It was nearly a week before she managed to summon the courage to face the Swift family again. They were lonely days with nothing but her own thoughts and her mother’s nagging for company, neither of which was pleasant. All she could think about was Maggie’s innocent expression—but she had to have had something to do with the embarrassment Libby had suffered! She vowed revenge against the older girl. She wouldn’t be satisfied until Maggie had suffered the same humiliation she herself had endured.
Wesley had come twice to try to talk to her and each time she’d had her pa send him away. She’d sent word that she was unwell—and though she’d half expected him to storm up to her room to call her on it, she’d watched from the window as he’d saddled up and taken his leave. The second time, he’d chanced to look up at her window. She’d ducked down, but not before he’d seen her. She was certain of it.
And that was when she decided to swallow her pride that had been stomped on and see him the next time he came. Well, that and the fact that her sending him away had her mother gloating like the cat that caught the canary. She didn’t say much, exactly, but she went around humming with this pleased smile on her face and Libby found it unbearable.
It took him a few days to try again. In fact, she’d begun to think that she’d ruined the whole thing and that he might not, so when she heard the approaching hoof beats, she was out of her chair like a shot and out the door.
“Libby!” she heard her mother call after her. “Libby, it’s simply not proper—”
But her words were carried away with the wind and Libby did not so much as pause to hear them.
She was standing, watching and waiting for him when he dismounted. She was darn near positive that he’d seen her, that he could feel her eyes on him, but he punished her by ignoring her until he’d finished dismounting and tying up his horse. It was no more than she deserved—she’d ignored him for near a week, after all.
“Well,” he said finally. “It’s seems you’ve recovered.”
“I was beginning to wonder if you’d taken ill for good,” he remarked dryly.
She winced at the lack of warmth in his voice. She’d earned it, and they both knew it, but that didn’t make it easier to bear. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” he echoed. “So you admit it?”
“I… yes. I just wasn’t in any state to see you. But I should have been honest about it.”
He was in front of her in three quick strides and surprised her by taking her hands in his. “Look at me, Libby.”
She did so, shyly. It wasn’t often that she found herself apologizing. In fact, it only seemed to be Wesley that merited such an honor.
“I’m sorry that I kissed you. I never should have taken such liberties. If you wish to stop courtin’, I can’t say I’d blame you.”
Her mouth dropped open. He couldn’t be serious! “Wesley, no! That’s not what I want at all! I’m so sorry! I should have come, I should have seen you, I was just so embarrassed…”
“Embarrassed?” His brow furrowed. “Whatever for?”
She stared at him, blinking. He seriously didn’t know? “For the biscuits! I thought… well, I just… you’ll want a wife that can cook, and so I thought…”
“The biscuits?” His brow furrowed deeper and for a moment, she wondered if it was possible that he’d actually forgotten. Well, she wasn’t going to remind him! “You truly thought I’d be upset over some biscuits? Why, even my ma has ruined a pan or two in her time! And we had to eat them anyway!”
“Really?” She hardly dared to hope.
“Libby Park.” He took her by the shoulders and gave her a little shake. “Are you honestly telling me that you didn’t want to see me because you were still feeling sorry for yourself over some biscuits?”
Well, when he put it like that, it did sound rather ridiculous. Maybe if she just explained to him about Maggie, what she’d said, and how she’d been trying so hard ever since to make Libby’s life miserable, maybe he’d understand. But no. If she told him, then she wouldn’t be able to get her revenge. And nothing Wesley could do or say to Maggie would be better than what she’d come up with for the girl.
“Yes,” she answered meekly.
Wesley’s eyes narrowed so quickly that it made Libby’s heart pound ominously in her chest. Maybe coming clean hadn’t been the right idea after all.
“Little girl, I cannot believe you had me stewing and thinkin’ you didn’t want to see me when really…” He trailed off and shook his head. “What am I goin’ to do with you, Libby?”
“I don’t know,” she answered, but somehow she had a feeling that he’d already made up his mind.
“Well, I do. You know how you said you’d never had a switchin’?”
Oh, no! He couldn’t seriously mean to…
“I think it’s about time, don’t you?”
“This really isn’t necessary,” Libby said as she stared at the long switch in his hand.
Wesley was looking it over and picking it clean. “If we’re going to be courtin’, Libby, then I decide what’s necessary.”
“Well, isn’t that convenient for you.”
He didn’t look at her, just continued to pluck leaves and bits of twig from the switch. “I was going to give you three for the lie, and one more for each day you lied. But we’ll add two for your sass.”
She made a face at him, but couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t land her deeper into trouble. “This isn’t fair!” she managed at last.
“Oh? You don’t think so? What then would be fair?” This time, he looked at her and it seemed he truly wanted her opinion, but she was at a loss for how to answer.
“I said I was sorry.”
“I know you did, darlin’. And I appreciate it, truly, but bein’ sorry isn’t enough to ensure that you’ll never do it again. That’s what the switchin’ is for. Now, come on over here and let’s get this over with.”
Libby begrudgingly stomped toward him, unhappy with her fate. The closer she came, the more ominous the switch appeared.
“Now, you’re going to bend over and hug this tree.”
She arched a brow.
“Like this.” He moved her arms and put each of them around the tree. “That way, you’ll have something to hold onto and you’ll stay standing up. You be a good girl and this will be over before you know it.”
Libby followed through with his instructions, wincing as her hands pressed into the hard bark of the tree. She might should’ve just taken her chances on the falling down.
Or so she thought. As soon as the first swish sounded through the air and the switch landed on her bottom, she quickly became glad for the tree that steadied her. Even through her dress skirts and her drawers, the switch had a mighty sting.
“That’s one. How many did we say? An even dozen, was it?”
She snapped her head back and glowered at him. “It was eight and you know it, Wesley Swift!”
He grinned unrepentantly at her. “I ought to add another two for your attitude, but seein’ as how I was picking at you, I think I’ll let it slide—this time.”
When she saw him raise his arm in preparation of delivering the next one, she turned and faced the tree. No sooner than she did, the switch bit into her bottom, only slightly below where he’d put the first one. She bit down on her lip, hard, to hold back the cry of pain.
When the third came lashing down, this time Libby was a bit too late holding back her cry of pain.
The fourth was the lowest yet; she was gritting her teeth in order to endure it. The fifth wrung a curse from her lips. She hadn’t even realized she’d said it aloud until she felt Wesley’s hand on her shoulder.
She winced as she looked into his solemn brown eyes.
“Libby, that kind of language from a lady is unacceptable. You know that, don’t you?”
“I… I didn’t realize I’d said it aloud,” she admitted, her lip trembling. “It just hurts so much, Wes.”
He smiled gently at her shortening his name. “I know it does, honey. Stay strong for me. You only have three more to go.”
“So… you’re not going to…”
“After your switchin’ is over, I’m going to spank you with my hand,” he added, his voice growing sterner. “Is that understood?”
She winced as the tears she’d been holding back began to fall down her cheeks. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know, Libby. I know.” His lips grazed her forehead for one quick, delicious moment, then he left her hugging the tree. “Three more.”
“I want you to count them for me.”
She grimaced, but knew she could little else other than obey. “O-one,” she choked out as the switch burned her bottom. For such a small thing, it sure had a mighty sting. “Two!” she wailed.
“Last one, honey. Take a deep breath now.”
The final lash hit across the lower part of her bottom and it hurt more than any of the others. Libby couldn’t call out the number. She couldn’t talk. She was too busy jumping up and down from the pain.
And Wesley, to his credit, let her do just that for a few moments before he cleared his throat, prompting her.
She turned to him rather defiantly as she said, “Three.”
“Good.” Then he sat, then and there, and patted his knee.
She’d been so busy doing the dance of the well-spanked naughty girl that she’d nearly forgotten she’d earned extra chastisement. “Oh, Wesley,” she groaned. “Please, I promise, it won’t happen again.”
“There’s only one way to be certain of that, and I intend to see to it.”
She stomped her foot in frustration. How was it that she’d gone and fallen for such a staunch disciplinarian? Right then and there, she asked as much, but Wesley only patted his knee once more.
“Well, I’d undo it if I could,” she told him with a haughty toss of her head as she stomped over to him. She was certain that she saw his lips twitch right before she placed herself over his knees.
“I’d feel sorry for you, if you hadn’t brought it on yourself.”
“Hmph,” she snorted, scowling as she felt him begin to lift her skirts.
“This reminds me of how I met you,” he commented.
“This isn’t how you met me,” she said, some of the rancor leaving her voice despite herself.
“Maybe not, but it was the start of my really getting to know you.”
Damn him, even over his lap knowing she was about to get spanked, he still knew how to soften her.
“I want you to know that I don’t punish you for anything other than your own good. It gives me little pleasure to tan your hide, but there are times it has to be done.”
“Yes, Sir.” Somehow, hearing him say that made it a little easier to endure.
Or it did, when he wasn’t actually spanking her. Because the moment his large, hard hand came smacking down on the back of her drawers, the tears that had dried moments before quickly renewed in her eyes. She’d thought his hand hurt the last time she’d felt it, but she hadn’t ever been spanked over a switched bottom before! It was agony! Painful, stinging, burning misery!
Libby sobbed quietly over his lap as the air resounded with the sounds of his palm cracking across her bottom again and again. Her bottom stung to the point where she wondered if she hadn’t sat on a wasp’s nest. And each and every smack renewed the pain until she began to know what he meant about not being able to sit still. She was pretty sure she would be experiencing that for herself very soon.
“Wesley!” she cried. “Please stop! I’m begging you!”
“Hush now,” he replied, not unkindly. “We’re almost through.”
When she felt his fingers at the ribbon of her drawers, she gasped aloud and tried to bolt off his lap.
“None of that now,” he scolded firmly, keeping her right where he wanted her.
“But… what are you doing?”
“I decided you need a more memorable reminder to watch your tongue at all times—even when your bottom is stingin’. So these last few will be on the bare.”
Her stomach twisted something awful at his pronouncement. He couldn’t be serious… and yet, she knew all too well that he didn’t say things like this lightly. “Wesley…” she mewled. “Please… I’ll be a good girl.”
“Of that I have no doubt, darlin’, at least you’ll do your best for a time. But that doesn’t change what I have to do. Now hush and take the rest of your punishment. We’re almost through.”
Almost turned out to be another dozen swats just as hard as the ones before it. But having no protection between her already sore, aching behind and his hard, firm hand made them almost impossible to bear. She was squirming and crying out at the top of her voice with each and every swat, the bravery she’d shown during her switching a thing of the past. She’d thought the burning sting of the switch against her bottom had been hard enough, but to have his hand paddling where the switch had landed only minutes ago was an entire new degree of pain. Add to it the humiliation of knowing that he was seeing her very bare bottom, and Libby was feeling awfully sorry for herself by the time he was finished. When he let her sit up, her face was streaked with tears.
“If that happens again after we are wed,” Wesley said, gently wiping her cheeks, “you will take the same punishment entirely on the bare, and only after I’ve washed your mouth out with soap.”
She grimaced at the very thought and considered telling him she’d never marry him under such conditions. But they would both know it was a lie, because despite the awful things he promised, she couldn’t resist relaxing in his arms as he comforted her. Besides which, she’d only end up right back over his knee, so in this case, it was best to just keep quiet. She was learning after all.
“Alright, are you well enough to see my family, or should I take you home?”
The thought of seeing Maggie after she’d just been so soundly spanked was an unsettling one. But the moment the thought hit her, she knew she wanted to see her. Because right at that moment she knew what she would do. She knew how to get even with Maggie Swift.
It should have come to her sooner. The only reason it hadn’t, she supposed, was that she was unaccustomed to the swift discipline that Wesley’s family was so used to. Which made the answer obvious. It had been right there in front of her face the whole time! How could she humiliate a woman grown, living with her brothers? Why, she’d do something that would get Maggie spanked, of course! And if she happened to be spanked in front of the entire family, while Libby herself was there, even better! The idea was so good, so deliciously perfect that she couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of it before now.
The only thing she didn’t know was how. But no matter. It would come to her. She just knew it.
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