Another setting and rising of the sun happened before she was ready to face Jesse and accept his punishment and offer of courtship. She curled and pinned her hair in an elaborate loose bun, leaving locks free to frame her face and drape around her neck. She pinched her cheeks and rubbed her skin with lavender oil. After wrapping a shawl around her shoulders, she left the farm and walked to town.
She headed straight for the saloon and waited outside. It was nearly dusk on a Saturday afternoon, and the place bustled with people. She heard whoops of laughter and clinking glass, but she was waiting to hear one noise in particular. Finally, she heard the sound of the piano and the unmistakable baritone that accompanied it. Her heart pounded now that the time neared in which to carry out her plan. Lily didn’t know the song Jesse sang very well, so she stayed outside and listened. She felt ready to burst, both from nerves and from the way his voice brought her body to life.
The next song she knew well, and she almost wished she didn’t, so she could stay where she was outside and merely listen to him again. Instead, she drew a deep breath and walked in. It seemed like every head turned in her direction when she did, but Jesse didn’t notice her right away. She walked to him slowly, approaching him from the side as he played and sang. He scanned the crowd and his eyes passed over her, but then they quickly returned with a double-take. His eyes then widened in surprise before they narrowed and bored into her, heating her flesh from head to toe as he raked her with his gaze. He kept singing and playing, and when Lily reached him, she sang the jaunty tune along with him.
There once was a farmer who took a young miss
In back of the barn where he gave her a…
Lecture on horses and chickens and eggs
And told her that she had such beautiful…
Manners that suited a girl
Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses
Covered all over from head to toe
Covered all over with sweet violets.
The song ended. As the patrons around them hollered and clapped, Lily and Jesse stared at each other. She breathed hard, having never sung with so much fervor and passion in her life, and she waited for Jesse to speak.
He didn’t seem able to find his voice any more easily than she could, so instead he stood and took her hand in his. A current ran through her body at his touch. He led her away as the people around them booed, wishing for more entertainment from the spontaneous duo. Her stomach lurched when she realized he was taking her to his office. She knew what had happened the last time he’d taken her there. She was more aroused than nervous, though, and her eyes never left his face, looking for a sign as to what was to come.
Jesse still didn’t speak when they arrived. He closed and locked the door, remained still for a moment, and then descended on her, using the full length of his body to pin her to the wall. His kiss was as gentle as his body was firm against hers. When she opened her mouth with surprise at his sudden passion, his tongue slid in and felt along hers. He devoured her mouth, plundering it with an insistent tongue. His hands wandered over her body from flank to breast, and her body responded to his touch, arching into his caresses and letting out involuntary moans. She grasped at his shirt and ripped it apart. Buttons flew, and he didn’t seem to notice.
His hand traveled to her hair as her hands felt the muscles of his chest. When his fingers laced around her locks, her pins came loose, as did half of her carefully coiffed bun. His lips left hers and attacked her neck and shoulder, sucking and kissing like he was starving and desperately needed to consume her.
He found his voice. “I take it you made your decision,” he said in a low rumble, and nipped her earlobe.
“Yes. I’m yours,” she panted.
“Damn straight you are, Lily.”
She let out a soft moan when he kissed her again. He wrapped his arms around her, and she felt like a rag doll in his strong embrace. Never had she felt anything like what she was experiencing. Every part of her body and emotions responded to his words and touch.
He walked with her in front of him slowly, forcing her to walk backwards. Arriving at his destination, he turned her around by her shoulders and bent her over his desk with a slow but forceful press of his hand on her upper back. Lily rested her head and palms on the cold, smooth wood of the desk as Jesse inched her skirts up her legs until they were over her hips and laid spread across her back. She felt the ribbon of her drawers loosen, and she took in a sharp breath, her heartbeat quickening. The material that covered her most intimate places slid to her ankles, and her face grew hot with embarrassment. She also felt curious. What would Jesse’s hand feel like on her bare bottom? She didn’t have to wonder long. The first smack was firm and left a sting that bloomed across her right cheek. She shivered in anticipation of the next swat. It landed, spreading the same sting on her other cheek. Again and again he spanked—not hard, but not gently either.
“Is this my punishment for being alone with Elijah?” she squeaked out.
Jesse stopped spanking and grabbed the fleshiest part of her right cheek. He squeezed firmly, possessively. “No, darlin’, this is punishment for coming into the saloon again when I told you to stay out.” He resumed the swats. “This is going to feel like a game of pat-a-cake compared to your punishment for putting yourself in danger.”
“Oh,” she mewled, thrusting her bottom up to meet his hand, which provided as much pleasure as pain in that moment.
“For now, though, I’ll just give you a little spanking and then take you to dinner. Are you hungry?” His hand smacked her thighs, more gently than it had her bottom.
She didn’t know exactly what she was at the moment. Hungry seemed as good a description as any. “Yes, sir. I’m hungry,” she said breathily.
He groaned. His hand dipped between her thighs and wandered up to the place that felt the most needy of his attention. She gasped as he teased his fingers along her slit. She heard a wet slapping sound as he lightly smacked her pussy.
He groaned again. “Oh, darlin’, you weren’t kidding about being hungry.”
She couldn’t think of what he meant. Her awareness began and ended with her desperate longing for him to thrust his teasing fingers deep inside of her.
He sighed and removed his hand slowly, seeming as reluctant to do so as she was reluctant to lose his touch. He pulled her drawers back up, straightened her skirt back over her backside, and took her into his arms again. He kissed her gently, lovingly, and then held her against his chest. “My sweet Lily,” he sighed.
She looked up at him. “Please, please don’t stop. Don’t stop kissing and touching me. It feels so good.” Her voice sounded like she was pleading for her life.
He smiled down at her. “I don’t want your first time to be rushed and over a hard desk. I want to make love to you in a soft bed and take my time.”
“Can we go to your bed now then?”
He chuckled, a smooth, rich sound. “As tempting as that sounds, no. You’re going to have to wait. I got a little carried away just now, and I apologize.”
“Don’t apologize. I liked it. I even liked the spanking.”
His eyes twinkled. “Believe me, darlin’, I noticed that. Let’s go get some dinner before I eat you instead. You’re so very delicious.” He kissed her again, then pulled away and regarded her. “And you’re a mess. I roughed you up a bit.” He led her to a small mirror on the wall.
Her eyes widened at her reflection. Her face and chest were flushed in splotches. Her lips looked swollen and chapped, and her hair was lopsided and frizzy. She glanced at him and smiled shyly. He looked pleased with himself and winked at her.
“I’m afraid I roughed you up a bit too,” she said, pointing at his torn shirt.
He looked down and observed his shirt with surprise. “So you did, darlin’.”
“I will sew the buttons back on for you.”
“Thank you. In the meantime, allow me to run upstairs and change. I’ll meet you back here and we’ll go to supper. All right?”
“All right, Jesse. I’ll get myself in order while you’re away.”
“Don’t go anywhere.” After shooting a wink and another smile in her direction, he left. When he returned, he ushered her out of the saloon quickly, a possessive arm wrapped around her shoulders. He stopped once to tell his employee, Daniel, who stood behind the bar, to take his place at the piano if Florence became available to serve drinks.
“Sure thing, boss,” Daniel said. “Though you know the customers don’t tip me much. If only I had a voice that sounded more like a nightingale and less like a crow.”
Lily listened with interest. It appeared that both Daniel and Jesse knew how to play piano and serve drinks, and Florence knew how to take care of the business with the girls and run the bar. Lily loved the lively feeling of the saloon and knew she could do the work that Jesse, Daniel, and Florence did every day. Judging by the way the crowd responded to her singing, she imagined that Jesse’s business would thrive if she were to become part of it. All she had to do was convince Jesse of this fact.
They walked arm-in-arm to the diner. Jesse’s slight limp and relaxed gait matched the pace of Lily’s light step. She loved the feeling of him escorting her. She felt cherished and protected with him by her side. She wanted to express that to him in some way, and the only way she could think to do so was by comparing it to her other experience with a man. “Jesse, you’ve always been so much nicer to me than Elijah was.”
He glanced over at her. “That’s not saying much, sweetheart. Did he mistreat you, other than what I witnessed for myself?”
Lily shrugged. “I don’t know how to explain it. He didn’t really mistreat me, I suppose. I just don’t think he liked me very much. Most everything I did displeased him. Even before the attack on the saloon girl, I got to thinking that I shouldn’t be with someone who doesn’t allow me to do the things I like to do.”
“I see. That’s right smart thinking. What wouldn’t he allow you to do?”
“Sing and dance, for example.”
“That’s too bad. I’ve been worried about you the last couple of weeks, you know. You seemed sad with the preacher. I didn’t like it one bit.”
Lily believed that this would be a good opportunity to tell him she wanted to work in the saloon. Surely he would try to prove himself more pleasing to her than Elijah, and she sought to use that to her advantage. She spoke slowly, choosing her words with care. “You wouldn’t deny me the pleasure of singing and dancing, would you, Jesse?”
“Course not. Sing and dance all you like, and I’ll applaud you.”
Lily cleared her throat, hesitated a beat, and then continued. “I seek more than one pair of hands clapping, Jesse. I would like to sing for the patrons of the saloon like how I did with you earlier.”
Jesse stopped suddenly and turned her to face him. His expression was hard. “I will not allow you to work in the saloon, Lily. Let’s get that straight right now.”
“But why not?” she cried. “I wouldn’t entertain men in private, and it would be good for your business. Why can’t I sing for an audience like you do, and like the Red Rose does?”
“For a couple of reasons. One, because if you do, you’ll quickly get a bad reputation. You’re a pretty young woman, and people would love nothing more than to wag their chins about you. Two, because I say you can’t, and that should be a good enough reason for you.”
Lily felt that both reasons were terribly unfair, and she lashed out. “You’re no better than Elijah.”
Jesse’s eyebrows lifted in surprise at the same time that Lily gasped. She wished she could take back the words. It was confirmed that she’d done wrong when Jesse held a finger to her face and scolded her. “You watch yourself, young lady. You’re trying to manipulate me into doing your bidding. You think by comparing me to Elijah, I’ll try to set myself apart to gain more of your favor.”
“No, that’s not true,” she exclaimed, knowing full well that’s exactly what she had done.
“And now you’re lying,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m disappointed in you.”
His words felt like a blow, and she nearly staggered backwards. Tears came to her eyes, and she looked around frantically for something to focus on besides his look of disappointment fixed upon her. He wouldn’t allow it.
“Look at me, Lily.” Reluctantly, she obeyed. His stern expression made her heartbeat quicken, and his words only added to her distress. “If you try to manipulate me like that again, you’ll find yourself over my lap in a hurry. I won’t tolerate such behavior.”
She felt terrified that she’d ruined her chance at the only other thing besides performing that she’d wanted for years, which was to be with Jesse. “I’m sorry,” she said in a whimper, looking down. “Please forgive me. Please don’t end our courtship. I will behave better.”
He tilted her chin up with a knuckle of his forefinger. His tone was gentler when he continued. “I’m not about to end our courtship when I’ve waited a coon’s age to make you mine. I’ve wanted nothing more than to be with you since you visited months ago with that fool notion of working for me, though it took me some time to convince my stubborn side of that. You are everything I like in a woman, sweetheart. You’re a lily among roses.”
Lily felt a wave of relief wash over her. She blinked. “Really, Jesse?”
“Yes, really, honey. However, I am determined to put an end to this idea of you working in the saloon. I won’t allow it, and that’s final. Lilies get torn to shreds by the thorns of roses, and I want to protect you. Do you understand?”
She didn’t really, but she nodded, and the muscles in his face relaxed again. He took her hand in his and they continued the walk to the diner. His warm hand holding hers firmly felt so good that she was able to push aside her disappointment over being forbidden from doing something she’d longed to do since she was very young.
After supper, Jesse and Lily walked to the livery, where Jesse hooked up his buggy. On the way to the farm, he wrapped an arm around her and tucked her into his side. She sighed with contentment under his arm. When they were about halfway to the farm, he said, “You know we have some unfinished business, don’t you, Lily?”
She nodded into his chest, knowing precisely what he referred to.
“We’ll stop at the barn before I take you to the cabin.”
“All right, Jesse.”
The rest of the journey went far too quickly for Lily, who was both dreading the pending punishment and also enjoying the feeling of her new beau’s arm around her. He pulled up in front of the barn, slowly dislodged her from his side, and lifted the buggy’s brake. Climbing down first, he rounded the wagon to where Lily sat and held out his hand to assist her descent. Not letting go of her hand after she reached the ground, he led her to the inside of the barn. It was nighttime by then, and the barn was dark.
“Is there a lamp in here we can light?” he asked.
Lily nodded and fetched it from a ledge. Striking a match and setting it alight, Jesse brought a soft glow to the room. He hung the lamp from a nail on beam. “Right,” he said, turning to address her. “Tell me why I’m going to punish you.”
“Because I disobeyed you and went off alone with Elijah.”
The flame flickered, and shadows danced across his handsome face. “That’s exactly right. Even if I hadn’t ordered you to stay away from him, you should have had the good sense to do so.” He walked to a bench along the wall near the lamp and held out his hand to her. “I need you to understand that things will be different for you, Lily, now that we’re courting.”
She walked to him, took his hand, and then slid over his lap. She shifted over his hard thighs, finding a comfortable position. She wondered if she might be crazy, but for a split second before she felt worry over what was surely to be a very sound spanking, she actually felt safe and happy.
Jesse lifted the skirt of her dress and draped it over her back. “You haven’t had many rules or much guidance, it seems. You’re not used to obeying someone, but that needs to change. It’s my duty to protect you, and it’s yours to obey what I think necessary to keep you safe. I won’t give you orders for no reason. They will always be for your own good. All right?”
“All right,” she replied, as he lifted her petticoat and draped it over her back like he had the skirt of her dress.
“Spankings hurt, as you know. You’ll want to avoid earning them in the future.”
“Yes, Jesse, I know. I won’t disobey you again. I’m glad you’re punishing me instead of giving up on me. You make me feel important.”
“That’s because you are important,” he responded, sounding exasperated. His hand rested on her drawer-clad bottom. He pressed his other hand against her hip and drew her in close to his body. He rubbed her bottom in circles, and his touch felt very good before he landed two hard swats, one on each cheek. “You’ll never feel unimportant with me if I can help it. I’ll work to show you every day how important you are. Even by punishing you, I’m showing it. I wouldn’t be able to bear it if something happened to you, so I’ll spank you if it means that next time you’ll reconsider doing something foolish.” He swatted her bottom several times to make his point.
Lily felt tears coming to her eyes, not from the heat of the spanking, but from the warm feelings flooding her heart. “All right, Jesse.” She sniffled. “No one’s ever cared about me so much. I’m not used to it.”
“You’ll get used to it, Lily. You’ll get used to me caring, and you’ll get used to obeying, hopefully very soon to avoid spending time like this over my knee.” Jesse brought his hand down smartly again and again, and soon Lily felt the sting build to a very uncomfortable level.
After what seemed like an eternity of unrelenting swats, he paused. “Disobedient young ladies get spanked on their bare bottom. You disregarded an order meant to keep you safe, and that’s the worst kind of disobedience.” He pulled the ribbon of her drawers, loosening them from her waist.
Lily stiffened. She recalled the feeling of the earlier spanking on her bare skin, which caused a sting even without much force behind it. She wailed. “Please, no, Jesse. You’re spanking me hard. It hurts enough, I promise. Please, can you leave my drawers on?”
“Not this time, honey. I’m being hard on you for a reason.” He shoved the material to her ankles. His hand cracked down, and the loud slaps on her naked flesh echoed against the walls of the barn. “I don’t want to have to punish you for reckless disobedience again, Lily.”
Pain and embarrassment vied for the strongest feeling. Pain won. She twisted, trying to move the swats to any area besides the spot that seemed to be getting the most attention, which was the lowest part of her right cheek. Each time his hand struck, the burn magnified. She wouldn’t have been able to keep herself in place if he wasn’t holding her down.
His voice was very stern when he paused to speak again. “Don’t you dare disobey me again, especially when it has to do with your safety. Do you hear me, young lady?”
Jesse resumed the spanking, smacking her even harder than before. She shed tears when he lowered the punishment to her thighs.
“Not on my legs, Jesse! That hurts so much.”
He kept spanking. “It’s supposed to hurt. And you know that, don’t you?” he asked, a gentle tone carrying his words even as his hand connected hard with her bare skin.
“Yes,” she whimpered.
The smacks continued. “And you know it’s for your own good, to teach you a lesson?”
She wailed her response in between smacks. “Yes.”
He brought the punishment to a halt. “Then thank me for your spanking and ask me to continue teaching you this lesson in obedience.”
“Oh,” she moaned, heat flushing her face. She felt horribly embarrassed at the thought of repeating his words, but his tone of voice along with her position over his lap didn’t allow for much argument. “Thank you for spanking me,” she said, and threw her hands over her face, though he couldn’t see it anyway while it was pointed to the ground.
“And?” he prodded.
“Please… Please continue teaching me this lesson.”
“Good girl,” he said, before resuming the punishment. She didn’t complain again other than to cry and yelp, not wanting to be forced to utter more embarrassing words, which was almost as awful as the spanking itself.
His hand finally settled, and she dared to hope he was finished.
“Are you going to disobey me again, Lily?” he asked quietly.
“No, sir,” she said, matching his quiet voice in her meek answer.
“I planned to give you a strapping, but I think I’ve gotten through to you enough.”
She looked back at him with wide eyes, unable to fathom how painful a strapping would feel after such a thorough spanking with his hand. His gaze back at her was gentle and forgiving, and she resolved to do whatever she could to keep it that way. She never wanted to see disappointment or anger on his face again.
He helped her to her feet and gathered her into his arms. He set her on his left knee with her skirts still a wrinkled heap around her waist. Her drawers hung around her ankles, and her bare bottom burned against the rough fabric of his trousers. That was all forgotten when he kissed her.
He pulled away after a few moments. “I need to get you to the cabin. Your parents are probably wondering where you are.”
Lily gazed at him, filled with desire and longing she didn’t understand. “No, Jesse, we can stay. They probably don’t even notice I’m gone.”
Jesse shook his head and furrowed his brows. He stood and planted Lily on her feet. “Still, I want to get you home now. Pull up your drawers, honey.”
She bent to retrieve the material around her ankles and slid them up her legs slowly. He then helped her smooth down her tousled hair and wrinkled skirts. Walking with her out of the barn toward the cabin, he said, “A young lady should be home before dark, regardless of whether the rule is enforced.” When they got to the door, Jesse entered with her.
Lily’s ma had retired for the evening, but Roy looked over at them from his seat by the fireplace, a shot of whiskey in his hand. When he saw Jesse, he indicated with a wave to take a seat on the sofa. “I won’t ask where you’ve been with my daughter,” he growled.
Jesse sat down. “I’ll gladly tell you, Roy.”
“Very well,” Roy said, frowning at him. “Seems you broke up an engagement between my daughter and a man of God. I’d like to know your intentions and what you’ve been up to with her.”
“You’re right, I did help Lily break off her engagement, but I’ll argue that Elijah’s no man of God. He’s a bully, brute, and liar, for starters.”
Roy grunted and downed his whiskey. “So you say. You like to say a lot. You came into my house and insulted me and my wife, saying we don’t care for our daughter. I may not be the best father around, but I’ve always cared for her and made sure she was fed and had a roof over her head. What exactly are you planning on doing for Lily?”
Jesse winced. “I said some things to you I probably shouldn’t have. But I was angry because I care about Lily and I don’t want her to get hurt. I plan to do right by her, I assure you.”
“Is that so? Where have you been with her?”
Jesse glanced at Lily, who sat at the kitchen table, eyeing them warily. Turning his focus back to Roy, he said, “Well, first off she came to the saloon and sang a little ditty with me.”
“She was inside the saloon?” Roy exclaimed.
Jesse held up his hand. “It won’t happen again, Roy. I wasn’t happy about it either, and I won’t permit it in the future.”
Roy only stared at him, so Jesse continued. “After that, we went to supper. Following that, I drove her home in my buggy, but we stopped at the barn first before coming to the cabin. There I gave her a hard spanking for disobeying my order to not go off alone with Elijah after what happened to Maria.”
Roy’s eyes widened. He looked more incredulous with every new bit of information Jesse gave him. “You spanked her?”
“Yes, and I would do it again,” Jesse said firmly. “I won’t allow her to put herself in danger, and I know what I saw. I saw Elijah running from the saloon in a panic, and after that I saw Maria clutching her bleeding face.”
Roy cleared his throat. “I’m offended that you took the liberty to punish my daughter,” he said, not sounding the least bit offended. He rubbed his hand through his salt-and-pepper hair and said wearily. “I hope you mean to court her.”
Jesse smiled. “Of course. I already feel responsible for her.”
“Come on over here, Lily,” Roy said.
Lily walked over and sat next to Jesse on the sofa.
“You want Jesse here to court you?” Roy asked.
Lily nodded. “Yes, I’d like that.” She tried to look less happy about it than she was, but her face broke into a wide grin, which she turned on Jesse. He winked at her.
Roy grunted. “I guess that settles it.”
Jesse stood and held out his hand. “Thank you, Roy. We might not see eye-to-eye on everything, but I promise from now on to show you the respect you deserve for raising such a fine daughter.”
Roy stood as well and took his hand. They bid each other goodnight, and Jesse left after giving Lily a peck on the cheek. Later, as she lay in bed, Lily thought of Jesse and the way his hands felt on her body. She rubbed her sore bottom and drifted to sleep with a smile.