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Chapter One

If he had any sense at all he would pull off the road and find a hotel room until the storm was over, but then, Michael didn’t have much sense these days.  At least that is what his father and older brother told him just that very morning. They’d stormed his office and more or less told him he was taking a mandatory vacation for the next two weeks. His father suggested a trip to the islands to soak up some sun and sand.  His brother tried to send him on a cruise for singles. Michael opted for heading up into the mountains to a nice little cabin he’d purchased two years ago and had yet to set foot in the place.

The cabin was isolated enough that he could skip shaving for a while and not shock anyone.  And, most important of all, it was stocked, unrented to anyone else for the next few weeks, and he would be alone. No telephones to ring and interrupt his thoughts.  Exactly and precisely what he needed.  Right now he did not like people.  He especially did not like female people.  And no people made for a perfect vacation. 

He could have done without the blizzard, however.  He had great night vision, but it was getting more and more difficult to see to drive, and he would have no one to blame but himself for making this drive in the dead of night if he slid off a mountain and to his death. Michael took a moment to wonder what his father and brother would have to say to that news.  The car slid one more time and he brought it under control with an expertise born of driving through severe winters ever since he was old enough to get a learner’s permit.  He took pride in the fact that he was a competent driver.

It was another long twenty-five minutes before he pulled up in front of the cabin that he owned. Michael was happy that all he had to carry inside was his single bag of clothing and toiletries and his laptop.  He got the cabin key out of his pocket before he got out of the car, and then decided he’d best put it in a pocket in case he slipped and fell in the snow that was drifted past his waist in spots.  He didn’t want to drop the key in the snow and lose it.

If he thought driving was terrible, wading through the snow to the front door of the cabin was even more difficult, but he made it.  Michael slid the key in the lock, and let himself inside, and he immediately knew something was wrong.  No one was supposed to be here, but there was a glow from embers left from a fire in the fireplace.  The cabin was much warmer than it should be… In the next instant his peripheral vision caught a movement behind him just in time to stop someone from braining him with a heavy piece of firewood!

Michael sent the firewood flying with one powerful swing, and then he whirled to face his attacker. To his surprise, it only took him a few seconds to flip the other person and pin them to the floor beneath him!  “Listen here, kid, stop struggling.  You aren’t big enough to toss a man my size.  Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“The question is who are you and what are you doing here?”

The voice was feminine and it embarrassed Michael to realize he’d just fought with a slip of a woman and tossed her on the floor with most of his strength.  “Lady, you’d better take a different tone with me unless you want the lesson of your life right here and right now.”

“I asked you a question!  Our firm manages this property, and no one is supposed to be here this weekend!”

“If no one is supposed to be here, then what are you doing here… in your nightgown?”

“That is none of your business.  Now get off of me and get out of here before I call the Sheriff and have you arrested for trespassing!”

“If anyone is arrested for trespass, it will be you, young lady.”

She suddenly head butted him, and when he howled and grabbed his stomach, she scrambled out from under him, and gave him a big push.  She ran to grab another large piece of firewood to use as a weapon.  “If you leave right now I won’t have you arrested!”

Michael got to his feet and gave her a long, hard look.  In the glow of the embers he realized that he could see the outline of her body in the white nightgown.  She was slender, and he could see that she wasn’t too tall.  She would come just to his chin, and she had her hair in some silly braid.  He couldn’t tell its color, or the color of her eyes, but she looked sexy as hell.  His body might desire hers, but there was no way he would act on that urge.  Michael didn’t engage in casual sex.  He did know one thing, however; she was going to learn that it did not pay to threaten a man who was larger, stronger, and in a pissy mood!

Michael moved quickly, and within seconds he’d tossed her ‘weapon’ into the fireplace, sending sparks up the chimney and creating a bit more light for the room.  He then grabbed her when she tried to run away.  She put up a fight, kicking and screaming and using her elbows to try and knock him senseless.  She tried to head butt him again, and when that didn’t work, she picked up a book from the coffee table and threw it at his head.  Michael had enough, and this time when she tried to fight him off he flipped her over on the rug in front of the fireplace and pulled up her nightgown to reveal her bare bottom.  She went completely still for one heartbeat, and then she fought with every ounce of strength she possessed.

“Don’t rape me!  Please don’t rape me!” she sobbed in fright, struggling to free herself.  “Please! Let me go!”

“I’m not going to rape you, but let you go?  I don’t think so.  You’ve tried to brain me with firewood twice, lady, and I’m not going to let it pass.”  He raised his hand and then smacked his palm on her right cheek, prompting a squeal of outrage.  A second later her left cheek felt the same stinging pain, and she tried to twist away from the hand that was punishing her.

“Don’t you dare spank me!” Elle raged at him, no longer afraid he was planning to rape her.  “I mean it, mister!  I will absolutely kill you if you dare to spank me!” She was doing her very best to evade his hard hand and failing miserably.  He seemed to anticipate her every move and the palm of his hand followed her unerringly, leaving a sting in its wake. It was embarrassing and painful at the same time.

“We’ll see about that because I am going to, by God, give you a spanking you will never forget.”  It didn’t occur to Michael that he might be taking out some anger at another female on the hapless woman, but at this point he didn’t care.  It was his opinion she needed the spanking and he was determined to mete out the punishment until she was repentant.

Elle was furious that the man was spanking her, but at least he wasn’t assaulting her sexually, which is what she thought he meant to do!  “You stop this immediately!” She continued to give him hell, but he ignored her in favor of slapping her ass cheeks over and over again while she kicked her feet against the soft rug beneath her. “Stop!” she screamed, furious with him for subjecting her to a child’s punishment. It hurt, and no matter how much she wanted to ignore what he was doing to her, she couldn’t! “Stop, damn you!”

“Not until you settle down and accept this spanking, young lady.” Michael wasn’t about to permit her to tell him what he could and couldn’t do in his own home.  She was the one who was trespassing, and he fully intended to see her pay for that.  It was his duty,

“I need for you to stop!” She hated the pleading note in her voice, but he was actually hurting her bottom and she couldn’t take much more without bursting into tears and making a fool of herself.  “Please, stop! I’m sorry I tried to hit you with the firewood, but you frightened me.”

“How did I frighten you?  I had no idea you were here.”  He continued the spanking, his firm hand smacking her sit spots now.

“Yeoooow!  Not there!  Not there!  Please stop!  I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!” Elle burst into tears.

Michael continued the spanking for another ten smacks to each side, and then he demanded, “Are you going to settle down now?”

“What choice do I have?” she demanded, angry with him for subjecting her to the chastisement.

“You have a choice to behave or to get your butt busted again, but this time with my belt.  I’m serious, lady.  Don’t test me right now; I’m not in the mood.”  Michael cautiously released her and then he got to his feet.  “Let’s start again.  What are you doing here?”

“I’ve answered you already.” She swiped at her eyes with the long sleeves of her nightgown. “I manage this property for the owner.”

“You most certainly do not.  The property manager is George Cline. Don’t lie to me, lady!”

“I work for Mr. Cline,” Elle said, determined to brazen her way through this until she could get rid of him.  “Who are you and why are you here?” she demanded, trying to speak with authority.

Her snippy, snotty tone of voice let him know that she felt he had no right at all to be here.  It made Michael angry and he felt like spanking her again. “My name is Michael Jacobs, and I am the owner of this cabin.  Now that we have that settled, lady, suppose you tell me why you are trespassing and give me one good reason why I shouldn’t toss your butt out in the snow.”

“You’re Michael Jacobs?” Elle asked in shock, her voice small and full of tears.  “Oh noooo!”  She burst into heartfelt tears of self-pity, knowing full well that Mr. Cline was going to fire her.  She had nowhere to go, no money, and to lose her job in this manner was just going to be the final straw.  Mr. Cline certainly wouldn’t give her a good reference now! She looked up at the man towering over her.  “I am so very sorry, Mr. Jacobs.  I had no idea you were coming.”

“Obviously.  I think I deserve an explanation, don’t you? Why are you here?”

“It’s a long story, and right now I am in too much pain to tell it.  I’ll get my things together and be out of your hair within a few minutes.”

“Where do you think you are going to go?  Have you even looked outside?” He snapped on a couple of lights and was surprised to see that Elle was very young, and very pretty.  She just didn’t seem the criminal type of person to use an empty home for her own.

“No, I haven’t,” she answered him, suddenly self-conscious in her flannel nightgown.

“There is a blizzard out there.  It would be suicide for you to try and leave right now.”

“Can this day get any worse?” She started crying again.  “I am so embarrassed!  Mr. Cline is going to fire me, and I just don’t know what I am going to do.  I miss my Dad so much!”

And with that she was sobbing as if her heart would break.  Michael was pretty damn sure he was being played for a fool, but he couldn’t stand her heart wrenching sobs of pain.  He approached her, intending to offer her his handkerchief, but she threw herself against his chest and cried.  He found himself wrapping his arms around her and patting her on the back and murmuring sympathetic sounds.

“Is your father still living?” she finally stopped crying to ask.

“He is.”

“Enjoy every minute you can with him,” she said.  “Make memories.  It really hurts when you lose your Dad and can’t make any more special moments to cherish.”

“How long has your father been gone?” Michael asked, unwilling to admit that she’d touched a nerve.  How many times had he brushed off his Dad’s invitations to play tennis, or go to the shooting range?  Or to go to lunch or dinner?

“Just a few weeks, but it feels longer.”

“I’m sure it will get a bit easier in time.”

“That is what they say, but I don’t see how.”

Michael looked at her, his mood dark. “Usually, when a woman is standing in front of me in her nightgown, I have the privilege of knowing her name.”

“Ohhhhh!  I’m Elle Pickering.  I really do work for Mr. Cline, and he will be absolutely appalled to know I took the key from the office so I would have a place to stay for a while. I will find a way to pay the rent I owe you,” she said, chewing on her lower lip.

“I would think you have already paid for the privilege of being here, unless that spanking has worn off already?”

“No!” She shook her head vigorously.  “I am really sore,” she admitted.  “Why did you do that?  I’m not a child!”

“You came at me twice with firewood, intending to brain me; you’re lucky that all I did was spank your butt. I didn’t realize you were a female at first.” It still upset him that he’d flipped her with so much strength.

“I thought you were breaking in to harm me. No one was supposed to be coming here, and I was really frightened.”

“You should have hidden.  A burglar doesn’t want to be seen or interrupted.  They rarely harm people unless it is a home invasion.”

“I thought that someone might have followed me here, and then waited until it was late to break in and attack me.”

“Is there a reason you are so afraid, or are you just paranoid?” Michael demanded.

“I’ll put some clothes on and help you bring in your bags.” Elle scampered away without answering his questions.

“There is nothing else to bring in, Elle.” He noticed that she ran up the stairs to the loft, and he frowned.  That was the master bedroom that she’d made herself comfortable in.  She came down a few minutes later wearing jeans and a pretty purple sweater that enhanced her coal black hair and made her beautiful blue eyes stand out.

“Would you like for me to fix you something to eat?  I’m a pretty good cook, even if I say so myself.  I know it’s late, but you’ve had a long drive.”

“Is your cooking supposed to make me forget what I asked you, lady?” he demanded, not about to be distracted.

“I don’t want to answer your question, Mr. Jacobs.  The answer is personal.”

“More personal than me baring your butt and pounding it until it was boiling hot?” he demanded.

“A gentleman wouldn’t mention that. I’m not used to anyone treating me like that!” Her blue eyes were like liquid fire as she flayed him alive with them for daring to spank her.  Michael couldn’t help but think her beautiful even though she wasn’t his type at all.  He liked tall blondes; this woman was much shorter than the females he usually spent time with.

“How short are you?” he demanded.  She wasn’t wearing heels, either, and that in itself was unusual.  She was barefoot, and with a blizzard outside!  “Where are your shoes?” Michael pointed at her bare feet.

“I hate shoes and I never wear them unless I absolutely have to.”  She stomped one of her bare feet.  “Why in hell am I explaining myself to you?  At best we have a working relationship, and since I am sure I won’t have this job come Monday, please keep your personal observations and questions to yourself, Mr. Jacobs!  And, I am NOT short!” she declared with a stubborn tilt of her pretty chin.

“You’re little, maybe 5’2”, right?” he asked, grinning at her.

“I am going to make an omelet.  This is your last chance to order before I close the kitchen for the night…?”

“I’ll give you a hand,” he surprised her by saying.  “I am hungry, although I didn’t realize it until just this minute.”  Michael was amazed; it was the first time since Jennifer dumped him that he’d wanted to eat, and it was one of the main reasons his father and brother were so worried about him. He’d lost his appetite as well as his zest for living. He’d also lost a considerable amount of weight.

“Do you know how to cook?” Elle asked the man, surprise in her blue eyes.

“I won’t claim to be a gourmet, or even a good cook like my Grandmother Lucy, but I know how to put together enough dishes that I won’t starve.  And you?” He was surprised at his interest in the young woman.  She really wasn’t his type.  She was rude and sassy, and he didn’t take criminal trespass lightly.  How long had she been living in this home and others that were in George Cline’s care?

“I love to cook, although I haven’t done much of it lately.” Her stepmother made the kitchen off-limits while her father was ill, taking away one of Elle’s greatest pleasures.  Elle was forced to eat the tasteless meals that her stepmother enjoyed or go without food. The last year had been the worst of her twenty-five years, culminating with the spanking that was still burning her rump. ”Why don’t you just go and sit in front of the fire and let me do this?  I work better on my own.”

“Because this is my home and I can damn well do as I please.”

“Fine, you cook and I’ll go and enjoy what is left of the fire!”

“That sassy attitude is going to earn you another spanking, lady.  Those jeans can come down just as easily as that nightgown went up.”

“You are a jerk.”


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