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Chapter One

It was five in the morning on a Saturday, and yet Victoria Hauser was wide awake, compulsively checking her iPhone just in case she’d accidentally muted the sound or it was off or something ridiculous like that that couldn’t possibly have happened in the few seconds between the last time she’d checked and now, but it was a compulsion she followed, nonetheless.

She also had her Skype, Microsoft, Yahoo, ICU, and AIM accounts up, just in case, even though he hadn’t been able to use any of the latter for the majority of his tour.  It seemed that, almost as soon as he’d arrived, the powers that be had clamped down on most of the best forms of communications, and all they had left was the occasional phone call through DNS.  His cell didn’t work at all from where he was – although he had been able to get some r and r on some base she’d never heard of and called her from it, but that was just once the entire time he’d been gone.  And – in deference to the fact that they were still working on saving enough to afford a house when he returned – as well as a wedding, hopefully – they decided against adding an expensive international calling component to their cell service.

So they existed on the very infrequent email, actual typewritten letters that arrived pretty frequently, because one or the other of them was writing nearly every day, although it remained a thoroughly unsatisfactory communication method because it took an inordinate amount of time to receive – sometimes nearly two weeks.

Sometimes the frustrations of having a fiancé in Afghanistan was more than she thought she could bare, and then she remembered that he had volunteered to put his life on the line for his country, and that the least she could do was buck up and not whine at him during what precious little time they could scrape together.  It surprised her, how helpless she’d felt when he’d gone.  Unbelievably sad, yes, she’d counted on that, and everyone had rallied around her to try to help and keep her occupied.  Between his friends – the ones who hadn’t been deployed with him – and hers, his family and hers, she barely had time to think about anything at first, but that kind of flurry of activity wore off after a while, and she was left more and more to her own devices.

Victoria Hauser been a highly competent, capable woman before Major Cole Grant had come along and turned her world – and her, sometimes – upside down, and it had startled her to realize just how much she had come to depend on him.  It was a reflection of just how well he took care of her – almost too well.  When they had moved in together, he had gladly relieved her of a lot of the stupider, more annoying side of living – all those little chores everyone hated but had to do anyway – renewing and collecting prescriptions, paying bills, taking out the trash, etc.  He did it all, having assured her that he was fine doing it, and wouldn’t be resentful in the least.  And he hadn’t been.

The bastard.

All of it had gotten done quickly and efficiently – because, of course, he had done it himself.  Whereas if she had been the one out there going to the bank, dropping off dry cleaning and picking up stuff from his parents, she’d’ve been out all day, because, well, completing every  task deserved a small reward, didn’t it?  A latte, a coolatta, or a Krispy Kreme, some kind of tangible “’atta girl”.  Of course, she’d be talking to her friends all the way – hands free, of course – she’d made that mistake too early and too often to ever do that again, lest he find out somehow.  So she might have left the house at eight on a Saturday morning, but she wouldn’t return until three or so – although she would still have only accomplished the three or four out of the page long list of things he did in a matter of about forty five ultra-efficient minutes.

And, of course, when he got through with it, the back of the car wasn’t full of French fry wrappers, coffee cups, or the occasional Baskin Robbins sundae cup when they headed out for a movie later that day, either.  If she went on errands, you could barely tell there was a back seat in the car, although she tried to do as he’d suggested – all on his own, out of the blue, because he knew her too damned well – and put a roll of garbage bags out there for just that purpose, to fill every time she got home before she went into the house.

Like that was going to happen.  It just ended up that the roll of bags was at the bottom of an enormous pile of crap, because she always forgot to fill it.  He’d warned her before he left that that was another thing that was going to end up a spanking offense shortly.

Vicky looked around the house that he’d always kept so neat and tidy.  Well, always made the both of them keep neat, although it was much more of a stretch for her, one that he never hesitated to correct if she fell short of, either, she remembered, her hand moving unconsciously around to her backside under the covers, as if he knew exactly what the apartment looked like right now she was trying to soothe away a telekinetic spanking he had just given her.

Just another few months and he’d be home; she began the chant she’d been using since he’d left as she waited for him to call. At first it was just twelve months and he’d be home.  Then ten, and five and now it was just over three, although she liked to think of it as two point something, because thinking or saying “two” was much more comforting than “three”.

It had been a very long year since he’d proposed to her last Christmas.  She’d barely had any time with him to enjoy being engaged before he was gone.  They’d moved him out the week between Christmas and New Year’s, much more quickly than anyone had thought they would.

She’d done her best not to cry too much, but he knew how much her heart was breaking to let him go – his was crumbling at least as much inside.  But at least she was home, where he knew she’d be relatively safe, whereas she had to learn to come to grips with the reality that he was going to be in the line of fire daily. 

He had brought her on base to meet up with his parents before he actually boarded the plane to leave, keeping her close at his side the entire time, except when he was hugging family and friends.  She was the last person he said goodbye to, taking her away from the rest of them for a moment to kiss her gently, lingeringly. 

“You behave while I’m gone, sugar.  ‘Cause I’ll know if you don’t.”

That brought a watery smile to her lips.  “I know.”

“I love you, honey, and I’ll be back before you know it.”

That was it for her.  She couldn’t agree to that, throwing herself into his arms with a wail.  “You can’t, because I already know!”

He held her against him until he absolutely couldn’t any longer.  Luckily his C.O. was relatively understanding about such things.  As it was, he didn’t just release her hand, but slowly tugged it away, so that they touched as long as was physically possible, and even then, he had kept his hand outstretched to her – as hers was to him – until he disappeared from sight.

And now she was here, in this awful, familiar position, awake at an ungodly hour, and giddily happy to do so if it meant that she would get to talk to him, however briefly.

How the focus of her life had changed in such a relatively short amount of time!  He had become her everything – and she his – despite the misgivings she’d had about him at first that had had her wondering whether she wanted to pursue a relationship with him at all.

 

She remembered thinking at the time that she had to admire the man.  He seemed to have an iron will – or iron balls was more like it.  They had petted and smooched and groped and necked through four long, passionate dates – well, three, considering that the first one hadn’t been particularly passionate, at least not until the end, when he’d left her in a lurch she hadn’t really even known she was in until he’d kissed her that first time.

Luckily he was much less reticent than she thought he’d be, given her first impression, and her reluctance to become too serious about a man who didn’t hesitate to blatantly threatened the health and welfare of a particular portion of her anatomy was easily overcome by his solicitous behavior, his humor and his intelligence – to say nothing of the way he made her feel when she was with him, even if they weren’t having sex.

He made her feel more feminine, more female, than she thought she’d ever felt in her life, and without excessive compliments, or any insults or negative comments whatsoever.  She’d reached a point in her life where she wasn’t all that interested in doing anywhere near the amount of “dressing to impress” that she’d done when she was in her twenties.  That took entirely too much work.  If he thought she spent too much time getting ready now, he would have killed her when she was younger.  She had her routine pared way down, and nowadays, unless she was going out of the house, she didn’t even bother to put a face on at all, didn’t curl her hair or even get fully dressed. 

She was all about comfort now, and she refused to hide that fact from him – not that he made her feel she needed to.

But the day she’d decided that he could see her with it all hanging out – well, at least not in work clothes, or even going out clothes – she neglected to consider the fact that he intended that all she would have to do was grab her coat and they would go.  And she’d been able to do that the past few times they’d gone out.  It hadn’t been easy, because that wasn’t her style, but a little less chatting online and a little more attention paid to the clock had allowed her to avoid what she had begun to think of in her mind as worse than death, however titillating she’d made it appear in her mind.

She wasn’t at all sure that the reality of the situation was anything she wanted to experience, although she was still dating him, so . . .

It wasn’t until he came through her front door while she was still in her sweatpants and a very old Hard Rock Café t-shirt with her laptop on her lap that she realized she’d definitely made a mistake in planning.

The first words out of her mouth were an admission of her own mistake, which probably wasn’t at all a good idea if she intended to mount a defense against the spanking she now knew was inevitable.  

But he was smiling as he came towards her, as if she looked like Miss America, when she thought she’d probably even forgotten to brush her hair this morning.  But she’d just become enamored of a web based post apocalyptic show that she’d spent the better part of the afternoon catching up on.  When she found a series she liked, she got as many of them as she could collect and watched them all at once, in the correct order, of course, one after the other.  And if she was lucky, and the show really was as good as she thought it was going to be, then they would become like Lay’s potato chips - she couldn’t possibly watch just one.

She’d wanted him to see her in all her unkempt glory, and, and it was huge points in his favor that it hadn’t seemed to faze him in the least.  But now she’d gotten herself into a different pickle altogether, one she didn’t think was going to turn out nearly as well for her.

He didn’t do what she’d worried immediately – as soon as she’d realized her mistake – that he would.  He hadn’t just stormed at her and thrown her over his knee and begun whacking her indiscriminately.  But then she knew him better than that, even now, when they were still getting to know each other.  She skittered off down the hall to her room and threw on jeans and a pretty top, bringing a cardigan along just in case she got chilly because he seemed to always end up giving her his coat or shirt when they were out.

They were just going to the movies and then out somewhere for dinner – nothing stiff and formal at all, and she liked that about him.  He seemed to be equally at home in a stuffy French restaurant as he was at the bowling alley they’d gone to last week.

She brushed her teeth, ran a brush through her hair then pulled it back into a ponytail with a pretty, lacy scrunchie that matched her shirt, grabbed her purse and met him back in the living room.  Seven minutes flat.  Not bad, if she did say so herself.  Of course, she wasn’t wearing any make up except some lip gloss, and every strand of her ponytail seemed like it was in business for itself, but she looked reasonably presentable.

As much as she wanted to crow about how quickly she’d gotten ready, she managed to restrain herself – barely - knowing that that would call undue attention to the fact that she hadn’t been ready when he’d arrived.

“You look gorgeous,” he said, closing those well muscled arms around her to lift her against him, her toes inches from the floor, for a delicate kiss.  Cole loved the way she blushed every time he complimented her about anything, as if very few people had ever said anything nice to her until he came on the scene, which he knew was patently false.  He’d met her parents already – had pretty much insisted on it – and they were lovely people who obviously adored their daughter.

Much like he was coming to.

“Thank you,” she whispered against his lips.

He was quiet for a long moment, until she looked up at him questioningly.

“You’re late, you know,” he whispered back, feeling her crumble in his arms, as if he’d deflated her somehow.  Had she really thought he wouldn’t notice?

“I know,” she replied glumly, her fingers coming to the opening in his golf shirt, where a smidge of his bare chest was revealed, to toy absently with the wiry hairs she found there.

“Just so’s you know,” he said, dropping her – carefully – onto her feet again.  “Let’s go.  What movie did we decide on, anyway, do you remember?”

Just like that?  That was it?  An acknowledgement that she had broken one of his rules for her and everything was still hunky dory?  It was too good to be true, but she let her mind use that comforting – however tissue thin – excuse to enjoy the evening with him and not spend it worrying what was going to happen when they came back to her apartment. 

They went to see “Ted”, which both of them really enjoyed.  He’d already complimented her on her broad sense of humor – giggling uncharacteristically at the irony of a broad with a broad sense of humor.

“Get it?” he’d nudged her in the ribs with his elbow, and she’d had a glimpse of what he must’ve looked like as a mischievous eight year old.

She also discovered his downfall that evening, and thoroughly enjoyed herself having found a chink in his shining armor:  he was a gadget freak, and he had almost all of them.  The line at the restaurant they wanted to go to was horrible, so they decided to waste some time at the mall, then attempt it again later, when the crowds thinned out.  There was a big box electronics store, as well as an Apple store there, and she could barely drag him out alive.  As it was, he treated himself to a video game he really didn’t need, and when she finally, literally, pushed him out of the Bose store, he was whimpering about their latest Bluetooth gizmo, which cost almost as much as her rent.

But he didn’t obsess about it quite as much as she did with her antique furniture, because once he’d whined a few times in the car on the way to the restaurant, that was all she heard about it for the rest of the evening.  It was so unlike him to whine that she’d found it more entertaining than annoying as he carefully listed off all the reasons why he needed a thingamajig that he so clearly didn’t need.

He sounded like her when she was trying to justify the purchase of a near mint Edwardian sideboard she definitely didn’t need, but still somehow had to have, only her rants were much less intellectual and well organized, and something much more along the lines of “Gimme!” and   “I want it!”

They hit a barbeque place for dinner that was the talk of the town, and for good reason.  She hadn’t been before but he had, and she knew she’d been missing something amazing when she tasted the barbeque sauce, all tomato-y and molasses-y with just the right amount of kick at the end.  They got a sampler place, which she thought was going to be way too huge for them, but then she remembered his appetite, which was prodigious.  Where he put it, she had no idea, because from what she could see, there wasn’t a spare ounce on him.  He was only about five ten or so, but he was solid muscle, top to bottom.

The way his shirt strained around his shoulders had her mouth dry, even when it was full of barbeque.

“Something wrong, Vic?” he asked, a rib in one hand and a ginormous microbrew in the other.  She looked flushed, as if her stomach hurt or something.  “Are you okay?  Do we need to go?”

Vicky shook her head automatically until she snapped out of her x-rated fantasy.  “No, no, I’m fine, just getting a bit full.”

“Well, you don’t want to overeat, now.  We’ve got business to take care of when we get home, and it involves you being on your tummy for a while.”

That was not what she wanted to hear.  Suddenly, all of that wonderful smoked and slathered meat tasted like sawdust, and she used the wet wipe they thoughtfully provided to literally throw in the towel.

Realizing that he’d just given her the sour stomach he’d been worried she’d already developed, Cole reached out and covered her hand with his.  “Now, don’t go anticipating uncomfortable things, honey, or you’ll spend your life miserable.”

She was still frowning, and refusing to look up at him.

“How about if we go for a drive by the water when we’re finished?  Would you like that?”

Vicky nodded that she would – and she did. She loved that he liked to drive a lot, and preferred being the passenger so that she could roll down her window and lean out of the car to drag the sweet smell of the ocean into her lungs.  But she couldn’t help thinking that it just delayed the inevitable.

It was relatively late when he turned his car back towards home, but it ended up being his home, rather than hers.  She wasn’t exactly sure what the etiquette was about throwing a screaming fit, but she figured he’d be agin it, so she trudged along behind him.  He hadn’t relinquished her hand from when he’d helped her out of the car, in fact, his hold was much stronger than it usually was – although not hurtful in any way, of course – as if he was worried she’d bolt.

She’d been to his place several times already.  It was bigger than hers but not by much, but still warm and homey, with lots of woods and comforting, forresty colors.

He put his keys on the rack by the door, dumped his wallet and change into the bowl that resided just beneath it, then guided her with a gentle hand on the small of her back to his man couch.  That was what she called it, having informed him that few women would voluntarily choose a huge, overstuffed brown leather couch with seats that reclined at both ends, and yielded both heat and massage.

She thought he’d take a seat in the middle, which would be more conducive to disciplining her, but instead he dropped onto the first corner seat he came to, tugging her down onto his lap after him.  Even though she was terribly nervous, his lap was a wonderfully comfortable place to be.  Big, strong arms closed around her, tucking her forehead against his neck as he spoke, rubbing his hand up and down her back soothingly.

“You know I care about you, don’t you, Victoria?”

He already sounded a lot like her father when he was cross with her, but she nodded almost sleepily against him anyway, lulled by the steady sound of his heartbeat and the low rumble of his voice through his chest.

“I do.  You’ve become very special to me in a very short amount of time, honey.”  He tipped her face up and kissed her, slowly, lingeringly, until he pulled back to say, “But I have expectations of your behavior that I think I made you very aware of, didn’t I?   It isn’t a surprise that you find yourself here on my lap, is it?”

“No,” she whispered, then cleared her throat and said it again, more strongly.

“Okay then.  I told you – weeks ago, so you’ve been doing very well at keeping track of your time and using it wisely to not keep me waiting when we go out.  But this evening you fell a bit short of your goal, didn’t you?”

She wanted to explain how she’d ended up doing that, but he didn’t look as if he wanted to hear any explanations or excuses.  He looked determined, but not upset.  “Granted, we really didn’t have a hard and fast appointment tonight.  If we’d missed the movie because of an accident or whatever, that’s no biggie.  But I think that expecting you to always be on time, whether it’s important or not, is a good thing.  I know I feel a bit disrespected when I get here and you’re still in your dressing gown or whatever – like I’m not worth the effort you’d have to make to be ready when I said I’d pick you up.”  Vicky leaned a bit back from him, with her lips parted, as if she wanted to defend herself and say that that wasn’t the case at all, but he put his finger over her those full, pink lips.  “I’m not saying that that’s what you intended; I’m just telling you how your behavior makes me – and probably other folks, too – feel.”

He lifted the both of them, then, so that he was positioned more towards the middle of the couch, and she clutched at him, not wanting to fall, and not wanting him to do what she knew he was going to do next – to stretch her out over his lap.  And she was absolutely right, because she found herself there seconds later, and no amount of struggling was going to get him to release her, either, she quickly realized when she collapsed, exhausted and scared, as she felt him reach beneath her for the waistband of her jeans.

He must’ve been very experienced at this, because despite the fact that she was actively trying to hinder his progress, her jeans and panties hit her ankles in record time, and with very little fuss, considering how wiggly she was being, even now.

But just the weight of one strong arm across her lower back convinced her to stop before he decided she needed a lesson in the decorum of getting a spanking.  Vicky laid her head on her arms, facing away from him, until he caressed the back of her head and gently turned it so that she could see him, which was something she wasn’t a sight she was at all sure she wanted to do.

“So, I’m going to spank you.  Not because I’m mad or upset or I want to settle some kind of petty revenge drive, but because I think it will help you be a better person, and I know it’ll make me happier if I can get you to do what you had been doing the past couple of times, making that extra effort to obey me, honey.  Eventually you’ll learn that that’s always going to be your best path.  Obey me, and you won’t ever end up back here again.” 

He wasn’t going easy on her because it was her first time at all.  If anything he was going to be quite a bit harder on her at first, stricter and more exacting, so that she had a good idea of what being in a relationship with him was going to be like.  He was already more than halfway in love with her, so if she decided to end it after this, he would be walking away wounded.  But he’d rather do that than be with a woman who truly resented or hated being disciplined by him.

So the first swat he ever delivered to her was full bore, and he let it sink in a bit before continuing, which he wouldn’t usually do, but he wanted to say something else to her after she’d had a small taste of what was to come.

“If you decide that this is not what you want, I’ll understand, believe me.  Like anything important in life, it isn’t easy.  It’s a sacred and profound trust between a couple that’s unlike conventional relationships; it’s a deeper emotional and psychological bond, and I’d like to share that with you.”

And with that, he began the first spanking he’d ever given her, and Vicky, as the level of discomfort in her backside began to rise exponentially with each connection of his hand to her bare bottom, began to wonder quite starkly just what the fuck it was that she’d gotten herself into.   

 


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