The Duke was stunned at her words. No one, not even his venerable mother had ever said words like that to him. No one would dare! No one would show such a lack of respect. He reached for Jennifer, intent on showing her how much he was displeased with her words and with her attitude toward his mother.
She eluded him, pulled her robe around her body and quickly left their bedchamber slamming the door behind her. The Duke snapped it back open before he realized he was unclothed and retreated to dress properly.
"I shall show her who the head of this household is," he muttered as he pulled garments from his armoire. "I shall show her that 'tis I who govern this house. I am her husband! I shall be obeyed!"
And then he paused in thought. I love her. And he knew she was the only one who meant the most to him. She wasn't conniving and coy and she hadn't tried to deceive him in any way. She spoke her mind to him. He couldn't deny her honesty. She didn't want to marry me, either, he recalled. But she did. He shook his head at his thoughts. I need to be more patient with her. All of this is new. She'll come around, he told himself. Eventually, she'll be a biddable wife.
He decided he needed to be calmer before he confronted her and she needed the same time to compose herself. And it wouldn't do for the staff to see their discord on the very first day of their marriage. He went below stairs to break his fast and when she didn't appear for the morning meal, he inquired as to her whereabouts.
His mother didn't know where Jennifer was. "Such a simple girl you married," she replied with a dainty dab of her handkerchief to her lips. "Not much in the way of breeding. I'd say you made your bed and now 'tis yours to lie upon. Your work is cut out for you if you want to keep your good name, *our* good name. I fear my future grandchildren may not be raised properly."
The Duke ignored his mother's words. Jennifer had been correct in believing there would be no love between her and his mother. Perhaps, I should consider moving her to the dower house, after all.
"The Duchess has gone for a ride, sir," his houseman informed him when he rang for the man. "She left a scant hour ago. I'm sure she'll be back soon."
"Who went with her?"
"I'm sure I don't know but the stable master is bound to know. Shall I inquire?"
"I've an urge to ride as well. I'll ask him myself."
The lad who had accompanied his wife was just that - a lad. And the Duke knew Jennifer easily evaded him. His fears came to fruition when just a few short miles from the estate, the lad was on the ground tending to his horse.
"Where is the Duchess?" he asked as he approached.
"That way, sir," the lad replied. "The mistress went galloping over the hill but I was not able to keep up with her. I feared for her safety, my lord but my horse caught a stone."
The Duke nodded. He didn't think too many stable hands could keep pace with Jennifer when she was angry. "But I can," he muttered and urged his horse forward.
His heart was in his mouth as he galloped after her, his steed showing the exertion of running at full speed uphill. The path was treacherous, sharp edged rocks hidden in the high grasses, the occasional recess in the hard ground another trap for a horse's hooves.
When I get my hands on you ... If you are in one piece ... "You'll not sit till Christ's Mass!"
She was at the top of the hill, her horse prancing in place, its flanks wet from its exertion. He could hear it snorting, blowing air as he rode up beside it and took the reins from her hands.
"We'll walk them for a while," he said calmly as if they hadn't argued before she left the house and he had not just chased her up a treacherous path. "We'll let them cool a bit and graze if they desire. Is that all right with you, Jennifer Rebecca?"
Jennifer narrowed her eyes at the Duke. By right, he should be seething with temper but he acted as if their quarrel and the subsequent events were normal everyday occurrences. She inclined her head in agreement and put out her hand to take back the reins.
Outwardly calm, the Duke pulled his bride from her horse and against her objections, seated her in front of him. He tightened his arms around her waist and remained silent while the horses walked.
"Let me down. I'll walk a bit while the horses rest," Jennifer said as she moved to dismount. The rapid thudding of the Duke's heart against her back had unnerved her and she deemed it prudent to put some space between them.
When the Duke didn't answer her, she turned her head to look at him. "Let me down. I've asked nicely."
"You're staying where you are until I'm able to talk to you in a reasonable manner."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'm going to give you a thrashing like you've never had one before and to do so, I need to be calm. If I am not calm when I thrash you, you will get more than you deserve although ..." he paused. "You deserve a severe thrashing."
"How dare you!" Jennifer hissed and pushed at his hands, trying to dislodge herself from his grasp. It was a futile attempt and all she managed to do was pinch him.
The pinch stung and the Duke decided he was calm ...
"I should have done this last night," he said sternly as he dismounted, taking Jennifer with him. "I should have set the rules in place at that time. I should have let you know that obedience is something I expect from everyone in my domain." He shouted his words as he pulled her over his knees. "Especially my wife."
And then he let his hand continue the lecture.
Her skirts were flipped over her head, her undergarments torn from her body and her bottom cheeks bared to any and all that might see her. His hand came down. Once ... twice ... three times ... and then she screamed.
"The horses care not that you are bellowing, my love," he said loud enough to drown out her cries. "They only care to rest and to graze. No one will come to your aid. If anyone were nearby they would not raise a hand to defy me. Only you ..." he continued as his hand burned her bottom cheeks. "Only you defy me and I will teach you to show respect. A few more sessions like this," he said sternly, "and you will be my biddable wife."
No one had ever hit Jennifer. Growing up, her maid had been the only one who had touched her with emotion and that was the rare but gentle hug. She had never been spanked, thrashed, or hit in any manner. Discipline had been a quiet reprimand for errant behavior. Physical discipline was not something she knew about first hand. She was getting a rude introduction and she didn't like it.
"I will not tolerate your handling of me in this manner," she managed to say between hiccups and heaving breaths when he finally lifted her into his arms. "I will not share a bedchamber or ... or a meal or a ... a life with someone who would harm my person. I can go live somewhere else," she snapped and startling him and herself as well, she slapped her husband's face.
He caught her round the waist as she tried to flee from his lap. "You're my wife and you're living with me," he said with firm resolve. "I love you." His voice softened and as gently as possible, he pulled his unhappy bride back onto his lap, ignored the sting of her slap and kissed away her tears. "I love you," he said again. "I feel it in my heart. We were meant to be. You are mine to love and soon, you will love me, too."
"I doubt it," Jennifer managed to murmur as his mouth covered hers.
His hands soothed, caressed, and then fondled ... His mouth strayed from hers but only in brief moments as his lips brushed against her damp eyelids, her wet cheeks and the tiny rapid pulse in the hollow of her throat.
"I hate you," she hissed when she had breath to speak.
"I love you, anyway," he whispered and with more gentleness than she deserved, he lay her on her back in the high grass intent on loving her more thoroughly.
"You will not find forgiveness for this barbarous act," she told him when his knee parted her thighs and his hands cupped her sore bottom cheeks.
"I don't want your forgiveness," he replied. "I want your obedience. You will obey me or rue the day."
"I rue the day I married you!"
"Hush, my love. If you are distraught, it is your own doing. I was in fear of your life when you rode so swiftly through these hills. Your horse could have stumbled. You could have been seriously hurt or worse. My hand anointing your bottom cheeks was a taste of what you can expect if you continue to defy me. Jennifer!" his voice turned sharp. "Do not do this again. I could not bear the pain if something had gone awry, if you had come to harm." His mouth covered hers once again as he entered her.
"I will not forgive you," she mumbled as he took his pleasure. "I will not forget that even a lofty Duke has the manners of a barbarian and a harridan for a mother. I will not ..." Her voice trailed off as he ignored her words and continued to tease her with his body. Her limbs wound around his hips - pulling him closer - her body a willing party to this act with no regard to her feelings.
His thrusts pushed her deeper into the grass, the pain in her bottom reminding her of the thrashing she had received. She suddenly realized what she was doing, and tried to push him from her. He chose that moment to release his seed inside her. A warm wet gush of pleasure filled her. Jennifer was embarrassed that her own release had been equally pleasurable. She was angry and humiliated ... at her body for enjoying the act, and at her husband who had brought her to this point in their lives.
"I will never forgive you," she said again.
"You will forgive me and from this day forward, you will obey me and in no time you will love me as I love you," he assured her.
"I will not!" she insisted.
But he only laughed, pulled her to her feet and helped her straighten her clothes. Whistling for the horses, he lifted her to his horse, mounted behind her and tied the reins of her mount to his own. "When we return home, we will retire to our bedchamber. You and I," he said firmly as he locked an arm around her waist. "We have unfinished business."