Adored by Carolyn FaulknerWhen Tessa comes to understand that with Sean, it's real - the submission, the spanking, all of it, she doesn't know if she can go through with what she thought she always wanted.
Tessa Martin had moved back to a small town in New Hampshire to get away from the rat-race in Florida. That, and a couple relationships that just hadn't turned out the way she had hoped. After four years, her small town life, consisting of a few good friends and her surprisingly successful flower shop, was not particularly exciting, but it was very satisfying.
Then her apple cart (or flower cart, possibly) was completely upended by one Sean Maddox, a local mechanic who spotted Tessa at the local coffee shop. Unfortunately for Tessa, that's not the only place Sean has spotted her, and Tessa finds herself upended by Sean as well.
With Sean, Tessa finds that her long time fantasies are becoming reality. The problem with reality, however, is that it smarts - particularly when it's a large male hand reddening an upturned female behind. Does she really want that?
When Tessa comes to understand that with Sean, it's real - the submission, the spanking, all of it, she doesn't know if she can go through with what she thought she always wanted. Can Sean change her mind by Valentine's Day?
"Adored: The Not Valentine's Valentine's Day" is Carolyn Faulkner at her best!
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Adored (Sample Chapter)
The Not Valentine's Valentine's Day
© Carolyn Faulkner and Blushing Publications, 2013
"If you're not careful, you're going to get a spanking along with your engagement ring," came the soft, husky warning.
She'd seen that look before, heard that scolding tone of voice all too often, and knew it well enough that she absolutely could not suppress the urge to squirm in her chair, a movement which she knew his hawk eyes wouldn't miss.
Sean was down on one knee before her with a velvet ring box in his hand. Tess could hear the distinct lack of the usual conversation that buzzed around them and knew that all eyes in the restaurant were on them.
Damn he was handsome, she thought. Too damned handsome for her, really. What did the man see in her, anyway?
Sean could see her busy little mind whirring away, but succeeded in distracting her by opening the box to reveal the big marquis diamond with two good-sized baguettes on either side. Her frosted pink fingertips had flown immediately to her matching pink frosted lips, those shockingly violet-blue eyes round with surprise.
"Be mine." Not at all a question - more of a Valentine command, though this was the day after Valentine's.
With total disregard for the expensive dress she was wearing, Tess joined him on the carpet to throw her arms around him and whisper, "Yes, please," into his ear and feel those muscled arms pull her even closer against him.
Was that a sigh of relief she'd heard? Had he been worried about her response? She wondered. Nah. Sean was the most self-confident man she'd ever known. Tess couldn't imagine that he had even considered her saying anything other than exactly what he wanted.
She also couldn't imagine what the consequences would be if she'd said no. Her bottom was still tingling from the spanking she'd received just before they had left on this little getaway.
The rest of the patrons had erupted in cheers when it was obvious that she had said yes, and they were gifted by the owners of the restaurant with a second bottle of champagne, with which to toast their long and happy life together.
Sean – ever the gentleman – helped her back into her chair, his hungry eyes never leaving her face as he then poured them both a glass, saying, as he raised his own, "To the woman I love."
To which she replied without hesitation, "To the man I love," clinking her glass with his, then taking a healthy swallow of the bubbly, thinking all the while that it certainly hadn't started out this way . . .
Tessa Renee Martin had moved back to Thompson Bend, New Hampshire four years ago, because it was one of the few places she could remember having been happy as an Air Force brat. Then the relationship that she had been sure was going to be her happily-ever-after had ended. After she had drowned the pain of his betrayal in whiskey and – her true Achilles heel – gold vanilla cupcakes with four inches of frosting on top, she pulled herself back into the real world and knew she had to leave the comfortable life she'd found in Florida.
The New Hampshire she found was much the same as she had remembered, with very few additions. There was the ubiquitous Walmart on the outskirts of town, and – as was requisite in every New England town, it seemed – a Rite Aid or a Walgreen's seemingly on every corner.
She felt immediately as if she'd come home, and with a renewed sense of purpose determined to follow her dream and open a flower shop. She had been the assistant manager of a very large one in Florida, but noticed that the distinctly, deliberately quaint downtown area of this tiny burg was lacking that service, and she thought that a florist might do well here.
Like almost all other small towns in the area, Thompson Bend had experienced a wave of gentrification that had produced expensive housing developments springing up out of what had previously been cow pastures. It was just close enough to Portsmouth to make that town's more citified accoutrements readily available, if one was willing to drive a bit, but not close enough, she thought, that her potential clientele would decide to go there for their floral needs.
Three years later, bearing the name that she'd always eschewed because it sounded so pompous. But Contessa's Flowers was, she had to admit, a modest success. While she hadn't been greeted with open arms – no small New England town was going to do that, she already knew – she had become a fixture in Thompson Bend. Tessa opened earlier and closed later than one might have expected of a one-woman shop. She always went that extra mile for her customers - whether that meant hand-delivering funeral sprays or doing a cross promotion event with the candy shop across the street. Tessa did her best to remember every customer by name, and their spouses' and kids' names, too, as well as the dates of their anniversaries and birthdays and she quickly built a loyal customer base because of it. She became involved in the town's celebrations, often donating her own time and floral displays which garnered great word-of-mouth advertising.
But even three years after settling here, Tessa was still adjusting to some of the more annoying aspects of living in a small town, and this morning was no different.
She was renting a small house that she truly loved near the coast, because – although it wasn't the dream house on the beach she intended to own one day – it did have a nice view of a tributary where she could walk and collect shells and sea glass when she was of a mood. It wasn't the prettiest of views, but it and the house itself suited her just fine except for the trip to and from the shop. Tessa felt certain that it was going to drive her over the edge. In the spring, summer, and most of autumn, it was the tourists dawdling their way into town. In the off-season, it was the natives who collectively decided they had to drive five miles below the posted fifty mile-per-hour speed limit.
That was exactly the situation she found herself in – yet again - this morning. She was going to be late to open the store if this damned hillbilly in the ginormous blue truck didn't wake up and find the accelerator with both friggin' feet.
There was one – count it, one – two-lane road into Portsmouth that didn't take you out and around and through the wilderness. She'd spent months in vain searching for a more efficient route to work. Route four was the most direct way, and, since this was late fall/early winter, it was rife with natives slow-poking their way into Thompson Bend.
The idiot in front of her was the worst. Not only was he going so slow Tess was surprised they weren't rolling backwards, but his truck was so damned wide she couldn't see around him to pass. They did this exact dance almost every morning; he seemed to have the same schedule as she did.
Well, no guts, no glory. Tess decided she wasn't going to dawdle along behind this idiot any longer than she had to. So, after peeping out around him as best she could and determining that there wasn't anyone barreling at her from the other lane, she downshifted into fourth and floored it, making the engine of her geriatric little Miata strain loudly with the effort.
Being in a hurry and having no patience at all, Tess hadn't judged things as well as she might have, and there was another car coming towards her as she moved into the oncoming lane. She barely made it past the huge truck and back to safety before the other car whooshed by, but as far as she was concerned, he was the one at fault; he was the one who had caused her to take her life in her own hands to pass him. She let him know it, too, giving him the old one-fingered salute in her rearview mirror as she sped well ahead. Tess barely made it to the shop in time to open as she fumed about the selfishness of other drivers.
When her part time employee and good friend Pam came in at ten, Tess decided to treat herself to a coffee. Tess didn't usually drink coffee as it didn't like her much, but today she had a definite taste for some java. There was a coffee shop just down the street that she occasionally patronized when the mood struck.
The Udder Place was a very traditional New England small shop - definitely not a Starbucks. They didn't do foam or pumps or ventis and just had three or four different flavors of good, real coffee – none of that fancy stuff. And although Tess was accustomed to getting exactly what she wanted, she figured she was probably the most demanding customer they had.
The line was nearly out the door when she arrived. She was immediately assailed by the smell of strong coffee offset by the enticing aromas of various baked goods. The line moved quickly, and before she knew it, she was up.
The owner of the shop was working the counter herself, as usual, and recognized her on site. "Hi, Tess! How goes the flower business?"
"It's going pretty well, if I do say so myself," she smiled back at Helen. "Well enough that, though. I thought I deserved a bit of a reward, so here I am."
"Well, what can I get you?"
"I think I'll succumb to temptation and get a large decaf, three splashes of skim and three Equals, please, with just a slight shake of cinnamon."
Helen had strategically located a huge display of luscious pastries right in front of her customers so they would have to look at them while their drink was made. When she handed Tess her coffee and saw the glazed look in her eye, she laughingly asked, "Anything else?"
Tess whimpered audibly, still staring at all the homemade delights and trying to decide just how good she wanted to be. Finally she groaned, "You are cruel and unusual, waving all of these goodies under my nose. I'm starving, and I'll have an apple-cider doughnut, warmed, with cream cheese frosting, please."
Helen deliberately left the frosting off of some of her wares, only to later slather a generous dollop of some delicious flavor onto the top. With the doughnut warmed just slightly, all of that frosting would melt onto and into and over, and Tess could barely wait to sink her teeth into it.
As she took her coffee and the small box containing the confection, Tess warned with a smile, "I'm going to blame my first heart attack on you, you know."
"It's been done already," Helen deadpanned back, already moving on to the next person in line who happened to be Sean Maddox, the man she knew was responsible for the puddles of drool already forming on her good tiled floor. The quiet owner of a local auto shop, Sean was the kind of man whose modesty about his good looks made him even more attractive. Even now, the majority of Helen's mostly female clientele was either eyeing Sean or trying to catch his.
Sean wasn't paying them any mind at all. His eyes were on Miss Martin, who had taken only a few steps away from the counter before she had the donut out of its case and was sinking her teeth into it with a moan of pure pleasure. He found her oral display quite interesting; certain parts immediately stood at attention, forcing him to use his morning paper to try to maintain some level of decorum in a public place.
Sean knew he should stop staring at her – especially considering his overreaction - but he just couldn't seem to drag his eyes away. She was enjoying her treat with such unabashed delight that all he could do was wonder if she'd be quite as vocal – or enthusiastic - when he had her beneath him in bed. The pastry had been so generously slathered with frosting that a bit of it remained just above the vermilion border of her full lips, as if daring him to lick it off.
"Sean?" Helen prompted loudly, dragging him rudely out of his reverie.
He recovered completely, clamping down successfully on his libido, at least for the time being. He thrust his head through the open door just in time to see where that thoroughly-enticing woman had gone once she'd left the coffee shop - about four doors down to the flower shop that had sprung up several years ago. He had noted the shop's opening at the time, but since he had no reason to go buying flowers he'd never met her. He was determined to change that, and did so the very next morning.
Tessa made it to work early the next day, having managed to avoid the annoying blue truck for once. It was about nine-thirty or so, and she was futzing with her deliveries in the back – putting some of the flowers into the cooler, sorting out the ones she wanted to display – when she heard the bell ring that signaled someone had entered the shop. She wandered out front to find a man standing amid all of her flowers, looking incongruous among the blooms - and extremely uncomfortable.
He was one of the most classically beautiful men she had ever seen in her life - and she had been a connoisseur since age eight. He wasn't overly tall, but was well-built, with an unmistakable y-shape – broad-chested, slim-hipped with heavily-muscled thighs and a full head of very closely-cropped dark brown hair, set off by a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee.
When she first laid eyes on him, she nearly dropped the large glass vases of flowers she was carrying. Her knees got weak and her heart began to pound. She wasn't that type of woman at all - the kind that got the vapors at the sight of a good-looking guy. No man had ever affected her like that, and she wasn't any too happy that he was, either.
Sean saw her almost stumble and reached out to relieve her of her burdens, but she recovered quickly and waltzed right past him. "Can I help you?" Tessa put the roses on display in the two bowed front windows, then turned back to him, holding out her hand. "I'm Tessa Martin, the owner. What can I do for you today?"
She clutched his hand firmly, pumped up and down twice, and let go. Sean was glad to see that she shook hands like she meant it, not prissily grasping the tip of his index and middle fingers with the very tip of her own as if he had leprosy.
"I'm Sean Maddox. It's very nice to meet you. And it's not so much what you can do for me, but rather the other way around." He extended his arm to her, offering her the coffee he had in his left hand, as well as a small bag he'd clutched with his ring and pinky finger. "A large decaf, three splashes of skim, three Equals and a shake of cinnamon, right?"
Amazed, Tessa blinked owlishly, taking the drink from him a bit hesitantly. "Yes, that's exactly how I take it. Thank you."
"And an apple-cider doughnut, warmed, with cream cheese frosting?" He was still proffering the bag, but only until he told her what it contained.
Tessa took the bag and peeked at the contents, sighing loudly. "You are a very bad influence."
He chuckled, and the sound poured over her like so much heated frosting. She could no more stop herself from looking at him now than she could stop the sun from rising in the East. "How'd you know what I liked? I'm fussy as all get-out, and you got it perfect the first time – even down to the doughnut." She left off that her last lover – not that that was what the man in front of her was going to become, of course – couldn't seem to remember her birthday after five years, much less how she liked her coffee.
"I was behind you yesterday and heard you order it," he answered, unabashedly confessing that he'd been eavesdropping on her.
For some reason, that idea made her blush furiously, and she added defensively, "Wow. You've got a good memory. I'm reallyparticular about my coffee."
He didn't look in the least concerned or annoyed by her idiosyncrasy, answering softly but firmly, "That's okay. I'm a particular man myself, especially when it comes to women."
Tess's mouth went Sahara dry at that, and she found she was having trouble swallowing because of it, so she took a big gulp of her coffee, scalding everything it touched in the process.
Smooth move, she chided herself, coughing violently.
Luckily, he decided to look around the place a bit and hadn't noted her distress. "How long have you been open?" he asked casually as she tried to assess what she'd decided had to be third degree burns to her mouth.
"Nearly three years."
"It looks like you're doing okay."
She had to smile a bit proudly. "Better than okay, actually. I'm ahead of where I'd thought I'd be."
"Really? Good on you, then." There was no trace of sarcasm in his tone whatsoever, as there would have been in Tighe's if he was here. "It's not easy to get a small business going nowadays." His eyes settled on her in a look that was somehow much more intimate than she was really comfortable with, audaciously peaking her nipples from three feet away. "I own the garage on the way out of town."
"Maddox Motors? I've seen it." So far she'd been lucky enough not to need him, but old Bessie was getting on in years – hell, she was already on in years. She was at the portals of ancient, and it would be convenient to know somewhere to take her when she started showing signs of age, especially since he was within walking distance. "How long have you been in that location?"
"Well, we've been there since about 1980, but I officially took it over from my Dad when I got back from a stint in Iraq about seven years ago."
Somehow that wasn't a surprising thing to hear from him. He had a very military bearing, and with his regulation short sandy blonde hair he just . . . looked like a soldier, somehow. Tessa cleared her throat. "Well, thank you for your service."
"You're welcome." No false modesty, no demurring, just flat, polite response.
He had yet to take his eyes off her, and Tessa's entire body was beginning to flush, as she already knew her face was. He took a step towards her, his eyes intent on hers. "So, does risking life and limb for God and country get me a date with a pretty lady?"
She couldn't stop herself. It just came out, force of habit. "I don't know. You'll have to find yourself a pretty lady to ask."
It wasn't as if she were ugly; she wasn't. But pretty? Not really, if she was honest with herself, and she always tried to be. She was . . . plain at best. She had probably come closest to pretty while she was living with Tighe, and was still attempting to keep herself up although she'd started neglecting some of the little things in this out-of-the-way town. No more mani-pedis. No more nylons or uncomfortably high-heeled shoes or slathering on makeup every morning. There was no need.
After finding out that Tighe had been cheating on her for more than a year - and right under her nose at that - she had sworn off of men entirely and decided to live for herself. No excuses, no more looking for Mr. Right or even Mr. Right Now. She could live fine without a man, and intended to do just that. Besides, she was just wary enough – even with Tighe - that she'd never really trusted any man enough to tell him what she really wanted out of a relationship. She couldn't imagine starting now, especially not with a man who – based upon his reproachful look at her disparaging comment about herself - honestly looked like he wouldn't hesitate to tip her over his lap if she said or did something he didn't cotton to. The very thought sent a crimson flush across her face and chest. She tried and failed to swallow down the lump of pure desire that had somehow lodged in her throat.
As she watched a thick eyebrow rise towards his hairline, she couldn't suppress a delicate shudder; her nipples remained embarrassingly, noticeably rock-hard beneath her blouse.
"I am asking a pretty lady," he said firmly, taking another step towards her, soft voice belying the steel beneath it. "I'm asking you, Tessa Martin - and I think you should consider your answer more carefully this time, because another one like that and you could find yourself in a heap of trouble."