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“Absolutely filthy.” – Geoffrey Chaucer
“Rather raunchy for a fairy tale, but we liked it.” – The Brothers Grimm
“Elegantly depraved. I’d love to have them to dinner.” – Lord Byron
“I enjoyed the anal punishments. And the happy ending!” – Vlad the Impaler
“Seriously? I mean, really? He was far too gentle with her.” – Marquis de Sade
There’s a problem in the kingdom of Hastings: the princess is too headstrong and ill-mannered to carry on the royal line. In desperation, the king delivers his daughter to the darkly imposing Duke of Thornton, who promises to correct her behavior through a course of stringent and lowering physical chastisement.
Despite the duke’s harsh disciplinary measures, Princess Violet resists change, and Thornton is soon drawn into an escalating battle of wills with his spirited charge. How far will he go to humble the haughty royal, and put an end to her spoiled behavior?
This fairy tale fantasy is a 50k-word tumble into spanking depravity, with a royally satisfying ending.
Chapter One: The Arrival
Long ago, in the fairy tale kingdom of Hastings
The distraught young woman turned away from the window, squeezing her gloved hands together atop her rich satin skirts.
“Please, papa. I will do better.” Her pleas rang out over the clatter of the barreling coach. “I can do better. You must believe me, last evening’s outburst—”
“It was not only last evening.”
Princess Violetta Margherita Eleanora Josephine of Hastings—more familiarly known as Violet—leaned closer to her father, pleading with her gaze as well as her voice.
“I promise, promise, promise I shall comport myself in a more charming demeanor from now on, and do as you bid me, and leave off terrorizing the servants. I promise on my life that I shall consider more seriously the marriage prospects you present to me in your wisdom.”
The king—who was kind and wise, if a bit overindulgent—avoided his daughter’s eyes. “You’ve frightened off every eligible marriage prospect in the past two years. What else is to be done?” He shook his head, saddened that he must take this step. “Your mother would flay me alive, that you are still unmarried, and become such a hellion that no suitor will consider your hand.”
“A hellion?” Violet scowled. “I’m only spirited, as Mama was.”
“Your mother understood when to be spirited and when to hold her tongue,” the king replied with a sharper note of reproach. “I daresay if your mother was still with us, she would have taught you that necessary balance. If you were better behaved, this sojourn with the Duke of Thornton would not be required.”
“The devil take the Duke of Thornton,” she said with a snap of her fingers.
The father regarded his headstrong daughter. For all her promises of better behavior, her temper always returned soon enough. Her crimson gown and matching gloves suited her fiery nature to perfection, and her angelic features were crowned with a golden mass of wavy blonde hair. She was beguiling to look upon, and full of life. Too much life. Kings and princes from a dozen nations had come to court her, and all of them had given up after learning what a handful she was.
“I have spoiled you,” the king said. “My only daughter, my poor, sweet, pretty child, who lost her mother so young. How you turned my head, and wrapped me about your finger. But I’ve done you a disservice, letting you run amuck.” His lips tightened, and his heart ached more than a bit. “I do not doubt you’ll wish the Duke of Thornton to the devil on a daily basis, but I can’t think of anyone else capable of taking you in hand. I did warn you. I told you it would come to this.”
“But I did not believe you. What kind of father would turn his daughter over to a hard-hearted stranger, to let him do his very worst?”
“The duke is not hard-hearted,” he protested. “Only very exacting. He will not ‘do his very worst,’ but rather train you into a more biddable and mannerly princess. I’m very grateful he has agreed to help me solve this problem. My dear, believe me, your future depends on his success.”
“His success,” she scoffed. “Making me into a shrinking miss who thoughtlessly obeys? It shall never happen. I couldn’t bear to be one of those women. Mother would not want it.”
The king’s heart clenched harder at the mention of his late beloved queen. “Your mother would want you to be happy, and you’ll never be happy when you rail against all rules and proprieties. If you are to take over my crown and be queen one day—”
“When I am queen, I shall be strong and powerful!”
“And mannerly,” the king interrupted. “How else are you to deal in the intricacies of politics and statecraft?”
“By my mind and spirit,” she said, tossing her head.
The king clamped his mouth shut. They might argue the full two hours across the fields of Hastings to the Duke of Thornton’s castle, but she would not admit the fault in her ways. Her mind and spirit were magnificent, yes, but her day-to-day mode of comportment was appalling. A sovereign could not shriek orders and bully servants, and run everyone ragged with capricious and selfish demands.
By God, his daughter lacked manners, and the ability to show respect.
“Please, papa,” she whined again. “You needn’t do this. If you wish me to try harder—”
“I’ve been asking you to try harder for years. Your spoiled antics worked well enough for a child, but you’re a woman now.”
“Yes, a woman. You must let me find my way.”
“I’ve given you time to find your way. You haven’t found it.” He tried to sound firm. “This is necessary, I’m afraid.”
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this.” She threw up her hands. “Do you expect me to be perfect, all day, every day? Perhaps I’m not always considerate of others. Perhaps I don’t always obey.”
“You never obey! And you’ve refused every candidate presented to you for marriage, no matter how honorable the man.”
“The last one was horrible,” she said with a pout. “The King of Whatever, who didn’t even speak English.”
“The King of Woburn, one of the wealthiest and most influential leaders on the continent.”
“He was old.”
“Perhaps he was old, my love, but by publicly shunning him, you’ve lost any chance at an auspicious marriage. Time—and goodwill—is nearly run out for you. I advise you to place yourself in the Duke of Thornton’s hands and take to heart his well-intentioned instruction.”
“Or what?” his daughter sassed.
He gazed into her striking lilac eyes, so like her mother’s. “There is no ‘or what,’” he said with grave emphasis. “Believe me when I tell you, Violet, there is no ‘or what’ to follow this intervention. This is your last chance.”
His daughter pursed her lips and turned her back to him, her shoulders rigid with helpless anger. Well, he felt helpless too, or he would never take such a step.
* * * * *
On the journey to the Duke of Thornton’s estate, Violet cycled through every possible emotion: anger, frustration, anxiety, curiosity, sadness that her father would send her off to some stranger to reform her temperament. And of course, she felt hate for the Duke of Thornton, a man she’d never even met. How dare he presume to offer to “fix her?” She was not some problem to be managed. She was a person, a princess of Hastings. The royal heir.
The duke was not a royal heir, or a royal anything. A mere aristocrat had no right to shape her behavior.
Well, she would do what she did with all the other inconvenient men in her life. She would bat her eyes at him, charm him until he turned into a blathering, fawning idiot, and then do whatever she pleased.
With that decision made, her heart calmed and her temper subsided. She lifted her chin and looked out the window, and saw they had nearly arrived at the duke’s property. She did not wish to be impressed, but the surroundings called for it. Gently rolling hills of winter lawn framed a stately stone manor of palatial proportions. A line of massive oaks flanked the imposing edifice, and a smooth gravel road beckoned the traveler around a loop to the raised front entrance. As they approached the carved front doors, a tall, dark-haired man walked out onto the dais, flanked by a neat formation of servants.
Violet bit her lip. She had expected an old crotcher of an aristocrat, wrinkled and frowning. This man was hale and dauntingly built, like a soldier in her father’s army. He wore a dark suit of clothes to go with his dark looks, and a cloak against the winter elements.
“There is our duke,” said her father, sounding pleased.
Violet could not be pleased. The closer they got, the larger and more intimidating he seemed. His black surcoat and breeches were just as fine as the king’s, and he was taller than any man around him. His richly outfitted servants stood back from him in deference. Was this some sort of show to subdue her from the beginning?
But he did not glower or frown, only stood very properly, with pride in his bearing. He is a duke, she reminded herself. Not some feckless peasant. Of course he would bear himself like an aristocrat, but Violet could bear herself like a royal princess. She pulled her own fine scarlet cloak closer about her and took up her muff, and thrust her gloved hands inside the warmth to keep them from shaking. She was not afraid. Of course not. It was only the cold.
The head groom helped her from the royal carriage while the servants flanking the duke hurried down the wide stone staircase to offer their assistance. She and her father ascended the manor steps toward their host, and with every step Violet thought to herself, no, no, no.
Once they were atop the grand stone dais, the duke bowed to her father. “Your Majesty,” he said simply, in a deep and steady voice so unlike the high-pitched fawning of the king’s courtiers back home.
Her father clapped the man on the shoulder. “We’ve come at last, Thomas, although I don’t envy you your task. It pleases me to introduce my daughter, Princess Violetta Margherita Eleanora Josephine, Her Royal Highness of Hastings.”
“I am enchanted,” he said with another bow. Every time he bowed, it seemed to her the duke grew taller, because he stood so very loftily when he straightened up.
Bat your eyes. Charm him. Violet smiled and bowed her head to acknowledge his greeting. She was also forced to acknowledge—to herself—the man’s irritating degree of handsomeness. His physical stature was striking enough, but his features also happened to be the proportioned, symmetrical sort that suggested outsized strength and virility. His eyes were large and wide-set, his nose perfectly and prominently aristocratic. His mouth seemed created to issue commands.
The duke studied her as she studied him, his eyes shockingly, intensely blue against his tan complexion. His hair was dark, burnished mahogany brown, falling nearly to his shoulders. He was not old, nor was he young, but in the prime of his life. His gaze was intelligent and his manner confident in the extreme. He regarded her as someone superior might regard her, openly, without deference. It was insulting. She curled her hands in her muff to stop herself from slapping his face.
“It’s a cold day for December,” said the duke. “Won’t you come inside?”
It was indeed a miserable and overcast day, but rather than enter the duke’s fortress-like house, Violet would much rather have retreated to the carriage. Her father nudged her forward, preventing her escape.
The duke ushered them into the wide, arching entryway of his home, and then into a well-appointed drawing room. A fire burned in the fireplace, but the room was of a great enough size that it did not feel hot. Violet handed her cloak and muff to a maid and accepted a seat near the great marble hearth. Her father took a nearby chair.
“I gather your journey was uneventful?” the duke asked politely, once they were settled with steaming cups of tea. “Winter travel can be treacherous.”
“I’ve no complaints,” said the king. “Although my daughter accompanied me with the greatest reluctance.”
“I’m sorry to hear it.” The duke barely spared her a look. “She’ll quickly accustom to her situation. I promise to treat her with care.”
“Treat me with care?” she asked in outrage. “How else would you treat me?”
He gave her a longer look this time, a stern, direct look that made her squirm. “She does tend to speak out of turn,” he said to her father. “Such habits can be corrected.”
“I pray it is so,” the king replied, while she sputtered, too irritated to speak. “I wish her to have a successful and harmonious marriage, and carry on the royal line. There’s much at stake.”
“Yes. Her entire life,” said the man, nodding soberly. “And her happiness. You agree that I have the right to use all of the disciplinary methods we discussed in our earlier conversations?”
Her father made an affirmative gesture, avoiding her gaze. “I feel such methods are called for in this case.”
“What case? What methods?” Violet asked, her frustration growing to a breaking point. “What are you talking about, Thornton or Thomas or whatever your name is?”
The duke and her father exchanged a look, and then the duke addressed her in a strong, terrifying voice. “You’ve nothing to fear, Princess, provided you show me respect, and respect begins with proper, polite forms of address. My full name is Thomas Geoffrey Wickham, the Duke of Thornton, but you will call me ‘Your Grace’ as long as you are a guest in my house.”
“Perhaps you forget that I outrank you,” she said. “Therefore, I shall not call you ‘Your Grace,’ not in your house or any other house.”
“And during our time together,” he went on, as if she hadn’t even spoken, “I will call you Violet rather than your long and formal royal name, since I am to be, of necessity, in a position of authority over Your Highness for the time being.”
She turned to her father in shock. “Why are you allowing this to happen? I’m a princess of Hastings. This man is below me, one of my subjects.”
“My child.” Her father shook his head. “He is above you for now. I concur with the duke, that you must address him with all due respect as a student of manners. You will be princess enough when your time here is through.”
“But I’m a princess now,” she shrilled.
The duke gave her a pitying look that made her want to slap him. He turned to her father. “Perhaps it would be best if Violet retired to her rooms for a quiet rest as she acclimates herself to this change in circumstance and status. While only temporary, such change can feel...stressful.”
“Of course,” said her father, taking to his feet. “I’m needed back at the palace, so I will not infringe upon your courtesy, splendid as it is. If there is anything you need, any problem at all, do not hesitate to send a message.”
“Oh, I will,” said Violet in a shaking voice.
Her father turned to her with a rueful smile. “I did not mean you, dearest. You are to obey the duke in all things, and try to mold yourself into a more pleasing and biddable daughter. His Grace has promised me an entirely new Violet by Saint Valentine’s Day.”
“Saint Valentine’s Day?” She shouted the words, even though she knew she sounded like a shrew. This was not to be borne. “Saint Valentine’s Day is a full two months away, papa! You cannot mean to leave me here for that amount of time.”
“I do mean to. You have much to learn and the perfect opportunity to learn it, thanks to my friend. Give me a hug and a kiss, darling, and I’ll be on my way.”
“I’ll not give you a hug and a kiss,” she said, her voice shattering into tears. “You cannot do this. You cannot leave me here all that time with...with him.”
“Give your father a hug and a kiss,” said the duke. He did not shout, but his voice was so firm and so insistent, the effect was the same.
And Violet chose to do what she always did when she was scolded, even as a young child. She dug in her heels and refused to obey. “I will not.”
“You will,” Thornton replied, with such certain authority that she was taken aback.
“Or what?” She stamped her foot, glaring at him through tears. “Or what will you do?”
One of his dark brows rose. “Are you already eager to know?”
She sucked in a breath. She was not eager to know, but the last thing she wanted to do at this moment was give her traitorous father a hug and kiss. She swiped away the tears she didn’t want to shed, and realized she was in an impossible bind. This stranger would do something awful if she didn’t obey. He would do it with her father’s support.
“Very well,” she said in a huff.
“Very well, Your Grace,” he corrected her. “Say it prettily. Young ladies should not express exasperation, especially with such a frown.”
Oh, how she wanted to stab him, to run him through with a rusty, serrated sword. She stared at her new master, her dark captor, letting every murderous thought show in her prolonged, direct gaze. His only response was a bland sort of amusement, and another arch of his brow.
“Very well, Your Grace,” she mimicked with mocking sweetness, before she broke the brittle eye contact. She flounced across the luxurious sitting room and bestowed a hug and kiss upon her father that was civilized, if not daughterly. “Goodbye,” she said to him as they parted. “I wish you a safe journey home.” And I wish you to hell, she added silently, along with this demon you have invited to torment me.
The king took his leave, and Violet was forced to come to terms with her abandonment, and her predicament. She was stuck here.
“I believe I shall go to my rooms,” she said, “so I needn’t spend another moment in your unpleasant company.”
His amusement seemed to deepen. “You shall go to your room because that’s where I’ve decided to put you for the time being. I make the rules here, Violet, not you.”
She knew that he only used her given name to drive home the fact that he had permission to do so. No one, not one person in her father’s entire kingdom, save the king himself, was allowed to refer to her in such a familiar fashion. He might enjoy playing at her superior, but that was all it was, a farce. She was greater than him and he knew it. When he called the housekeeper to show her upstairs, she followed the gray-haired matron from the room without a word of leave to the duke. By law, she was not required to address those who ranked beneath her.
At least she thought that was a law. It ought to be a law.
If it wasn’t a law yet, she’d make it a law when she was queen, and her first royal order would be to arrest the horrid Duke of Thornton and have him tortured, and then thrown into the depths of the palace’s deepest, darkest oubliette.