“I’ll see her home, now that I’m here.”
Wisteria stiffened. Peering wildly around, she was seriously contemplating an escape out the back door, then chided herself for her silly, ridiculous notion. Luke was her husband, and although she had no idea how he’d found her, he had and it was time she faced the music, as discordant as it was shaping up to be.
Goodbyes were said in a rush and the next thing she knew, Luke had guided her out the door and set atop her horse quick as a wink. Instead of passing Micah up to her, Luke mounted and settled him in his lap. With little more than a glance her way, he ordered tersely, “Keep close. We’ll ride fast. I’d like to be home before dark.”
Noticing the sun dipping low in the western sky, she realized how time had slipped away and how late it must be. Without a valid argument, she quietly followed along at the fast trot he set. Taking the long way around town, he bypassed Sixth Street and South Town entirely, coming out on Main Street, and finally making the turn toward the west end and Silverbend beyond.
Conversation was nonexistent. She felt like a naughty child fetched home by a disapproving papa. Although she knew he didn’t want her there, she didn’t really see the harm. She was with Slim and Virginia, both of them armed, and though she hadn’t said so, she was too, prepared for trouble as her father had taught her. She wasn’t entirely a fool, except for ignoring her husband’s wishes, that is.
When they rode into the stable yard a half hour later, she dismounted without waiting for his help, taking Micah, who reached for her as soon as Luke walked over.
“I’ll see to the horses. You see to supper. We’ll discuss this after Micah is in bed for the night.”
“There’s nothing to it, really, Luke. I needed some supplies and ran into Slim at the store. I didn’t see the harm—”
“You disobeyed me, Wisteria. After promising me that you wouldn’t go there again, you did so against my express wishes. And you rode into town alone, I’m still having trouble comprehending that.”
“You never said I couldn’t ride alone. Besides, I was trying to catch your ma and Jenny…”
“All excuses for actions you knew I wouldn’t like.” He glanced at Micah a moment. “I don’t want to argue in front of him. We’ll wait until he’s down for the night.” He then took Shasta’s reins and led both horses into the barn.
She watched after him a moment, her heart beating hard in her chest at the word discussion. A term he’d used prior to punishing her in the past. As she thought about that first night, his hand whaling away on her backside, followed by the brush, the memory sent waves of warmth rushing through her and her stomach began to flutter. Not from fear, however, but from excitement. Did she actually want another round over his knee? Or was it simply arousal for the always enjoyable part that came after?
She puzzled over it as she went to the house to start dinner. His hand on her bottom had stung, as had the brush. The next day had brought a lingering tenderness and she’d had a hard time sitting down, using a pillow when no one else was around. But that had been mild compared to the lingering ache in the well-used passage between her legs.
As she thought of his body possessing her fully, she couldn’t hide her reaction in the budding of her nipples into hard peaks and the rush of heat that dampened the seam of her drawers. She’d had one without the other—making love often without a preceding spanking—he’d taken her nearly every night and sometimes in the morning before he left, making it twice; a few times he’d made it three times in a single day when he’d woken her during the night or come home for the midday meal. So why was the prospect of sex after a paddling so much more exciting?
Shaking herself to rid her mind of those insane thoughts, she got supper on the stove, but it remained a niggling concept in the back of her mind. Could she possibly like her husband’s firm discipline after all?
She was taking the cornbread muffins out of the oven when she heard his boots on the landing inside the back door. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t keep the fire from flooding her cheeks. Hoping he would think it was from the heat of the stove, she looked up when he came in. Although he glanced her way, he didn’t say a word as he went to straight to Micah and began playing with him.
“Supper’s almost ready, if you want to wash up,” she said softly from the doorway.
“No need. I did before I came in.” The unwelcome tension stretched tight between them as he got up, and with Micah, followed her into the kitchen.
As she got out plates, napkins, and flatware, she turned to find him studying her thoughtfully. He continued to do so for several long, silent moments, before he asked, “What do you have for Micah?”
“Same as for us, chicken and dumplings.”
“His favorite,” Luke said, aiming a grin at his boy. “Dish me up a bowl and I’ll start feeding him.”
“Are you in such a rush for this discussion?”
“Not a rush. Though it’s happening come hell or high water, darlin’. I thought I’d get his belly full so we can eat our dinner without juggling spoons. If you’d rather I wait…”
“No.” She ladled a small portion into a bowl and spread it out in a thin layer so it would cool. “Cut the chicken into small bits so he doesn’t choke.”
“I know, Wisteria. This isn’t me and Micah’s first chuck wagon.”
She nodded as he took the bowl.
“Are you very angry?” she whispered while he was near.
“More so disappointed, frustrated, and concerned. Most of my anger, which was really out-and-out worry and fear, dissipated as soon as I located you. The rest faded as soon as we reached home safely. That doesn’t change what will happen tonight.”
“I didn’t imagine it would.” Her voice broke a little as she said that, feeling wretched for the worry she had caused him. Worst of all for disappointing him. She’d done quite a lot of that already. As she spun to return to the stove, a good excuse to hide the mist of tears forming in her eyes, he caught her arm, turning her back. His hand lifted her chin until she met his gaze directly.
“You can’t be worried I’d injure you, darlin’. Never would I do that, although I can’t let your reckless behavior pass unaddressed. I care about you and Micah very deeply and couldn’t bear it if either one of you came to harm. Do you understand?”
She nodded swiftly. “I do, Luke, and I’m very sorry.”
“Being sorry is all well and good, Wisteria, but I need to be able to trust that this won’t be repeated. That’s what our discussion will be about.” Without waiting for a response, he bent low and kissed her forehead. Picking up the bowl, he returned to the table and began feeding Micah. At ease with his boy, his deep voice sounded in a low, soothing rumble, encouraging and praising each bite, and frequently laughing. Guilt washed over her as she deeply regretted her actions of the day.
Micah had fallen asleep during the first few pages of the story and was down for the night. As he opened the door to the room he shared with his still new bride, what he felt he had to do weighed heavily on him. What he found as he entered the shadowed bedroom with only one candle burning on the bedside rocked him to his core.
Wisteria was bent over the end of the bed, her gown raised to her waist, with her round bottom presented for the paddling she plainly expected.
Before he could say a word, she blurted out in a rush, “I was wrong to have gone to Slim’s knowing you didn’t want me there. And although you never said specifically not to ride out alone, I knew deep down that I shouldn’t, that you wouldn’t think it was safe, and when I couldn’t catch up with your mother on Jackson land, I knew I should have turned around and come home. I’m sorry and accept what I have coming.” From the folds of her gown she pulled out her hairbrush and laid it next to her on the bed.
Closing the door behind him, he walked slowly across the room. He sat beside her and ran his hand down the long, silken mass of her midnight hair where it lay across her back.
“To own up to your mistake is commendable, darlin’. I’m proud of you for that.” She watched him the entire time, her eyes large and luminous, chewing anxiously on her lower lip, her body held taut like a bow. He couldn’t have that. His hand continuing to glide slowly along her spine, across her shoulders and down to the hollows of her lower back until she began to relax.
Acutely aware of her body next to him, and the warmth of her skin beneath his stroking palm and splayed fingers, she still seemed worlds away. The urge to hold her grew into a burning need.
“Come here,” his voice rasped into the quiet, “you’re too far away for our talk.”
“But I’m right here, Luke.”
“Yeah, but I want you closer, where I can hold you, feel your body heat, hear your heart beat, feel the rush of your breath along my skin, and know that you’re safe.” Eliminating the distance between them, minute as it was, he lifted her by the waist, set her on his lap, and curled her against him, tucking her head beneath his chin.
“Can’t we get this over with?”
He grinned. “We haven’t had our discussion yet.”
She glanced up in surprise. “Did I leave something out?”
“No, you covered the ‘what’ portion quite well. I also want to tell you the why.”
“There’s a why?”
“Yes, sweetheart. I want to tell you the tale of three other Jackson women named Letty, Janelle, and Jennifer, all of whom have been targeted by those who wanted to get to us, the Jackson men, through our women.” If this weren’t so serious, he would have laughed at the ripe curiosity burning in her violet eyes, so much so that for once, she didn’t interrupt him. This was not the time for levity, however.
“While ma won’t offer this, she will tell if you ask her. She was once a headstrong young girl who got it in her head that she didn’t need her man to protect her. As a result, she almost ran smack dab into the middle of an Indian raid on the way into town. This was thirty or so years ago, when the natives weren’t too happy about their land being taken over and being pushed out of what they thought was their home.”
“What did your pa do?”
“That’s for her to tell. It’s enough to say that she never rode out without an escort again.”
“The Indian raids, aren’t those in the past now?”
“Sadly, they are a defeated people, their tribes decimated by war, their lands taken, but that doesn’t mean troubles and threats don’t exist anymore. Wyoming is still a frontier, many parts uncivilized including the people. In town, those who call themselves civil sometimes act in primitive barbaric ways. Take our neighbors, for example. Ma and pa have known them for years and called them friends. Regrettably, as their spread floundered and Silverbend flourished, jealousy grew amid some of the sons. Because of this, Janelle was kidnapped, nearly raped and ended up lost and naked on the mountain.”
“Oh, my Lord!” Wisteria exclaimed.
“She almost died, darlin’. And then there’s Jenny; her story, some of which you already know, isn’t any less disturbing. Her pa got mixed up in some trouble, leaving her and young Will to fend for themselves. She ended up working in a saloon on Sixth Street amongst the dregs of Laramie society. Because of that, her so-called uncle thought she was ripe for the picking. He assaulted her and kidnapped Will to control him and his inheritance, what little remained. When his plan failed, he came after Jenny, planning to make her into his unwilling mistress. You thwarted his escape by holding him at gunpoint and know how that ended.”
“Yeah, with Heath’s fist in his face.”
“My point is that Jackson women are targets and you are no exception. Now that we have Micah, he could be used as a pawn. This is the reason you don’t go off without me or an escort. I won’t go through with you two, the same hell that Aaron, Heath, and pa went through when they were taken.”
“I had no idea, except for Jenny. They seem so happy, as if none of their ordeals had happened. How do they do it?”
“They have strong men and a strong family to lean on. You’ve had tragedy too. I’d like to give you the same safety and security that they have found, Wisteria, but you have to trust me, be honest with me, and learn to follow the few rules I set forth. Can you do that for me?”
A tear rolled down her cheek as she nodded, repeating, “I had no idea.” She buried her face in his neck. “Oh, Luke. I feel terrible. It’s that I forget sometimes after fending for myself for so long. And the men in my life since my father’s passing have not been worthy of my trust. Slim with his drinking and crazy ideas. Jarrett with his womanizing and abuse.”
“He hit you?”
“That slipped out.”
“The bastard hit you, with a fist?”
“Once or twice, until I started carrying my gun and sleeping with it under my pillow.”
“And he cheated on you? Was he blind? Or insane?” His tone was both angry and incredulous. “Don’t answer that, it’s obvious he was an idiot. If he wasn’t already dead, I’d kill him.”
“Jarrett was jealous of you, and Micah, even though he insisted he didn’t care from the beginning. But he saw you every time he looked at Micah. Heath told me I’d regret leaving your warm bed that day. I’ve never told him how prophetic he was. Rude, yes. Still, he was dead on in his prediction.”
“Big brother does have a way with words.”
“He didn’t like me very much back then.”
“He seems to have warmed up to you now. Nevertheless, it’s enough that I like you, darlin’ and with this settled, we move on and put this incident behind us. After we get this spanking done, that is.”
“No pun intended?”
“None. I don’t find punishment amusing, but it becomes necessary sometimes. Are you still thinking you’ve earned it?”
“I do. I’m very sorry, Luke.”
“Over my knees, then, darlin’. The quicker we get this done, the sooner I can start making you scream with pleasure.”
“I think after this, I’ll have earned that too.”
He helped her stand before guiding her over his lap. Her loose gown flipped up easily, exposing her already bare behind. He shifted her forward until her head was angled down toward the floor and her ivory curves were exactly where he wanted them. Her skin was like silk beneath his work-roughened hands and he took his time enjoying the smoothness of every inch. It was firm yet supple, and he enjoyed watching it ripple as each swat fell or as his hips slammed into her from behind. His cock stirred to life, prodding the softness of her belly. He needed to get on with it before he lost his determination and flipped her onto the bed, riding her until they both surrendered to pleasure.
When she moaned in response to the twitching along her front side, he knew she was feeling the rise of his passion as well. Drawing his hand back, he brought it down swiftly, the crack of his palm on her taut skin like a report of a gun in the stillness of the room. She squirmed, breathing faster in response.
He applied another smack of equal intensity to her other cheek, twin blooms of pink appearing on her pale skin. The old expression, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you” held new meaning as his cock lengthened and throbbed, eager to sink between her warm, wet folds.
Twice more, he spanked her, hearing moans escape her parted lips. Another pair fell, then another. Unable to keep still, her legs separated as she wiggled and the dewy moisture shining on her inner thighs, plus the light, taunting scent of her aroused pussy, almost brought him to completion then and there. If he didn’t have her soon, he’d explode like an untried youth in his britches. Four more fell without hesitation, making a dozen.
“Luke, please. I can’t take anymore.”
“I’ve barely reddened your behind, Wisteria.”
“Not that, please. I need you, inside me.”
His caressing hand slipped between her cheeks and rode the valley down between her lips. The hint of desire he’d seen on her thighs was nothing compared to the flood of wetness that greeted him there. Reveling in the response that his touch, even in punishment, could bring, he couldn’t keep from delving inside her passage with a long finger. As she parted her legs and rocked backward, seeking more, he added a second and thrust in and out, watching the proof of her desire on her rosy flesh and the glistening slickness of his fingers.
He growled, his need so great he couldn’t contain it another instant. “Get up.” With hands guiding her hips, he steadied her as she stood. When he rose alongside her, he began tearing at his clothes. “On the bed. I want you now.”
She crawled onto the bed from the bottom, moving swiftly on all fours toward the pillows, her rosy red cheeks glowing in the candlelight, giving him glimpses of the treasure that lay between them, wet, hot, and eager.
“Get rid of the gown and be ready for me.”
Her gown whipped over her head and sailed over the side of the bed onto the floor. Completely bare, she lay back on the pillows. He paused, taking her in, from the rosy flush of her face down to her heaving chest, and the breasts that fit perfectly into his hands. They quivered with each ragged breath, the hard tips seeming to tighten under his avid study, as though begging for his touch. He continued his survey downward, over her flat belly to the dark triangle guarding what he yearned for the most. Her thighs parted as he watched, a sign of her own intense need.
Tugging his pants down his legs, he kicked them free and climbed onto the end of the bed. “Spread your legs wide,” came his husky demand as he crept closer, “and show me how wet you are, how strong your need is, how much you want me to drive into your warm, yearning body.”
Inching her thighs farther apart, her back arched and her knees bent slightly. He caught a glimpse of pink. It wasn’t enough. He wanted it all.
“Wider, darlin’. Part those soft lips with your fingers and show me.”
He didn’t know if she whimpered from the lewdness of his commands or because of them. The next instant, he no longer cared when she did as he asked and bared her weeping entrance. The sight of her fingers sliding through her folds, testing her own wetness, nearly had him coming all over the sheets. Gripping his aching cock in his hand, he squeezed, pumping slowly to bring him some ease.
“This is more reward than punishment.”
Her dark spiky lashes flew up in surprise. “I thought you were done with that.”
“A dozen measly swats is a prelude to sex, darlin’, hardly a punishment.” Lying beside her, his wide shoulders crowded her on the pillows. “On your knees and straddle me.”
With a sense of urgency, she grinned and curled upward immediately. Lifting one leg, she moved astride him, which is when he stopped her.
“No, face away from me.” He illustrated his point by making a half circle with his finger. Passion, stark and vivid, glittered in her eyes as she hesitated for a moment. Her brows quirked slightly in confusion, but she did as he asked. Twisting away, she placed both hands above his knees and moved the leg closest to him up and over his hips.
“Good girl, now bend forward.”
All of her intimate charms were bared to his gaze, from her rosy cheeks and the small tight rear hole nestled between them, to the snug passage that wept with her need, and the delicate pink folds that parted to reveal the glistening pearl of her clit. It protruded as if in invitation to his touch. He nearly lost control having all of her beauty laid out like a feast before him. He couldn’t wait.
Cock in hand, he guided the head to her entrance and dipped enough inside for her muscles to grip him. His hands curled around her hips and backed her toward him, avidly watching as his entire length disappeared incrementally. Once fully enveloped by her incredibly snug, gripping heat, he raised his right hand and swatted her hard on one upraised cheek.
She squealed in surprise, rearing back as he’d hoped, taking him deeper. She halted, uttering a husky moan before twisting around, an amazed and very aroused look on her face.
“Two birds with one stone, baby. You’ll ride me like this while I finish doling out your punishment swats.” As if to illustrate his point, his left hand connected with her left cheek. She jerked forward, away from the sting, then immediately rocked back like she couldn’t get enough, but of what—his hand or his cock—was the question. Not that he cared so much about the answer, she was going to receive both and he would ensure she cried out from both as well.
“That’s it, darlin’,” he urged. “Ride my cock while I smack your naughty behind.”
With each slap, she moved forward before slowly sinking back. They soon settled into a rhythm of resounding smacks and long, breathless groans. It felt so good, he lost count, stopping when his palm was fiery hot and tingling. He grabbed her hips, gliding her up and down faster on his rigid shaft. With the heels of his hands, he spread her globes wide and enjoyed the sight, sound, and feel of every glide of his hard flesh into her warm, welcoming softness.
He still wanted to take and to give her more. Slipping one thumb lower, he collected some of the honey that covered his shaft and spread it over the tightly puckered hole that teased him with each pump of her hips. He pressed into her slowly, listening as her breath hitched audibly, smiling when she didn’t slow her erotic ride.
She was an adventurous little thing, in more ways than one. Bold as brass with a gun in her hand, and openly daring in the bedroom. He liked both a lot, the latter more than the former for his peace of mind, but he couldn’t deny her bravado. Going deeper, he explored her response to this new aspect of their passion. When he was in up to his second knuckle, she sat up, throwing her head back, both hands coming up to caress her own juddering breasts.
“Do you like that, baby? My cock stretching and filling your snug pussy while my thumb is buried inside your tight bottom?”
She didn’t speak, her long, throaty groan saying it all for her.
His free hand wrapped around her hip, urging her to move faster while thrusting his hips upward to meet the incredible glide of her intense heat. “Pinch your nipples and come for me. I’m not going to last more than another minute.”
Turning his head, he caught her reflection in the vanity mirror, ready to explode at the sight of her delicate fingers pinching and tugging on her hard nipples as she bounced up and down on his cock.
Gasping in sweet agony, her head fell back as her body convulsed around him. This sent him over the top and he too found his peak, crying out his passion as he exploded in a heated release deep inside her.
He sat up, pulling her back against his chest. With his hand wrapped around her chin, he brought her head around, his lips meeting hers. Sparks flew between them as he took her mouth in a searing kiss.
“I think I was adopted,” he murmured into her hair a long time later.
She twisted in his arms, a soft smile gracing her lips. “Impossible. You can’t deny a single one of them. Why would you say that?”
“Because I didn’t get the stern disciplinarian trait, like the other men in the family.”
“My bottom is sufficiently hot and tender to disprove that theory.” She pushed up on an elbow and gaped down at him with incredulity. “Hold up. Are you saying Aaron spanks Janelle?”
“And Heath does the same with Jenny?”
“Probably not the same, Aaron can be hard as nails, although Heath has his moments.”
“And your parents?”
“Please,” he grimaced. “I prefer not to think of them that way. All I can say is as boys we learned at the feet of a master, or should I say at the end of his strap. He didn’t let us get away with much. Believe me.”
“Henry can be gruff and stern, but I can tell underneath it all he’s really the opposite. And he loves all of you dearly. He’s gentle with Micah and dotes upon him so.”
“I believe he has mellowed in his old age. Besides, he can love and cuddle a grandson, leaving the discipline up to the parents.”
“I can’t imagine Micah ever doing anything that would require a punishment. I won’t consider it.”
“Maybe not today. Wait until he jumps off the high bank into the swift water of Silverbend Creek, or runs your new buggy into a ditch.”
“Who did that? Heath? No, it was Aaron.”
“They had their fair share of misdeeds, but I was the miscreant who pa says gave him gray hair.”
“My father always said the sins of the father are revisited on the son. That’s it. He’s confined to the house until he’s thirty.”
Chuckling at that, he pulled her down until she rested once more across his chest. “He’s a boy, darlin’, he’ll get into mischief and cause mayhem. It’s up to us to show him right from wrong and rein him in when he gets too wild.”
“A mischief maker, you’ve said the same about me. What if your sins are revisited on Micah? Or mine? We’re doomed.”
“We’ll face it together. He’ll be fine, and so will we.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“I am. Because we both love him and he’ll know it every day of his life.”
Her head tilted back as her hand came to rest on the scruff of his jaw. Her soft voice shook with raw emotion. “Oh, Luke. At first, I thought you might not accept him.”
“He was a surprise, Wisteria, one that almost took me out at the knees, but never would I have denied him as my own. I couldn’t if I tried because the minute I gazed into his big brown eyes, the same ones I see staring back from my shaving mirror every day, I knew I loved him.”
“As I said, darlin’, he’ll be raised with love and will be just fine.”
She snuggled into his arms. “With you as his daddy, honey, I can’t help but believe it
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