FBI profiler Julia Marshall is determined to find the man who killed her husband. As Bureau Chief Sloan Roberts watches his protg self-destruct, he knows he must take drastic steps to protect her? even from herself. Can she accept his guidance and risk loving again, or will a murderer's Mind Games destroy Julia and Sloan's chance at happiness? An action-packed spanking romance you won't want to miss!
BDSM category: spanking only
Julia Marshall hung face down over her husband's lap, whimpering in between steel-handed slaps to the part of her anatomy most highly elevated by the awkward position. The flat of his palm connected once again with her exposed bottom and, no longer able to contain her distress, she cried out.
"Stop ... please. I've said I'm sorry..."
The next spank--a sharp, glancing blow--left her right thigh smarting. "And I've told you that you're going to be a great deal sorrier before I let you up. Since I've not heard any true contrition yet, I'd have to say we're a long way from done with this spanking."
Gasping as several stinging smacks peppered her burning skin, she began to squirm and cry out. "Damn it, I said I'm sorry! What more do you want from me?"
"Excuse me?" His hand connected rapidly with her left thigh for emphasis. "What did you just say to me?"
Julia closed her eyes, already regretting her hasty words. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to curse."
"Perhaps not, but you did, none the less." He was leaning over her body, retrieving something from the floor. Then the paddle, the wood incongruously smooth and cool, was held against her smarting bottom. "It looks like a hand spanking isn't going to do the trick tonight. I guess you're going to have to learn the hard way."
"No! Please, honey," she said as she struggled to move the legs he held pinned between his own. "Please, not the paddle. I'm already so sore!"
"I know, sugar." His tone gentled and he let go of her hip long enough to rub her back in soothing circles. "I know you are and I wish this wasn't necessary. But you remember what I said would happen the next time you got reckless behind the wheel? Right?"
Julia nodded miserably. "Yes, sir."
"And we both know that if I don't keep my word, you'll lose your respect for me. Yes?"
There was no good answer to that question, a fact Julia was well aware of. After all, they both knew that every time she was let off the hook, it caused resentment to fester until she found herself in the middle of a full-blown "brat attack." Then she'd be over his knee for an even harder spanking than the one she'd talked her way out of, a fact which made any leniency on his part useless.
The paddle was tapped against her naked backside. "I'm waiting."
"I'm sorry, sir." Julia took a deep breath and steadied herself. "Please spank me. I know I deserve it."
The paddling was long and hard and, despite her best intentions, Julia could not help but kick and squirm against the pain. Time and again, the oval of hard wood was brought down against reddened skin until words abandoned her. Even when Steve pushed her farther forward over his left knee and went to work on the base of each cheek, she did not beg, but simply cried out the pain and humiliation. It was then, with her entire bottom on fire, that she was helped up to sit in her husband's lap and weep against his neck. She was still crying when she woke up, a pillow clutched tightly to her chest.
For long moments, she lay quite still, willing sleep to return, begging her mind to take her back to her husband's strong arms. The dream, however, eluded her and she eventually rolled over to look at the clock. It was just after five, but she knew that she wouldn't get back to sleep again. Wearily, she rolled out of bed, the remembered warmth of his embrace fading in the chill of a late fall morning. Over the course of the last two years, she'd seen and felt a million horrors in her sleep, but she almost preferred the nightmares to this. At least when she awoke to vomit away the memory of a decimated body, she had her fury to fight the loneliness and pain. But on mornings like this--after he'd come to her in the night, his face, his touch so vivid in her mind--it was like losing him all over again. Exhausted, she stripped off her clothes, stepped into the shower, and gave vent to her tears.
Sloan Roberts worked his way briskly through the paperwork stacked on his desk, one eye always on the clock. It was nearly 10:00 now, and Julia seldom ever arrived late. He'd left a message on her office phone early this morning and had expected her to show up shortly after nine. Perhaps he should ring her desk, just in case there were voice mail problems again. He reached for the phone, intent on doing just that, but a knock at the door brought him up short.
She eased through the door awkwardly, barely able to see over the stack of files in her arms. "I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner, but there was a back-up on the freeway. I just got in a few minutes ago."
He cleared off a corner of his desk, indicating where she could set down what he surmised was a fairly heavy caseload. She was obviously busy, a fact which eased his mind. That would make his news easier--he hoped.
"How's it going?" Sloan browsed through the top folder, absorbing the details of a crime spree that had left seventeen homeless and four people dead. "Has there been anything new on these arsons? How many outside of Albuquerque now?"
Julia dropped into the chair opposite her supervisor and friend. "Just the one. And no, there's not been a trace since the grocery store went up, back in August. At least I've not heard from the guys in the field with any new info."
Sloan, the Director of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, slid the first folder aside and reached for a second. "You're keeping up with them, though? Making calls?"
"Mmm-hmm." He glanced up when she nodded and surreptitiously took stock of the remnants of recent grief. Her cheeks were splotchy and the concealer stick had done little to minimize the puffiness around her eyes. "I've offered to fly out, too, but Brannigan doesn't seem to think it's necessary."
"I'll make a note to call him. I'm sure they're doing a thorough job, but sometimes a profiler can provide a fresh perspective. How soon could you be ready to go?"
"A couple of hours, tops." She shrugged, straightened the stack of folders self-consciously. "It's not like there's anything at home that really requires looking after."
Sloan sat back in his chair and gazed at his long-time friend over steepled fingers. "I know tomorrow's going to be a rough day for you. You could take it off, you know. You've got more sick time accumulated than anybody in the department."
She shook her head, tucked a stray lock of hair back into her simple, functional ponytail. "It's easier if I work."
"Okay. I'll see what Brannigan says."
The rest of the conversation was uneventful. Once an active profiler, Sloan now spent most of his time supervising the work of others rather than carrying his own case load, but there had been one recent exception. Julia wasn't just a staff member, though, and this meeting--though perfectly legitimate in its own right--had a dual purpose. He intended to tell her about yesterday's conversation with the Deputy Director, wanted to explain to her about his decision to pick this one up personally. Unfortunately, an important phone call delayed him, and she started to gather up her things.
"Just a sec," he said as he punched the hold button. Then, to Julia, "I'm afraid this is going to be a long one, but I do want to get with you later today. Can we have lunch together?"
Having collected her files, she stopped at the door. "Sure. How about Rumors, one o'clock?"
"It's a done deal." He held the receiver in one hand, the index finger of the other poised over a blinking red light. "See you there."
By a quarter past one, Rumors was wall-to-wall crowded and Sloan was beginning to get anxious. From a table near the back, he watched customers come and go. For Julia to be late once was unusual--twice in one day was a reason for concern. He would have breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her push through the crowd, had it not been for the look on her face. He watched her slice through the lunch hour rush, her features set in a look of grim purpose. When she slapped her hands down on the table in front of him, he realized exactly what that purpose was.
"You knew." She leaned down, eyes blazing. "Damn it, Sloan, you knew and you didn't tell me."
It took all his control to tell her, in a quiet tone, "Sit down, Julia. You're attracting attention and I don't think that's what you want just now."
She dropped down into the chair opposite him, pushed hair the color of brown sugar and honey back from her face. "Is it him? Has Lennox resurfaced?"
In lieu of an answer, he motioned for a waiter. "Can we get a couple of menus?"
"Of course, sir. And could I get you something to drink?
"Whiskey, neat," Julia ordered.
"Water," Sloan corrected, his eyes on her face. "Two."
The waiter shifted from foot to foot, obviously uncertain as to what to do next. For a moment, Julia merely stared at Sloan, her cheeks flushed. Finally, with a reluctant nod to the waiter, she muttered, "Fine. Make it water."
It was not until the waiter had left them that Sloan spoke again. "I wanted to tell you this morning, but then I got that call from the Chief of Police in Harbortown. And yes, it looks like Randall Lennox is back."
Julia's face was pale; her lips set in a thin, uncompromising line. "All right then, I want in. I want to be there when they take the bastard down."
"No? What do you mean, no? Sloan, he killed my husband!"
"Which is exactly why you're not working the case. You're too close. You lack objectivity."
"And you don't? You were Steve's best friend! How can you be any better prepared for this than I am? I profiled Lennox before. I know more about him than anyone--including you. You can't shut me out on this one. You just can't."
Sloan rubbed at a throbbing place above one eye. "I'm sorry, Julia, but the decision's been made. This is my case. Please, just trust me to bring the bastard in. Okay?"
"Sure, whatever." She was on her feet before he could react. "Tell the little lady to relax, Agent Roberts, while you big strong men go after the bad guy." Heads were turning, but she didn't seem to notice as sarcasm crept into her tone. "I'll just go on home now, like a good little girl, and wait there for you to call me with any information. And in the meantime--" She picked up her purse and slung it over shoulder, "You and your boy's club cronies can fuck off."
With that, Julia turned and fled the restaurant, leaving Roberts to eat alone.
She did not return to the office that day, but rather called to let the secretary know that she'd be out for the rest of the afternoon. Two hours later, she arrived home with a bottle of amaretto and a white chocolate and almond cheesecake. For nine years, she'd had the same treats ready for her husband's birthday. She would simply start a day early this year.
The phone rang several times during the course of the afternoon, but she did not attempt to answer it. By the time Sloan had given up calling and actually knocked on her door, she was thoroughly drunk.
"Go away." Her words were slurred but there was no mistaking her fury when she attempted to slam the door in his face. The drink in her hand tipped and splashed onto the hardwood floor. "Can't you see I'm having a party?"
He shouldered his way into the room and snatched the glass away from her. Then, with a tenderness neither of them had expected, he pulled his best friend's widow into his arms. "Shhh, honey," he said as he stroked her hair. "I know it hurts, Jules ... I know it does ... but it won't always be this way. I promise."
Wrapped in the solid embrace, her face pressed against his raincoat, Julia nearly collapsed from the weight of her grief. "It was my fault." Her knees buckled and the room began to spin, but he caught her up in sure arms before she could hit the floor. "It was all my fault. Mine! Do you hear me?"
Darkness swirled and she ceased to hear or to think, but not to feel. No, the grief was always there, heavy as a mantle of lead that she wore draped over her shoulders, her head. Lennox had pulled the trigger, but Julia Marshall knew that she, alone, had killed her husband. It was this thought that followed her into the bedroom, where Sloan tucked her under the covers; and this thought that trailed her into the dark oblivion of sleep.
"Stop it, sugar." He came to her much later, lithe and powerful, his golden hair a bit too long, as usual. "You have to stop blaming yourself. And if telling you doesn't get that message across, I'll just have to find another way."
With that, Julia found herself draped, once again, over her husband's thighs. "I knew you would come," she whispered. "I love you, Steve."