He glanced over at her, surprised for once, then swore and wrenched the wheel sideways as the car bounced off a rock and nearly swiped a tree. They rounded another curve. He hit the brakes and turned off the engine.
She gave him a questioning look.
She stared ahead at the tangle of undergrowth, then looked off to her right. A forlorn log cabin sat in a small clearing, perched on the edge of a steep drop-off. Leaves and broken branches littered the covered front porch. Although it was still early spring in the mountains, the yard was already overgrown, last year’s tangle of blackberry canes sprouting tiny green leaves between vicious gray-brown thorns.
“What do you mean ‘we’re here’?”
“This is where we’re staying.”
She stared at him in disbelief. “This dump?”
“Criminals on the run don’t check into the Hyatt.”
He got out of the car, then came around and opened the door for her. Cass fumbled with the seat belt and struggled out with her hands still tied around her bag.
Zander headed for the front steps. She followed, shrieking when one of her heels sank into a hole in the ground and she nearly pitched face-first into a tangle of thorny branches. He whirled around and bit off a curse. In two long steps, he’d backtracked and grabbed her elbow, propelling her through the overgrown clearing and up onto the porch.
“I should have taken those running shoes Jacobs had on,” he muttered. “Then again, maybe the way you’re dressed is a good thing. If you try to run, you won’t get very far down the mountain in stiletto heels.”
“Pardon me if I didn’t dress for wilderness survival,” she replied nastily, swiping away the blood welling up from a deep scratch on one hand. She gave him a once-over. “That thousand-dollar suit you have on isn’t exactly mountain man attire.”
He ignored her, running his fingers across the top of the entry door. He came up empty-handed and turned slowly, surveying the porch. Shoving aside one of a pair of weather-beaten rocking chairs, he knelt and opened the metal lid covering an outside electrical socket. He rose triumphantly, key in hand.
“I would have thought breaking and entering would be more your style.”
“Fixing a broken window is a pain in the ass. It gets cold up here at night.” He kicked a pile of leaves out of the way and opened the door, ushering her inside.
Cass stepped in and immediately started shivering. Although the temperature outside was in the upper sixties, it was at least fifteen degrees cooler in the cabin. The sun hadn’t dispelled winter’s chill inside. She wrinkled her nose. She felt like she’d stepped into a musty-smelling meat locker. Zander began opening windows, letting the warmth pour in.
She looked around. Although it looked abandoned from outside, inside the cabin was surprisingly homey. One big room across the front, wood walls, high ceiling crisscrossed with rafters made of rough-hewn logs. Along the back there was an open loft above the L-shaped kitchen on one side and a walled-off area with a door leading to what she assumed was a bedroom on the other side. To her left, a stacked stone fireplace reached all the way to the peak of the ceiling, while floor to ceiling glass covered nearly all of the opposite wall.
Zander pulled back the tall curtains and Cass gasped. The gentle majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains lay before her. Misty blue-green and mauve and purple peaks covered with dense forest spread as far as she could see in every direction. From their vantage point high on the mountaintop, she glimpsed a deep blue ribbon winding through a valley in the distance. There wasn’t a manmade structure in sight. Not a Starbucks, not a Wal-Mart or a gas station, not even another ramshackle cabin.
Cass had always been a city girl. First on the gritty streets of Chicago, then in a high-rise apartment overlooking the gleaming skyline of Charlotte. The sight of so much raw wilderness filled her with panic as the reality of her situation set in. They truly were isolated here. Just the two of them, surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness. She tamped it down and turned to Zander.
“Can you untie me and point me to the bathroom? I have to pee.”
He never glanced her way, busy rummaging around in the small kitchen set up along one side of the back wall.
“You’ll have to pee outside. Until I get the generator running, there’s no water.”
She stared at him in horror. “Outside? Like in an outhouse?”
He laughed. “No.”
“Like in the woods,” he went on. “And I’m not letting you loose. I’ll cut you away from that shoulder bag, but then I’m gonna retie your hands. I don’t trust you not to do something stupid.”
He grabbed a large knife from a block on the counter and walked over to where she stood.
“Be careful! Don’t cut the scarf.”
He shook his head. “You’re facing a criminal wielding a knife and the only thing you’re worried about is your scarf?”
“It has a lot of sentimental value,” she mumbled.
Zander muttered something under his breath. He made a big production out of untying the scarf around her wrists, then slit through the plastic tie with one swipe. Cass dropped the heavy bag on the floor and stretched, arching her back and rolling her shoulders. Zander gave her a moment. Then he took both her wrists in one huge hand, winding the silk tightly around them, crossing them together just below her breasts. He pulled the long ends of the scarf together and tied them behind her back.
Meanwhile Cass was on a rant. “I have never in my life gone to the bathroom outdoors. And now you expect me tromp out there all alone in the woods and get my pants off with my wrists tied together?”
She breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
“I’m going with you.”
“Just give me a couple of minutes to change. Then I’ll take you outside. You can choose which bush you want to squat behind.”
This just kept getting worse and worse. “I can’t do that!”
“Then hold it.”
He turned away.
“Wait!” She fidgeted a little, knees tightly together. “Okay.”
He sighed heavily. “I’ll be right back.”
Busy staring at the view, Cass hadn’t noticed the rustic stairway made of split logs. It blended into the wood interior, running along the short wall that made the kitchen an L-shape. The stairway led to an open loft over the kitchen and downstairs bedroom, running all across the back half of the cabin. Zander disappeared upstairs and she heard drawers opening and closing. When he came back down, he’d shed the suit for a black t-shirt, jeans, and a battered pair of hiking boots.
“This place is yours,” she declared. “That’s why you’re so familiar with everything. They’ll find us, you know,” she went on, feeling the first rays of hope. “Do a search of any property you’ve ever owned, no matter what alias you used. It’s only a matter of time. Go. Now,” she urged. “Take my car. I’ll lie, swear I came with you willingly. I’ll tell them I’m a publicity hound. What better way to sell a crime book than to pretend to be taken hostage by your subject and then write about it?”
He gave her a disgusted look. “Then why did I need to go looking for the key?”
Cass stared at him, her mouth hanging open. Damn. He had her there.
He took her by the arm and led her out the door, weaving his way through the tangled brush. She stumbled along, her heels sinking into the soft earth.
“Pick one.” He waved a hand to the line of trees just beyond the front bumper of the car.
“I… I can’t.”
“Now what?” He sounded annoyed.
“I can’t reach my hands down far enough to get these pants undone,” she said in a small voice tinged with embarrassment.
His annoyed look turned into a sardonic grin. “Are you asking me to take your pants off?”
“No!” He turned away. “Wait… could you just untie my hands from behind long enough to undo my pants and then get them back up when I’m finished?”
He gave her a searching look. “Yeah. I can do that. But first you need to know the rules. Do what you’re told, don’t try to escape, and eventually, when I can, I’ll let you go. Give me any problems and you’ll get punished and then tied up hand and foot for the whole time you’re here.”
She nodded earnestly and he reached behind her to untie the scarf, leaving her wrists still bound together and the long ends trailing on the ground. Cass put her bound wrists out in front of her for balance and took a few hesitant steps into the undergrowth, then a few more.
“Hurry up. Once the sun goes down behind that mountain, it gets dark fast here. I still have to get the generator and the well pump running—unless you want to trot out here in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom again?”
Her voice came from behind a tree. “Okay, okay.”
Cass looked around to make sure there weren’t any nasty creatures or thorny bushes behind her, then squatted. She really did have to pee, but she realized this might be her only chance to get away. A few sharp tugs told her the only way she’d get the scarf off her wrists would be to find something sharp enough to cut through it. Her eyes darted around frantically, settling on a broken branch nearby.
With a pang of sorrow, she snagged her beloved scarf on the branch, right where her wrists were tied together, and worked it back and forth. It didn’t take long. The fragile silk ripped, giving her enough play to slip her hands out. She tossed it aside, yanked up her pants, and dashed off into the woods.
His body gleamed in the firelight, shadows dancing across sleek muscle and sculpted abs.
“Too late. You broke the rules. Now you have to pay the consequences.”
“I… I swear I won’t do it again.” She choked back a sob as she strained against the bonds holding her in place.
“You told me when I met you that you’re a naughty girl.” His voice lowered, took on a dark intensity. “You were right. You’ve been very naughty. And now I have to punish you. First, your clothes are coming off. All of them. I’m going to lay you across my lap and spank your bare ass until you’re begging me to stop. And then I’ll spank you some more—until I think you’ve had enough. You can yell, you can cry all you want. There’s no one to hear you.”
Cass’s heart pounded in her chest, fear warring with arousal at his words. There was no doubt in her mind that he meant what he said. To her shock, a hot bolt of lust shot through her at the thought of being draped stark naked over the hard thighs of this muscular stranger. Completely at his mercy.
Zander came closer, a sleek and oh-so-sexy predator. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself and caught the scent of his maleness—a mixture of testosterone and musk, with just a hint of healthy sweat. He bent down and untied her hands and feet, then pulled her out of the chair.
“We can do this one of two ways. Your choice. You can stand here in front of me and take your clothes off yourself. Or I’ll undress you. But if I do it, my hands are going to be all over your body, not just on your ass.” He paused, giving her time to consider the implications. “Which will it be?”
She tried to swallow but nerves had tightened around the lump in her throat. “I’ll undress myself,” she replied, her voice barely a whisper.
She’d already been subjected to his hands all over her. That sad attempt at escape had been a disaster. She hadn’t gotten more than fifty feet into the woods when he grabbed her from behind. The next instant, she found herself tossed over his shoulder. He carried her back to the cabin caveman-style, screaming all the while, with her head hanging down over his back and her feet kicking wildly.
Once inside he tied her hand and foot to a chair with rope he found outside in the shed, adding to her humiliation and helplessness by making sure after he bound her that his hands roamed over her breasts and ran up her legs to linger between her thighs. Then he ignored her threats and curses as he bustled around the cabin. Eventually she quit yelling and fell silent. He disappeared outside for a long time and she heard the low hum of a motor when the generator kicked on. He came back in with an armload of wood and set to work building a fire.
Cass tried flattery. She appealed to reason. She even cracked a few jokes. He ignored every effort she made at conversation. Finally she gave up and simply sat there, squirming now and then to get the blood flowing back into her arms and legs.
Darkness fell, but he never turned on a light, relying on the flickering fire to illuminate the room. Finally, he went over to the kitchen sink, stripped off his sweat-stained t-shirt, and let the water run for a long time while he washed the dust and dirt off his upper body.
Once the pipes had cleared, he filled a glass with water and brought it to her. Like a stubborn toddler, she clamped her lips shut and turned her head away. He shrugged and drained the glass. She mentally kicked herself.
“Not thirsty? Okay. We might as well begin.”
That was when he announced she’d be punished for breaking the rules. She tried to swallow, but her mouth was dry as dust. Zander settled down on the chair she’d been in, leaning back and folding his arms over his bare chest. The bastard. He was going to sit there like a horny sailor in a strip club, watching every move and adding to her shame.
Don’t let him humiliate you. If he wants a show, give him one, whispered a perverse demon in her head. You’ve been naked in front a man before. Pretend he’s your lover and you’re trying to turn him on. Cass straightened her shoulders. Her hands moved to the hem of the tight shirt she wore. ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the song Zander had been singing along with in the car, popped into her head. She swayed a little to the driving beat of music only she could hear as she slowly pulled the shirt over her head and dropped it on the floor.
Getting into the groove, she rocked her hips a little as she unbuttoned her slacks and let down the zipper. She rocked harder and they slid to the floor, pooling around her ankles. She stepped out of them and kicked them away, standing before him defiantly in only her lacy white bra, matching bikini panties, and black heels.
“You’re determined to show me just what a naughty girl you are,” he growled. “We’ll see if you’re still this proud and stubborn after your ass is on fire.”
Her eyes widened as the reality of her situation sank in. He really did mean to spank her. Fear kicked in, driving away any trace of arousal and flooding her mind with horrible images from the past. Her eyes darted frantically around the room, landing on the glass wall framing endless miles of empty wilderness outside.
She backed away, hands covering her bra and panties. “No. No.” Her voice broke. “Nooo.”
“So you want me to undress you after all.”
Zander shot out of the chair. He seized both her wrists in one hand, pinning them together while he reached around and unsnapped her bra. He pulled it off and ran a hand over one breast, tweaking the nipple roughly between his fingers until it stood out in a tight peak. Grabbing her by the arm, he dragged her back over to the chair. In one swift move, he sank down and pulled her across his lap.
Cass breathed a tiny sigh of relief when he left her panties on. But it turned into a harsh gasp a second later when his hand descended on her bottom with no warning.
Hot. Raw. Pain. She had hardly absorbed the shock when he smacked her again. His large hand managed to cover most of her bottom with one whack. Frantically, she struggled to escape, writhing around and kicking her feet. He put one brawny arm across her back, holding her in place, and whacked her again.
A blast of heat seared her backside. Cass shrieked at the top of her lungs.
“I think you’ve been lying to me. If you were really as naughty as you say you are, you’d know I haven’t even begun punishing you yet.”
She shuddered as his words sank in, then began struggling even harder when she felt his fingers slide beneath the elastic on her panties. He took his time, easing them down over her bottom, running his hand arrogantly across her stinging cheeks.
“Not even a little pink yet,” he announced, leaving her panties bunched just below the fullest part of her curves. He started smacking her again, this time alternating back and forth, first on one cheek then the other.
Cass screamed frantically. This spanking was nothing like her innocent bedtime fantasies. Licks of fire seared her skin every time his hand connected. She bucked against him, then froze when she rubbed up against an unmistakable hard bulge.
Zander laughed and ground himself against her, then whacked her again. “Now you know my dirty little secret. Spanking your ass turns me on.”
He worked her panties down to her knees and slid a finger between her tightly clamped thighs.
Cass squirmed, but he took advantage of her wiggling to delve further.
“You’re wet. And that’s your dirty little secret. Getting spanked turns you on too. You really are a naughty girl. But this spanking isn’t meant to be a reward. It’s a punishment.”
He started whacking her in earnest, hard smacks from the flat of his broad hand, delivered one after another without stopping. The agonizing burn built until she couldn’t stand it any longer. She fought, she kicked, she screamed. But he kept on. Though she hated herself for being weak, she couldn’t hold back the tears. Finally she found herself pleading for him to stop.
He did. Gratefully, she sagged across his lap. She was crying so hard by then that she barely noticed when he began speaking.
“Remember when I said I’d spank you till you begged me to stop—and then I’d spank you some more until I thought you’d had enough?” His hand roamed over her stinging cheeks. “This is so you’ll think twice next time you decide to run away.”
He reached down, pulled her panties all the way off, and gave her a whack. Cass howled. He started up again in a relentless rhythm. This time the spanking seemed even more unbearable. She let go, sobbing as she lay limp across his lap, all the fight drained out of her.
Cass lost count. It seemed like he went on forever but he probably only smacked her another ten times or so before stopping again. This time when his hands roamed across her burning backside, she shuddered. He kept on, running his hand around her bottom in soothing circles that became slow, sensual caresses.
Gradually Cass stopped crying and simply lay there, spent. When his finger dipped between her legs, she parted her thighs without a protest. He found her center, hot and damp, and began caressing her there with the same seductive touch. With a shock, she realized her pussy was dripping wet. Spreading the slick juices around, Zander ran the pad of one finger down to her clit, stroking the little nub until it throbbed and grew hard.
His touch sent a jolt of lust through her so powerful that she moaned. Without a word, he drew her up onto his lap. She nestled her head against his bare chest. His cock seemed to grow even harder as it pressed against her stinging ass, a prominent bulge under his jeans. She sighed deeply and wiggled her hips against it.
“Fuck, yeah.” Lifting her in his arms, he rocketed to his feet and crossed the room to lay her in the center of the bed.
Cass stared up at him, her eyes dark with desire. Suddenly she wanted him. Needed him. On top of her. Inside her. Taking her with savage fury. The intense heat on her bottom flowed all through her, became a raging fire in her pussy.
“Yes,” she whispered, forgetting who he was, what he’d done. Forgetting that he had taken her captive, that he held the power of life or death over her. All she knew at that moment was that his touch aroused her like she’d never been aroused before.
He unzipped his jeans and dropped them to the floor. His cock jutted out, thick and hard. Cass licked her lips. With a low rumble, he got up on the bed between her legs. She couldn’t stifle a sharp cry when his hands gripped her aching bottom.
“I can make the pain go away.” His voice poured over her, smooth as honey.
“Yes, please,” she murmured.
To her surprise, Zander rolled her over onto her stomach. “Get up on your knees.”
She craned her head to stare at him. He swatted her once, just hard enough to make her gasp. “I said get up on your knees—with your head resting on the bed. Unless you’d like another spanking for disobeying me?”
She scooted up.
“That’s right. Now spread your legs. Wider.”
The next instant, his tongue traced a hot wet path down the crack of her ass. The two-day growth of beard on his face scraped against her stinging bottom as he buried his face between her cheeks. Wild hunger drove all thoughts of decency and shame out of her mind. She arched her back, offering herself to his probing tongue.
He rimmed her tight back hole and Cass nearly screamed. How could he know her secrets so well? She’d dreamed of having her ass played with but never had the nerve to admit it to a lover. Now this stranger had her panting and thrusting herself back against him, reveling in the sensations. He stopped and she moaned. But it was only to run a finger inside her pussy. He brought it back out coated with enough of her own wetness to allow him to slide it through the tight rear opening, up into her ass.
Cass moaned, tossing her head from side to side. He reached down with his other hand and began playing with her clit again, taking it between finger and thumb to stroke it into a hard button, throbbing and pulsing in his hand. She rocked back and forth against his hands, each time taking his finger deeper into her ass. He crouched over her and ran his tongue around her hot cheeks. She shuddered as the sting of his beard rubbing against her inflamed skin sent a shock wave of raw hunger through her.
Bucking and panting, she let go, let him take her over the edge. His finger probed deeper, hot and hard as it invaded her virgin ass. The orgasm tore through her, leaving her weak and trembling.
Zander flipped her over. With a powerful lunge, he buried himself in her pussy. Her body responded instinctively. She arched her back and ground herself against him. He slid out almost all the way and she moaned, wrapping her legs around his waist to draw him back in.
She heard a rumble from deep in his chest. Then all thought flew out of her head as he rammed back into her like a pile driver. He rose up over her, the muscles in his arms as rigid as his cock. His sleek, powerful body gleamed in the firelight, while his face was shadowed, unreadable. Cass clenched her own tight muscles around the thick hardness filling her.
With a roar, he took over then. Fucking her fast and deep, so all she could do was to take him in. He possessed her, conquered her. Took them both to the edge over and over, then backed off, leaving her crying out for release. She threw back her head and raked her nails across his back, uttering wild little cries as she bucked up against him.
He started in again, building the rhythm of his thrusts. Her heart pounded in her chest like the driving beat of music swelling to a crescendo. She felt his body quivering, knew he was close to coming, sheer will holding him back. Cass tightened her pussy around him and exploded. Wave after wave flooded through her, rocking her body to the core. He came then, as though all he’d been waiting for was her release. She felt his cock pulsing inside her as her own powerful contractions milked every drop from it.
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