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When Gabby Hoyt returns to her hometown of Stillwater, Montana, on her best friend’s wedding day, she surprises everyone when she shows up with a little girl in tow.
Jake Sommerville, her best friend’s older brother, is suspicious of Gabby from the start, remembering how much trouble she was as a teenager. But despite his misgivings, he reluctantly gives her a job to appease his sister’s worries about Gabby’s financial state.
Living in the same household as Gabby shows Jake a new side of her, and he’s surprised to find himself falling for her. But there are still secrets in her eyes, even though she’s well aware of the penalty she’ll pay for keeping them from him: being spanked by his hard hand.
Jake is a patient man, but will he be willing to wait her out?
Publisher’s Note: This story contains adult spanking and discipline themes.
*** Currently available exclusively at Amazon ***
Gabriela Madison Hoyt squeezed the small girl's hand that lay inside her own as they walked the stone driveway on the last few feet of their long journey together. Just ahead in the near distance, she could see her best friend, Leigh Sommerville's, farmhouse and its outbuildings, and though she had never expected to visit the ranch again, the simple sight was a most welcome one to her tired soul, not to mention her worn out feet.
Little Carrie glanced up questioningly at the tall, slender young woman who held her hand as they walked. She squinted against the brightness of the June sunshine and smiled shyly back when Gabby glanced down and winked at her.
"Just a few more steps, sweetheart," Gabby answered the unasked question, "and we'll finally be there."
Despite the fact that it was a mild early June day, neither too hot nor too cold, Gabby was glad to know that a respite lay shortly ahead in their future. It had been a long trip, first by train, then by car, and finally this last leg on foot. Even though the pair only carried one suitcase and a small duffel bag between them, their arms had begun to strain from that by now. They both needed the rest, but Gabby also needed the time to fortify herself, as well; she had to figure out what she was going to do after today. Though there had certainly been plenty of quiet time during their trip to consider her options, she had yet to come up with a workable plan.
Despite her own personal troubles, though, Gabby had to smile as they drew nearer to Leigh's home. She loved her best friend like the sister she had never had and she was very happy to see what a lovely day had turned up for Leigh's wedding. She only hoped that Leigh's brother, Jake, didn't decide to ruin the happy event when he saw who his sister had chosen for her maid of honor.
Gabby couldn't help noticing the changes in the ranch as she and Carrie came within shouting distance of the house. An addition had been built onto both the large barn, and the long ranch home, and all of the buildings sported new coats of paint. The once dilapidated corral fence was repaired and sturdy looking, penning in three muscular horses at the moment, one of which was joyously rolling in the warm spring grass. Gabby pointed out the animal's antics to Carrie and was rewarded with one of the child's rare, musical giggles.
It had been seven years since Gabby had left the small town of Stillwater, Montana with her mother after her father had passed on and they had sold their overly prosperous ranch and business; add to that the three years previous to the move since her friendship with Leigh was supposed to end, per Jake's order, and it had been ten years since she'd set foot on this land. She supposed she shouldn't have been surprised at how much things had changed, especially considering what a hardworking man Jake was, and had always been. She only wondered if anything else had changed for the better, or was he going to slam the door in her face, or throw her off his property, just as she feared?
Gabby's belly fluttered nervously as she and Carrie passed the barn on their way towards the house, and she couldn't help glancing nervously over her shoulder, expecting Jake to come charging out at her from the building, breathing fire and demanding to know what she was doing here on his land. She knew the confrontation was inevitable, but she still longed to put it off for as long as possible.
As far as Jake Sommerville knew, his sister and Gabby had ended their erstwhile friendship back when they were still kids, when Leigh was only thirteen years old, and Gabby just a year older. That long ago spring day seemed to Gabby like it was both a century ago, and like it was only yesterday…
Gabby and Leigh both were lonely girls with few friends at school until they discovered one another. Jake had been working for Gabby's father, training his stallions and breaking horses to saddle with his special gentle manner, when he had brought along his kid sister one Saturday afternoon because he had no one to stay with her at home and didn't think she was old enough to stay by herself. Gabby, who had been trusted on her own in her mansion of a house since she was eight, had thought this was silly, and had figured the other girl must be a real sissy. But once she had started to talk to her, (only out of sheer boredom, of course), she'd found that they actually had quite a bit in common, despite their different social statuses, and the year's difference in age.
From that first Saturday on, Gabby and Leigh became close friends; whenever her brother went to work at the Hoyt's on an evening or Saturday, Leigh begged him to allow her to come along. And though he worried about the influence the Hoyt "hoyden," as he often called Gabby, would have on his sister, he indulged Leigh in this one repeated request because she asked for so very little, and because he knew she had so few friends.
But he worried. Gabby was reckless and undisciplined; her parents were always too busy with business or social obligations to pay her much mind, and she often acted out to try to gain their attention. Sadly, it never worked for more than a day or so, and during that brief time she was confined to her room as her "punishment." Her parents never discussed her inappropriate behavior with her—or her appropriate behavior, for that matter—and as she got older, Gabby's antics only grew wilder. In truth, Jake felt rather sorry for the little girl, though her bratty demeanor and troublesome behavior overshadowed his concern for her; he had a little sister of his own to lose sleep over, and keeping tabs on one child was more than enough of a job for him.
Jake tried to be patient with the growing friendship between the two girls, hoping despite the increasing amount of trouble that Gabby got his sister involved in, that Leigh would prove to be a good influence on the older girl, so that he could breathe a little easier when he knew the two of them were together.
But he grew increasingly nervous that his otherwise mild mannered sibling was going to follow her friend's destructive path and wind up in serious trouble. Jake was used to being the head of their household, having assumed the male role in the family at the age of fourteen when their father died. Five years later, he found himself Leigh's sole guardian and only remaining family member when their mother passed on after losing a battle with cancer that had been several years long. And though he often wondered if he was doing the right things as he raised his little sister, he worried even more so that she would get into trouble with Gabby one day and the state would decide he wasn't fulfilling his role as her guardian. The biggest fear he harbored was that the state would one day take her away from him.
The girls did get into their share of small scrapes, though nothing was big enough to alert the social worker who watched over Leigh and Jake's home. Gabby's parents already knew their daughter's shortcomings in issues of behavior, and never thought badly of their employee when his sister was involved in some mischief with Gabby. He was too gifted in what he did, and they knew the loss would truly be their own, if they were to let him go.
For his part, Jake tried to discourage his sister from getting into trouble with her best friend through groundings and spankings. He also appealed to her with words, always reminding her that if she were to get into serious trouble the state could determine that he wasn't doing a good job as her guardian, and they could decide to take her away. Though these talks often took place with Leigh's bottom warm and sore beneath her, she truly did love her brother and just the idea of being separated from him made her begin to cry anew. He hated having to guilt her into behaving like that, but he considered it preferable to the possible alternative of having her taken away, and the talks always seemed to work—for a time, anyway, at least until Gabby's next need for attention arose and Leigh lost herself temporarily in the mischievous ride.
One warm spring day, Gabby had the idea for her and Leigh to go swimming at the pond by her house instead of going to school. The weather was extremely warm and both girls were anxious for the summer break to start. Though Leigh put up something of an argument at first, worried over what would happen should they get caught, Gabby was quickly able to ease her worries and cajole her into coming along.
Little did the girls expect that the school would phone their homes to ask if they were home sick; of course, there was no answer at the Hoyt residence, but Jake answered at the barn extension at the Sommerville ranch, and learned then of his sister's truancy. He was so surprised to learn she wasn't at school where she belonged, that he didn't even have the forethought to lie and say she was indeed home sick, thereby stalling any inquiries from their social services worker. Instead, he answered the question honestly and was then asked to come down to the school to speak with the principal.
In the meantime, the girls had been found at the pond, it being the only place Jake could think of where they could have hidden for the day without being caught. They were then transported to the school and told they were suspended for the remainder of the day, with detentions after classes for the next week. They stood in the hallway outside their principal's office, dripping pond water and looking glumly at their shoes.
"I'm sorry," Gabby told her friend as they listened to the muted male voices behind the closed door. "You're gonna be in big trouble with your brother, huh?"
Leigh nodded, swallowing hard. A short moment later, as if mentioning him made Jake appear, the door opened and he stepped out, looking stern, angry and very frightening.
His dark blue eyes swept disappointingly over his younger sister and then locked briefly with Gabby's own pale green ones. She fidgeted there under that steely hard look, regretting what she had pulled her friend into, and wishing with her whole heart that Jake would stop looking at her like that, like he truly hated her.
Gabby had harbored a secret crush on the older man, that she hadn't even shared with Leigh. She wished in her heart that she was older so he would consider her for a girlfriend. But since that was unlikely due to the five years between them, she allowed herself to worship him from afar. He was a real hero to her, based on how he was with Leigh, how much he obviously loved and cared for her. In Gabby's life there was little of that type of deep caring, and she craved it. Maybe she even craved some of the limits and consequences that governed Leigh's existence under Jake's care, as well.
Finally, he looked away from her, and took Leigh's thin shoulder in one hand, turning her abruptly around to leave. Gabby met her friend's gaze briefly before watching her be led away.
Later that afternoon, after Gabby was returned to her own home once someone finally reached her mother, she walked right out the front door and went to get her bike from the shed. Her mother had scolded her only briefly about skipping school, but she hadn't told her to stay at the house. And she also wasn't home any longer, so what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.
Gabby pedaled over to Leigh's house, covering the two miles between their ranches in record time. She was worried about her friend, knowing how upset Jake had been with her. And, in truth, she was worried about where she stood with the older man, as well. It was no secret, even to Gabby, that he didn't like her very much; but now she worried that the dislike had turned to true hatred, and with that she was afraid of what else would follow.
When she reached the Sommervilles', Leigh was nowhere to be seen, but Jake was sitting on a chair on the front porch, quietly concentrating on mending a piece of torn saddle harness. Gabby slid to a soft stop and crouched low nearby, watching him in silence for a few minutes as he worked. She admired his strong, straight features, his wide shoulders and tall frame as he bent over his task. His slim fingers moved deftly at their job, and the locks of dark hair around his face fell forward in a boyish manner. She thought romantically that she'd never known another boy or man as beautiful as he was.
Finally, she screwed up her courage and gulped a deep breath of air before rising to her full height once again. Then she came around the side of the house into Jake's view and he caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye.
"Go home, Gabriela," he said quietly, but firmly, after glancing at her briefly and then returning his attention to the piece of leather in his hands. "You've done enough mischief for one day."
"I-I just wanted to talk to Leigh for a minute… to check on her…"
His dark blue eyes were nearly black when he next looked up at her after those words. "Leigh is fine," he growled. "No thanks to you. Now get out of my sight before I lose my temper."
The fact that Jake was nearing the end of his temper should have been a meaningful warning to Gabby all by itself; she'd seen him work endless hours with the horses on her father's ranch, and knew the kind of patience he possessed to do so. But instead of listening to her head, Gabby listened to the pounding heart inside of her chest and pressed on with, "Can't I just talk to her for a minute? Please?"
"Jesus!" Jake bellowed, slapping the piece of harness angrily against one jeans-clad leg. "I said no, dammit! What the hell are you doing here anyway, Gabriela? Didn't your parents punish you at all for what happened today?"
Gabby's eyes were like saucers in her head at his angry outburst, yet she still stood there as if she was rooted to the soil beneath her feet. She'd never seen Jake this angry before; the Jake she knew never cursed and rarely raised his voice. Slowly she shook her head in answer to his question.
A string of curses fell from Jake's mouth and the next thing she knew he was tugging her by the hand up the steps onto the porch beside him. In another moment he had literally tossed her right over his hard thighs and had brought that nasty piece of leather he'd been mending down on her backside.
"Ow!" Gabby protested, twisting and wriggling as she fought to free herself from his tight grasp. The harness fell again on her bottom and she squawked again. That thing HURT, even through the denim of her jeans shorts and underwear.
"Poor little spoiled Gabriela Hoyt!" Jake jibed sarcastically, punctuating his words with loud whaps from the leather. "What a shame it is that no one in your miserable life ever thought to give you a good lesson like this before!"
"Ow! Let me go! Oh, please!" Gabby was rapidly losing the fight in her, having never experienced a spanking before. She hung onto Jake's pants leg and pleaded for him to stop the onslaught on her tender bottom, but to no avail. The weathered strip of leather just continued to fall across her vulnerable, upturned bottom, wielded by a furious young man who had reached his own limits of tolerance and understanding. And though Gabby tried to hold her reaction at bay, the sting and heat that Jake was building on her backside, when combined with the hurt she felt in her heart over his angry, cold response to her visit, brought the tears spilling over her lashes and rolling down her cheeks to spill onto the wooden planks of the porch floor beneath them.
"Jake!" Leigh's voice suddenly broke through the din of tears and pleading and penetrated Gabby's consciousness. She managed somehow to crane her neck up to look at her best friend where she stood in the doorway to the house, her eyes red rimmed and huge with surprise at the scene before her. Gabby moaned in embarrassment and hung her head down once again, choking on a sob as another hard whap was delivered to her behind.
"Jake, stop! You can't do this!" Leigh pleaded.
"Leigh, go inside," her brother ordered calmly, as if he wasn't exerting a single iota of energy punishing the young girl over his lap.
"But… you can't do this… her parents…"
"Her parents should have done this a few times themselves over the years. I'm not worried about her parents or anyone else, for that matter, because I'm sure she'll be too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened here today." He paused in his chore and looked up to meet his sister's gaze squarely. "Now, unless you'd like a second spanking of your own today, young lady, I suggest you go back to your room where I told you to stay."
Leigh hesitated only a moment longer before turning reluctantly and mumbling, "Yes sir," on her way back to her room.
Jake waited till she was gone before resuming the spanking, but then he only gave Gabby a few more well aimed swats with the leather before tossing it aside and helping her to stand. Her hands immediately flew back to rub at her tender skin through her shorts as she stood there before him, crying hoarsely.
Jake regarded her silently for a few long moments. He had a funny kind of look on his face, almost like pity. At least he wasn't looking at her in that cold, hate filled way anymore, Gabby thought. For a few moments she even allowed herself to imagine that he was about to fold her up inside his strong arms for a hug. But then the moment passed, and Jake seemed to mentally snap himself together. He sat back then, straightening his spine, and he took a deep breath.
"Go home," he repeated curtly. "And stay the hell away from my sister. I've already told her she's forbidden to see you anymore."
Fresh, scalding tears poured down Gabby's face at this news, but she didn't have the strength to say anything to the cold hard edge of anger in his voice. She turned from him then and fled to where she'd left her bike by the hedge, her bottom throbbing from his punishment while her heart ached in sympathy from the harshness of his final rejection of her.
As she started to walk away, too sore to even try to ride, she glanced back just once to look into Leigh's window; sure enough, she saw her friend standing at the glass, watching her. But before she could lift her hand to wave, a larger hand closed the curtain with a sharp flick and Leigh was cut off from her view…
Gabby couldn't help but smile ruefully as she anticipated Jake's reaction when he saw her today; he must have been so smug all these years, thinking he'd successfully squashed their friendship, when all along she and Leigh had only grown closer. They'd gotten good at keeping their alliance secret and he had never suspected a thing. It was going to feel good, today, letting him know that he hadn't won.
She tried to concentrate on that, and not on the nervous butterflies in her stomach. Beside her, Carrie seemed to be catching some of the nervous energy surrounding her, and was looking up at her with apprehensive, questioning eyes. Gabby smiled and squeezed the girl's hand reassuringly. Then she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and silently resolved that she wouldn't let Jake Sommerville bully her this time. After all it had taken to get her and Carrie here for Leigh's wedding, he was just going to have to find a way to live with her presence for one day.
Despite her resolve, Gabby's stomach was still roiling by the time she and Carrie progressed the remaining steps to stand before the front door of the house. She reached out one thin hand to rap quickly on the lower half of the screen door, casting furtive glances to her left and right for Jake's approach.
From inside, his voice wafted out to them on the spring wind: "I'll get it, sis."
In that flash of a moment, Gabby's heartbeat froze and she had to fight the physical urging in her muscles to flee. She made a sound like a gulp and shifted her weight from foot to foot, looking down at her dusty keds and worn Levis, suddenly wishing she could look better for her first encounter with Jake Sommerville in ten years. But there was no helping that now.
Because suddenly, there he was, right before her eyes on the other side of the screen door, squinting at her quizzically in the sunshine. He didn't recognize her at first, judging by his silence and his open perusal of her person. Gabby returned the observation, looking over his face and body in open curiosity as well. He had filled out over the years, the leanness of his youth being replaced with the muscles that came from hard labor. There was a hollowness about his eyes, though, and Gabby recalled how Leigh had told her he rarely dated and was really a loner in the small town. But there were laugh lines about the corners of his mouth and the sides of his dark solemn eyes, proof that his life wasn't all seriousness and gloom.
And just looking at him for those brief moments brought the same charge of attraction surging through Gabby's blood that she'd always experienced as an adolescent. If anything, it was only stronger now.
Then suddenly the look of curious interest abruptly faded from his eyes, as did the half smile that had played at the corners of his full lips, and Gabby knew that he'd recognized her then. His jaw line hardened and he spoke in a harsh whisper: "Gabriela Hoyt." The name may as well have been ground to bits under the heel of his cowboy boot. "What in God's name are you doing here?"
Before Gabby could attempt to stammer out an answer, she was saved by the breathless appearance of Leigh behind her brother. Her somewhat chubby best friend shot her a reassuring wink, then did a visible double take when she noticed that Gabby was not alone. Her soft brown eyes settled gently on Carrie for a moment, then turned back to Leigh with a thousand questions in their depths. But by that time, Jake was turning to Leigh to answer his question, and she had no chance to pose any inquiries of her own.
"I invited her, Jake," Leigh told him boldly, smiling sweetly in the face of his wrath. "Gabby is going to be my maid of honor."
Were it not for the fact that Carrie looked positively scared to death of Jake, Gabby might have laughed at the look of obvious shock on his usually self-controlled face. He was floored by this sudden piece of news, that much was for sure.
Leigh reached past him and opened the screen door to admit her friend. But Jake was standing right in their path, and he wasn't budging, it seemed.
"Jake," Leigh scolded softly. "You're standing in the way."
He shook his head slowly, staring at his sister as if she'd grown another head. "I told you ten years ago that Gabriela was no longer welcome in this house."
Leigh sighed. "That was ten years ago, Jake. It's my wedding day. She's come a long way to be here for me. Please let it go. After today you'll never have to see her again."
He remained in his spot for a few more stubborn minutes before finally taking an angry step aside. His gaze flickered between the two new arrivals as they stepped into his home, his eyes alternately filled with scorn when he glared at Gabby, and with curiosity when he glanced at Carrie.
"Come on," Leigh encouraged, motioning her friend and the little girl further inside. "I'll show you where you can freshen up."
As they moved further back through the house, Jake's voice carried after them, "I want to see you outside, Leigh Marie. Don't keep me waiting."
The sound of the door slamming behind him as he left the house reached them even in the back of the rancher where Leigh's bedroom was located. Leigh sighed, then smiled sadly. She glanced at Carrie, then embraced her friend in a brief, warm hug.
"Make yourself at home," she said, sniffling a little. "Shower if you like." She glanced pointedly at Carrie again, and then added, "When I get back, we'll talk."
Gabby watched Leigh walk slowly from the room, and thought glumly, "Yeah, if you come back…"