Alex parked next to the cheap rental in his driveway. Obviously the exchange person had arrived. Had Butler liked her? Finding the woman's mangled remains in the foyer would really top off the day.
Hopefully he could work out some arrangement with her. By the time he could get a flight, the conference would be almost over, so he saw no point in pursuing that plan. Damned if he'd take up residency in some hotel in his own town. She'd just have to see reason. The house was big enough they didn't have to run into each other, or maybe he'd give her enough money to rent a hotel.
He walked in and called, "Hello."
Then with a woof of delight, Butler appeared from around a corner, skidding on the slick marble tiles in his excitement. Alex chuckled as he petted the squirming beast. They'd lived together for a good five years, ever since he'd found the dog skulking around the garbage bin at the beach house. His mother hadn't been impressed, but dignity ranked high on her list of priorities and was nonexistent on Butler's.
"So where's our tenant?" Alex asked as he tugged gently on Butler's ears. He didn't hear any noise in the house, so she was probably upstairs unpacking. As he headed toward the stairs, he felt a warm trickle from under the dressing the emergency-room nurse had applied. Apparently his stitches hadn't appreciated being rubbed against a car seat. Turning, he headed for the dungeon, where he kept most of his first-aid supplies. Might as well patch himself up, although that might prove difficult, considering the wound was on his back. Maybe he'd grab some gauze and tape and see if he could get the woman to slap it on. She was a vet, after all, which was one of the main reasons he'd chosen her.
He went down the hallway to his dungeon and stopped. The door stood slightly ajar, and he knew he'd locked it before he left. In fact, he'd even checked it before leaving. Anger unfurled inside him, growing hard and fast. The terms of the vacation trade were spelled out clearly in the contract, including the locking of nonessential rooms. She'd deliberately broken in.
He couldn't hear anything inside, but he'd soundproofed the room years ago.
Placing a hand on the door, he silently pushed it open. Not difficult to spot her. She'd draped herself over the spanking bench, head hanging down on one side, legs on the other, with her ass--a pretty, round ass--up in the air.
Well, well. A trickle of humor dampened the anger. Now wasn't that an appropriate position for someone richly deserving punishment?
He'd enjoy turning those cheeks a nice pink.
He walked over silently. Before she could move, he set his hand on the back of her neck, holding her firmly across the horse. She gave a yelp of surprise. Her thick, wavy golden hair hung almost to the floor, concealing her face. Maybe five-five or so, she had a nicely toned body.
Since he'd adjusted the horse for Cynthia's taller body, this smaller woman's arms and legs dangled, giving her no leverage to struggle. Although she was certainly trying.
He didn't bother to listen to the sputtering and cursing coming from the submissive under his hands. And that she was submissive, he had no doubt. Someone might have played on the spanking horse, possibly, but the way she'd positioned herself so carefully, and the tiny wiggle she'd given when finally in position, spoke of a person imagining herself helpless and being excited at the idea.
A Dom had a duty to give a submissive what she needed, not always what she wanted...and to administer punishment as required.
"I locked this room before I left. You broke in." A sub always needed to know the reason for the punishment. He gave her a hard swat, precisely placed on the fullest part of her buttocks.
What is the owner doing home? A second later, the man's hand hit Mac's bottom, the stinging pain almost extinguished by her shock. He hit me! She struggled furiously, but his large hand gripped her neck and pressed down unyieldingly.
Naked and caught. Humiliation swept through her in a hot wave. "Let me go!"
He didn't respond to her struggles or shouts, as if what she said was meaningless. His voice deep and controlled, he said slowly, "I trusted you with my house and my dog. Rather than respecting that, you break into a locked room and make yourself at home. Your punishment is five swats." His hand slammed across her bottom again.
The burning pain swamped her mind. The fiery sensations on her bare skin hit each time in the same spot. At the fourth blow, her eyes filled with tears. His hand felt hot against her neck as his grip on it eased slightly. From deep inside her, guilt and shame welled up, choking off her yells. She shouldn't have opened a locked door; she'd betrayed an agreement, a trust.
But spanking? No one had ever spanked her. Ever. Foster children got time-outs; children who belonged got spanked.
As he gave the final swat, a shudder ran through her, leaving her trembling inside and out.
He still held her firmly with one hand; now the other stroked down her back, a firm, knowing touch. Not sexual but...assessing. When the hand reached her stinging bottom, she hissed with the increased pain.
"I want you to remain in this position--what was your name?--ah, MacKensie. Is that clear?"
"Yes." She couldn't manage more than a whisper as the magnitude of her terrible blunder struck her harder than his blows. Oh God, what have I done? She'd not only broken the Exchanges contract, but more... Her neurotic need to open doors had destroyed her new start. How could she get a job as a vet out here if he turned her into the police? Or he could do something worse...
After Exchanges sent Fontaine's bio, she'd checked him out on the Net. He was not only richer than God, but he mingled with the elite in Seattle society. He could easily destroy her reputation. Who would hire her if he denounced her?
Footsteps moved away and returned. Then his hand pressed down on the small of her back. "This won't feel good, but it will help the pain and redness." She had only a second to wonder what he meant before he began to massage lotion into her skin, right where he'd hit her. As pain flared back to life, she jerked, arched, tried to kick--and got a swat on her burning butt.
"Lie still." The sheer authority in his voice made her force herself back down. "Good girl." His touch gentled, and the pain eased, leaving only a hot throbbing in its wake. "Up you come now." He lifted her off the bench. Broad hands gripped her upper arms, steadying her when she wobbled.
After a breath for courage, she looked up into a strong face and piercing blue eyes. His short dark brown hair lightened to gray at the temples. He had sharply chiseled features and a stern jaw with a cleft in the chin. A white, tailored shirt with sleeves rolled up displayed muscular forearms.
Still holding her by one arm, he cupped her cheek, using his thumb to brush away her tears. "Almost over, pet," he murmured, then stepped back. "Kneel and apologize." His voice had turned cold, eradicating for a frozen moment even the thought of arguing.
But kneel? Did he think he lived in some feudal century or--her mind flashed to the BDSM clubs she'd visited and the submissives at their master's feet. Frak, she'd not only found the Dom's dungeon, but she'd found the Dom to go with it.
Still...if this guy thought she'd kneel, he could think again. She gave him a scathing look and headed for the door. Could she arrest him for hitting her? Probably not, considering she'd broken--
She glanced back.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "If you leave, I'll report this through legal routes. If you stay, perhaps we can discuss alternatives."
What kind of alternatives would a man demand? Oh she knew exactly what, and a cold hand squeezed her chest. She wouldn't be a whore again. Never. But stalling couldn't hurt. Maybe his anger would cool a little. "What alternatives?"
He pointed at the floor in front of him. "Apologize."
Fine. She started back across the room and almost groaned when the room blurred. No food since breakfast, too long in the Jacuzzi, and this... Her legs buckled as she tried to kneel, and she landed painfully on her knees. She gritted her teeth against the pain.
He bent over and lifted her face. "Are you all right?" he asked softly.
She nodded, confused. Beat me and then make sure I didn't hurt my knees? Was the man bipolar?
After caressing her cheek, he stood. And waited.
Damn him. She forced the words out, the taste of the apology bitter in her mouth. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have opened a locked door." She stopped.
"'Please forgive me, Sir,'" he prompted.
Oh honestly. Her hands tightened into fists. If she thumped him in the balls, she could run and... And what? Escape onto the street bare-ass naked? Assuming her legs even held her up, because right now that wasn't looking likely; she could feel fine tremors sweeping through her. "Please forgive me, S-sir." Her voice broke at the last word.
"Very nice." He paused. "You have my forgiveness."
Relief swept through her so powerfully that she shuddered. Now if he'd just let her leave.
He walked across the room--maybe she should make a dash for it?--and returned. A warm, incredibly soft blanket wrapped around her.
She pulled it closer and pushed to her feet--too quickly. Cold sweat broke out on her skin, and a hum filled her ears. She took a step and squinted, hoping to see a chair. Sit. Must sit. Not faint. Her legs gave out.
He scooped her up as if she weighed nothing. Shifting her in his arms, he winced and said under his breath, "Damned knife," then pulled her against his chest. Carrying her. No one had ever carried her. Ever. Even when she'd been little. Her foster mother hadn't believed in coddling children.
She didn't even feel unsafe being held so high. His chest was solid muscle, his arms like iron bars under her shoulders and legs; the world probably would end before this man dropped her. He walked over to a chair she hadn't noticed in the corner of the room and sat down.
When her weight landed on his thighs, her butt burned, and she jumped. What in heaven's name was she doing? "Let go of me." As she pushed against his chest, the blanket dropped away from her, baring her breasts. Dammit.
"I'll let you go when I know you can walk across the room without passing out." His arm tightened, keeping her in place. When his hand rose, she forced herself not to cringe. Her fingers curled into claws to rip him apart if he tried to grope her.
He huffed a laugh. "Quite the little cat." His hand slowly lowered to stroke her hair with a disconcertingly gentle touch. "Gently, pet. Take a minute to get your bearings. Then you can get dressed. And we'll talk."
Oh, she heard a definite threat in that last phrase. But as the warmth from the blanket and his body sank into her, her muscles melted as if the trembling had used up all her energy.
He leaned back in the chair, settling her more comfortably. "Tell me. Has anyone ever spanked you before?"
"No." Her cheek rested against the softness of his shirt. She could hear the even thud of his heart under her ear; her pulse still raced twice as fast. "Never." And it would never happen again. Yet the memory of his hand holding her in place, the feeling of being overpowered, made her feel weird. Lost.
"Have you been around BDSM before?"
She tried to push away, and he eliminated her struggle to move before it hardly began. She glared at him.
"No, you're not getting up yet," he said. "I want to see some color in your face first."
Her teeth ground together, but she wasn't totally stupid. The little flickers of blackness at the edge of her vision and the numbness around her lips and fingers said he was probably right. She'd pass right out before she got to the door, and wouldn't that be the perfect end to this disaster? She pulled the blanket tighter and prepared to wait him out.
His scent surrounded her, a rich blend of exotic cologne and masculine fragrance that blended with the scent of leather. His voice deepened. "MacKensie, have you been around BDSM before?"
"I went into a club three times."