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Chapter One

Shana’s heart thumped wildly in her chest. She paced the length of the small holding cell as the knot in her stomach tightened. Glancing down at the floor, she noticed Beth and Margery fast asleep. Or perhaps they were passed out from drinking too much. She’d only had one drink, but they’d had at least four each. It had seemed like harmless fun, sneaking past the settlement barrier with liquor Beth had swiped from her brother. Except they’d been caught by a patrol and escorted back to a holding cell in the Council Building to await judgment.

Judgment. Such a scary word. Would she be banished from Jackson Settlement for illegal drinking? All forms of alcohol were prohibited, and while they hadn’t been inside the settlement barrier when they consumed the vile liquid, they’d still transported the drink. Shana wondered where Beth’s brother, Mickey, had gotten the stuff and what would happen to him. Surely not banishment. She closed her eyes and prayed for the council to be lenient. After all, it was the first offense for all of them.

A metal rattling caught Shana’s attention, and she held her breath as she stared at the door. A lump formed in her throat. She hoped Uncle Daman had come for her. He’d save her from the holding cell and convince the council to let her off with a warning, a slap to the wrist. She hoped. What if they banished her? Where would she go? What would she do? Her heart sank lower at the prospect, and she watched with wide eyes as the door was flung open.

A tall, broad chested figure took up the whole doorway, and the light of the lanterns reflected off his black hair, giving him an otherworldly appearance. He stepped farther into the light, and his worried gaze settled on Shana. Her heart rejoiced and her stomach flipped at the same time.

It was Uncle Daman.

“Shana.” He rushed to her and wrapped his arms around her, bringing her against his chest.

Relief rushed through her to be in his arms. He’d never been anything but kind to her, and she felt certain he’d help her out of this mess. After the death of her parents she’d come to live with him at the age of fifteen. Since then, he’d been a loving guardian and she couldn’t imagine life without him. Oh, if she were banished...

She couldn’t complete the thought.

“I’m so sorry, Uncle Daman,” she said, peering up into his dark, beautiful eyes. “I only had one drink. I know it’s not allowed, and I’m sorry. Please... what’s going to happen?”

His body stiffened and he held her out by her shoulders, glaring down at her with a sternness she’d never seen before. Not that she’d ever been so naughty. He’d hardly had to scold her before, and it suddenly occurred to her that he might indeed punish her for her terrible disobedience. She had caused a great deal of trouble. The knot in her stomach clenched tighter, and her mouth went dry.

“I talked to the council and promised nothing like this would happen again. They are letting you all off with a warning, even Mickey since he’s so young.”

Her lip quivered. “Th – thank you, Uncle. I promise I’ll never do anything like this again.”

“No, I imagine you won’t.”

Uncle Daman guided her out of the holding cell and into the dim hallway. As they exited the Council Building, Beth’s father entered. He appeared relieved to hear the news about the warning, but his final words gave Shana a chill.

“That girl will never think about touching alcohol or sneaking past the settlement barrier when I’m through with her. She probably thinks she’s too old for a good strapping, but that’s exactly what she’s going to get.”

His pronouncement hung between Shana and Uncle Daman as they walked home in the chilly evening air. Shana’s uncle had never disciplined her physically before, but he had threatened once or twice. And one time when she’d given him attitude, a few months after she’d come to live with him, he’d made her stand in a corner for an hour like a naughty child. She’d been most humiliated by the experience, and she’d been too afraid of an actual spanking at his hand to test him further.

Until now. She’d turned eighteen last week and felt she was an adult now. In the Old Days, people were considered legal adults at the age of eighteen. Yet poor Beth was going to be punished anyway, even though she was well over eighteen. Shana’s insides trembled, and she worried what would happen once they reached home.

The solar lanterns had just flickered on, and the sun had completely slipped over the horizon. They passed no one on the streets. Uncle Daman kept a firm grip on Shana’s upper arm and traveled at a brisk pace. She nearly had to run to keep up. By the time they climbed the creaking porch steps, she was breathless and reluctant to go inside. Surely he wouldn’t just send her to bed. She expected a scolding at the very least.

The heat of a fire crackling in the sitting room hit her, and she was grateful Uncle Daman led her there to warm up. She stood awkwardly in the center of the room, afraid to sit down or even breathe without permission. She wondered how long he’d be cross with her, and she hoped to earn his forgiveness. She silently vowed to be perfect from now on. Dinner would be on time. The house would be spotless. She’d never talk back or give him the least amount of grief.

He loomed over her, tilting her chin up with one finger. “Your naughtiness will not go unpunished, young lady.” His eyes softened then, and he pushed a chair closer to the fire, not releasing his hold on Shana as he did so. “But I need to calm down first, and you need to stop shivering.”

Shana opened her mouth to apologize once more, but before she could speak Uncle Daman had pulled her into his lap on the chair. His action stunned her. He hadn’t cradled her in his lap for the longest while, though he was generally affectionate and gave her lots of hugs, and each night he never failed to kiss her forehead as he tucked her in. The tension left her body and she rested her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

“You scared me, Shana,” he said after a long silence. “I went to look for you, and you weren’t anywhere in the house. You didn’t tell me you were going out. Then I get a knock on the door summoning me to the Council Building. I had no idea what to expect.” His arms tightened around her, and her heart broke to hear the worry in his voice.

“I did a stupid thing, Uncle. I’m sorry I scared you. But I’m all right. Nothing bad happened outside the barrier. And I didn’t go as crazy with the liquor as Beth and Margery did. I promise I only had one drink.” She shrugged. “I didn’t like the taste of it, and I didn’t want to become drunk.”

He stroked her hair and put his mouth to her ear. Excitement unfurled in her at the intimacy of this physical contact. Uncle Daman was handsome and only ten years older than her, and he wasn’t her uncle by blood either. He’d been briefly married to her aunt, and she’d never met him until after her parents died. It made for a strange living arrangement, and she’d often wondered if her changing feelings for him were inappropriate. She never wanted to leave him, never wanted to leave this house and take a husband one day. In her eyes, no man could compare to Uncle Daman.

She sighed, remembering he’d mentioned punishment. “Are you going to make me stand in the corner, Uncle?”

He smirked down at her. “After the trouble and worry you caused, you think I’ll let you off so easily?”

Confusion swept over her. If not corner time, then... what? Her hands began to tremble, and she thought of Beth being strapped, even though she was nearly nineteen. Uncle Daman had every right to chastise her any way he wished. After all, she was his ward and subject to his discipline. But she agonized at the thought of him spanking her. She played with the buttons on his shirt and stared at his chest, willing time to unwind a mere two hours so she could undo the trouble she’d caused.

“I’m very sorry, Uncle,” she said.

“I know you are. And I want to make sure you never do anything so naughty again. You could’ve gotten hurt outside the barrier, and you risked banishment by breaking the settlement rules and drinking.”

Shana couldn’t stand the waiting. She had to know what consequences she faced. “What... what are you going to do, Uncle?” As she awaited his response, she clung to him and took comfort in his embrace. She’d been terrified as she paced inside the holding cell, and she loved him even more for easing her fears by cuddling her on his lap. Except new fears now wedged into her consciousness. The thought of being disciplined by Uncle Daman had her insides fluttering and quaking.

He cupped her face between his large, warm hands and pierced her with a firm look. “I’m going to spank you, Shana. After the way you behaved, young lady, you need a good, hard spanking on your bare bottom. I’m your uncle and it’s my right to determine your punishment, and I assure you that you’re not too old for a spanking. As long as you live under my roof, you’ll never be too old for a spanking.”

* * *

Daman closed the door to his study and steeled himself to be firm with his little niece. He couldn’t believe she’d left the settlement barrier, let alone consumed alcohol. She’d never given him any trouble before, and he wondered at the sudden rebellious behavior. Perhaps she assumed he’d let her do as she pleased after she turned eighteen. He intended to teach her that wasn’t the case.

He turned to face Shana. Head bowed, she stood in the center of the room looking like a penitent little girl. Long blonde locks of hair fell in front of her face, and her chest rose and fell rapidly to reveal the level of her nervousness. As far as he knew, she’d never been spanked once. Knowing he was the first person to discipline her heated his blood. He shook the feeling away and approached her with his arms crossed over his chest.

“I believe naughty little girls belong in the corner, Shana.” He grabbed her hand and led her to an empty corner, guiding her into position with her nose to the wall. Again, his blood heated. He’d promised her a bare bottom spanking, and the prospect of baring her to his gaze riveted his senses. He pushed his unexpected desire down and tried to concentrate on her punishment. He never wanted her to risk her safety in such a way again.

He lifted the skirt of her dress, stilling her protest with a firm touch to the shoulder to keep her in place.

“Uncle...” The hesitance in her voice revealed her deep shame.

“Quiet, Shana. You will stand here with your bottom on display. No arguments, not unless you want to feel the sting of my belt in addition to my hand, young lady.”

Her shoulders slumped in defeat and she whimpered. The temperature in the room seemed to rise as he tucked her skirt into the waist of her dress. She shuddered with each touch, and he wondered how she would react in a moment when he pulled her undergarments down. Before he proceeded to bare her though, he leaned into her and the heat of their bodies mingled.

“You will stand here and think about what you’ve done, young lady, with your nose in the corner. Think about all the bad things that could’ve happened outside the settlement. Think about how worried I was when I couldn’t find you. Think about where we’d go and what we’d do if you were banished from the settlement over something as silly as one drink of alcohol.”

Her head jerked from the corner and she stared at him wide-eyed. “You’d come with me if I were banished, Uncle?”

Sighing, he nodded and stroked a finger down her cheek, wondering if she’d cry when he spanked her. “Of course I’d go with you,” he said, his response coming out gravelly due to the tightening of his throat. The look of pure love she gave him caused most of his anger to melt away. She was so sweet he had to resist the impulse to hug her to his chest.

“But you couldn’t!” she finally said. “That would be insane.”

He almost chuckled but stopped himself in time. Instead, he raised an eyebrow at her before forcing her nose back into the corner. “Don’t tell me what I would or wouldn’t do, little girl. Now keep that nose in the corner.” He cupped her bottom as he spoke.

Daman broke away to survey the room and decide on the best way to punish her. He fingered the belt on his trousers briefly, but opted to use only his hand, as long as she behaved during her corner time. He eyed his desk and visualized her bent over it with her skirts thrown up and her undergarments pooling around her ankles. No, not pooling around her ankles. He’d make her lean far enough over the desk that her legs would dangle, and her undergarments would slip completely to the floor.

Turning back to Shana, he approached her with slow, deliberate footsteps, listening as her breath sounded more like little gasps the closer he drew. Once he reached her, he touched the waistband of her undergarments, slipping his fingers inside to brush the softness of her hips. Her skin was as soft and delicate as the rarest silk, and he took his time pushing her undergarments down, not stopping until they rested at her knees. He straightened and spoke directly into her ear. “Now you can stand here for a while with your bottom on display.” He patted her bare backside twice before moving away. He wanted her as remorseful as possible when he bent her over the desk for her spanking. The shame of having to stand in the corner with her bottom exposed would undoubtedly do the trick.

He leaned against the desk and crossed his arms as he studied Shana. She was no longer a child, she was a woman. It wasn’t her age, but the shapeliness of her hips and her curves. She’d grown up before his very eyes, and he’d somehow let her blossoming slip past him until now. The fear of letting her go panged in his chest. Most women in the settlement got married before their twentieth birthday.

Anger swirled within him, hot and all consuming. The thought of another man taking her away was enough to still his breath. He supposed it was only a matter of time before the first man came calling to ask for her hand. Daman’s jaw clenched and he couldn’t imagine a single man in Jackson Settlement he considered good enough for Shana. But he couldn’t keep her to himself. That wouldn’t be fair. The anger swirling within him invaded his mind and body further. Pain split through his head, his muscles tensed, and his hands curled into fists. When she’d come to live with him, he’d never imagined he’d become so attached to her.

In the corner, she stood obediently with her back to him, oblivious to the turmoil filling his soul. He shook the future worries from his mind and began walking to her. She’d broken so many rules today, but he especially wanted to make sure she thought twice before leaving the settlement barrier again. He couldn’t care less about the alcohol. Jackson Settlement had a lot of ridiculous rules, in his opinion, but he most certainly wouldn’t stand by and permit her to leave the barrier any time the mood struck her. Outcastes and thieves lived in the nearby mountains, and it wasn’t unheard of for them to venture near a settlement or trading outpost.

Daman paused halfway to her. “Turn around, Shana.”

She went rigid at his command and a whimper escaped her, a lovely sound that once again had Daman pushing his desires down. His feelings for her had surpassed parental love, and now as she turned to face him, he had to force his eyes to remain locked with hers, lest his gaze linger for too long at the sweetness between her thighs.

“Tell me why you’re being punished, young lady. I want to hear you tell me all the reasons. Each and every last one.” He approached her slowly, and the blush staining her cheeks darkened with each step, as if his proximity to her nakedness shamed her.

“I... I left the house without telling you. I also left the settlement barrier, which is very dangerous, and I drank alcohol when I wasn’t supposed to.” A hint of moisture shone in her pretty blue eyes, but she blinked it back and met his gaze. “I am very sorry, Uncle. I promise never to behave so badly again. You don’t have to spank me. Please don’t spank me.” Her voice cracked over the last few words.

“I’m afraid my decision had been made.” He grasped her upper arm, leading her to the desk. As she moved with him across the room, her feet shuffled quickly as her undergarments slipped farther down her legs, finally tangling around her ankles.

She stilled when they reached the desk, and Daman felt fear radiating from her trembling form. He reminded himself of the reasons he had to spank her and urged her to bend over the desk. She didn’t budge.

“Please, Uncle, can I please keep my undergarments on?” She peered at him from over her shoulder, her lips forming a pretty pout.

“No,” he said firmly, finally managing to push her down over the desk.

She whimpered again and buried her face in her hands, though he knew she wasn’t crying. He hadn’t seen her cry in years, not since she recovered from the shock of her parents’ death, and he suspected no amount of pain would bring her to tears. Making her cry wasn’t his goal. He wanted to teach her a lesson and make sure she never repeated the mistakes she’d made this day. Even though he’d have to let her go soon, to give her away in marriage, he planned to keep her safe and sound until that dreaded day.

“Move up more, Shana. More. A little more.” He urged her higher until her feet dangled from the floor, and her undergarments fell from around her ankles to pool beneath her legs.

He stroked her backside for a moment, admiring the swell of her bottom area pushed to the desk. Her thighs were pressed tight together, but it didn’t keep her most private spots hidden. Downy black curls covered her sex, and he glimpsed the faintest hint of her puckering bottom hole. Daman was suddenly unfastening the top two buttons on his shirt, seeking more air. He rolled up his sleeves next, one by one as Shana peeked back at him intermittently. Each time she glanced at him over her shoulder, she immediately went back to hiding her face in her hands. Her nervousness was well founded, though.

He planned to spank her bottom bright red.


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