“Laci, get in here,” Eric called from the laundry room.
Laci glanced up from her tablet. She was right in the middle of watching a show he’d gotten her addicted to. She was tempted to call back, “Not right now,” but she knew better. Eric didn’t run her around the house following his commands just for the hell of it, so if he issued a command, she had better do what he said or there would be consequences.
“Laci!” he snapped.
She turned off the show and hustled down the hall. “Sorry! I was at a really good part. What’s wrong?”
He held up a pair of his shirts, and there were smudges of dark paint on both of them. How in the world? She hadn’t used his shirts as smocks. And she hadn’t taken the laundry anywhere near the studio.
“I don’t know how that happened. Maybe there was something on the front of my coveralls, and I accidentally tossed them on your shirts when I came in.”
“First of all, you’re supposed to hang your painting clothes on the hook for the paint to dry so that doesn’t happen,” he said, glancing pointedly at the laundry basket where one of her painting T shirts was lying on top of his trousers.
She grabbed the shirt and held it up. No damp paint spots, but of course it was from the day before. She lifted his fancy trousers and luckily found no paint marks.
“Second, that blue basket is only supposed to be used for items that require dry-cleaning. Why is an old paint-stained T shirt on top of my wool Armani trousers and jacket, which set me back two grand after custom alterations?”
Her jaw dropped. “Two grand? That’s ridiculous.”
“Now back to my shirts,” he said, pulling one more from the dryer. It had an enormous indigo paint stain all across the front.
She sucked in a breath. Wow, that was crazy. There was no way that mark came off her coveralls. It was almost like someone had squirted fresh paint on the shirt and smeared it around. Could he have done it just to get her in trouble? No, he wasn’t the type to pull a prank and then hold her responsible. Colin might have done it for fun, but then he wouldn’t have actually punished her.
“How did you not notice these stains when you put these in the dryer? And even more important, take a look in the washing machine.”
She bit her lip and walked to the machine. She stood on her tiptoes and peered in. An uncapped tube of paint lay at the bottom of the tub.
“Oh, no,” she said.
The crack across her backside startled her and pushed her against the cool metal.
“Ow,” she said, jumping to the side and turning quickly. “It was an accident. I must have put it in my coveralls pocket and forgot about it. It was a mistake.”
“Why would you wash your coveralls with my shirts?”
“I—you said to do your shirts! You said you were almost out of them!” She backed into the corner.
He narrowed his eyes. “We went over how you’re to handle my laundry. At no time did I say it was all right to mix my work clothes with yours.”
“I’m sorry, but six shirts don’t make a full load of laundry. I used to have a foster mom who would’ve gone ballistic if I ran the machine for just six lousy shirts. And if you don’t like how I do your laundry maybe you should stop treating me like Cinderella. I’m not your maid.”
He cocked a brow. “You’re in so much trouble. Is that the attitude you really want to go with?”
“I said I was sorry. It was an accident. You can just take some money from my account to buy yourself new shirts.”
“That is not the point. These are custom-made shirts that fit perfectly. When ordered, they take a minimum of three weeks to arrive.”
“Why is everything so complicated with you? Colin was not tall. He had costume-made clothes, too, but he ordered enough so there was never a crisis if a shirt got ruined. And also, Colin didn’t make me do laundry.”
“I know. You were Daddy’s princess,” he said with his arms crossed over his chest.
He was wearing one of his exact-specification shirts, and if she was being honest, she would’ve admitted that those shirts were worth the three-week wait and whatever they cost. In a suit, Eric looked like James Bond.
“I’m not Daddy. And you’re not a princess. You’re a girl who should be able to follow a simple set of instructions and, at the very least, should take some care to check the pockets of her clothes for paint tubes before starting a load. That’s laundry one-oh-one.”
“How would you know? You admitted you had a nanny and a maid growing up.”
“I went to college. I did my own laundry then and occasionally still do.”
“But you could get your clothes washed in the city like you did before this arrangement. Instead you’re making me do it like a little slave girl. You had to know I might screw it up. I think you did this on purpose, so I’d get in trouble.”
The corners of his mouth curved up. “If only that had been my dastardly plan. Then I would’ve given you weekend clothes to ruin, and I’d still have something to wear to my office next week. The point of having you do laundry is that I want you to learn to take care of yourself and to take care of a man. I expect you to pay attention to what you’re doing.”
“Well, now you know you can’t trust me. Lesson learned.”
His smile faded. “I’m not here to learn lessons. You are.”
“So another two hours of reading engineering books? Can you just kill me instead?”
“Reading? Hardly. Go into the guest room and get the cane. Bring it to me here.”
She stared at him. She had never been caned. Ever.
She swallowed. “You already spanked me once today. You never punish my backside twice in one day.”
“Today I’m making an exception.”
Her heart raced. The spanking in the morning had been pretty light, more to keep her in the right headspace than to really teach her a lesson. It had been over some spilled syrup that she’d failed to clean up when it happened. Boy, she’d been making a lot of messes lately. The point was, she could take another physical punishment, which Eric obviously knew.
“You don’t call me Eric when you’re about to be punished. That’s two extra strokes.”
Bastard! She flushed and forced herself to be more respectful, at least outwardly.
“Sir, I don’t want to be caned. You spank me plenty hard when it suits you. I don’t think the cane is really necessary when—”
“Get the cane. Right now.”
She shoved the laundry basket aside, nearly tipping it over, and stalked out. He could be such an unreasonable jerk.
He is very effective though at being in charge, a little voice in her head said as she climbed the steps. She was way more conscientious in a lot of ways since Eric had moved in. And she had never eaten so many vegetables in her damn life.
Of course not everything he did was good for her. Case in point, she thought as she lifted the bamboo cane. It was elegant and scary. Exactly Eric’s style. He probably had his canes custom made too. What if she broke it? Or whoops, tossed it out the window and then drove over it with her car?
She didn’t actually have the nerve. Eric would only find ways to make her eventual punishment harder to take. He might take her to the clubhouse to borrow a cane to use. He might also invite people to watch. Oh, God! She picked up her pace.
When she’d returned to the scene of the crime, she handed him the cane by its ridged handle.
“Where do you want me?” she asked with a slight quiver in her voice.
“Hands on the washing machine, up on your toes.”
She swallowed and turned. She held the edge of the machine in a death grip.
“Nice try. T shirt and yoga pants off.”
“The shirt I get,” she said, pulling it off. “But these pants are barely there! You’ve said so yourself!”
“You have a small, but perfect round ass.”
“Just the kind you’d custom order for a slave girl?” she muttered.
He chuckled. “Actually, yes. So the likelihood that I’ll ever let you leave it covered during punishment is zero.”
“You think it makes you less of a prick when you pay me a compliment, but it doesn’t.”
“For calling me a prick, four more strokes.”
“No!” she wailed.
“Shut that pretty mouth,” he ordered. “Or part of your punishment will be to service me on your knees when I finish caning you.”
She sucked in a breath and stared down at the tile floor, heat rising not only in her cheeks, but in her whole body. Deep, deep down, she wanted him to make her do just that. It still bothered her that she’d never reciprocated for that night he’d brought her off with his mouth. Plus, she was really attracted to him. And if he forced her to do sexual things as part of a punishment that wouldn’t be her fault. Except now that he’d threatened her with it, if she spoke again, he’d think she wanted to do it. Which you do, she thought.
It was against the rules of the agreement for him to use his control over her to make her have sex. Of course, the longer she knew Eric the more she believed that he might break some rules if it suited him. He’d always seemed so buttoned-down, but under the surface he was much more than a finance guy.
She dropped her clothes and turned to the machine. What she really wanted to do was to climb inside it to hide from him and from herself.
“I’m scared,” she whispered.
His big hand cupped the back of her neck and his tone was gentle. “You’ve been bad and I will punish you because that’s what you deserve and what we agreed upon. But I won’t hurt you in a way that will cause any lasting damage. The same rules apply that always apply. You have a safeword, and if you need to, you can use it.”
Her hands were shaking. It was almost worse when he was calm and reasonable. It made her completely confused. Did he care about her? Or did he just want to fix her? Did she hate him? Or did she actually like him a lot?
“You’ve been a bad girl,” he added in a smooth, sexy voice. “But we both know you can take a punishment like a good girl.”
“I wish… I almost wish you’d tie me down. I think it would be easier.”
His breathing was uneven. “Easier at first,” he said, moving forward so she could feel the heat and strength of his body, so she could feel his erection against her. “But definitely harder for either of us to walk away. When I tie a girl down, I own her body, and I use it till I’ve had my fill. Tell me again,” he whispered. “Tell me you need me to tie you down.”
She was shaking with a lot more than fear. She wanted him so much, but she knew it was too dangerous. She was afraid he would take her over bit by bit until it was like she’d never belonged to anyone else. She couldn’t let him have her that way, because she was pretty sure if she let him start, he wouldn’t stop until he got everything he wanted.
“I can’t,” she said breathlessly.
“Then take your punishment and go to bed aching for more,” he said.
She lowered her head and rose onto her toes, her heart pounding.
The cane struck her right across the fullest part of her cheeks. She squeaked and then the full impact and sting hit her. Pain blossomed throughout her backside. The cane whistled through the air and struck again. And again. She screamed and held on, knowing there must be red welts rising across her white skin.
Over and over, the blows landed. Sometimes at the top of her buttocks, sometimes at the juicy spot where butt met thighs. The intensity was the same at first, until it built on itself and she was dancing on her toes and clenching her cheeks and wailing.
“Yellow!” she yelled, sliding down to a crouch, leaning her temple against the cold metal of the machine as she panted. “It hurts a lot. So much,” she babbled, tears stinging her eyes.
He stroked her hair and brushed her wet lashes with his long thumb.
“How many? How many more?” she asked, her voice breaking.
Eric always had a number in mind. She liked getting to that number. It was perverse on her own part, but ever since he’d started punishing her she’d made it to whatever his number was without saying red. She didn’t want to break now. After all, she did kind of deserve this. She’d been careless, and they had been very expensive shirts. It would’ve only taken a second for her to check her pockets. She knew she sometimes put paint tubes into them.
It was ridiculous for her to buy into that thinking, she tried to tell herself, but it mattered to him and so it mattered to her, too. It wasn’t about the shirts really. It was that he wanted her to pay attention to his instructions, and the way she treated his shirts was a reflection of how she felt about him, whether she respected him as her master in the arrangement.
She did respect him in a lot of ways. She wanted him to know that, even if she didn’t want to say it.
She drew in a shuddering breath. “Help me up,” she whispered. “I can do it if you help me.”
He set the cane aside and took each of her arms in a hand. He raised her to her feet, looking down at her with such intensity and hunger that it took her breath away.
“You okay?” she whispered.
“I am if you are,” he said in a husky voice, the kind of voice he would use if she ever let him touch her however he wanted.
She nodded. “Five. We can get through five,” she murmured and turned around.
A large palm rested against her backside. “Did he ever tell you how it makes us feel to lay down marks like this? To have a beautiful girl submit to a punishment just because we say so? And to inhale the scent of her skin and the cream coating her lower lips? To taste her tears and lick between her legs and swallow the proof that she’s aroused? To know she wants nothing more in the world than to bend to the will of someone strong enough to make pain into pleasure?”
She couldn’t think, couldn’t move. If he did anything, even touched her with his fingertip, she might just fall apart and right into his arms.
“If you’re still wondering if you belong here, Lace, the answer is yes. Be a good girl and get back on your toes.”
He backed up, and she clung to the washing machine. The last five strokes of the cane brought searing pain, but it registered in a very different way. Right into the core of her sex and through her clit.
At the last blow, instead of dropping to her knees and crying, she rushed from the room on shaky legs. She hurried up to her bedroom and inside, then closed the door and locked it. She launched herself onto the bed, yanking some pillows to her chest and collapsing onto them. Lying face down, she shoved a hand between her spread legs.
“Oh, God,” she groaned, her palm against her clit, her fingers shoved into her slick pussy. She rubbed and rubbed, feeling the heat radiating from her aching ass and hearing Eric’s voice in her head, seducing her.
She came and came until her whole body sang with a thousand bee stings of tingling. It was so fucking good.
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