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Chapter One

“I’m hiring a prostitute,” my friend and fellow bridesmaid Glennys announced to the table, loud enough for the men at the next table to glance over. I hid my head in my hands, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me. Or better yet, Glennys.
            “Guy or girl?” the bride, Jackie, had the audacity to ask.
            “Guy, of course. Think I can request one with big hands? And rock hard thighs?”
            My hands weren’t big enough to hide behind. The empty pitcher of margaritas became my salvation, and I grabbed it and headed through the crowd towards the bar.
            Glennys’ announcement failed to surprise me. She’d always been vocal to us about liking to be spanked, and she dumped her previous boyfriend for refusing to bend her over his knee. “Her butt’s been itching for it” for months, Glennys said on the drive over from southern California. Since prostitutes were legal in Nevada, I could get behind her desire to hire someone to spank her. However, I didn’t understand the itching.
            My butt tingled.
            I admit it -- all of Glennys’ chatter the past few years had sparked an interest with me. I listened to her descriptions of sessions with a bare hand, or a wooden hairbrush, with baited breath, wishing I could take her place over the back of the couch. Or strong, muscular thighs. Or park bench, although I’d prefer a less-trafficked hiking path. She probably gave the Boy Scouts that walked up on them wet dreams for months afterwards.
            Her frank speaking didn’t embarrass me. Okay, yes, I blushed when she spoke of her rear end matching her new red silk thong. I’d spent enough time around her and others with no filter on their mouths to get too worked up about people talking about sex and kinks around me. No, I was afraid she’d discover my shared interest. She was the extrovert in our group of friends; Glennys thrived on being the naughty college librarian. I was the more sedate -- bland, some exes had said -- admissions counselor. I liked being bland. Vanilla was the most popular ice cream flavor for a reason. With vanilla, and me, you know what you’re getting. No surprises. My fantasies could stay safely in my head until I was married, and then they’d be shared with my husband, not everyone within hearing distance. Unless I was spanked somewhere with thin walls. Or the aforementioned hiking path.
            “Refill, please,” I told the hotel bartender, really needing the slushy beverage, and put the empty pitcher on the oak bar. I couldn’t help but admire the brass rail that surrounded it while I waited. Hmm, that’d provide good elevation, I mused, angling the hips up. My thoughts went back in time...

            “You’re my wife now, you’ll not be a dancing girl showing your wares to everyone in the saloon,” the man scolded Abigail, shaking the woman dressed in the revealing saloon girl dress. “If you ever get the desire to exhibit yourself again, hopefully you’ll remember your lesson.”
            Abigail looked at her handsome bartender sheriff cowboy -- the man in my daydream switched outfits as my fantasy changed -- husband, confusion debating with love and trust on her face. “What lesson?”
    “This one!” He grabbed Abigail by her exquisitely narrow waist, which didn’t even require a corset, and threw her up on the bar. The petticoats that kept the silk skirt out stiff from her body -- was that historically accurate, or just the Halloween costume Glennys wore last year? -- remained full, not allowing the skirt or a single petticoat from providing protection from the upcoming spanking nor watching eyes.
            “But sir! I’ll behave, I promise!” Abby Abigail’s plea fell flat on perfectly shaped, wonderfully proportioned ears. She didn’t dare point out to her new husband, the one true love of her life, that he was showing more of her skin to the saloon’s inhabitants than she ever did. She may not have had formal schooling, but it didn’t take no book learnin’ to know her husband would switch from his bare hand to his thick leather belt at any hint of sass.
            “You will when I’m done with you!” The gorgeous man -- looking suspiciously like one of the men from the next table over -- proclaimed. The gleaming brass rod on the wooden bar elevated Abigail’s buttocks, which were framed perfectly by her garter straps, putting Abigail’s sit-spot directly in the path of her husband’s outstretched arm. The arm came back, drawing up steam for a hefty whallop--

            “Sorry,” the guy next to me apologized as he jostled my shoulder trying to reach the bar through the crowd.
My eyes closed and I took a deep breath, bringing myself back out of my erotic daydream. If I kept this up, I’d be just like Glennys.
            “Thirsty?” I laughed on opening my eyes, looking at the two empty beer pitchers he clunked on to the bar.
    He shot me a glance and chuckled. “Five soldiers. One pitcher goes too quick.” I recognized him from the next table over, and forced myself to keep breathing. It was my husband from my daydream. Forget being a cowboy, military was so much better.
    The bartender returned with my margaritas, and I handed over my credit card. “ID, please?” he asked. “Sorry, we’ve had a rash of identity theft. It’s not that I’m carding you.”
            “I’d rather you lie and say I look twenty-one,” I responded with a smile, giving him my driver’s license.
            He didn’t comment on my appearance, darn him. “Hey, happy birthday,” he said, handing the cards back.
            “It’s your birthday?” Glennys squealed, reaching over me for the pitcher. Great, just great. I disappear into a daydream, and Glennys walks up behind me looking for alcohol.
            “Happy Birthday,” military man whispered in my ear as I walked by, his husky voice sending shivers down my spine straight to my butt, which started tingling. I imagined his hands were as rough as his voice. Surely, since he was a soldier, he was used to working with his hands. Those nice, big hands, with long, slender fingers, that could probably palm even my larger rear end. I'd seen their size when he dropped the pitchers off. I'd seen him then heft the full ones like they were feathers. Oooh, I wonder what he could do with feathers, just tickling my bum lightly with them. Just the thought rekindled the tinglies.
            Glennys had beat me back to the table. With my luck, they’d greet me back with a rousing verse of “Happy Birthday”. However, the skeevy waiter, who sucked at serving our table (the other reason I went to get my own refill), now perched in my chair.
            “Come here,” he ordered with a leer, patting his lap.
            “No thanks, I’ll stand.” I started to reach for the pitcher Glennys had put on the table, but changed my mind. With the way the evening was going, my two glasses would be enough. I might fantasize about the soldier in current times, and not throw us back to the Old West.  That’d be dangerous.
            Skeevy Waiter took advantage of my outstretched arm, and grabbed it in a grip tight enough to bruise. “No!” I shouted over the crowd noise, loud enough to catch the attention of nearby tables. Loud enough to get the attention of Military Man and his buddies, just in time for them to look over to see me pulled over Skeevy Waiter's lap unceremoniously. Now I fully knew how embarrassed saloon-girl me should have felt. My skirt was knee length, but the force of Skeevy Waiter’s pull had flipped it up, showing my Victoria’s Secret cotton panties on one cheek.
Damn it. I should have picked that wedgie.
            The waiter let go of my arm to try to keep me from wiggling off. I brought my left arm down alongside my body, and a sharp jab in his junk did the trick -- he pushed me off onto the floor. A hand barely made it to slide between my head and the very hard, and much more sticky than I wanted to think about, floor. Military Man helped me up, and stuck his body between mine and the hunched over waiter. I took advantage of my soldier being in front of me, and adjusted my undies and smoothed my skirt back down. Yeah, I was ready for the floor to swallow me up still.
            “Abby was supposed to get a Birthday spanking,” Glennys pouted. Oh really? Maybe next time she could fill me in on that plan? And possibly choose someone less icky?
            “She said no,” my soldier said firmly, glaring at the waiter until he limped away, with a glare over at Glennys for instigating it for good measure. “You okay?” His gaze ran up and down my body, and heat pooled in various parts of my anatomy as he did so.
            “Other than my pride, I’m fine.” My head pounded from adrenaline and margaritas, and I gladly sunk into the vacated seat. I put my head down on my arms on the table and ignored the chatter and moving chairs around me. What was Glennys thinking? Just because she wanted to be spanked, and even spanked publicly (there was a club she had mentioned once), doesn’t mean that others liked public humiliation. Yeah, I didn’t mind the concept of a birthday spanking. I had been the recipient of one several times growing up. But in public? With strangers? That might titillate Glennys, but not me. When I got spanked in real life and not my daydreams -- and for me it was a when, not an if -- it would be in private. Like, in a bedroom. And was married. “The only person touching my butt will be my husband.”
            “Good to know,” I heard rumble next to me. Oh my God. Military man was still here. And eavesdropping on me talking to myself.
            I lifted my head up, and gave him a watery smile. “I’m not normally like this.”
            He put his arm around my shoulders and gave a squeeze, then rested it along the back of my chair. “You’re fine either way for me. I’m Mark. Mark Friedman. You’re Abby?”
            I nodded, and looked around the table. Mark’s buddies had all joined us, roughly pairing up with each of the bridesmaids. Glennys perched in one lucky man’s lap.
            “Where you from, soldier?” She flirted wildly with him.
            “We’re all stationed at Camp Pendleton. It’s on the California coast, between San Diego and LA.” Glennys’ Marine didn’t take his eyes off of her, but did address the table. I was surprised they were acknowledging our existence. They seemed more apt to head up to a hotel room. Shit. Glennys and I were sharing a room. I might go upstairs later to a towel on the door, for lack of a sock.
            “Oooh, we’re all working at Palomar College! That’s just a quick jump down the freeway!” Glennys squealed, almost a bit too innocently. I narrowed my eyes at her.
            Jackie introduced the members of her bridal party, and the boys took turns introducing themselves. I work in admissions, and see hundreds of names a day, and my memory for names resets almost as instantly as I see or hear them. Mark’s name I’d remember, especially since his hand occasionally brushed my shoulder. Swoon. Glennys’ man was Carlos. The rest, I’d recognize their chiseled features and military bearings, but the names were a blur.
            An hour later, the pounding in my head had been replaced by the pounding of my heart. I felt like a teenager -- Mark had given up on the “accidental” touching of my shoulder, and had fully put his arm around me. It’s not like I encouraged him by snuggling up next to him or anything. Ahem.
            Everyone else was just as cozy, so I wasn’t surprised when Glennys told me they were leaving. She asked me and Mark to join them, which caused my eyebrows to shoot up (but curiously, not Mark’s), then told us the location, which caused both of our to shoot up (mine even higher).
            They were going to get married.
            While I had heard that countless couples got married on a whim in Vegas, including tons of celebrities, whatever happened to “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”? I was the prude that wanted to be married before receiving a spanking or having sex. Glennys always told “morning after” stories. I wasn’t going to say it out loud, but why would she need to get married? I never could understand the naughty librarians’ mindset.
            “I’ll drive,” Mark said firmly, catching Carlos as the man stumbled getting to his feet. Nerves, or beer? Glennys giggled. Yep, it was the alcohol. Would they even give them a marriage license while drunk?
            As we found out half an hour later, drunkenness didn’t so much matter when it came to filling out the paperwork. Good lord, you could sober up by the time you actually made it to a wedding chapel. By now, it was 11pm, and it’d been a long day. Glennys had the only vehicle large enough to seat us all, but didn’t like driving, so I had driven the entire 5 hours from California. Add in several margaritas, and the attempted spanking, and I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I signed on the dotted line as Glennys’ witness, and Mark did the same for Carlos.
            They got married by an Elvii. There were three Elvis impersonators working the chapel at once, and with their swapping in and out and our constant rearranging of the bridal party's positions, at the end of the night I left thinking I might have been the one getting married.



            Loud banging on the hotel room door woke me the next morning. Blurry-eyed, I crawled out of bed, wishing I hadn’t had that third margarita. I paused as I stumbled by the couch -- why was Jackie sleeping there? Granted, it looked more like she collapsed, since her stilettos were still on, much less the rest of her clothes. Everyone knew that Glennys got married the night before, and her bed was empty. The bride could have slept there.
            The banging sounded again. “I’m coming, keep your pants on!” I hollered. Oh, crap. I looked down. I wasn’t wearing pants. Oh well. I just wouldn’t open the door all the way.
            I tugged my t-shirt down more to cover my upper thighs, and angled my body to hide most of it behind the door, and opened it with the security latch in place.
            “What?” I snapped, then looked at my visitor. Mark. Dagnabit. The story of my life. Meet a cute guy, hit it off, then am rude to him and scare him away. “What do you need?” I asked, more politely. No need to sweeten the coffee, sugar dripped from my mouth.
Open up,” he demanded.
            I glanced down at my bare legs. “No. Come back in five minutes.”
            “Now.” He tone brooked no argument. I could see how he would excel in the military. Still, I had the power of a just-woken woman in her nightshirt.
            “Why?” We keep this up, and I’ll get the who, how, and when answered as well.
            He shoved a piece of paper through the opening. “You and I got married last night, not Glennys and Carlos.”
            The ‘how’ didn’t matter at this point. I nodded, slammed the door and unlocked it. I opened the door an inch, then walked away quickly, tugging my t-shirt down again. “Be with you in just a second.”
            The couch was now empty, and the door to the bedroom closed. I could hear the water running in the shower. Great. Jackie was locked in the bedroom with my clothes. She had left the throw blanket in a pile on the couch, and I sat down, curling up under the blanket for propriety.
            Not that propriety would matter, since Mark was my husband. Shit. “Wait, go back.” Now that I was covered, what he said was sinking in. “What do you mean, we’re married?” I’m afraid to admit that I squeaked the last, but under the circumstances, I’m sure it was understandable.
            He sat down next to me on the couch, his leg alongside mine. I tried to ignore how nice and warm it was. Like my bed had been, before he woke me. He could come back to bed with me, a little voice inside my head said, and keep me nice and warm. And it wouldn’t be wrong, because he was my husband.
            Mark lay two pieces of paper, somewhat worse for wear, on our laps. Sure enough, our names and signatures were on the marriage license and certificate.
            “Have you been a witness to a marriage before?” He asked gently.
            I shook my head. “This was the first time I was in a wedding. I’ve been to a bunch, but just as someone in the pews. You?”
            He also had only sat in on weddings, not participated. As for the signings? “You thought it was ‘witness’ paperwork too, huh?”
            I did a wry grin. “It was late, and I was exhausted. I looked for my name so I could be sure I was signing in the right place, but that was it. I just wanted to get them married so I could come back and crash. It had been a very long day.”
            “Happy birthday, again,” Mark smiled, and nudged me with his shoulder. “At least it’ll be easy to remember our anniversary.”
            “Or it’ll be doubly bad when you forget,” I joked right back. My head flopped back onto the couch. What was I thinking? Laughing about how we would be years from now on our anniversary? This wasn’t a real marriage, it was a joke. Neither of us meant to be married. “What do we do now? Can we get divorced as quickly as we got married? I’d presume we have grounds for an annulment, since neither of us intended to get married. Would that be better or easier to get?”
            “We could not,” Mark suggested. “No, hear me out,” he started when I opened my mouth to interrupt.
            “No.” Wow, that was quickly becoming my favorite word. “A minute ago you were banging on the door, pissed at being married. Now you’re trying to change your mind?”
He glanced down at my thankfully-blanket covered legs.
            “Seriously? You’re that much of a dog?” The irritated look on his face should have stopped me. It wasn’t wise, but I continued on. “A turn of a lady’s ankle is enough for you to propose marriage? The bare hints of what may be above turns you on?” I flipped the blanket above my knees. “Oh no, now you’ve seen calves. I’m surprised you haven’t burst into flames yet.”
            Mark shifted on the couch, suddenly facing me, and captured my mouth in a toe-curling kiss. When we parted for air, I blinked, open mouthed.
            “May I continue?”
            I nodded, not able to say anything.
            “This is a first marriage for both of us, obviously.” Drat, I was hoping he wanted to continue the kissing, not the talking. “There are certain...advantages to staying married.”
            “No, that’s illegal!” He lifted an eyebrow. “I saw a story on the news, just the other day. A couple of soldiers were court-martialed and thrown in jail for getting married for the housing benefits increase. You’re a soldier. We got married. I can do the math. I’m not doing it.”
            He kissed me again, thoroughly. When he finally pulled away, he said, “That was the kind of benefit I was thinking of.”
            “So I was right the first time?” He narrowed his eyes, but let me keep talking. “You just want easy access to the sex.”
            “Okay, first of all -- well, stop. I’m sorry to be blunt, but are you a virgin?”
            I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked he asked the question, or more embarrassed by the answer. I'm not sure how it happened, but me trying to get off the couch and across the room turned into a wrestling match that ended with me under Mark on the couch. The blanket had fallen to the floor in the scuffle, and my husband's jeans-clad leg pressed between my bare legs, the warmth and closeness a new sensation to my upper thighs and privates.
            “Well that answers that,” he said lightly. “Now will you listen?”
            I tried squirming, and Mark ran a hand up under my shirt, resting it on my ribs, his thumb barely touching the underside of a breast. If I squirmed more, that thumb would be on new ground. I wasn't sure if I wanted to move or not – my body was saying one thing, my brain another.
            My mouth listened to my brain. “Yes,” it whispered.
            The thumb started stroking gently. Oh goodness, the thumb was meant as a reward, not a punishment. My back arched, my body giving him more access. Which also had the pleasurable side-effect of rubbing my clit against the rough denim. Forget talking. I reached up and pulled Mark's head close for a deep kiss. I might just like this married business.
            It was his turn to blink when we separated. He smiled, and my heart melted. Oh my.
So I'm thinking, there's plenty of people with arranged marriages that don't meet their spouse until the wedding day. What's one more couple?”
            It was hard to concentrate with his thumb making small circles on my breast. “Um. We're not Indian? It's pre-marital sex that I don't believe in, not...not knowing your spouse until you’re married.”
            “You're not just a virgin, you're new to all of this, huh?” He emphasized his statement with pressing his leg into me more. I groaned at the sensation, and clutched at my husband's back. Apparently I was the type of woman to scratch. Huh. Who knew?
            “Yes, it's new. I'd ask you to stop, but I don't think I'd have a leg to stand on. Oh hey, there's yours again. Um, if you want to talk, you'd better stop that. Ahem. Anyway, we're not an arranged marriage.”
            “You don't think Carlos and Glennys set us up?”
            I sat up abruptly, banging our heads together. Ouch. “They did this deliberately?”
            “What do you think?” He raised an eyebrow, which was a lot more sexy than I think he knew.
            I sighed. “A blind date on steroids. She knows I would never agree to another blind date, not after the last one.” He looked expectant. “That's a tale for another day.” Good gracious, I was considering this. “So you want to stay married? This isn't a valid marriage. Neither one of us meant to do this.”
            He thought for a few seconds. “But the papers have been signed. In the eyes of the law, we're married. It's just a matter of if we acknowledge it.”
            I laughed, mockingly. “Just. You make it sound so simple.”
            “Why shouldn't it be?”
            “We know nothing about each other! Yeah, I had a good time talking to you last night. I'd say yes to going on a date. But there's so much we just don't know.”
            “I know you like this,” Mark said, and brought his leg, thumb, and mouth into action all at once. He didn't play fair. His other hand slipped under my shirt as well, making my hands jealous. I tugged on his shirt to untuck it from his jeans, and was pulling it up to run my hands across his skin when a throat cleared next to us.


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