Morning woke the house, the sun's light piercing her eyelids as Molly stirred. The aroma of fresh coffee was more than she could bear and she sat up, determined to enjoy the luxury of breakfast in bed. After rubbing her eyes, she looked up to see Josiah sitting at the foot of the bed watching her.
"What are you doing here?" she fairly shrieked, holding the covers to her neck.
"Watching my wife wake," he said calmly and grinned at her attempt at modesty. "You're fully covered and clothed," he told her, his grin getting wider as the pink on her face grew deeper.
"Do you always enter a lady's bedroom without an invitation?" Molly asked then blushed again, belatedly realizing the implication of her words.
"Do I need an invitation, wife?" he asked, moving toward her on the bed and before Molly realized his intention, she was wrapped in Josiah's arms and being kissed.
"Was that good?" he smiled. "Shall I do it again?"
"Kiss you again?"
"Well ... I ... it was rather nice," Molly said agreeably, "but I think ... that is ... ladies don't do that sort of thing with strangers, do they?"
"I may be a stranger, love, but I'm also your husband, your lord and master and I am determined to kiss you again and maybe more," he murmured, his voice getting softer and huskier with each word, that unidentifiable "something" building between them.
"Sir, I thought ... that is ... I mean ... wasn't this to be a marriage of convenience?" Molly fairly stammered her words.
"You thought wrong," was the reply.
"But I think ..." she insisted.
"Don't think, wife. Feel."
The inevitable happened. Molly yielded to her husband's demands, the entire event not at all unpleasant. She liked the feel of his hands on her, liked the way his fingers ... his palms ... stroked her skin, making her feel warm all over. She liked the way he held her close when he entered her, liked the safe feeling when his arms encircled her afterward.
Safe? she mused, wondering where that thought came from, shaking it off to lay in his arms and just enjoy what had occurred, hoping it would occur again sometime.
"Breakfast, love?" Josiah asked, watching the play of emotions on Molly's face.
"I'm near starved," she admitted.
"Me, too," he chuckled.
It took a moment ... barely a moment ... for his words to penetrate Molly's befuddled mind and when she understood the underlying meaning of his words, she punched his arm and had the grace to blush. Immediately, Josiah's grin was pronounced and his body, snuggled against hers, rose to the occasion.
"Ohhhhh ... ummmm ... well ... I really think breakfast might be just the thing right now."
"Breakfast can wait," Josiah decreed as he pushed Molly onto her back and sealed their wedding vows once again.
A routine was established. Josiah went about his day, business as usual while Molly met with dressmakers and other fashionistas who were determined to outfit her as if she were the governor's wife. When the fittings were over for the day, she entertained neighbors, Josiah's business associates' wives and helped plan charity events. Molly was a quick learner and in no time at all, she was a society maven.
Gone was the pretty little lady card shark, the unlikely but successful petty thief who had lied and cheated and scammed her way through life. Freshly wed to a successful and reputable man and sporting a new hairdo, new clothes and a fresh attitude toward life, the Molly that grew up on the wrong side of town - more than a few towns away - was much sought after by the creme de la creme of society.
Jarvis was impressed with Molly's courtesy to all, regardless of their station in life and smoothed the way for his new mistress. He knew the rules, the expected manners and behaviors of the upper classes. His whispered guidance here and there allowed Molly to enter her new world with few consequences.
Except for two little things.
Her father and her husband's last mistress.
Oh bother! Molly thought when the driver stopped her carriage as she was making her way home after a day of shopping.
"Whatever is that commotion?" she asked, slipping into her newly acquired role of high society woman.
"A drunkard walking down the middle of the road, ma'am," the driver snorted, trying to lead the horses around the unmannerly man.
Molly peered out the window and gasped. It was none other than her good-for-nothing pa - drunk as usual - and disturbing the horses as he grabbed one harness and then the other.
"Stop that, you bloody fool!" the driver shouted as he tried to control the horses.
"I'll leave you be for a bit of drink and a $10 coin."
"There's no drink here and I'll run you down if you don't leave well enough alone."
"A $5 coin then and I'll be on my way. Ho! What is that?" the man shouted, catching a glimpse of Molly through the carriage window. "Could it be my very own flesh and blood? Aha! It is! And what do you have to say to your dear old father, girl? And what are the likes of you doing in a fine and fancy carriage with two fine horses and a snippety driver leading the way? I'll step aboard and join you. What do you have to say about that?" he asked, slurring his words as he reached for the carriage door.
"I don't know who you are, you miserable man. Get away!" Molly yelled, forgetting she was supposed to be a lady.
Just as Molly's father touched the door to the carriage, it moved. The driver now had the horses under control and he urged them forward. They left the drunken man standing in the road and made their way home. But the damage was done. Molly's father now knew his daughter had come into money and he wanted some.
The carriage driver relayed the events to Jarvis who passed on that bit of folly to Josiah who asked Molly about her day.
"Bought some pretty things," she smiled, kissing the man who had insisted they wed. "I think you'll like them," she added with a wink.
"Who was the man that tried to board your carriage?" Josiah asked, not mincing words.
"Ohhhh, that man," Molly mused. "The driver handled it," she said, dismissing the topic.
"Did you know him, love?" Josiah asked, closely watching Molly's face. He was very much aware that his wife had a checkered past and he was almost certain it was about to reach up and bite her. His standing in the community would allow them to weather just about anything but he wasn't about to allow his wife to be untruthful to him or to hide things from him.
"I'm near exhausted from my day," Molly said, her acting skills good enough for most people but not good enough for Josiah. "I think I'd like to lie down a while but supper's almost served."
"Go ahead," Josiah said agreeably, kissing her lightly and letting her have her moment. He was positive Molly knew who the man was but he'd deal with the matter before they went to bed.
He brought her a covered tray, watched while she ate and thought about how nervous she seemed. That man ... hmmm.
"Come, love. Show me the pretties you bought today. I know you love spending my money," he teased when Molly hesitated. "Come, now. It's only fair I get to see what my hard-earned coins have bought."
Molly was developing a fondness for her husband, but even so, she was in no mood to flirt and in no mood to cuddle. She had been unnerved by the unexpected altercation with her father. It had been brief but just long enough to remind her where she had come from - a not-so-nice place - and how far she had traveled from her beginnings. From rough and dirty shacks to over the moon, she thought, more than appreciative of the wonderful life she was now living. The frosting on the cake was that Josiah genuinely liked her and treated her like a queen.
Counting her blessings Molly smiled at the man who had drastically altered her life and slipped behind a screen to change from her day clothes into the skimpiest and most revealing of the undergarments she had purchased.
"For you, love," she grinned, pirouetting in front of him and staying just out of his reach.
"For me, indeed," Josiah chuckled, more than aroused at the sight of his lovely wife in her almost-nude state. The bustier of black lace showcased Molly's full breasts, pushing them upwards until he thought if she turned too quickly or bent over, they'd pop right out of their moorings. The bit of silk covering her stomach and hips ... Well ... nothing to wonder about there. I can survey all of her charms.
"Come closer, love," he said softly, his arms reaching out for her and drawing her near.
"You like?" Molly purred.
"I like," he acknowledged and pulled her into a tight embrace, his lips at her neck. "Who was that man?" he asked out of the blue.
"Don't be coy, Molly love. It doesn't become you."
"I ... well ... he *did* seem familiar."
"Who is he?"
"I'm sure I don't know," she responded firmly and moved to leave his lap.
"Not a good move, love." Josiah continued to speak softly and without a hint of his intentions, turned Molly over his lap and with one hand holding her in place, the other smacked down hard on each of her bottom cheeks.
"Sir!" she fairly shrieked. "What are you doing?"
"His name," Josiah said.
"I don't know his name," Molly yelled.
His hard hand came down again - once on each bottom cheek - and the question was repeated. Molly continued to deny knowledge of the man and Josiah continued to smack her bottom until it burned.
"Henry!" Molly shouted, tears running down her cheeks. "Charles," she added, trying to wiggle off her husband's lap. "Thomas and John. I don't know his god-forsaken name!"
The spanking continued, harder smacks, quiet questions, and Molly's continued sobbing.
"You're a stubborn lass," Josiah remarked when he finally halted the bruising spanking. The flimsy undergarment had torn by the time the spanking was over and he grimly surveyed the dark red color of his wife's flesh.
"I'm mighty fond of you, wife, but I will not tolerate lying and I will not tolerate secrets. Tell me who this person is or you'll be in this position and facing the carpet every night from this night on."
"My pa," she whispered, burying her tear soaked face in his neck. "My good-for-nothing pa who put my ma in an early grave, drank all the grocer's money, and smacked me across the mouth more times than I can remember. I left home as soon as I was old enough to find work."
"He taught you how to play cards," Josiah surmised, holding her against his chest, his arms gentle around her.
"Yes, I watched him skim cards and scam foolish eager players and I tried it a time or two and realized I was good at it. That's how you and I met," she added, desperate to put her past behind her and even more desperate to be held by this man who had forced her to marry him ... had treated her royally and with respect ... and had been nothing but kind up to this moment.
"You hurt me," she said with more dignity than she had shown before.
Josiah cupped her chin so she'd look at him. "You hurt me with your lying and your secrets. You hurt *us* and our future life if you're not honest with me. Don't do that again."
"I won't," Molly whispered. "My word on it; I won't do that again. Will you hold me a moment?" she heard herself ask, desperate for his embrace and unsure why.
"With pleasure, love," Josiah agreed, certain Molly wouldn't lie again. When she was more comfortably settled in his arms, he grazed her neck with his lips, his hands making inroads toward more erogenous zones. When his hand cupped her hot bottom, he was instantly aroused by the heat and soon they were lost in other more enjoyable activities.