It always started the same way. Quiet. Dark. A feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach she tapped down, shoved away, knowing what was coming and what would happen, but this time, she’d stop it.
She tried to speak. Oh God, this time, she’d be able to speak. But she couldn’t. The wheels of their Mazda flew over the slick, wet ground, dark as the midnight sky, and as she became aware of where they were, the silence fell away to hard rock music streaming from the radio. Paolo kept rhythm to the pounding music on the radio on the wheel. Ba dum, da da da, ba dum, whack whack whack, grooving. She opened her mouth. It was coming. This was the part; this was where she needed to stop him. He had to turn around. He had to stop. She had to stop him now.
Her mind screamed at him, but no words came. She reached her hand out, and he turned to her, that grin on his face that she’d fallen in love with, the same grin he had when he was a teen. And those words. Always the same words.
No, don’t say it this time, Paolo, oh please don’t, that’s when it happens, no, no—
But no words came. She felt as if her mouth was bound shut, lips frozen, anything more than a mute observation an impossibility.
His eyes crinkled at her, oblivious to the silent horror movie she was living out as he smiled. Paolo, no! It was a trigger, his words. As soon as he said it, it would happen.
She had to stop him. She lifted her hand, but he opened his mouth to speak.
“Eu te amor.”
Slam! The driver’s side door crashed in on him, the window shattering into a brilliant shower of broken glass as she felt the car spinning, and she tried to scream, but no words would come out as she was pummeled into confusion. Tires squealing, people shouting, her own screams now blending with the others, blinding flashing lights, spinning, spinning, spinning, the brilliant, horrific splash of scarlet as Paola’s head fell to the dashboard…
She woke with a start. Her heart was pounding so badly she felt nauseous and dizzy. She could tell immediately she hadn’t made a sound, despite the terror and noise of her dreams. The room was wrapped in silence, save for the steady breathing next to her. She inhaled deeply, shutting her eyes, trying to quell her terror, her heart pounding so loudly she could hear it in her head.
Bam, bam, bam.
She wiped her sweaty palms on the bedspread. She was covered in perspiration, her hands shaking. She took a long, shuddering breath as she closed her eyes, but closing her eyes always brought her back, and as she remembered that, she immediately opened her eyes again.
Meredith looked at the sleeping form of her husband next to her. Oh, how she longed to climb back in bed, have him lift her in those strong arms of his, and hold her as the panic seeped out of her. He used to rock her in his arms, whispering, “hush, baby,” and she’d loved that.
But she couldn’t go to him now. No. He hadn’t touched her in bed in weeks. He was lost in his own world, as if an invisible wall were up between them. He couldn’t hold her. He couldn’t calm her.
He had no comfort to give.
With one last, longing look at the rise and fall of his back, she swung her legs over the bed as quietly as she could, picked up her phone beside the bed, and tiptoed out of the room.
She would do what had become habit. She’d retreat into fantasy.
Back to where she could escape. Back to where she was safe. Back to where there always was a happy ending.
“What’cha reading over there, Meredith?”
She shut the Kindle app on her phone and put it on the table, trying to appear nonchalant and not mortified. She shrugged as Tom, her boss, plunked coins in the vending machine behind her. She was grateful he was behind her, as he wouldn’t see the sudden flame of her cheeks. What was she thinking reading at work? But she thought she’d been alone and was so caught up in her book she didn’t know he’d entered.
“Oh, nothing,” she said with forced calm. “Just another romance.”
He chuckled as his can of soda clunked to the bottom of the vending machine, and he pushed the metal tray to retrieve it. She heard him pop open the top as he came around to face her. He was tall, with a large, heavy build, and balding, but his smile was friendly and his voice kind.
“My wife loves that stuff,” Tom said in his gruff voice, taking a large gulp of soda. “She reads those historical ones, what do they call ’em? The ones with the guys with greased, bare chests holding the heroine in the crook of his arm. Body tearers?”
Meredith smirked. “Bodice rippers.” The thought of Tom’s quiet wife immersed in a bodice ripper amused her.
He laughed, hiking up his khakis over his ample waist. “Yup. Fabio saves the day. Again.”
She shrugged. “It’s just fantasy,” she said. “Fun to read.”
“You like that kind?” he asked. She knew he didn’t really care. He was just making small talk.
What would he say if he really knew what she was reading? Did he even know books like what she read existed? Would he still treat her with the same respect if he knew?
“Sometimes,” she said, picking up her yogurt cup and tearing the lid off, trying to appear nonchalant. “I read a lot of different genres.”
He nodded. “Me, too.”
Oh, you don’t read the genres I do , she thought to herself, suppressing the giggle that suddenly bubbled up in her throat. But on the outside, she forced herself to be polite, and look interested.
He turned to leave. “You and Marylou should talk sometime,” he said. “Exchange titles. Maybe you could give her some new ones.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Meredith said, shoving a spoonful of yogurt in her mouth.
“See you in a bit.”
Not on a bet , she thought, watching the retreating figure of her boss go down the hall. Oh, he had no idea.
She glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes left. She longed to get back to her book. She was captivated by it, drawn so deeply into the story she found it easy to escape into the dark, seductive scenes. But no, not here. Not now. Although no one could see the cover of the book she was reading, it was too risky. And she didn’t want fifteen minutes. She’d wait until she was home, where she’d have hours upon hours of time to be by herself, as Paolo wouldn’t even eat dinner with her, and she could escape back to her private world.
“You want some pasta, honey?” she called out. He didn’t answer.
Meredith heard a grunt. With a sigh, she went into the den, where he sat propped up on a chair in front of the television, the remote lying in his lap.
She’d always loved this room. It had been her favorite for when they hosted parties. Bay windows lined the wall, adorned with the sage-colored drapes her mother had sewn for them. She missed her mom, more so in the loneliness of the months following the accident than she’d ever missed her. During the day, light streamed into the room, bringing warmth and comfort. A gleaming mahogany bar lined the wall, hand-built by Paolo, with the bar stools Paolo had restored himself. They’d found them at an estate sale for a song, as they were dull and worn, but they’d come to life again under Paolo’s expert hand.
“You hungry?” she asked, louder this time.
“No thanks,” he grumbled. She looked back to the stove with a sigh. She’d be bringing leftovers to work for days. Ever since their son had gone to college, she always cooked too much. Carlos ate like a linebacker, and she learned to cook for one. Paolo used to match him, but his appetite had waned since the accident, and now more often than not, she found empty bags of pretzels and cereal boxes next to his chair in the den. He rarely ate dinner with her anymore.
Meredith scooped a good-sized portion into a bowl, and retreated to the dining room. She snagged her phone off the counter as she left. Now was as good a time as any.
She sat down at the furthest corner of the room, and hit the Kindle app on her phone. She read, wide-eyed and mesmerized, as she took a bite of ravioli. This was the part where she’d left off at work. She was glad she’d waited to get home for this. Things were just starting to get juicy.
“I told you not to come tonight,” Master Tanner growled. “You were told not to come here without permission, and you’ve blatantly disobeyed me.”
“I thought if I came, you’d understand,” Sylvia whimpered. She knew she was in trouble. He’d warned her, and the hopes that he’d let her off the hook when she arrived and pleaded for mercy were dashed as his eyes narrowed on her and a muscle twitched in his jaw.
“I understand all I need to know,” he said. “I had business to attend to, and wanted to be able to give you my undivided attention when I called you. Because of your defiance, it will not be the kind of attention you craved.”
He stood and the power he had over her radiated from him as she cowered against the wall. She felt hot arousal pulsating through her despite her fear. He’d been working out when she arrived, in a thin, sleeveless shirt, and his muscles glistened as he flexed them.
“I’m too angry with you to punish you yet,” he said, his eyes narrowing on her dangerously. “Go upstairs. Strip. When I come up, I expect you kneeling for your punishment wearing nothing but your collar.”
Sylvia nodded and made for the stairs, but he grabbed her by the elbow and delivered a stinging swat so hard she yelped in surprise.
“Yes, sir!” she said.
“Better,” he said. “Now, go. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll do exactly as I say.”
Sylvia walked up the stairs, blood pounding in her ears as she obeyed. Why had she disobeyed him? Why had she done what she knew would get her punished? She’d hoped he’d understand. She hated being apart from him, and she’d hoped once he knew how lonely she was, he’d cave. But he’d given her an instruction, and their arrangement was clear. Disobey, and incur punishment.
Meredith jumped as her phone buzzed.
Holy shit, I’m shaking , she thought, as she silenced the phone. It was just a text from Carlos, and she couldn’t bear the thought of responding to him when she was right in the middle of a book like this. She peeked through the door and listened to see if Paolo had moved. Nothing. She quickly finished the last few bites of her dinner, stepped into the kitchen, and cleaned up as quickly as she could. She couldn’t wait to get back to the scene. This was her favorite part, when things heated up, the tension and the build up to a hot and heavy scene. She wanted to be alone, preferably in the dark recesses of her room, where no one would see her flushed cheeks.
“I’m going to go read,” she called into the den. “Let me know if you need anything.” If Paolo responded, she didn’t hear him.
Fine , she thought, the sudden anger flaring up so suddenly it surprised her. Don’t give a damn. I’ll just go and read my books and you can go on doing whatever the hell you’re doing, and this is just goddamned peachy.
She swallowed hard, took her phone, and walked down the hallway to their room, eager to get back to her fantasy world, eager to feel the pounding of her heart, eager to feel the relaxing comfort the adrenaline surge would bring her. Maybe tonight. Maybe tonight she’d even do what she’d been longing to do but hadn’t found the nerve. God, but she needed the release. She turned her phone back on.
Sylvia removed her clothes with shaking hands. First, she slithered out of the jeans she wore, Master Tanner’s favorite. She folded them neatly—he hated sloppiness—and placed them on the bedside table. She lifted the soft, silky red shirt she was wearing, the one he’d bought her in Vegas, and pulled it over her head. That, too, joined the neatly-folded jeans. With shaking hands, she removed her bra, then stepped out of her thong. She added those to the pile of clothes. She’d already slipped out of the heels she wore—if it were a play session, he’d likely have her keep those, but he’d said nothing, and now was the time she had to obey completely.
She felt raw. Vulnerable. Exposed.
She swallowed hard and knelt by the bed. How long would he make her wait? How angry was he? He’d once made her wait over an hour for him, the time she got a ticket for speeding and lied about it. That time she’d been sent to wait for him in the corner. Oh, God, that punishment had been awful. He’d used the acrylic paddle, the worst implement they owned, until she begged for mercy, and when he was done, he’d taken her, all him, denying her the release of her own climax, and sending her to bed without so much as a goodnight kiss. But that was expected, as his slave. Her sole purpose was to do what her master bid her.
What would he use? There was no doubt he’d spank her. Punishment always began with a spanking. Sometimes he would compound it by making her shower afterward, the hot water stinging her aching backside. Sometimes, he’d ground her, take away her privileges of driving the next day, or take away the computer, or her phone. Sometimes, he’d stand her in the corner after a spanking.
What would outright disobedience earn her? Thank God she hadn’t talked back to him. That would earn her a paddling like no other. She took a shaky breath, as she knelt in anticipation and fingered the thin golden collar around her neck. She tugged it. She couldn’t remove it if she tried but sometimes she wanted to feel it there. The key to it lay in the bedside table, next to the paddle, the strap, the blindfolds and cuffs, all under lock and key. Not that she’d ever try, though she’d fantasized about throwing the cane out the window. That drawer of toys was Master Tanner’s.
She heard footsteps on the stairs and her breath caught in her throat. He was coming. He’d still be angry, but if he were coming to punish her, he’d have gained control of his anger. This was the worst part, as she awaited her punishment. It was worse even than the punishment itself. Would he put her over his knee? Not likely. He liked the intimacy of an over-the-knee spanking, as did she, but that was for fun. That was for when she’d been good. That was for when they needed to connect, or when he needed to remind her of her place. For punishment, he wouldn’t allow it.
Meredith stopped. Her heart was pounding. Part of her felt silly. What was it about scenes like this that caused the twisting in her stomach, the stuttering breaths, the pulsating heat between her legs? Oh, God, but she was overdue. She closed her eyes, her hand traveling under the blankets. She spread her legs, exploring what she knew what would be hot arousal. She’d give anything for her fantasy to come to fruition, her dark-eyed lover, her master, to come and relieve her. He’d do—something—to her. She hadn’t really explored what yet. Maybe he’d spank her, but then he’d go down on her, and she’d feel the warmth of his mouth on her in sharp contrast to the stinging, sensual, hot feel in her ass, and he’d bring her to climax under his command.
Hell, she’d give anything for damn missionary sex with Paolo.
It had been weeks, maybe even months. She felt the flare of temper again, her hand between her legs forgotten at the memory of the last time they made love. She’d practically begged him, and he’d finally given in. It had taken her forever to get him hard, and she hated that it did. It made her feel ugly, unwanted, unattractive. When she finally had, he’d come back, just for a moment, that passion in his eyes again as he’d pushed her back onto the bed and entered her. She’d wanted so badly to climax, but she rarely could climax with him in her. He’d done his… duty. The momentary passion fled, and he continued the ritualistic thrusting in and out, but he was gone, somewhere else, and she lay there, taking it, fighting the desire to push him off of her until he groaned into his own climax.
He’d tried to get her to climax after. He’d pulled her onto his chest and thrust his hand between her legs, but she’d pushed him away. His heart wasn’t in it. She felt used. She didn’t want him doing his duty. She wanted him to make love to her.
She wanted her husband back.
With an angry sigh, she turned back over on the bed and opened her book again.
The door to the bedroom opened, and she could hear him enter, though she didn’t move. He had what could only be called presence. She felt him behind her, as if he radiated heat, as the door clicked shut and she heard the lock. They were alone. But something about the finality of the lock made her heart pound. She kept her head down, not daring to look up, speak, or even breathe. He expected complete submission when he was ready to punish her, and her punishment would only be worse if she so much as looked the wrong way.
“Stand,” he commanded, his deep voice reverberating over her naked body. She stood quickly, head straight up, staring at the wall in front of her. She heard him standing behind her. She waited for the drawer next to the bed to open, but she heard nothing. She knew he was drawing this out. He knew she was shaking, at his mercy, and that her nerves were on fire.
“Bend over the bed,” he instructed. She obeyed. She knew how he expected her to assume the position, ass in the air, the edge of the bed flush against her belly, legs spread wide.
“Hands flat down,” he said. Her palms splayed obediently on the bed, her face cheek down, eyes closed. She swallowed, trying to quell the fear that crept in. She waited. When would he open the drawer? What would he use?
It was then she heard the clink of his belt buckle.
She was glad she hadn’t said that out loud as he’d paddle her harder for swearing.
He hadn’t strapped her in months. He knew she loved his belt, when she wasn’t being punished, and he’d make her wait for it. It was far different when wielded for punishment. She heard the jingle of the buckle and the whoosh of it as he removed his belt from the loops.
“Why are you getting a spanking, Sylvia?” he asked.
“I disobeyed you, Sir.” She gulped.
“And what happens to little girls who disobey?” he asked, the hard edge of his voice melting her legs to jelly. She swallowed.
“They get punished, Sir,” she whispered.
“That’s right,” he said, his voice just above a whisper now. “How many do you think you deserve, young lady?”
She closed her eyes. She hated when he asked her this. It wasn’t up for debate. He was making her squirm.
“I don’t know, Sir,” she gasped. She heard him growl.
“Fifty, Sir!” she said, eager to prevent his anger. Fifty with the belt would be grueling. “I’ll take whatever you give me, Sir!”
“You’re damn right, you will,” he growled. “Fifty sounds like a good start.” She swallowed, bracing herself for the first swat. Without warning, she heard the zing of his belt through the air. She yelped as she felt the sting of it land on her naked bottom. She lay still, the pain of his belt warm on her, as his belt struck again.
Over, and over, and over again, as he lectured her.
“Who do you belong to?” Swat!
“You, Sir!” she gasped.
“Whose bidding do you obey?” Swat!
“Yours, Sir!” Swat! Swat! Swat!
She lost track of the count, as his belt landed, over and over again, sometimes in the same place. It was painful, but he was going slowly, and she could take it because she knew she deserved it. She’d agreed to obey him, and she’d disobeyed. She deserved to be punished. He was always fair, and she would take every stroke of his belt so she could learn her lesson.
Meredith’s hand went back under the covers. Shit, but this was hot. A little voice whispered in the back of her mind Why are you so turned on by pain? This sounds awful! But she ignored that little voice. She didn’t want to think. She wanted to feel. Oh, God, she wanted to feel again, how she longed to feel again. No more hiding. No more loneliness. She longed for the loss of control she’d only read about, she longed for one of those earth-shattering orgasms that made her scream.
Fuck it , she thought, as she turned back to her book, her hand between her legs, as she forgot to breathe, reading the strapping scene, then going back and reading it again, as she brought herself to climax, felt the shuddering release under the covers as she closed her eyes, pretending with all her might that it wasn’t herself, but her master who’d allowed her pleasure.
Her head fell back on the pillow. She was spent. Her phone fell next to her, her arm draped over her forehead. She felt relaxed. At peace. And lonelier than she’d ever been in her life.