Charlotte grew impatient with the need to be escorted everywhere she went. Although she enjoyed Max’s presence most of the time, and found the morning walks to work with him and Tim pleasant, not being allowed to travel home without Max became a serious inconvenience. She would often have to wait for him to finish his work at the shop long after she finished teaching at the schoolhouse. The sounds of banging metal and the heat from the forge gave her a headache, and she wasn’t able to do much but sit idly in the shop until Max and Tim finished working.
She complained about it one evening and suggested that in the future Max allow her and Tim to walk home together after she finished teaching. Max was adamant in his refusal. “Absolutely not. You think Simon couldn’t overpower you both, especially if he carried a gun?”
“But Max, how long must we live like this?” she despaired. “I feel like if Simon was going to hurt us, he would have done so by now. The marshal’s threat must have worked.”
Max shook his head and scowled. “We can’t know that for sure, Charlotte. We’ll discuss it again after Tim goes to college. Until then, you must stay by my side.”
Charlotte glowered at him before she turned and stormed out of the house. Shortly after she slammed the door to the cabin and set out for the barn, the door reopened.
“Get your ass back here,” Max called to her, with no attempt to disguise his irritation. “You got cotton in your ears? What did I just say?”
She stopped and turned. “I can’t even go to the barn alone? You must be joking.”
“Do I look like I’m joking? You have three seconds to get back inside, or you’ll be sorry.”
Charlotte muttered some unflattering words about her husband under her breath, but obeyed. She walked up the steps to the cabin, gave him a dirty look, and shoved past him to the kitchen. “You don’t have to speak to me like I’m a child, you know,” she flung over her shoulder.
Max closed the front door. “Maybe I do, since you’re pitching a fit like a child.”
Tim eyed the two of them warily, then excused himself to his room, clearly uncomfortable to be present while they argued. Max sighed and sat in his armchair. He picked up his book on the side table and tried to read while Charlotte banged around the kitchen. She made as much noise as possible while she rearranged the pots and pans for no reason other than to give her hands something to do and to annoy Max. She transferred the silverware into a different drawer, dropping in each spoon, knife, and fork in it one by one from a height that made the clanging noise louder than necessary.
Max closed his book with a thud. “Are you nearly finished making that ruckus?”
Charlotte responded by slamming a cupboard door.
“I’ve had enough, Charlotte,” he said in a low, even voice.
Charlotte spun to face him. “And I’ve had enough of your blasted nannying! I can’t live like this. I feel like a prisoner.” She knew she was acting childish, but she felt angry and unable to contain her fury.
Max set his book on the table beside him and spoke gently. “I know it’s not easy, Charlotte, but it won’t be like this forever.”
His calm demeanor only infuriated her further. “I can’t take another day of it!” She grabbed the closest thing in her reach, a plate, and launched it across the room. It shattered into pieces when it hit the wall.
Max looked as shocked as she felt. She could hardly believe what she’d just done, and she gaped at the mess on the floor. Max strode to her, grasped her chin, and forced her to meet his flashing eyes. “I’ve endured your ill temper,” he said through gritted teeth, “but now you’ve used up my supply of patience for today. I suggest you calm yourself.”
She shook her face out of his hand and turned to walk away, but he took hold of her arms. She tried to shrug him off, but her flailing did nothing to free her. He continued to hold onto her with his unyielding hands. “Settle down, Charlie!”
Her inability to get loose made her feel angrier and more frantic. Since her arms were of no use to hit him, she tried to kick him, but Max anticipated it and stepped to the side. He grunted and spun her around. “Wanna provoke me, do you? How do you think that’s going to end for you?”
“Don’t!” she cried as he held her arm and landed his palm across her bottom. It was a sharp, stinging smack. The force of it stunned her into rational thought. She stilled and braced herself, expecting another. Instead, Max tugged her to their room. Once inside with the door shut, he sat on the bed and toppled her over his lap. Without a word, he yanked up her skirts. She offered no resistance. On some level, she knew she needed to be punished, and she wanted him to take control of the situation. His next words told her he understood exactly what she needed and wanted.
“With that kind of outrageous behavior, Charlie, you might as well be begging me for a spanking. I’d be remiss not to give you one.” He pushed her drawers to her ankles, then hauled her forward to lie fully over his left thigh. He draped his other leg over hers, pinning her into place.
Charlotte suspected with dismay that she was about to endure a spanking severe enough to necessitate Max restraining her movements. She was right. She shrieked when his heavy palm first connected with her bare skin and let out a long wail that lasted throughout most of the punishment. From the first swat to the last, Max’s hand descended swiftly and without mercy. It was the shortest spanking he’d ever given her—less than a minute—but it was also the hardest, and by the end she sagged over his knee, exhausted and aware of little but the burn she felt on her punished backside and the sensitive area where her bottom met her thighs.
She heard his stern voice through the pain. “Are you finished with your tantrum now, or do you need some more swats?”
She wiped the tears from her cheek. “I’m finished,” she whimpered, fully subdued.
He slowly relaxed the leg that pinned her in place and lifted her legs to rest over both of his. He caressed her bottom and thighs. After some time, he asked, “Do you feel better now, darlin’?”
“Yes. Thank you, Max.”
She reveled in the comfort she felt from him holding her in such an intimate, vulnerable position. His left hand was anchored around her waist, and his forearm still pinned her to his leg, giving her a sense of security, while his other hand conveyed both warning and solace in its tender strokes over her bottom and legs. She knew he would do whatever it took to keep her safe and in line.
“You’re such a good girl, thanking me for your spanking,” he murmured, squeezing her burning globes gently before resuming his caress.
“I’m sorry, Max. I know my behavior was appalling. It’s just, I feel trapped. I’m used to independence.”
Max ran his hand down the length of her body, from shoulder to flank. “If I knew a better way to keep the two of you safe, I’d do it. I know it’s hard on you, having to wait for me to finish my work at the shop. But I have a horrible feeling that the moment Simon sees you alone again, like you were that night at the schoolhouse, he’ll attack. Nothing scares me more than the thought of you or Tim being harmed. So please, be agreeable to me escorting you, for my sake if not for your own.”
Charlotte looked back at him. His worried eyes met hers. She felt her own eyes moisten and a burning in her nose that indicated she was moments from crying again. “I’m sorry. I should have known how much this affected you.”
Max gathered her into his arms, and she rested her head against his chest. “All you need to know is how much you mean to me, so you understand why I need to keep you safe.”
Charlotte nodded. As she basked in his love, she felt a strong desire to return the favor. She wanted to comfort him or at least distract him from his worry. She moved her body so that she faced him and straddled her legs around his hips. She kissed him deeply while his palms on her back pulled her to him, flattening her breasts against his hard chest.
“Max, I want to make you feel good,” she said between kisses.
He opened his eyes and smiled. “You do, Charlie.”
“I mean really good.” She reached down and fumbled with his belt.
He said nothing as she undid the buckle. While unbuttoning his trousers, she shimmied her hips backwards off his lap until her feet reached the floor. She dropped to her knees in front of him.
Max stared at her, his eyes sparking with lust. “Where did you learn about this, young lady?”
Charlotte slid her hand up his cock, which hardened under her touch. Leaning forward, she kissed the head of it tentatively, then looked straight into his eyes as she circled her lips around him and took him into her mouth.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” he moaned.
Through a mouthful of cock, she garbled that the saloon owner’s wife had given her advice on how to please a man. Charlotte found a bobbing rhythm and tightened her lips, flicking his cock with her tongue as she did. She peered up at him through her lashes often, thrilled by the bliss she read on his face and the fact that she was the one causing it. Her jaw ached after some time, but she didn’t care.
He reached roughly around her head. Lacing his fingers through her hair, his hand tightened into a fist. With a sudden groan, he pulled her head away from him, releasing his cock from her mouth so he could release his warm seed on her face. When he spilled the last of it and relaxed his grip on her hair, she eyed him with surprise. She held her hands under her chin to catch what streamed down her cheek and said, “I thought I was supposed to swallow this.”
He snorted out laughter and collapsed backwards on the bed. “Next time, darlin’.”
Charlotte stood from her kneeled position and walked to the basin of water, where she washed her hands and face. “What makes you think there will be a next time?” she teased.
He sat up. “Well, for one thing, I saw the look in your eye. You enjoyed that, though not half as much as I did, that’s for damn sure.”
She looked back at him. “Was I good at it, Max?” she asked sincerely while rubbing her cheek with a wet cloth. It was an honest question. She didn’t know whether it was a skill she could rightfully claim to possess.
He laughed loudly and stood. He adjusted himself back into his trousers and buttoned them, then walked to her and gathered her into his arms. “I think my response removed the need to ask that question, darlin’, but since you asked… Yes, you were very, very good at it. I’m a lucky man.”
Charlotte smiled and returned his hug. “I’m the lucky one. You care enough to protect me.”
It was true. Max thought of little else but protecting Charlotte and Tim. His worry over how to continue doing so often kept him up at night, and that night was another in which he couldn’t find sleep. He left the bed where Charlotte slept and the gun next to it. He sat on the porch bench and thought about their situation. Until Tim went to college, Max wouldn’t feel like Tim was safe, and as long as Simon lived in Weston, Max wouldn’t feel like Charlotte was safe. He tried to think of a solution while sipping a glass of whiskey.
Just as he was about to return to bed in an attempt to sleep for a couple of hours before work, something heavy and hard crashed into his skull. In a flash, the world went blacker than the moonless night.