A lone rider scanned the horizon. The fiery orange sunset bathed the desert valley in a rosy glow. Blotches of desert scrub and tiny bursts of honey yellow flowers from the greasewood plant the only other hint of color across the brown barren stretch of stone, sand and jagged rock. In the far distance, just to the south, were the low mudbrick and wooden structures of Fort McIntosh. The stranger’s destination.
Easing the horse forward, the stranger kept a wary eye on the surroundings. The distinctive grayish-brown coat and black-tipped ears of a bobcat appeared from behind a mesquite bush only a few arm’s lengths away. The stranger pulled on the reins. Although not its natural prey, it didn’t pay to take chances. The bobcat darted east after a black-tailed jackrabbit.
As the fort neared, so did the wide expanse of the Rio Grande as it cut through the valley like a blue ribbon. The dirty canvas tents, tumbledown shacks and brightly, painted clapboard buildings of the rowdy town which sprung up between the banks of the river and the wooden spiked picket fence of the fort also came into view. Shouts of drunken laughter, the tinny sound of a saloon piano and the occasional crack of a gun harshly replacing the calming sound of rushing wind and the call of a mockingbird from the trail.
Wrapping the leather reins around a wooden hitching post, the stranger sucked in a bracing breath before pushing open the frosted glass doors of the Imperial Saloon.
The acrid scent of tobacco smoke and warm, unwashed bodies blended with the cadence of low conversation, clinking glasses and the discordant shrieks of a saloon girl on stage attempting a rendition of When This Cruel War Is Over. The gaudy oil paintings, polished brass lamps, felt tables and mahogany bar of the interior gave an air of tawdry luxury to the saloon that ran counter to the run-down appearance of the town itself.
Eyes averted, the stranger stepped up to the bar. Tossing a bright, double-eagle, gold coin on its grubby surface, their voice scratched out, “I’ll take a flip and some information.”
The barkeep cast a disparaging glance over the floppy, black-felt hat which obscured the stranger’s face. With a shrug of shoulders, the barkeep pocketed the coin and grabbed a bottle of champagne and one fresh, farm egg.
Cracking the egg into a tin cup, the barkeep asked, “What do you want to know?” The town was a popular trade route and the last stop before the Mexican Territories. Folks came and went all the time. Some respectable, most not. It wasn’t uncommon for lawmen, gunfighters, jilted lovers and the like to pass through asking for information. It made for some extra coin in his pocket.
“Looking for a man who goes by the name Black Jack Doolin who might have passed through with a woman not too long ago.”
The caterwauling stopped. The piano music ended with a crash on one long chord. In the sudden silence, the scraping of several chairs along the unpolished, wood-planked floor rent the air.
“Can’t say we like some Johnny Reb strolling into town asking questions,” groused one man as he wiped chewed tobacco spittle from his beard.
After the Northern Aggression, many Southerners abandoned their burnt out farms and headed west for a fresh start. Large swaths of western territory were filled with former Southern belles and Confederate soldiers looking to cash in on the skills they learned during the war.
“I’m talkin to you, Gray Back!”
Apparently this wasn’t one of those territories.
The once bluish-gray shell jacket was now faded to a ragged, brown butternut complete with tarnished brass buttons and frayed black piping. But even through the years of war, the dust of the trail and the ravages of castile soap and the scrub board, the Confederate Cavalry uniform coat was unmistakable.
Resting a hand on the butt of an army-issued Colt, the stranger refused to turn around. “I’m not looking for any trouble. Just trying to track someone down.” The voice was a low, gruff whisper.
“Yeah, well you just found trouble, Johnny Reb. Apparently we didn’t whup your ass enough in the war,” cackled the man. “You still need to learn your place.”
The stranger took a slow sip of the recently poured drink, fingers flexing over the warm, smooth butt of the Colt resting against a hip. In a lot of respects, the war would never be over. “If I’m not mistaken. We’re near Laredo. Didn’t a couple of Rebs fight back over two-hundred Yanks three times at the Battle of Laredo before the Yanks finally left, tails tucked between their legs, crying for their mamas?”
There was a cry of outrage and the shuffling of feet before one beefy hand fell on the shoulder of the stranger, spinning them about. “You’re going to pay for that,” spat out the furious Yankee.
The polished Colt cleared the holster before the Yank had even finished his threat. Taking a step back, the stranger aimed left handed as the edge of their right palm slashed down on the greased trigger. Firing off three shots in rapid succession. Effortlessly turning one man’s shot of whiskey into bits of wet glass, another’s hand of cards into an ace in the hole, and shooting clear through the disagreeable Yank’s kepi cap, knocking it off his damn fool head.
There was the distinctive shrill shout of the Confederate Rebel Yell, an infamous battle cry, before all hell broke loose.
Apparently there were actually a few Southerners in the saloon after all.
The stranger adroitly swung both legs over the bar, taking up a secure position behind its solid wooden base. Grabbing an earthenware jug in each hand, the figure swung out at anyone who dared come within an arm’s length.
The sounds of rough men enjoying rough entertainment was replaced by a cacophony of splintering wood, shattering glass, grunts and groans and high-pitched screams…from both the men and saloon girls as the entire room broke into fisticuffs.
It didn’t take long, before the piercing screech of whistles could be heard as men in blue cavalry uniforms burst into the saloon. It was a patrol from Fort McIntosh. The commanding officer viewed keeping the peace in the nearby town as an extension of the fort’s responsibilities.
The federal soldiers quickly subdued the drunk and unruly crowd. Lining them up against a far wall to assess the situation. The stranger included, whose head never lifted, hidden beneath the wide-brim, felt hat.
“Each of you will be fined twenty-five cents for breaking the lord’s peace,” shouted the corporal in charge.
“Attention!” called a nearby private raising a flat hand to his forehead in salute.
All the soldiers clicked their heels, threw back their shoulders and pushed their chests out.
The stranger listened as a heavy boot trod across the boards.
Major John Thomas Brice, commanding officer of Fort McIntosh had arrived.
An imposing man of six feet four inches, he wasn’t just an officer in the United States Cavalry…he was the cavalry.
His family had been serving in the cavalry back since they were called the dragoons. In The War of Southern Aggression, he served under Union Major General Pleasonton, who commanded the Cavalry Corp of the Army of the Potomac. Major Brice was the key strategist behind the Battle of Brandy Station. The largest cavalry engagement during the war, right at the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign. Major Brice launched a dawn attack against the Rebel General Stuart. It was the first time the Union Cavalry managed to beat the superior Confederate Cavalry. The Johnny Reb cavalry never recovered.
Many considered him a hero of the war…others a legend.
No one questioned his authority.
Brice surveyed the room. The damage was minimal. This time. A few broken chairs. A smashed bottle or two. More bruised egos than blackened eyes. At least the expensive saloon mirror and front windows were spared. He scrutinized the ragtag bunch slouching against the wall.
Similar to the army, society out in the west had its own hierarchy and accompanying uniform. There were the homesteaders, easily recognizable in their blue flannel shirts and woolen pants. The hide hunters, covered head to toe in buckskin, always smelling faintly of sweat and death. The prospectors who pitched widely between threadbare, dusty overalls and oil-soaked hats to ruffled shirts and tailored suits depending on their fortunes.
Each stratagem was represented in equal measure as they stood, hunched shouldered and long-faced, shuffling their feet as they avoided eye contact with the imposing commanding officer.
Of course, there were also the soldiers, former and current.
“Report, corporal.” The command was given in a crisp, clipped tone.
“Bar fight, sir.”
Brice spared an annoyed glance for the young corporal.
“What I meant to say, sir, was mostly civilians. One sergeant and two privates of ours.”
“Men,” barked Brice.
It was only one word…that was all Major Brice needed.
Three men stepped forward out of the rag tag bunch. The stranger recognized one of them as the man who started the trouble and stiffened.
“Sergeant Cleave Stinger, Private Gene Covey and Private Reuben Warnock, sir,” offered the corporal.
“It weren’t our fault, Major!” whined Sergeant Stinger as he worried the brim of his hat in his hand. “That dirty Johnny Reb came in shootin his mouth and his gun off!”
Brice’s hard gaze landed on the slight figure of the former Confederate soldier. Back pressed against the wall, one foot propped up, head bowed, the figure looked tired and uninterested. Brice knew better. He could see the tightening in the shoulders. The subtle twitch of the left hand over the Colt.
Something was not right.
The former soldier presented a slight figure. Narrow shoulders and hips. Shorter than the average man. Young. Malnourished. That wasn’t especially surprising; Brice had heard rumors of a desperate Confederacy taking boys as young as twelve to fight for their lost cause toward the end.
Still, something pricked at his instincts about the man.
Brice scrutinized the man’s worn uniform. The patch was faded and dirty but still visible, he was cavalry. No rank. A horse man was a horse man no matter what side you fought on. His gaze fell on the boots. The boots. The boots were all wrong. Too slim and narrow. They certainly were not cavalry boots. Despite the dirt and mud, they looked almost…elegant.
His gaze flew to the lowered head. I’ll be damned, he thought.
“Corporal, take the men to the Guardhouse. Thirty days fatigue duty,” he ordered.
The sergeant and two privates were escorted out of the saloon. It was a harsh punishment but they knew Major Brice did not tolerate his soldiers setting a bad example in town.
“The town marshal has finally arrived. I will turn the rest over to him.” The corporal did little to keep the disdain from his voice. The town marshal was a dissipated, corrupt drunkard with no discipline or morals. He was the very reason why the soldiers were forced to patrol the town, breaking up fights and keeping the peace.
“All but him,” ordered Brice, motioning to the Confederate with a jut of his chin.
“Him, but he started….” The corporal immediately stopped, knowing better than to question his commanding officer.
Keeping their head lowered, the stranger listened to the sounds of grunts, protests and dragging feet as the men to either side were pulled away one by one.
A moment passed.
Then he stepped close.
A pair of polished cavalry boots. A glimpse of bright, blue wool pants with a canary yellow stripe. The clean smell of soap.
Brice crossed his arms over his wide chest and stared down at the black, felt hat. The brim so wide it almost spanned the width of the slight figure’s shoulders. Even at full height, he doubted if the top of their head would reach his shoulder.
“Time to sound the recall. You’re beaten.” Even through the harsh command, his voice held a hint of amusement.
The stranger didn’t move.
Brice whipped the black felt hat off the Confederate’s head. Even having his suspicions affirmed, nothing prepared him for the sight of the startlingly, beautiful, violet eyes which rose in shock to clash with his curious gaze.
Michaela Armistead pulled her Colt.
Baring her teeth, she threated the imposing man, “Stay away from me.”
There was a slight Southern lilt to her voice. He would guess Georgia. What was once, he was sure, a proper head of waist-length hair, had been chopped to the shoulders. What would have looked like a scandalous mess on any other well-bred woman gave this feisty baggage an irresistible appeal, as if she had just emerged from bed after being good and tumbled by a man. The golden honey locks only highlighted the unusual purple color of her eyes, which at this moment flashed brimstone and fire at him.
The corner of Brice’s lips rose on a seductive smile, “Not a chance.”
For a man who had a gun drawn on him, he seemed remarkably unaffected.
He didn’t know what had brought the little beauty to the far corner of the country, alone and unprotected, but he would be damned if he was going to let her just stroll out those saloon doors.
“You have no right to keep me here. Those men started the fight. I didn’t hurt anyone,” rattled off Michaela.
He made her nervous. She had spent the last several years surrounded by men in the cavalry. Men of all shapes and sizes. Of all temperament. Some good. Some bad. But none like him. There was something about him. The way he held himself. A reined energy, like a powerful horse only barely held in check.
“You just violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by drawing a weapon on a superior officer,” quipped Brice. His voice a low, dark threat.
Michaela lowered her brow in confusion. “But…I’m not even in the army!”
“That is a matter for the commanding officer to sort out. Till then, you’re my prisoner,” said Brice as he took one step forward. The barrel of her Colt pressing into the tight muscle of his stomach.
“You’re the commanding officer!” accused an exasperated Michaela.
“I know,” grinned Brice.
Without thought, Michaela squeezed the trigger. The hammer fell with a hollow empty click.
Brice wrapped one large hand around her slight wrist and snatched her close. “Dammit woman,” he growled.
Just because he had seen the glint of light through the empty bullet chamber didn’t mean he would excuse her trying to fill his gut with lead. If ever there was a woman who needed to be taken in hand, it was this little, feral spitfire.
Tearing the gun from her grasp, he put a shoulder to Michaela’s middle and easily lifted her slight weight high. Ignoring her indignant screams and shouts, Brice walked with a determined step out of the saloon, tossing a final command to the corporal over his shoulder.
“See that her horse and things are sent to the fort.”
“Yes, sir. Where should I have them brought?” asked the somewhat stunned corporal.
“My quarters,” answered Major Brice without hesitation as he carried an angry Michaela out into the night.
Dragging her by the banked fire, he sat down on the empty dynamite crate. Placing her in front of his outstretched knees, he took in her tousled, ragged appearance. Damn, she was till a beautiful woman.
“You rotten scalawag! I can’t wait till the law catches up to you and hangs you from the nearest tree for how you’ve treated me!”
A beautiful woman with a mouth on her.
“Take off your pantalets and ask for your punishment.”
Annabelle shot him an incredulous stare. Had he taken leave of the sense god gave him?
“You must be jesting!”
“Do I look like I am?”
She took in his hardened jaw, narrowed eyes which had darkened to the color of gunmetal and the tense, restrained set of his shoulders. He wasn’t funning her. He actually expected her to bare her bottom and ask to be spanked!
Annabelle shook her head as she took one tentative step backwards.
“Take another step and I’ll shove my cock so far down your throat you’ll taste me for weeks…then I’ll still tan your hide,” he growled.
His dark threat stopped her in her tracks. “This isn’t fair!” she cried.
“Life isn’t fair. Drop your pantalets. I won’t tell you again.”
With tears filling her azure eyes, Annabelle lifted the hem of his large navy blue shirt and fingered the ribboned bow holding her pantalets around her narrow waist.
“Please,” she whispered.
With shaking hands, Annabelle pulled on the ribbon, releasing the bow and allowing the linen under-drawers to slip down to her ankles. Her modesty was sparsely saved by the tails of his shirt which reached to her mid-thigh.
“Kick away the pantalets and turn around.”
Choking back a sob, Annabelle stepped out of her pantalets. She stood still.
“Turn around, Annabelle,” his voice dark and low with lust.
She started at the sound of her name on her lips. Biting her lip to keep back the sobs, she slowly turned her back to him.
“Lift up my shirt.”
“Don’t. Please, leave me that dignity,” she begged.
“Lift. The. Shirt. Up.”
Annabelle grasped the hem of the shirt. As slow as molasses, trying to delay the inevitable, she pulled the shirt up.
Mason held his breath as more of her creamy thighs were exposed. The rough-spun dark blue fabric of his shirt made her thighs appear that more smooth and creamy. After what felt like an eternity, he saw the soft, rounded curve of her bottom cheeks.
The shirt skimmed over her bottom, touching her skin with fabric as he longed to with skin. The lush fullness of her bottom was revealed. Pale, perfect skin.
“Turn back around,” he ordered. “Keep the shirt high,” he instructed as he saw her about to lower the fabric and cover her charms.
Lowering head in humiliation, Annabelle turned around. She refused to look up knowing he was looking at her…at her naughty place.
Mason took in the soft, light brown curls which barely covered the sweet curves of her cunny. Mine.
The sharp claws of possession tugged at his middle.
Annabelle watched in horror as he unbuckled his gun belt. Pulling the holster and bullet flap free, he placed the Colt far out of her reach. Then fisting the thick, black leather belt into a large loop, he raised his eyes to challenge her own.
“Place yourself over my lap and ask for your punishment.”
Annabelle opened her mouth to try and object but one look from him cowered her. With reluctant steps she walked to his side, taking a deep breath for courage, she placed herself over his lap.
Annabelle jumped, clutching her bottom cheeks tight when she felt the caress of the leather against her exposed skin.
Mason traced the curve of her ass with his belt. Liking the contrast between the dark, worn leather and her pale skin.
“Ask for your punishment.”
Annabelle covered her face with her hands. Shaking her head, no, she couldn’t.
Mason grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. Placing his thumb along her bottom lip, he pushed until the tip was forced into her unwilling mouth. “Ask or I’ll use your mouth first.”
Annabelle’s eyes closed, unwilling to remember the feel of his cock as it pushed into her mouth. “Please…please punish me,” she whispered.
“Punish me,” she choked out.
Adjusting his grip on the belt, Mason raised his hand bringing it down swiftly on her exposed bottom. The leather cracked loudly. Annabelle’s whole body jerked. He raised his hand to deliver a second spank before her skin even showed a mark from the first. The canyon rang with the sounds of snapping leather and Annabelle’s cries.
“You owe me a punishment,” his voice pitched dark and low.
“A…punishment?” she squeaked.
“Yes, you were a very naughty girl. You need to be punished. By me.” He smiled.
Winnie occupied herself by straightening a display of ribbons. “Come here, Winnie.”
She thought about pretending not to hear him. “I wouldn’t,” he stated flatly.
Winnie started. It was like he read her mind. With slow determined steps, she approached him but stopped a few feet away. “Closer,” Archer ordered as he uncrossed his legs and opened his knees wide.
Winnie took another step so the hem of her flimsy dress brushed the tops of his polished boots.
Archer steepled his fingers in front of his chest. “Closer.”
“There’s no room,” Winnie said hesitantly, blushing as she glimpsed the unmistakable ridge outlined along his thigh. The light buff trousers concealing nothing.
Ignoring her objection, Archer merely raised an eyebrow as his gaze remained fixed on her face. Chewing her bottom lip in indecision, Winnie finally slid her slippered right foot along the carpeted floor before slowly joining it with her left. She was now standing between his outstretched legs.
Winnie closed her arms tight about her as if she could make her body smaller, lowering her head, refusing to meet his intense gaze. Amused, Archer pressed his legs together till his inner thighs brushed against her skirts. Winnie’s mouth fell open in shock. Her dress was so thin, she could feel the heat from his skin through her dress and petticoats. She tried to back away but his legs tightened, trapping her.
“Please, my lord. Madame could return at any moment,” she pleaded.
“Then you had better do as I say without prevarication,” he warned darkly. “Did you touch that sweet, little cunny of yours dreaming of me forcing my cock on you?”
Winnie felt lightheaded with shame and guilt. Should she even try to deny it? It seemed pointless since this enigmatic man seemed to have the power to read her innermost, wicked thoughts!
Winnie covered her face in mortification. “Please don’t, my lord,” she muttered.
Archer rubbed his thigh against her own. Winnie could feel the press of his arousal. “Answer me, Winnie.”
All she could muster was a small shake of her head…yes.
Archer smiled. She was the perfect combination of seductive innocence. Her existence in the East End ensured she was not completely sheltered as to the ways between a man and a woman. Yet, her blushes confirmed she was undoubtedly still untouched.
“Unbutton your dress.”
All Winnie could do was stare at him over the tips of her fingers.
“Unbutton. Your. Dress.”
Her mind spun. He couldn’t possibly mean to…to…not…here…in the salon…during the day…with her…um…ah…
“My dear, there will be time for that later, after your punishment. For now, I want you to unbutton the front of your dress.”
Once again, he knew her thoughts before she had even fully formed them. Not feeling as if she had a choice and trusting in the safety of the daylight and open setting, Winnie forced her numb fingers to unhook the tiny buttons that ran down the front of her dress. Slowly the threadbare, white chemise and top of her whalebone corset were revealed as the flaps of her dress fell open.
She was so tiny, her beautiful breasts were at his eye level. Archer leaned forward. Placing his index finger between her generous cleavage, he pressed on the top of the corset till it shifted down a few inches, just enough for her breasts to peek out over the top. He could see the cute, pink nipples through the practically sheer chemise.
Tearing his gaze from the stunning vision before him, Archer glanced up to see Winnie’s eyes tightly close, her mouth slightly open, her cheeks flushed, her breaths coming in short gasps. He smiled. He breathed deeply, taking in the warm, fresh scent of her skin. No perfume. Just the clean scent of lemon verbena soap and her. Knowing his time was short. Knowing if he gave into the impulse to taste her flesh he would not be able to stop there, Archer decided to test Winnie’s pleasure impulses.
He gently flicked her right nipple, watching as it became even more erect. She started but kept her eyes closed. Archer then lightly rolled both nipples between his index finger and thumb. Winnie shifted on her feet, a soft moan escaping her open lips. Instinctively, her body leaned in closer to his.
Without warning, he clamped down hard on her nipples. Pinching and twisting the delicate bunch of nerves. Archer tightened his thighs around Winnie as she bucked, trying to escape the pain. Locking her against him. Pressing her harder against his erection. “Keep quiet, my dove. You don’t want Madame to hear and come running,” he whispered harshly as he kept up the pressure on her nipples, oblivious to her distress.
Winnie bit down on her lower lip till she tasted blood. Quelling her own cries.
The moment he released her tortured flesh, there was this euphoric rush. As if the pain turned the absence of pain into pleasure. Her whole body felt warm and sensitive, especially the secret place between her legs. Without thought, she collapsed onto his lap. Archer kissed her forehead, as he gingerly re-buttoned her dress.
“Was that my punishment, my lord?” she asked, still in a daze.
Her gray eyes still dark and stormy with confused desire. “No, my dear. That was just a test. Your punishment is still to come.”
“One punishment at a time, little one,” he said, gripping the folded leather strap harder.
“I will correct that impertinent mouth of yours later.” Alex leaned down on his haunches so he was eye level with her. “Right now, we need to correct your dangerous decision to run from me.”
Penelope wisely kept quiet, struck numb from his intense words and stare. Alex rose and stepped behind her. A shiver of awareness coursed through Penelope, knowing that behind her, he was staring at her bare bottom. After several tense moments, she jumped when cool, smooth leather softly touched the heated skin between her shoulder blades. He traced the length of her back with the strap, running it over the curve of one globe.
Penelope felt of rush of moisture between her thighs. She was lightheaded with fear, and something else she feared to name. “My lord…”
“Tsk…tsk…tsk, naughty girl,” crooned Alex, lightly tapping her bottom with the strap on each word. “That is not what you’re supposed to call me.”
Penelope wet her lips and tried again, “Papa…I’ve…I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to do this.”
Alex leaned close to her ear and whispered, “You have no choice.”
She shrieked and pulled wildly at her wrist binds. “Let me go, you bugger…you…you…wanker!”
Alex placed a restraining hand on her lower back. “Cease!” he ordered. Penelope instantly stilled. “It is this wild, rash behavior we need to correct. You act with no thought to your safety. You open your mouth with no care to the consequences. You need this punishment more than you know.”
Penelope shook her head as tears coursed down her cheek, still denying what she knew deep down to be true.
“Ask for your punishment, Penelope.”
She shook her head, stubbornly pressing her lips into a tight line.
“Ask for your punishment or face a much harsher one,” he said with more menace.
Still she remained mute. She would be damned if she asked him to punish her!
“Very well,” said a resigned Alex. “Your punishment was to be ten straps to your bare bottom. You will now receive those in addition to a more exacting punishment.”
Penelope opened her mouth to release another stream of colorful, guttural language. Alex closed his open hand over her mouth and once again leaned in close to her ear. “You have already opened yourself up to a more painful discipline than I had intended this eve. I suggest you hold your tongue before you truly anger me and make your situation even worse.”
Her eyes widened in horror but she remained silent.
“Let us begin.” Alex slowly wrapped one end of the well-oiled strap around his right hand, leaving two feet excess. Anchoring one foot behind him, he leaned over and placed his left hand on her lower back. Arching his arm, the strap swung through the air with a hiss before landing with a loud crack in the center of her pale, vulnerable buttocks.
Penelope’s surprised shriek was cut short as she ruthlessly clenched her jaw, determined to show no reaction or pain. Alex smiled…that would change. He aimed the second swat lower, over her sit spot. She was so tiny that the three inch wide strap easily covered large areas of her delicate skin with every contact. By the third smack, Penelope could no longer contain her pain.
She howled in agony as the fourth hit her sit spot again. Her bottom, already warmed by the heat from the flames, now felt as if it were truly on fire. The pricking, stinging sensation was almost too much to bear. She went up on her toes and braced for another hit. She did not have to wait long. Alex continued the assault on her unprotected bottom till it glowed a harsh angry red. By the time it was over, Penelope was choking on her own sobs.
“What am I looking at Kitten?” he demanded as he caressed her heated bottom.
Penelope did not even think to ignore his question. “My…my punished bottom.”
Isabelle’s stomach twisted in a knot as he ran his eyes up and down her exposed form with a look of appreciation before giving her an exaggerated wink.
Chance reached out and ran his thumb along her lower lip, desire hardening his eyes. “Get on your knees.”
“What?” asked Isabelle, baffled by the request.
Sharpening his gaze on her open mouth, he repeated through a clenched jaw, not accustomed to his orders not being immediately obeyed. “Get. On. Your. Knees.”
Alarmed at the savage look he was giving her, Isabelle was still baffled. “But why?”
“Because I intend to put my cock into that beautiful mouth of yours,” he growled, radiating barely leashed tension.
Rather than staring at her beautiful breasts during her bath, Chance had become fascinated with her mouth. Her lips were a delicious red color, as if stained by a rich merlot. The plump lower lip, often caught between her pearly teeth. Imagining the feel of those same pearly teeth as they gently scraped along the underside of his cock, nearly drove him over the edge. It took all his restrain to allow her to finish her bath unmolested. There was plenty of time to take her cunny, right now he wanted her mouth.
Confused, Isabelle stammered, “Such things don’t happen! That’s not possible!”
“Oh, it will be a struggle on your part, but I assure you it will be possible.”
After allowing his words to sink in, Chance said, “Now, Belle.”
Isabelle blinked away the tears rapidly forming in her large, dark blue eyes. Never one to beg, she did so now. “Please, don’t make me.”
Chance ran his knuckles along her cheek, smearing the tears. “You are my captive. It is your duty to see to my pleasure, that is if you value your life,” he responded quietly, making his words all that more dangerous. “Do you understand, ma petite?”
Isabelle nodded her head as the tears continued to fall. Realizing she had little choice, Isabelle reluctantly obeyed. Clutching the bathing linen protectively to her chest, she bit her lip and slowly bent her knees. Keeping her head lowered in humiliation and fear, she refused to look at his erect cock.
“Tilt your head back,” Chance ordered, his voice harsh with desire. Isabelle knew to fight would only cause her pain and delay the inevitable. With a sniff, she did as she was told.
Here's a hot little excerpt from her first spanking.
"Lift your skirts."
Sobbing, she reached back and grabbed small handfuls of the material, slowly inching it up her thighs. She stopped when the material bunched around her bottom. "Lift them all the way up, Angeline," Blackhurst snapped. Dutifully she submitted, pulling the material over her bottom to bunch around her waist. Stepping behind her, Blackhurst looked at her pale pink skin through the thin fabric of her pantalets. He ran a single finger down the seam of her bottom, pushing the fabric away from her cheeks, framing them. Angeline startled and tried to rise. He placed a restraining hand on her lower back, preventing her.
He observed how the thin cambric both displayed and hid her charms. Feeling her sharp indrawn breath as he slid his hand from her lower back to curve around to her front, he gently pulled on the ribbon holding her pantalets in place. Hooking two fingers on either side, he slowly slid the fabric down her hips. Crouching down on his haunches behind her, Blackhurst eased the undergarment down over first one slippered foot, then the other.
Angeline whimpered when she felt his warm breath on the under curve of her bottom. She started to squirm and shift, confused by the dueling emotions of embarrassment, fear and arousal. He smiled, knowing full well his effect on the poor naive girl and then once again rose to his full height. He took a moment to enjoy the sight of this sweet little angel anxiously waiting for her first spanking with her soft bottom on full view. Despite her slight frame, she had an ample bottom with the cutest little dimples on the top of each cheek. He tested the weight of one cheek with his hand. Angeline yelped with surprise.
"Let us begin."
Angeline squeezed her eyes tight and held her breath, bracing herself for the first hit, but it did not come. Perhaps he had reconsidered.
"Angeline, unclench your bottom cheeks this instant," he demanded sharply.
She was so frightened by the command she immediately unclenched and so was unprepared for the first painful smack. Oh god, it stung!
"No. No. No. I changed my mind. Stop. I won't let you do this!" she cried, trying to rise.
"You are not letting me do anything, angel."
The spanking continued…slowly. Blackhurst wanted her to feel every stinging ripple from each and every slap. He raised his hand high and brought it down hard on her plump right backside cheek, watching as her bottom contracted then bounced, the pale cheek blanching even paler for just a moment before flushing in a riot of pinks and reds. Still he waited. Finally, his patience was rewarded when the faint outline of a handprint appeared on her perfect cheek. He had marked her as his own.
Pierce swung Sarah around till her back connected with the wall, cushioned only slightly by a thick tapestry.
She had only a moment to glance around before his broad frame blocked her sight. They were in the library. The dark, unoccupied library.
Running his hand down her arm, Pierce closed his hand around Sarah’s delicate wrist, lifting it high over her head.
Pinning it against the wall. Feeling the power of his height and strength, she was trapped. Sensing the danger she was in, Sarah watched the muscular swells of his chest beneath his thin linen shirt expand with each labored breath as he fought for control.
“Look at me,” he demanded soft and low.
Sarah kept her eyes trained on his waistcoat buttons. Her humiliation from him not kissing her and her jealousy of that woman had gotten the better of her and now she was going to pay the price. Despite the trappings of wealth and respectability there was something primal and uncivilized about Lord Warrington.
“Now,” he barked.
Startled, Sarah looked up at him. Her bright green eyes close to tears.
“Little girls who are used to boys shouldn’t try their games on men. Do you understand me?”
Sarah could only nod.
Pierce palmed one thick ringlet of her hair. Slowly gliding his hand down the long, silky length, pulling the curl straight. Gripping the end tightly, he gave it a sharp tug before allowing the curl to spring back in place. Her hair fascinated him. It was raven’s wing black. The color rich and deep. So long and thick, a man could wrap his hand around a silken lock twice. A vision of her head forced back as he fisted her hair before driving deeply into her small, tight body with his cock flashed before his eyes.
Sarah opened her lips on a gasp from the small sting of pain from the sudden tug on her hair. Watching his strong hand grasp the delicate tendril somehow heightened her awareness of his physical brawn compared to her diminutive size. She couldn’t help but feel the hum of restrained energy, as if he was forcing himself to only lightly touch her. What would happen if his restraint snapped?
Here is the first chapter from my new tale, Beautifully Primal. An erotic twist on Beauty and the Beast in the Dark Forest Anthology.
A purple mist snaked its way through the deep, dark forest. The malevolent moon cast an ominous glow on the barren earth below. The unsettling scream of a raven could be heard high above the crippled and twisted tree branches.
Her breath came in tortured gasps as her slippered feet slid and tripped along the slick, frozen ground. Reaching out blindly in the darkness, she fell against a tree trunk. The sharp edges of the bark pressing against her soft cheek and the palms of her hands. Heedless of the bite of pain, she withered to the cold ground. Her rich, velvet gown pooling about her like a death shroud. Casting large anxious eyes about, desperate to see through the gloom, she searched the shadows.
Is it gone?
Did she lose it in the mist?
The sickening sound of splintering wood cracked like a whip through the unnaturally silent forest. A heavy thunderous trod rolled closer and closer still. The rattle and crunch of crushed underbrush was punctuated by guttural snorts and grunts.
Forcing her stiff and cold limbs into motion, she grasped the roughened tree trunk, using it to pull herself upright.
She must keep running.
It was getting closer.
Her skirts felt wet and heavy with frosted dew, chilling her fingers as she fisted large swaths high above her ankles. Willing herself on, she ran deeper into the forest.
Her mouth opened on a startled scream as her body was wrenched forward, then ruthlessly back by a heavy weight on her skirt train. Desperately pulling on the fabric, she looked down to see it pinned under one large, black paw.
Screeching in terror, she fell to the ground. Twisting her body till she was on her back, her fingers digging into the frigid dirt as she tried to claw her way backwards. Her feet helplessly kicking through her skirts, trying to dislodge her attacker.
There was a low, feral snarl.
A second paw pressed against her hip. Through the mist, the beast, covered in sleek, ebony fur slowly came into focus, shifting its massive weight to hover over her slight form. The first paw moved, stepping on her thick curls as they fell in waves about her, forcing her to remain prone and still. A thick obsidian mane framed a long, powerful snout and startlingly bright green eyes. It was the beast’s eyes which mesmerized her. Captured her. She forgot to scream. Forgot to breathe as she fell under their spell. Filled with almost human emotion, she could read their primal intent.
“Please,” she begged.
The beast cocked its head to the side, as if it understood her plea. Its muscles bunched and shifted as it leaned forward on its paws. Its strong chest bearing down on her breast. Pinning her under its weight, his snout pressing against her neck. The beast was learning her scent. Reflexively, she inhaled. It smelled of moss, cedarwood and honeycomb. Her brow wrinkled, confused. She had expected the sick, acrid scent of blood.
The warmth radiating from the creature’s body spread over her own, banishing the night’s chill. The silken strands of its mane brushed her cheek as its snout moved downward. Her body trembled with an unnatural response as the tip of the beast’s tongue lapped along the ridge of her exposed collar bone. Alarmed she tried to get away. Rising on her elbows, ignoring the sting of pain as her hair trapped under his paw pulled and tugged.
The beast’s mouth opened on a low growl, exposing long, white teeth. The points so thin and sharp they appeared almost opaque. With a whimper, she sank back to the ground, lying helpless under its restraining weight.
Watching its captured prey intently, the beast lowered its snout to trail between her breasts, down her middle. Again reading an almost human response in the evergreen depths of its eyes, her breath grew ragged and uneven. As its powerful body, prowled closer to her hidden core, fear of both it and her own response overcame all else.
Springing upward, she latched on to its mane, filling her small hands with its silken weight. The beast reared back with a roar, pulling her with it. On its hind legs, it towered over her petite frame. Her slippered toes barely skimming the icy peaks of grass that covered the earth. Her body was forced flush against the beast’s powerful chest as it dangled, held aloft only by her faltering grip on the beast’s fur.
As the beast’s head tipped back on a deafening bellow, the ebony fur morphed into red, moth-eaten rags. The sharp teeth became blackened and blunted. Its majestic snout, shortened to a broad, flat nose. The beautiful emerald greens eyes become a colorless, watery gray. His deep throated roar shifted into a high-pitched cackle.
It was the gypsy woman from the fair two summers ago.
Loosening her grip, she fell to the ground, staring at the shriveled woman in horror.
Pointing one gnarled hand towards her, the gypsy woman, spat out, “I curse you! You, who are arrogant, who hold yourself above all those around you. Your beauty is your curse. You shall only know happiness through pain, will only find love through supplication to the beast. Be forced to yield to the hand of your master or face your destiny alone!”
Beatrice awoke with a start. Her legs tangled in the heavy, velvet bed covers. Her breath visible in the frigid bed chamber. It was a dream, she told herself. Just a dream.
All the old news broadsheets were pasted up on the outside wall. Emma had made a habit over the last few months to seemingly casually peruse the sheets whenever she was in town. They usually contained news of the latest criminals wanted for various nefarious deeds and whether they had been jailed, hanged or were still on the loose. Each time she half expected to see her name and likeness emblazoned on the piece of parchment.
Emma Fairfax, murderess!
Emma anxiously scanned all the sheets. Her eyes barely registering the print, searching for the words Emma, Black Canyon or Clayton. She moved on to scan the rough, pencil drawing pictures which accompanied each story.
“See anyone you know?” asked a dark voice from just over her shoulder.
Startled, Emma swung around. All she could see was a broad chest covered in black linsey woolsey with polished wood buttons. She didn’t dare look further.
The silence stretched.
Jackson Horn was a patient man. He was not unaccustomed to tracking his quarry for days at a time, whether it be a deer…or a man. Right now, he had his eyes set on decidedly more feminine prey.
He had noticed her the moment she rode into town, perched on that dilapidated buckboard being pulled by an animal that had more in common with a donkey than a horse. As she alighted he was pleased to see she adopted the more informal mode of dress favored by many women in the small towns out West. Not taking up with those ridiculous hoop skirts, bustles and crinolines that hid a woman’s figure from a man. Dressed in a simple pale blue muslin dress, Horn would guess by the sweet way her bottom bounced and sashayed under that skirt she was only wearing one maybe two petticoats at the most. He watched as she strolled into the General Store. Wanting to get a look at her face, he decided to wait outside and bide his time.
Rolling a cigarette with some cut up cornshucks as he leaned against the barber shop’s outer wall, Horn’s thoughts lingered on finding out just how many petticoats she had on and what it would take to get under them.
First he was surprised to see her tear out of the store like a jack rabbit with a hawk on its tail only moments later. Then his curiosity was raised when she headed straight for the old newspapers. Wondering what the little bunny was about, Horn decided to take a closer look. His suspicion was aroused, among other things, when he saw precisely what section of the newsprints drew her rapt attention.
As he silently approached, Horn once more appreciated her fine figure. She was a little thing.
The top of her head wouldn’t reach his shoulder. His hands would easily span her tiny cinched in waist. There was a single, glossy tress which had escaped the confines of her bonnet, twisting and curling down to the middle of her back. It was a rich chestnut. He felt a spark of anticipation as he wondered what color her eyes would be. Horn was momentarily denied. As she turned around, the straw rim of her bonnet hid the upper portion of her face. He was given a tantalizing view of full, cherry red lips and a pert chin.
Calling on his own rigid discipline to keep his cock from rising at the thought of what he would do with those lips, Horn focused on the matter at hand…seeing her eyes.
“I got all day, bunny,” he drawled, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Bunny!” responded Emma as she raised her chin with a startled look. The name sounded positively scandalous and far too intimate…especially how he uttered it.
“Sir, I do not know you. Kindly let me pass,” chided Emma in the haughtiest voice she could muster given her throat was closing in fear. After her initial shock, she had quickly lowered her head, hiding under her bonnet rim.
She had only lived in Wickenburg for a few months but being the school teacher allowed her the opportunity to meet just about every adult in town. This was a stranger. A very tall, menacing stranger, which could only mean one thing. This was the gunfighter lawman whom the girls at the shop were gossiping about with such unvarnished glee. The very man Emma was trying to avoid.
Her eyes were as green as prairie grass in sunlight, thought Horn. She had an adorable button nose to match that pert little chin. As she lowered her head, depriving him of a closer look, his eyes roamed lower. Horn could not suppress a low whistle of appreciation at her magnificent breasts. God bless ‘em, they were too large for her petite frame but you wouldn’t hear a complaint from him. Although clothed in a prim neckline with a delicate lace-edge, he could still make out the luscious curves. More than a handful, they made a man think about burying his cock between their ample weight.
Emma once again raised her chin at the lewd sound. First bunny and now a whistle! This man was a reprobate! A rogue of the first water!
Indignation mixing with fear, Emma shifted to the right, planning on side-stepping him and making a dash for it.
Horn was too quick. Wrapping his large, strong hands around her waist. So diminutive, his fingertips almost met at her lower back.
“Not so fast, little bunny. I can’t let you scamper away just yet.” This was sport of a different color and far more entertaining than chasing down men like Bartlett. Besides, he hadn’t become the best gunfighter this side of the Mississippi by ignoring his gut. He had a feeling this little prim and proper package was hiding something.
Sucking in a breath, alarmed at the warm feeling of his hands through the fabric of her dress, Emma tried to wrench away.
Horn’s jaw clenched. Yep, he was damn sure he wasn’t ready to let her go just yet. At least not before he learned her name.
Looking over his shoulder, he quickly scanned the street. Between the town’s meager three hundred or so residents and it being the height of the hot afternoon, there was barely anyone out and about. No one taking the least bit of notice.
Easily lifting her off her feet, ignoring the kicks of her small kid shoes against his leather encased shins, Horn walked the few steps to the alley between the post office and dress shop.
“I’m thinking we need more privacy to continue our conversation,” he murmured against her ear before slowly letting her slide back to the ground.
She didn’t dare scream, knowing it would draw the unwanted attention of the well-meaning townspeople. Emma immediately tried to back away. Her body connecting with a rough stucco wall.
Horn leaned his hands against the same wall, far above her head. Towering over her, blocking out the light from the sun and imprisoning her between his hard body and the harder wall.
“You can’t just go about accosting complete strangers like this,” sputtered Emma as she ran her hands over the high waist of her skirt, smoothing away non-existent wrinkles in a vain attempt to erase the feel of his hands.
“Let’s get better acquainted then,” chuckled Horn with a crooked smile and another slow appreciative look over her bosom. Tipping his hat, he offered, “Jackson Horn at your service.”
Emma sucked in a breath. She knew it was him, the gunfighter probably sent to find her, but to hear him casually introduce himself in that charming manner as if he didn’t just smash her world into tiny little bits was too much. Emma stared at the ground. The loud thumping of her heartbeat in her ears drowning out all else. Had he guessed who she was?
Emma Fairfax, murderess!
“Forget the television! It’s too heavy. Grab the iPad!”
Conner opened one eye and quickly shut it against the glaring afternoon sun. Dammit. In his exhaustion, he’d forgotten to close the bedroom shades.
“Don’t worry about the clothes or the cheap stuff.”
Conner rolled onto his stomach, tossing a pillow over his head to block out the two female voices from across the hall. Telling himself he didn’t give a damn what they were about. After twenty-two hours in the dank cargo hold of a C-17 with two hundred other men on a flight from Afghanistan to Washington with a five-hour layover in Germany, he didn’t care if they were murdering someone next door, all he wanted was sleep.
“What about the bastard’s PlayStation?”
“Fucking smash it to pieces!”
That’s it, thought Conner. Murder was one thing, but standing by while another man’s PlayStation was destroyed, even a stranger’s, was another. It was guy thing. Jumping out of bed, heedless of his half naked state, he confidently strode across the small apartment. Promptly smashing his toe into some random boxes in the middle of the living room floor.
“God Damn it!” he ground out as he limped for a step or two.
The short burst of pain not improving his already sour mood. The apartment was not his. Having gotten in a little after 3:00 am he didn’t get a chance to really get the lay of the terrain before face planting in the bed. Having no home of his own, Conner was crashing at a buddy’s during a five week leave. Knowing his friend, he should have guessed the place would be barely furnished and littered with half empty moving boxes. His friend spent almost as much time deployed overseas as he did. Ten years ago, Conner walked away from a tenured professorship to become a Marine. His friends and family blamed his failed marriage. Said he was just confused and going through a phase. Bullshit. Men didn’t go through phases.
It was simple. He married the wrong woman when he was too young. Fate stepped in and saved him. Well, fate in the shape of a rich, car dealer. His wife wanted pretty, sparkly things, and he wanted more out of life than a shallow wife who only wanted pretty, sparkly things. All’s well that ends well. The ink dried on his enlistment papers before it dried on his divorce papers. He sold everything he owned and lived only for the Corp ever since. He had never been happier. His life had purpose. He made a difference. He relished his role as protector and fighter. Although, at this particular moment, there were two unknown females who were going to need protection from him.
Sage was breaking the law. It was for a good reason, but for some reason, she didn’t think the cops would see it that way if they got caught.
It was all in the service of her long-time friend, Melissa. Sage loved her friend dearly, but she also dearly tried her patience. For all her intelligence, Melissa had rubbish taste in men. This last one was a real doozy. After two weeks of dating, her friend was in love and had moved in with “Ricardo.” It took half that time to realize Ricardo was not his real name… shocker! Her friend’s Lying Latin Lover had also run up her credit cards, put a mysterious large dent in the passenger door of her car and stolen her iPhone.
The last straw for Sage was when Melissa showed up at her apartment with a black eye. It had taken two bottles of pinot grigio, one disgusting roll of raw cookie dough and both The Notebook and Sleepless in Seattle but Melissa finally agreed to leave the lying, probably cheating bastard. The only problem was, the apartment was technically his. So they had waited till he left for work to sneak in/break in to retrieve her stuff and well… perhaps do a little payback while they were there.
Sage was desperately shoving Melissa’s belongings into a tiny Hello Kitty suitcase she found next to the sofa. Why a twenty-eight-year-old woman had a Hello Kitty suitcase was a conversation that would have to wait for another time. During the euphoric high from too much wine and ridiculously raised romantic expectations (she blamed Hollywood), this all seemed like a great idea, but now Sage was terrified Melissa’s somewhat large, violent boyfriend could return at any moment. She needed to get Melissa out of here. Grabbing a teddy bear from the bureau, then sliding her arm along the top to dump all Melissa’s makeup, jewelry and random hair crap into her backpack, Sage rushed back into the living room.
At that moment, the front door crashed open. Sage’s heart stopped. Filling the doorway, was over six feet of very angry male. Correction. Over six feet of practically naked, very angry male. Good lord! The man was a huge wall of solid muscle, from his broad chest to his thickly, toned arms. He even had the deep ridges from six pack abs that you usually only see in magazine underwear ads.
Speaking of underwear. He was wearing navy blue Calvin Klein’s that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Sage reflexively swallowed. If that’s what his cock looked like slack, it must be positively frightening hard and fully aroused! The illicit thought sent a deep flush to her already pink cheeks. Needing to distract herself from the stranger’s large cock, Sage dragged her eyes up to his face. Big mistake. Christ! The man was gorgeous. Right down to his slightly crooked nose. Probably broken in a fight, Sage mused. Yes, a fight. Where he got all sweaty and worked up… and… and…
“What the fuck is going on in here?” Conner growled.
The deep, masculine voice startled Sage out of her school girl daydream.
“Your eyes match your underwear,” she blurted out.
“What?” he asked, thoroughly confused.
Sage just stood there, mouth agape. Mortified.
While it was true his eyes were a deep blue that perfectly matched the dark blue underwear that still hugged his considerable package, she had no intention of telling him so! She had no choice but to go on the offensive.
“I meant… just who do you think you are barging in here?” Sage ordered in her most haughty, commanding voice.
Conner ran his hand down his face. Reaching deep into his training for calm and discipline. First some recon. This apartment was larger than his buddy’s, but the layout was similar. Unlike his buddy’s, it was filled with furniture and various belongings, most of which seemed to be tossed on the floor. In the corner was a female in her late twenties, rather tall with curly red hair. She froze the moment he entered, which was good since she had a PlayStation suspended over her head.
It was the second female who really caught his attention. Also in her late twenties, she was petite with wavy, honey-brown hair cut a few inches above her shoulders. It seemed to twirl and bounce every time she moved her head. The early afternoon sunlight played off what he was certain were faint pink highlights, showing she had a bit of a wild streak about her.
Despite her small stature, she had nice tits which were gloriously on display in a tight, baby-doll t-shirt which also showed off her small waist and curvy hips. Conner would need to think of a reason to make her bend over so he could check out her ass. It was a good thing he didn’t become too distracted by those amazing tits and finally looked up to see her face, otherwise he would have missed those gorgeous, big, brown eyes checking out his cock. He felt his shaft stir to life. Down boy. He still needed to assess the situation. The last thing he needed was a raging hard-on while possibly confronting two thieves, regardless of how beautiful one of them may be. The red head moved, raising her arms higher, preparing to drop the PlayStation.
Conner pointed a menacing finger in her direction and said in his most authoritative voice. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to put that down, right now.”
Melissa lowered her arms and looked to Sage for guidance.
“You can’t tell her what to do!” cried Sage. “Smash it, Melissa!”
Melissa raised her arms again.
“Ma’am, I’m warning you.”
Melissa lowered her arms.
“Don’t call her ma’am!” ordered a frustrated Sage, arms akimbo. “Melissa, if you don’t smash that, I will.”
The little one was quite the spitfire when she was angry, thought Conner with a smile. That kind of energy was usually equally as fun in bed. He really did enjoy a woman with spirit. He had to admire her loyalty to her friend as well, not many women would face larceny charges in the service of a friend. Not to mention face down a complete stranger who was as intimidating as himself. Melissa raised her arms again.
“Ma’am is a sign of respect which I am trying to show you despite the fact you are probably both thieves,” said Conner as he took a step further into the room, his eyes focused on the petite one.
Without turning his head or losing focus, he warned Melissa again, “Put that damn thing down before I lose my patience.”
“Sage, I can’t hold it any longer. It’s heavier than it looks,” whined Melissa.
Sage? Conner laughed. “What the hell kind of name is Sage?”
Sage drew her shoulders back, affronted. The offended movement was lost on Conner since it only served to push her breasts out more prominently. Sage had been teased about her odd name her whole life. She would be damned if she would explain to this arrogant ass about her unorthodox upbringing with her two chef parents. Besides, Sage was the lucky one, just ask her sister, Damiana, named after a Mexican aphrodisiac herb her parents enjoyed before Damiana was conceived.
“Forget it. Just grab your stuff and let’s get out of here,” directed Sage to Melissa. “We have already wasted enough time.”
The last part was uttered with a disgusted look directed at Conner. She didn’t care if he was one of the sexiest men she had ever laid eyes on. He was distracting them from their purpose, which was to grab Melissa’s stuff, destroy a little of Ricardo’s crap and get the hell out of there.
“What exactly is going on here?” he asked again. Trying to keep his attention on the matter at hand and not on her beautiful pink lips and all the possibilities with them that came to mind.
Clearly they were not going to make a clean get away until this man got his explanation thought Sage. Sensing he had a very low tolerance for bullshit, she decided that an abridged version of the truth was her best bet. She also needed to get as far away from him as possible, as soon as possible, before she truly embarrassed herself by staring too long or saying something really bad like blurting out please fuck me! Besides, they had already done enough damage to the Lying Latin Lover’s apartment.
“Not that it is any of your business,” responded an exasperated Sage, “but my friend just broke up with one of your asshole kind and we are here to retrieve her stuff.”
Conner raised an eyebrow, taking in the completely trashed apartment behind her.
Without missing a beat, Sage said archly, “We were in a hurry.” By way of a completely, unapologetic explanation.
“Uh… huh,” said Conner, trying to look serious and failing.
The fact was, he was a Marine, not a cop. He didn’t even know the poor bastard these women had targeted. As long as they weren’t leaving with the television or anything really expensive, he didn’t see why it was his business to get more involved.
Turning to Melissa, he stated, “Well, ma’am, on behalf of my asshole kind, please accept my apologies. Carry on.”
Conner turned to leave. Just as he was crossing the hall, he could hear the spitfire’s friend loudly whisper, “Why didn’t you ask for his number?”
“Are you serious?” asked Sage.
“Why not?” said Melissa. “He’s hot.”
“Um… maybe because he caught us in the middle of committing a felony and we’re lucky he didn’t call the cops!” rejoined Sage. “Now, grab this stupid Hello Kitty suitcase of yours, and let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Melissa was right. The guy was incredibly hot but it wasn’t just the circumstances that were all wrong. Sage could tell he was one of those arrogant take-charge types. She was far too independent to ever even consider dating a guy like that. Plus, the whole felony larceny thing would probably be a deal breaker anyway.
Conner closed the door on the rest of their conversation. Making his way back to the bedroom, careful to avoid the pile of boxes this time, he collapsed on the bed. The moment he closed his eyes, a vision of almond-shaped, doe brown eyes and large pink lips assailed him. Grabbing a pillow, Conner smashed it against his face and groaned. He was only in town for a few weeks before he left for training, then more than likely, another deployment. He needed a woman who was game for a few laughs and a quick fuck with no strings. Any idiot could see Sage was not that kind of a woman.
Despite being grouped together with his temporary unknown neighbor, he was not the asshole kind. As a Marine, he was a man of honor. He took that seriously. It was why, despite their obvious attraction, he didn’t pursue it. Didn’t try to ask for her number like he wanted. A woman like that deserved some steady nine-to-fiver like an accountant. Someone who would wine and dine her. Not fuck her and leave her.
“Fuck, he’s back early. Quick, get in the car, Melissa,” cried out Sage.
Conner was on his feet in an instant. He heard Sage through the open living room balcony door. She was out front in the apartment parking lot. Dammit. The asshole-kind, bastard boyfriend must have returned. Throwing on a pair of jeans, he started for the front door.
“Get your hands off her, asshole!” screamed Sage.
No time for doors thought Conner as he turned and headed straight for the balcony door. Bracing his hands, he vaulted over the railing, thankful it was a first floor apartment with only a short ten-foot drop. Landing in the soft, slightly wet grass with his bare feet, he ran the quick distance to the parking lot. There he found a stocky, Hispanic male wrestling with his Spitfire and her friend.
The guy had her friend by the upper arm, trying to force her to drop that ludicrous, pink suitcase. “Let go, bitch!” he growled.
“It’s mine!” “You owe me, bastard!” yelled Melissa. “I’m taking the Hello Kitty suitcase!”
“Seriously, people?” blurted out Sage. “You are both adults! Are you seriously arguing over a little girl’s suitcase in the middle of fucking parking lot right now?”
Melissa was so ashamed at her friend’s chastisement, she suddenly let go of the handle. Unfortunately, the Lying Latin Lover Ricardo did not expect it. The suitcase swung in a wide arch, hitting Sage squarely in the chest, knocking her onto the asphalt.
Sage launched to her feet, spitting mad. Just as she sprung at Ricardo, claws bared, there was a crushing weight against her stomach, and a powerful force hauling her backwards. From the top of her head to the curve of her bottom, all she felt was solid muscled heat.
“Easy, Spitfire. I got this,” whispered an amused voice warmly against her ear.
Shocked, Sage looked down to see a large toned arm wrapped securely around her waist. Tilting her head back—way back since the top of her head barely reached his shoulder—she stared into the presumptuous blue eyes of the stranger from across the hall.
“You again,” she sputtered.
Conner’s lips quirked up in the right corner in a half smile. Thoroughly enjoying how his arm had pushed the top of her full breasts up above the neckline of her tiny tee, he chuckled, “Me again.”
Shifting her slight weight to his right side, Conner once again leaned down to whisper suggestively in her left ear, “You can think of way to thank me properly later.”
Ignoring Sage’s indignant retort, Conner turned his attention back to the unknown male and her friend, Melissa, who had resumed their struggle over the suitcase. He assessed the male. Taking in the scuffed combat boots, the hint of a beaded chain around his neck and the faded regiment tattoo on his forearm, he would say Army. The guy was also out of shape, needed a haircut and obviously lacked discipline. Ex-Army. Definitely not a former officer; more than likely a grunt.
“Heel, little Doggie,” Conner barked out, knowing the derogatory term the Marines used for Army soldiers would get his attention.
He wasn’t wrong. Ricardo immediately swung his attention to him. “What the fuck did you just say?”
His eyes glowing with anger. Sage, who had been heretofore struggling to no avail to get out of Conner’s grasp, stilled. Sensing how the tension ratcheted up to a scary degree, she shot glances between the two men.
“It figures an Army grunt would need a command repeated,” said Conner with a smirk.
The animosity between the Marines and the Army was well known. Even if this guy hadn’t been Army, Conner would have had an issue with him. The hit to Sage was enough, but he also now noticed the faint bruise under her friend’s eye that makeup failed to cover in the bright daylight.
“Get the fuck out of here, Jarhead,” Ricardo sneered. “This is none of your business.”
“I’m afraid that’s where you and I disagree. Now, you are either going to clear out and give these ladies a chance to load up, or I’m going to beat you to a pulp with my bare hands… and then you’re going to still clear out and give these ladies a chance to load up. This should be a decision so easy even an ex-grunt can make it,” snarled Conner, his warning and stance radiating danger.
Conner would like nothing better than to just skip the options and beat the man bloody for hitting a woman alone, but it was strictly against military code to engage in a fight with someone who was now a civilian. Unless, of course, the piece of shit was dumb enough to throw the first punch, thought Conner with a derisive smile.
Sage was not fooled. Plastered against his side, she could feel the coiled tension radiating from his body. He was poised for a fight. It was almost as if he were eager for one!
Slinking away from the threat of a fight with the large Marine, Ricardo turned to the easier target of Melissa, pointing in her direction he warned, “This isn’t over, bitch.”
“Oh, it better be, dude. I literally know where you live,” threatened Conner.
Ricardo turned on his heel and ran to his car with Melissa shouting curses in his wake. The threat of a fight gone, Conner turned his attention back to the squirming little package in his arms, settling her more firmly against his chest.
“You can release me now,” she stated through clenched teeth.
Sage was alarmed at her body’s reaction to him. He was too… too male. It was almost primal. She was a modern woman for Christ’s sakes! Not some cave woman swooning at the thought of her man swinging his big club around. Speaking of big clubs, she could feel his pressing against her stomach, it both frightened and aroused her.
“What if I don’t want to?” he teased.
Sage refused to take the bait. She tried shifting her hips and shoulders to dislodge Conner’s grip, the move only seemed to arouse him more. She raised shocked eyes to his amused ones.
“Don’t look at me,” he laughed. “You’re the one rubbing up against me.”
“I… I…” Sage was at a complete loss for words for the first time in her life.
Her cheeks flamed a bright pink as she became even more aware of their situation. The heat from his naked chest caused her nipples to become erect through her simple silk bra. Judging by his knowing smirk, he could feel their hard outline pushing across his skin. Conner rubbed her bottom lip with the tip of his finger.
“Any thoughts on how you want to thank me for saving you?”
All his earlier good intentions fled the moment he felt the warmth of her body against his own. The moment he smelled the sugared orange scent of her skin as he whispered into her ear. When he felt her pulse race, heard her breath catch and watched her pupils dilate at his closeness. She could protest all she wanted. Her body told him all he needed to know.
“Saving me?” she asked, incredulously. “I had the situation perfectly in hand before you barged in. Thank you very much, Mr… Mr…”
“It’s Conner,” he offered.
“Mr. Conner,” she stated primly, despite her lascivious pose draped across his front.
“Just Conner. Sage.”
She didn’t like how her name sounded more like a promise than a name coming from his lips.
“Please release me, Just Conner.” She smirked knowingly.
“No,” he stated bluntly.
“No?” she sputtered. “You can’t say no!”
Conner shrugged his shoulders. The movement caressing her already aroused nipples, sending a frisson of awareness crashing up her spine. “I just did,” he challenged.
Sage pushed against his chest, trying to create a space between her skin and his own as she desperately looked around for assistance. Spying Melissa across the parking lot deliberately trying to look busy packing the car. She knew she would get no help from that quarter.
“See here. You can’t just keep me trapped here,” she reasoned.
“What are you offering?” “Offering?” “For your freedom”
“This really is too much!”
“I have all day.”
“What do you want?” Sage asked, exasperated.
Conner raised his eyebrow suggestively as he swiveled his hips forward, brushing her stomach with his painfully aroused shaft.
“Not that!” She blushed.
“How about a kiss?”
“I believe that is the customary tribute for a knight in shining armor when they rescue a damsel in distress.”
“I was not in distress, you…”
Her argument was cut off by his finger across her lips.
“Do you want me to release you or not?”
Sage sighed. “Fine.”
She tilted her head back and screwed her lips tight in a rather uninviting purse. Conner laughed. She really was an adorably, feisty little thing.
Without warning, he reached into the low neckline of the t-shirt that had been teasing him all afternoon. Grasping a warm handful of soft breast, feeling the graze of her nipple along the center of his roughened palm, he squeezed… hard. Shocked, Sage opened her mouth in a gasp. Conner attacked. His other hand, which had been securing her waist, swept up Sage’s back to cradle her head, gripping her hair. Pulling down, her head fell back, giving him access to her vulnerable mouth. His full lips descended on her small pink ones, overwhelming her. His tongue swept in, taking possession of her mouth. Playfully swirling his tongue around her own. Taking her lower lip between his teeth, he gently bit before moving to lick down her neck, wanting to see if she tasted like sweet oranges.
Pressing his lips to her skin, he murmured, “Kiss me back, Spitfire.”
“I…I can’t,” she whimpered.
Christ! It was too much. Digging her nails into his strong chest muscles, Sage barely clung to her sanity. His hand guiding her head. His mouth on hers. His other hand gripping her breast. It was all too much. He didn’t just take control of her. He took complete possession of her every sense. Suddenly frightened of her response, Sage tried to push away; he only tightened his grip.
Conner could feel her body quake and stiffen. She was fighting him. Fighting her response to him. He wouldn’t let her. Releasing his hold on her breast and head, he moved both hands to her ass. Gripping her by the underside curve, he lifted her feet off the ground, crushing her hips to his own. Pushing his tongue into her mouth in a punishing rhythm, he made sure she felt every inch of the rigid length of his cock as it pressed between them. After several minutes that felt like an eternity, he set her back on her feet, but kept her plastered to his front.
Forcing the fingers of his right hand between her clenched thighs from behind while his left hand still squeezed her bottom cheek, he whispered harshly against her cheek, slightly out of breath, “Just because I can’t feel your wetness through these jeans doesn’t mean I don’t know it’s there, Spitfire.”
Sage felt her knees buckle as his fingers pressed up against her swollen clit, using the harsh fabric of the denim to his advantage. She closed her eyes, trying to get her equilibrium back. When she came back to her senses, she was standing in the middle of the parking lot with Conner lightly stroking her upper arms. She took a step back, relieved when he let her go.
Conner watched her intently as if he expected her to flee at any moment. Smart man. He took a step forward. Sage took another step back. He took another step, but this time with a warning look. Sage hated herself for heeding it. When he was once again directly in front of her, he took her by the chin and forced her to meet his gaze.
“Give me your number,” he demanded.
“Do you really need to ask?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she stalled.
The truth was he scared her. Sage had never responded to a man like that before… had never relinquished control. Taking this further would be a bad idea.
“Sage,” sighed Conner, impatiently. “I didn’t ask. Give me your number.”
He knew why she was hesitating and it was bullshit. Attraction like this didn’t happen between people often. She was running from it because it scared her. Marines didn’t run away and they didn’t get fucking scared.
Keeping her gaze lowered, she muttered, “202-639-8700.”
“Good girl,” he said with a quick kiss on her lips. “Go see to your friend.”
Sage practically ran to Melissa who was already waiting in the car.
“Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!” yelled Melissa as she laughed and beat on the steering wheel.
“Will you please stop?” groaned Sage.
“Do you have any idea what you two looked like? Oh my god! I came just looking at you! Girl, I am so jealous!”
“Well, don’t be,” said Sage. “I have no intention of ever seeing him again.”
“Are you crazy? Don’t be a stupid bitch. You have to see that hotty again.”
“Nope,” Sage said with more determination than she felt. “It would never work. He’s too controlling. Too arrogant.” Too primal. Too sexy. Too dominant. Too scary, she thought.
“But you gave him your phone number,” argued Melissa. “What are you going to do when he calls?”
“That won’t be a problem,” said Sage.
“Don’t act like you weren’t all into him, ‘Miss your underwear matches your eyes,’ ” laughed Melissa.
“Oh god,” moaned Sage. “That’s just another reason why I will never set eyes on him again! Besides, can we please talk about you?”
“Do we have too?” pouted Melissa.
“Look, sweetie, I don’t know what kind of Freudian, daddy-issue crap you’ve got going on that makes you choose winners like the Lying Latin Lover back there, but you are going to get yourself in real trouble one day… or me!” lectured Sage.
“You didn’t have to come with me,” sulked Melissa.
Sage reached over and stroked her friend’s shoulder. “You wouldn’t last two minutes in prison without me.”
“Not true! I watch Orange is the New Black!” laughed Melissa.
Sage laughed with her, then quickly sobered. “You know you’re going to have to tell your father about this.”
“Melly! It might not have been by the police, but we still got caught. What if that guy reports us? What if Ricardo does?”
“Ricardo isn’t going anywhere near a police station, and that big, hunky Marine could care less about reporting you to the cops. He would much rather get in your pants,” said Melissa with a suggestive wink.
“Nice. Real nice,” smirked Sage. “I still think you should tell your father.”
“Trust me. The last thing Senator Taylor cares about is his disappointing daughter’s latest boyfriend troubles,” responded Melissa with a self-deprecating smile.
Sage gave her close friend a sympathetic look. Melissa’s story was so stereotypical it was practically a Lifetime movie. Rich senator’s daughter acts out because she never gets enough love or attention from her powerful daddy. It had all the required elements. A deceased mother. A beautiful daughter whose poor taste in boyfriends exacerbates her father and causes no end of trouble. A cold, unfeeling father. Usually this is the part in the movie where you see what a spoiled brat the daughter is and how she deliberately sets out to make her father miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Melissa was sweet and kind. She worked hard and didn’t take a penny of her father’s money. She also went out of her way to make sure that none of her scrapes or poor choices wound up in the press so as to avoid embarrassing her politician father. Melissa was a great girl… if only Sage could fix her taste in men!
Not that Sage was an expert… far from it. At twenty-five, her longest relationship had been with her high school boyfriend, Timmy. Did it even count as a relationship if you both had your braces on and never got past “second base?” Sage wondered. If not, well then, she was really pathetic. She couldn’t even use work as an excuse. She loved her job, loved knowing she made a difference in the world. Helping schools retain their art and music programs with grant money might not rate as high as curing cancer or fixing world hunger, but she knew it made a difference in the quality of the education those children received, and she knew that made a difference in the long run.
But even so, one would hardly call her a workaholic. Although far from vain, Sage knew she was pretty enough to get a date if she wanted. She just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t worth the free meal to put up with some random guy talking only about himself or his current ranking in Call of Duty. Or worse, showing only just enough interest in her to get her into bed. All the men she met were just so tiresome and boring. Well not all the men she met. Somehow Sage knew the very last thing Conner would be was boring. Hell, he didn’t have to play Call of Duty, he lived it! He also didn’t strike her as the useless small talk type. No, a man like Conner was a man of action. The type who took what he wanted. Sage felt a small thrilling flip deep in her stomach at the thought. That was so bad! She should be ashamed of herself. Getting excited at the thought of a man like Conner grabbing her by the shoulders… pushing her against a wall… forcing his tongue into her mouth… thrusting his…
NO! Bad modern female! Bad!
Actions like that went out with the fifties. Next thing you knew, she would be daydreaming of meeting the arrogant man at the door in an apron with a martini! Besides, the whole thing was pointless. She was never going to lay eyes on him again.
Ricardo stormed into his apartment. Ignoring the chaotic mess, he marched straight to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. Popping the tab, he slugged half the contents back. “Fucking bitch,” he muttered as he scanned the living room, taking in the scattered cushions and overturned storage bins.
At least the crazy bitch didn’t smash his PlayStation he thought with a wry smile as he saw the console tossed aside on the dining room table. None of this mattered anyway. The bitch would get hers in the end. He had all the dirt on her he needed anyway. Strolling down the narrow hallway to his bedroom, Ricardo smirked at the thought of how Melissa was going to react when he showed up on her doorstep with his demands. Oh the bitch was going to pay all right. More to the point, her precious daddy was going to pay… and pay big.
Avoiding the over-turned drawer near the doorway, Ricardo crossed to the bureau. It was gone. “Fuck!” he yelled as he fell to his knees not caring about the beer spilling onto the carpet.
Scrambling through the pile of discarded clothes, he searched in vain. Crawling on his knees, he looked under the bed. In a desperate last ditch effort, he tossed through all the pillows and blankets on the bed. It was no use. The teddy bear was gone. The bitch had taken the teddy bear… along with the SD card from the hidden nanny cam inside. Hours of blackmail material… gone. He had to get it back.
Taking a deep breath, Ricardo grabbed his phone. With a sinister slant to his mouth, he started to text Melissa how very sorry he was for their fight.
Later that day, not giving a damn about conventional dating wisdom and not wanting to wait to see Sage again, Conner dialed her number.
“Domino’s Pizza! Will this be a pick up or delivery?”
Laughing, Conner hung up the phone.
Game on, Sage