The people in the crowded square were all abuzz with merriment, as they were watching the two jugglers perform their tricks. To Beth’s ears, the laughter didn’t sound joyous. There was sadness in her heart – deep grief she could not push away. Her mother was gone, after a long, arduous struggle with her illness, and Beth couldn’t find the money to give her a proper burial. There was nothing left – nothing more to sell, not even a copper coin of their savings which could be used. And Beth knew only too well, no one would hire her now for the hard, honest work she was prepared to do.
Heaving a sigh, Beth found herself nearly pushed against the tall, broad-shouldered man who was standing in front of her watching the entertainment. She managed to keep steady on her feet, and prevented herself from falling against the stranger whose tall form was now obscuring her view of what was going on. It was of no matter. Beth didn’t know why she had even stopped to glance upon the jugglers, because it was the last thing on her mind. Her thoughts were in turmoil, and she was thinking only of how to get the coin to give her mother a proper burial.
She smiled bitterly to herself. In truth, there was an easy way to get the money. The lord knight who coveted her body had already offered it to her. She could get coin if she sold herself. And it seemed selling herself was the only thing left to her. Still, it simply hurt to think of it. Beth’s eyes were unwittingly caught by the purse which hung upon the belt of the stranger in front of her. She found herself fiercely envying him. A tall, strong man, who was a master craftsman by his garb, and who seemed unconcerned to wear a purse of coin in a crowded square where thieves could lurk at all times. It was plain to her that this man didn’t value his coin. By the way he carried the purse, it seemed he truly had coin to spare. His garb was not rich or fancy, yet the cut and the cloth of it were fine. A prosperous craftsman. Just as her father had been before sickness and sadness had fallen upon her home.
Beth was suddenly jostled against the man she’d been wondering about. And somehow, her hand came within reach of his full purse. Coin. To bury her mother without having to sell herself. What if… Beth hadn’t ever thought of stealing. Yet at this bleak moment, it seemed the stranger’s purse was the very answer to her prayers.
It was as in a dream that Beth heard a shrill voice from behind her.
“Master, watch out! The thief!”
Thief? It was still in a strange sort of dream that Beth understood her hand had somehow already unwittingly clenched around the stranger’s purse. And the people who were standing by had already perceived what she’d done in her moment of sheer blind madness.
The moment of weakness had been brief, and Beth swiftly understood she wouldn’t have brought herself to ever steal from anyone. Yet it was all it took to seal her doom. The stranger turned to stare at her, grabbing her by the arm, and, to Beth, his dark-eyed face seemed one of the most terrible things she’d ever perceived. It was fiercely angry.
“Thief!” the angry people around her started to clamour.
The dark-eyed stranger who had grabbed her arm said nothing, but just stared at her with his sombre eyes. Beth understood that upon an ordinary day those dark eyes would have seemed fine looking to her, but at this moment they were simply frightening.
“Master, methinks we should call the guards to deal with this!” a short man in the crowd tossed out.
There were many furious mutters of assent, and Beth searched for words to defend herself, but she found none. The people in the crowd were right, weren’t they? She was now a thief. Even if it had been just a brief moment of weakness, for that moment she’d truly thought of stealing this man’s purse. And this man wasn’t even a rich, fancy lord like the knight who coveted her body, but, by the looks of it, just an honest, hard-working craftsman as her father had been.
The dark-eyed man glared at her.
“Nay, I think I’ll deal with this myself. Right now,” he said in a grim, gruff voice, as he began to drag her away.
Beth had no choice but to follow, accompanied by those people in the crowd who’d perceived what was going on. She tried not to picture what the stranger had in store for her. But when he dragged her to the stone steps of a house which overlooked the Square, she couldn’t help but call out in fear.
“You’ll learn your lesson,” the stranger cut her off in his grim voice.
“Aye, teach the thieving wench a lesson!” the voices of the onlookers clamoured in assent.
The stranger sat himself on one of the steps, dragging her after him. What went on after that passed in a daze. Stunned, Beth soon found herself draped over the stranger’s lap, with her skirts hoisted, her right arm pinned behind her back, and her bottom bared in front of all to see. She blushed with deep shame, trying to keep bitter tears at bay. There was no doubt as to what would follow. And it did.
Beth had already braced herself for the first spank which would land upon her bared bottom, yet the sheer sting of it took her breath away. The dark-eyed stranger had a big rough hand which, Beth soon understood, could do better work than even a stick or a belt. And it was plain he knew how to use it, because after only a couple of moments Beth’s whole rump started to feel as if it was sizzling. The searing force of this hand was unbearable, and it seemed to know how to cover every inch of Beth’s bottom and upper thighs. At first, she attempted to count the spanks the stranger landed upon her, in order to take her mind off the infernal sting the punishment was building there. But soon she simply lost count, and she began to sob in deep pain and humiliation. It hurt just like a brand of fire. Never in her life had she thought a hand spanking could hurt so much.
Right at the moment she thought the fiend who was punishing her would never stop, he blissfully paused, resting his roughened hand upon her poor scorched behind. She nearly opened her mouth to thank him, through bitter tears, for having stopped. And at that same moment she felt a strange, throbbing heat within her belly and sex. She swiftly pushed it away, as the voices in the crowd laughed and clamoured, asking for further punishment.
“Shall we fetch a birch for you, Master?”
“Perchance to add stripes to this comely thief’s crimson behind?”
She bit hard into her lip, trying to still her sobbing. A birch? After the hard hand spanking she’d received, the sting of the birch would be beyond unbearable. More laughter and words from the onlookers followed, while she waited with a thumping heart, keenly feeling the throbbing pain in her punished behind. Would the stranger heed the onlookers and have a birch fetched to add to her punishment?
Deep relief coursed through her veins as she heard her punisher’s gruff voice speak, “I think not. My hand will suffice.”
Beth’s relief was soon replaced by deep distress, because the hand resumed its spanking, bringing new, even more searing pain upon her poor scorched rump. He couldn’t go on for eternity? Could he? In truth, Beth wanted to beg for mercy, but words seemed to have deserted her. Instead, she simply sobbed. She was still pitifully weeping when she belatedly realized her punisher had stopped at last, covering her bottom with her skirts, and allowing her to get off his lap. Yet she was now unable to get off on her own, and he had to help her scramble to her feet.
For a while, Beth hopped from one foot to another, in a vain attempt to alleviate the scorching sting in her bottom, but then she became aware that the crowd was finding deep entertainment in her strange dance. She stood still, simply hanging her head in shame. At this moment, she found she didn’t even care what would further happen to her. She was too shaken by what had taken place.
“Look at me, woman,” her punisher’s stern voice rang in her ears.
She had no choice but to obey his command, fearing what would happen yet again if she didn’t.
“Do you think you’ve learnt your lesson?” he asked her, perusing her with his dark eyes.
She nodded, and then lowered her gaze, loath to look in the eye of the man whose big, shovel-like hand had been, just moments before, setting her bare bottom on fire.
Her punisher heaved a resigned sigh.
“I hope it was indeed a lesson well learnt,” he added in his deep voice.
She nodded again, feeling a shameful burn in her cheeks which nearly matched the one she felt in her reddened behind. Around them, she could hear laughter and approving exclamations from the crowd who’d witnessed her humiliation. When she dared to raise her eyes she saw her punisher was glaring upon the onlookers.
“There’s nothing further to gawk at. The wench has been punished for her deed. And that’s the end of it,” he spoke, letting his dark eyes roam over the people who were still lingering.
To Beth’s surprise the people gathered around started to disperse, heeding the dark-eyed man’s command. Who was he? A craftsman whose word held weight, no doubt. She gulped nervously, as she was trying not to fidget on her feet and start rubbing her blazing bottom. Would this man now call the guards upon her and let them take her away? And what would her further punishment be? Would they use the iron brand and mark her face after they flogged her? Or even worse… She squared her shoulders, attempting to look the dark-eyed man straight in the face, and knowing she’d brought all this upon herself due to a moment’s weakness.
She was well aware her eyes were still brimming with tears of pain and humiliation, but she tried not to flinch when the stranger’s big hand took firm hold of her arm and started dragging her away from the Square. When she hesitated to follow, his other hand came swiftly upon her scorched behind forcing her to comply. He swatted her bottom mercilessly, forcing her to fall into step with him as they drew away from the hustle and bustle of the Square, and into the maze of streets that was the city of London. Beth tried to keep herself from succumbing again to flowing tears as she was forced to take this walk of shame. Her bottom stung fiercely, although at this time the hand had blissfully ceased its punishment, because she had fallen into step with her captor, striving to keep up with his long strides.
He stopped only when they’d reached an isolated lane, where there were no passers-by. Yet he was still holding her firmly by the arm. Beth could not help sniffing, pitifully, as she looked again into his very dark eyes. She’d expected to find searing anger in their depths, just as before, but at this time she perceived something different mirrored there. It was as if his dark gaze had softened upon her. She lowered her eyes again, unable to bear this new gaze, and, yet again, experiencing a strange, ignoble stab of heat in her belly. With blinding clarity, she understood that under different circumstances this big, strong man, with his black hair and his very dark eyes, could have taken her fancy. He was a man she’d have turned her head to stare after if they’d crossed paths on an ordinary day. But this was no ordinary day…
“That was an ill thing you did, wench,” the stranger spoke, and Beth could do nothing but nod, in utter shame.
“Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” His gruff voice forced her to instantly comply because she feared his big hand would want to resume its punishment.
She knew her cheeks were flaming and her eyes were still watery, but at this moment there was no choice but do as the stranger wanted.
“Good,” he said gruffly.
To her utter surprise, he let go of her arm. For an instant, Beth resolved to bolt, yet she swiftly changed her mind. She had brought this upon herself, and running away now would only add cowardice to her guilt. She might have unwittingly become a thief, but she’d never been a coward.
She squared her shoulders further and tried to meet her captor’s gaze unflinchingly, although she became even more aware of the deep heat in her belly and nether parts when she looked upon him. It seemed not only his big hand, but also his coal-black eyes had the ability of setting her body on fire. What the dark-eyed man did next astounded her to her core.
“Here,” he said.
With widened eyes, Beth saw he was now extending towards her the very purse she’d tried to steal. She shook her head, beginning to fear he was making a cruel jest.
“I-I don’t want it…” she stammered in a strangled voice.
“You do,” the big man said quietly. “Otherwise why would you have tried to steal it from me?”
She shook her head, deeply ashamed.
There were no words she could speak, and she decided she shouldn’t try to tell him she’d been in desperate need and that she’d never done such a thing before. He would not believe her. Who would believe a thief’s word?
“Just take it. I mean it. It’s plain you’ve more need of it than I do.”
His voice held no trace of mockery, and his eyes looked steadily upon her. She shook her head again and he sighed.
“Take it already,” he commanded, and as if transfixed, Beth found herself willing to heed his order.
She tried to clear her head. She could still feel the hard spanking she’d received from the very hand which was now extending the purse. This man was casting a strange spell upon her. Instead of resenting him for putting a fire in her behind, she seemed willing to heed him, although she’d never been one of those women to cower in front of men.
“But if you take it, I want your solemn vow you will not ever try to steal from anyone again,” the dark-eyed man added, casting her a measuring glance.
When she stared at him mouth agape, he told her with a shrug, “I will not ask for anything else in exchange for it, if that’s what you fear. I’m giving my money away freely, and we need not set eyes on each other ever again.”
Beth found her voice with difficulty.
“I-I tried to steal from you. And now you… Why?” she babbled, thinking now it was all a dream and soon she would wake up in a grim gaol, to serve her punishment for what she’d attempted to do.
The dark-eyed man shrugged.
“It is only money,” he said in an unconcerned voice, which made Beth twist her mouth into a bitter line.
He was obviously well to do and money didn’t mean much to him. While she’d been desperate and starving, and ready to sacrifice her life over a purse of coins. Suddenly, her present humiliation hurt just as much as the fresh wound over the death of her mother.
“I want nothing from you,” she shouted, knowing it was foolish pride, but unwilling to stop herself from uttering the words.
Yet the dark-eyed man didn’t give her a chance to turn her back on him. He swiftly took hold of her arm and forced the purse into her hand.
“It’s either this or I’ll have you back over my knee and deliver an even harsher lesson than earlier. So what’s it going to be?” he said in return.
Beth found her cheeks blushing even more fiercely than before, and that strange, treacherous heat mixed with distress taking hold of her. She went over the spanking in her mind, and felt the sting in her bottom tingle even more mightily than before. He couldn’t spank her even more harshly than before? Could he? Again, she tried to clear her head.
“Do you wish for another spanking, woman?” the dark man asked her with an arched eyebrow.
Mutely, she shook her head, beginning to think she’d met a man who was out of his wits. He’d spanked her for trying to take his money. And now he was threatening to spank her for not wanting to take it.
“Good. Then have it. And I’ll take my leave of you,” he said, abruptly letting go of her arm.
Stunned, Beth stared after him as he turned on his heel. She searched hard for words to call out, but there seemed to be none. When she finally resolved to speak, she found he was already turning the corner of the lane. Bitter tears came to her eyes, now fully flowing, and she quickly wiped them off with the sleeve of her gown. She should thank God Almighty, and she should head home where she had her sad task ahead of her. She would give her mother the proper burial she deserved and then… She squared her shoulders knowing she would forever keep the vow the stranger had required of her. She would never even think to steal again. And she meant to find out who he was and pay him back every coin.
Tom walked away with a faint smile on his lips, still shaking his head. Perhaps the beautiful thief he’d left behind would never learn her lesson, although he’d done the best he could. He doubted she fully realized it, but he’d delivered the spanking out of kindness rather than revenge. The people in the crowd had already been clamouring for the guards, and he’d had to act fast, taking the matter into his own hands. He’d reasoned a swift punishment from him would appease the furious crowd. He knew only too well punishments for thievery were harsh. A flogging or the stocks was the least the beautiful thief could have expected from the guards. So she should count herself lucky he’d taken the matter into his own hands and only reddened her luscious behind.
As he was heading home, he mused over the spanking he’d delivered, feeling his rod go hard and biting into his lower lip. He’d resolved to deliver a stern lesson meant to satisfy the angry onlookers and make the thief’s bottom sizzle, but he’d not expected the thief to have such a scrumptious behind. Nor had he expected to feel such heat as he’d delivered the punishment in the crowded square. A punishment was a punishment – and there should have been no enjoyment about it – yet…
Tom frowned in puzzlement. It was probably because the thief was the most lust-worthy creature he’d ever set eyes upon. High perky breasts overstretching the fabric of her gown and a plump, well-rounded bottom. Auburn hair tinged with a bit of red and blue-green eyes which held a mixture of sultriness and innocence in them. He let out a wistful sigh. And he was not going to set eyes on her ever again.
As was his habit, Tom resumed work at the Forge as soon as his hurried repast was done. There was much ahead of him, and he did not have a moment to spare. He worked in silence for a while, but it seemed his other apprentices had been appraised by Micah, who’d been in the Square, of his encounter with the beautiful thief.
They were shy to ask questions at first, but then couldn’t contain their curiosity.
“Micah says you really taught that thieving woman a lesson,” Declan, the oldest of his apprentices, ventured with a wicked gleam in his green eyes.
Like all Irishmen, Declan loved laughter and teasing, and Tom had never begrudged his apprentice his sunny nature, but this time he found himself answering sharply.
“Better mind your work, lad,” he barked.
Declan heaved an impudent sigh, but he had sense enough to mind his master, so the work took place in near silence for the next few moments or so. Yet soon the lads started whispering among themselves, and Tom heaved a deep sigh as he set his hammer down.
“Fine. Ask away, whatever you want and we’ll have the end of the story. But after that we’ll be done and over with, and you’ll mind your work and be diligent about it. Understood?” he tossed out.
Micah, William and Declan all nodded with eager faces.
“Is it true you let her off without calling the guards, as Micah says?” William ventured.
Tom nodded with a grunt as he was studying his handiwork.
“Is it true she was as beautiful as an angel?” Declan cut in with a smirk in his voice.
Tom glared at him, yet he couldn’t fully hide the half smile which appeared on his lips as he recalled how the woman’s lush body had felt when it had been draped over his lap and he’d delivered the punishment.
“Nay,” he answered after a while. “She was not as beautiful as an angel.”
It was the truth. The woman was certainly beautiful, but there was nothing angelic about her. To him she’d looked more like Eve or even like Lilith, rather than like an angel from above. All flesh and blood and all woman. He realized he’d never been as tempted in his life by a woman as he’d been by the thief. That was probably why he’d let himself be fooled into giving her his money. He assumed he’d been foolish enough to let himself succumb to her charms. Yet, in truth, he’d not let her have the money because of her comeliness. There’d been deep sadness and despair about the woman he had perceived. Something heart breaking in her eyes, which had prompted him to want to aid her. But perhaps it had been all just an act. He shook his head with a shrug, deciding it was no use regretting what he’d done, and resolving to put the beautiful thief away from his mind.
“Now that we’ve all finished dreaming about beautiful women, perchance we can resume our work,” he told his apprentices with an arched eyebrow.
Still, the boys seemed to be burning with curiosity, and Micah soon began to regal them with a retelling of the harsh spanking their master had delivered in the Square.
“I wish I could have seen that,” Declan declared, apparently oblivious to Tom’s glare.
Micah preened, for once happy he’d been party to a thing his older friend hadn’t witnessed. Tom resigned himself to their talk, now returning his mind to his anvil. He studied the emerging lines of the sword he was fashioning, sighing within himself and knowing the knight who would bear it would not be worthy of its beauty. Tom would be loath to part from the sword, yet the knight had already paid coin for it – the very coin he’d given away. He looked at the sword, dismissing the thought of money, because, to him, money meant nothing at all compared to his craft.
It was only that evening that he came to think upon the money again, when Micah spoke to him during their meal.
“Master Tom, you’ll have to give me coin to buy the fare for our table for this week,” Micah said, as they were all finishing the gruel William had made for them this evening.
It had been William’s turn to cook and, while he was better than both Micah and Declan at it, all of them missed Mistress Webb’s cooking. Mistress Webb had cooked and kept house for them during these past three years, but for two months now they’d been left without her help, as she had gone to live in York with her married daughter.
“Coin,” Tom muttered, striving to recall if there was any money left in the house apart from the purse he’d had with him this morning.
“Aye, coin!” Micah nodded expectantly.
Tom scratched his head. Even though he was very capable at the Forge and probably one of the most able smiths in the city of London, he was always loath to concern himself with money. Yet, studying the boys’ still hungry and eager faces, he understood he was not doing a very good job of tending to his business.
“There are several people who still owe us coin for our work,” he said with a frown, fully knowing he should have kept a better tally of his customers and of his expenses.
He belatedly recalled there was, after all, some money left in one of his locked chests, so he rose, fetched it, and counted the coins out to Micah.
“Here,” he said. “That should take care of this week’s meals.”
Micah nodded, but not before giving him an incredulous look.
“Er Master Tom. What of the purse you had with you this morn?” he ventured timidly.
“Never you mind,” Tom muttered, waving his hand, but knowing the boys would be whispering among themselves as soon as he left the kitchen.
He went to bed with a deep sigh and a frown upon his face. Tomorrow he would have to sort out loose ends and collect what he was owed by those customers he’d been too lenient upon. He and his boys needed money not only for household expenses, but also for Forge supplies. Yet, instead of concentrating on this tedious task or of thinking upon his work, as was his habit, he found himself smiling faintly, and picturing the beautiful thief he’d spared from the guards. He pictured himself further reddening her luscious behind, and fully recalled the delicious heat of her scorched skin he’d felt under his palm.
Cursing under his breath, he began to pleasure himself, stroking his stiff cock with hard, hurried movements. He thought not only of the beautiful thief’s reddened, scrumptious bottom, but also of her lush lips and of how those full lips would feel around his cock when she took him in her mouth. He fiercely climaxed while picturing her swallowing his sticky seed. After he cleaned himself, he resolved to find a woman willing to bed him as soon as possible. His arrangement with Sarah Webb had been satisfactory for both of them, but she’d been gone for two months. She was a widow, ten years older than him, and had been willing to share his bed while she took care of cooking and housekeeping. She was well liked in the parish and respected, so people had turned a blind eye to their arrangement, since Sarah Webb was already thought to be past her prime. He’d been sorry when she’d decided to join her married daughter in York, but other than a convenient arrangement for both of them, there’d been nothing he and Sarah had shared in truth. He had an inkling Sarah was well able to find a new husband for herself in York, should she ever choose to. Whereas he… well, everyone knew Master Tom Reed would not be able to ever find himself a wife.