Finding a man who could handle her was only a dream for Janessa, until she met the lion of Hawthorne castle….
A special Halloween treat for my readers to enjoy during this lovely Halloween and Autumn season. The following is a one chapter short story that might give you chills. Is he a man or a beast? Read on to find out….
The Lion of Hawthorne Castle
By Brandy Golden
Janessa’s heart was palpitating like crazy bat wings She could feel the dampness against her palms from the cold stone in the hallway as she flattened herself against the wall. Her fear was smothering; it clung to her clothes, she could taste it in her mouth, and it made her skin crawl. There were moaning noises coming from the room just ahead but it was the scream of agony that finally broke her. That unholy scream sent her over the edge of fear and headlong into panic. Unable to help herself, she also screamed as the suffocating fear clawed its way up her throat and out her mouth.
“What are ye doing here? No one is allowed in here!”
The apparition that suddenly appeared before her and spoke seemed familiar. It wasn’t the wounded growl of a cornered animal, but the great head with the shoulder-length hair, the grimace of a mouth that bared fangs, and the blackness of the angry eyes that stared at her. Her hand trembled as she grasped the slim white column of her throat. “Julian?” she finally croaked.
“How dare ye disobey me,” he roared.
“It is you, isn’t it?” she asked tentatively. He looked the same, yet there was so much pain and anger in those eyes that she could hardly believe it was the same man who had just left her outside her home. He sprang forward and picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and then strode to the stone bench outside the room he had just exited.
Janessa gasped as he set her on her feet and then took a seat on the granite bench. She didn’t have time to even squeak before she was pulled across his knees as easily as a rag doll. And that was no small feat since she was close to six feet tall herself.
When the pants to her cat costume was ripped down over her buttocks and the nippy castle air invaded the warmth of her skin, she did squeal.
What the hell was he doing?
And then it all came together in a blinding rush of understanding. When her flesh ignited under the harsh slaps of a very broad hand, she realized that she was getting an old fashioned, over the knee, spanking! The nippy air was no longer a bother as her skin heated up very quickly, and then turned blazing hot in seconds.
“Julian,” she screamed in agony. “Julian, please stop!”
He didn’t stop. Instead he continued to spank her until every inch of flesh on her bottom and thighs was no longer milky white, but fiery red. Janessa lost track of time as the spanking went on, the fires of hell seemingly centered in her helpless backside. It felt like forever, but it really wasn’t all that long before he abruptly stopped and pushed her off his lap. She sat on the cold marble floor, harsh sobs tearing at her throat where fear had been earlier. Even with the coolness against her heated flesh. it hurt like hell, and she was still trying to absorb the fact that he had actually spanked her!
“Ye shouldn’t have come here,” he said harshly as a clock somewhere in the castle beat out the strokes of midnight. “Ye should have obeyed me and stayed away.”
He stared bleakly down at her as if longing for something he could never have. Janessa saw bitterness and despair in his dark eyes, but the anger was gone. Her Julian was back.
“I…I’m sorry I disobeyed ye,” she whimpered, her words thick with tears. “But I didn’t want the night to end, and for some reason, I felt like ye were saying goodbye. I felt like I might never see ye again, Julian.”
“Ye won’t after tonight,” he replied, his voice laced with pain. “Ye should go, Janessa. “ Go while ye still have the chance, and before I change my mind and keep ye here.”
Janessa stared at him, wondering what on earth he was talking about. In her mind, she quickly replayed the evening, searching desperately for anything she might have done that would have driven him away from her. It had started mundanely, with her staring at herself in the mirror and wondering when, and if, her Prince Charming would ever come along. That had been in her home on the next block over.
It was October 31st, Halloween night, and once again Janessa Williams was going to be a cat. Her tall, trim figure looked good in a cat costume, for all the difference that would make. She was so tall that she rarely had a date, and tonight was no exception. Everyone at work had already paired off, leaving her on her own. She was used to it—it happened all the time.
Shrugging her slim shoulders, Janessa stuck her tongue out at her reflection. She knew that she wasn’t the best-looking woman with all her freckles and the mop of Orphan Annie red curls that hung to her waist. True, she did have some gamin grin dimples to die for, but so far, no man had seemed inclined to go that far. Add her high intelligence to the mix, and the fact that she couldn’t stand fools, and not many men were brave enough to ask for a second date. Even when she toned her intellect down, they still didn’t come back.
She sighed heavily and put the mask in place. It would be nice for once, to actually have to crane her neck to look up at a man. Unfortunately, there weren’t many men tall enough for her to do that. In fact, she didn’t know any personally.
And of course, there were her secret desires that she had never breathed a word about to anyone. No one knew that she haunted the Internet night after night, talking with men, wishing she had the guts to meet some of them in person. Online, she could pretend to be dainty and diminutive, all the things that men liked in a woman.
But Janessa was a coward, at least regarding blind dates. And she especially balked at meeting someone off the Internet. After all, how many men could handle an Amazon like her? So far, she hadn’t run across any male who had given her the kind of stats that even came close to what she needed. And since she hated lying, she would hate even more for them to meet her in person and realize the whoppers she had told.
“Oh well,” she muttered to herself. She shrugged her slender shoulders, and with a last dab of blood red lipstick, she headed out into the Halloween night to keep an eye on the kiddies running up and down her street. It was something all the teachers at the local elementary school did every year, except she never had a partner.
She felt like a freak—again! Come to think of, when did she ever not feel like a freak?
“Great costume, Miss Williams!”
Little Erik Johnson, dressed in a red devil suit, ran by with his friend, Bryan. And of course Bryan was dressed as some kind of demon or something.
Leave it to the kids to accept her as she was, she thought. Her height never seemed to faze them; they always freely admired her. Too bad that male admiration didn’t exist in the adult males of her world.
As she walked into the next block, she could see the infamous Hawthorne Castle. Its turrets reached for the sky, the stone lions on the parapets frozen forever in open-mouthed snarls. Rumor had it that one of the old man’s sons had come back to live there, although no one in town had yet seen him. When the eccentric old fellow had died, the castle had sat empty for years. Its foreboding gargoyle statues had haunted many a young child’s nightmares, including hers.
Lately, though, workmen had been busy in the gardens and grounds, repairing the windows where carelessly thrown stones had broken the glass. The castle was starting to take on a lived-in air, although workers came and went without a glimpse of its true occupant. The huge, wrought-iron gates were always locked but automatic gates had been installed to the driveway leading up to the castle grounds. Surprised, she stopped and stared inside the main gates. They were actually open tonight, for the first time! Avidly, she looked around, drinking in everything she could until she finally saw him.
“Oh, my god,” she whispered faintly.
Julian knew the exact moment she saw him. Her eyes grew rounder and her mouth whispered something he was used to hearing—an exclamation of disbelief. Tonight, it didn’t bother him. Tonight was Halloween night, the only night of the year that he could be himself. At all other times, he was a freak—but not tonight.
She, on the other hand, was magnificent! The slinky cat costume fit her sleek figure like a glove. A glorious mane of red curls bounced down her slender back like a comic book version of cat woman. And she was a tall girl! He almost purred with pleasure as he drank in the height of her. Here was a woman who wasn’t a little slip of something he could break with his bare hands. What a night this was going to be. If her eyes were green, to match that glorious mane, he would be in sheer heaven—for at least one evening.
“Good evening, my name is Julian Hawthorne,” he said throatily as he stepped out of the shadows.
The pulse in her throat trembled visibly as she found her voice. “As in, the resident of Castle Hawthorne, I’m presuming?”
Her voice was low for a woman’s and pleasing to the ear, musical even, to him. He stepped closer, his mind screaming yes when he saw her green eyes. They were glittering like emerald gems through the black mask that completed the figure-shaping costume.
They stood there in the moonlight, each studying the other, sleek black tabby against golden lion. Cats of a different breed, each magnificent, yet complementing the other. A ferocious thrill shot through him and he felt fiercely possessive. He wanted to take her for his mate, hide her away in his castle, and keep her forever. But he couldn’t. Taking a deep breath, Julian made a promise to himself that he would let her go when the evening was over. He didn’t want to hurt her—and he would if given the chance.
“Ye presume correctly, the castle is my home. It’s been in the family for generations but I’ve never lived in it until now.”
She smiled then, her white teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “It’s a well-known fact that someone has moved in. Speculation runs rampant in small towns, of course, so we have all wondered who it was.”
“Well, now that ye know my name, I’m still at a disadvantage. What’s yer name? Or is it just Cat Woman?”
Janessa laughed. “A man with a sense of humor, I like that.” She held out her hand. “I’m Janessa Williams.”
He nodded lazily, his eyes once again sliding up and down her sleek figure as he took her hand in a firm grip. “I’m extremely pleased to meet ye, Janessa. Are ye going to a party, then?” He gestured to her costume.
She shrugged and reluctantly removed her hand. To her satisfaction, he seemed reluctant to let it go. “I doubt it. They’re having one at the school later for the adults, but I don’t like flying solo.” Her nose crinkled with obvious disdain. “I’ll probably go home after the smaller kiddos go in.”
One shaggy brow lifted curiously. “Are ye babysitting the streets then? Isn’t that the police department’s job?”
“The school does it every year. We like helping out in the community.” She grinned up at him. “Besides, it’s fun.”
“Yes, I’m sure it is,” he agreed, his wild mane of hair gently moving in the evening breeze. “Halloween is the one holiday I actually like.”
Fascinated, Janessa watched him avidly. Even his eyes are golden, she thought. What an amazing male specimen, not to mention the costume. It fit like it was made for him. And where on earth did he get that wig? Even his fangs looked real! Oh yeah—this was her idea of a man! He sported long, sculpted thighs that went on forever, broad shoulders, and a trim waist. Best of all, he obviously wasn’t intimidated by her size! Of course he was bigger and taller, so why would he be?
“Did ye get yer costume at Kilkenny’s like the rest of us?” she asked curiously.
He looked puzzled. “Kilkenny’s?”
“The costume shop in Pencairin,” she replied. “That’s where most of us get our costumes every year. I bought this one three years ago, but I liked it so well, I kept it.”
“Oh…err…no,” he replied dryly. “I’ve had mine for a long time. I just use it on Halloween.”
“That’s probably a good thing,” she quipped. “Ye’d scare all the kids to death otherwise.”
For a moment, it seemed a fleeting shadow crossed his face, but then it was gone and the lazy smile was back in place. Janessa shivered. Had she really felt a frissom of cold anger, or was it just her imagination working overtime on this Halloween night?
“Well, it’s certainly realistic enough,” she said with a laugh. “Ye did a great job with the fangs and the hair. And that old-fashioned Earl’s wainscot really makes ye look like the Lord of the Castle. I especially like the snug leggings and the white knee socks.” Her eyes twinkled up at him.
“Knee socks? I’ll have ye know this is a genuine seventeenth century costume, Madam.” His air of mock insult made her giggle. The pose he struck with one hand holding onto the jacket lapel and the other behind his back was even more humorous.
“Wow, what an awesome costume!”
The childish treble of Erik Johnson captured their attention. They turned to see the lad and his friend staring at Julian. Their eyes were like round saucers, filled with boyish admiration.
“Yeah, way cool.” Bryan echoed.
Julian grinned lazily. “Yer costumes aren’t too bad, either,” he drawled.
“What’s yer name, Mister? Do ye live here? My Mom says the castle owner must be a rack… a reek… something that means he don’t come out too often,” he finally finished.
“A recluse,” supplied Janessa, a hint of laughter in her voice. “And the word is doesn’t. He doesn’t come out too often.”
“Yeah, that’s it.” Erik nodded his head eagerly, the questions brimming over. ”Where did ye get that costume? Are ye Miss Williams’ boyfriend? Are ye coming to the party at the school?
Julian held up his hands. “Hold on there, lad; one question at a time, please!” He ticked off the answers with his lean fingers. “One, I’ve had this costume for a long time. Two, whether or not I’m Miss Williams’ boyfriend, is our business. And three, I don’t know about the party yet. That will depend on Miss Williams.” He looked at her with a hopeful expression.
Janessa flashed him a cheeky grin, happiness bubbling up inside her like a frothy fountain drink. “I would consider it an honor if ye would come to the school party with me, my lord.” Then she curtsied, an action that had the boys chortling like devilish minions.
Laughter crinkled the corners of his eyes. “Just ye remember that, my lady.” He took her hand and kissed it as he bowed before her. “And the pleasure is all mine.” He could feel her hand tremble, and he knew without a doubt that she was as affected by him as he was by her. On one hand, that was a fantastic thing, but on the other hand, not so good for the end of the evening. For a few seconds, he pondered upon cancelling their date, but then he realized that it wouldn’t be fair to her. Besides, he was already hooked. Selfish lout that he was, he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure of her company for a few hours.
As the boys ran off, he offered his arm to her in gentlemanly fashion. “Shall we patrol, my lady?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Aye, we shall.”
It was much later, when the dance at the school finally ended, that Janessa felt a slight foreboding. As they walked the distance from the school, she was sure it wasn’t just the night air that had cooled down. She glanced up at Julian in the moonlight. His jaw was set as if he were holding himself rigidly in check for some reason. His eyes were like dark and mysterious pools, making her feel uneasy. She tried to break the eerie silence with a cheerful question.
“Did ye enjoy the party, Julian?”
His reply was terse—and short. “Aye, I did.”
Janessa bit her lip and looked down at the ground as they walked. Everything had been fine until the end of the midnight dance. He had been warm and friendly all evening. They had laughed more than Janessa could ever remember laughing with a man, and he had teased her unmercifully between holding her in close, warm embraces. In short—the night couldn’t have been more perfect. So, what was wrong?
By the time they arrived at her door, she was close to tears, so it surprised her when he took her in his arms and proceeded to kiss her breathless. When he released her, she laid her head on his broad chest and slipped her arms around his waist. Everything was all right after all, she thought blissfully. But his next words were like a bucket of cold water.
“It’s been a fantastic evening, Janessa,” he whispered hoarsely. “So let’s just leave it at that and not ruin it. Don’t be coming to the castle, I’ll call ye again—sometime.” With that, he turned and strode away, his long legs eating up the ground at a very quick pace.
Stunned, she could only stare after him, her brain trying to assimilate the passion of that kiss with the abrupt dismissal of his words. She just knew he wasn’t going to call her again—she could feel it deep inside. Anguish tore at her!
Impulsively, Janessa followed him into the night, keeping him in sight, but not catching up. She watched him slam the gates of his property together, but one of them bounced back slightly, indicating the latch had not caught. He didn’t notice it, because he was already halfway up the long walk to the front door. She took that as a good sign. She was meant to follow him, right? She sent her thanks heavenward when she realized the front door was unlocked as well. The Gods were surely looking out for her, she decided. Once she was finally inside, and crouching along the hall corridor, everything changed!
Julian hadn’t counted on Janessa following him. The instinct to take her into the study he had just come from and ravish her on the Victorian sofa was so strong that he trembled from the force of his desire. Even spanking her had been a mistake. The sight of those beautiful pale globes over his lap would haunt him forever.
“Go,” he bit out, “while ye still can.”
He watched in disbelief as the fear left her eyes only to be replaced with stubborn determination. He groaned inwardly as she stood up, pulled up her cat pants, and squared her shoulders. Obviously, she was not used to being obedient. Hands firmly on her rounded hips, she glared at him.
“Just tell me ye really don’t want me, that ye hated the evening we spent together, and that ye never want to see me again,” she replied, her glorious eyes flashing. “If ye can look me in the eyes and tell me that, then I’ll go.” She stood her ground, daring him to refute it.
It took an effort of immense proportions, but Julian kept his hands off her and merely pointed towards the door.
“What’s the matter?” she taunted. “Not man enough to say it?” Her eyes flashed dangerously. “Speak up, I can’t hear ye.”
“Do ye need another spanking, lass?” he ground out.
“Is that yer answer? Is that all ye can do?” she asked, taunting him again. “Or were ye just using me for a one-night stand, so to speak?”
“Ye don’t know what yer mixing up in, lass,” he growled throatily. “Now, go!”
Julian knew he wouldn’t spank her again. The memory of those pale buttocks bouncing beneath his broad palm was already driving him insane. No, if he touched her again, he’d go up in flames.
As it turned out he didn’t have to, because she brought it to him. Quick as a flash she was in his face, her arm swinging upward and her palm catching him in a hard blow across the cheek. “How dare ye treat me like this?” she raged, the tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks again. She brought the other arm up but he caught her wrist in his palm. He stared down at her heaving breasts beneath the thin costume. He could see the outline of their ample portions and he licked his lips as he groaned and shut his eyes against the sight.
“I can’t let ye stay,” he roared painfully. “Ye would grow to hate me, monster that I am. Please, I beg of ye, go!” He dropped her wrist and turned to pound his fist into the unforgiving stone of the wall, anything to stop the desire that was flooding his senses.
She whispered softly, her hand touching his elbow. “I could never hate ye, Julian, I think I’m in love with ye. I know it sounds crazy, but I really think I am. The thought of losing ye is like falling into a dark well. cold and miserable. I can’t leave.”
He whirled around, a snarl coming from his mouth, his fangs bared. “Ye see these teeth, Janessa, they aren’t a costume, these teeth are real. These teeth are real! And this hair isn’t a costume either, it’s my real hair! Right now my desire for ye is so intense that it’s taking every ounce of strength I have to keep from bedding ye right here on this stone floor like an animal! Hell, I’m half animal, can’t ye see that? Ye’ll never want to be seen in public with me, except on Halloween, of course. The rest of the year ye’ll hide behind closed doors, embarrassed to go out with a freak!”
She stared him, thunderstruck—and then she laughed. “That’s it? That’s what this is all about?”
“How dare ye laugh at me,” he roared, going against his own edict that he wouldn’t spank her again. He picked her up under one long arm and proceeded to pound the seat of her costume unmercifully. The poor cat tail didn’t stand a chance and it was soon decorating the floor while Janessa screeched and kicked like a banshee. Finally, he set her down and she danced around on her tip toes, rubbing her tortured backside. He hoped she had actually learned her lesson this time, but when she finally turned on him, he was afraid she hadn’t.
“Ye idiot,” she sobbed, railing at him. “Ye can file yer stupid teeth down with any respectable dentist and ye can always cut yer hair! Haven’t ye ever heard of a barber? She shook her fist at him. “How do ye think I feel? I’m a freak too, ye know. No man will go out with me more than once because I’m an Amazon compared to normal women. And if my size doesn’t scare them, then my IQ does. They run like whipped pups when they realize I actually have a brain in my head. So don’t give me those excuses, Julian. If ye don’t want me, then just say so and I’ll leave, but don’t give me those pathetic excuses!”
He stared at her in amazement, hope beginning to send a small ray of sunshine through his soul. “I’ve filed my teeth down, they grow back,” he whispered intently.
“So make a regular appointment,” she flashed back.
“My hair grows super-fast.”
“So make an appointment with a barber on the same day!”
She returned his stare defiantly, refusing to back down.
“I’ll be spanking ye when ye misbehave.” He was beginning to think this was going to be fairly often at this rate. But it was only right that she should know up front if she really meant what she was saying. Her next words took him by complete surprise.
“I should hope so! A man who can actually handle me physically is a bonus I have only dreamed of,” she taunted, flashing her gamin dimples. “I’ve haunted the Internet for years looking for one, trust me.”
His last objection overruled, the lion of Hawthorne Castle growled fiercely and scooped the recalcitrant tabby up in his arms and strode towards the study.
And the recalcitrant tabby purred all the way to the Victorian sofa.
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Last Treat for Now!
From one of my favorite Victorian authors, Vanessa Brooks
And her Christmas story this year
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A Lass Worth Fighting For
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