“The Contract of Seven Days’ Service is now open.”
When Lady Sophia Parsons reads the notice in the window of the haberdashery at Devon’s Mill, she has no choice other than to answer the summons. She is expected. Indeed, Lord Albion Rayment will have no other, for Sophia’s family is deeply in his debt, and he has loved her from afar for years. But Lord Albion is no longer merely the suitor her father turned away. He is Master, and she is only Patience. Before the week is over, the once and future lady of Scrivenshire will learn to be his maid-of-all-things, and much, much more.
In a world that prohibits women any say in their destinies, “Patience” must find courage and independence for the first time in her life—while Albion, if he has his way, will tear down the twisted traditions of his fathers and earn Sophia’s love.
Be Warned: BDSM, spanking, public exhibition, anal sex, m/m and f/f scenes, flogging, paddling
“Have you never been punished this way before?” he asked. “Your mother, perhaps? A schoolmaster or mistress? Answer without speaking.”
I shook my head, sniffling.
He walked around to my left flank, the riding crop in hand. To my further humiliation, without Lord Sculsbury impeding my sight, I could now see myself in the wall mirror. My face was livid pink, the blush extending over my shoulders. I looked down to where the contract had been. I saw only the table, nothing more.
“Keep your head up and your eyes open,” he said, tapping the crop over the wood next to my splayed fingers. “I want you to see the effect this experience is having on you. I want you to remember it, Patience.”
I obeyed. I watched myself, hair down in twin curtains at either side of my face, tremble before him.
“I would never do this without reason,” he said, running the flat leather slap pad of the crop down my spine, taking his time, starting at the back of my exposed neck, tracing the raised flesh at the center of my back in a slow line. “You have called upon the house of a gentleman without an escort. More than once, you have spoken out of turn. Do you agree that these charges are both accurate and fair?”
I nodded, miserable and afraid.
“Tap the table with your fingers for yes. Rap with your knuckles for no.”
I tapped once, using all four fingers. My back muscles clenched, a quick spasm under the caress of the crop. I whimpered.
“Have you any defense? If so, I shall allow you to make your case.”
I had none. I rapped the table. I was guilty.
“You’ll note that I, myself, have not touched you—only the crop touches you.”
He passed it under me, stroking my belly with it, causing me to draw in breath deep.
You never use it on your horses, I thought, desperate with dread. Why must you use it on me? I’ll do whatever you say. Let me repeat the promise. Please, allow me to appeal to your better nature. I’ll be good.
But I tapped the oakwood with my fingers, acknowledging his adherence to his own rules—and, in the mirror, saw my mouth open in a thoroughly horrified O as he brushed the thing under my breasts, then passed it over my erect nipples.
“Your father has never had the strength to properly correct you, dearest Patience. But I do. And you have the strength to bear it.”
This is going to hurt. God, save me from this—unless I truly deserve it. If so, God, strengthen me. Help me.
“Are you very wet?” he asked, withdrawing, setting the implement down and bending at the waist, leaning in to study me closely.
I tapped. I was most unbearably wet—at both ends. Tears blurred my vision, a mercy my own body and mind employed out of helpless reflex.
“You are so very beautiful, Patience. You are the loveliest woman I have ever beheld. To do this to you is torture. It will be a torture for us both.”
Had I been allowed to speak, I might have asked, Would my lord care to switch places?
And yet his words were a comfort. He was so sweet, so sincere.
“I shall savor the memory of it for the rest of my life.”
So unyielding. He recovered the crop and slapped the pad on the table, causing me to flinch. The sound had been like a pistol shot.
“Turn completely around, please, so that your feet dangle off the table.”
I did so, my bottom straight out. I stared down the length of the long table toward the door, as though I expected a cavalcade of soldiers to break through at any moment and rescue me. But there would be no rescue. Nor did I deserve one. I had come to him, not him to me. I had disobeyed my parents and willfully escaped the safety of my own home. Whatever happened now, I had brought it on myself.
No, Sophia. Do not think such things. It was not you who bankrupted your family. You are blameless. You are innocent.
But those were not the reasons for which I was now being punished. I had spoken without permission. I had disobeyed Lord Sculsbury.
“Present your buttocks for chastisement properly, Patience.”
I lowered myself to my elbows, pushed my rear up further, awash with expectation and shame.
He sighed. “You do not understand. It’s not your fault. Shall I help you?”
I tapped once, blinking, wondering how on earth I could make myself even more vulnerable than I already was.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, taking my ankles and easing them, again, apart. “I shall not punish your privates, Patience. Not today. Not for first offenses. But you shall have no reasonable expectation of privacy, either, for the duration of your service—and I would have complete access to every inch of your buttocks. There, now. That’s better. You may lower your head, if you wish.”
I did so. This was … so awful.
“Remember, Patience, you must not speak. I will not forbid you from general noisemaking. What you are about to feel is going to be necessarily unpleasant, and you may not be able to help yourself. But no words. They would do you no good in any case. I care for my servants, but I do not spoil them.”
How many? I wanted to ask, teeth clenching. Will you not prepare me?
He swung the riding crop, cutting only wind, causing me to yell out even though I hadn’t been struck. I listened to his jacket come off, to him rolling up his sleeves.
“This is so painful to me, Patience,” he said, breathing heavy in his turn. Then, resigned, “But it must be done.”
Head down, I could see him from the waist down between my own legs. There was a bulge at the front of his trousers, long and thick. Was that his—?
And then the first blow fell. Directly across my right buttock the riding crop struck, eliciting a small scream that was as much surprise as physical discomfiture. I did not think he’d struck me nearly as hard as he might have…
But then the second wave of pain swelled across my flesh, a steady and increasing burn that caused me to audibly gasp. It was fire—and it was long, extending well beyond the leather pad at the end of the crop.
I had to say something. I needed a salve, or—
It came down again, forcing a proper scream from me as a second blow, without intersecting the first, heated my left buttock all across its length to where the pad landed at the crease of my bottom. And after, with my fingers clawing at the oakwood, a moan I could not restrain: “Ooooh…”
Lord Sculsbury, stop, I wanted to say. To plead. To beg him in the most pitifully supplicative tone I could summon. Stop, sir, please.
It was too much. I couldn’t possibly bear any—
Don’t, Sophia. Be strong. Be brave.
He brought the crop down. I squeezed my eyes shut tight, tried to swallow the noise from my mouth—which broke through on its own, betraying any effort at stoicism in suffering, laying bare my anguish for the entertainment of his ears, erasing my dignity.
For the first time in my life, I was being beaten.
Twice more, the riding crop fell. By then, I was a shuddering mess, my backside striped, my lungs heaving, my face and body slick with sweat and tears, my mouth uttering noises that might have come from a wounded animal. Surely no human being made sounds like that.
Lord Sculsbury set the riding crop down on the table. He pushed his sleeves back down, then drew his jacket back on. I watched him, my cheek pressed flat on the table. I dashed away tears. In moments, the pain wasn’t so bad, and I managed to quiet myself.
As for Lord Sculsbury, the bulge was still there. He turned his back on me. But his voice was nearly overwrought with sympathy when he said, “You—you never said anything. Extraordinary, Patience. Just extraordinary.”
You commanded me not to, I thought.
And when he turned again to face me, and then pulled up a chair and sat, I saw that his eyes were bloodshot. “May I comfort you?” he asked, the words dripping with tenderness.
I caught the sob, tapped the table with my fingers. He caressed my face, ran a hand through my hair. His hand was rough, and yet his touch was gentle.
I sat up, wincing most awkwardly as the flesh of my rear met wood. I took his hand. Asked permission with my eyes, my whole body still shaking.
“No, Patience,” he said. “Do not speak. It isn’t safe.”
Why not? Do you fear that the mere effort to speak would break my spirit so early? Or yours?
If I spoke now, would I ruin you, Lord Sculsbury?
But that wasn’t what I wanted. Not really. Not to speak, nor to ruin him. What I wanted, I simply took. He hadn’t said I couldn’t.
I reached out to him, slid from the table into his arms, and embraced him.
After a moment’s seeming indecision, Lord Sculsbury hugged me back. Had he wished to, he could have then “dishonored” me in every way that Father has long feared, but he did no such thing—though I was naked in his arms and absolutely helpless to stop him.
Instead, he held me tight and whispered words into my ear that I shall forever keep to myself.