Authors: Emily Tilton
“How many hands do you have?” she asked rather sharply, once they had sat down to their meal of bologna sandwiches. He had to admit that she made a mean bologna sandwich, but the question wasn’t particularly welcome.
“Well, there’s Joe, and Miguel, most days. Kevin comes twice a week to look after the horses, and Jeremy—”
“Are they all from Pleasant Hill?”
Ross felt his mouth twist, a little sourly. “Kevin comes from Gilead,” he said.
“How often do you have your well tested for phosphates?”
Ross closed his eyes. He couldn’t spank her for asking about phosphates, could he? He felt a sudden desire to do so anyway.
“The well’s tested every year.”
“Do you really think that’s enough?” Victoria asked, looking like she’d just scored a point off him.
It wasn’t uncomfortable, exactly, but it definitely wasn’t pleasant. Ross wondered whether he would have the chance to change her approach, but there was a lot of work to be done, and with the exception of continuing to chew on that fodder question—about whether being unsure about being unsure made any sense—he couldn’t really spare the time to figure out how to make certain morning Victoria stuck around for the afternoons.
The big change happened four days later, on Sunday. Ross went to church alone. Victoria stayed home so that as few people as possible would know she was staying with Ross. Before dinner, which Victoria was making—chicken and dumplings, as promised—Ross rode out to check on a calf who had been struggling a bit, and came back to find that Kelly Stovall was walking away from the porch, carrying a pie.
“Kelly!” Ross called, dismounting. “Just where are you goin’ with that pie, darlin’?” He could tell even at this distance that something had gone wrong. Usually if he wasn’t there when Kelly came by on Sundays, she would just leave the pie with one of her sweet notes. Kelly seemed to have a severe look on her face, which in Ross’ experience wasn’t something you could put there very easily.
“Ross,” she said, when he had reached her, leading Sophie by the reins. “I don’t know who that girl is, but if she’s your new baker, I wish you’d told me, and I could have given this pie to the Hartes.”
“Whoa, whoa, Kelly. Slow down, please. Her name is Victoria, and she’s not anythin’ of the kind.”
“What’s she doin’ here, then?”
“She’s stayin’ with me for a few weeks. Favor to an old friend. What happened?”
“Well, this Victoria of yours… Well I suppose it wasn’t so much what she said as the way she said it. She said she hoped you wouldn’t have room for my pie. And I think she meant it to sound like she was making a joke, but I could tell that she didn’t want anything of mine that might go in your belly, Ross.”
“Did she refuse the pie?” Ross asked in disbelief.
“Well, no,” Kelly said. “But I decided that she didn’t need any of my help with your dinner.” The tartness in Kelly’s tone made Ross think of an under-ripe persimmon.
“Well, maybe she doesn’t need any help, but I’m not going to go without your pie. Come on in and let’s see about sortin’ this out.”
Kelly let him lead her inside, after he’d tied Sophie to the hitching rail. There they found Victoria, her face dusted with flour, just getting dinner on the table. She made a sour face for just an instant when she saw that Kelly had come back inside. Ross had thought that this would be easy to patch up, but Victoria’s face seemed to tell a different story.
“Seems like there was a misunderstandin’ here,” Ross said. “I know you didn’t mean to offend Mrs. Stovall, Victoria.”
“Well,” Victoria said, with her afternoon air of self-possession. “I don’t suppose I can control whether Mrs. Stovall takes offense.”
“See what I mean, Ross?” Kelly said.
He turned to her. “Yes, I think I do.” Ross turned back to Victoria. “I think you’d better apologize, Miss Mason. That way of talkin’ to a neighbor and an old friend isn’t acceptable here.”
“Fine,” Victoria said, with a sarcastic note in her voice that Ross didn’t like very much. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Stovall.”
Ross felt his face grow stern. “That’s not the kind of apology I’m lookin’ for, Victoria.” He turned back to Kelly and said, “I’m very sorry, Kelly, but would you please excuse us?”
“I’d be happy to,” Kelly said, with a tone that seemed to say that she hoped she knew what was going to befall Victoria’s backside now. “I’ll just leave the pie on the counter.”
“That’ll be fine,” Ross said.
When the front door had closed behind Kelly, Ross walked back to the kitchen, where Victoria was still getting dinner on the table. “You’d better go up to your room and wait for me there, Victoria. You’ve got a date with my belt.”
“What? You can’t be serious, Ross.”
“Apparently, I need to help you understand just how serious I am. Now get your rear end upstairs, and get your jeans and panties down.”
“You’re joking, right? I can see the thing with interrupting you, and with the bad language—but you can’t seriously whip me for a little tiff with a neighbor.”
“No tiff with a neighbor is little, darlin’, because our neighbors are the people we depend on. This is much more serious than what I whipped you for before, and if you can’t see it, then I’m going to have to make the lesson a lot more thorough.”
Victoria quailed back from him at that, setting the platter of chicken on the table and stepping backward to put herself up against the wooden counter.
“What does that mean?” she asked, her nostrils flaring as her breath came harsher.
“Well, you’re gonna find out a lot more about ageplay now, darlin’.”
“For starters, you’re going to have a bath, and a barin’, and a trip across my knee, with all your clothes off.”
A wild look came into Victoria’s eyes that Ross couldn’t read: there was fear there, definitely, but also a kind of disbelief that might mean that she actually had felt some curiosity about ageplay, but that she hadn’t wanted to find out more in this particular fashion.
“You wouldn’t,” she whispered.
“That’s not the kind of thing a girl who’s about to learn about ageplay should be sayin’, darlin’. When your daddy tells you he’s gonna do somethin’, he’s gonna do it.”
No. Not her clothes… Why with all her clothes off? Why… bare, like that? And why did it sound so…
“That’s… that’s just… wrong,” Victoria said weakly. “If you think I’m going to take my clothes off for you, Mr. MacGregor, you’ve got—”
“I don’t see that you have a choice, young lady,” Ross said. “It’s a form of discipline that I believe in, and if you want to leave your room anytime soon, you’re going to comply with that belief. What happened here today tells me that you need the sort of lesson I can teach, and I’m not going to let you remain here without it.”
“You’d send me to my room?” Victoria heard both desperation and disbelief in her own voice.
“I would. You’d stay there until you accepted my discipline. I’d bring you your meals there if I had to.”
She had known, really, how serious he was about this from the moment he had said the thing about the trip across his knee. And she could tell that he really did believe he could help her this way—that Ross’ idea of what kind of person Victoria should be began from her acceptance of the strange, humiliating lesson he intended to give her.
And what did Victoria think? She searched her mind and realized that she couldn’t swear that he was wrong. But to take all her clothes off for a spanking over his lap…
The real problem was that there was a part of it that, well, didn’t
it exactly—but that
to it, somehow.
“Why with my clothes off?” she whispered, though really she asked just to make sure the answer her rebellious mind told her was the right one.
“I’m going to take you back to being a little girl, Victoria. Little girls aren’t allowed to have secrets from their daddies. When I punish a little girl, I make sure she knows that she can’t hide anything from me. So I’m gonna have you hop in the tub, and we’re gonna bare you down between your legs, too, and take away your grown-up hair down there, to make sure you know you don’t get to hide any part of you from your daddy.”
“Oh, God,” Victoria whispered. “I… just can’t.” That thought—the same thought she had had, standing in the pink bedroom—seemed to batter against her idea of herself as a functioning grown-up. The worst part was that something in her screamed that that idea needed battering. She found herself saying in the same tiny voice, “Can’t you just whip me, Ross?”
“I’m gonna have you start callin’ me ‘daddy’ now, darlin’. You need some real attention from a man who knows how to be a daddy to a girl like you.”
Oh, God. Oh, God. The thing she had tried calling Jack, once. The thing that she thought after that—after Jack had tried to be sweet about it but clearly didn’t like it—she would never try to call a man again, her own father having left when Victoria was three.
“I… please… maybe you can… you can let me think about it for a little while…” Then, as her voice trailed off, she realized that she wanted—she really wanted—to say one word more, and she did although it made her feel that some part of her, some part that kept a lid on something else, had come loose: “Daddy?” She paused, biting her lip, looking into his stern face. He had not advanced; he had not made any threatening moves, physically—nothing like the way he had put her over the bed when he had given her the belt whipping five days before. But the idea that he had become her daddy seemed to make her feel little, and suddenly she wanted to do something to please him—something that might put off the dreadful necessity of the baring.
“Maybe we can have dinner first, daddy?” she asked. “And pie?”
Ross smiled, and Victoria realized that that was because he could see that the course he had taken with her had already produced results. She didn’t know whether it made her happy to know the same thing, nor did she know whether those results—calling him daddy, wanting to please him, being willing to eat Mrs. Stovall’s pie because it would please Ross—were ones she entirely approved of. She didn’t even know that she wouldn’t, when faced with the necessity of stripping naked for the lesson he planned, tell him to call Jack to come get her.
But for the moment, to sit down with him to chicken and dumplings, and then a meringue pie, and to call him daddy, made her feel that maybe she could face the strange new world of ageplay without the panic that had gripped her when he had first told her that he would be giving her a ‘thorough’ lesson.
“Yes, darlin’. That’s fine with me. Let’s have this lovely dinner you made.”
And they did. Ross didn’t mention anything about the pie, or Kelly Stovall, or ageplay, or his belt. Victoria didn’t call him ‘daddy’ again. But they had the best conversation they’d had yet: they talked about horses, mostly, but also about ranching. Every time a question came to the top of Victoria’s ‘reporter mind’ (as she called that part of her) about government regulation or antibiotics or methane, somehow she managed effortlessly to push it back. She wasn’t conscious of disarming her reporter mind because she was afraid of what Ross planned to do after dinner, but when they were eating Mrs. Stovall’s excellent pie, Victoria realized that the knowledge of what might be coming had indeed held her back, and that it had made for much more pleasant dinner conversation than they had had for the past several afternoons.
Soon enough, though, the food was gone. “Go on and wash up, now,” Ross said. “I’m gonna take care of things in the stable, and then I’ll come back to teach you your lesson. You can go up to your room after the washing up is done. Take off your clothes and sit on the bed and think about how you’ll apologize to Mrs. Stovall the next time you see her.”
Victoria looked at him, and saw kindness in his handsome face along with the calm authority she heard in his voice. She felt herself start to cry, partly out of fear of what would happen when he came upstairs and partly out of penitence for being rude to Mrs. Stovall, who had only brought a pie over. How had she managed to get that so wrong? She had just felt that she was in control, and she wanted to show Ross how in control she was, and how independent she could be even when she had to live as a fugitive in his house.
He put his hand out across the table, took hers in it, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry, darlin’. I think you’re gonna find that you feel much better after your spankin’. Your butt’s gonna be sore, but you’ll feel like you’re ready to try again. Okay?”
“Okay,” Victoria whispered.
* * *
She sat on the pink bed, waiting. She had taken off her T-shirt and jeans, and sat in her bra and panties for a while, trying to decide whether she really would do what Ross had told her to do and remove her underwear, too. The idea of being naked—no, not naked as much as
—in front of him sent continuous shivers through her body. She couldn’t seem to think of anything else but the moment when he, her… daddy… would walk through the door to find her bare in front of him.
Not allowed to hide anything from daddy. Daddy would spank his little girl if she didn’t take off all her clothes.
Daddy would inspect her, wouldn’t he? Why would he bare her between her legs if he wasn’t planning to inspect his little girl there? What kind of a lesson involves a daddy inspecting his little girl between her thighs?
An ageplay lesson. A lesson that would take her back to a time that still lived in her mind, when she had known how to be a little lady who never used bad language and had lovely manners. That little lady would never have told Mrs. Stovall that she didn’t need her wonderful pie.
She had been naughty as a grown-up woman, and so she had to go back to being a little lady, to relearn how to behave. Ross MacGregor—her daddy—was going to take her clothes away, take her grown-up hair away, and teach her to be a little lady again with a trip over his knee, his big hand falling on her bottom over and over.
Victoria stood up. Trying not to look in the mirror, she removed her bra and put it on the dresser, and then she pulled down her blue cotton panties and put them there, too. Then she sat back down on the little bed, with her hands folded to cover the place where her daddy had said he would take away her grown-up curls.