It amazed me how long I successfully managed to avoid Samuel. It seemed he’d been attached to my side for days, but now, with an effort, I managed to evade him.
I did not go down to the creek to fetch my water; nor did I swing by Ma’s while Hannah was in school, to cook, or bake, or mend together. I disliked hastening to the well to fetch my water, but I did not want to risk going to the water alone in the morning, especially as Samuel was so handy with his palm now, and I’d been told not to go. I told myself I wasn’t obedient to him, but rather it wasn’t worth the effort of dealing with him.
Matthew was busy helping Aaron with some jobs on his homestead before the arrival of the new baby, so we saw little of Matthew. I had much to do during the day, and fortunately it seemed my jobs easily took place at the same time as Samuel was working himself.
As I was mending by the fire early one morning, after Hannah had gone to school, I heard a knock come at the door. I leapt to my feet and raced to Hannah’s room, where there was no window, peeking out at the window in the main room. It wasn’t until I saw his shadow pass the curtain in the main room that I dared creep out again. And it wasn’t until I’d picked up my mending again that the realization hit me: I’d been hiding from him. I was not a woman who hid. Even when I had faced a drunken husband who would raise his fist to me, I had never hidden. I had faced him, fought him, and thrown myself at him to protect my daughter.
Then why did I hide now?
Determined not to be pushed to do something I need not do, I got to my feet, placed my mending on the table, and yanked the door to the cabin open. I would face him. If he’d gone back to town, then I would simply walk toward town until we met.
Clouds crept in front of the sun, darkening the sky, and the woods adjacent to where I walked now seemed ominous as elongated shadows danced upon the ground in front of me. I felt a chill creep over my arms, the hairs standing on end. Rubbing my hands briskly over my arms, I continued to walk rapidly, determined to stay on my mission.
The snap of branches immediately behind me made me jump.
I spun on my heel, the panic I’d felt making me angry. I struck Samuel as hard as I could, my balled fist landing a solid punch to his midsection, causing him to double over. I was so angry with him, I could’ve smacked him again, but my conscience pricked me when he braced himself on the trunk of a snow white birch, holding one hand out in surrender.
I moved toward him, but his voice thundered at me. “Enough!” he roared. “You raise your hand to me one more time, woman, and you won’t sit for a week!”
I froze, painfully aware of the mistake I’d just made. I’d been warned sternly never to raise a hand to him. Still, I felt somewhat justified.
“You scared the living daylights out of me!” I protested. “I thought you were a bandit or savage! How dare you?”
He was still bent over, panting for breath, but his blue eyes were storm clouds warning of the tempest that lay ahead. “You were walkin’ through the woods like Little Red Riding Hood,” he said in a short, clipped tone. “With no care for your safety. And I ain’t a scholar, little Ruth, but I’m not a fool. I damn well know you were in the cabin hidin’ on me. I came behind you just now and didn’t mean to scare you.”
“That’s the most foolish thing I ever heard!” I shouted, not even bothering to modulate my voice. But as he finally regained his breath, unfolding himself to his full length, he towered over me, stern and foreboding. His eyes were thunderous, his nostrils flared. He placed two enormous hands on his hips.
He shook his head. When he spoke it was in a low, warning tone. “Woman,” he growled, “I’m fresh out of warnin’s for you.”
I knew he was coming for me. And I knew when he caught me, I was going to end up belly down and blistered. So I did the smartest thing I could. I turned tail and ran.
I was fast and he was still wheezing, which gave me the decided advantage. I made quick use of my tiny stature, dodging between narrow branches, trying to ignore his growls behind me as nimble limbs snapped back and whipped him. I wasn’t sure where I was going or how I would prevent him from getting his hands on me, but I did know I had to try.
I ducked below a weeping willow and around a pine tree, leaping straight over a fallen log and narrowly missing a huge broken branch in front of me. I turned quickly to the left and under an overgrown mass of thistles and ferns, to where I knew a small clearing was hidden. I turned and looking quickly over my shoulder. I breathed a sigh of relief. He was a good distance behind me, hindered by his larger size and my nimble feet. I kept running.
I had run before, my skirts flailing about me, my hairpins jostled from the knot at the base of my neck, with my hair tumbling about me. But those times were not the same as they were now. Now, I ran with my heart tripping within my chest, knowing that when he caught me, and I knew it was only a matter of time, I would be overpowered. That his large, strong body would pin me down, and I’d be helpless. He’d very likely spank me, and I knew I deserved it.
To my right, I saw the dim entrance to a cave, and my desperate mind grasped onto that. I was vaguely familiar with the area, nearby the berry bushes I frequented when the berries were ripe. The cave would be perfect. He was far enough behind me that he wouldn’t see me. I dodged to the right, but the minute I came to the entrance of the cave, I froze. The temperature had dropped, and what would be in that cave, anyhow? A bear? Bats? Rats? I knew then I’d rather face Samuel and his wrath than whatever loathsome creatures would be found in the cave.
It only took several seconds for me to decide what to do. But those several seconds were enough. I’d underestimated the speed of a man on a mission.
I spun around, my eyes darting about me to see where to go next, when Samuel stood in front of me. We both froze, staring at each other in the dim light of the forest. Shadows fell across his face from the sun peeking through the branches overhead. Surrounding us, I could hear the familiar twitter, calls, and chirps of the birds, murmur of the creek, and whisper of wind through the leaves. But the loudest sound of all was my own panting and his. I was caught, the prey now at the mercy of my hunter.
His eyes were narrowed, his lips thinned in an implacable line. I wiped my dampened hands on my skirts and met his gaze. He was handsome when he was angry. His blue eyes the color of cornflowers looked darker in the woods. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he sucked in breath. His eyes darted to where I stood and around me, likely trying to see if I could plan another escape route. But there was none. With the cave at my back and a bank of trees on either side of me, the only way out was through him. I was trapped, and he knew it.
He stepped toward me, the crack of the branches beneath his feet making me jump, one firm step after another, until he stood directly in front of me and I had to do what I always did when we stood that close. I craned my neck to look up at him, feeling the stretch along my spine as I lifted wide eyes to his massive form. One enormous hand went to my chin, not rough but not gently, and I felt my face engulfed with his warm, firm touch. I could not look away. His fingers flexed, and my jaw clenched.
He inhaled, still panting, as he spoke. “Young lady,” he began, then paused for more breath. His voice was deep, chiding, and I began to tremble as he spoke. “You’re in trouble the likes of which you’ve never known.”
I noticed several thin red stripes across his cheeks, where the tree branches had lashed him. He wouldn’t have gotten hurt if I hadn’t run from him. A stab of remorse hit me, and my eyes misted as I reached one hand to his cheek, tracing a finger along the line.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered in a shaky breath. Still holding my chin, he dipped his mouth to my ear.
“Oh, little Ruth,” he said. “You will be.”
He released my chin and dipped down, both of his hands under my arms as he hoisted me up and straight over his shoulder. I sprawled, helpless, the prey caught with no choice but surrender. I did not fight. I knew I deserved whatever would happen now.
I’d been holding everything on my own now for days. I felt riddled with guilt from having caused him distress and pain. I longed to be close to him again. A small part of me, if I were really honest, wanted him to take over.
It was hard to see where we were going, strewn over his back as I was. With the first few steps I noticed a large broken pine, its branch sticking out oddly, but it was the only thing I noticed, as I dared not lift my head too often. Squirming resulted in a firm swat to my backside, so I laid as still as possible. But we were moving out of the forest now, and onto the plain. Still, we walked on.
“If you let me down, I will walk and not run,” I said. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, Samuel.”
His only response was another sharp swat to my bottom. I fell silent.
We walked on, and I closed my eyes, realizing then that he was heading back to my home. I recognized the area around us now, and knew that soon we’d come to my cabin. I shivered now that my punishment was imminent.
He put me on my feet, then large fingers tightened around my upper arm, marching me forward toward my cabin. He opened the door and tugged me in, shutting the door behind him. With no further ado, he wrapped one large hand around the chair by my table and dragged it to the center of the room, the scrape of the feet echoing in the silence of the cabin. Still holding me, he sat heavily, dragging me forward almost roughly so that I stood between his large knees. His blue eyes bored into mine, his jaw clenched, as he glared at me. I’d hoped the little walk in the woods had calmed his temper. It seemed instead he was angrier now than ever. Both of his hands grasped my waist, and he yanked me even closer to him so that I felt the warmth of his legs straight through my skirts.
“What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?” he asked. I squeezed my eyes shut. I wasn’t prepared for the question.
I took a minute to compose myself, before deciding brutal honesty would be best. I opened my eyes. “I’ve hidden from you for days, yes, I will admit.”
Jaw still clenched, he deigned to give me one stout nod. “Go on.”
I swallowed, taking a shaky breath before I continued. “I just… was afraid. Not sure what happens next. But I wanted to speak to you, so I followed you. And I never heard you approach. You scared me when you grabbed me like that.”
He nodded again and his eyes were still hard. “Why do you think I don’t want you in the woods alone? If you don’t hear a big, lumbering man like me coming along, how would you hear something that would be a danger to you?”
I cast my eyes down. He had a point.
He jerked my head up to meet him again with his fingers under my chin. “Why did you run?”
Well, that was easy. “Because I knew you’d spank me, and I didn’t want a spanking.”
Amusement flitted across his features though he remained stern, the barest trace of amusement. “Honey, if I decide you’re getting a lickin’, you can run, and you can hide, but there’s one thing you can count on. I’ll lay you across my knee sooner or later, and you’ll not only get the lickin’ you deserve, you’ll answer for the chase. You mark me, woman. Don’t you ever run from me again.”
I cast my eyes down, suddenly repentant for acting like such a child all along.
“Yes, sir,” I mumbled. I needed him to fix this.
I looked back up at him and nodded.
He leaned in, his voice even lower, not much above a harsh whisper. “Remove your clothes.”
I gasped. “All of them, sir?” My heart galloped in my chest.
One hand reached out and threaded his fingers through the messy knot of hair before tugging.
“All of them.”
My hands shook as I slowly began to undress, layer upon layer of my clothing falling off my shoulders, over my head, down around my ankles. I took my dress and laid it over the back of the chair next to him, followed by my petticoats and stays, and stockings. When I got down to my undergarments, my stomach began to clench. When I was divested of all my clothing, I would be punished. Slowly, with his eyes never leaving me, I pushed my undergarments off until I stood in front of him completely bare.
He crooked a finger at me.
My stomach churning, legs trembling, I choked in a breath. I’d forgotten to breathe.
When I stood in front of him, he grasped my wrist and yanked me even closer so that my naked form pushed against his inner thighs.
“Tell me, Ruth,” he said, eyes steely and unwavering, his voice almost harsh. “Tell me why I’m punishin’ you.”
I swallowed and took a deep breath. “I hid from you. I struck you. And then I ran.”
He nodded slowly. “And are those the actions of a full grown woman, young lady?”
I felt ashamed and shook my head. “No, sir.”
A finger under my chin brought my eyes back to his. “And what should I do about this, little girl?”
I closed my eyes briefly, inhaling again. I hated having to say it aloud. Opening my eyes, I spoke, my voice just a whisper. “Punish me.”
He nodded slowly, and to my relief he didn’t make me ask him, or instruct me to lie over his knee. He simply lifted me and placed me belly down exactly where he wanted me. To my surprise, though I still feared the pain of being punished, I also felt something different. As my bare stomach hit his fully clothed thighs, as I felt one firm hand against my lower back, I closed my eyes. In the momentary prelude to my chastisement, what I felt then surprised me.
“I’m half tempted to cut a switch or use my belt,” he said. “You’ve done wrong, and I’m none too pleased.”
I nodded silently.
“Should I cut a switch or use my belt, little Ruth?”
I was surprised he asked me. I needed him to punish me, and we both knew it. Though those options sounded awful, I said what I truly felt. I needed things to be right again. I needed his arms around me in comfort, not restraint.
“I’ll take whatever you think I deserve.”
“Good answer,” he said, and that was my only warning. I gasped as his large hand descended with a loud smack that echoed in the room.
Another hard swat followed another, and another, until my skin was aflame and the pain nearly unbearable. It hadn’t hurt this much before, but this time I was bare, and he was relentless. I tried to take my spanking bravely, but one searing swat across my upper thighs made me cry out. I scissored my legs, consumed by the pain, but he was ready. One heavy leg trapped mine so that now I straddled only one knee, my bare bottom fully exposed and vulnerable. He took my hands and pinned them to my lower back.
“Whatever it takes,” he growled. He paused, several seconds between each swat, before resuming with renewed vigor. “To show you I’ll not put up with sass, or games, or disrespect.” Swat. “To show you I care.” The swat that landed next was the hardest he’d ever given me.
His words along with the pain broke through my stubborn pride, and I began to cry, slowly at first, as he continued to spank me. My skin was on fire, the pain intense. The seconds of pause in between each firm swat of his hand made me hold my breath in anticipation of the inevitable strike of his palm. He did not slow, but spanked me in earnest. Two rapid swats landed on the center of my bottom. I squirmed, wriggling nearly off his lap but he held fast. His hand continued to fall. The spanking would never stop. I would be over his knee forever. I could not stop him any more than I could stop the clock from ticking, or the sun from shining. So I did the only thing I could do. I surrendered.
I lay as still as possible over his knee, doing my best to accept the punishment I knew I deserved. I sank into my state of submission. As the painful torrent continued, there was nothing on my mind now but accepting each rise and fall of his hand. I could hardly bear the pain, but I knew I needed to surrender.
It seemed Samuel knew as well, for it was at this point he paused, and his hand caressed my flaming hot skin. “My strong, brave girl,” he said. “You’re a good girl, takin’ your punishment. I’m proud of you givin’ yourself over to me like this. But I’m not done, little Ruth. Not until you know runnin’ from me ain’t an option.”
His hand was so large he covered my naked skin with one sound swat. I heard the slap of his palm on my bare skin echo in the cabin right as another lick landed, followed by another.
Runnin’ from me ain’t an option.
I’d run from the only person who’d ever taken the time to chase me.
My body went limp. His hand stilled as I wept. He released my hands and I felt one warm hand rest on my back as the other began to gently massage my hot skin. It was painful to the touch, but the feel of his hand on my skin, intimate and soothing, was welcome.
“Have I made my point, little Ruth?”
I was now crying so hard I couldn’t staunch the tears. “You have,” I sniffled. “Yes, sir. Samuel, I’m sorry,” I wailed. “I’m so sorry.”
His large, callused hand continued to caress the surface of my hot, punished bottom.
I hiccupped, swiping a hand across my face, and repeated, “I’m so sorry.”
His hand traveled from the top of my bottom down to my thighs, pausing to massage where he’d spanked me. “You’re forgiven,” he said in a low murmur. “C’mere, honey.”
He turned me over on his lap, holding me tightly and cradling me, my head upon his chest. I cried softly, my eyes closed, as he rocked me.
“Shhh, honey,” he said softly. “It’s forgiven now. All is forgiven, little Ruth, my sweet little Ruth.” His tender tone and gentle words made me cry even harder. He’d been stern, and he’d spanked me soundly, my bottom an aching reminder of his love for me. He would not let me run. He would come for me.
I knew that having finally submitting myself to him had done something to the shackles that surrounded me, the shackles of self-doubt and anger. In that moment, I did not think about my past. I did not think about the future. I thought about nothing but being held by him, while my tears flowed freely. I thought about the way his mouth met mine, and how nice it felt, as I ached not just from my punishment, but now with need. I needed his hands on me.
He rose, carrying me, his mouth still upon mine as we kissed. I moaned into his mouth, and he walked faster, laying me gently on the bed, placing kisses upon my damp cheeks, along my temples, down my neck and to my shoulder, his kisses gentle caresses. He pulled me onto his chest and held me as my tears slowed and finally stopped. Running a hand from the top of my head down to my bottom, he gently stroked. Again, his hand traveled the length of my naked body, over the smooth curve of my hip, past the flatness of my stomach, slowly caressing the soft, full swell of my breast. My chest rose as we kissed again, as I thoroughly enjoyed the claiming touch of his rough hand against my bare skin. I whimpered with need as heat lapped at my core. He’d already marked me. Now I wanted more.
His mouth left mine and dipped low, his tongue flicking to my nipple. I closed my eyes, overwhelmed with the sensation. One of his hands dove between my legs and his finger dipped low, plundering my sex. I moaned. The feeling was exquisite as his tongue continued the torturous, heavenly assault on my breast, his fingers knowing just how to probe and stroke. It would not be long before I would be soaring in ecstasy. The sensation of my punished skin in sharp contrast to the building heat between my legs had me gasping, writhing, eyes closed against the brilliance of it all, and I knew now why the French called my mounting pleasure la petit morte. My ecstasy was so divine, I’d have died to have my needs met, and I’d have died a happy woman.
Just as I was about to topple over the edge in ecstasy, his mouth left my breast. I nearly gasped from the shock of it, immediately feeling the loss. But he was not finished. He moved himself down the bed until his mouth was between my legs. His tongue flicked out, circling my sensitive nub. He sucked, then pulled back, the gentlest touch of the tip of his tongue lapping at me. I could hardly stand it. After just a few delicious, perfect strokes of his tongue, I was soaring.
I’d never experienced anything like it. My emotional surrender and the harshness of the spanking had brought all my feelings to the surface. I was primed. My hips jerked as I gave into wave upon wave of pleasure. My heart thundered in my chest, my entire body aflame with brilliant rapture, as I screamed his name, clenching the quilt beneath my hands, the intensity lasting so long I couldn’t breathe. As I finally settled back down, he was standing in front of me, stripping himself. He lowered himself down to me, and I opened my legs, so eager to unite with him, eager to have him enter me. My head fell back on the pillow, again overcome with the welcome feeling of bliss as his hardness sought my core, thrusting into me.
He filled my core. Every stroke, every thrust felt exquisite, the burning need to be fully owned by him being met with each jerk of his hips. I knew he was meeting his own ecstasy when his hands fisted, holding me beneath him so hard it was almost fierce, until finally his head dropped to my chest.
But even as I felt that he’d finally claimed what I offered, I wondered how we would be welcomed by everyone. What would his family say if they knew that he and I were intimate without being married? Would they want such a strong, capable, intelligent man to be partnered with a woman who was no better than damaged goods? Would their goodness to me change if they knew what was between us?
The quiet aftermath of our lovemaking was enough for me, for today. But as he held me I couldn’t help but feel it was only for a short time. Surely, this couldn’t last. I wasn’t good enough for him. Not for his family, and certainly not as his future wife. I needed to be held by him for just a moment longer, for I feared that when he released me, I would no longer be his.
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