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I love to read and write those fun, spicey, and interesting romances of all kinds that leave you wanting more at the end. That ah factor can't be overrated! My stories have strong alpha males and feisty heroines who usually end up together for a happy ever after. You can find me in all kinds of links using my link tree! Come join me in the golden glow of romance. https://linktr.ee/brandygolden

Which Witch is Which? Final chapter!

I’ve taken the liberty of including the entire story in this one post so you don’t have to go looking for the first two chapters. Enjoy!

Which Witch is Which? 
by Brandy Golden
Copyright ©2004

Chapter 1

“Just as I thought! I’ve got you now!”

The angry and gritty tones of a male who had lost patience boomed above Darcy DeAngelo’s head as her arm was taken in a firm grasp. She was quickly marched towards the alley, too shocked to utter a peep.

“I told you what would happen, young lady, if you sneaked out tonight. You didn’t believe me, did you? You didn’t really think I would do it. Did you?”

He emphasized the last ‘did you’ with a shake of her arm as he stopped and scowled down at her, his well-shaped brows drawn together in disapproval.

Darcy gaped up at him, astonishment written all over her heavily made-up face. This was the absolute, most gorgeous knockout of a man she had ever seen and the shock was rendering her speechless.

“What’s the matter?” He bit out. “Cat got your tongue?”

She tried to form a coherent word, but he dragged her over to the steps just inside the alley. Then she suddenly found herself falling over a pair of muscled, jean-clad thighs. 

“W-what are you d-doing,” she managed to squeak in a high-pitched voice as she tried to push herself upright.

“I warned you, Holly,” he continued in a deep timbre that sent tingles up and down her spine. Her witch’s skirt was suddenly flowing down about her ears, her legs in the red and white striped hosiery kicking wildly. 

“I told you I’d spank you on the spot if you disobeyed me and left the house. When I discovered you were gone, I came looking for you.” 

He lifted his hand and brought it crashing down on her wiggling red and white striped rump, causing her to squeal in pain and surprise.

“NO!” she yelped as he did it again—and then again! “Stop it…. I’m not…”

He cut her off as he laid spanks down hard and heavy, taking her breath away. “You are determined to have your own way all the time, but not with me, young lady. I tanned your hide when you were ten…did you really think I wouldn’t again, even though you now consider yourself grown up? That’s part of your problem, brat, too big for your britches these days.” 

The swats kept raining down as she screeched in protest.

“You don’t under…st-stand!”

Darcy had never been spanked before. She didn’t know who Holly was, but this man was making a terrible mistake, and her butt was paying the price.

“Don’t bother with excuses, your father left me in charge. I told you no, young lady. He said you were grounded and that I needed to enforce that, so I am! You’re going to get a good hiding, little girl.”

“I’m…NOT…. Holly!” Darcy finally managed to grit out between painful swats. Temper was overcoming shock, and she fought furiously, almost throwing herself off his lap.

“Good try, but no cigar,” returned the rich voice, although he did pause for a moment. “You don’t really think I’m buying that do you?”

“LET ME UP!” Darcy demanded hotly, looking back at him. Her bottom was aching and throbbing from the pounding he had already given it. He frowned at her again, and she was heartened to note his sudden confusion.

“If you touch me again, I will have you arrested,” she promised furiously.

He yanked her upright, his probing dark eyes searching her face as he held her on his knee by her upper arms.

Darcy stared warily back, her chest heaving and her butt stinging. Not to mention it felt like a fist had slammed into her stomach. How could one man be so darned attractive? Her arms tingled where his hands held her and her gasp for breath wasn’t all from yelling.

A sudden giggle from the sidewalk drew their attention and Darcy’s head whipped around to see who had witnessed her humiliation.

Of the three girls dressed in Halloween costumes, the one in the middle locked her gaze. She was dressed just like Darcy, only the make-up being slightly different.

“Wow, Holly. You never told us your uncle was…. like…so totally hot!” This comment came from the bunny rabbit in the not so bunny like costume. More like a playboy bunny, thought Darcy irritably.

“Yeah, Holly. Maybe he wouldn’t mind being my babysitter,” mocked the cat, her painted on whiskers wiggling salaciously.

“What are you doing, Uncle Mark?” Holly asked.

At least Darcy assumed this must be Holly. The girl stared at them disdainfully, her small nose in the air.

“It appears I’ve made a mistake,” he replied, keenly scanning Darcy’s face.

He certainly had, and Darcy was in no mood to forgive at the moment. “What is your name? I’d like to know who I’m pressing charges against.” She tried to shrug his hands off her arms, but he held onto her as he stood up.

“I beg your pardon,” he said apologetically. “I’m very sorry.” 

Darcy’s bottom burned, and in spite of his apparent contrition, she was still not ready to be magnanimous. “You should be! Going around spanking women is a chauvinistic thing to do in any case. How does your wife stand you?”

“I’m not married,” he replied, smiling lazily at her. 

When the megawatt smile came out, Darcy was prepared to be magnanimous after all. Something funny was happening to her knees. They were beginning to tremble as she stared dazedly at him. 

Perfect white teeth in a tanned face, a square jaw with just a hair of a five o’clock shadow, and a burnished black curl hanging down his forehead. Deep gray smoky eyes finished a look that screamed ‘sexy male on hand’ and she hated her reaction. Just the same, she couldn’t help it either, her entire body was zinging all over, like every nerve ending was standing at attention.

Just for him.

Looking around for her bag, she spied it lying on the sidewalk where she’d dropped it. Getting her legs to carry her that far was the next trick.

“No surprise there,” she snapped, desperately trying to cover her loss of composure.

“Let me help you,” he returned apologetically. Deftly he scooped up the bag and returned it to her. “Can I give you a lift somewhere? Do you live around here?”

“No…and no.” She took the bag and their fingers touched. She jumped like she’d been shocked by a static charge, although nothing crackled.

“What’s your name?” He asked gently, looking a little uncomfortable himself as he stuck his hand into his pocket.

“That’s none of your business. Just be thankful I’m not pressing charges.” She moved stiffly away, trying not to let on how sore she was. That hand of his had done a number on her tender bottom, and she just wanted to get away, go home, and soak away her shame and embarrassment.

Once again, her arm was taken in that firm grasp, and she was turned gently to face him. “I insist on seeing you home.”

“Don’t bother.”

“It’s no bother,” he replied firmly. He took Holly’s arm in his other hand. “Say goodnight to miss bunny and miss cat, Holly. You’re coming with me.”

“But, Uncle Mark,” Holly protested, trying to pull away. “You’re treating me like a baby, let go of me.”

“Good night, Holly,” chorused her friends as he led her and Holly both down the block towards a silver Camaro. They could all hear the other two girls snickering.

“You can’t do this to me, Uncle Mark,” Holly yelped furiously. “I’ll be the laughingstock of my friends now.”

“My car is just around the corner,” Darcy said, trying to pull out of his grasp. “I’ll be fine, just let go of me.”

“Get in,” he ordered, ignoring both of their protests.

Fuming, she obeyed, sitting gingerly on the leather of the front seat while Holly, still complaining, climbed into the back.

She sneaked a surreptitious look at the brown hands on the steering wheel as he pulled the car into the flow of traffic.

“What’s your name?” He glanced sideways at her as he flicked on the turn signal. “And this time I want an answer.”

His tone brooked no argument and Darcy grudgingly gave in. “Darcy.”

He lifted his eyebrow and shot her a warning glance.

“Darcy DeAngelo.” She fumed, instinctively knowing what that eyebrow meant and hating herself for responding to his take charge attitude. “What’s yours?” She asked defiantly. “In case I really do press charges.”

He looked amused then, irritating her even further. “It’s Mark Transom, I’m Holly’s uncle. You don’t really plan on reporting this do you?”

“Maybe.” She refused to say no, even though she knew she wouldn’t. It would be far to humiliating for anyone to know what happened. No, it was better swept under the proverbial rug. Not that she would give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

“Isn’t Holly a little old to be spanked?” Her best fiery glance shot his way.

“No woman is ever too old to be spanked.”

“I’ll be sure and tell Grams that,” Darcy replied sarcastically. “She’s going on ninety-three, and I can just see her turned over some man’s lap.”

A delightful grin lit up his features, causing an engaging dimple to appear in the corner of his mouth. “Stranger things have happened.”

Darcy again felt the tug of his charisma, and she fought it. Good-looking men weren’t to be trusted. Their best friends were themselves and a good mirror.

With a huff, she turned away to look for her car. It should be around the next corner. She’d parked it a few blocks away and walked to her destination, the little apartment building under the shady oak trees. Waiting to see if the cheating husband would come back out with his overblown mistress was boring, but it was a job. Then she’d been accosted by this throwback to another century. Her bottom was still stinging and very uncomfortable.

“Is that your car?” 

His low gravelly voice scratched her delicate senses and sent a shiver of awareness up her spine. The horror raced through her as she saw what was left of her 98 Taurus. 

“Stop!” She yelled as she scrabbled for the car door. When he did so, she jumped out of his car and ran to the decimated remains. The tires were gone, the stereo had been lifted, the engine stripped and God knows what else. The worst of all…her purse was gone. She had left it locked in the car and under the seat, and she didn’t see it at all.

Frantically she knelt down and reached under the seat, swiping her hand back and forth in an effort to see if it was magically back there somewhere. If maybe they had missed it.

No such luck.

Groaning, Darcy stood up and laid her arm on the hood of the car, banging her forehead against it in a monotonous rhythm. This could only happen to her.

“Something else wrong?”

She spun around to see Mr. Wonderful watching her solicitously. 

Her best form of defense, her mouth, took over. “Of course not, I just enjoy banging my head on cars, it’s good for the brain, didn’t you know?” Her words were sarcastic, and she watched his eyes narrow in response to her scathing retort.

“I’ll let that pass since you’ve obviously had another shock…that is if this is your car?”

“Of course, it’s my car!” She snapped the words snidely, unfazed by his warning. “I only like to head bang on my own car you know. Other people might not understand if I were to do it on their automobile!”

There was steel in his voice when he replied, “That’s enough. There is no need to be unpleasant and rude. If you keep it up, I may just turn you over my knee for another spanking.”

There was something in the glint of his eyes and the tone of his voice that made Darcy pause, her self-preservation instincts kicking in. The hair on the back of her neck stood up like it always did when danger was afoot. Her eyes locked defiantly with his, then she finally shrugged her slender shoulders and turned around. She set off walking down the sidewalk, intending to leave him in her dust. Tears of frustration and temper were bubbling beneath the surface of her emotions and she didn’t trust herself to be civil. This evening could not have gone more wrong if Hades himself from the underworld had planned it. It was not to be, however, because she no sooner started walking than she found her arm grasped again, and she was spun around to face him once more.

“Wait, you can’t go running around alone.”

“Let go of me,” she hissed. “Haven’t you done enough for one evening? Just leave me alone!” She tried to jerk her arm out of his grasp, but he didn’t let go. Instead, he took the bag off her other arm and let it fall open.

“Seeing as how you only have a camera in this bag,” he drawled, “I’m guessing you left your wallet, phone, and your money in the car. And it’s gone.”

“My, my, what a lucky guess,” she drawled acidly. “After your earlier mistake, I would never have pegged you to be so astute.” 

Her arm was tingling where he held it, and her knees began to shake again. The scent of some heady male aftershave drifted lightly across her nostrils. Tangy and tantalizing, it made her want to cuddle up to his chest and let him take care of her. Damn! Why did he have such a profound effect on her? Worse yet, why did she have to run into someone so perfect, only to find out he was a total beast?

His eye’s flashed a definite warning once again and he hustled her towards his car. “Come on, you’re coming home with me and Holly.”

Darcy dug her heels in. “I most certainly am not! I don’t even know you.”

He questioned her as he dragged her along anyway, regardless of her attempts to pull away. “And just what are you planning to do then? You have no money, no id, no wallet, which means no bank card or checks, and it’s 11:00pm at night.” He stopped trying to push her inside his car while he waited for her to answer. 

“None of your dammed business,” she snapped. “What does it matter to you, anyway? I’ll find a phone and call a friend.”

“I’m not leaving you out here by yourself. I feel responsible for you since I mistook you for my niece. And now that I know you’re stranded, I can’t just leave you on your own. Please, at least come with us to Holly’s house. You can use my cell to call a friend for help and wait there for them to arrive. None of us need to be out hanging around this time of night.” 

If he had ordered her about one more time, Darcy would have slapped him with her bag, but since he put it so reasonably, she decided to give in. Besides, she really wasn’t sure what else she would do.  

Reluctantly, she got back in the car and allowed him to close the door. “Is he always this bossy?” she asked the girl in the back seat.

“No,” Holly replied truthfully, “usually he’s worse. He must be feeling guilty because he got you instead of me. Of course, I have to say I’m glad he did.” She grinned suddenly, her smile lighting up her impish features.

“Thanks a lot,” Darcy replied dryly. “Remind me to collect on that favor sometime.”

It wasn’t long before the two girls were being escorted inside the house. Once inside, Holly made a beeline for the stairs. She stopped when her uncle’s firm voice followed her. “I’m not finished with you, young lady.”

Holly turned to face him. “Aw…come on, Uncle Mark. You can’t really be serious about…uh…you know.”

“About spanking you? Yes, I can…very serious. Get a shower and get your pajamas on. I’ll be up to deal with you in a few minutes.”

Holly huffed and turned to run up the stairs, indignation sticking out all over her.

Darcy was mortified. “You’re not really going to spank her, are you?”

“I said I would and I never go back on my word.” He walked her towards the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Darcy replied, feeling like she was being herded again. “Where’s your phone?”

“Right here,” he said, taking his cell out of his pocket and handing it to her with a grin.

Darcy watched him furtively as he moved about the kitchen with quick efficient movements. Briefly, she wondered how it would feel to have him caring for her. She brushed the thoughts aside and dialed Doug’s number. No point in dialing her apartment, her roommate would be spending the night with her boyfriend, whichever one she had decided on for tonight. Darcy couldn’t keep up with Pamela’s exploits and didn’t bother to try.

“Hello?” came the male voice in her ear.

“Doug…hi…it’s me, Darcy.”

“Where the devil are you, Darcy? I’m falling asleep here waiting for you to get here. Do you realize it’s after 11:00pm?” His voice was querulous and complaining. 

“I know,” she replied soothingly. “I got tied up over here in Birmingdale on a case, and my car’s been stripped. Can you come and get me?”

“It’s almost midnight, and Birmingdale is two hours away. You know I hate driving at night, and I’m extra tired tonight. Can’t you get a hotel room or something?” 

Darcy could hear the exasperation in his voice, and her own anger kindled. No solicitous response as to her safety, no sympathetic exclamations about her car, nothing. It seemed like every time she asked him for anything, it was always inconvenient. However, she was supposed to drop everything when he needed something and come running. The disenchantment with him that had begun months ago finally came to head.

“I know I’m two hours away, Doug,” she replied tersely, then exploded. “You know what? Just never mind. Just forget it, Doug, don’t bother yourself. I’ll find my own way home, now and every night!” She viciously jabbed the off button to hang up the phone. She was so done with Doug. Still, she stared at the phone to see if he would call back, but nothing rang. Guess he didn’t care if she was done.

Asshole.

She rubbed her forehead with tired fingers. Maybe Pamela might accidentally be home. She dialed her own home number. After the tenth ring, she hung up and sighed, wondering if her mother would consider coming from three hours away to get her.

Darcy could count on one hand the number of close friends she had, and still be able to hold a cup of coffee. She just didn’t get close to people very easily, and she really didn’t have anyone else to call.

She started when she felt two warm hands on her shoulders, their gentleness surprising her, and she allowed herself to be turned around. 

“Why don’t you stay here tonight, Darcy. I can run you to wherever home is in the morning after you get some rest. It’s getting really late to be calling anyone anyway.”

The kindness in his tone brought a prickle of tears to Darcy’s eyelids, and she gulped, forcing them back. She would NOT embarrass herself to this man.

“No…I…I can’t do that. It…it wouldn’t be right…or proper,” she stammered, her shoulders tingling where his hands touched her. She looked up into his warm gray eyes full of concern for her, Darcy, and she wanted to stay there in his grasp. To let his caring and gentleness wash over her and keep her safe.

What was happening to her? She didn’t even know this man, and yet she knew instinctively that if it were him, she’d called, he would have been there to get her as fast as he could come. Disconcerted, she tried to get out from under those hands and away from the spell he seemed to cast on her.

“There’s nothing improper about you staying here,” he replied. “Holly is here, and there’s a spare bedroom, fully furnished. You can borrow some of Holly’s clothes and make fresh plans in the morning.” He smiled down at her, and Darcy melted. 

That smile should be registered as a weapon. 

“In fact, I insist. After all, it’s the least I can do to make up for spanking the wrong witch,” he declared.

Darcy tried to drag her gaze away from his, but she couldn’t seem to handle it. “Alright,” she whispered, her mouth a trifle dry. She was mesmerized as his head seemed to dip lower. Her lips parted in anticipation as if inviting his sweet caress.

She was surprised when his lips brushed across her forehead in a chaste kiss and he cleared his throat. “Your tea is ready.

Was it her imagination, or were his hands trembling slightly as he handed her the cup of hot sweet brew, his fingers seeming to linger on hers.

“Bring your tea with you, and I’ll get you some clothes for a shower before I deal with Holly.” He turned and headed for the stairway, and Darcy obediently followed him, feeling like a puppy dog at its master’s heel. Why that absurd analogy should enter her head, she didn’t know. She only knew that he made her feel safe.

“Get a grip, girl,” she muttered to herself.

After gathering a few things from Holly, Mark showed her to the bedroom and ushered her in.

“There’s a bath off the room, although it’s a shared bath with Holly’s room. You’re welcome to use the shower, and there are towels in the closet inside the bathroom.”

“Thank you,” she murmured as she stood sipping her tea in the middle of the room. “I really do appreciate this.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” He flashed her that blue ribbon smile and left, closing the door quietly behind him.

She was standing naked in front of the tub, warming the water for a hot shower when she heard the mumble of voices coming from Holly’s room. She started when she heard the muffled sounds of slapping and realized that he must be spanking the girl. 

Quickly, Darcy turned the shower on and stepped into the tub, closing the curtain to try and block out Holly’s cries, but it was no use. Her heart beating fast, she stood there with her eyes closed under the running water, listening against her will.

The spanking went on for a lot longer than Darcy’s had, and she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the young girl. Darcy herself was only twenty-three, and she judged Mark to be in his middle to late twenties, especially if he wasn’t married. Must be a younger brother to Holly’s father…. or mother, as the case might be. 

Finally, the cries stopped, and Darcy relaxed, hoping it was all over with. It was all terribly odd, this spanking business. She didn’t realize that men did that these days.

Turning off the shower, she got out and dried herself off, brushing back the wet dark hair and damp tendrils curling around her neck and temples. Her deep blue orbs were dark in the mirror, she looked tired and pale with a bit of puffiness beneath her eyes. Suddenly, she wished she had someone to just…snuggle with…someone to hold her for a while. Someplace to feel safe, protected, and cared for. 

Feeling down suddenly, she slipped into the chaste red cotton pajamas with the black flowers all over them and padded to the kitchen with the empty teacup. She thought about Doug and his reluctance to come and get her. 

No knight in shining armor there.

A wry grimace twisted her soft mouth as she placed the cup in the sink and turned around. She froze when she saw Mark coming through the doorway, his eyes raking her figure from head to foot.

A flicker of something undistinguishable flashed in his eyes as he slowly approached her. “Well, well…how different you look without all that cake make-up,”’ he murmured, his hand reaching out to run a finger down her soft cheek. “Quite beautiful in its normal appearance instead of green.”

Darcy knew she was anything but beautiful, and she flushed. “Ha, little do you know. Beauty is not one of my finer points.”

“I disagree,” he replied gently. “I see a lovely young woman—one who shouldn’t be running herself down.”

When uncomfortable, Darcy had a bad habit of hiding behind sarcasm; a trait that many people found obnoxious. It was easy to chase people away though, few wanted to get to know the person behind a prickly exterior. 

“Men have never been known to be picky when it comes to a good lay,” she said tartly. “You know the old song… ‘The women all get prettier at closing time’?”

She didn’t miss the tightening of his lips and the scowl deepening on his face. However, she chose to ignore those warning signals, wanting only to keep him at bay. She wasn’t ready to face the growing interest she was feeling in this stranger she had met tonight. Plus, she was just plain scared.

“Stop it,” he ordered brusquely.

“Why? Does the truth hurt?” She mocked cheekily. making a great show of looking at her watch. “Oh my, it’s getting later and later. I must be looking better and better.”

“I said…enough!

If she had known him a little better, she might have been more cautious. But, given the circumstances, she plowed nervously on, attempting to make him keep his distance. To put out the flame that was licking along her abdomen. After all, a man that looked like this would never be interested in her. Better to put him off her right now, before he had the chance to break her heart later.

Chapter 2

Mark fought his rising irritation with the obstinate young woman in front of him. He knew perfectly well what she was doing. His only problem was how he wanted to proceed.

“Your room or mine?” She laughed derisively. “Or do you want to just get it on right here on the kitchen floor?” She cocked her head cheekily, her eyes bright with self-deprecation.

“You don’t listen well, do you?” Mark grasped her arm and marched her towards the stairway in spite of her startled gasps.

“W-where are we going?”

Her voice was a scared kitten squeak and he knew he was right in his assessment. All mouthy bluster and no follow through. “I’m taking you to your room,” he replied evenly, pushing her up the stairs with one hand on her delectable rear.

“B-but,” she stuttered, obviously trying to gather her wits.

“You invited me, remember?” He could just hear the wheels spinning as she tried to quickly figure a way out of her current predicament.

“I-I didn’t really mean it,” she protested, digging her heels in as he tried to march her down the hall, the door to her bedroom looming ever closer. Her panting was getting heavier as she tried to shake his hand off her arm and pull away.

“You should never say things you don’t mean,” he chided firmly, opening the bedroom door and pushing her inside. “Someone might take you up on them one day, and then you’d really be in trouble.” He stared sternly down at her as he pulled her towards the bed. “When I say enough, that means enough, Darcy. Something you need to remember in the future.”

“W-what are you doing?” Her voice quivered as he sat down on the bed and pulled her between his knees.

“Acting like a fractious child earns you a child’s punishment. “I’m going to give you a spanking and put you to bed. You can think about your indiscretions for the rest of the evening instead of playing cards and having some cocoa as I was going to suggest earlier.”

 Pulling her across his left knee, Mark swiftly pushed down the pajama bottoms Holly had supplied and admired the outline of Darcy’s bare wiggling cheeks in the daring black thong. Desire shot straight to his loins and distracted him. His fingers trembled slightly as he ran his palm across their warm satiny softness.

“No…please…I’m sorry,” Darcy pleaded, trying to put her hand back. “I’m so sore already, please don’t, Mark.”

Mark noted some deep red spots here and there intermixed with a few small welts from his hand earlier. She probably was sore. “I don’t know why you chose to disparage yourself in this manner, but it won’t fly with me.” He tipped her slightly forward and landed six spanks on the undercurve of her bottom cheeks, three on each side. That brought the tears.

“I-I’m sorry, it’s just a habit,” Darcy admitted with a breathy sob.  

He pulled her upright and sat her on his knee, unable to bring himself to spank her anymore. He’d made his point anyway. The tears were trickling down her face and she looked defeated and forlorn. His thumb gently brushed away a tear. “Why?”

She shrugged her shoulders and dropped her gaze to her hands in her lap. “A defensive mechanism when I get uncomfortable.”

He chuckled. “So, you know what you’re doing.”

Her eyes shot back to his. “It works when I’m uncomfortable. People usually leave me alone and don’t pester me for answers or explanations that I don’t want to give.”

His eyebrow shot up. “I didn’t realize I was pestering you for anything. As I remember, I was complimenting you on your natural beauty.”

A blush shot up her throat and into her face. “I’m not beautiful,” she protested.

“Ah, you don’t like compliments, they make you uncomfortable.” Expressive, distrustful eyes stared back at him then slid away to stare at the wall. She’d been hurt before, obviously.

Finally, she huffed. “What are you? A therapist or something?”

Gently he replied, “I am as a matter of fact.”

The expression on her face as she whipped towards him could only be categorized as horror. She jumped to her feet and it was as if shutters suddenly closed in her eyes. “Get out.”

Puzzled, Mark stood up. “What’s wrong, Darcy?”

“You are what’s wrong,” she bit out between clenched teeth. “Now, get out or I’ll borrow some clothes from Holly and start walking.”

She was shaking, her entire frame stiff and indignant. Mark tried to take her hand but she backed away like he was a rabid dog. “Don’t touch me.”

His shrewd mind racing, he asked, “Is this Doug a therapist?”

“No,” she snapped.

“But you’ve dated or known someone who was,” he supplied intuitively.

Darcy bristled, the distrust shining clearly in her eyes. “You think you’re so smart, don’t you?” She mocked. “You always have all the answers, you and all your kind. Just leave me alone and get out.” Her voice broke and she turned her back on him.

Making a decision, Mark finally spoke. “All right, Darcy, but this is isn’t over. I can see you’re tired and upset so I’ll let you get to bed. We’ll talk in the morning.”

The reply was muffled but he could understand it. “No, we won’t.”

He walked to the door and then hesitated. “I’m sorry you’re hurting, honey, but don’t lump me in with whoever caused it. I like you…I like you a lot. I’d like to get to know you better.”

The urge to gather her into his arms and hold her close, protect her from his unscrupulous kind, and keep her safe was overwhelming. Her forlorn figure standing so alone with her arms wrapped around her middle and the keep off sign clearly sending its signal tore at his heartstrings. The dominant in him wanted to find whoever it was that hurt her and strangle him. It also made him want to be more forceful with her and find out who it was, but he knew her mind wasn’t in the right frame for that right now. He needed to be patient, give her this space, and pick it up later.

He needed to earn her trust.

Goodnight,” he said tenderly. “I’ll get you home in the morning, I promise.”

Her muffled reply was indiscernible this time.

                                                     ***

After Mark left the room, Darcy climbed into the bed and shivered beneath the blankets waiting for her chilled body to warm up.

The man was a frick’n mind jerk!

How could she get so unlucky in one lifetime?

Conrad had been a therapist. Full of himself, always analyzing every word she said and everything she did. Making her feel like she was an emotional cripple and totally screwed up. Unless she did every little thing that he told her to do, she was ‘messed up’ and needed extensive therapy. She was selfish if she didn’t want to have sex when he wanted it, she was dependent on her mother if she met her mother for lunch or did anything with her that he didn’t approve of. No matter what they disagreed over, he always had to be right. Her opinion didn’t count, it was faulty and she wasn’t thinking clearly.

Making friends had never been easy for Darcy at the best of times, so when he told her best friend that Darcy’s mental health was in question, that had been the final straw. Lucky for her, Sheila had seen right through the jerk and encouraged her to get away from him and his destructive grip. They had found out two years later that the girl Conrad had married had taken her own life.

Darcy shivered as the memories danced through her mind. Getting away from Mark was imperative for her own sanity. Playing mind games and allowing her mental processes to be manipulated once again wasn’t going to happen.

It was such a shame too, because she was more attracted to him than any man she’d met. Which made him all the more dangerous to her sanity. She had to get away, but how? How would she explain wanting to borrow his phone again to call a taxi or an uber? How would she pay for it if she could? Fear clawed at her throat at the thought of demanding he allow it. Somehow, he would change her mind, she just knew it.

Getting up to go to the bathroom, her mind raced like a hamster on a wheel. The thought of walking in this neighborhood at night made her feel nauseous. Stupidity didn’t come easy to her and she was well aware of the risks. Lurking in the shadows to spy on cheating husbands had revealed enough of the seamy side of men to know that was a dangerous idea.

When she heard a sneeze on the other side of the bathroom door of Holly’s room, she knocked timidly and whispered in the darkness. “Holly? Are you awake?” She heard the bed creak and footsteps pad to the door.

“Yes, do you need something?” Holly was whispering too. It was funny how people imitated each other’s actions, even when it wasn’t necessary.

“Can I borrow your phone? I need to let my mom know I’m okay,” she lied without a qualm. “And do you have a sweatshirt I could borrow? I’m kind of cold.” She glanced down at her pajama sweats. They would have to do in place of asking for jeans. That might raise suspicion.

“Sure, hang on,” Holly whispered in reply. She padded away and then returned. “Here you go.”

Darcy cracked the door and took the sweatshirt and Holly’s phone. “I’ll give this back in just a minute, and thanks for the sweatshirt.” She closed the door and quickly dialed 911 and told them she was sneaking out of her abusive boyfriend’s home and ask for an officer to meet her out front. It was the only way she could think of to get away without any money. After asking for no lights and sirens, she hung up, deleted her call, and took the phone back to Holly. She had about five minutes to get outside.

Her heart was pounding in her throat as she pulled the sweatshirt over her head and slipped on her tennis shoes. Cracking the door, she peeked into the hall. There was a light beneath Mark’s door, so she had to assume he’d come up for bed. The rest of the house was dark and quiet.

Silently she opened the bedroom door wide enough for her to skinny through it, hoping it wouldn’t creak. It didn’t and she breathed a sigh of relief. Swiftly she moved with the soft tread of cat’s paws down the hall and on down the stairs without making a sound. Pausing at the bottom of the stairway, she held her breath and listened. Keeping in the shadows of the rooms, she made her way to the front door and outside just a police cruiser pulled up in front.

“Get me out of here,” she hissed as she tumbled into the back seat. “Oh, and I need to report my car burglarized and my purse was stolen.”

“By the boyfriend?” The officer asked, pulling away from the curb.

“No, not by him,” she hissed in a whisper, then realizing what she was doing, spoke aloud. “No, not by him, by someone else. It was over on Apple Street by the Red Lark apartments.”

“I’ll take you down to the station and you can file a report,” the officer replied, glancing at her in the mirror. “Are you sure you’re alright? Did your boyfriend assault you?”

“Not in the way you think,” Darcy muttered, images of herself over Mark’s knee not once but twice that evening. “No, no,” she added hastily, “he didn’t hurt me. I wanted to leave and he didn’t want me too.” Technically, that was the truth—mostly.

It was 3:30am by the time Darcy finally tumbled into her own bed in her own apartment. Pamela hadn’t been too happy when she’d interrupted her and her boyfriends sex party on the sofa either. Making a mental note to have Pamela shampoo the sofa before anyone sat on it again, she yawned widely and drifted off to sleep.

Her last thought was of Mark as his handsome face swam behind her closed eyelids. What a shame he was a mind jerk, she’d really liked him until she found out his occupation.

Well…mostly liked him.

The spanking fetish was weird, but not a total turn-off. She’d heard that playful spankings could be really erotic, but having the courage to suggest such a thing would give a man way too much control over her. Better to let sleeping dogs lay in that department. Right?

                                                     ***

When Mark woke up on Sunday morning after Halloween, he thought of Darcy. It was the first time in a long time that he felt eager to see a girl again. Okay, so he was a practicing licensed therapist, successful he supposed, not too hard on the female eye judging from the admiring glances women gave him, but just the same, he felt lonely.

Being a therapist had its disadvantages. He practically knew what women were thinking just from the human emotional patterns he recognized with little effort. He knew which ones came to see him because of their personal interest in him, and which ones sincerely wanted his help. He quickly discouraged the fakers and tried to help the others.

He would be thirty next year and he had yet to find anyone who inspired that crazy, lusty, mad-for-you passion he wanted to feel. He wanted someone who needed him to take care of them and protect them, yet not be clinging and dependent.

Someone like Darcy.

Jumping into a hot shower, he ran his mind’s eye up and down her figure from her beautiful clear skin, dark eyes, and curly hair to her lovely butt globes peeking up at him through the thong. Attraction reared its hot head, his male member saluted the faucets, and he rushed through his washup so he could start breakfast for her.

A frown creased his smooth brow as he toweled off and considered her reaction last night when she realized he was a therapist. What in the world was that all about? There was some serious hurt behind her actions and words, trauma even. The sooner he could find out what happened, the quicker he could help her deal with it.

Dressing quickly in his jeans and a Chiefs sweatshirt, he headed for the kitchen and rummaged around in the refrigerator for some bacon and eggs. Or should he prepare pancakes? Did Darcy like pancakes better than bacon and eggs?

Girls were so worried about their figures and how much they ate these days, it was impossible to know. Was she someone who ate what she liked and had a lean metabolism? Or did she pick up weight easily? These were very real concerns of some of his female patients and he stood there with the door open, analyzing the problem.

Finally realizing he was being completely indecisive, he grinned at himself. “I’ll just make both,” he muttered.

“You know, they say talking to yourself is a sign of old age, Uncle Mark.”

He turned around to see Holly standing there with a smirky grin on her face.

“I’m not too old to turn you over my knee, young lady.” He grinned back when she flushed and her chin shot up.

“You’re as bad as Dad, I swear,” Holly avowed, tossing her bright red curls. “I don’t even know why I like you.” She walked over and peered in the refrigerator. “What are you cooking this morning?”

“You like me because I’m your favorite uncle, brat,” he replied affectionally.

“You’re my only uncle,” she sassed back.”

“I rest my case.”

“You’re impossible.” She grabbed the milk and reached into the cupboard for a glass.

“I’m fixing pancakes with bacon and eggs,” he said cheerfully. “So, leave the pop tarts alone.”

Holly wrinkled her nose. “You know I don’t eat a big breakfast. Just pancakes with chocolate chips and powdered sugar will be fine.”

“You are forgetting that we have a guest. Since I’m not sure what Darcy likes, I’m fixing a couple of choices,” he explained.

“She’s not here though.”

Mark stopped and caught her eyes with a frosty glare. “What do you mean she’s not here?”

Holly shrugged. “When I came into the bathroom this morning, the door was open on her side, but she wasn’t there. Since she’s not down here either, that means she must have left.”

“How could she leave? She had no money and no way to get anywhere!”

Holly took a drink of her milk and licked her top lip. “Maybe her mother picked her up. She used my phone to call her and tell her she was okay.”

“Let me see your phone, please.” He held out his hand, his stomach churning. Why would Darcy leave in the middle of the night? Would her mother really come from two hours away to get her daughter? Probably. Most mothers would, anyway.

“She deleted the call, if that’s what you’re looking for.” Holly gave him her phone and sat at the table.

Mark quickly located the trash on Holly’s phone. The only call out last night was right after they’d both gone up to bed. Around midnight. It was to 911 emergency services. Handing Holly back her phone, he turned to leave the kitchen.

“Hey, what about breakfast?” Holly called to his retreating figure.

“Grab some pop tarts,” he replied, pulling his jacket out of the closet by the front door. Feeling only slightly guilty at leaving his niece to eat an unhealthy breakfast, he opened the front door. Holly wouldn’t care, she loved pop tarts anyway. “I’ll be back in a little bit, don’t go anywhere.”

The city streets of the little suburb of Independence Missouri were virtually deserted in the crisp air of Sunday morning. Old Elm, Maple and other various majestic trees were shedding their leaves, leaving a carpet of swirling color on the lawns and in the streets. Little gusts of wind blew them about in delicate windy spirals that at any other time, would lift his spirits.

Pulling up in front of the police station, he bounded to the sidewalk and into the lobby. The dispatcher, a young blonde woman with her hair in a messy bun and an ink mark on her cheek came to the window.

“Can I help you?” She asked curiously.

Mark nodded eagerly. “Yes, I want to know if Darcy DeAngelo came in here last night. She disappeared from my home over on Walnut Street and I’m worried about her.”

The blue eyes of the dispatcher immediately became guarded. “I’ll get an officer for you.”

In a few minutes, a police officer resembling Telly Savalas with his bald head and wide knowing shark smile stepped into the foyer and motioned him to follow him to a room. “Have a seat, please,” he instructed in a deadpan voice. They both sat down. “Are you Miss DeAngelo’s boyfriend?”

Mark’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not her boyfriend, but she was staying with me and my niece last night and she disappeared. According to my niece’s phone, she called 911. I want to make sure she’s okay, since I didn’t know she was gone until this morning.”

The officer nodded. “And did you have a fight with her?”

“No, we didn’t fight.”

“Did you assault her?” He pinned Mark in a fierce stare as if he was looking into his very soul and seeing his next big case.

“Of course not,” Mark protested with a frown. “What’s this all about?”

The officer studied him like a bug under a microscope, a gleam in his brown eyes. “Miss DeAngelo called for help because she said her boyfriend wouldn’t let her leave the home. Why wouldn’t you let her leave?”

Mark glanced uneasily down at the officer’s name badge. “Look, Officer Treason, Darcy isn’t my girlfriend. I picked her up last night when her car broke down and…” He trailed off when he realized how that must sound to a suspicious cop. He tried again. “She was stranded and I offered her a place to stay because she didn’t have money to get home and it was two hours away. Her actual boyfriend refused to come and get her, and I didn’t want to drive that late because I’m taking care of my niece for the weekend. Why she chose to tell you that story, I don’t know,” he declared impatiently. “All I wanted to do in coming here was to make sure she was alright.” He stood up.

Officer Treason stood up, disbelief obviously warring with irritation that he couldn’t pin Mark into something nefarious. “Since there’s never been a domestic dispute at that address and Miss DeAngelo is safely home, I’ll let this go. She said she didn’t want to press charges in any case, so you are free to leave.”

Mark nodded; his lips tight from holding in the indignation filling his throat and threatening to spill out. As he left, he glanced back over his shoulder at the officer. If the man had pointed his two fingers towards his eyeballs and then at Mark, his body language couldn’t have been any plainer.

He would be watching him.

Thank God he didn’t actually live in this neighborhood.

Feeling like he’d had a narrow escape and wishing he had Darcy’s conniving little butt under his hand, Mark got in his car and drove off. Amid the myriad of conflicting feelings, he was experiencing, he recognized hurt. He wanted to get to know Darcy. She clearly didn’t want to know him.

Rejection sucked.

He realized it for what it was and tamped down his disappointment. Still reluctant to wash his hands of her, a small part of him wanted to find her. Maybe she thought she’d gotten away, but he could find her if he wanted too. He’d tried to do right by her and she’d slunk away like a thief in the night. He should be glad to be rid of her. Only he wasn’t.

Marked drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, indecision marching back and forth in his mind like little tin soldiers. Then he remembered he still had her witch costume. Surprisingly, it gave him the impetus to go after her. He’d just wash it and return it today after he ran down her address. She might need it next year, right?

Chapter 3

Darcy rolled over with a groan, trying to surface from the dream where Mark Transom was chasing her down a dimly lit alley on a broomstick with a black cape blowing in the wind behind him. He was shouting at her.

“I’ll catch you, you little witch. You’re in so much trouble, but I’ll straighten you out.”

There was a demonic pounding in her head as if someone was knocking on her skull as she ran for her life down that dark alleyway. Everything was off, somehow, and it hurt to think. Wasn’t she supposed to be riding the broomstick? She was the witch after all. 

“Darcy,” shouted a loud voice. “Wake up, there’s some guy here to see you.”

Something grabbed her shoulder and she moaned in fear. “Let me go. Let me go.”

“What’s the matter with you, Darcy? Did you get high last night or what?”

There was no mistaking Pamela’s nasal voice in her ear. Consciousness stole in and screwed her eyelids open as her roommate’s petulant face swung into view.

“What do you want?” Darcy complained, trying to figure out if Pamela had four eyes or if her vision was just skewed. She yawned so wide her jaws cracked. “And what time is it?”

“It’s 2:00 in the afternoon,” Pamela replied. “This guy looking for you is pretty hot. Where did you find him?” she asked, her eyes gleaming. “He’s a big improvement over Doug, that’s for sure.”

Darcy shot straight up in bed. “What guy?” Her stomach started to flutter as her mind finally woke up. No small feat for a lazy Sunday, especially after the night she’d had. Apprehension tiptoed across her skin leaving goosebumps in its wake. Surely it couldn’t be Mark at her door.

Pamela huffed impatiently. “I told you already—the guy at the door. He says he wants to talk to you.”

“Tell him I don’t take clients in my home,” Darcy improvised, springing out of bed and heading for the bathroom in a panic.

Pamela’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “He’s a client?”

“Yes—no—just get rid of him, for heaven’s sake.”

Just as she shut the bathroom door, Darcy heard Pamela yell.

“She said she doesn’t want to see you.”

Darcy groaned and sat on the toilet, dropping her head into her hands. Pamela was so irritating. She wished she could afford an apartment on her own. It was actually Pamela’s apartment, but when Darcy had seen the advertisement in the paper, she couldn’t turn down the cheap rent. Besides, she’d been spending most of her time at Doug’s place.

 Having a place of her own was important to Darcy because she didn’t want anyone getting any ideas that they could run her life again. Okay, so it was a bolt-hole if things got rocky. It wasn’t great, but it was better than going back to her mother’s. Maxine DeAngelo could have made an interrogator for the Gestapo.

The sudden sharp rapping on the door made her goosebumps dance. “He says he’s not leaving until you come and talk to him,” Pamela reported through the wooden panel.

Darcy rolled her eyes. Could this situation get any more ridiculous? “I’m in the shower,” Darcy retorted, standing up and turning the water on in the bathtub. Shedding her pajamas, she quickly stepped under the hot spray, ignoring Pamela’s irritated grumble about not being a go-between anymore. She didn’t care anyway. If it was Mark, hopefully, he’d take the hint and leave. After all, men didn’t like having to cool their heels and wait. They were great at telling women what to do but didn’t take direction well when it was their turn to be ordered about.

Sighing in bliss, she let the hot water wash away the last of her thoroughly disgusting Halloween night as she shampooed her hair and shaved under her arms, taking her sweet time. After turning the water off, she paused to listen. No sounds were coming from the living room at all. He must have left then, so that was a good thing.

She was wringing out her hair and twisting it behind her head when a bath towel was thrust inside the curtain.

“Thanks, Pamela. I forgot to grab a clean towel. That one on the rack looks like it has mold growing on it. You really should wash it more often.” Darcy wasn’t particularly anal about using a fresh towel every time, she was usually good for a week or so with just one, but Pamela took water conservation to a whole new level. “Did you get rid of him?” She asked, pushing the shower curtain aside in preparation to step out.

“You’re welcome for the towel, Darcy,” came the male growl from the other side of the bathroom door. “I’ll be waiting in the living room for you to get dressed. Don’t make me wait too long or I won’t be as patient as I’ve been so far.”

Darcy’s heart rate shot through the roof. He’d been in her bathroom just now, like a common peeper! There was no doubt it was Mark; she’d recognize that deep gravelly voice anywhere. “Get a grip,” she muttered to herself, her fingers trembling as she dried her body and wrapped her hair in the towel. Her feelings alternated between sheer outrage at his audacity and relief that he hadn’t actually waited to watch her get out of the tub. In fact, she didn’t know what to think since she hadn’t expected to see him again. What the hell did he want anyway?

Lucky for Darcy, the bathroom was next to her room so she could get to some clean clothes without passing the door to the living room. She wondered if Mark was sitting on the couch or pacing the room? She hoped it was the couch, that would so be justice in her book for disturbing her on a Sunday afternoon. The little prick of guilt she felt at wishing Pamela and her dates leftover sexual residues on Mark tried to make a stand, then failed. Snickering, she dressed in a pair of comfortable sweats and a long-sleeved Kansas City Chiefs t-shirt. With her towel wrapped around her head and her irritation with him still hot, she marched into the living room ready to filet him like a fish, then stopped dead in her tracks.  

Mark was sitting on the loathsome couch, but the couch had never had it so good. The man was gorgeous in the morning if you could call a man gorgeous. Her heart rate picked up when his eyes pinned her in his smoky glare making her squirmy inside. As good as he looked in his cream cable knit sweater and blue jeans, he still looked pissed.

“I was just keeping your friend company,” Pamela purred, oozing even closer to Mark.

Darcy gritted her teeth. “I’ll just bet you were.” She wasn’t prepared for the hot thread of jealousy that flared through her like a flame running down a line of gunpowder toward a powder keg. Tearing Pamela’s hair out and giving her a black eye would be so appropriate right now.

Her eyes shifted to the man on Pamela’s right. Bob…Brad…she couldn’t quite remember his name but it was something different. Buck…his name was Buck. Poor old Buck didn’t look too happy at the situation either, especially since Darcy was closer to Mark than she was him. He stood up and shot Pamela a jealous glare. “Are you ready to go for some food yet? I’m getting hungry.”

“I’m sure she’s ready to go,” Darcy replied in sugar-coated, syrupy words that echoed Pamela’s’. “Aren’t you, Pamela?”

Pamela shot Darcy an angry look and got up with a huff. “Come on then, Buck, let’s get this over with.”

Darcy could tell Buck was in the last death throes of their relationship and didn’t know it if his puppy dog eyes on Pamela as they made their way out was any indication. He wasn’t a bad-looking guy, a little taller and more muscled than Pamela’s last few exploits. He had a baby face though, and dirty blond hair spiked in the back like a Dennis the Menace look. Whether he did it on purpose Darcy didn’t know and didn’t care. If he’d had a leash around his throat, he couldn’t have been any more subservient to Pamela unless he was on his knees. Maybe she liked the little boy lost look, who knows? Darcy was just glad they were gone. She turned to Mark. He was sitting forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands hanging between them, still studying her.

“How attached to you are that couch?” She asked, staying out of his reach.

Mark lifted his eyebrow. He looked at the couch and then at Darcy’s smirking face and she could see the moment he figured it out. He shot up fast with a grimace of disgust.

“And here I was planning on hauling you over my lap,” he replied, shaking his head.

“Not on that thing you won’t,” she replied hotly.

His sudden lazy grin lit up her insides. “That wasn’t a definite no,” he replied. “I’ll take that as a yes to a different location.”

“You will never get a yes to spanking me,” she replied fiercely. “What are you doing here anyway? And how did you find me?” She flopped into the leather recliner and flipped it back so she could put her feet up as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

Mark pointed to the plastic Walmart bag by the front door. “I brought your witch costume back since you sneaked out in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. That was very rude, by the way. So were the cops when I had to go to the police station to make sure you were safe and not roaming the streets of Independence alone at night. You told them quite a little story. I’ll have to watch my back when I’m at Holly’s now.”

Darcy flushed at his disapproving tone and shot him an acid glare. “I roam the streets all the time alone, thank you very much. I haven’t needed anyone to keep me safe yet.”

“Not without money, phone, or transportation,” he insisted.

“I would have figured it out,” she mumbled, refusing to give him any quarter although he was right and she knew it. Part of her was pleased that he wanted to keep her safe. It did cause her a bit of guilt at the way she’d left, but she was protecting herself from him at that point.

At least she’d felt like she was.

The last thing she needed was another man who wanted to manipulate her. She crushed that small voice inside her that protested accusing him without proof. Men were universally the same in most ways. Why would he be any different?

She could feel him studying her as his hands fisted casually at his hips. “As for finding you, I don’t have to be a detective to figure that out, there were plenty of clues.”

Her eyes challenged him. “Okay, so you found me and returned my property.” Her brain was silently asking now what. He was still a mind jerk and it didn’t change anything. She found herself wishing it could be different, though. She pressed into the back of the chair when he suddenly moved forward and dropped a big hand on the chair arms on either side of her as he bent in close.

“Now I decide whether to give you the spanking you deserve here, or wait until I fix you some dinner at my house. I have to get back to Holly. You decide.”

Seriously? Darcy tried to find a sarcastic comeback and found she was clueless at the moment. This situation was unique and most of her practiced quips just wouldn’t apply. One thing she didn’t want was another spanking at this man’s hands, but how to get out of it? She grabbed the dinner lifeline. “D-dinner,” she stuttered.

He grabbed her hands and pulled her out of the chair. After the footrest went down, he seated himself and pulled her immediately over his lap. The towel tumbled off her head and her damp hair fell down around her face.

“Wait,” Darcy screeched. “I said dinner. What are you doing?”

“I’m rewarding you for choosing dinner at my place,” he said, his large hand rubbing her protruding rear over her sweatpants. “Besides, you issued a challenge. You said you would never say yes to a spanking, but I’m going to show you what good girls can get when they behave themselves.”

Darcy clutched the leather chair arm in her left hand and his pant leg in her right. Her towel fell off her hair and landed in a heap in front of her face.

 “You’re a raving lunatic,” she gasped. His hand on her rear was doing strange things to her libido though. He adjusted her slightly and her toes barely touched the floor on the other side of his lap. It wasn’t an uncomfortable position to be in except for the fact that he was about to rain down pain on her rear end. Should she bite him? She really should except she was kind of curious.

That thought of mayhem melted away when his hand slid into the back of her sweatpants and panties and caressed her bare skin. She couldn’t help the moan that escaped her throat.

“You like that, don’t you?”

She could hear the satisfied male smirk in his tone, but couldn’t summon the snark to tell him off. It just felt too damned good. When her lower garments went south of her knees she shivered as his warm palm glided smoothly back up the back of her thighs, leaving warmth in the trail on her skin. “Mark…please,” she pleaded. She was trying to tell him to stop, that this was inappropriate, that they’d just met, and all the other polite idioms that the situation called for but all that came out was his name in a fevered whisper of desire. What was wrong with her?

“Your body is telling me what you want,” he crooned in her ear as his fingers slipped into the warm wetness below her buttocks. “You need this, Darcy, and I want to give it to you. If you don’t want it, say so now.”

Darcy couldn’t say anything. He was right, she wanted what he was offering too much to stop now. When his hand left her plump mounds and returned with a sharp swat she gasped at the sting. Just as quickly his palm rubbed it away, leaving only a soothing warmth. That wasn’t bad at all, her brain registered. Her body trembled, her insides quaking with excitement.

Over and over, he stoked the fire inside her that was threatening to explode into cataclysmic pleasure until she was mewling and wiggling on his lap. When his clever fingers finally threw her over the edge of the volcano, the feelings were so intense she couldn’t control her cries as he brought her down to a floating finish, then patted her stinging globes with a male chuckle.

“There you go, sweetheart. Now you know what a good girl gets, and it will be my pleasure to give it to you when you earn it. Or when you ask for it.”

Darcy was still floating, his words tiptoeing into her innermost thoughts. She could get used to this. Was it some new form of manipulation? If so, it was better than anything she’d experienced thus far in her young life. When he lifted her noodle-like body and cuddled her in his arms, she softly sighed into the crook of his throat, then shivered when her body started cooling down and reality began to creep back in. Lifting her head, she caught his gaze.

 “We shouldn’t be doing this,” she whispered, suddenly feeling the need to get her clothes back in place and her dignity cloak hauled around her. Her cool damp hair was making her shiver and she felt unglued in every way. She tried to get off his lap.

“Whoa, sweetheart, let me help you.” He stood her between his knees and pulled her pants back into place. He placed a gentle kiss on her flat stomach before he pulled her long-sleeved tee back over the waistband of her sweats.

She stared mutely at him, her thoughts and feelings a maelstrom of emotion. They hadn’t even known each other for 24 hours and yet he’d taken liberties that she hadn’t even tried to stop. And for whatever crazy reasons, they felt right. She’d just had the best sexual experience she’d ever enjoyed and he didn’t seem to expect anything in return. What kind of man does that? Where was the exit door from this crazy world, and did she even want to take it? And most of all, when would the penny drop? Because men like Mark just weren’t normal.

She jumped when the ridiculous musical tones of the pink panther sounded loudly in the silence of the room, totally breaking the spell he seemed to hold her under. Her heart racing, she stepped out of his grasp and made her way to her cell phone on its charging pad in her bedroom, only to frown at the number and decline the call. No matter what happened with Mark, Doug was history. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her frazzled nerves.

“The Pink Panther? Seriously?” Mark asked with a chuckle, sticking his head around the doorframe and grinning wickedly. “I love those movies. Peter Sellers did a great job as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Is that where you got your inspiration to be a detective? Although I’m not sure his car was stripped while he was on duty,” he teased as walked over to her.

Darcy whirled around to face him, her eyes sparkling with the challenge. “Are you saying I’m a bumbling mess?” She asked, trying not to respond to his laughing eyes.  The warmth of camaraderie was seeping into her, making her feel bubbly and happy.

“Of course not,” he remonstrated, his hands behind his back. “I would never do that.”

“Let me see your hands,” she demanded. “Are your fingers crossed?” She tried to get behind him but he spun around to block her. “You do have your fingers crossed, admit it.” Giggling, Darcy took the opportunity to reach out and tickle his ribs where his six-pack was on delicious display through the clingy sweater.

Mark grabbed her wrists and held them above her head in one big hand, then proceeded to return the favor. “Tickle me, will you? I’ll get even in spades.”

Darcy squealed and giggled until he finally took mercy on her and lowered his mouth to tentatively take her laughter into his own. When he released her hands, she wrapped them around his neck as he thoroughly, sweetly, explored her with a tenderness that made her eyes water. “Mark,” she whispered, “this is crazy. We hardly know each other.”

His voice was husky. “You’re right, it is crazy, but you’ve put a spell on me, little witch. I can’t seem to let you go, although I tried.”

She stiffened in his arms. “You are probably right to let me go,” she agreed. “I’m nothing but a messed-up bunch of trouble, and I truly can be a witch. I’ve been told that before.” She tried to pull away but he wouldn’t allow it.

His eyes narrowed. “By who?”

Her eyes dropped and wouldn’t look up, she couldn’t make them. “It doesn’t matter who it was,” she replied painfully. “I’m not worth the effort of trying to sort me out. You should get out while you can.”

“The only thing I’m going to do is wait while you get your things together and then I’ll take you to Holly’s where I’ll fix some dinner for us,” he said. He lifted her chin gently. “You don’t need sorting out, Darcy, you just need to be loved, we all do.”

Darcy was at a loss for words…again. Finally, she licked her lips and made an effort. “Y-you said you were going to spank me, so why should I go with you?” She was a little irked about that threat because she didn’t feel like she’d done anything wrong. Well—except for lying to the police about him. “I was just defending myself because I felt threatened.”

“Because of my occupation as a therapist?”

She nodded. “Yes, because of that. I don’t need someone trying to control me and tell me everything I need to do to change. I had that once and almost didn’t make it out of that relationship. The girl he married after me wasn’t so lucky,” she whispered.

Mark sat down on the bed and pulled her onto his knee. “Thank you for telling me that. I will never spank you without a clear reason why, and you understand that reason implicitly. Now that I know you felt so threatened, I understand why you left, and why you needed a reason to get the police to pick you up.”

Darcy thought her heart would burst. “So, you won’t spank me tonight?”

He grinned down at her. “I didn’t say that. If you want me to spank you, of course, I will.”

She blushed furiously. “I-I guess I could come to dinner and see if you’re a decent cook or not. After all, I make the meanest grilled cheese this side of the Mississippi but I don’t cook much else.”

“Then we are a good match because cooking is my other occupation,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh my gosh, that’s so great,” she said with a huge sigh of relief. Then she suddenly bit her bottom lip and twisted her fingers together. “Are you sure you don’t want out? It’s not too late you know.”

                                                                 ***

Mark cupped her cheek in the palm of his hand. He hated that Darcy’s self-confidence had been shattered so badly. Her big blue eyes were wary and untrusting. She was so unsure of herself and her own charms that her defenses were being prickly and sarcastic. It would be his pleasure to help her find her self-worth again and to show her just how much she could be loved and needed.

“I don’t want out, Darcy, I want in. I want to get to know everything about you,” he assured her softly. She was the one for him, he was sure of it. He’d been in a state of perpetual hardness, interspersed with rock-hard moments, ever since he’d met her. No other woman had come close to affecting him this way or prodding his protective instincts to such a high degree.

“Even though you know I’m a detective?” she asked warily.

“I’m sure you’re a darned good one, sweetheart,” he replied. “All I ask is that you don’t take unnecessary risks because I’ll be waiting for you. I’ll even help you if you’ll let me. I’ve always enjoyed unraveling mysteries.”

Her eyes softened slightly and then she cleared her throat. “You won’t care if I visit my mother?”

That question made his brow pucker. “Why in the world would I care if you visit your mother? I want to meet your mother, your family, and all of your friends. I would consider it an honor if your mother likes me.”

Her eyes teared up and she threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, Mark, you have to be the most perfect man in existence.”

He enjoyed the hug, then pulled back, his eyebrow raised. “You may not think that if your butt is getting roasted, but I’ll take it.”

She laid her head on his shoulder. “We have plenty of time to get to know one another. I’m sure you’ll see the error of your ways where that’s concerned. I’ll never need a spanking, so it’s a moot point anyway.”

“Little witches always need a spanking,” he teased. “I don’t believe for a minute that you’ll always behave yourself. That’s where I come in.”

Her eyes grew large and uncertain. “But will you be fair and listen to me?”

“I promise,” he said sincerely.

“And you always keep your promises,” she parroted the words he’d spoken the night before.

“Always, my sweet little witch.”

“Then I’ll come to dinner.” She lifted her mouth for his kiss and he was happy to oblige.

The End

There you go, folks, a sweet short story that may or may not be extended. What do you all think? Should I develop Darcy and Marks’ story into a full-length book? Please email me your thoughts, or post them below. I always enjoy reader feedback.

Also, be kind! Remember this story is just off the cuff, so there may be a few grammar errors, or maybe even some discrepancies. Please feel to point them out though. 😊

Have a great New Year in 2023! And feel free to stalk me on any or all of my links! Brandy’s LinkTree

Luvs, Brandy

Last chance to get the gift of Marlie for Christmas

Enjoy Marlie’s story for free until December 23rd. And have a wonderful holiday season this year, my friends. 🙂

Available at all these outlets!

https://books2read.com/u/38P18Z

When Marlie Grayson rented the upstairs of her Victorian home, she got way more than she bargained for!

Her new renter was not an older man with a teenage daughter as she’d been led to believe. This man was too handsome, too sexy, and just too….male!

He had to go!

The problem was, he had a contract. And she couldn’t call the cops because he was the new police chief in town. Now, what was she supposed to do?

Today is the last day to get Marlie on your kindle for Christmas, my friends.

Wishing you the warmest wishes for the Christmas season, and a prosperous New Year. Luvs, Brandy

Achilles is live! Win a 25.00 gift card!

Achilles loves his little mortal, but no one defies the mighty Zeus and gets away with it.

Will the penalty be worth it?

Order your copy today and find out! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BC6CN5ZJ

Join me and all these authors tonight in Scorching Hot Romance to celebrate the release of Achilles.

I will be giving away a 25.00 gift card for book cash as well as other prizes. You must be a member of the group to play, but you can unsubscribe later if you don’t choose to stay. Hope to see you all there! Brandy 🙂

Scorching Hot Romance

Brandy on Amazon

A gift to my readers

Enjoy Marlie’s story for free until December 23rd. And have a wonderful holiday season this year, my friends.

Available at all these outlets! https://books2read.com/u/38P18Z

When Marlie Grayson rented the upstairs of her Victorian home, she got way more than she bargained for!

Her new renter was not an older man with a teenage daughter as she’d been led to believe. The new Chief of police of the small Colorado town of Buckeye couldn’t be over thirty. Plus, his five-year-old daughter brought back memories of a loss that Marlie still hadn’t accepted.

They had to go!

The beautiful, green-eyed vixen with a baseball bat and a hatred of Christmas was a challenge Max Quenton hadn’t seen coming. His new landlady created a stir of interest he hadn’t felt since the loss of his wife three years earlier. Since he didn’t meet her expectations either, she now wants to evict him?

Not a chance!

Max has finally found a home for himself and little Andi, and he doesn’t intend to leave willingly!

Note: This book contains mild, loving spanky scenes. If this material bothers you, please don’t purchase it.

Read less

Best of the season to you and yours,

Brandy

Free books, gifts, and other party fun coming up!

Achille’s Earth Angel is releasing on December 18th. Reserve your copy today and have it on your kindle for Christmas!

Zeus’ eyes glimmered with pity. “There is always a price to pay, Achilles, for the things we reach for that are not ours to take. You killed Briseis’ husband and took her for your own. She loved her husband, and even though she grew to love you, she was never yours to take. You could never have children with her that should have belonged to her husband.”

“That was war,” cried Achilles, distraught beyond measure at Zeus’ words.

“Even in war, there is mercy. You were the greatest warrior that ever lived, deadly and merciless, which is why Agamemnon coveted your skills. You had very little of it at the time.”

Zeus stroked his beard again, his voice was sad and gentle. “But as I said, there is always a price to pay. You may woo and win your Angel with my blessing–if you are willing to pay the price.”

The mighty warrior trembled…

Hello, everyone! I’m really excited about releasing my brand new story in this Defying the Gods series. As a result, we are having a party in Scorching Hot Romance on release day. Yay!

There will be several authors there for fun, games, prizes, some free copies of books, and other things. Please mark your calendar and join us on Sunday evening, the 18th! A nice relaxing way to spend a quiet day. 🙂

Join Scorching Hot Romance!

Also during the week of my release, I will be sponsoring some games and prizes in my group all week, The Storytellers! If you haven’t joined yet, please come on in.

Join The Storytellers!

Thank you all and have a great day today, and a lovely Christmas season. Hugs, Brandy

48-hour Flash Sale!

The Brocton Chronicles is on a flash sale! It won’t last long, just today and tomorrow!

Grab your copies and enjoy life at the turn of the century, the old-fashioned way!

**Note…these books do have domestic discipline in them, so if you don’t like that, you might not want to indulge yourself. 🙂

A Shotgun Wedding https://www.amazon.com/dp/B099MWK7GX

The Maddie Stories https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0947B8CV7

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and weekend, my friends! I’m thankful for each and every one of you. It’s you who keep me writing and whom I enjoy writing for. I couldn’t do it without you!

All the best to you and your families, Brandy

https://linktr.ee/brandygolden

New Release, party with gifts and freebies, and a sale!

Let’s celebrate a new release!

On sale for a limited time for .99 cents, I’m bringing back Catching His Snow Bunny!

Can the sexy business shark have his revenge…and love?

When Danni Oaks almost runs over the new owner of The Stardust Ski Lodge with her snowmobile, her heart does a double-take. Beneath her temperamental, spoiled attitude lurks a damaged girl with a painful secret. She adamantly refuses to be a deal sweetener for her manipulative father, John Oaks, even if the deal includes the handsome Sanders Linson.

Destroying John Oaks and his company is what drives Sanders Linson until he meets the man’s daughter. Used to smelling blood in the water, he immediately recognizes the pain in the depths of those troubled blue eyes. Sanders is determined to have his revenge on Danni’s father for his destructive business practices that cost him his own parents, but will it cost him the heart of the girl he’s fallen in love with?

**This romantic suspense contains sensitive subjects in family relationships and a mild power exchange between Danni and Sanders. If you think it might offend you, please don’t purchase.

Purchase on Amazon

This new series is just beginning with Vanessa’s new release today!

This first book, just released, is entitled Her World in His Hands, by popular author, Vanessa Brooks. Vanessa is from the United Kingdom and has many historical novels in her repertoire. She has also ventured out into other genres including some westerns and even a few Sci-Fi and paranormal. She is a talented writer, a great world-builder, and an expert wordsmith in all her stories.

Did she think I would let her get away?


Mortals say there is a fine line between love and hate, they have no idea how blurry that line can get…

Tricked into an ill-fated marriage with the giantess, Skadi, and forced to abandon the love of his life, Njord, the Norse God of the sea, seafaring, the wind, fertility, and wealth, is finally free to seek out the human woman who holds his heart.

Njord knows it will take more than honeyed words to regain his lover’s trust. Prepared to break every rule Odin has put in place since their disastrous separation, is a risk he is willing to take for one more night spent in the beautiful female’s arms.

Sassa, betrayed and abandoned by the God Njord, is left alone to deal with the isolation of his unwanted gift of immortality. Finally, now when her life is running successfully, he reappears out of the blue She hasn’t seen him for nigh on a thousand years or more, and yet somehow he still holds the same power to rock her world.

She has to resist his pull if she is to protect her most precious secret…

*This book contains some adult themes.*

Purchase here!

My book in this series is available now for pre-order and will be out on December 18th!

Now Available for pre-order

Ange charged Achilles with a fury that would have made Ares proud to claim her. Achilles recovered quickly and simply held her off with his big hands blocking each blow. When she tried the knee kick to his groin, he was prepared. Maybe she couldn’t pierce his skin but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t feel it in his male sack.

Hercules just stood to the side with his massive arms folded across his chest and watched with a big grin on his face. “Go, Ange,” he hooted, thoroughly enjoying his friend getting punched, even if it didn’t hurt him.

Achilles shot him a death glare and finally grabbed Ange’s hands and pulled her in close to his big body where she couldn’t hurt herself against him. “Why are you attacking me?” he growled in her tiny ear. “You can’t hurt me, you know.” She felt so good in his arms, he wanted to hold her forever, among other things. Her eyes were mesmerizing. The sky-blue orbs had the tiniest flecks of gold in them, he noticed. A beautiful combination. In fact, he was so wrapped up in her gorgeous eyes that he didn’t notice her leg steal behind his until he felt her heel slam against the tendon on his right leg. He crumpled and backed off, limping. “That was a low blow, Angel,” he gritted through his teeth.

“You deserved it,” she rounded hotly, her hands on her hips.

“And you deserve the spanking you’re going to get…..” See more

If you’d like to be an ARC reader for me and get a copy of Achille’s Earth Angel, join my ARC Club and message me! https://www.facebook.com/groups/2789758034671101

And of course, there is a free prequel to this new series!

I hope you enjoy this new series, my friends. Drop me a line and let me know what you think of the free prequel!

For fun memes, hijinks, and checking out other authors’ books, join Stevie & me in The Storytellers! https://www.facebook.com/groups/1032804233848992

Join my newsletter and get a free copy of Dusty’s Ghost Town! You can keep up with new releases, sales, and other good stuff. Just check out the newsletter page on my website! https://sendfox.com/storiestolove

There will be a takeover in honor of Vaness’s release in her group, Scorching Hot Romance! Games, prizes, book giveaways, and even gift cards for cash. You don’t want to miss it, it’s today! Join us! https://www.facebook.com/groups/962544707583320

There you go, my friends! A fun line-up for the weekend. Drop me a line and let me know how your enjoy this new series at storiestolove@yahoo.com or at the bottom of this post.

Hugs, Brandy https://www.amazon.com/Brandy-Golden/e/B017JOWVVK/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

P.S. This is my labradoodle, Rogue. He’d love to go to the party, but he would be such a distraction! You’all take care!

Celebrate with a .99 cent sale!

Funny, heartwarming, and inspiring, this story will capture your heart and leave you cheering and crying at the same time.

Hello, everyone, I hope you are enjoying all the beautiful fall days we have been blessed with. I know I am. 🙂

A Lass Worth Fighting for was my first self-published book! Published in October of 2020, it’s still one of my favorites. If you haven’t had a chance to pick it up, now is your opportunity!

Grab your copy here!

“When saucy Kellina Duncan first spots the broken and damaged Forbes MacColloch hanging off the edge of a dangerous cliff, she is reminded of a brooding raven no longer able to fly. Although she has vowed to never move on from the loss of her soul mate, she is drawn to the brooding Forbes and the fire he ignites in her heart.

Bitter, disillusioned, and forsaken by his fiancé, Forbes MacCulloch has no intention of ever getting involved with another woman until Kellina Duncan slips into the crack of his wounded soul. He’ll never love another woman, but perhaps he can have the outspoken and feisty brat over his knee and in his bed without a lasting commitment.

Fate has other plans.”

Enjoy your Halloween weekend, my friends!

All the best, Brandy

Which Witch is Which? Chapter 2!

Chapter 2 of our Halloween story is ready, folks! Enjoy the continuation of Darcy and Mark’s story.

Chapter 2

Mark fought his rising irritation with the obstinate young woman in front of him. He knew perfectly well what she was doing. His only problem was how he wanted to proceed.

“Your room or mine?” She laughed derisively. “Or do you want to just get it on right here on the kitchen floor?” She cocked her head cheekily, her eyes bright with self-deprecation.

“You don’t listen well, do you?” Mark grasped her arm and marched her towards the stairway in spite of her startled gasps.

“W-where are we going?”

Her voice was a scared kitten squeak and he knew he was right in his assessment. All mouthy bluster and no follow-through. “I’m taking you to your room,” he replied evenly, pushing her up the stairs with one hand on her delectable rear.

“B-but,” she stuttered, obviously trying to gather her wits.

“You invited me, remember?” He could just hear the wheels spinning as she tried to quickly figure a way out of her current predicament.

“I-I didn’t really mean it,” she protested, digging her heels in as he tried to march her down the hall, the door to her bedroom looming ever closer. Her panting was getting heavier as she tried to shake his hand off her arm and pull away.

“You should never say things you don’t mean,” he chided firmly, opening the bedroom door and pushing her inside. “Someone might take you up on them one day, and then you’d really be in trouble.” He stared sternly down at her as he pulled her towards the bed. “When I say enough, that means enough, Darcy. Something you need to remember in the future.”

“W-what are you doing?” Her voice quivered as he sat down on the bed and pulled her between his knees.

“Acting like a fractious child earns you a child’s punishment. “I’m going to give you a spanking and put you to bed. You can think about your indiscretions for the rest of the evening instead of playing cards and having some cocoa as I was going to suggest earlier.”

 Pulling her across his left knee, Mark swiftly pushed down the pajama bottoms Holly had supplied and admired the outline of Darcy’s bare wiggling cheeks in the daring black thong. Desire shot straight to his loins and distracted him. His fingers trembled slightly as he ran his palm across their warm satiny softness.

“No…please…I’m sorry,” Darcy pleaded, trying to put her hand back. “I’m so sore already, please don’t, Mark.”

Mark noted some deep red spots here and there intermixed with a few small welts from his hand earlier. She probably was sore. “I don’t know why you chose to disparage yourself in this manner, but it won’t fly with me.” He tipped her slightly forward and landed six spanks on the undercurve of her bottom cheeks, three on each side. That brought tears.

“I-I’m sorry, it’s just a habit,” Darcy admitted with a breathy sob.  

He pulled her upright and sat her on his knee, unable to bring himself to spank her anymore. He’d made his point anyway. The tears were trickling down her face and she looked defeated and forlorn. His thumb gently brushed away a tear. “Why?”

She shrugged her shoulders and dropped her gaze to her hands in her lap. “A defensive mechanism when I get uncomfortable.”

He chuckled. “So, you know what you’re doing.”

Her eyes shot back to his, guarded. “It works when I’m uncomfortable. People usually leave me alone and don’t pester me for answers or explanations that I don’t want to give.”

His eyebrow shot up. “I didn’t realize I was pestering you for anything. As I remember, I was complimenting you on your natural beauty.”

A blush shot up her throat and into her face. “I’m not beautiful,” she protested.

“Ah, you don’t like compliments, they make you uncomfortable.” Expressive, distrustful eyes stared back at him then slid away to stare at the wall. She’d been hurt before, obviously.

Finally, she huffed. “What are you? A therapist or something?”

Gently he replied, “I am as a matter of fact.”

The expression on her face as she whipped towards him could only be categorized as horror. She jumped to her feet and it was as if shutters suddenly closed in her eyes. “Get out.”

Puzzled, Mark stood up. “What’s wrong, Darcy?”

“You are what’s wrong,” she bit out between clenched teeth. “Now, get out or I’ll borrow some clothes from Holly and start walking.”

She was shaking, her entire frame stiff and indignant. Mark tried to take her hand but she backed away like he was a rabid dog. “Don’t touch me.”

His shrewd mind racing, he asked, “Is this Doug a therapist?”

“No,” she snapped.

“But you’ve dated or known someone who was,” he supplied intuitively.

Darcy bristled, the distrust shining clearly in her eyes. “You think you’re so smart, don’t you?” She mocked. “You always have all the answers, you and all your kind. Just leave me alone and get out.” Her voice broke and she turned her back on him.

Making a decision, Mark finally spoke. “All right, Darcy, but this isn’t over. I can see you’re tired and upset so I’ll let you get to bed. We’ll talk in the morning.”

The reply was muffled but he could understand it. “No, we won’t.”

He walked to the door and then hesitated. “I’m sorry you’re hurting, honey, but don’t lump me in with whoever caused it. I like you…I like you a lot. I’d like to get to know you better.”

The urge to gather her into his arms and hold her close, protect her from his unscrupulous kind, and keep her safe was overwhelming. Her forlorn figure standing so alone with her arms wrapped around her middle and the keep-off sign clearly sending its signal tore at his heartstrings. The dominant in him wanted to find whoever it was that hurt her and strangle him. It also made him want to be more forceful with her and find out who it was, but he knew her mind wasn’t in the right frame for that right now. He needed to be patient, give her this space, and pick it up later.

He needed to earn her trust.

Goodnight,” he said tenderly. “I’ll get you home in the morning, I promise.”

Her muffled reply was indiscernible this time.

                                                     ***

After Mark left the room, Darcy climbed into the bed and shivered beneath the blankets waiting for her chilled body to warm up.

The man was a frick’n mind jerk!

How could she get so unlucky in one lifetime?

Conrad had been a therapist. Full of himself, always analyzing every word she said and everything she did. Making her feel like she was an emotional cripple and totally screwed up. Unless she did every little thing that he told her to do, she was ‘messed up’ and needed extensive therapy. She was selfish if she didn’t want to have sex when he wanted it, she was dependent on her mother if she met her mother for lunch or did anything with her that he didn’t approve of. No matter what they disagreed over, he always had to be right. Her opinion didn’t count, it was faulty and she wasn’t thinking clearly.

Making friends had never been easy for Darcy at the best of times, so when he told her best friend that Darcy’s mental health was in question, that had been the final straw. Lucky for her, Sheila had seen right through the jerk and encouraged her to get away from him and his destructive grip. They found out two years later that the girl Conrad had married had taken her own life.

Darcy shivered as the memories danced through her mind. Getting away from Mark was imperative for her own sanity. Playing mind games and allowing her mental processes to be manipulated once again wasn’t going to happen.

It was such a shame too because she was more attracted to him than any man she’d met. Which made him all the more dangerous to her sanity. She had to get away, but how? How would she explain wanting to borrow his phone again to call a taxi or an uber? How would she pay for it if she could? Fear clawed at her throat at the thought of demanding he allow it. Somehow, he would change her mind, she just knew it.

Getting up to go to the bathroom, her mind raced like a hamster on a wheel. The thought of walking in this neighborhood at night made her feel nauseous. Stupidity didn’t come easy to her and she was well aware of the risks. Lurking in the shadows to spy on cheating husbands had revealed enough of the seamy side of men to know that was a dangerous idea.

When she heard a sneeze on the other side of the bathroom door of Holly’s room, she knocked timidly and whispered in the darkness. “Holly? Are you awake?” She heard the bed creak and footsteps pad to the door.

“Yes, do you need something?” Holly was whispering too. It was funny how people imitated each other’s actions, even when it wasn’t necessary.

“Can I borrow your phone? I need to let my mom know I’m okay,” she lied without a qualm. “And do you have a sweatshirt I could borrow? I’m kind of cold.” She glanced down at her pajama sweats. They would have to do in place of asking for jeans. That might raise suspicion.

“Sure, hang on,” Holly whispered in reply. She padded away and then returned. “Here you go.”

Darcy cracked the door and took the sweatshirt and Holly’s phone. “I’ll give this back in just a minute, and thanks for the sweatshirt.” She closed the door and quickly dialed 911 and told them she was sneaking out of her abusive boyfriend’s home. She asked for an officer to meet her out front. It was the only way she could think of to get away without any money. After asking for no lights and sirens, she hung up, deleted her call, and took the phone back to Holly. She had about five minutes to get outside.

Her heart was pounding in her throat as she pulled the sweatshirt over her head and slipped on her tennis shoes. Cracking the door, she peeked into the hall. There was a light beneath Mark’s door, so she had to assume he’d come up for bed. The rest of the house was dark and quiet.

Silently she opened the bedroom door wide enough for her to skinny through it, hoping it wouldn’t creak. It didn’t and she breathed a sigh of relief. Swiftly she moved with the soft tread of cat’s paws down the hall and on down the stairs without making a sound. Pausing at the bottom of the stairway, she held her breath and listened. Keeping in the shadows of the rooms, she made her way to the front door and outside just a police cruiser pulled up in front.

“Get me out of here,” she hissed as she tumbled into the back seat. “Oh, and I need to report my car burglarized and my purse was stolen.”

“By the boyfriend?” The officer asked, pulling away from the curb.

“No, not by him,” she hissed in a whisper, then realizing what she was doing, spoke aloud. “No, not by him, by someone else. It was over on Apple Street by the Red Lark apartments.”

“I’ll take you down to the station and you can file a report,” the officer replied, glancing at her in the mirror. “Are you sure you’re alright? Did your boyfriend assault you?”

“Not in the way you think,” Darcy muttered, images of herself over Mark’s knee not once but twice that evening. “No, no,” she added hastily, “he didn’t hurt me. I wanted to leave and he didn’t want me to.” Technically, that was the truth—mostly.

It was 3:30am by the time Darcy finally tumbled into her own bed in her own apartment. Pamela hadn’t been too happy when she’d interrupted her and her boyfriend’s sex party on the sofa either. Making a mental note to have Pamela shampoo the sofa before anyone sat on it again, she yawned widely and drifted off to sleep.

Her last thought was of Mark as his handsome face swam behind her closed eyelids. What a shame he was a mind jerk, she’d really liked him until she found out his occupation.

Well…mostly liked him.

The spanking fetish was weird, but not a total turn-off. She’d heard that playful spankings could be really erotic, but having the courage to suggest such a thing would give a man way too much control over her. Better to let sleeping dogs lay in that department. Right?

                                                     ***

When Mark woke up on Sunday morning after Halloween, he thought of Darcy. It was the first time in a long time that he felt eager to see a girl again. Okay, so he was a practicing licensed therapist, successful he supposed, not too hard on the female eye judging from the admiring glances women gave him, but just the same, he felt lonely.

Being a therapist had its disadvantages. He practically knew what women were thinking just from the human emotional patterns he recognized with little effort. He knew which ones came to see him because of their personal interest in him, and which ones sincerely wanted his help. He quickly discouraged the fakers and tried to help the others.

He would be thirty next year and he had yet to find anyone who inspired that crazy, lusty, mad-for-you passion he wanted to feel. He wanted someone who needed him to take care of them and protect them, yet not be clinging and dependent.

Someone like Darcy.

Jumping into a hot shower, he ran his mind’s eye up and down her figure from her beautiful clear skin, dark eyes, and curly hair to her lovely butt globes peeking up at him through the thong. Attraction reared its hot head, his male member saluted the faucets, and he rushed through his washup so he could start breakfast for her.

A frown creased his smooth brow as he toweled off and considered her reaction last night when she realized he was a therapist. What in the world was that all about? There was some serious hurt behind her actions and words, trauma even. The sooner he could find out what happened, the quicker he could help her deal with it.

Dressing quickly in his jeans and a Chiefs sweatshirt, he headed for the kitchen and rummaged around in the refrigerator for some bacon and eggs. Or should he prepare pancakes? Did Darcy like pancakes better than bacon and eggs?

Girls were so worried about their figures and how much they ate these days, it was impossible to know. Was she someone who ate what she liked and had a lean metabolism? Or did she pick up weight easily? These were very real concerns of some of his female patients and he stood there with the door open, analyzing the problem.

Finally realizing he was being completely indecisive, he grinned at himself. “I’ll just make both,” he muttered.

“You know, they say talking to yourself is a sign of old age, Uncle Mark.”

He turned around to see Holly standing there with a smirky grin on her face.

“I’m not too old to turn you over my knee, young lady.” He grinned back when she flushed and her chin shot up.

“You’re as bad as Dad, I swear,” Holly avowed, tossing her bright red curls. “I don’t even know why I like you.” She walked over and peered in the refrigerator. “What are you cooking this morning?”

“You like me because I’m your favorite uncle, brat,” he replied affectionally.

“You’re my only uncle,” she sassed back.”

“I rest my case.”

“You’re impossible.” She grabbed the milk and reached into the cupboard for a glass.

“I’m fixing pancakes with bacon and eggs,” he said cheerfully. “So, leave the pop tarts alone.”

Holly wrinkled her nose. “You know I don’t eat a big breakfast. Just pancakes with chocolate chips and powdered sugar will be fine.”

“You are forgetting that we have a guest. Since I’m not sure what Darcy likes, I’m fixing a couple of choices,” he explained.

“She’s not here though.”

Mark stopped and caught her eyes with a frosty glare. “What do you mean she’s not here?”

Holly shrugged. “When I came into the bathroom this morning, the door was open on her side, but she wasn’t there. Since she’s not down here either, that means she must have left.”

“How could she leave? She had no money and no way to get anywhere!”

Holly took a drink of her milk and licked her top lip. “Maybe her mother picked her up. She used my phone to call her and tell her she was okay.”

“Let me see your phone, please.” He held out his hand, his stomach churning. Why would Darcy leave in the middle of the night? Would her mother really come from two hours away to get her daughter? Probably. Most mothers would, anyway.

“She deleted the call if that’s what you’re looking for.” Holly gave him her phone and sat at the table.

Mark quickly located the trash on Holly’s phone. The only call out last night was right after they’d both gone up to bed. Around midnight. It was to 911 emergency services. Handing Holly back her phone, he turned to leave the kitchen.

“Hey, what about breakfast?” Holly called to his retreating figure.

“Grab some pop tarts,” he replied, pulling his jacket out of the closet by the front door. Feeling only slightly guilty at leaving his niece to eat an unhealthy breakfast, he opened the front door. Holly wouldn’t care, she loved pop-tarts anyway. “I’ll be back in a little bit, don’t go anywhere.”

The city streets of the little suburb of Independence Missouri were virtually deserted in the crisp air of Sunday morning. Old Elm, Maple, and other various majestic trees were shedding their leaves, leaving a carpet of swirling color on the lawns and in the streets. Little gusts of wind blew them about in delicate windy spirals that at any other time, would lift his spirits.

Pulling up in front of the police station, he bounded to the sidewalk and into the lobby. The dispatcher, a young blonde woman with her hair in a messy bun and an ink mark on her cheek came to the window.

“Can I help you?” She asked curiously.

Mark nodded eagerly. “Yes, I want to know if Darcy DeAngelo came in here last night. She disappeared from my home over on Walnut Street and I’m worried about her.”

The blue eyes of the dispatcher immediately became guarded. “I’ll get an officer for you.”

In a few minutes, a police officer resembling Telly Savalas with his bald head and wide knowing shark smile stepped into the foyer and motioned him to follow him to a room. “Have a seat, please,” he instructed in a deadpan voice. They both sat down. “Are you Miss DeAngelo’s boyfriend?”

Mark’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not her boyfriend, but she was staying with me and my niece last night and she disappeared. According to my niece’s phone, she called 911. I want to make sure she’s okay since I didn’t know she was gone until this morning.”

The officer nodded. “And did you have a fight with her?”

“No, we didn’t fight.”

“Did you assault her?” He pinned Mark in a fierce stare as if he was looking into his very soul and seeing his next big case.

“Of course not,” Mark protested with a frown. “What’s this all about?”

The officer studied him like a bug under a microscope, a gleam in his brown eyes. “Miss DeAngelo called for help because she said her boyfriend wouldn’t let her leave the home. Why wouldn’t you let her leave?”

Mark glanced uneasily down at the officer’s name badge. “Look, Officer Treason, Darcy isn’t my girlfriend. I picked her up last night when her car broke down and…” He trailed off when he realized how that must sound to a suspicious cop. He tried again. “She was stranded and I offered her a place to stay because she didn’t have money to get home and it was two hours away. Her actual boyfriend refused to come and get her, and I didn’t want to drive to Birmingdale that late because I’m taking care of my niece for the weekend. Why she chose to tell you that story, I don’t know,” he declared impatiently. “All I wanted to do in coming here was to make sure she was alright.” He stood up.

Officer Treason stood up, disbelief warring with irritation that he couldn’t pin Mark into something nefarious. “Since there’s never been a domestic dispute at that address and Miss DeAngelo is safely home, I’ll let this go. She said she didn’t want to press charges in any case, so you are free to leave.”

Mark nodded, his lips tight and indignation filling his throat. As he left, he glanced back over his shoulder at the officer. If the man had pointed his two fingers towards his eyeballs and then at Mark, his body language couldn’t have been any plainer.

He would be watching him.

Thank God he didn’t actually live in this neighborhood!

Feeling like he’d had a narrow escape, Mark got in his car and drove off fuming. If he had Darcy in his hands right now, he’d paddle her conniving little butt good. But somewhere amid the myriad of emotions, he was experiencing, he recognized hurt. He wanted Darcy. She clearly didn’t want him.

Rejection sucked!

He realized it for what it was, and he tamped down his disappointment. Reluctant to totally let her go, a small part of him wanted to find her. Maybe she thought she’d got away, but he could find her if he wanted to.

Marked drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, indecision weighing heavily on his mind. Holly was his first priority until Monday morning. After that, he would see how he felt…

Stay tuned for chapter 3

I hope you are enjoying this short story, folks. Chapter 3 will be out soon. Enjoy another gorgeous fall weekend! The colors here in Missouri are amazing.

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Let me know how you are liking the story and if you have any suggestions to go in the next installment. I’m writing this off the cuff, so to speak.

All the best, Brandy