Ten months later...
He kept his arm around her shoulder, his hand gentle on her arm, keeping her against his side as they sat in front of the fire. She refused to look at him and he didn't push her. He knew she was angry at what she called his high-handed ways, and he grinned, thinking of the names she called him when he gave her pretty bottom a couple of well-deserved swats.
God! I love her!
The thought filled his head. She was a spitfire - had been since the day he met her. He hoped she always would be and not just because he didn't mind warming her beautiful butt. He loved her high spirits and independent ways. She was all the joy in his life and he loved her fiercely.
"Where do you think you're going, darlin'?" he asked, pulling her back to him when she tried to get up.
Sophie smacked his arm away, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder as she stood, tightening the sash on her robe. "I have to go to the bathroom. Is that all right with you, my Lord and Master?" She spit out the words with as much sarcasm as she could muster.
If looks could kill...
"Come right back here," he said in that soft tone of voice he used when he expected her to listen. "Don't make me come in there and get you. Is that clear?"
When she didn't answer him, he pulled her between his legs before she could get away. "I know you're hurtin', baby, and the only reason you're not gettin' the full weight of my hand on your pretty little butt is because you've got those monthly pains. But so help me, if you keep pushin' me, I'm gonna ignore that and warm your bottom good for the little stunt you pulled today."
Her amethyst eyes turned darker. She knew the threat wasn't an idle one. Jess Lawrence never said what he didn't mean, but she'd be damned if she was going to put up with his macho lord and master ways. She cursed him as she shoved his arm away.
"Piss-ant!" she hissed at him. "Son-of-a-bitch piss-ant!"
Why that man thinks he can tell me how to live my life is beyond me! she fumed, turning away from him. I have to get out of here before I...
"Gonna get your mouth washed out, too," he warned, covering his grin with his hand. Today he had been labeled a no-good, worthless Marine bully who was nothing more than shark bait, dumber than dirt, meaner than a pit bull with PMS, and now, a piss-ant. He couldn't wait to hear what she was going to call him next.
As far as he was concerned, she was a rare beauty, high-spirited, the most sensuous creature ever to grace his bed and an incorrigible imp. At five feet, five inches and 115 pounds soaking wet, Sophie was braver than any man that had served under his command. She stood up to him, ignored his temper, swatting at him like he was a pesky mosquito and defied him as if his word meant nothing. She wasn't at all intimidated that he towered over her and was more than twice her weight. At six feet, four inches and 230 pounds of hard muscular body, most people wouldn't be foolish enough to pester the former Marine until he lost his temper.
Women sighed when they saw him - Jess Lawrence was classically tall, dark and handsome - dark brown hair and tiger eyes - warm brown orbs flecked with gold. He sported massive shoulders, a broad muscular chest, biceps that would put Popeye to shame and a smile that could charm the pants off a Carmelite nun. His voice was a deep and rich husky drawl, his manner courtly, and his sense of humor renown. His male friends were more impressed by his fair treatment of everyone who worked for him, his intelligence and wit, his loyalty, and of course, his gentle ways with women.
Approaching his forty-fifth birthday, he had always played the field, enjoying female companionship and some of their beds, but never committed to a relationship.
Until he met Sophia Katerina Arnow.
From the moment he laid eyes on her, he pursued her.
She ignored him.
Most men were attracted to her striking beauty that was even more appealing because Sophie wasn't vain. She was used to the way she looked, was used to men making passes, always polite as she declined their invitations. There were times she thought she might be happier if she had been born plain. Her body was a combination of good genes and regular workouts, her long silky limbs firmly toned - not that those particular parts of her anatomy initially drew men's eyes. An old-fashioned hourglass figure was what caught their fancy - full round breasts, a narrow waist that flared to nicely rounded hips and a face that would stop traffic if she walked in the street. Her long dark hair was silk to the touch, her deep amethyst eyes a rarity and her high cheekbones and full, kissable lips were simply that much more icing on the cake.
She had been the subject of male conversation wherever she lived and especially, since she had moved to Wyoming ten months earlier. Speculation had run high when the town folks discovered someone had bought the old Thompson millhouse and moved in. The talk was nothing compared to what they had to say the first time folks laid eyes on Sophie when she showed up at the local diner for a meal.
Sophie didn't understand the fuss, accepting her looks the same way she accepted life, a day at a time, and happy to be alive. She was open and friendly with women and children, cautious around men, well aware most were only interested in bedding her. She didn't flaunt her looks, her intelligence or her will on anyone. She had the patience of Job.
Until she met Jess Lawrence.
His closest friends ribbed him about Sophie, telling him how hard the mighty had fallen, teasing the big man about being wrapped around a small and very beautiful finger, enjoying and sharing his happiness.
Jess was certain she loved him even though she hadn't said so and as far as he was concerned, she was his whether she liked it or not.
And if she decides to leave you? The thought nagged at the back of his mind.
I'll find her wherever she is and bring her back. She's mine! If I have to lock her in this room... tie her to the bed...
"Sophie," he barked, getting up and going after her. He knocked on the bathroom door, warning her that she had been in there too damn long.
"Go to hell!"
"Woman! So help me..." he twisted the knob but it was locked. "Open the door, Sophie," he said quietly. "If you don't open the door," he warned when she didn't respond, "you're going over my knee."
He twisted the knob until he broke the lock and paused when he saw her. Her robe was open and one long silky leg was resting on the commode, a razor in her hands.
"All you had to say was that you were shaving your legs, baby. I would have understood," he pursed his lips, trying not to smile at the delicious picture she presented. Except for a pair of red silk panties, she was naked under that robe. One round breast peeked out, the dark rose colored nipple tempting his mouth.
"How about I help you?" he said, hunger for her twisting his voice.
"Go to hell, Jesse Lawrence," she growled, turning her back to him.
"Still madder than a wet hen?" he grinned, taking the razor out of her hands and pulling her into his arms.
"Let me go," she insisted, refusing to look at him.
"No," he said quietly, one hand reaching under her robe to tease a breast, the other tipping her chin up so he could capture the sweetness of her mouth.
"You had no right," she insisted and pulled away from him.
"I have every right," he said, easily pulling her back into his embrace, a hand on her back, the other cupping the curve of her cheek, his thumb rubbing her silken skin.
"When you act like an unruly and irresponsible child, you get spanked. I should have made you stay in bed this morning," he added. "You had a little fever and bad cramps. If I had known you were gonna walk in the rain, I would have..."
"What?" she spit her words, her amethyst eyes glaring at him. "Handcuffed me to the bed?"
"Don't give me any ideas, little one," he smiled, pulling her robe off and holding her with one hand so she couldn't squirm away, shucked his jeans, briefs and T-shirt. "Come on. Into the shower with you. I haven't showered with you in days and I want to touch you... everywhere."
"Yes!" he grinned, pulling her into the large stall, turned the water on, letting the cold spray hit him in the back.
"I'm still wearing panties!"
"Not any more, you're not!" he laughed, lifting her so he could pull them off.
"You are a miserable whore monger!" the unruly child in her yelled, trying to pull away from him, unable to stop the words.
"And you are a naughty imp that is gonna feel the weight of my hand on your pretty little butt," he growled, having heard enough for one day. He pulled her back against his chest and then yanked her under the spray that had turned warm. "A wet spanking stings a lot more than a dry one, sweetheart."
He propped a leg on the tiled seat of the shower and with no effort, lifted her and bent her over an out-stretched muscular thigh. His hand came down with a hard smack before she could protest and then it came down again, burning her bottom with its swiftness and severity. Her breath whooshed right out of her lungs.
"Apologize!" he growled softly.
"Go to hell!" she gasped, choking on a breath.
"You're only making it worse," he warned, his heavy hand spanking her hard.
"Whore monger! Bastard! Bully!" she yelled, trying to grab his leg, his hip, anything that would give her purchase, but her belly was on his thigh and her arms and legs flailed in the air, her bare butt an easy target.
One strong arm held her securely on his thigh while his large hand easily covered both of her firm round cheeks. His swats stung but she refused to apologize or to beg him to stop.
"Apologize!" he growled again, intending to spank her until she did.
Sophie bit her lip, concentrating on inhaling as much oxygen as she could muster, desperate not to cry out. The spanks were intense, her bottom was on fire and she knew it was a battle of wills, one she was determined not to lose. She'd pass out before she said she was sorry.
I'm going to kill him! she thought, knowing full well that she had worried him when he came back to the house in the middle of the day to see how she was feeling and discovered that she was missing.
She had awakened with a fever and said she'd be staying in bed all morning but the minute he left, she was dressed and outside, seeking the cooling rain. She loved walking in the rain and it was the next best thing to cooling her feverish skin... except for walking in the snow.
Jess panicked when she wasn't in the house and none of the help on the ranch knew where she had wandered. He went looking for her, beside himself with worry. By sheer chance, he caught her returning to the house on the back path through the woods, sopping wet, drenched to the skin. Relieved to see her, his worry turned to anger and he was livid she'd catch cold. He yelled at her, telling her she was irresponsible. She yelled back, telling him he was dumber than dirt if he thought he could tell her what to do.
Arching a brow and piercing her with his brown-gold eyes, he growled as he pulled her over his arm. He tried ignoring the air he was inhaling when it turned blue from her cursing, and concentrated on the soaking wet imp in his arms. He gave her a dozen hard swats on the seat of her wet jeans, then tossed her over his shoulder before she could get away from him. When they got back to the house, he stripped her wiggling body, ignored her vocal protests, and made her soak in a hot tub.
Sophie squirmed in his arms, trying to get out of the water, letting him know that he was a clod and a boor and that his balls were in serious jeopardy. Gently, but firmly, he held her in place, his chin resting on the top of her wet head, chuckling at her words. She was worn out and quiet when he finally let her out of the tub, holding her on his lap to towel her dry, but he scowled when he felt the heat on her forehead. Still angry at her for jeopardizing her health, he flipped her over his knee and gave her a few more firm and stinging swats for good measure.
She yelped at the unanticipated spanking, then moaned softly when a menstrual cramp unexpectedly tore through her, making her limp in his arms. He was instantly aware her pain was from another source and he turned her in his arms to comfort her. Her body was suddenly chilled and there was a light film of moisture on her brow.
"Sophie, love," he murmured, then saw the small streaks of blood on her upper thighs. She vehemently protested when he pulled the soiled tampon from her body, the string covered in her flux and gently washed her sex. Later, he cradled her in his arms, dropping soft kisses on her swollen breasts and on her upper thighs. But he held her tightly to his chest while his body shook with laughter at her words. Sophie had called him a blood thirsty vampire - perverted and hungry with lust.
"I *am* hungry with lust," his cat-like eyes had twinkled. "I look at your sweet body and I'm a starving man until you're in my arms. Now," he said firmly, standing her between his knees, remembering why he put her in a hot bath. "Take care of your personal needs and come back into the bedroom. You're going back to bed until you feel better."
She took her sweet time, dried her hair, applied moisturizer to her face and lotion to her hands and then sat on the side of the tub, thinking about the man in the other room. He didn't have any problem giving her orders. She didn't have any problem ignoring them, but her bottom was paying a heavy price.
The man's a piss-ant!
Why do you put up with him? her conscience asked.
Because... because I... She bit her lip, unable to voice her feelings even inside her head.
Tired of waiting for her to come out of the bathroom, he entered unannounced and lifted her into his arms. Tucking her into bed, he held her, gently rubbing her back and belly until she fell asleep.
"Are you going to apologize?" he asked softly when Sophie hadn't cursed at him for a few minutes. Her bottom was crimson red and she lay limp across his thigh.
"Sophie?" he said, turning her over. Her eyes were closed, her body a rag-doll in his arms, and her breathing erratic.
"Baby?" he cupped her face. "Come back to me, little one. Tell me you're all right."
"I hate you," she said softly when he kissed her eyelids.
"I know," he murmured, pulling her up to his chest, still stroking her face, then nuzzled her neck. He had spanked her three times today - hard spankings and he wondered if he was being fair - some of her behavior was probably caused by hormones and her menstrual pain. "How much do you love me?"
"I don't love you."
"Yes, you do," he whispered, rubbing the erogenous zone in her lower back, the spot just above the cleft of her butt - the spot that made her thighs melt with longing.
"No, I don't," she insisted, then snaked a hand down his belly to his groin, grabbed his heavy balls and hung on. "You can go to hell!" she hissed, still mad at him for spanking her.
"Sophie," he said quietly - much too quietly, his eyes taking on a dangerous glint. "I'm going to..."
"You're not going to do anything," she said in a tremulous voice, her body cramping and in pain - the pain talking. "I'm going to hold onto these jewels until you promise not to spank me again. Is that perfectly clear, jarhead?"
"Ma'am, yes, ma'am," he answered smartly as if he were still in the Corps. "I will not spank you again this evening."
If she had her wits about her, she would have realized his promise did not extend beyond the night, but she was exhausted, hurting, and obstinate. She released him and leaned against the shower wall.
His arms went around her and when she objected, he reminded her he had given his word not to spank her. His word was good and she leaned into him, the tears falling in spite of her best efforts not to cry.
"Baby, I love you," he said softly, his anger dissipating when he felt her tears. Sophie seldom cried even when he spanked her hard and he knew he had pushed her too far. He slid down to the shower floor, cradling her in his arms, the warm spray cascading over them as he rocked her until her menstrual cramps eased. He wanted to make love to her, bury his engorged shaft into her moist heat, and love her until the ache in her was healed.
Instead, he held her to his chest, murmuring soothing words, telling her how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. She fell asleep in his arms and woke only briefly when he put her to bed. Lying beside her, he couldn't resist touching her, his fingers lightly tracing the line of her jaw, trailing down through the valley between her breasts, and the sweep of her belly. Leaning over her, he dropped feathery kisses on her mons, nosed her nest of silky curls and sighed when his eyes feasted on the pink folds of her sex. Monthly cycle or not, he was going to make love to her in the morning. His balls ached just watching her sleep and he smiled, remembering how they met.