Arielle could hear some scuffling outside the door but remained at the back of the cabin with the pommel of the sword resting on the window ledge. She had propped herself up against the back wall so the ledge could take part of the weight of the sword. Lucien had sent one man below to try to fetch her up on deck to await the arrival of Dundalk’s new alpha, Ruari. She had scored a deep cut along his ribs and felt proud of herself for having done so.
She craned her head trying to sharpen her hearing. After Lucien had closed the door and she heard the scuffling, Arielle felt dizzy, disoriented, and sick to her stomach. She shook her head trying to clear it, but all three sensations increased in their intensity. She was trying to clear her head when the door opened and she was confronted by Gareth’s beta, now the alpha of Dundalk. He entered the room, took note of the sword and the wreck she’d made of the cabin, and closed the door behind him.
“Get out!” she shouted.
“No,” he said calmly. “Put down the sword and behave yourself.”
Arielle waved the sword threateningly at him and growled low in her throat. “Get out.”
Ruari insulted her by chuckling. “You will learn, mate…”
“I am not your mate…”
“You are. Put the sword down before you hurt yourself or someone else.”
Arielle brandished the sword at him and growled. Taking a firmer grip on its handle, she charged. He sidestepped her neatly, as she had once seen Rowan do in a duel, and Arielle realized she’d overcommitted herself. Ruari grabbed the grip behind her hands, disarmed her, and landed a hard swat to her backside; Arielle stumbled forward. She whirled around to face him.
“This is a fine sword, Arielle. Where did you get it?” he said, examining it.
“It was my father’s. Now it is mine.”
“In other words, you stole it. Another piece of naughty behavior for which you need to be spanked. Even if it had been yours, as you are now my mate, it would be mine.”
“You can’t have it,” she threatened.
“I already do. Try and take it from me or put your hands on it again, and I’ll use the flat across your backside to teach you not to play with swords.”
“I’m not playing,” she said as she rushed him.
She tried this time not to overcommit, but the ship lurched. Ruari let the sword clatter to the floor as he stumbled backwards and pulled her into his arms. He gathered her into his embrace and lowered his head to kiss her. Arielle could hear and feel the deep rumbling coming from within him and found it to be sensual, exciting, and reassuring all at the same time. She remembered her sister saying that often when Alaric called to her, she felt weak in the knees. Arielle’s legs weren’t wobbly; she felt as though they would simply buckle and refuse to hold her upright. Trying to find her equilibrium, as his mouth threatened to capture hers, she bit his lip and head-butted him… something Sloan had taught her to do.
Ruari jumped back and grinned. Suddenly he understood the allure of a mate who wasn’t necessarily going to always behave herself. He reached up and touched his lip. The little vixen had bitten him hard enough to draw blood.
“I see you have far more of your sister in you than anyone realized.”
“You may see that as an insult, but I do not. If you don’t give me my sword and release me this instant, I will bite you again.”
Ruari was enjoying this new defiant side of his mate. Her eyes blazed a brilliant blue, her skin was flushed, her breathing erratic and the scent of her arousal hung between them. He inhaled deeply and smiled.
“You may have drawn first blood, but when I sink my teeth into you, beloved, it will be to mark and claim you as mine.”
Arielle growled and backed away. Her eyes locked with his as she leaned down to retrieve the sword. Realizing what she planned to do, and not putting deadly intentions on her part outside the realm of possibilities, Ruari intervened and snatched it up off the floor. He tossed it in the air and caught it by the grip as his other hand snaked out to take hold of her arm.
Ruari jerked her toward him. As he flung her past his side, he brought the flat of the sword across her backside. Arielle yowled and her arousal spiked.
“Didn’t I warn you about playing with swords? Do it again and I’ll do more than just lightly tap you with it.” He took note of the clothing she wore. “Do you have proper clothing with you?”
She raised her chin defiantly. “I see nothing wrong with what I have on.”
“I do. And mine is the only opinion that counts. Answer me. Do you have appropriate clothing with you? My mate will not enter our keep dressed as some kind of runaway waif.”
Arielle stomped her foot. “I am not your mate and you are not going to tell me what to do.”
“As you well know, I am. I can see your reaction to my call as well as smell the sweet perfume of your arousal. I do believe Gareth was right when he said she-wolves are often more prone to obedience once their mate’s hand has left their backside stinging. And as I recall the story, your sister was relieved of her virginity after having her blistered bottom put on display. Unless you’d like to have yours taken in the same manner, I suggest you settle down and behave yourself.”
Ruari spied her small bundle of clothing and picked through it. Finding the one gown she had packed, he tossed it to her as he turned to the door.
“Get dressed, Arielle. We should head back to the keep so you can prepare whatever ceremony you want for our pair bonding. I think the happiness of our pairing will be welcome after my brother’s passing. I’m sure we have dressmakers who can make you something new, if you like. Don’t take too long in your planning, I won’t wait long to claim you. The wolf in me has little patience when aroused.” He made a show of sniffing the air. “And your scent has most definitely left me in that state.”
He heard something crash behind him as he closed the door.
Who the hell did he think he was, speaking to her like that?
Arielle threw the ceramic pitcher at the door. Granted, it did no damage to either the door or the arrogant bastard who’d walked through it, but the loud crash made her feel somewhat better. She opened the window along the back wall of the stateroom. Like the other portals, it didn’t appear to be big enough to allow her to escape through it. Eyeing the dress on the bunk, she realized the window would accommodate tossing her dress through it; so, she did so.
Within a few moments, and without knocking first, Ruari strode back in the room.
“I saw the dress,” he said in a neutral tone. “It won’t do you much good out in the harbor. I thought about having it fished out of the water and making you wear it anyway but decided that was not the lesson you needed to learn.”
“I don’t need to learn anything from you.”
“We have a difference of opinion. I suspect we will have more of those than I originally thought. Part of the lesson you need to learn today is that my opinion is the only one that matters. When you forget that, or choose to blatantly disobey me, as you did with the dress, you will be punished. As you are still a virgin, that won’t be as satisfying for either of us as it will be once you have taken your vows and I have taken your maidenhead.”
Not knowing what else to do, Arielle looked around for something to use as a weapon. Seeing nothing, she picked up the ceramic bowl that had matched the now shattered pitcher and launched it at his head. He caught it easily.
“You will find, cushla macree, that having been a beta before I became alpha, I have far less tolerance for misbehaving she-wolves than your sister’s mate or even Gareth.”
“And I dislike arrogant wolves even more than Rowan or Sloan,” she said, looking him in the eye. “It seems we are ill-suited. If you will return my sword to me, I will take my leave of you.”
Ruari growled low and seductively; a wave of pure desire washed over her and Arielle’s entire body shuddered in response. He closed on her and was within inches of her before wrapping one of his muscular arms around her waist and pulling her close.
“Nay, lass, we are more than well suited, and you know it. You are my fated mate and will do better if you learn to obey me from the start. When I rode to the harbor this morning, I had hoped to carry you back sitting in front of me on my horse as my treasured mate. It would seem, instead, you will arrive face down across his withers as my captive one.”
Realizing that having grown up around warriors had done little to prepare her for being mated to one, or even dealing with one not under her sister’s command, Arielle tried to take a step back. The memory of Alaric riding into Calon Onest with her sister draped across the saddle in front of him with her freshly spanked bottom on display flashed in her memory.
“No,” she whispered, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.
“Yes. The only question that remains is will our people get to see the evidence of their alpha’s displeasure or not.”
Ruari released her body but took her by the hand as he walked toward the bunk. As she had with Tristan, she tried resisting, but Ruari was too strong.
“Ruari, no. I am not going to let you spank me.”
“There’s little you can do to stop me. I suppose that’s the first lesson you need to learn. My word is law and when I make a decision, I expect you to comply. If you disagree with me, you may tell me in private, but you will submit to my will. That starts now. I’ve decided you’re in need of a spanking, and I mean to see that you get it.”
Sitting down, he stripped her breeches down and pulled her over his knee. He gently rubbed her backside. While Tristan had done the same after he had finished spanking her, she was experiencing far different feelings from Ruari’s sensual touch. She had often seen Alaric fondle Rowan’s backside in a similar manner over her clothes and had wondered how it might feel. She liked the way Ruari’s hand caressed her bottom. It surprised her when her nipples started to stiffen, and she could feel desire swirling in her most feminine spot.
She rubbed her thighs together, which caused him to rumble at her from deep within his chest. The sound resonated within her and ratcheted up the tingly feeling, which seemed to be skittering along her skin while at the same time permeating the marrow of her bones. He called to her in the ancient way of their kind and this time she answered with a sound that was half purr and half growl.
The sound seemed to please him, and he allowed his finger to glide down between her twin globes, pausing only briefly to touch her dark rosebud before languidly stroking her labia. Her feminine dew pooled itself in her core to ease his penetration of her sheath. Arielle was unprepared for the enormity of what she felt. No man had ever touched her there and the feeling of Ruari’s gentle stroking was far more pleasurable than when she touched herself. Her blood seemed to be pounding through her veins in the same rhythm that she could feel his staff throbbing beneath her.
Arielle was fast losing any resistance that she might have had to the alpha of Dundalk. Her thoughts were focused completely on how he made her feel and the sound she could hear coming from him. She was lost in the sensual web he was weaving and the sonorous hum that wrapped all around her. Her body trembled in anticipation and she knew if he chose to claim her in the captain’s cabin, she would not refuse him. What she felt washed away all her silly romantic notions about what her claiming might be.
Her sigh, which bordered on rapture, was cut off as he lifted his hand and brought it back down on her delicate globes in a resounding smack that made the blows she had endured from Tristan feel like affectionate love pats.
Arielle shrieked in response and tried to extricate herself from the monster’s grip, but he held firm as he laid down a series of slaps that resulted in pain exploding from each one. She yowled and struggled.
“Nay, lass, I gave you the choice to behave or not. You chose disobedience, which will get you punished every single time. You are quickly developing a bad habit of putting yourself in danger, and I mean to put an end to that. Eire is a far wilder and more dangerous place than Britannia. You will not leave the castle grounds without my permission. Doing so will earn you a bright red fanny.”
“You bastard! When you let me up, I’ll run you through with my sword!”
His hand increased in both tempo and strength as it rained fire all across her rump. Each time he landed a swat, the pain increased exponentially. Arielle kicked and squirmed with all her might, but she was no match for the strength with which he held her.
“You, cushla macree, will not threaten me or call me names when you’ve earned yourself a sound spanking. I’ve already warned you about playing with swords but let me amend that. You pick up a weapon, any weapon, and I’ll take my sword belt to your beautiful backside and decorate it with a set of stripes that’ll make you wish you’d never thought about looking at one.”
Arielle had to make him stop. She had thought Tristan had been harsh with her; she’d been wrong. All the lovely, erotic feelings she’d experienced when Ruari first put her over his knee had vanished the moment his hand had made harsh impact with her bottom. Or maybe not all of them. Arielle realized, much to her dismay, that her nipples had hardened to the point they were painful and the proof of her desire for Ruari had increased to the point she feared it would leak onto the leg of his breeches. The same breeches encasing the turgid rod that seemed to be growing and throbbing in concert with the symphony of pain he was inflicting.
“Ruari, stop,” she pleaded.
“Had enough?” he said, bringing his hand to rest lightly on her upturned rump.
His hand spanked her again.
“Ruari, no,” she wailed. “It hurts. I’m sorry. I’ll behave.”
The hand stopped. “Will you?”
Arielle gulped, trying to stifle the tears that had begun to flow and nodded.
He landed another stinging, upward swat that caught the tender underside of her bottom.
“When I ask you a question, cushla macree, you will answer me respectfully. Do you think you can behave?”
“Yes, Ruari,” she cried softly.
“Are you sorry for running away from Calon Onest, stowing away, disrespecting the captain, tossing your gown into the harbor, and disobeying me?”
She nodded. “Yes, Ruari.”
“Do you have any idea how lovely I find the sight of your pretty red bottom draped over my knee?”
Arielle wasn’t sure how to respond to his question. She could feel the evidence of his arousal pushing and straining to get free. She was confused by the conflicting feelings—both physical and emotional—his treatment was causing. Part of her wanted nothing more than to get away, but the growing part wanted to capitulate and revel in the need he had created and that he seemed to share. Not knowing how to verbalize her emotions, she growled low in her throat in supplication and failed to stem the tears that had begun to leak from her eyes.
Ruari’s hand caressed her fiery bottom, which caused her to moan in something that bordered on ecstasy. She felt the rumbling noise that he emitted to the depths of her soul. One of his hands rubbed the small of her back and stroked her spine. He used the other, the one that had so easily brought her to tears, to trail down from her punished globes to between her legs.
“Spread your legs for me, lass,” he purred.
He nudged her upper thighs and she parted them. He slipped his hand between her legs and explored the warmth he found there. Arielle mewled in quiet protest, but his answering growl silenced and soothed her almost immediately.
“That’s my good mate.”
He reached further between her legs and found her swollen nub. His fingers surrounded it, tugging gently. Arielle gasped as a jolt of pure arousal shot through her system. Arielle had pleasured herself in the past, but it had never felt like this. She could feel her channel pulsing with a life force she had never felt. Her legs trembled and her skin quivered. The more he focused his attention on that bit of bundled nerves, the more erratic and labored her breathing became.
Arielle felt a wave of warmth rise up from the nerve center he was manipulating. It rose from the actual spot Ruari fondled, to her belly and on up to her swollen nipples. The tremors of pleasure intensified as she felt herself nearing the edge of completion that had always frightened her. She tried to pull back from the abyss, but Ruari intensified the stimulation he was providing as he growled low in his throat. She realized that she would be unable to stop herself from tumbling over the edge. Clasping his leg, Arielle let go of the last remnants of her control and screamed in hedonistic and unfamiliar abandon.
As she slipped over the edge, a groundswell of pure pleasure washed over her. She surrendered to the sensation and felt as though her essence had separated from her body and was set free. Her only tether to reality was the vibrato of Ruari’s growl and the hand that she now knew could inflict pleasure and pain in equal measure. The surge that enveloped her was powerful and resulted in an enormous feeling of bliss that caused her to almost black out.
Arielle felt him release her nub and stroke down, separating her labia and tickling the entrance to her core. He collected some of her honeyed essence before bringing it to his nostrils, inhaling deeply and sucking it from his fingertips. Ruari continued to stroke her fevered flesh soothingly as he rumbled to her.
Ruari helped her to her feet. She reached for her breeches, but he stayed her hand.
“Nay, cushla macree, you are never to wear breeches again.”
He made short work of stripping her of her remaining clothing including her boots, corset, and chemise. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared as he stared at her now naked breasts. He reached up to stroke the outline of her areola, before tweaking the pebbled tip. She swatted his hand away.
Placing his foot on the rung of the desk chair, he tugged her over his knee and swatted her hard an additional three times, resulting in her yowling.
“Naughty mate. You are mine and I will touch you wherever and whenever I choose. The powers that be have gifted me with a mate with beautiful tits and hips that will make it easy for you to easily conceive, carry, and give birth to our offspring.”
He lifted her other breast, seeming to enjoy its heft, pinching the nipple at its center, before running his hand possessively down her side and flank. The comforting growl, which seemed to come from his chest, changed to a sound of seduction and lust and she felt its compelling call. He crushed her naked body against his. She could feel the large, hard bulge of his erection as it pressed against her. Her feelings of desire burst forth like the phoenix rising from the flames.
“I can’t wait to bed you, mate,” he growled before his head descended and his mouth captured hers, thrusting his tongue past her teeth.
She clung to him and moaned. The sound morphed, as he continued to plunder her mouth, into the sound that was half growl and half purr. It was a she-wolf’s answer to her fated mate’s summons.
Ruari released her, stepped back, and shook his head as if to clear it. He reached past her and snatched the sheet off the bunk. Before she had time to guess his intentions, he wrapped her in it and lifted her over his shoulder. She wriggled and tried to protest and received another hard swat to her upturned rump.
“Enough,” he growled as he picked up the sword.
“You can’t take me to the castle wrapped in a bedsheet.”
“I can and will, unless you’d rather I carry you naked into our keep.”
Arielle wanted to protest but feared he would do as he threatened.
Ruari went up on deck, spoke briefly with Lucien, and then disembarked and headed for his horse. He handed her to the harbor guard, who had been holding his mount so he could swing up into the saddle. He looked down at her.
“Would you prefer to yield and sit upright, or do you want to continue to misbehave and ride face down over my horse’s withers?”
“I’ll yield. Please, Ruari, let me get dressed.”
“You have nothing appropriate to wear. You’ll be confined to our chambers until we can have some things made. Bridget is far too slim for her gowns to be able to be altered to fit your more voluptuous curves.”
He brought her up to sit in front of him and turned his horse toward the castle. They spoke little as he cantered through the countryside and into the bailey. Castle Dundalk was larger and far more grand than Calon Onest. One of the stable boys came out to take his horse. Ruari stepped down and then slid her back over his shoulder to carry her into the keep.
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