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Maddie's hot new date loves to cook – but she avoids eating at all costs.
Sarah has perfect plans for her anniversary – but Dan's disappeared into his man-cave.
Ginny's always let her dog run free in the 'on-lead' area – but now a fine has turned up in the post.
Maddie, Sarah, Ginny and the other feisty women in these stories all have problems. And they all have men who believe that a spanking is a cure for all ills.
The new dress looked fantastic over her leggings; it had been worth every cent. Maddie surveyed herself in the full-length mirror: thin legs (excellent), protruding tummy obscured (phew!) by floaty almost-knee-length dress; chiselled cheekbones (yeah!) highlighted by a hint of blusher. She'd gone down two clothes sizes since she'd started her diet, and once she added some serious workouts, she'd flatten her stomach as well. But for now, she could wear dresses like this one, and Adam would never guess that so much blubber lay beneath her clothing…
Until he put his arms around her, ran his hands over her body, until they…Maddie swallowed, torn between the way her insides melted at the thought of sex with him and the trepidation she felt about his discovering she was fat.
Maybe she should bail out. Phone him, say something had come up at work. Put off the date for a few days until she'd starved and exercised that big stomach away.
Her mobile rang and she snatched it up from her dressing table. Adam's name was on the screen.
"Maddie, it's Adam. Just checking you're still okay for seven o'clock."
Her stomach flipped. He really had the sexiest voice imaginable. He was a lawyer but his voice would be perfect for television or radio – pleasant, calm, self-assured.
"Um –" Now was the time. If she was going to pull out, make excuses, it had to be now.
"I'm just starting dinner and it'll be ready just after seven, so I hope –"
"I'll be there," she said firmly, trying to convince herself that eating dinner would be better than the alternative of not seeing him at all tonight. She'd just have to eat as little as possible, that was all – and hide whatever food she could somehow, pretend she'd eaten it, when she got the chance.
* * *
Maddie had met Adam a couple of months ago, at a party given by one of her colleagues at the public relations firm she worked for. Adam had turned up with one of his colleagues, who happened to be a friend of the hostess's boyfriend. They'd started chatting when Adam joined Maddie and a bunch of other people out on the deck. He was attractive – tall, broad-shouldered, and with dark, slightly curling hair. Maddie, who was only 5ft 2inches, felt dwarfed beside him.
Gradually, the group had broken up, and Maddie had felt flattered and thrilled when Adam had offered to refill her glass. It had gotten too cold to remain outside, so they'd moved indoors, to the lounge room, where they'd talked incessantly: about work, where they'd been to uni, where they lived, about their parents and where they'd grown up. They'd been among the last to leave, and had exchanged phone numbers. He'd promised to call.
She'd been surprised, relieved and then anxious when he did. How was she going to keep her diet going if she embarked on a relationship? She told herself sternly that somehow she was going to have to manage it – he was gorgeous, easily the best guy who'd ever asked her out. Her colleague Kylie had been delighted that Maddie and Adam had got together at her party, telling her that she'd met him before a couple of times, and everyone thought he was a lovely, caring guy. So they'd started dating, meeting for a drink first, followed by a movie. He'd then asked her out to dinner, but she'd been able to stick to salad that night, making the excuse that she'd had a big lunch with clients and wasn't really hungry. And she'd managed to pretty much avoid eating on subsequent dates: a boat trip down the river; the theatre; the ballet. Then he'd gone to the Sunshine Coast for two weeks, on a prearranged family holiday. He'd got back a couple of nights ago, inviting her to his house in the country, saying he'd cook.
He was, Kylie had heard, a brilliant cook. It was, by the sound of it, going to require every ounce of Maddie's willpower to resist clearing her plate…
It was also, Maddie knew, going to be the date. He'd invited her to his home on a Saturday night, and it made sense that she'd stay over. Neither of them had to go to work the next day. And she definitely wanted to; boy, yes. But she didn't want to have sex for the first time on a full stomach, not a stomach that blew up like a balloon after eating, the way hers did.
Oh, why couldn't she be like Kylie or the other lucky women who could eat whatever they liked without putting on any weight? Eight hundred calories a day she'd been on, for weeks now, and still her stomach wouldn't shrink.
* * *
Adam's house was out in the country, about a half-hour drive from the town they both worked in and where she had an apartment. She pulled up outside an A-framed weatherboard surrounded by big gum trees. Tonight it was chilly, winter setting in, and Maddie could see smoke puffing from the chimney. Good – he'd lit the fire, as he'd promised. She loved real fires, something she couldn't have in her apartment.
She pressed the doorbell and Adam answered. He'd got a suntan from his holiday, and looked handsomer than ever. She handed him the bottle of red wine she'd just bought on the way, and he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. She kissed him back, tightening her stomach.
"I've missed you," he said. "I can't tell you how much."
"I've missed you too," she said. "I thought about you all the time…"
"Come in, in front of the fire," he said. "It's too cold to stand in the open doorway."
He closed the door behind him, hung up her coat, and she walked through the short passageway into Adam's lounge room. A big, brightly coloured rug lay on the polished floorboards, in front of the roaring fire. A widescreen TV was mounted on one wall, a huge bookcase crammed with books took up another. Two sofas squatted on either side of a coffee table. A big dining table stood near the window, and there was an old-fashioned clock on the mantelpiece, guarded by two enormous antique candlesticks. There weren't loads of knick-knacks gathering dust, like in Maddie's apartment, no piles of magazines cluttering the coffee table. The first time Adam had called at her place, to pick her up for the ballet the night her car was in dock, he'd tut-tutted over the mess; even though Maddie had spent the afternoon frantically cleaning and tidying the place up.
"Do you never put things back where they belong?" he'd asked her, picking up a couple of novels from the armchair.
"Not when I'm using them," she'd replied. "I'm reading both those books – and when I've finished, I'll put them in the bookcase. What's the point of putting them away every night just to get them out again next morning?"
"That's a terrible attitude," he'd said. "Weren't you taught to tidy up after yourself when you were a child?"
"Not really. You're five years older than me," she'd reminded him. "You probably had one of those old-fashioned childhoods where it was all discipline and no opportunity to express your personality."
"There's nothing wrong with a bit of old-fashioned discipline," he'd replied. "Tell me, Maddie, how long did you spend trying to tidy up the place because you knew I was coming round?"
Maddie blushed. "A few hours," she admitted.
"Well, if you knew that not putting things away straightaway meant a session across someone's knee, then all those hours of work wouldn't accumulate, would they?"
Maddie had grinned mischievously. "True enough, Adam, but who's going to do that to me?"
"Well, I'd be tempted to if I were living with you…"
He'd sounded half-teasing, half-serious. Maddie had wondered what it would feel like, his large hand slapping her bum. She had an overwhelming desire to know if he'd do it. "Oh yeah, you and whose army?" she'd taunted, going right up to him.
It had all been jokey, his pulling her down across his knee, and while the seven or eight slaps he'd given her had stung and made her gasp, they'd both ended up laughing. And kissing… They'd have made love for the first time, right then, on her sofa if they hadn't had to head out for the ballet, the tickets having cost way too much to consider not going. She didn't think she'd ever felt as turned on, or as sexy, as she did, straight after that spanking. And then he'd gone off on holiday. And now, she thought, as he uncorked the wine she'd brought and poured two glasses, finally, he was back.
"Make yourself at home while I finish off dinner," he said, handing her a glass.
"Can I help at all?" she asked.
"No, everything's under control."
Of course it is, she thought, settling down on one of the sofas, while he disappeared into the kitchen. Adam always had things under control – work, organising dates, everything.
"Hope you like spaghetti," he called out.
"Yes, lovely…thanks." Uh oh, oodles of calories.
"And I've made a sticky date pudding for dessert."
"Ooh, yummy," she said.
"We've never actually had a proper meal together before," said Adam, coming back out of the kitchen and popping a bowl of peanuts on the coffee table.
"No," she said. "No – I suppose we haven't."
"So I didn't really know what your favourite food is. Help yourself," he said, pointing to the nuts.
"Oh, I'll save my appetite for the meal, I think," she said, smiling.
"You're not anorexic, are you?" he asked, startling her.
"No, of course not," she said. "Why d'you ask?"
"Because you seem to avoid food all the time. I was half-expecting you to cancel tonight."
She could feel her cheeks burning. "Well, I didn't, did I? I'm here."
"Indeed you are, but still not eating."
Uncomfortable and irritated, Maddie reached out and took a handful of nuts. Five calories per nut. "I'll eat then. If it makes you happy. But don't blame me if I'm too full to eat the sticky-date pudding."
"You really don't need to worry about your weight, you know. You're thin anyway, and you look as if you've lost weight the past couple of weeks. You'd tell me, wouldn't you?" he added, concerned. "If you were anorexic or –"
"Adam, I am not anorexic." Maddie was irritated now. What business was it of his what she ate? It was okay for men, they didn't have to worry about their weight, they weren't judged on it the way women were.
"Glad to hear it," he said lightly, then went back to the kitchen.
She should have pulled out of this, she thought, annoyed. Now, he was going to be watching her all the time. She'd brought a couple of plastic bags with her, which she could sneak uneaten food into when his back was turned, so it looked as if she'd eaten. She'd thought she could flush the food down the toilet, but that most likely wasn't a good idea, now she'd aroused his suspicion. She'd have to take the damn food home with her tomorrow, hope he didn't go near her handbag…
One of the logs suddenly cracked and popped, sending sparks fizzing.
The fire, Maddie thought – that's what she could do. When Adam took the first-course plates back to the kitchen and served dessert she could chuck the bag of uneaten food into the fire. Then she could make excuses about the sticky date pudding, insist she was too full. She shoved a handful of peanuts into the bag, and put it in the pocket of her dress, so he'd think she'd been eating. And she stuck her mobile phone into the other pocket, pleased with her rapidly thought-up food-avoidance plan.
* * *
"This is wonderful," Maddie said. "Seriously. You're an amazing cook, Adam. You should go on MasterChef."
He should, too. Maddie could taste the herbs in the sauce, and the pasta had been cooked to perfection. Goodness, she thought, if she ended up with Adam for a husband she would be enormous.
"Thanks," said Adam. "I enjoy cooking, but it's more fun when there's someone to cook for."
"I know," said Maddie. "Cooking for yourself is such a tedious chore."
"Do you cook?" he asked her.
Maddie's stomach muscles clenched. There he was again, questioning her. He definitely suspected something.
"Sometimes. Like you said, it's more fun when it's done for someone else. I don't cook much, just for myself."
"You'll have to cook for me some time." He reached over and refilled their wine glasses.
"Okay," she said. "But I'm not a great cook like you, so don't expect this sort of standard."
"It's only spaghetti."
"Whatever. It's gorgeous." She reached into her pocket and for her mobile, which she'd pre-set to call Adam's landline. She pressed it.
Adam's phone rang. "Excuse me," he said, going out to the kitchen. Maddie ended the call and shovelled the spaghetti into the plastic bag. She put the bag into her handbag. Phew, she thought. She could hear Adam's voice in her pocket, and, grinning, she ended the call.
Adam came back frowning. "They rang off," he said. "Ah, you've cleared your plate. Good girl."
"Told you I wasn't anorexic."
"Naturally skinny, eh?"
"See? You think you're fat. I have my eye on you, young lady."
She looked at him defiantly as she took a swig of wine. "Do you then, old man?"
Their eyes met, and she could feel the bristle of sexual tension between them; boy, she wanted him now, not to have to wait till after dessert…
"Well, given you're so hungry," he said, "I'd better bring dessert in…"
"I'm actually quite full…"
"Just a smidgeon?"
"Okay." A small portion couldn't harm her, she'd barely touched the spaghetti, and she'd only had four hundred calories today just in case she'd caved in to eating tonight… "You want any help?"
"No, it's okay…I can manage. Look on the wine rack for another bottle, if you like. I'm sure we can manage another?"
He left and she could hear the clatter of plates in the kitchen. Quickly, she grabbed her handbag – she didn't want to leave the bag of spaghetti in there, it would smell. She chucked the bag onto the fire.
The fire popped and cracked loudly, alarmingly. Shut up, she willed it, suddenly apprehensive, shut up.
"Wow, what's happened to the fire?" Adam asked, coming in with two bowls of sticky date pudding and custard. It was exploding angrily, flames flaring, sparks fizzing. He put the bowls down and strode towards it.
"I'll poke it while you –"
But it was too late. He was already investigating the remains of plastic bag and uneaten food.
Maddie swallowed. She didn't know what to do, what to say. She wanted to get out of there. She wished she'd never come.
Slowly, Adam placed the poker against the fireplace. Then he turned to look at her.
Maddie couldn't look at him. "I'm sorry," Maddie whispered. "I didn't –"
"You lied to me," he told her. "I asked you if you were anorexic and you lied."
"I didn't. I'm not anorexic. I'm just on a diet."
"So you're thin and think you need to lose weight. You hide food and cover it up by lying. That sounds anorexic to me." He sounded so cold, and Maddie wished he would cuddle her and say something like "I'm so sorry, Maddie, how can I help you get better?" That's what she needed. That's what a supportive boyfriend should do.
"I knew you were lying," he continued. "Your mobile number showed up on my phone when you rang… And when I'd got back, you'd miraculously finished your meal. How do you think I feel, Maddie? I've spent much of the afternoon preparing a lovely meal for you, and instead of having the guts to tell me you have an eating disorder, you lie, play a trick to get me out of the room, and then throw the meal into the fire. I'm very disappointed in you, Maddie."
God, he made you feel small, Maddie thought. "I'm sorry," she said. "I wouldn't – I shouldn't have come. I'll go now. I'm really sorry."
"And if you leave, will you want to see me again?"
Oh yes, she thought. But she couldn't. It was too embarrassing. "I don't know," she admitted. "I just feel…" Her voice trailed off. A complete idiot was what she felt. No, more than that. A total heel.
"Well, I'm offering you a choice. You can go home if you like, and carry on as you have been – dieting for no reason, skipping meals, hiding food, telling lies. Or you can stay here and learn a lesson from this, and change the pattern you've established for yourself."
"What do you mean?" Maddie asked.
"I mean, I'm going to spank you. For lying to me and throwing the meal I'd prepared on to the fire. It's going to hurt but I think when I've finished you'll feel better. You know you deserve it and afterwards we draw a line over the incident and start afresh. Your choice," he said.
She wanted both. She wanted to scurry home, tail between her legs, and cry. But she knew if she did that she'd never be able to face him again. Or Kylie, for that matter. Kylie would want to know why they'd split up. And while Maddie was sure Adam wouldn't give her away, Kylie would be a constant reminder of the awfulness of having been caught…
And she desperately wanted to be punished for hurting him, knew it was what she deserved.
"All right," she said quietly, nervously. "You can spank me."
She nodded. Get it over with quickly before I change my mind.
He took her hand and guided her to the sofa. He sat down and pulled her down over his lap. Swiftly, he pulled her leggings and panties down to her knees. Oh, God, he'd see how fat her stomach was…
"This spanking is for getting rid of your dinner," he said coldly. "You'll be punished separately for lying."
There was a pause and then his hand came down with a resounding slap on her right cheek. Maddie gasped and wriggled, and his hand descended smartly on her left. The third smack covered her whole bottom. He spanked her rhythmically, hard, again and again and again, left cheek, right cheek, both cheeks, smack, smack, smack. She tried to shrink away from his hard hand, tried to get up, tried to wriggle off his knee. But every attempt at moving away only resulted in an extra slap, on her right thigh, and then he'd resume smacking her bottom. Yelling at him to stop did the same. In the end she found she hadn't the strength to move, couldn't speak for the long moan she was emitting as it felt as if the spanking would never stop. Finally, he gave her one final hard whack across her bottom, and ordered, "Now, stand up and get dressed."
She stood up, tearful and embarrassed. As she pulled up her panties and leggings she could see how red her thigh was and wondered what her bottom must look like.
He patted the sofa. "Come and sit next to me."
She sat, still too humiliated to look at him. He put his arms around her and pulled her next to him. "I love you, Maddie," he said. "I can't bear what you're doing to yourself. You're such a beautiful girl – why don't you realise that?"
Because I'm not, Maddie thought. She never had been beautiful, not like some of the girls she knew, who had perfect faces, perfect figures, perfect hair… Yet Adam was saying she was beautiful. "I don't know," she whispered.
"How long has this problem with food been going on?"
She told him everything. How the other women at work were all like toothpicks and how image was all-important in the world of PR. How she'd felt fat and unattractive compared to the rest. How, when she'd been passed over for promotion, she'd decided she was going to be skinny. How she'd started a strict diet, and had become obsessed with it and annoyed by the fact that her stomach always would be bigger than the rest of her, no matter how much weight she lost…
"There's nothing wrong with your stomach," he'd assured her. "Women are meant to have curves. If anything, you need to gain some weight, Maddie. But most of all, you need to treat your body with respect and eat healthily. Now, listen. I've got a proposition to put to you."
"Why don't you move in with me? That way I can help you – we can draw up a healthy eating plan for you, and I can make sure you're keeping to it."
"I don't know…" Eating properly would mean gaining weight. But then, what was worse – gaining a few pounds or not moving in with the most gorgeous guy she'd ever met in the whole of her life?
"And I can make you stand in front of the mirror every morning and make you see what a beautiful girl you are."
"You can't go on like this, Maddie. Move in with me and learn to love yourself the way I love you."
"All right, then," she said. "Thank you. I'd love to move in with you."
"Then I'll help you bring your things round this weekend… Together, we can beat this dieting obsession of yours!"
"By beating it out of me, you mean?" she asked, managing a grin, for her throbbing bottom was reminding her that maybe she wouldn't want to think about calories too often if this was the result.
"Oh, yes," he said, "that reminds me – you still need to be punished for lying. I had thought the one spanking would be enough for you for the moment, and planned to deal with you at bedtime."
She met his eyes, saw the love and the threat, and didn't know if she was looking forward to bedtime or dreading it.
He drew her back towards him, and again she was across his lap, looking down at the floorboards, his hand pulling down her leggings and panties.
"But actually," he said, raising his arm, "I think bedtime's round about now…"