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Jack Carmichael's natural instinct is to take care of people. In his job as a U.S. Marshal, he has done that for 25 years. Unfortunately, being married to his job has left his love life in tatters. Now classified unfit for duty, he retires and comes home to Colorado to figure things out. Dominant and used to taking control like his brother Brent, he has never been interested in spanking. Until a cute Nurse Practitioner catches his attention. Josh Martin feels lucky. He's not only accepted into Corbin's Bend, but he'll be working at the brand new Corbin's Bend Medical Clinic as its only Nurse Practitioner. At thirty-two, he figures this is his last-ditch attempt at finding a dominant partner who isn't abusive. He finds more than his share of dominant men in Corbin's Bend, not the least of which are the Carmichael brothers. Brent's dominance is both comforting and unnerving, Jack's turns him on.
Josh is unlike any submissive male Jack has encountered and when the younger man asks him out, he decides to give it a go. One day of fun turns into two, three...until Jack, with more failed relationships than he can count in his past and unsure he can be the head of house Josh needs, leaves, burying himself once again in work. Forced to see the error of his decision, he puts aside the worries that have plagued him for months and returns to Corbin's Bend. To become the good family man he wants to be, he has to earn back Josh's trust and truly take on a role he's never considered before: head of a loving discipline household.
About Corbin's Bend:
Welcome to Corbin's Bend, the first equity-cooperative housing development just for spankofiles. Thirty thousand acres in the mountains above Denver sits your dream come true. With 1000 home sites, several restaurants, a club house, theater, pool, and many other amenities, you will find yourself at home.
Corbin's Bend is the setting for a group of spanking romance novellas set in, where else? Corbin's Bend, Colorado. A fictitious housing cooperative, Corbin's Bend is unique in that everyone living there is into spanking, whether that be erotically or through domestic discipline. Just imagine, a place where nobody has to hide their particular spanking lifestyle.
While reading any series in order is nice, Corbin's Bend books can be read as stand-alones as well.
“It’s one way or the other, Jack,” Peter said, exhaustion in his voice. “You retire voluntarily or the department puts you on permanent leave. The first way you keep your retirement and you’ll get a decent recommendation for any job you take in the future. With the second, you’ll end up with an ass load of psychiatric evaluations we both know you don’t need on every permanent record we’ve got.”
“What a choice,” Jack said dryly, rolling his eyes. He knew there wasn’t any choice. Not anymore. His own fucking fau—
“And don’t sit there thinking it’s your fault,” his boss snapped. “This happens, Carmichael. Most people don’t make it twenty years in this field. They go up the ranks. But not you. You insisted on staying in the field for over two decades. The fact is you’re fucking burnt out. It was not your fault the Carringtons died.” Jack flinched but Peter continued as though he hadn’t seen him. “The idiots broke the rules. They called their relatives. There was nothing any of us could do. They put themselves in the path of their own destruction.”
“Right.” Logically, Jack knew it. The problem was, he had never lost one of his witnesses. Not once. Sure, there had been a few times it had come close, like the Hunters in Colorado. Thank fuck they’d been somewhere with someone he trusted. And that had been the case of an inside source. Not like this. The Carringtons should have been safe. They should have lived for forty more years. Instead, they were nothing but ash, trapped inside their home while it burnt. Looking down, his eyes glanced at his left hand. While the bandages were now off, his scarred skin was a living memory of that horrible night. He’d gotten the call and rushed down to the house before the fire trucks had arrived. Their screams had made him try to go inside to rescue them.
The first fireman on the scene had to knock him out and drag him out of the building. The Carringtons never stood a chance. And neither did his hand which had caught flame while he had tried to smash the chains on Sara Carrington’s wrists. It had been over two months and he had only managed to sleep when a doctor shot him up with drugs. And even then his nightmares dragged him under.
“So what’ll it be, Carmichael? You failed your psych tests three times in a row. There’s no coming back from that.”
No. He wasn’t fit for duty, not for this kind of duty, anyway. The only way to be good at the job he loved was to keep one’s heart and mind separate, something he seemed unable to do since the fire. “The only thing I can do,” he answered dully, forcing the words through his lips. “Retire.” Pain punched him in the chest at the word. He’d wanted to be a U.S. Marshal since he was fourteen years old and had worked hard to get where he was. And now, that was all up in smoke.
Just like every relationship he’d had. Most of them didn’t last longer than a couple dates, none of them longer than a year. As the last girl he’d dated had told him. “You’re a good man, Jack, just not a good family man.”
Not a good family man. The words felt like failure. The only two times Jack had failed in his life—finding a life partner and keeping his protectees safe. Leila dumping him and the Carringtons’ deaths coming within six months of one another just compounded the issue.
Standing up, he held out his hand, shaking Peter’s. “Thank you, sir.”
“Go out and find yourself a life, Jack,” Peter said, his voice dropping from its professional tone to one much less formal. “You’re a good man and you’ve given twenty-five years of your life to helping others. Maybe it’s time to help yourself.”
With a nod, Jack turned and walked out of the office, quickly striding across the tattered carpet to his desk. By the time he had removed what few personal items he had from it: a family photo taken at the last Carmichael Christmas he’d attended, a picture of his daughter the day she was born, and an extra shirt which he always kept on hand, Sherman was there. The guard gave him a definite compassionate glance as he held out his hand. With a rueful smile, Jack pulled out his wallet and removed his official IDs as well as his keycard. After handing them over, he gratefully accepted the box Sherman handed over, and put his few belongings in it.
Nobody said a word as he sauntered out. However, he could feel the eyes on his back as he quickly traversed the floor to the elevators and pushed the button. Everyone knew he’d been on edge. Not being able to come back to work for weeks after such an event was a pretty big warning sign that a marshal wasn’t fit for the job.
As the doors opened, he stepped through, forcing himself to turn around and hit the button. Time to start a new life. The problem was, he had no idea how. He’d spent his entire life working just for this. And now it was over.
What the fuck was he going to do now?
Pulling up to the curb, he looked at the house, calm and quiet as the rapidly warming Denver morning. Jack hadn’t told his folks he was coming. They wouldn’t exactly be surprised as with his kind of job, he tended to drop in when he had the time. The scars on his hand weren’t as noticeable as they once were—a big thumbs up to talented doctors—but one look and his mother would know. The moment they saw his hand, the questions would come out. And he wasn’t sure he was ready for them. They knew he and Leila broke up, but not why, and that he had a small accident, but not exactly what.
“Fuck,” he grunted, unbuckling his seatbelt and sliding out of his truck. It was relatively new. Only had a little over ten thousand miles when he bought it last week. Since he was twenty-two, he’d driven a company car. Getting something different had felt important to him. And he had driven a truck back in high school and college. Unfortunately, he was a lot older now and found this cheap truck did not have the comfort he needed. “I’m getting old,” he murmured with an amused chuckle. Middle-aged, well more than middle-aged, really. Forty-seven. Damn. When did that happen?
Walking up the sidewalk, his boots clopped quietly along the cobblestones. He’d always loved this house. It had felt like home when they very first moved here when he was a kid. But he never expected to come back here to stay for a while. To be honest, Jack wasn’t sure he could handle staying here for more than a few days, but once his retirement was finalized, he had needed to leave the mid-west as quickly as he could. Too many memories were tied up in the area and in the apartment which he had stayed in after Leila left.
As he raised his hand to knock, the sound of the lock clicking made him stop. His hand was still raised, though, when the door opened, bringing him face-to-face with his mother in her robe, her hair askew from having recently gotten up, and a blank expression on her face. Until she saw his hand. A loud gasp left her when she saw it and she instinctively pulled back. At the same time, she turned and saw him. “Jack!” she cried, apprehension leaving her face as she leaped across the doorway and wrapped her arms around him. “Oh, honey! You’re home. Come in. Come in.”
He followed her inside, picking up the paper before he stepped over the threshold. “Denton!” she called, waving him toward the kitchen where he could smell coffee and some sort of pastry cooking. “Denton! Your eldest is here!”
Smiling at words he’d heard so many times, he stepped into the kitchen, feeling a little weight drop off his shoulders. This may not be under the best circumstances, but it was sure good to be home.
“Jackson,” his father said in a warm tone, walking quickly into the kitchen with a grin on his face. Instantly two strong arms pulled Jack in for a tight hug. “It’s been forever since you’ve been home. Sit down. I’ll get us both a cup of coffee. Any idea of how long you’ll be able to stay this time?”
“A few days,” Jack said evasively, not quite ready to admit to the truth yet. Heeling out the chair he’d sat in at the kitchen dining table since he was three, he slid into it, looking up at the wall covered in family photos. “I hate that I missed Brent’s wedding,” he murmured. He didn’t just hate it, he’d hated himself for it. Family should be his top priority, so why had he given everything to his clients first?
The wonderful sharp scent of coffee slammed into him and he looked down at the mug his father had put in front of him. Instead of walking down to his normal seat at the head of the table, Denton pulled out the chair next to his and sat down. As Jack glanced over at him, he saw the only partially veiled look of shock on his face as his eyes were glued to the scarred skin on Jack’s left hand. “Got it in a client accident,” he grunted.
Slowly his father’s eyes slid up to meet his and this time they were filled with questions. “A few days? Or a few weeks, son?”
Spluttering a laugh that held no humor, Jack shook his head as he sipped the wonderful black coffee. His father had always seen through him. “No idea. I’m officially retired.”
Before his dad could respond, his mother Rachel hurried back into the kitchen, this time dressed in jeans and a blouse as she quickly removed a pan from the oven. “Oh, everyone’s going to be so happy you’re here,” she said as she plated out three breakfast rolls. “Brent especially. I think he misses camping with you.”
After placing his and his father’s rolls in front of them, her hand snatched out and she grabbed his. “Jackson Denton Carmichael, what happened?” she asked quietly.
“Work.” It was the only response he could give. Even retired, he had no intention of truly talking about his life as a U.S. Marshal. It was classified information and would forever remain that way.
Her other hand grasped his chin and pulled his head up until his eyes met hers. It felt like spotlights staring straight at him and zeroing in on every one of his faults. Her eyes softened and as she released his hand, she wrapped her arms around him. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“I know, Mom,” he said. “Once I figure things out.”
As they ate breakfast, his parents filled him in on what was happening with them, his brother and sister and their spouses, as well as extended family. He knew they wouldn’t pry into what had happened, but Jack had always been straightforward in his life. Maybe it was because of how much he had to hide because of work, or maybe it was hearing he was a failure in both marriage and work…either way, he didn’t want to lie to them. “Look,” he finally said once there was nothing but crumbs left on his plate and they had exhausted all the new information on the family. “I don’t want to talk this to death. But you should know that because of the work accident, I haven’t worked for over three months and am officially retired. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life, but I’ll figure it out.” After drinking the last of his coffee, he added, “And I don’t plan to stay here for a long period of time. Standing around doing nothing is not my style. Once I figure out what the hell I want to do, I’ll be gone.”
His parents watched him, two differing expressions on their face. His father’s expression held amusement and trust, his mother’s worry and tension…and acceptance. She’d been a Carmichael for too long to not know how the men in this family worked. “All right,” she said finally, sitting back in her chair. “Summer’s almost over and autumn and snow will come soon. Are you planning on getting back home before it hits?”
Damn. He had hoped not to talk about that yet. “I gave up my apartment. With Kelly having her own life, staying there didn’t seem nearly as important.” Or needed. He was prestigiously proud of his one and only child. Kelly, like him, had known what she wanted from the time she was a child and made a damned good physical therapist. “I’m a man without a home or a care at the moment.” He tried to come across light and airy, but he figured all that came out was tired and full of shit.
“Pull the other one,” she said dryly, making him snort a laugh. “All right. You can have the guest room as long as you need it. But you’ll promise me you won’t sit here and wallow.”
“Since when have I ever wallowed?”
She raised an eyebrow making him want to fidget. She was the only woman who ever could do that and it irked him each time he thought of it. Here he was, a strong, dominant male, but around his mom, that dominance always seemed to flee. Maybe it was that she knew too much about him. “All right,” he somewhat agreed, “I promise not to sit here and wallow.”
“Yes,” his dad said wryly, standing up and walking to the sink. “Because lying down and wallowing is so much better.” As Jack burst out laughing—his father was exceptional at breaking up tension—his mother tossed a napkin at her husband.
“I won’t forget that,” she warned, making his dad grin.
“I just need a few days to unwind and figure out what to do next,” he said in a calm tone. “While my retirement is solid, I can’t start collecting until I’m sixty-seven. So I’ve got a good twenty years of work ahead of me, once I figure out what that is.”
He could almost see the cogs turning in his mother’s head and knew if he didn’t do something quickly, she would start trying to help. Quite honestly, Rachel Carmichael just couldn’t help herself. He didn’t know if it was the fact she was a mother or if the Carmichael need to take care of others had just rubbed off on her, but she was never able to just take a backseat when one of them was in trouble. An attribute he both loved and found annoying when it came to him. “I drove straight, so quite honestly, I need to get some sleep. But tomorrow, I was thinking of going and checking in on Brent.” And maybe the Hunters, see how they were faring now that the crime family intent on murdering them was no longer looking for them. Yes, that would be nice – to see someone the Federal Witness Protection Program and he had been able to help.
“Great. Let me help you get your stuff in,” his father offered, rescuing him from a definite twinkle that just sprang into his mother’s eyes.
“Please, Uncle Josh?” The little cute pout pointed up at him might fool someone else, but Josh Martin had spent far too many years around the child to buy into it. Besides, he actually had something exciting to do today.
“Sorry, squirt,” he said, ruffling her hair and grinning at her indignant squeal. “I’m set to move into my new house today and my new job starts soon. You wouldn’t want me to miss out on that, would you?”
His niece Sheila shook her head. “No,” she whispered in a small voice. “But when are you gonna come visit?” Her lips trembled and this time she wasn’t fooling. Squatting next to her, he pulled her into a tight hug.
“Corbin’s Bend is only an hour away, Shay. When I’m not working, I promise to come down when I can. Since I’m no longer slaving away for the hospital, I should have more time on my hands.”
“To hopefully find himself a boyfriend.” The teasing voice of his twin sister made him turn and roll his eyes. Jaylee laughed. “Well, don’t you think it’s time?” When he didn’t respond, she repeated the question, “What do you think, Shay? Isn’t it time Josh found Mr. Right?”
“Yeah!” Sheila squealed, jumping back and clapping her hands. “Find Mr. Right and I can be a flower girl at your wedding.” Her huge smile, which just increased the beautiful roundness of her cheeks almost melted his heart. What he wouldn’t give to be able to promise her that would happen, but he had not done well in the dating department before. In fact, he’d always chosen men who were, quite honestly, assholes. It always started out with him thinking they were wonderfully dominant and ended with him either shoving them out the door or cowering behind a door until they left. Reaching up to his jaw, he had distinct memories of his last boyfriend whose parting shot was a fist to his face.
“I’ll try, Shay,” he promised. In fact, Corbin’s Bend was, in its way, his final real try at finding a nice, dominant man to partner with. He’d found out about it by accident several months previous when members of the community came to the hospital he worked in because of an accident. Damn if he hadn’t been attracted to all four gorgeous men who had waited while the doctors worked on the woman who had been injured. It hadn’t taken long to figure that one of the men was with the injured woman, another had a wife back home, and the other two were together. A few days later he overheard one of the doctors talking about the “Strange community of spankos” the men had been from. At the word spanko, he had rushed to write down the name of the town.
And today, he would become a resident. As a plus, and the only way he’d been able to afford to apply, he would also be the only nurse practitioner in a new medical center for the community consisting of several doctors and him as well as a score of nurses, techs, and administrative help. With Corbin’s Bend supporting the clinic, while he had to purchase his shares in the co-op, he would have no monthly or yearly fees as long as he continued to work at the Corbin’s Bend Medical Center.
“All right, Sheila, give your uncle a hug and then we need to send him on his way,” Jaylee encouraged softly.
Instantly tears leaked from the little girl’s eyes as she latched onto him in her version of a hug. Wrapping his own arms around her, he held her close, tears pricking at his own eyes. Damn but he loved this little girl. If anyone had ever told him growing up that a child with down syndrome would turn his heart to mush, he would have thought they were crazy, but the fact was, Sheila was the sweetest girl he’d ever known. His little princess.
“Once I get settled, maybe your mom will let you come up for a day or two,” he suggested, having already discussed it with his sister.
“Really?” Sheila asked, pulling back her head and a smile crossing her face again.
“Sure. They have the best sweet shop,” he fake whispered, knowing his niece loved sweets as much as he did and the bakery in his new town was amazing.
“Get settled soon,” she begged before giving him a kiss and trotting out of the room.
“She’s going to miss you,” his sister said with a warm smile, reaching out to hug him once he’d stood up again.
“I’ll miss you two as well,” he said, hugging her back. “But I have to do this, sis.”
“I know. But since Sheila was born, you’ve always been here.” She laughed softly and pulled back, giving him a wry smile. “I never realized how wonderful it was to have a brother just a few blocks away who would be willing to come over at any time to take care of my little girl when I was called away. Now what will I do?” They both knew they answer. Their parents would step in happily to help. “You’re more her daddy than her biological father, you know.”
“I know. And if I ever see the bastard again, I’ll thank him for leaving,” he said with a small growl, hugging her tighter. “You and Shay deserve more than that jerk ever offered, Jay.”
Jaylee leaned her head on his shoulder for a moment before sharply pulling back and taking a deep breath. “Go. Before either she or I finds a way to convince you to stay. Go,” she encouraged gently when he frowned. “Go find your home and the man of your dreams, little brother.” Rolling his eyes at the term, as he was only one hour younger, he leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek before leaving, heading to the rented moving truck with his ancient VW Bug jacked up behind it. With a wave toward her windows, he got into the cab and turned the ignition. Today was a new start and while scared, Josh could hardly wait.