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Chapter One


Sometimes life sucked. Today was one of those times. Actually, the whole week had been like that. Make that the entire two months Kami had worked here at MacAndrew-Cartwright Builders.

She looked at her monitor without really seeing it. She had a gazillion things she needed to be doing, files were stacked behind her to dive into, bills to pay bulged in another file in her desk drawer. Yet she couldn’t seem to start on any of her tasks. She couldn’t move forward until she set things right with her partner. Again.

She could almost see Reid MacAndrew sitting at his desk in the big corner office of the downtown Dallas firm, frowning as he grimly plowed through the paperwork in front of him. She’d added to his workload with the mess she had managed to make and he would have to fix. Again.

How could she keep messing up like this? She had a business degree, albeit never used until now. She’d been on several important nonprofit boards in the community. She wasn’t incompetent, but by her lack of successes lately that was in question.

She worried her lower lip and glanced at the clock on the wall nearby. She’d managed to have a mostly unsuccessful day, getting almost none of her To Do’s done. She was letting Reid down, herself as well. And with her inadequate accomplishments, she was making it uncomfortable for everyone involved in the business. She sighed heavily. Why had she ever thought she could step into her inherited role and be able to handle it? Until four months ago she’d led the pampered life of the eye-candy wife of one of Dallas’s wealthy, socially prominent businessmen. At least that was how the social elite in Dallas, her new partner, his staff and construction employees saw her. Pampered eye-candy. How disgusting was that? She really was so much more than that and she desperately wanted to prove it.

It was time to do something about the awkward atmosphere around here, which was her fault. Reid had barely spoken to her in the last two days, clearly holding back his temper. The secretary and office assistant avoided her, obviously silently siding with their long-time boss in whatever the problem was that they didn’t understand. Still, she didn’t quite have the guts to walk into his office and go nose-to-nose with him. Confrontations didn’t come easy for her. There had been more avoidance of discussing anything unpleasant than dealing with an issue in her marriage to Tom, Reid’s former partner and old college buddy.

Buck up and do something! her conscience demanded. She opted for confronting him from a distance and sent him an inter-office email. Still upset with me? She knew the message was an understatement, but it was a start.

Feeling better now that she’d sort of opened the lines of communication, she opened the client management program, determined to finally start working on something.

Two seconds later his Yes response flashed in the lower corner of her screen.

Her stomach tightened. A short and definitely not sweet comment. Usually Reid was pretty verbose so you understood his thoughts on any subject. This wasn’t a good sign.

Her fingers trembled as she sent another message: I’ve told you how sorry I am. That’s not good enough is it?
The phone next to her buzzed and she didn’t even have to look to know Reid’s extension light would be lit. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to answer. There was a sense of comfortable distance in communicating via email.

She sucked in a steadying breath and picked up the receiver. He didn’t wait for her to speak and instead gave a curt, “No.”

She slumped in her chair, thinking back to the partnership agreement she’d signed two months ago just before she started work here. It was an agreement between the two of them, beyond the one drawn up by the lawyers. A rather strange agreement with some unique clauses—rules, as Reid called them—and consequences for not following those specific clauses—disciplinary consequences. Lately she’d had some trouble with a couple of the “rules.” And then there was the costly mistake that they’d barely recovered from. He had a right to be upset with her; they all did.

When she didn’t answer, he finally said, “Remember our agreement?”

“Yes,” she said quietly.

Another internal email popped up from the receptionist. Her attention shifted to the message: I’m just reminding you that Amy and I won’t be here this afternoon. Actually, we’re leaving right now. I assume you can handle any phone calls the rest of the day.

“Did you just get Connie’s message?” he asked. “As she mentioned, I assume you will handle the phone duties.”

Kami nodded and realized he couldn’t see her. “Yes, I’ll take care of it.”

From her office near the front of the suite, she heard Amy and Connie walking out the front door. It was kind of a relief to have them gone, but there was still Reid to deal with. And any phone calls or clients who stopped by unscheduled.

“Back to the agreement,” Reid interrupted her thoughts.

“Ummm…yes.” Her heart pounded. This wasn’t a discussion she wanted to have and yet knew it was necessary.

The main phone line rang and she latched onto the excuse. “I’ve got to answer the call.”

“Fine, but we’re not finished talking about this matter.” He hung up and she snagged the other line.

“MacAndrew-Cartwright. How can I help you?”

A salesperson launched into a spiel about an opportunity for them to save hundreds of dollars each year by changing phone services. Because she was so distressed about getting back with Reid, she listened for several minutes before coming to her senses and telling the man “no” they weren’t interested. By the time she hung up, another email from Reid flashed: Lock the front door for now and come back to my office. We need to deal with the consequences you agreed to.

This was exactly what she’d feared. Oh God!

She made her way to the front door and locked it, but had trouble moving again. Reid was waiting for her. She had so many mixed feelings about her handsome partner. They had met in college, while he’d been a fraternity brother of Tom’s. They had been sort of a threesome on their early dates, and then he started withdrawing from her. She’d missed him, but Tom had seriously pursued her and finally they’d married their senior year. Reid hadn’t been particularly happy, even though he’d been Tom’s best man. Then he’d grown even more distant with her while Tom played pro-football for six years and then retired and went into business with Reid. But Reid had remained cool and distant with her right up until Tom died in their car accident four months ago. He hadn’t been pleased to learn that she’d inherited Tom’s 50 percent of the business, not when the plan had been for Reid to have the option to buy the percentage upon his death. He still wanted to buy her out. But she wasn’t ready to sell. She had a plan of her own about what she’d really like to do in the company…if she could talk Reid into it.

Not today, though. They had other “business” to take care of and she needed to be on his good side once more before she approached him about her plan.

She straightened her shoulders, put a hand to her nervous stomach and made her way down the hallway to Reid’s office. Their relationship was about to take a whole different turn. Could she really go through with this? She wanted to smooth over their problem and she wanted his respect, which meant she needed to not balk at what she’d agreed to. She still wasn’t sure why she’d agreed to this, but she had.

As she stepped warily into his doorway, he looked at her with both uncertainty and determination in his expression. This was a big step for him as well.

“I…I locked up,” she said anxiously.

He nodded. “Good. It’s time we got this behind us, Kamielle. It will clear the air, for both of us.”

Kami felt flutters of awareness, something she’d begun experiencing more of over the last month. She’d always thought Reid one of the best looking men she’d ever seen, but she’d not dwelt on that since she was married to his oldest friend. Tom had been a very jealous husband and their relationship had been strained almost from the beginning, even more so when he quit being a quarterback. She hadn’t wanted to do anything to make their situation worse. But now that Tom was gone…

She swallowed hard. Wrong time and place for such thoughts, if there would ever be a good time for thinking about Reid in ways other than as her business partner. How could she possibly consider him romantically when he was about to upend her over his knee?

“I really should stay close to the front to answer the phones,” she said quietly.

He shook his head, his dark eyes grimly determined. “This won’t take long.”

Good. If she was going to get spanked, she would prefer it be kept short and to the point. “Okay.” She wiped her sweaty palms on the sides of her skirt.

He pushed his chair back away from the large chrome and glass desk, very modern for a man with old-fashioned beliefs about spanking, she thought. “I know you’ve apologized for the error you made, to me and to the client. I know you understand that you did gravely wrong and almost ruined our company with your negligence, almost cost us our biggest client.”

All she could do was nod acknowledgment.

He held up a hand and motioned her to him. “You cost us a great deal of money in penalties and fines we had to pay.”

Kami looked at the floor, studied the pointed toes of her new heels. “I said you could take it from my share of the profits.”

 

Reid watched his unwanted partner fidgeting with her skirt, her head lowered in shame. He had accepted her apology and could have let the matter drop since both of them had already made big efforts to deal with what she’d mistakenly done. But it was more the principle of the matter now. She’d been over her head in what she’d tried to take on, shouldn’t be working here in the first place. No matter how he’d tried to talk her into letting him buy her out, she’d refused. He couldn’t let her risk the company’s reputation because she wanted to play at running a business she knew nothing about.

“No, the expense will be shared by us both. I shouldn’t have let you--”

Her small chin went up and her blue eyes flashed defiantly. “I’m a partner here! I can make some decisions…” The spirit went out of her and her shoulders slumped. “Okay, I made a particularly bad decision. But you were busy with other things and I thought I could handle it. I thought wrong.”

He sighed, feeling frustrated by the whole situation. But this was his business! Should be only his business! They would have that conversation again, another time. He forced that troubled thought aside.

“I give you credit for taking responsibility for the damage you caused.” He met her eyes and looked away from them. He’d always liked her big, sky blue eyes. Actually he liked far too much about her, had for years, although he’d tried to never show his feelings for her. Tom had known how he felt about her, though.

He shoved that issue to the side as well. “I know that writing those letters to the government agencies involved in dealing with the construction problems and talking personally to the city’s inspector wasn’t easy.”

“No, it wasn’t.” She raised her shoulders again, her breasts pushing at the front of her white, button-down blouse unbuttoned enough that he had a good view of cleavage. Too good a view.

“But I still had to step in and fully take care of the problem. I had to make guarantees that the part of the stage of construction affected by the wrongly ordered materials would be removed and rebuilt.” He snagged her gaze and held it this time. “This was an error that cannot ever happen again or our reputation will be ruined.”

Her face turned red in her embarrassment and she nodded without speaking. “The reason we’re having this talk now is not specifically because of what you mistakenly did. It’s for going against what we agreed to do.”

“For breaking a few of your rules,” she inserted, a hint of annoyance flashing in her eyes.

Our rules,” he corrected. “The ones you went against were… Do you even know which ones I’m talking about?” He watched her, wondering if she would even respond. In fact, he was still surprised she had signed the private agreement they’d made on her first day here. He hadn’t been sure he would actually stand behind the terms, hoped he would never be faced with having to. And he’d been surprised that she had come in here to deal with him about this when he’d told her to a few minutes ago. She had to know he planned to bare her sweet bottom and burn it.

She simply stood there looking at him for a couple of minutes. Then she blew out a resigned sigh and said, “Yes, I know which rules you are referring to.” She shifted her gaze away, her cheeks still pink. “Never make an important company decision on my own, talk to you about it first.”

She glanced up and away again. “Never go behind your back. Never lie to you.” Now she looked up. “I handled all of it wrong. I get that. And I took too long in pulling you into the problem.”

“It won’t happen again.” He made the statement and he’d stand behind it. “If you even come close to causing this company another serious problem like this, I will bring my lawyers into it.”

She paled and he felt a bit of a badass for threatening her, but he’d built this company and would do anything to protect it. Right now he planned to take this woman who had been in far too many of his dreams over his knee. She had a body from any man’s wet dreams and he could only imagine what a sight her creamy bottom would look like. He’d spanked one or two women over the years, mostly for fun. This would not be for fun, but he had a feeling he would still enjoy it, to a certain extent.

“Come here.” He patted his leg.

“We couldn’t just mark this time up to…up to….” She heaved a deep sigh and walked toward him. “Never mind, waste of breath.”

He gave her a small smile, pleased with her decision. As she stood a couple of feet away, he tested her. “In my opinion, a spanking doesn’t do any good unless it is applied to a bare butt.”

Her eyes widened. “Bare?”

“Bare butt,” he confirmed, seeing her tremble. Yet she still didn’t go running from his office.

The phone rang and she jerked, gasped, “I should answer that.”

“No. We’ll let it go to voicemail.” He patted his leg again. “Let’s get this over with.”

 

Kami thought for a second about turning on her heels and racing out of Reid’s office, out of the company’s doors, maybe even out of Dallas. But she was made of tougher stuff than that. After all she’d stayed married to a man who had very little use for her other than in bed because she didn’t believe in divorce. She’d vowed to love, honor, and obey until death did they part. Never had she dreamed that one of them would die so soon. Now she was rebuilding her life and she was going to get it right this time. No man was going to treat her again like she had no real worth. No man was going to tell her what to do.

She glanced at Reid and saw him patiently waiting for her. She’d never seen him disrespect a woman, never seen him try to enforce his dominance over someone smaller and weaker than him. He was so far opposite Tom, such a better man. Yes, he intended to show a certain amount of dominance now as he spanked her, but somehow that was different. She knew in her gut that he wouldn’t abuse her, wouldn’t truly hurt her. He just needed to get a point across to her and he needed to do it with the flat of his hand applied to her poor bottom. Oddly she was okay with this.

He sat in his executive chair and let her make the final decision. She looked at his muscled legs hidden by the dress slacks, noticed how big his hands were. It had been probably been twenty years since she’d been turned across anyone’s knee and spanked. She almost didn’t remember what to do. Her stomach fluttered with nerves as she stepped next to his right side.

Behind her, the phone call finally went to message. The office became silent, tension thrumming between them. Finally Reid pulled her closer and helped her stretch awkwardly over his lap. Her nearly waist-length blond hair draped around her head as she planted her sweaty palms on the carpet. Her cheeks were hot in embarrassment, but she knew there was more humiliation to come.

He smoothed a hand across her skirt-covered bottom and she shivered. The scent of him surrounded her: a faint sensual aftershave, the musky smell of his arousal. An aroused erection she felt against side of her hip. He wanted her and she now realized that she’d seen other signs of his interest in her, but she’d been too naïve to understand those signs at the time. Clearly they would have to deal with their mutual attraction at some time in the future.

His hand moved to the hem of her skirt and he pulled it over her back, as she lifted up enough to let him do so. Then she heard him suck in a breath as he saw the thin black thong she wore and must have noticed that she didn’t wear any kind of nylons. Tom had not allowed her to wear stockings and had often not even allowed her to wear any kind of underwear. When he wanted access to her, he wanted it without any complication. It had been strange at first to be so almost naked beneath her clothes. Now she preferred to dress this way. And as Reid’s hand moved to gently touch her buttocks, she believed he liked it too.

“Such a naughty woman,” Reid croaked out. “A good kind of naughty.”

Her bottom quivered and she so wished he wasn’t touching her like this before he would spank her. She could imagine…

“I don’t even have to pull your panties down.” He stroked a finger along the sides of the thong, down, down, down, until she automatically inched her legs further apart and trembled again. His hand stayed between her legs long enough for him to find out her reaction to his touching her.

He slowly brought his adventurous finger back up along the line of her thong. His voice was husky as he said, “About to get your ass burned and you’re moist with arousal.” He gave a quiet groan and shifted his erection to a more comfortable position. “You’re killing me.”

She attempted to look up at him but her hair got in the way. “We could do…”

“Oh believe me, sweetheart, I would very much like to do something else besides spank you.” He pulled his hand away. “But I fully plan on following through with this.”

She tensed, knowing the time had come. In the next instant the hand that had smoothed over her bottom, teased her, rose and came down smartly on the middle of both cheeks. She arched upward and yelped.

“It’s been a while since you’ve been spanked, hasn’t it? That wasn’t even a hard swat.” He landed another one to her right butt cheek.

She settled down and felt the blood rushing to her head. “A while, yes.” She would have been perfectly fine with never getting spanked again.

He caressed her buttocks, teasing his finger along the upper part of the thong. “Tom never…”

All Tom had wanted her for was sex and to be a trophy wife he could show off. He’d dominated her more by raising his voice and intimidating her in that way. She’d only wanted to get along. Now she realized she’d lost who she was somewhere along the line. She’d been outgoing and extroverted before Tom, but for some reason most of that had faded away in her submission to him. Now here she was submitting to another man, yet this seemed different. She was giving Reid permission to dominate her in this manner. In her heart, she knew she wouldn’t have let Tom physically discipline her. Something else she needed to think about at another time.

“No, Tom never spanked me.”

“You’ve got a great ass,” Reid said quietly, once again lifting his hand. “Creamy, smooth. Perfect for getting spanked, for turning a pretty shade of red.”

Curious, she tried to look at him again, and failed. “You like spanking women?”

He tucked her close to him. “I’m not a pervert, but I admit to enjoying seeing a woman’s sweet bottom upturned over my lap.” He swatted each butt cheek once, firmly. “I like the way your ass quivers at the feel of my hand. I like seeing the pink handprint left behind.”

Kami squirmed, not so much from the sting so far, but from what he said and the huskiness of his voice. “So you’re enjoying this?” At the moment she was, too.

“Definitely.” Then he pulled in a deep breath and said grimly, “But neither of us is going to enjoy this much longer. I’m going to make it very clear that you aren’t ever to do something this stupid again.”

She knew it was pointless, but she had to try. “You won’t just accept my promise not to do so?”

“Are you telling me to stop? Changing your mind about our agreement?”

Yes, I don’t want to do this anymore. Instead she tried to relax and said, “Finish it.”

“Good answer.” He got down to the serious business of making sure she understood his point of view. He peppered her bottom with sharp, biting spanks, all the while holding her firmly in place.

She tried to lie still, tired to contain her need to cry out. But he took her to her breaking point. She wriggled for all she was worth, fluttered her legs until her heels flew off. She cried out in pain and sobbed in misery. It was a hard lesson learned.

He sent two final swats to the lower curve of her cheeks. “That should do it.”

She collapsed into a sobbing mess over his lap, relieved that it was over with, too miserable to get up.

He let her stay there for several minutes before helping her off his lap. His eyes had darkened and he watched her like a man in serious lust, but he didn’t bring up his obvious need for her. “You took that very well.”

Kami flinched as her skirt slid down over her tender bottom. She wanted to reach back and rub at the sting, but her father had never allowed it and she didn’t know what Reid would allow. Instead she stood in misery and dabbed at her tears. “You give a sound spanking.”

He smiled. “Go ahead and rub, not that it really helps…or so I’ve been told.”

Her face flamed as much as her bottom, but she did move her hands back to cover her throbbing bottom. “Are we good now?”

“Better.” He looked at her with determination. “Good will be when you agree to let me buy you out.”

She felt silly standing in front of her partner covering her bottom that he’d just spanked. Having a conversation about business now seemed…well, strange. But she raised her chin and said, “Then I’ll have to settle for better, because I’m not selling out.”

Annoyance flashed in his eyes and she missed seeing his aroused interest in her. “I guess you had better go man the front desk, answer the phone.”

“It’s not going to…” She stopped. He wasn’t going to care that sitting would be uncomfortable. He’d spanked her, done deal. Sighing, she turned toward the door. “Just another part of the punishment, right?”

“I’ll answer the phone myself, even kiss your tender ass, if you’ll change your mind about selling out.”

She snorted and turned to look back at him, irritated by his cocky, challenging expression. “I can answer the phones, standing for a bit if necessary. My tender ass will heal and it doesn’t need your kisses.” With that she strode out of his office.

He chuckled and she bristled. Then she smiled. This partnership just might be more enjoyable than she’d thought. If she didn’t go over his knee again anytime soon, that is.