicago to have considered it.
Computers! She could work from home if she had to. If she could find a job that used her skills but that she didn’t have to be physically present for. There had to be something… and surely it would be less stressful than working on the trading floor.
She reached over and kissed Agnes on the cheek. “Thanks, Agnes. I’ve got to go!”
Tabitha turned and ran back into her house, leaving Agnes behind saying, “You’re welcome, but what did I do?”
Tabitha didn’t bother to answer. She had a job search to do.
That night when Neal came home, Tabitha was glued to the computer screen.
“Hey,” he said as he closed the front door behind him. His voice was tentative, like he was testing the waters.
“Hey,” she called, keeping her eyes on the screen. She’d found several promising job leads, but she didn’t want to tell Neal about them prematurely. “How was work?”
“Fine,” he said with a clipped tone. “What’s for dinner?” he asked, banging around in the kitchen. It was not a good idea to forget to feed Neal. Like a grizzly bear, he got grumpy when he was hungry, and that was the last thing she needed now.
“Oh.” She glanced up. “I’m sorry. I haven’t fixed anything. I’ve been busy…”
He opened the door to the freezer. “I’ll find something.”
She hated that she’d forgotten dinner, but she’d already blown it so she said, “Great! Think you could heat something up for me too?”
To her surprise, he said, “Sure” and gave her a tired smile.
She barely heard the sounds of him opening the boxes of frozen dinners, she was so focused on her research. There were tons of sites with great jobs online. The competition might be fierce, but she was optimistic as she scrolled down page after page of listings.
Ding! The microwave beeped, telling her that their food was ready. Reluctantly, she pulled herself away from the computer and went to sit down at the breakfast bar.
Placing a paper napkin in her lap, she said, “Thank you, daddy.”
He dished their dinner onto a pair of paper plates. “No problem. Doesn’t seem right you having to do all the cooking all the time. Sometimes, I like to take care of you.” Setting her plate in front of her, he brushed the back of his index finger across her nose affectionately.
Something in her stomach settled, making her feel like things might turn out alright after all. “Let me get the silverware,” she said, starting to get up.
“No, you just sit there. Let me serve you for a change.” He opened a drawer and retrieved a knife and fork for each of them to eat their Salisbury steak dinners.
“If you say so, daddy.” She smiled at him.
“I do.” He sat next to her and they ate without saying much. Were they going to talk about the night before or was it going to be the big elephant in the room they were going to ignore? So far, she was okay not discussing it.
After they finished eating, Neal stood up. “I’m beat. I’m going to go take a shower, then I want to talk to you about how you lied to me.” There was a sad look in his eyes and Tabitha wanted to crawl under the table for having been dishonest with him. He walked out of the room without another word, and she tossed their paper plates in the trash and disposed of the extra wrappings.
Anxiety flowed through her veins, making her feel like she might just disappear into thin air at any minute. That, or collapse on the floor. She wanted to go curl up in a ball and shut out the world. When had things gotten so complicated?
With a gulp, she realized the moment that everything changed was the moment she fell in love with Neal. From that moment on, she needed to consider him in her decision-making. For every major decision—from what couch they bought to where they were going to live—she needed to think about how he would feel about it, and she hadn’t been doing that. Instead, she’d been behaving like a selfish brat, and she felt crappy about it.
She walked into the bedroom just in time to see Neal stepping out of the shower. She was struck for the zillionth time at how heartbreakingly handsome he was. With his straw-colored hair and those piercing gray eyes, his face could have been chiseled from marble with the impressive bone structure he’d inherited. Would our children have his cheekbones, she wondered for the first time. Children had always been an abstract idea that was only mildly attractive, but suddenly the notion of growing a mini-Neal inside her seemed appealing.
He let the towel around his waist fall to the floor and to her surprise, he went over to his chest of drawers and pulled out a pair of flannel plaid pajama pants and put them on. Then he went over and sat down on the edge of the bed and patted the spot next to him.
She sat down next to him, and he cupped her chin in his hand. “It breaks my heart that you felt the need to lie to me about your plans to go back to Chicago. I hope you won’t go because I love you very much, but right now we need to address your lying to me.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. She really was a bad girl. Not just the kind they played like when he spanked her most of the time, but for real. She’d lied to her daddy. The man who loved her with his whole heart and cherished her more than anything.
“Come lie across my knee. I’m going to have to spank you. I don’t want to do it, but you have to learn that you cannot treat me that way, Tabitha Jane.”
Oh, dear. He’d never used her middle name before. She didn’t even remember telling him she had a middle name. In an attempt to be helpful, she gingerly pushed her sweatpants down over her rump, as she knew that would give him better access to spank her tushy.
He picked up a hairbrush she’d left lying on the bed, and she clutched his calf tightly, bracing herself for her punishment. Why had she left that damned thing on the bed?
Thud! He struck her with the hairbrush. The sensation was less stingy than when he used his hand, but it hurt nonetheless.
Smack! She was glad it was a plastic hairbrush. Something told her wood would hurt worse.
As he continued to spank her, she entwined her arms around his leg, shut her eyes, and thought about all the things she’d done wrong. She’d been a turbo brat—difficult and less than friendly to the people in this community, at least at first.
Thud! Her glute muscles clenched involuntarily.
“Relax,” he reminded her, “and it will go easier.”
“Yes, sir,” she squeaked out.
His swats with the brush were starting to warm the skin on her bottom, but all she could think was that the whole mess was her fault. Neal had moved her here only because he thought it would be better for her health. Maybe he knew best.
Everything he did was to help others, especially her. And she had repaid him with selfishness. Tears fell from her eyes onto the carpet. “I’m sorry, daddy.”
Another smack landed on her sit-spot. He was really making sure she’d have a hard time sitting at the computer now. She imagined her ass was plenty red now, as it ached and burned like crazy.
“One more,” he said and landed a last blow to her fleshy cheeks.
Then without the caresses to which she was accustomed, he righted her and hugged her close. “Please, Tabitha, don’t ever lie to me again. There are lots of things I can forgive, but lying—lying is a deal-breaker.”
She felt like someone had removed a trapdoor underneath her and now she was falling, falling, falling. “But daddy, I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.”
He kissed the top of her head. “I hope so. Now I’ve got to get some sleep. Have to be at work early.”
With that, he got up and lay down in the bed, set his alarm, and rolled over with his back to her.
A flood of loneliness sank so deep into her, she wanted to wail at the top of her lungs. Instead, she curled up next to him. He didn’t move or grab for her hand that was roaming over his chest. Determined for him not to leave her, even if for well-deserved sleep, she reached down between his legs.
He grabbed her by the wrist firmly and placed it back on her side of the bed. “No, princess. This isn’t something you can fix with sex. Now let me get some sleep.”
Stung, she turned over and cried herself to sleep.
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