“Jan, it’s been nearly two years since you and Pete broke up! At least give Rob a chance. I promise you won’t be sorry.”
Jan McKenzie folded her arms over her chest and shook her head. “I don’t date anymore, Connie. And I especially don’t do blind dates.”
Connie Miller rolled her eyes at her best friend. “Not every man on Earth is a rat fink bastard like Pete, you know,” she ground out through clenched teeth.
Jan shrugged. “Well, I don’t have the time or the energy to sort them all out. So, I repeat, I don’t date anymore. It makes my life much more simple.”
Connie narrowed her gaze. “You’re being so stupid, and you don’t even know it! There are dozens of women out there who would jump at the chance for one date with Rob Shepard. The man is drop dead gorgeous! And he’s funny and kind; he holds doors and chairs at the table, for crying out loud! He even walks on the side of the sidewalk closest to the street. A real, old-fashioned gentleman! What could you possibly find to complain about with that?”
“I’m perfectly capable of holding my own doors and chairs,” Jan said in quick return, a smile twitching at her lips as she watched Connie sigh in frustration. “And, for as infrequently as it happens that a runaway bus comes careening onto the sidewalk, I suppose I can take my chances walking down the street without a man beside me to take the brunt of the crash.”
Her friend pointed at her accusingly. “You are impossible.”
She laughed and grabbed Connie’s finger, pulling it to her lips for a quick kiss. “I’m sorry, Con. I don’t mean to drive you crazy. I just don’t have any desire to date anyone.”
Connie’s gaze fell away, and for a few minutes, she looked defeated. Then a light brightened her face and she turned back to Jan with a crafty smile. “What if there was something in it for you?”
Jan folded her arms over her chest again and skewered her friend with a warning glare.
“No, no, don’t look at me like that,” Connie cajoled, holding her palms out in a plaintive gesture. “I just mean, what if it was suddenly worth your while? Would you go out with him? Just once?”
“Why is this so important to you?”
“Because you’re my best friend and I want to see you happy!”
“I am happy!”
Connie snorted inelegantly.
“Sitting at home every night of your life, except for the few times I can drag you out of your apartment, does not constitute a happy life, my dear. Collecting rescue cat upon rescue cat—slowly working your way up to being the crazy cat lady of the neighborhood does not give you happiness. Working sixty hours a week does not a happy person make. Love, Jan, you need some love in your life. Some romance. Flowers, mushy love notes, candy, and teddy bears. Sex! For God’s sake, girl, you can’t honestly sit there and mean it when you say that you’re happy without all that!”
“Well, at least I’m safe,” Jan mumbled.
It hurt to have Connie’s gaze soften on her the way it did then. “Safe isn’t the same thing as happy, Jan.”
She sighed heavily. After a few moments, she admitted, “Yeah, I know.”
Connie took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “So, come on, then. Please? Let me set you up with him. You’ll thank me later, I promise.”
“You said there’d be something in it for me,” Jan reminded her shrewdly.
“Humph. I thought maybe you’d forgotten about that. Well, it’s for a good cause, anyway, on both accounts. I was going to bribe you into going by giving a contribution to that animal shelter you volunteer at.”
“Okay. But only if you agree to volunteer with me, for one month, on Saturday afternoons, too!”
Connie glared at her. “Okay,” she agreed slowly. “You drive a hard bargain.” She put out her hand and waited for Jan to shake on the deal. “But you have to make an effort for this! Don’t just go through the motions to get me off your back.”
Jan made herself look overly offended by this accusation. “I can’t believe you would say such a thing! I always try to make a good impression, on everyone!” She was smirking, though, and Connie’s glare turned even darker.
“I mean it, Jan! Promise me!”
“Oh, all right.” She held up one hand as if swearing an oath in court. “I promise to make a concerted effort for my date with what’s his name.”
Connie was too busy being annoyed by Jan’s reference to Rob as ‘what’s his name’ to notice that her other hand was hidden behind her back with the fingers crossed.
“His name is Rob. Rob Shepard. Do you think you could try to remember that?”
Jan smiled sweetly. “Sure.” She pretended to try very hard to commit the name to memory, even though she already knew it and had just been teasing Connie. “Rob Shepard. I got it.”
Connie shook her head again and stood to clear the table of their lunch dishes. “You are simply impossible.”
When she had disappeared into the kitchen, Jan unlocked her crossed fingers and set her chin in her hands. What the hell had she just agreed to?
And how, exactly, was she going to get through this blind date without putting her heart at risk? She would have to give that matter some serious thought.
* * *
Connie grabbed Rob’s hand and sat forward in her chair. “Come on, Rob. For your old pal, Connie? Just take her out once. I know you won’t be disappointed.”
Rob pointedly removed his hand out from under hers and fixed her with his most stern stare. “If she’s so great that I won’t be disappointed for taking her out, then why are you matchmaking for her?”
“Because…she’s been bitten bad in the past. She hasn’t been out on a date in about two years.” Connie cringed at how bad the picture was that she was painting. “But, I know, if she just gives it a chance, like she promised me she would, and if you take her out, just once, I know you guys will hit it off!”
Rob sighed. “You’re not going to let me off the hook on this, are you?”
His eyes rolled to the ceiling. “All right. I concede. God knows I’ll never win in a contest of wills with you.” He sent her a lopsided smile. “So. Tell me about her. And not just the good stuff. What about that bad bite in her past?”
Connie shrugged. “Her last boyfriend was a real jerk. Slept around on her and was verbally abusive. He really took a toll on her self-confidence. She put up with it, though. Until one day, she went to the bank to get money out of MAC and found that her account was empty. He’d taken off with everything. She immediately canceled their joint credit cards, but it was too late—he’d already run those up pretty high, too. And, of course, he was nowhere to be found. It really did a number on her credit rating. She had no choice but to start paying the cards off; if she tried to wait ’till he was found, who knew how high the interest would inflate the bills by then?” Connie shook her head.
Rob’s gaze was dark. “Oh, boy. This sounds like it’s going to be one fun date.”
“No, don’t worry. I made her promise me she’d give you an honest chance. That she’d be on her best behavior. Plus, I’m sure that, deep down, she wants another chance to be with someone. And, let’s not forget, of course, that the minute she sees you, she’ll want to do everything possible to ensure seeing you again. She’d be crazy not to.”
He shook his head. “Over the top flattery isn’t necessary, Constance Miller. I already agreed to your little hair-brained scheme. Remember?”
She grinned and reached over with both hands to pull his face forward. She smacked a loud kiss on his forehead. “And you won’t regret it! I gotta run. Pick her up at seven on Saturday. And call me Sunday with all the details!”
Rob watched Connie flit away. The slip of paper she’d given him with Jan’s address on it burned like a live ember in his front jeans pocket.
He sort of regretted it already…
* * *
Jan stood tapping her foot, arms crossed over her chest, her gaze darting from her silent front door to the wall clock in the hallway.
Mr. Wonderful was two minutes late.
Not a good way to start off a blind date, in her opinion.
She glanced down at herself and smirked. Of course, neither was the way she’d dressed for tonight’s meeting.
She’d spent a small eternity sifting through her closet and drawers, trying to decide what to wear. She’d tried on flowery skirts, tight jeans, off the shoulder blouses, and even her one sexy black dress. Nothing felt right for the mood she was trying to create. Then she’d found it—the ugliest article of clothing she owned.
The dress had actually been a bridesmaid’s gown at one time. In the tradition of so many bridesmaid dresses, it was hideous. The only reason she’d hung onto it, besides the ridiculous amount of money she’d spent on it, was that she’d thought that perhaps one day she could turn it into some sort of costume for Halloween.
It was a hideous shade of green—somewhere between army green and jade, in a metallic fabric. It had a puffy skirt and a strapless, heart-shaped neckline. It sort of resembled something that a girl from the eighties would have worn to her junior prom, although she certainly wouldn’t have chosen that color.
To complement the dress, Jan had teased her bangs and sloppily arranged her long blond hair. She’d done her make up to match the color of the dress, and had been heavy handed with her application. She’d only glanced in the mirror briefly once her transformation was complete, but she knew she was quite a fright to look upon.
Connie would be disappointed, if she saw her now. But, at least, her friend couldn’t say that she hadn’t put effort into her appearance; she had—just not the right kind of effort.
Perhaps, she wouldn’t even have to endure this date, after all. Maybe Mr. Wonderful would make up some excuse to leave, once he got a good look at her. After all, what man in his right mind would actually want to be seen with a woman on his arm that looked the way Jan did?
Of course, he had to show up first and see her, she thought with another stabbing glance at her clock.
A second later, the sound of the doorbell made her jump high. Pressing a hand to her chest, Jan took a long breath in and out to calm herself then made her way over to the door.
She pressed her eye briefly to the peephole and was treated to an up-close image of her date.
Her breath caught in her throat.
Connie had said the man was handsome, but she had failed to mention just how damn hot he really was!
Oh, God… Her gaze fell to her hideous dress, and her stomach plummeted to her feet.
Don’t be ridiculous, a voice scolded her from the back of her mind. He’s a man, isn’t he? So what if he’s gorgeous! Pete was pretty damn cute, too. They’re all alike, no matter what they look like!
She made herself listen to the voice in her head. Even though she didn’t really want to.
When Jan wrenched the door open, she was momentarily blindsided not only by the full effect of his beauty (no longer obscured by the lens of the peephole) but by his dazzling grin, and the dozen pink roses he was holding out to her.
“Good evening, Jan,” he said in a wonderful rumble. To his credit, his gaze never once left her face to steal a furtive glance at her ridiculous outfit. Though, of course, her face and hair were enough of an eyeful on their own.
Jan forced herself to blink and look away from his soft blue gaze. She took the flowers from him with a bit of a jerk and snapped, “You’re late!”
She was aware of him staring after her, as she turned abruptly on her heel and flounced back down the hall to the kitchen. After a few moments, she heard the soft click of the door as it closed and then his tread on the hardwood floor behind her.
When he caught up to her in the kitchen where she was hastily filling a vase with water, he grinned sheepishly. “I’m sorry for being a little late,” he said in what was clearly a patient tone, as though he was being condescending to a young child who was about to throw a temper tantrum. “The traffic was heavier than I expected, and there was some construction that I wasn’t aware of.”
“It’s fine,” she said dismissively, as she plopped the roses into the vase. “Even if it does damage my first impression of you.”
Now his gaze did wander slowly from her face down the length of her body in that hideous dress. He said not one word, but let that look do his talking for him. And the message was loud and clear—he thought her first impression was equally lacking.
“Well, I’d understand, of course, if you wanted to cancel the date, considering my lateness,” he drawled finally. His dangerous tone sent an unexpected shiver dancing down Jan’s spine.
“N-no,” she answered shakily. “I promised Connie that I’d let you take me out. And I don’t break my promises.”
Rob’s full, sensuous mouth curved into a grin, and Jan felt her knees weaken. “That’s good, sour puss. ‘Cause neither do I. And I promised Connie that I’d take you out… So, let’s go then, shall we?”
“Did you just call me ‘sour puss?'” Jan demanded, hands immediately flying to her slender hips.
His grin broadened. Slowly, he shrugged. “Change your puss, and I’ll change the nickname to something more complimentary,” he offered.
Her gaze narrowed, and, if anything, her ‘puss’ only became more sour. Rob chuckled lightly and reached out to chuck her under her chin.
“Ahh, come on. Lighten up. Here, let’s go have some dinner, okay?” He held out his hand to her, but Jan ignored his offer and stalked off ahead of him towards the door.
After a brief moment, during which she again felt his thoughtful gaze on her back, he followed.
* * *
This night was turning into the biggest mistake of Rob’s life.
First, there’d been the gracious way that Jan had greeted him at her house. Then she’d all but flipped when she’d come outside and seen the Jeep.
“You’re taking me out in that?”
“I know, it’s not exactly what you’d expect,” he’d conceded, trying to see the monster rock crawler through her eyes. “But the Jag is in the shop, and I didn’t have any other choice but this. Sorry.”
Her eyes had grown round with disbelief. Then she’d made a rude sound of doubt. “Yeah, right, your Jag…”
“No, I’m serious.” When she’d only continued to stare at him, he’d shrugged and gone to the passenger door to hold it for her. He’d known she would need a boost up into the seat. “Obviously, I don’t usually take my dates out in this. But the Jag’s been acting up lately, and I had to take it in to get it checked out.”
She’d snorted inelegantly at that and waved one hand dismissively. “Okay. Whatever.”
It had been funny trying to boost her and all that material she was wearing up into the Jeep. She’d obviously not wanted him touching her and had even tried getting inside without his help, quickly discovering that she couldn’t manage it. It had been a full five minutes before his grin had disappeared after the experience of wrangling her inside.
Things had gone from bad to worse, though, when they had arrived at Dominick’s Italian Restaurant and discovered that the staff had lost Rob’s reservation. Though the manager was apologetic, the restaurant was presently fully booked. Unless they wanted to wait for another table to finish eating, taking God-only-knew-how-long, they were out of luck in having dinner there.
So, back into the Jeep they’d gone. And from there, they’d driven from restaurant to restaurant, trying to find one with a decent wait time. Which, of course, was nearly impossible on a Saturday night at seven o’clock.
And then it had happened. Suddenly, as they’d driven in stony silence down the road—BOOM!
Rob had blown a tire.
He’d managed to get them safely off the road, pulling quickly into a parking lot at a grocery store. Then, without a word to his simmering companion, he’d jumped down from the Jeep to inspect the damage.
Which was, naturally, very bad. The tire was trashed. And so, that was how Rob wound up changing a tire in his best suit and tie.
Ugh. What a night. Why had he agreed to this date again?
Now, as he climbed back up into the Jeep, he let out a sigh. Jan glared out the windshield, her arms folded in front of her, as if he was personally responsible for everything that had gone wrong tonight. She didn’t glance his way or say one word.
“Do you want me to take you home?”
He sensed that she wanted to say yes. But something held her back.
When she didn’t answer, he sighed again. What was he supposed to do with this crabby woman?
“There’s a Mickey D’s up there,” he said, pointing up the road. “I know it’s not exactly five-star dining, but it’s food. You game, sour puss?”
He watched, as her nose rose in the air a notch, waiting for her acidic response to his suggestion. She surprised him by saying, “Sure.”
“Um, okay, then.”
The fast food restaurant was nearly empty, which only made them stand out all the more in their dressier clothes. Rob felt like a teenager on his prom date, stopping in at McDonald’s for a late night snack.
“What’s your poison?” he asked, turning to look at her, as they waited to place their order at the counter.
“I’ll just have a salad.”
“At McDonald’s?” he questioned critically.
She met his gaze then. “Fine.” She stepped purposefully up to the counter and crossed her arms over her chest like a petulant child. “I’ll have a number four meal, please, with a chocolate shake. And you can biggie size it. And add an apple pie, too, please.”
Then she turned back to Rob and speared him with her green gaze. “Happy now?”
He grinned. “Yes, ma’am.” He glanced at the kid behind the counter. “Make that two. That’s what I always eat when I come here.”
Jan rolled her eyes, and Rob’s grin spread. She probably wasn’t happy to know that she’d ordered his favorite.
They sat by a window and dug into the food without wasting any time. It was late, and they were both famished.
Once he had a few bites of hamburger and a dozen or so fries in his belly, Rob speared Jan with merciless eyes. “You’re a closet Micky D’s fan,” he accused teasingly.
Her eyes flashed with ire, and he waited again for an acerbic comeback. But it didn’t come. Instead, she suddenly giggled and crammed two fries in her mouth. Ducking her head almost shyly, she mumbled around her food, “Guilty.”
He was so surprised by this, as well as the uncharacteristic way she was acting, that he burst out laughing. The sound of his laughter pulled her head up, and she blushed at being the center of his amusement.
But when their eyes met, she smiled and giggled again.
“You know,” he said in a low voice, just loud enough for her ears alone. “When you wipe off the sour puss, you’re a very pretty lady.”
To his delight, she blushed. She seemed suddenly very engrossed in the food in front of her.
“And when you blush like that,” Rob continued, hoping he wasn’t pushing his luck, as he reached across the table and brushed just his fingertips down her pink cheek. “You’re as beautiful as an angel.”
“Stop,” she pleaded softly, though he noticed that ever-so-slightly, she was leaning into his touch.
“Why?” he wondered.
“Because…I’m not beautiful.”
“Says me.” She toyed distractedly with a French fry.
“Says you? Or says someone else, someone from the past who made you believe you weren’t beautiful?” He could tell he’d hit the mark when she flinched, just slightly. He traced the line of her bottom lip with his thumb. “Whoever that was, Jan, he was not only very, very wrong, but he was a fool. He was a damn fool to let you get away from him.”
Her gaze rose from her tray of food and fastened onto him, watching him, weighing his words for truth.
“Do you believe me?”
Slowly, she nodded her head.
“Good girl. I don’t let my women walk around disagreeing with me on things that are so very important, you understand.” He smiled then, an easy, flirty smile. He didn’t want her to get jumpy over his words. For now, it was okay if she thought he was joking, though he was completely serious.
She returned the smile, looking shy again.
He gestured to her food. “Eat up, angel,” he encouraged. “You need your strength and energy. The night’s still young.”
“Where are we going now?” Jan asked, as they pulled out of the McDonald’s parking lot.
“Well, the plan tonight was for a movie, but with our dinner debacle, it would appear that we’ve missed it.” Rob looked at her and smiled apologetically. “So, I was thinking maybe we could go back to your place and talk for a bit.”
“Talk?” Jan couldn’t help the quiet suspicion that crept into her voice.
“I promise, that’s all. Just talking. Maybe some television, if you want. Do you trust me?”
She was surprised to realize that she did. Somewhere along the line tonight, the icy armor she’d mentally put on had melted. She no longer felt the need to be nasty to this man. Nor was she really wary of his motives, despite her past experiences with men. If he said he just wanted to talk to her, she believed him.
“I do. I’m sorry. Old habits die hard.” She shrugged.
“That’s okay.” He reached across the gap between them and captured her hand in his for a light squeeze. He kept hold of her fingers then, interlacing them with his own, and rested their joined hands on his knee as he drove.
That small contact was ridiculously pleasant. It had been so long since Jan had held hands with a man and, quite honestly, she’d never held hands with one who was so strikingly handsome.
When they returned to her home, they settled on the sofa and shared a pot of coffee between them. Rob absently stroked Jan’s lap cat, Pearl, who had lain down beside him and butted her head against his wrist until he’d paid her some attention. Jan turned on some quiet music in the background and slipped off her painful heels.
“Do you mind if I go and get changed?” she asked, knowing how cliché that had to sound.
To his credit, Rob didn’t make any smart remarks. “Go ahead. I’ll be right here when you get back.”
She made quick work of changing into jeans and a favorite sweater. The other cats, Moonshadow and Iris, regarded her critically from where they lay cuddled together on her bed.
It took a little more time to scrub all the goop off her face. She grimaced in the mirror as she worked. Lord, what a supremely childish thing to do! What had she been thinking? That he was so superficial that the moment he saw her in her ugly dress and heavily applied make-up, he would turn tail and run away? What an idiot she’d been!
When all the make-up was finally gone, and she’d salvaged what she could of her poorly dressed hair, she made her way back out to her date.
He smiled warmly when he saw her now and held out a hand. “Well, now, look at you! Wow. Even more lovely than before.” When she blushed and put her hand inside of his, he tugged her towards him and then down onto one of his knees. Surprisingly, she found that she didn’t exactly mind his forwardness. “What a treat. Thank you for showing me the real you.”
She blushed deeper at his words of praise. “Yeah, um, about that…I’m sorry…I guess I’ve sort of been trying to sabotage this date from the onset.”
He grinned at her confession and ran one hand lightly over the back of her head. “Oh, yes, Jan. I know what you’ve been doing. And after all Connie went through to get the two of us together tonight. That was a very naughty thing to do, don’t you think?”
Nervously, she nodded her head, staring at her feet where they dangled over his hard thighs.
“See, that’s exactly what I want to talk to you about, Jan. About your naughtiness, and just what exactly we’re going to do about that…”
“What…what do you mean, ‘what we’re going to do’ about it?” Jan asked Rob nervously, her brow furrowed.
“Well,” he said, drawling the word out. “More like, what I’m going to do about it.”
Now, she folded her arms over her chest. “What are you talking about?”
He ran one large hand over the crown of her head. “Let me ask you a question, okay? After you let yourself relax with me tonight, after you stopped trying to deliberately ruin the date, did you enjoy yourself? Would you want to go out with me again?”
“That’s two questions,” she groused, pouting. She didn’t like him putting her on the spot here; it meant admitting that she’d been wrong about him and about pushing him away tonight. It meant acknowledging that she’d wasted an entire evening with him that could have been spent making happy memories—or at least getting to know each other better.
“Okay,” he said tightly. “So, humor me. It’s the least you can do, after the way you treated me for most of the evening.”
Jan sighed. “You’re right. All right? I did enjoy myself. And… yes, I would want to go out with you again.”
Rob studied her face in silence and then grinned. “I’m glad. I want to take you out again. But if that’s going to happen, there are a couple things I want to address with you, first.”
“First, I want to make it clear that I’m not your punching bag. I understand from Connie that your last relationship ended badly, and the guy was a real ass…”
Jan rolled her eyes. “That’s putting it mildly, but Connie should learn to keep her mouth shut.”
“And you, angel, should keep yours shut when other people are talking,” he scolded lightly.
“Sorry.” She made a show of zipping her mouth closed and tossing away the key, then gestured for him to continue. “Go on,” she said, garbling the words as if she were trying to speak through the closed zipper.
His mouth twitched, fighting a grin. “As I was saying…I’m not going to be your punching bag for that jerk. I’m not him. So far, I haven’t hurt you. Nor will I hurt you the way he did. I know it’s hard, but you have to trust me on that. Time will show you that I’m a man of my word.”
He looked expectantly at her, but she was still silent. He shook his head and said, “Um, you may speak.”
She pantomimed the unzipping of her fake zipper. “Okay, I’m sorry. I’ll try, in the future, to remember you’re you, not Pete. And I’ll work on trying to trust you, although that’s going to take some real effort.”
He smiled. “I’ll make it worth the exertion, I promise.” His words were silky and hot, and they did funny things to Jan’s insides.
She was blushing. She cleared her throat, at first not trusting her voice. “You said there were a couple things you wanted to be clear about?”
“Yeah.” He watched her closely for a minute, and she could tell he was gauging her, trying to guess how she was going to react to what he was about to say to her. “Well, I guess there’s really no gentle way to put this, so the best thing to do is probably to come right out and say it. You’re going to submit to a spanking from me for your behavior tonight.”
Jan’s eyes felt as big as saucers, as she stared at him after his calm pronouncement. “You—you’re—you must be kidding!” she choked out.
“Nope. Not kidding. Very serious, in fact.”
“Well, then, you’re out of your freaking mind!” she proclaimed. “I-I-I’m a grown woman! You don’t just go around s-sp-spanking grown women! I mean, I know I was a jerk tonight, okay? But that doesn’t mean you can just—you know! You can’t do that!”
He chuckled at her distress. “If you want to really try to have a relationship with me, Jan, you’re going to have to reconcile yourself to the fact that I’m a spanker.”
“What?” she fairly screamed the word. It came out at the top of her voice and in a very exaggerated manner; she realized off-handedly that she sounded like a cartoon character. “What does that mean? You’re a ‘spanker?'”
His grin was positively infuriating. “I spank my girlfriends, angel. It’s part of who I am.”
“I-I’m not your girlfriend.”
“Nope. Not yet. But you want to be.”
His confidence should have been annoying. But it wasn’t. It made her pussy throb.
She forced her thoughts to clear and made a cutting motion of dismissal with her hand. “Even if that were true…” she said carefully, ignoring his low snicker, “…that doesn’t mean I’d just allow you to manhandle me any old way you felt like.”
“Well, that’s good. Because I’m only talking about one specific way here. And that is a hard, bare-bottomed spanking, with my hand, over my knee.”
Jan flushed a hot, throbbing red from the roots of her hair straight down her neck at his blatant wording of what he intended to do to her. “Oh, well, when you put it that way, then please proceed, by all means!” she sniped sarcastically.
“Okay, then,” Rob grabbed her wrist and started to tug her into an upended position over his lap.
“No! Wait!” Her words brought him to an instant stop, and she blinked at him in surprise. “Y-you stopped.”
“Yeah.” He searched her gaze, obviously wondering why she was shocked. “I told you that you’d be submitting to me for a spanking, remember? I didn’t say I was going to force it on you. You’ll be agreeing to it.”
“Oh.” He seemed so sure of the inevitability of it all. It was absurd. She couldn’t believe she was actually having this conversation.
He seemed to take pity on her suddenly. His gaze warmed, and he stroked her cheek with the backs of his long fingers. “You don’t have to be scared. Okay? It’ll hurt, but it will also take away the bad feelings in your heart about how you acted tonight. You told me earlier this evening that you don’t break your promises, but you broke the one you made to Connie to give this date a real, honest try. And how you treated me—well, that disappears from my memory after you take your spanking. No more guilt. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
She knew she was leaning into his hand, which was now cupping her face. She had to admit, the way he described it, it did sound nice. But she also wished he would forget about all this spanking stuff and just lean down and kiss her.
She could tell that wasn’t going to happen, though. Maybe after he spanked her, but not before. There was unfinished business between them. And he was obviously not going to be swayed.
“You can trust me. I’ve done this before. I know what I’m doing. It will only hurt for a little while.”
Jan snorted indelicately. “Yeah, says you! You won’t be the one getting spanked!”
Rob grinned. “True. But I hope you choose to trust me, anyway.”
She let out a long breath. “All right. What choice do I really have? There’s some crazy part of me that doesn’t want to give up the chance of another date with you and the chance for even more than that. So, if a spanking’s what I have to allow in exchange for that, then I suppose there’s worse I’ve endured.”
He winked at her. “‘Atta girl. You’ll see. It’s not so bad.” He leaned down to her ear and whispered his next words, “Some girls even kind of like it.”
“Humph. We’ll see about that.” She glared at him for a moment. “Well? What’s next, then? What do I do?”
Rob raised one eyebrow at her snappy tone. “Well, for starters, you should drop the attitude. This is supposed to be you submitting yourself to me for punishment, for the way you’ve been acting. It’s not supposed to be you acting up all over again.”
Jan sighed dejectedly. “Sorry.” When she looked up at his face and his unchanged expression, she tried to sound more contrite. “Really. I’m sorry.” She took a long breath in and out. “But I really don’t know what the…er…protocol is here. What am I supposed to do to submit to a…spanking?”
He smiled and took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. “Stand up.”
“Okay.” Once she was standing, he gently turned her around until she was standing in front of him. Jan had to admit, at least silently, that she liked the warm touch of his fingers on her body, even in just this nonsexual way.
“Now,” he said, and his tone held an authoritative note. “Tell me why you’re about to get your bottom paddled.”
She stared at him with wide eyes, as he sat back in the sofa, resting his hands on his hard, jeaned thighs.
“Uh, um…” she hedged, and her voice sounded like it was apart from her body. “I-I’m getting s-s-spanked because I-I was very, uh, bitchy to you. Tonight. On our date.” She looked up at his face and felt relief as he nodded his head at her encouragingly. “And I promised Connie to give you a fair chance. But I didn’t keep that promise. I tried to deliberately ruin the date.”
“That’s right, you did.”
She searched his gaze intently, feeling her face heat up with embarrassment. “What do I do now?” she asked in a whisper, after a few moments had stretched out between them.
“Now, you take down your jeans, and I’ll help you over my knee.”
He said the words so matter-of-factly. Like there was nothing to it. Jan’s face felt like it was on fire. She couldn’t do that! She couldn’t just take her pants down in front of this man!
“It’s…it’s only our first date,” she said quietly, her eyes pleading with him to let her off the hook, if not entirely, then at least on this one detail.
“Yes, I know,” he conceded. “But we’re not having sex. You’re just going to get your butt warmed.”
Oh, that’s all? she thought and very nearly started giggling in barely controlled hysteria.
“Look, don’t worry. I’m only going to see you from behind. And only during the spanking. I’ll be a perfect gentleman the entire time you’re over my knee. Scout’s honor.”
Jan rolled her eyes. “You have a very loose definition of the term ‘gentleman,’ if you think it applies to anyone who’s spanking someone!”
He couldn’t help but laugh at her assessment. “Touché,” he allowed, shaking a finger at her. “But, remember, missy, watch your attitude.”
With shaky fingers, Jan began to undo her fly, her motions hurried and jerky. “Just wait ’till I tell Connie what a controlling, weird—”
“Hey!” Rob caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger and forced her gaze up to meet his. She became motionless at the look he was giving her. “What happens in this room stays in this room. Do you understand me? And, just for clarification, I’m not making you do any of this. I’m merely telling you how my relationships work. And how this relationship needs to proceed if it’s to go any further than tonight. The choice is completely yours. If you think I’m some controlling weirdo, then all you have to do is say so—to my face, not under your breath or to Connie, tomorrow morning. And then you tell me that you want me to go home, and I will. I will. You just say the word. So, what’s it going to be?”
She stared, unblinking, into his flashing eyes for a long, silent moment. Her limbs shook. He had let go of her chin, but she found that she still couldn’t force her gaze or her face away. When she finally answered him, her voice trembled, “I don’t want you to go anywhere.” She blinked, finally, and then amended her words. “I-I’m the one who’s going somewhere, but only over your knee.”
A very small smile twitched at the corners of Rob’s mouth, and his eyes warmed. But what he said was, “Fine. Then, get those jeans off and kneel beside me on the couch. Now.”
Her hands trembled less now; they were almost completely steady, in fact. She kept her gaze on his face as she worked the button fly and then slid the jeans over her hips, allowing them to fall naturally into a puddle of faded denim around her ankles.
“Leave them on the floor,” Rob ordered gruffly.
She stepped daintily out of the jeans and climbed onto the sofa beside him, kneeling somewhat awkwardly on the soft cushion.
He took her arm at the wrist, his touch gentle, merely guiding her. Before she knew it, she was face down over his very hard thighs, her pantied bottom waggling in the air in the center of his lap.
And that was where her bravado began to leave her. She looked uncertainly up at him over one shoulder and asked, voice quavering, “N-n-now what do I do?”
“You reach back and pull these panties down below your bottom.”
“O-okay.” It was awkward in the position she was in, but she managed it. Flushing from her hairline to her toes, she revealed her bare behind to his view, stopping when her panties were just below her bottom cheeks, like some sort of territory line on a map. Then, she brought both hands around in front of her and cupped them beneath her head like a pillow. “Is that okay?”
“Yes. That’s perfect.” She kept expecting to feel his hand on her skin, cupping her cheeks, running a soothing line down her legs. But he kept true to his vow to be a gentleman. Except, of course, for the looking part—she could certainly feel his gaze on her body, and she knew that he was enjoying the view because he hadn’t once looked away since she’d revealed herself. He cleared his throat. “Are you ready?”
Jan sighed. Was she? She didn’t think she could really know the answer to that question. She’d never been spanked before. “I guess so,” she answered, after a moment.
“Good. Here we go, then.”
He started spanking her with slow, measured swats. They weren’t so bad. Warm and tingly, imparting a little sting. But nothing that made her cry out or try to evade his hand.
The warmth spread over her bottom as he worked. It also permeated, strangely, down deeper, and Jan was surprised to realize that her pussy was wet! Why? She was in a humiliating position of submission, bare-bottomed over this man’s lap, a man who really wasn’t much more than a stranger to her, who was slapping her behind! Why on earth would this situation be any kind of a turn on?
She was still grappling with that question when the spanking took on a new flavor. Rob’s evenly spaced, tempered smacks became more frequent, and there was more power behind them. The slaps reverberated throughout the room, the crack of skin against skin singing out like a melody. Jan’s voice added to the song, as she was no longer able to hold back her sounds of distress. With each reverberating slap to her backside, she cried or grunted or moaned. A particularly hard volley of spanks had her yelping like an injured animal.
She didn’t beg to be let up, though. She reminded herself, as each burning spank fell, that she had earned this spanking. And that it had been her choice to submit to it. It was obviously Rob’s decision when it would end.
And, she was still embarrassingly aware of how aroused she was. Even now, even as each smack of Rob’s hand had her blinking back tears, even now, she was wet. She wouldn’t be at all surprised, when she went to stand up, if she left a big wet spot on Rob’s pants. She had to be dripping by now.
“When you promise something to a friend, Jan, you do your best to keep the promise,” Rob said suddenly, and each word he spoke was accentuated by a vicious punctuation with his hand on her rear end. “Do you understand?”
“And when you agree to do something, you are to always give it your best, most fair attempt.” His words bit into her conscience, just as much as his hand bit with unyielding heat into her flanks. “Do you hear me, young lady?”
“Y-yes! God, I hear you! I’m sorry!”
“I’d better never be on the receiving end of another attitude like the one you showed me earlier tonight.”
“No! I promise! I won’t treat you that way again!”
His hand never once paused in his assault on her bottom. Jan was gasping and crying out almost continually now, clutching at the fabric of the sofa and biting back tears. Her bottom felt like it was flaming; it was so hot and itchy.
“I’m not the last guy you dated. I wouldn’t cheat on you. I wouldn’t scam you for money. I wouldn’t leave you out of the blue. But I will take you to task when you get out of line.”
“I know! You’re not Pete! I understand.”
He paused suddenly, and Jan lay over his thighs, panting, wondering why had he so suddenly stopped?
“Do you think I should stop now?” he asked in a silky voice. “Let you up? Do you think we’re done here?”
Jan sensed that this was some sort of test. But she had no idea what the right answer was, what he wanted her to say. She’d never done this—or anything even remotely like it—before!
She bit her lip, thinking, trying to imagine what he would want her to say. She didn’t want to get this wrong.
Finally, she looked back over her shoulder at him and whispered, “That isn’t my decision. I am submitting myself to you. You should punish me the way you see fit. You should decide when to stop.”
She had no idea where the words had come from. She’d never been exposed to this sort of relationship. But, apparently, she said the right thing because Rob smiled at her ever so slightly, and he paused to run a loving hand over her head.
“Very good,” he praised softly. “Very, very good.”
And then he started spanking again.
* * *
Rob’s hand was beginning to smart from the hard spanks he was giving Jan. He knew he couldn’t go on much longer, and he also knew that she was nearing her limit on the receiving end. But he just wanted to make this final point—even though she’d said it out loud, he wanted her to really understand that he was the one who would determine when a spanking was due, how it was given, with what, and for how long.
To say that he was surprised with her was an understatement. He’d really expected her to run for the hills when he’d brought up giving her a spanking; that’s what most women did, in his experience. But although she’d taken his announcement with surprise, she’d agreed to this little trip over his lap much more quickly than he would have dreamed.
He slowed his swats now, admiring his handiwork, and her. She had a great bottom—firm and high, her cheeks round. Her once pale nates were nearly scarlet, due to his undivided attention. Were this not a punishment spanking, and also given on their first date, Rob might have paused now to rub her aching behind, to both soothe and further acerbate the heat and burn in her skin. But he didn’t. He’d promised to be a gentleman, and he intended to live up to that promise, despite the temptation.
“All right, Jan. I’m going to give you ten more swats,” he said suddenly, as an idea hit him to see just how submissive she was willing to be. “And then we’ll be done with the spanking. But I want you to count these last ten, nice and loud. Okay?”
“Good girl.” He dealt the first smack low, right in the center of her bottom, on her sit spot.
She grunted with the hard impact of his hand and then said in a clear, strident voice, “One.”
Rob grinned. He gave her the next swat in exactly the same place. She winced and swore under her breath, but he allowed that without comment—for now, anyway. In future, she wouldn’t get away with bad language. “Two,” she reported.
And so the last ten went, all dealt in the same firm, measured way to her sit spot. By the time Rob was done, Jan’s bottom was literally glowing with heat, and she was panting and crying out with each smack. But not once did she ask him to stop; not once did she miss her count.
When he was done, he helped her to stand and then smiled briefly at her. “Well done,” he praised, running a gentle hand down her cheek. She didn’t even seem to realize that she was now standing half naked in front of him.
He steered her gently into one corner of the room. “Corner time, angel,” he informed her when she looked questioningly at him.
Rob nodded. “A little time to reflect on everything. And to realize all is forgiven. You stand here with your red bottom on display for me.”
At the reminder of her semi-nudity, her face flushed with heat very similar to the color of her backside, and she looked down at the floor.
He had to bite back a grin. “Chin up, Jan. Nose in the crevice of the walls, nice and tight. Don’t make me have you put your hands up on top of your head, young lady.”
She sent him a confused glance but picked up her gaze and stuck her nose far into the corner.
“Nice,” he complimented her. “Five minutes. No rubbing and no talking.”
He watched her from the sofa, noticing little things about her as he did. The little birthmark on the back of her right thigh. The way her breath hitched in her chest, as she waited. The way her knees trembled—he wondered which of the conflicting emotions in her head was most responsible for that reaction.
When the time was up, he returned to her. He was proud of the way she kept her nose tight in the corner when he stood beside her; she didn’t even turn to face him until he caught hold of her chin and moved her face himself.
Yes, she was right for him; there was no mistaking that.
“Very good, Jan,” he said, smiling. “I’m proud of you.”
A light went on in her eyes, and she smiled back at him.
“This night is all erased. Understand? We have a fresh slate. And when we go out the next time, we’ll be starting new.”
“I’ll be nice,” she promised softly.
“That’s good. That’s what I want to hear.” He leaned in then and whispered in her ear, “I’m going to kiss you goodnight now, Jan. And then, I’m going to leave. But you’re going to wait here for five more minutes. Time it by your watch. When the last five minutes of corner time are up, you can come out and get ready for bed. And, in the morning, I want you to call Connie right away. She’ll want to know how things went. Okay?”
She didn’t even react to his instructions for more corner time. All she said, in an agonized tone, was, “What am I going to tell her?”
“The truth,” he suggested, grinning when her eyes got wide with alarm. “With some smart editing. Just tell her that we got off to a rocky start, but things worked out, and we’re going to see each other again.”
She nodded, seeming relieved. “Okay.”
Rob framed her face in his hands then and leaned down to kiss her. It was a brief kiss, simple and sweet. He kept it that way on purpose, though he could have easily gone for, and probably received, a lot more. When he pulled back from her, Jan’s eyes were unfocused and yearning.
Ah, so it was like that . He smiled inwardly. That was a very good thing, then.
He pointed back to the corner, and she immediately turned and pressed her nose into the crevice. He ran his hand from the crown of her head to her neck, lifting the hair there off her sweat-dampened skin. He allowed himself one last kiss at the back of her neck, and she shivered with pleasure.
“I’ll call you in the morning,” he whispered before letting her curtain of hair fall back into place. Then he turned away from her, grabbed his car keys from the table by her front door, and left.
* * *
Jan knew he was gone; she’d heard the Jeep start up and drive away. She knew she could come out of the corner, and Rob would be none the wiser.
But five minutes wasn’t up yet. And although she didn’t really know why—no, that wasn’t true, she knew why, even if she didn’t understand why—she didn’t want to come out yet. He’d told her that he expected her to wait here for five more minutes, and she wanted to obey him.
Yes , she thought with a delicious shiver. She wanted to obey him.
The thought should have distressed her. It should have made her wonder at herself.
But it didn’t. It made her body flush with excitement. It made her hot and wet. And it made her wonder what would happen when she didn’t obey him, even when she wanted to.
Of course, she probably already knew the basic answer to that. Her throbbing, scalded bottom skin was a testament to how Rob would handle her disobedience.
But she wondered how else he might punish her. With what else. And what other different things he might do.
That was for another day, though. For now, she was content to be his good girl, and to finish her five minutes in the corner and then go to bed. It had been a very long night.
And a very good date, all in all. Especially, considering that it had been a blind date.