While Edward had been chastising Charlotte, Walter had driven Miranda around the estate following the road that circled the property. Keeping a slow speed, he had quickly dispelled her fears and she had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and as they turned the corner that would take them back to the house, she touched his arm.
“I don’t want this to end,” she declared. “Do you think we could go out onto the road?”
“We could do another circle around the grounds,” he suggested.
“I’d really like to go out. Please?”
“Aren’t you worried we might scare some carriage horses?”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Perhaps just a little way then, and in the opposite direction to the village. If we see any carriages coming, we should stop.”
“You have twisted my arm, and yes, if we see a carriage I will pull to the side,” Walter agreed, and continuing past the house, he headed down the driveway, out through the gates, and onto the road.
Miranda was very pleased with herself. Her plan to charm everyone appeared to have worked, and Walter had either forgotten his promise to spank her, or he had completely forgiven her, but as happy as she was that things seemed to have calmed down, she couldn’t deny an odd feeling of disappointment. Did she want to be turned over his knee and spanked? No, not really, but… sort of. There was something wonderfully tantalizing about the thought, though not the thought by itself, but the thought of him doing something so scandalous.
They had only been off the estate a short time when he picked up the pace, eliciting a high-pitched squeal from his excited passenger.
“Oh, my goodness, Walter, this is so thrilling.”
“Shall I go faster?”
“If you want. I’m scared, but it’s a fun scared.”
Carefully pressing his foot onto the accelerator, he gathered speed, but seeing a single horse and buggy up ahead, he immediately slowed down, pulled to the side of the road, and stopped.
“Bother! I was enjoying that,” Miranda complained.
“As you so forcefully said when we first met, roads are for horses and carriages, not dastardly machines.”
“Uh, yes, I do remember that,” she said, looking appropriately chagrined. “I may have been a bit hasty.”
“Why don’t we stand at the side of my so-called dastardly machine, so when the horse goes by he’ll be comforted by the humans in front of it.”
“Good idea,” she smiled, and waited in her seat as he walked around and helped her climb out.
The buggy approached, and though the horse gave it a wide berth and a wary stare, as did the man holding the reins, they continued on without incident.
“You’re quite right, Miranda. Yours was the third carriage I encountered, and the horses pulling the first two didn’t have any reaction, but if I’d been motoring along that horse would have, I’m sure. On my drive home I shall make it a point to stop if any approach me.”
“How did you deal with the carriages in London?”
“I do not take the motor car into the city. I had it transported to my home, which is on the outskirts. It was a costly affair, but when I set my mind to something I see it through,” he said, shooting her a purposeful stare.
His eyes sent a strange thrill in her stomach, and she was relieved when he shifted his gaze and pointed across the field.
“Shall we explore that small thicket of trees and chat as we walk? It’s impossible to talk over the noise of the motor.”
“Yes, I’d like that very much,” she nodded.
“Tell me, Miranda, how is it a young woman like yourself is allowed so much freedom?” he asked as they began to amble. “You came all the way out here with just your maid, and I—”
“Along with father’s best driver and another driver as a backup,” she remarked, interrupting him.
“Even so, I sense you have far more liberty than most other young ladies.”
“I do,” she admitted. “My mother is American and considers herself a modern woman, and my father thinks mothers should raise daughters and fathers should raise sons, so while he pretends to be the boss, when it comes to me he leaves the decisions up to my mother. I always go to him for permission as well of course, just for appearances’ sake.”
“Why do I get the feeling that when your mother says no, you go to your father, win him over, and leave him to deal with the fallout?”
“How do you know that?” she exclaimed. “How could you possibly?”
“And you have only brothers,” he added, “how many?”
“Two! You are astounding.”
“Not really,” he grinned. “Tell me about them.”
“They’re both younger and very annoying.”
“I’m sure,” he laughed.
“Look, Walter, a knoll. Let’s walk up there rather than go into the woods.”
“Can you hike up a slope with your sore ankle? I see you’re not limping, so I suppose it has healed up.”
“Ah, yes,” she muttered. “It feels fine now, thank you.”
He saw the shadow of a pink flush, and as he thought back to the previous afternoon he couldn’t help but shake his head. Her ankle had not been as injured as much as she’d claimed. She had wanted him to lift her in his arms. It was an encouraging thought.
As they meandered, he listened to her chatter about how nice it was to be out of the bustle of the city, and his mind turned to the conversation. The one he could not put off. As they approached the gentle slope, she stopped midsentence and pointed to a well-worn path that rose up from the base.
“Look, Walter, look, there’s a trail.”
“It appears others have enjoyed this walk,” Walter remarked. “I’m sure when we reach the top it will provide a wonderful view.”
“Yes, I’m sure it will,” Miranda agreed.
It was an easy stroll, but Miranda noticed Walter had become reserved, and by the time they reached the peak he had fallen silent. As they stood gazing at the panoramic majesty laid out before them, he took a deep breath and nodded his head.
“It’s breathtaking,” he finally murmured. “The earth in all its glory.”
“Yes, truly beautiful,” she agreed. “Is everything all right, Walter? I sense a change in your mood.”
“There are some things I need to talk with you about,” he said soberly. “Look, over there, low trees. Let’s see if there’s a place to sit in the shade.”
“That’s an excellent suggestion. It never occurred to me to bring my parasol from London.”
“Why would it. Days like this don’t usually happen in autumn. It’s a gift.”
“You’re right,” she agreed. “It is a gift.”
Reaching the trees, he removed his jacket and laid it on the soft grass, and as they sat down Miranda felt a shiver of worry. Did he know about what she’d done to Charlotte? Was he was going to ask her about it?
“Miranda,” he began slowly, “last night…”
“You haven’t forgotten,” she said quietly.
“Of course I haven’t forgotten.”
“I wasn’t sure. You have been so obliging, I thought perhaps you had.”
“No, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The thing is, Miranda,” he said, taking a breath. “I find myself drawn to you, but I love my cousin deeply. I know what happened between the two of you, and—”
“You do? You know about Brighton?” she asked breathlessly, her eyes wide. “Is that why you told me off last night?”
“Yes, that’s exactly why.”
“I don’t know what to say,” she mumbled, dropping her gaze to the ground.
“Where is the brazen, haughty Miranda I met yesterday? Are you truly the girl who would dare to cause another so much suffering?”
“Charlotte did it to me first,” she grumbled, a heavy frown creasing her brow.
“I am fully aware of Charlotte’s prank,” Walter said patiently, “and while it was foolish and unkind, it doesn’t compare to what you did.”
His voice had taken on a cold edge, and risking a glance, she suddenly felt a wave of regret. She liked him, she really liked him. Why, oh, why, did he have to be Charlotte’s cousin?
“No, I suppose not,” she muttered, quickly shifting her eyes back to the grass.
“So, you see, Miranda, I’m in a quandary.”
“I find myself drawn to you, and I believe this feeling is mutual. Am I wrong?”
“Uh, no, Walter, you are not wrong,” she replied, “not wrong at all.”
“How can I follow my heart knowing what you did to my beloved Charlotte, and how can I expect Charlotte to accept you?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “Perhaps if I said I was sorry? I have regretted it, and I’m very sorry. It wasn’t all my idea.”
“Then whose was it?”
“It’s such a long, boring story,” she sighed.
“Regardless, you were front and center, were you not?”
“I was,” she nodded, “and I admit I get a bit zealous about things sometimes, especially when I’m angry.”
“Clearly,” he grimaced. “I could never sanction such behavior.”
“No, no, of course not.”
“Does anyone besides Edward and Charlotte know what you did, like your parents, for instance?”
“No, why?” she asked, daring to look at him again.
“I didn’t think so.”
“But why did you ask me that?” she repeated.
“Because, Miranda, you have not suffered any consequences for what you did.”
He watched her carefully, and the pink blush that had colored her face began to change into a deep red.
“What about Charlotte?” she muttered. “What about what she did to me? What about her consequences?”
“She paid the piper, I can assure you.”
“How do you know?”
“Miranda,” he said, the edge returning to his voice, “she has paid, I know she has paid, but we’re not talking about her consequences, we’re talking about yours, and we’re ultimately talking about how we can get past this unfortunate situation so I can call upon you with the most honorable of intentions.”
“I know what you want to do,” she whispered. “You want to, uh, you know… punish me.”
“You cannot bring yourself to say the words?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Then I will. Yes, I want to spank you. I told you last night I would, but that was presumptuous.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, it was presumptuous because I will only spank you if you want me to, if you ask me to.”
“Ask you?” she gasped. “You expect me to ask you?”
“Indeed, and that’s not all I expect. After I have finished warming your bottom, I’ll expect you to tell me who the cad was who went along with you. Was he behind this whole thing?”
“Lastly,” he said, interrupting her, “I will expect you go to Charlotte, apologize profusely, and beg her forgiveness. If you are prepared to do those things, then perhaps there might be a way for us to move forward.”
“I don’t think this is normal,” she said, locking his eyes. “I don’t think—”
“Miranda, you are right about that. In fact, I am out of the bounds of normal in many ways. I am a rogue, a maverick. I am a gentleman to be sure, and I live my life with integrity, but there are certain areas in which I am, shall we say, different, and when it comes to the way I am with women, that word most certainly applies.”
“That will only be explored if we get past this point.”
She slowly turned her gaze back to the stunning view of the English countryside so splendidly laid out before her. The puffy clouds were sending massive shadows across the landscape, and the odd sensation in her stomach was turning into a flighty flipping thing.
“I too, am a rogue,” she murmured. “A female rogue.”
“Obviously,” he nodded.
“For example,” she continued, her voice falling even softer, “before I could ask you to chastise me for what I did to your cousin, I would first have to ask you to kiss me.”
Her comment so shocked him, he had no response, and for a moment he thought she was being facetious, but when she slowly turned her head and stared at him, he saw she was completely sincere. Wordlessly he raised his hand, curled his fingers around her hair and held it tightly, then leaning in, he brushed his lips on hers. It was a feathered kiss, a light dusting, a hesitant testing, but her arms circled his neck and pulled him into her. In an instant the sparks ignited. Fueled by a rising fever, he pressed back fervently, moving his mouth over hers with an impassioned, ardent rapture.
“Walter, oh, my goodness, Walter,” she gasped when he finally broke away. “Please, will you spank me?”
Before she had even caught her breath, she found herself being jerked over his thighs, and when he pulled her dress and petticoats up to her waist, she kicked her heels and let out a squeal.
“Wait! What are you—?”
“Have you changed your mind?”
“No, no, I haven’t changed my mind, I just didn’t think you would be, uh, looking at my, uh, undergarments.”
“You will not feel the heat of my hand through all those layers of material. I shall spank you properly or not at all.”
“Oh, Walter, I am deeply embarrassed. Must you?”
“Yes, I must,” he declared, gazing down at her thin silk drawers.
“You can still change your mind. Shall I continue? I warn you, I shall not hold back. You need to be soundly spanked, and my hand will sting from its very first slap.”
“Shall I continue? Once I begin, I shall spank until I’m satisfied. Yes or no?”
“Yes,” she squeaked. “Yes, continue.”
Pushing the last petticoat out of the way, his palm flew upon her backside, blasting from cheek to cheek.
Miranda hadn’t expected his hand to land with such heat, nor with such swiftness, and she wailed and squawked in protest. When he paid her no heed, dispatching his smarting smacks with abandon, she began to kick in fury and shock.
“Stop,” she screeched. “Stop this at once!”
“Your days of being a spiteful, nasty, haughty girl are over,” he exclaimed, pausing to lift his leg over the backs of her knees. “You will learn to forgive and forget.”
“Walter, no, it hurts, please stop.”
“I warned you before I began I would spank you properly, and I will.”
“Be quiet, pay attention,” he barked, swatting her with a volley of stinging slaps.
“Owwww, I’m sorry,” she howled, squirming in a vain attempt to avoid the punishment.
“When I am spanking you, or reprimanding you, you will not use my name. You will refer to me as my lord. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my lord,” she wailed, shocked that he was repeating what she’d heard in her dream.
“You are a petulant, arrogant, spoiled girl,” he scolded, “and you will learn the error of your ways.”
“I have learned, my lord, I have! Truly. Please stop. It was Charlotte who started it all.”
“I know what Charlotte did,” he retorted, “and this is because of how you responded. It was worse. Still you don’t claim responsibility. Must I bare your bottom?”
“No! How dare you even suggest such a thing?”
“How dare I? Is that what you said? How dare I? You were going to have a complete stranger, a cad of a man, spank Charlotte, and I suspect he would have bared her bottom. You are paying the piper, young lady, and pay him you will,” he exclaimed, and gripping the thin silk of her bloomers, he yanked hard, ripping them apart.
“My lord, have mercy,” she wailed. “I wish to die with shame, and he wasn’t going—”
“I can assure you, you will not die from shame,” he interrupted as he sent his hand back to work. “You may not want to have anything more to do with me by the time I’ve finished with you, but you will be punished for once in your life, and it is long overdue!”
As he’d delivered his lecture, he had slapped her naked skin with zest, increasing the force of his slaps as he’d continued, determined that her first spanking would be a fit punishment for her crime.
With the weight of his legs over hers, and his tight grip holding her in place over his lap, try as she might, Miranda’s strenuous efforts to escape were futile. Her bottom was on fire, his hand was raining its painful punishment with abandon, and with her arms flailing, she let out a despondent yowl.
“My lord, I am stinging and burning,” she wailed, “please, my lord, please. I am so sorry. I shall apologize to Charlotte, and I will never do anything like that ever again, I swear.”
“An apology! Finally!” he exclaimed, pausing his hand. “I think a few more where you sit and then we’ll be done.”
Swishing his flattened palm upwards, he caught the base of her cheeks several times in quick succession. Her cry was shrill but he’d expected it, and he continued unaffected until he was satisfied she had been well and truly punished.
“There! We’re done!” he said sternly. “I hope you meant what you said.”
“I did, I did,” she gasped. “Oh, please, may I rub it?”
“No, you may not, but I will,” he said, his voice quickly changing to a softer tone.
As his hand began to softly caress her scalded skin, with a loud moan Miranda sank into his lap. The battle had left her exhausted, and as she tried to catch her breath she closed her eyes, trying to come to grips with her circumstance.
What on earth had just happened? What was happening? This man, this handsome, dashing, daredevil of a man had done the unthinkable. Not only had he turned her over his knee and delivered the first spanking of her life, he had dared to rip open her silken drawers and gaze upon her nakedness.
But as mortified and angry as she was, as his hand continued to softly fondle, another feeling was pushing through, permeating her being. She didn’t want the feeling to be there. She wanted to hold on to her anger, her hurt pride, her embarrassment, but it was too strong. The need for him to hold her and comfort her, and to curl into him, was overwhelming everything else.
“Miranda?” he said softly. “How do you feel?”
“Overcome,” she bleated. “Overcome and chastised.”
“A bit, yes, but, um, not like I was. I must know, my lord, am I forgiven?”
“Yes, Miranda, you are definitely forgiven.”
As he heard her deep sigh, he moved the ripped halves of her drawers back over her cheeks, sliding the flimsy fabric over her bottom in a comforting caress.
“You have been sadly neglected,” he said tenderly, “but that will change now. As long as you are in my life, I will make sure you get what you need. I will cherish you, and take care of you, and yes, I will spank you when it’s deserved.”
“My lord,” she whimpered, “please, may I ask you to hold me in your lap?”
“Miranda,” he said softly, “of course you may.”
Moving his leg, he pulled her up and brought her into his arms, her dress and petticoats rumpling around her.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” she mumbled as she nestled against his chest. “I just can’t. I can’t believe I asked you to, uh, spank me, and you ripped my drawers. It astounds me, and yet…”
“And yet?” he pressed.
“And yet, what I feel most is this need to cling to you.”
“I know, my sweet girl, and you may cling all you wish.”
“If any other had dared to do that to me, I would be punching and kicking and screaming him right now.”
“But you would not have asked any other man.”
“No, no, I would not have. It is a strange thing, a very strange thing, but it’s a wonderful thing too.”
“Look at that view,” he said softly. “What better place could there have been for you to have first surrendered to me?”
“Is that what I’ve done?” she whispered as she followed his gaze to the awe-inspiring vista.
“It is. Don’t you feel it?”
She paused, thought for a moment, then nodded her head.
“I do feel it,” she replied, then turning back and looking up at him, she said, “but I think I’ll feel it even more if you kiss me again.”
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