Josiah had witnessed the entire episode. Melanie had, in fact, put the events in motion. Molly, he surmised, had simply acted on reflex and if it had been anywhere else, he might not have made too much of it. It could have been funny even though it was unsightly; however, his own wife was involved and the mayor's wife would probably never get over it.
Unfortunately ... Molly forgot she was lady. True, she had been provoked but ladies should know how to avoid those kinds of confrontations.
"She was your mistress, wasn't she?" Molly asked, her voice devoid of any emotion.
"Was," Josiah nodded. "In the past; before we met and married, not in my life anymore, never will be again."
"You cared for her, didn't you?"
He nodded again.
"Why didn't you marry her?"
"Didn't love her," the hapless man answered, unsure why he was looking more and more like the villain and even more uncertain as to why he was allowing these questions.
"You didn't love me when we married," Molly persisted. "You only knew me about a minute and a half and I was your wife."
"I love you now," Josiah heard himself say.
"Oh bother! You do not love me," Molly snorted. "You just wanted out of the marriage market. All those deluded mamas trying to get you to take notice of their pretty daughters. Admit it, Josiah Stephens," she said firmly, a pretty finger poking him in the chest. "You were very insistent that we wed and now look where that's got you. The mayor is very angry with you and we'll never be invited back again. And the towns folk will be laughing about this for ages."
"They'll be talking about you, love," Josiah smiled warmly, the sight of his pretty wife taking down his former mistress certain to be the talk of the town. "I'm proud of you," he whispered, nuzzling her neck. "You fought for your man and you won."
"I did?" Molly asked, relaxing now that Josiah didn't seem too terribly upset with her.
"But that's not the way a lady should behave," he reminded her. "I'll have a little more to say on the matter when we get home."
"Just your butt, love," Josiah replied, stifling the rest of her words with a kiss that shook her to the core.
News of the event had already reached Jarvis' ear by the time they arrived home. He stood silently when Josiah came through the door with the lady of the house over his shoulder. He said nothing while his master marched up the staircase. He covered his mouth with a gloved hand so as not to laugh at Molly's squealing protests.
He did, however, inform the cook that supper would be later than usual and that a tray was all that was necessary.
In the master bedroom, Josiah dropped Molly to the bed and stood above her, hands on hips and a stern look on his face.
"You're not smacking me for this," Molly wailed, remembering what had happened when she refused to identify her father. "I didn't do anything," she swore, her hands reaching behind her to cover her bottom.
"I'm not smacking you for this," Josiah agreed. "I'm spanking you."
With that salvo delivered, he easily removed Molly's skirts and under garments and set about lighting a fire on her tender backside.
Molly wiggled, yelled, said words he didn't know she knew and cursed every male of her acquaintance for their lack of courtesy and barbaric ways.
Josiah continued to spank her through the entire tirade, lighting a slow burn on one bared cheek and then on the other. As the fire in her backside began to build, Molly begged. When that didn't work, she threatened and when that didn't work, she said she would deny Josiah his marital rights.
"You're not letting me touch you in our bed?" Josiah asked, trying not to laugh aloud at Molly's declaration.
"I won't let you touch me in this house!" she retorted.
"As you wish, love, but I'm not deterred. You earned this spanking; you deserve it and you will feel the full brunt of my displeasure."
By the time the spanking was over, Molly was not only a chastised young woman, she had a bottom that burned like hot fire. Josiah ignored her mutterings, her sobbing and her feeble attempts at moving off his lap. He held her in a tight embrace, murmured soothing sounds and told her again that he loved her.
"Odd way to show love," Molly hiccuped.
"If I didn't love you, I wouldn't have cared how you behaved," he told her, smoothing the hair from her face, his fingers wiping tears, his lips following suit.
"You're still not touching me again," Molly reminded him.
"Not touching you in the house unless you tell me otherwise," her husband agreed and then laughed as his wife slowly made her way to the sitting room attached to the bedroom.
Molly wanted to slam the door but she was weak from the spanking so she contented herself by snapping the door shut and resumed cursing her husband to kingdom come.
Josiah chuckled on the other side of the door, listening to those curses. To his ears, it was pure estrogen filtering through the walls.
Molly had little appetite for the late supper that arrived on a tray that evening. She slept on her belly with just a light sheet for cover - her back to Josiah. She moaned every time she chanced to move in slumber - the brief contact with the bed irritating her tender skin.
Josiah watched her for a long while until he, too, fell asleep. When he woke refreshed the next morning, he knew what he had to do.
"We're dining at home tonight," he told her. "Wear something very pretty, will you?"
Molly glared at her husband. Her bottom was so sore she wasn't sure she'd be able to get out of bed without inflicting pain on herself but as she looked at him - thought about what he did with his former mistress - thought about how they must have been together in bed - she was angry.
"Did you tell that woman you loved her, too?" Molly couldn't help asking.
"No, love. I did not." Josiah said calmly, keeping his voice low, his tone level.
"Did you do to her what you do to me?"
"I make love to you. With Melanie, it was just sex."
"You say that now," Molly retorted.
"Stop thinking about it," Josiah cautioned.
Molly stopped talking, bit her lip and plotted. She'd wear the most revealing garment she owned and when her husband tried to make love to her, she'd refuse him!
Josiah, however, had plans of his own.
Dinner was candlelit. Jarvis had them served in the greenhouse, the table small, the setting intimate. He poured the wine and waited by the door until Molly appeared. And when she did, he raised a brow in approval and delight. The master's wife was wearing a lacy nightgown and peignoir. This should be interesting, he thought.
Josiah stopped in his tracks. His wife was dressed for seduction and was determined to deny him. A smile curled his lips and he offered his hand to lead her to her chair.
"You're not supposed to touch me," she reminded him.
"A thousand pardons," Josiah apologized, pushing her chair in when she was seated and bent over her to smell her freshly shampooed hair. "I can see all the way to China, love," he told her, appreciating the ample view of even more ample cleavage.
"Look all you want," Molly smiled. "Just don't touch."
He didn't touch.
He teased, telling her how beautiful she was, how happy he was they had met, how much he loved her, how much he wanted her in their bed. He offered tidbits of their dinner, morsels on his fork, watching as she parted her lips to accept them.
He beat her at her game, seducing her with words and knowing looks until Molly couldn't take any more and said she needed fresh air. She walked into their garden and he followed.
And when they were outside the walls of their house, Josiah grabbed his wife around the waist.
"Put me down!" she ordered.
"We're not in the house. I can touch you," Josiah grinned.
And touch her, he did. He pulled her into a tight embrace, kissed her until she could barely form a coherent thought and then pushed her against the trunk of an extremely wide tree.
"What are you doing?" Molly shrieked.
"Seducing you, love," Josiah responded, his hands under her nightgown. He lifted her by the waist until she was balanced against the tree and above his head.
"Put me down this instant!" Molly demanded.
"When you beg me to make love to you, I will," Josiah's words mumbled, his head buried under her gown, his mouth teasing her until she thought she'd die from want of him.
"Josiah, please," she pleaded.
"Are you begging me to love you, Molly Doyle?"
"Of course not," she remonstrated, finding the willpower to deny him and determined to hold out until Hell froze over.
Josiah resumed his loving attention.
"Josiah!" Molly whimpered, too weak for more words, desperately trying to breathe.
"Are you begging?"
"I'm begging," she yielded.
It took a while for Josiah to believe her; he enjoyed the tease and the need that emanated from his wife's body. "What are you begging for, Molly Doyle?"
"Make love to me," she begged.
"Touch you in *that* way?" he asked, trying not to laugh at her demands.
"Touch me!" Molly begged, then groaned, then whimpered when he stopped what he was doing and grinned at her.
He let her slide down into his arms, lowered her to the grass and loosened his clothing. Poised above her, he continued to tease her with his sex, probing, retreating, barely entering her.
Molly, frustrated beyond her patience, grabbed her husband by the hips and forced him to impale her.
He laughed, then choked on his laughter when her legs wrapped securely around his hips pulling him deeper inside her.
"I love you, Josiah Stephens," she whispered when they lay in each other's arms in the aftermath of their loving.
"I love you, Molly Doyle Stephens," he whispered back and if you ever think to deny me again, I'll burn your bottom until ..."
"You will not do any such thing," she told him.
"Always," he told her back. "And afterwards I'll make love to you, my little card shark, my lovely thief, my love, my very own Molly Doyle."