As the days turned into weeks and Neil didn’t come, Jed started to relax. The days were busy and long, but the evenings were fun again. The poker games using match sticks as chips were a good way to relax as the men smoked and told stories, and she put her fears of Cal aside. Most of the time the men seemed to forget she was a woman, treating her instead as one of them, but she knew that Mr. Jordan had spoken the truth when he had promised that every man there would fight for her if necessary. It felt good, knowing she had that security.
Now that Jed wasn’t looking over her shoulder every few seconds, she was looking over the remuda for a horse to call her own. All the drovers had their favorites, and while most of them belonged to the outfit with which they rode, Joe seemed to know every man’s preferences. So far, Jed hadn’t found one she really liked. Except for the sorrel filly that caught her eye now. She was stunning—her golden coat gleamed, and she had four white socks and a white blaze down her face. She was at least half Arab—her beautiful flaxen high-carried tail streamed out behind her, and she didn’t just trot, she pranced. She held her head loftily, and she was full of spirit.
“Stay away from her, Jed,” Joe had warned her. “She looks pretty, but she’s a vicious one. She bites, and she’s a bucker. You keep yourself clear of that one. We’ll sell her next time we go to town.”
“But she’s beautiful,” Jed had crooned, stretching out her hand to touch the velvety muzzle. “I want to ride her.”
Joe shook his head. “No one’s to ride that one. Boss’s orders.”
Woody had promoted her to swing position and from there, she had a clear view of the remuda. Now that they were trail-broke, the beeves were easy to drive—they grazed as they meandered along, taking their time, slowly ambling after the leaders. Every so often one would break away and she’d have to go after it, but the rest of the time she gazed at the sorrel filly, plotting a way to gain her trust.
It took her a week of trying, but Jed finally got the filly to respond to her whispered voice. “Goldie,” she called her, and the filly would look up and knicker quietly. She would approach Jed too, when she wasn’t tethered, and stood calmly while Jed rubbed her body and even picked up her feet. She was perfect! “We understand each other, don’t we, girl?” she crooned to the horse. It felt good, forming a bond with the filly. Although the men were kind to her, she felt so alone being the only female on the cattle drive, and her future was so uncertain. She had no idea what she would do once she reached Sedalia—she didn’t know anyone there, and although she would have some money, she had nowhere to go. If she could tame Goldie so she could ride her, perhaps Mr. Jordan would let her buy the filly, then at least she would have a friend. And she would need a horse—being without transportation in a strange place would not do at all. The filly didn’t even flinch when Jed bounced up and down at her wither, then on the upward bounce she grabbed a handful of mane and swung herself across the horse’s wide back. Sliding off, she pulled the strands of long flaxen hair from her fingers. “You’ll let me ride you, won’t you, girl?” she whispered.
Riding on swing was so much better than riding drag. For starters, she wasn’t eating so much dust. Aside from that, she could see much better what was happening with the herd, and the men. She watched Davey ride off with Mr. Jordan; scouting for water, she supposed. The watering hole they’d been relying on the day before had been dry, but she’d overheard Davey talking last night by the campfire about another watering spot he knew of up ahead about eight miles. Now was her chance!
When her mount grew tired, she rode up to the remuda to exchange him for a fresh one. “Goldie!” she called, and the beautiful filly came running over. Quickly, she swapped the saddles over, and slipped the bit between the filly’s teeth before Joe saw her. The horse didn’t react at all.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Joe growled. She jumped. “You’re not allowed to ride that horse! Here, let me take the saddle off for you and put it on a more suitable one.”
“No, this one is fine,” she assured him, checking the cinch again.
Joe clutched her shoulders tightly in both hands, forcing her away from the horse. “Mr. Jordan said no one is to ride that horse,” he told her forcefully, pushing her backwards again.
“Please, Joe!” she begged him, flashing him her prettiest smile. “I’ll be careful, I promise.” She could see Joe was relenting. “Please?” she asked again, using all her feminine wiles to try to charm him. “I want to ride Goldie.”
Joe sighed, and stepped back to let her go.
“Thank you!” She smiled at Joe again, then turned back to the horse. “We understand each other. Don’t we, girl?” she crooned, putting her left foot into the stirrup and swinging herself up into the saddle.
“Well, you be careful!” Joe admonished, looking worried. “I’m going to lose my job over this. Especially if you get hurt,” he muttered.
The filly’s paces were exquisite. The high-stepping prance at the trot was unlike Jed had ever felt before, and the lope was as smooth as riding in an armchair. “You’re as perfect as I imagined,” Jed murmured, rubbing the filly’s neck happily.
Suddenly, with no warning, the filly started bucking. Jed rammed her feet home in the stirrups and kept her seat, but once the bucking stopped, the horse bolted. The bit was a vicious Mexican one, but the filly had it in her teeth, so no amount of sawing on the reins was enough to bring her under control. Even during this uncontrolled run, the filly’s gallop was a smooth glide, and as they streaked across the plains, Jed was surprised to find she was enjoying herself, even if she had no way of stopping, or even turning. Goldie wasn’t a big horse, but she was fast. As they hurtled along at breakneck speed, Jed knew she’d never ridden a horse this fast before. She’d spent all her life on horseback, but none of them could run like this. It was exhilarating! She kept trying to turn the filly back to the herd, using all the tricks she knew, but nothing worked. They kept going, at full gallop, northwest—exactly the direction Davey and Mr. Jordan had ridden out in that morning! Turning around in the saddle, she saw no sign of the herd. She couldn’t even see their dust. How far had they traveled? Goldie was showing no signs of slowing down, she was barely even breathing hard; how much further would they run? Starting to panic just a little bit, she sat down hard in the saddle, pushing her feet forward in the stirrups and hauling back on the reins as hard as she could, but it was no use. The filly was out of control!
In the distance she could just make out two riders coming toward her and she recognized them instantly. Even from this far away, it was obvious who they were. No one else had shoulders as broad as Davey, and no one else sat as tall and proud in the saddle as Mr. Jordan. She was filled with a mixture of relief and trepidation. Mr. Jordan and Davey would rescue her, but she knew she would be in trouble—Mr. Jordan had expressly forbidden her to ride the sorrel filly. That was why she had waited until he wasn’t there before she did it. Mr. Jordan had already shown he had no qualms about spanking her when he thought she deserved it—would he do it again now?
Davey and Mr. Jordan had obviously seen the runaway horse and both were racing to her rescue. They spread out, so each was coming from a slightly different angle, effectively trapping them. Mr. Jordan cut them off and Davey reached out and grabbed the reins of the now blowing horse, bringing her in a tight circle to a halt. As Davey rested a calming hand on her neck, the filly quieted instantly.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Mr. Jordan growled, clearly angry.
Jed gulped. She’d never seen Mr. Jordan this angry before, and at her! A shiver ran down her spine and her bottom cheeks clenched involuntarily. He was furious—she would definitely be getting spanked.
“Get down off that horse and give Davey the reins. He will take her back to the remuda.”
She took her time taking her feet out of the stirrups and dismounting. When she handed the reins to Davey he nodded his assent at the order, and headed back the way she’d just come, leading the filly behind him.
“Did you find water?” she asked Mr. Jordan, standing at the wither of the big chestnut gelding. She watched Davey’s retreating back as he rode away at a brisk trot, his figure getting smaller and smaller.
“Don’t try to change the subject,” Mr. Jordan snapped. “You’ve got a reckoning coming.”
“I’m not a child!” she protested.
“No,” Mr. Jordan agreed, sliding down off his gelding. “I wouldn’t do to a child what I’m about to do to you. What were you thinking? There’s no doctor within two hundred miles—you could have been killed!”
“But I wasn’t,” she pointed out. “We were fine.”
She watched in morbid fascination as Mr. Jordan took off his gun belt, draping it over the saddle of his horse. Then he rolled up his sleeves to the elbows to expose corded, muscular forearms. He was really going to do it! There were no wooden spoons out here—was he just going to use his hand? The thought intrigued her. She took in his sheer size, his incredible strength, his powerful muscles and well-toned body. She took note of his huge, calloused hands, and gulped. Somehow, she didn’t think Mr. Jordan would need anything other than the palm of his hand to ignite a fire in her backside.
“I gave you an order,” he told her sternly, but so quietly that she could barely hear him.
“I’m not much good at taking orders.” She waved her hand dismissively. “It was just me and Neil for a long time. I’m not used to being obedient.”
“Well, you’re about to learn.”
Taking her by the hand, he led her over to a log that lay on the ground nearby. She could feel the strength in his fingers as they enclosed around hers, and she knew there would be no use fighting him. She knew he would be able to restrain her easily.
Putting his left foot up onto the log, he hauled her across his dusty thigh, his hard leather chaps digging into her stomach. She squirmed, trying to make herself a bit more comfortable, dangled as she was in such a precarious position, but Mr. Jordan held her fast.
When the first swat fell, it took her by surprise and she cried out, but more from shock than pain. It didn’t hurt at all, not really. Not as much as she’d been expecting, anyway. Even the lighter swats from Monty’s big wooden spoon had hurt far more than that!
Several more swats fell. She squirmed again. She felt all funny inside, breathless. She was aware of a throbbing between her legs and a moistness gathering there, and a dull achy feeling in her breasts. Unrestrained by the bandage she’d kept tightly wrapped around them initially, they were now falling free under the man’s shirt she wore, and she could feel them puckering in response to the rise and fall of Mr. Jordan’s palm connecting with her backside.
Her breath hitched as Mr. Jordan increased the power behind the swats, and she yelped involuntarily. Now it was actually starting to hurt, and wasn’t so enjoyable after all. She squirmed, and was rewarded with a hard swat to the back of her thighs, which made her yelp again.
Mr. Jordan stopped holding back as he found his rhythm and he spanked her again and again, harder and harder, igniting a fire in her bottom with every smack. Those exquisite pleasurable feelings subsided as the spanking continued on and on, and she started to writhe and squirm in pain under his punishing hand. He focused the hardest smacks to the rounded crest of her bottom, putting so much force behind his hard hand that her body jolted forward with every blow.
Her curiosity was well and truly satisfied. She now knew what a spanking from Mr. Jordan’s hand felt like—it hurt! His big, hard hand hurt almost as much as that wretched spoon he’d used on her last time. The tightness in her breasts had gone, replaced with a dull ache that left her wanting.
Tears welled up in her eyes as Mr. Jordan’s hand landed viciously hard, over and over, making her kick her legs in protest. Not that kicking had the desired effect—Mr. Jordan concentrated the swats to the back of her thighs instead, the tips of his fingers burning the inside of her thigh right up high near where the pulsing throb was.
“You let me go!” Jed yelled, her voice breaking. “You’re nothing but a brute!” Mr. Jordan stopped spanking her and stood her up.
“I can see this isn’t getting through to you,” he growled. He held her arm tightly as his other hand went to her waist. “We’ll take your pants down and try again.”
Jed struggled with all her might, kicking at Mr. Jordan’s shins, desperately trying to get away, but her attempt was futile. She was no match for the big trail boss’s strength. Having undone the buttons on her pants, he slid them down her thighs, bunching them around her knees. She kicked at him again in a downward stomping motion and saw him wince when the toe of her boot connected with his ankle.
“Right,” he snarled. “You’ve just earned yourself a bare-bottom spanking.”
“No!” Jed yelled, trying to pull away, but Mr. Jordan held her fast as he untied her drawers and let them fall.
Mortified, she tried to cover herself with her hands. This wasn’t right! It wasn’t proper! But Mr. Jordan didn’t seem to notice her nakedness as his big hand enclosed around both her wrists and he bent her back over his thigh.
The flat of his hand scorched her bottom again, the tips of his long fingers landing inside the crevice of her bottom cheeks.
She let out a shriek. She’d been hurting before, but it was nothing like the pain Mr. Jordan was inflicting on her now. With nothing between her tender skin and Mr. Jordan’s rough, calloused hand, each smack stung like fire. She kicked and struggled, well aware that he would be able to see everything between her legs, but powerless to stop fighting. As his hand landed again and again, she blushed furiously at the thought of him looking at her most intimate parts. Would he be able to see the wetness she could feel gathered there? Was he aware of her arousal? If he could, how was that affecting him?
Mr. Jordan’s hand continued to land in a fast rhythm, the staccato of swats deepening the ache she could feel between her legs as surely as they were reddening her bottom. Jed was getting desperate. Her bottom felt like it was on fire! How could Mr. Jordan’s hand not be stinging? She let out a sob.
“I’m sorry!” she cried. “I’m sorry! I will listen to your orders from now on!” she assured him through her tears, truly miserable and contrite now.
With one more hearty swat, Mr. Jordan set her on her feet. “See that you do,” he growled, but his voice was husky, and through her tears, she could see passion dancing in his eyes. As quickly as she could, she pulled her drawers back up, tying the drawstring tightly. Mr. Jordan had seen enough! She hissed in pain as she eased the heavy canvas pants up over her stinging, swollen bottom. Jed danced around on her toes, trying to douse the flames in her rear end, and both hands went to her bottom.
“Quit rubbing,” Mr. Jordan ordered. “There’s to be no rubbing after a spanking.”
“But it hurts!” she whined, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s meant to,” he said dryly.
She watched as he flexed his hands, opening and closing his fist several times. She got a perverse satisfaction out of knowing that his hand was sore too, and she barely managed to stifle a grin.
“Are you ready to go back now?” he asked her gently, his eyes sparkling, his breathing ragged.
“No!” she exclaimed, horrified. How on earth was she going to sit on a horse after what she’d just endured? “I’m far too sore!”
“Well, we can’t stay out here forever,” Mr. Jordan told her.
“You didn’t have to spank me so hard,” she sniffled. “It really, really hurts!” She knew she looked a mess—crying never did good things to her, so she tried to avoid it wherever possible.
Mr. Jordan took a step toward her and put a comforting hand on her back, his outstretched fingers against her shoulder blades. He rubbed his hand gently up and down, stepping closer to her so their bodies were touching. Reaching around her with his other hand, he wiped her tears away gently with his thumb. Mr. Jordan slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her in close to him, smiling down at her tenderly. Her heart melted. The man might be a brute—the fire in her bottom was evidence of that—but he did have a soft spot.
“Come on,” he said, guiding her over to the gelding with his arm still wrapped around her. “You’ll just have to tough it out. We have to be getting back to the herd.”
Still sniffing, she followed.
It was torture sitting atop the horse, and she wriggled as much as she could, trying to ease the burning ache in her bottom.
“Hold still,” Mr. Jordan snapped. “You earned that spanking, now you can put up with the pain of it as we go back to the herd. Keep up the squirming and we’ll get off and do it again.”
“That’s not fair!” Jed protested. How could the man be so cruel? She didn’t want to test him, though, so instead, she wrapped her arms around his waist tightly and leaned into his broad back, resting her cheek on his right shoulder, taking as much weight off her bottom as she could. It was comforting there, feeling his hard body against her, and her breasts tingled in response, growing tight and puckered again.
Suddenly, Mr. Jordan reined up. Startled, Jed looked up and watched him twist around in the saddle to face her, taking his right foot out of the stirrup and hooking his ankle around the saddle horn for balance. Taking her face in his hands, he looked deeply into her eyes and Jed saw the desire burning there. She opened her mouth and tilted her face up to him. Slowly, he moved closer to her, his lips lightly brushing hers, then he crushed his mouth against hers and swept her up in a kiss so passionate she went dizzy. All she was aware of were different sensations swirling around in her brain. She could feel his tongue in her mouth, feel his teeth against hers. He nipped her bottom lip gently, and she responded in kind, grasping the back of his head and pulling him into her. A soft moan escaped her lips. The kiss seemed to go on forever as their lips melded. When they eventually broke away, her heart was racing.
Without a word, Mr. Jordan turned away and spurred the big gelding into a canter, and she pressed her face into his strong back once again.
The whole way back to the herd, Jed remembered the way the ruggedly handsome cowboy’s chapped lips had felt on hers as he had kissed her urgently, the tender way his fingers had tangled in her hair while his other hand had caressed her cheek. She couldn’t stop smiling as the ache in her breasts deepened, electricity coursed through her, and the drumming throb between her thighs returned. Even the pain in her bottom was deliciously sore now, instead of the fiery, torturing burn of before. Mr. Jordan was the man she’d been waiting for—the man who was able to take her in hand and make her content to be his woman. So unlike Cal in every way—handsome, tough and courageous but gentle and kind, commanding, assertive and stern but fair and honest. She understood what he had meant now when he told her that a spanking wasn’t the same thing as abuse. The spanking had hurt, the amount of pain Mr. Jordan had ignited in her bottom was right up there with the pain of Cal hitting her in the face, but when Cal had hit her, she’d been terrified. When Mr. Jordan had spanked her, she hadn’t been frightened. Not really—she somehow knew that he wouldn’t harm her. And now that the fire in her backside had dulled to a tingling sting, she felt cherished and safe, which was the exact opposite to the aftermath of Cal’s treatment of her.
Mr. Jordan helped her down off his big gelding as they returned to the remuda on the outskirts of the herd, and she was pleased to see the little filly safely back where she belonged.
“Joe!” Mr. Jordan bellowed. The wrangler hurried over, looking worried.
Oh, no! Jed knew she couldn’t let Joe lose his job because of her. That wouldn’t be fair at all! She stood and listened to Mr. Jordan cussing him out, waiting for Joe to defend himself, but he was standing silent, not saying a word. It was obvious he wasn’t willing to put the blame on Jed.
“Please don’t blame Joe!” Jed begged. “He tried to stop me, but I insisted. None of this is his fault!”
Mr. Jordan fell silent. “Is that true?” he asked.
Joe nodded. Then he looked at Jed and frowned. “If you wasn’t Mr. Jordan’s woman, I’d-a taken you across my knee and whupped you good,” he told her.
Mr. Jordan’s woman? Since when? Jed wondered.
“You shoulda done that anyway,” Mr. Jordan growled. “Then I wouldn’t have had to do it.”
“Hang on, just stop,” Jed ordered, holding both her hands up in front of her. “Mr. Jordan’s woman? What are you talking about, Joe?” she asked.
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” Joe smiled. “Go on, tell me I’m wrong.”
Jed felt her face growing red with embarrassment. After that kiss, how could she tell Joe he was wrong? At least, he wasn’t wrong as far as her feelings were concerned. But did Mr. Jordan really find her attractive? She’d certainly never noticed any sly looks coming her way, and she knew she wasn’t pretty anymore since she’d cut off all her hair and dressed in dusty, shapeless drover’s clothes. She looked across at Mr. Jordan and he winked at her rakishly.
“Righto, back to work,” he ordered in that rich, deep baritone voice of his. “Choose an appropriate horse this time, Jed,” he told her, smiling. “And you’re back on drag. You can go and relieve Chuck. He’ll be glad of the break from eating dust.”
“But I was on swing!” she protested.
“You were,” Mr. Jordan agreed. “Until you disobeyed. Now you’re back on drag.”
“But you’ve already punished me for that!” she argued.
“Not well enough, it seems, seeing as how you’re arguing with me.” Mr. Jordan flexed his hands. “If you don’t want me to give it another shot right here in front of Joe, I suggest you start doing as you’re told.”
Scowling fiercely at the handsome trail boss, she took the reins of the horse that Joe was saddling up for her, and pouted.
“Pout all you like, I’m not changing my mind,” Mr. Jordan chuckled, and tipped his hat to her as he walked off.
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