“I don’t have anything to wear to bed,” she said suddenly, for she realized that she’d left her mother’s house with nothing but Duncan Forest’s name on a slip of paper.
“It doesn’t matter,” Grant said. “You’ll sleep naked tonight. And at home, you’ll go without your drawers just as you did before.”
She fixed him with a surprised look. “Grant,” she said. “I’m a mother now.”
He arched a brow. “Yes,” he said. “But you’re also a wife, even if you’ve not been a very good one.”
His words cut her to the emotional quick, but she could not deny the truth they held. She had been a bad wife.
“You’re never going to forgive me for this, are you?”
“I can forgive you for what happened after you got back to Boston,” he said. “None of that was your fault. But for leaving me?” He shook his head. “If I’m to forgive you for that, it’ll mean wiping the slate clean. And you know what that means.”
“You don’t think I’ve been punished enough?” she asked, tears pricking at her eyes.
“No.” His answer was definitive.
Lydia looked up at him. “Me neither.”
“Well,” he said. “I guess we both need to get over it. Because you can’t punish yourself for the rest of your life.”
“That’s the problem, though,” Lydia said. “Even if you did forgive me, I couldn’t forgive myself. And I won’t stop punishing myself either.” She swallowed, summoning the courage for what she had to say. “That’s why you need to do it.” Lydia rose shakily to her feet and moved around the table to her husband, undoing the buttons of her dress as she went.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Asking you to give me what I don’t deserve,” she said. “Asking you to give me a clean slate.” She walked over to him. “You told me once that if I ever threw another jealous fit, you’d take a strap to me. Do you remember that?” Her voice was shaking, and she was scared as she finished unbuttoning her bodice and let her dress slide to the floor.
“I don’t know if I can.” He looked away. “Not as upset as I am.”
Now Lydia, standing in just her corset, bloomers, stockings, and shoes, reached for her husband’s face.
“You were teaching me control in Silver Run,” she said. “Only someone who understands it can teach it. I need you to control your anger and your hurt. I need you to do me the kindness of holding it in long enough to help me get the pain inside out and laid bare. I want this behind us, Grant.” Her tone filled with resolve. “I want you to give me the punishment I’ve earned.”
He stood up and looked down at her. “Are you sure? Because once I start, there’s no going back, no matter how much you beg.”
She nodded. “It’s what I want, Grant. It’s what I need.”
Grant nodded curtly, and she stepped away from the table to stand in the middle of the room. Her husband followed, and Lydia stood silent as he knelt down to undo the buckles of her leather shoes and remove them from her feet. Now she was standing only in her corset, bloomers, and stockings. He turned her around, like a child being undressed before bed, and went to work unlacing the corset. “After this, if something is bothering you, I want it laid bare, understand? No more running away.”
“No more running away,” she agreed, looking over her shoulder with trusting eyes.
After the corset, Grant removed her stockings and her drawers, leaving her standing naked as the day she was born. And although she’d been sexually freed by him in Silver Run, her nakedness in the context of their current situation made her feel more vulnerable than she’d ever felt in her life.
Grant had been a stern but gentle husband, but Lydia knew on this night, she’d only see his stern side. Her trepidation had centered itself in her belly, where it formed an ever-tightening coil. But she felt the stir of something else, too. She’d grown up with a mother who’d berated her, who’d made her feel as if she were a burden or a means to an end. Grant had never berated her, and his past corrections had always left her feeling absolved without the kind of diminishment that crushed her soul. She’d missed his guiding hand.
Lydia shifted from one foot to the other as she obediently stood in the corner where he’d stood her to wait. As she pondered the thought of going over his lap, of his strong arm winding around her waist, holding her tight, she became aware of the presence of hot arousal forming in her pussy, and her nipples tightened almost painfully in the air of the room. She flushed. Was it wrong that her body longed to feel the weight of his dominance, that it was already responding to the authoritative promise of a man who wasn’t afraid to spank her for her own good? She’d never thought such a thing could be arousing, but in Silver Run, on some mornings after he’d gone to work, she had pleasured herself with her fingers as she fantasized about his hard, punishing hand striking her helpless backside.
She bit her lower lip, impatient now.
She turned, expecting to see him sitting on the edge of the bed. But he wasn’t. He was standing beside it, holding a leather belt doubled over.
Lydia stopped, her feet planted and unable to move. Before she’d always gone over his knee, where he held her tight against his warm body in an embrace that made her feel safe. He was pointing at the bed, the obvious intention that she should bend over it.
“No,” she said, her lip trembling. “Not like this.”
“Yes,” he said. “I decide the terms now. You’ve earned yourself a licking for what you did, Lydia Jackson. You put yourself in danger. You put our son in danger. You brought heartache to Mr. Forest. You left me worried sick. And…” He paused. “You broke my heart.”
It was the last part that got her. And if it took bending over and taking her medicine for the awful consequences of her childish actions, then that’s what she’d do. Lydia’s heart was pounding as she walked across the room. She shot Grant a plaintive look before leaning forward and placing her hands on the bed.
“Keep going,” he said, and she walked her hands forward until her upper body was flat on the mattress.
It was a high bed, and her shapely legs hung off with her feet clearing the floor. The position left her legs slightly parted, and she could feel the air between them, cooling the heat of a pussy that was still throbbing in spite of her fear—or maybe, because of it.
“Lydia Jackson,” he said. “Tell me why I’m about to strap your pretty bottom?”
She shifted a little, and her answer, when it came, was high and childlike.
“I ran away in a snit,” she said. “I ran away in a snit over something I thought I saw, even though what I actually saw was just you being nice to a woman who’d been wronged. I put myself in danger. I put us both—you and me—through heartache. And little Adam, too.” She’d started to cry. “Even though I didn’t mean to, my actions caused everybody a lot of pain.”
“Do you deserve to be punished, Lydia?”
She looked back at him. He was looking down at her. His eyes were stern, but she could see love in them. They were the eyes of a man who didn’t want to have to do this, but felt like he had to before they could move forward.
She nodded. “Yes,” she said. “And I want to be punished. Punish me, Grant. Please punish me so we can be a man and wife again. Together.”
He nodded. “You grab that blanket, now. And don’t you move.”
She gritted her teeth, trying to prepare. But there was no way she could have been ready for the force of the blow that drove her forward, or the searing pain that seemed to sink through the skin of her bottom and explode across the entire surface of her backside. She screamed into the bedcovers, twisting the cloth with her hands as her bottom rocked back and forth. She felt his hand press down into her back, felt another blast of pain, this time across the lower portion of her bottom. Lydia kicked her legs and tried to slide backwards off the bed, but Grant wouldn’t let her. The belt fell again, this time across the middle of her bottom just above the first welt. She bucked like a filly, her legs churning wildly, all modesty forgotten.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” She repeated the word over and over, hearing it muffled in her own ears. The belt struck again and again and again, this time moving to her thighs. She felt like her skin was on fire. She was dying. He was killing her. This was not like any other punishment he’d ever given her. She heard herself begging, the words babbled in a barely intelligible litany. She tried to put her hands back. He caught them, pinned them at her slender waist. The belt fell again. She could feel the welts rising on her skin. She screamed.
How long did it go on? She felt like she’d slipped into a cloud of searing heat that radiated from her body in such a blast as to take her breath away. The room resounded with the sound of leather striking soft flesh. The mattress absorbed her screams as the coverlet soaked up her tears.
And then it was over, and she heard the sound of the belt buckle striking the floor as Grant tossed it aside. Then she heard the sound of the door shut as he left the room. She was alone. He’d left her alone with her pain and her misery and her grief and her regret. He’d not stayed to comfort her. Why? Why?
Slowly, she raised herself to sitting. Her bottom throbbed like a heartbeat, throbbed with a hot pain that permeated her very core. The warm arousal she’d felt before had abated, leaving only the shame and discomfort of chastisement.
Lydia wondered if it was wrong to feel sorry for herself. Did she deserve to indulge her self-pity? Did she deserve to question the harshness of the punishment she’d asked for? She’d made an assumption. A terrible assumption. But it wasn’t like she meant for any of this to happen. If she’d known how her rash actions would have affected so many lives, she’d have never fled.
Then, suddenly, the truth of why he’d been so harsh dawned on her. Every time her husband had punished her, it had been over some impetuous fit of temper born of her insecurity. He’d always prefaced his punishments by telling her that he loved her and only her. And she’d listened. But she realized now, in this room where they were finally reunited, that she’d never really believed him. The letter she’d sent him, the decision she’d made to leave—those things had all but screamed her doubt in him.
And she knew as harsh as this punishment was, it wasn’t as harsh as the alternative she could have faced. This, she realized, was her last chance.
She stood up, cupping her sore bottom with her hands. And that’s how he found her when he came back in.
Grant shut the door behind him, and for a moment, she regarded him quietly.
“Lydia,” he said. “You’re my wife. I love you.”
“I know,” she said.
“You know I’ll spank you when you don’t mind me,” he said as he walked over. “But understand. I’m never going to strap you like that again, understand? I want a good life for you and me and little Adam, but I can’t beat trust into you. And I won’t.”
She walked over to him, her eyes on the floor. When she’d closed the distance between them, she looked up.
“You’re right,” she said, feeling a sudden calm wash over her. “And you won’t have to.” After a brief pause, she spoke again. “Make love to me. Please.”
“Are you sure?”
She guided his hand between her legs, where fresh slickness coated his fingers.
“I’ve missed you,” she said.
“I’ve missed you, too, sugar.” His voice was thick with emotion, his body roiling with need. He’d just punished her harder than he’d ever thought he’d punish a woman he loved. Was it right to give her pleasure so soon after a lesson?
But the way her bottom lip quavered, the sweet innocence of her desire. Despite the fact that her bottom had to be hurting something fierce, she wanted him.
Grant led her to the bed and sat down, moving her to stand in front of him.
She stood quietly as his gaze raked her body, noting how he stared at the plush softness of her breasts that had gone from firm mounds to slightly pear-shaped twins. Her body had changed. She knew that. The nipples were darker, and her hips seemed more generous, even if she was still thin. He reached out a finger and with seeming fascination traced what looked like a reddish scar on her hip.
“It’s a mark,” she said shyly, her voice shaking as if she worried he found it distasteful, “from where my skin stretched when our babe was inside me.” She swallowed as he looked up at her. “Does it spoil me?”
He leaned over and put his lips to the mark, ran his tongue up the length of it and felt her shudder.
“It’s beautiful,” he said.
She put her hands over her mouth and suppressed a sob.
“Sssh… sshh,” he said. “Hey, now. You’ll always be the most beautiful woman in the world to me, no matter how much you change. You think I won’t change? You think I won’t end up with scars and lines and sun-weathered skin? Sugar, I will, but as long as you spread those thighs when I walk in the door, I’ll always feel like the luckiest guy who ever lived.”
“I love you, Grant,” she said.
“I love you, Lydia Jackson,” he said. “Don’t you ever doubt it again.”
“I won’t,” she said. “I won’t.”
He reached around to cup her bottom, and the way he smiled when she winced made her nipples tighten and her pussy pulse. He palmed her cheeks, which were still firm and hot from the raised ridges left by his leather belt. Was he thinking of how she’d clutched the covers, taking her punishment for him, for them? She could see his cock bobbing urgently against the placket of his pants and he stood, moved her back, and undressed as she watched hungrily.
Grant sat back down and pulled her onto his lap, positioning her pussy over the head of a shaft already leaking the first clear fluids of his desire.
“I can feel your heat,” he said. “Without even being in you yet, I can feel it.”
He moaned then as he slowly slid her onto his turgid length while simultaneously captured a long, dark nipple in his mouth. He suckled hard enough to make her whimper as he shoved her all the way down on his cock.
She cried out, and he growled deep in the back of his throat, a feral sound that spoke of a need he couldn’t verbalize. His hands went to her hips, cupping them as he moved her up and down. Lydia threw her head back, her pussy seizing and gripping on his cock with a sudden, unexpected force, and she cried out into the room, not caring if anyone heard.
Their eyes locked as they looked at one another, each holding the other’s gaze. Lydia moved up and down, up and down, feeling his hard shaft stretch and caress the walls of her pussy with each thrust. She closed her eyes, feeling her muscles grip and flex and quiver with pleasure as he moved in and out of her.
This man, this savior, the father of her child, the love of her life. He’d come back to her, and she couldn’t give herself to him with enough zeal to make him understand how much it meant. But she could try.
She began to jog up and down on his cock, taking control, her nails digging into his shoulders, her sore bottom slapping onto the top of his rock-hard thighs. She could feel his cock swelling and throbbing, and felt empowered by how he seemed lost in the sensations she was inflicting on him.
“Sugar, sugar, sugar,” was all he could say as she rode him hard, rode him wantonly, her breasts bouncing inches from his face as he tried to catch a nipple in his mouth.
His cry was as fierce as hers when he regained command of the situation and pushed her down, and she spread her thighs wide as the wash of his cum flooded her until she could hold no more. Lydia put her head on his shoulder, luxuriating in the feel of him as his tribute seeped out from around the cock still imbedded in her.
“I’m never letting you go again,” he said.
“You won’t have to,” she replied.
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