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Irene is determined to follow her Marine, Drew – the love of her life – everywhere. He leads, she follows, from duty station to duty station, from base to base.
Drew has always insisted on her complete obedience and submission to him. But when he is wounded, everything changes. Thinking that she must now take care of everything on her own, Irene may lose the man she has loved since she was seventeen.
Can she submit to a man whose body is broken? Is he still the man she fell in love with all those years ago?
Publisher's Note: This book contains graphic adult and disciplinary scenes. If this offends you, please do not read it. It’s an expanded version of a story which was previously featured in the USA Today bestselling Hero To Obey box set, which is no longer available.
Age 17 – June
Irene kicked a rock by the side of the gravel road. The heat lay heavily on her skin—humid and thick. She fanned her tank shirt against her chest and wiped the sweat off her palms on the sides of her jean shorts. Just a few more minutes. And then I'll go back and tell Pop the customer isn't showing up. Julia was off at college. Henry was in the shop with Pop. Franklin was probably off in the woods somewhere, shirking whatever work Mom had set him to. And Tanya was in the kitchen with Mom. Which left just Irene to greet customers at the point where the gravel driveway met the gravel road and if you didn't know, you would probably miss the turn off and get lost wandering around the countryside for a long while.
She started back. If a man says he's going to be here at 11, he should be here at 11. Not… she glanced at her watch… not 11:33. She heard the car turn off the small paved road and onto the gravel road, but she was already walking back to the house. It drove slowly, looking, she was sure. Too late. She didn't turn around when she heard it stop.
"Hey!" She ignored the male voices. "Hey! Is this where Tony Whiley's garage is? The motorcycle guy?" She continued to walk away. There was the sound of a car door, and then crunching footsteps. "Hey, miss, excuse me, please?"
She turned around, blonde braid flying, hands on her hips. "Tony's busy. He had a customer at 11 o'clock." She glanced at her watch. For a moment, the man was confused, then he realized what she meant.
"I'm sorry." He looked sheepish, embarrassed and not a little frustrated. "I'm sorry. My ride…" He gestured towards the green car sitting at the end of the driveway. "I'm sorry to keep Tony waiting. Can I speak to him for a minute, please?"
Irene eyed him. He was tall and broad, but she was tall too, so her head came up to his nose. His hair was dark, and his skin was tanned. He looked like he worked outdoors, and often.
"I'll ask. But he doesn't like it when people are late when they make appointments." Pop doesn't mind as much as I do, though. "Come on." She turned and he followed her. After a moment, she felt a totally different kind of heat creep up her spine; her jeans were short and tight, and she wondered if he was looking. She glanced back, quickly. Caught him. It made her belly tense and her heart speed up when she saw the flush on his cheeks. He swallowed, but didn't say a word.
She turned back to the garage, leading the man the long way around, past the row of berry bushes that screened that path from the house. She didn't ask herself why she did it. Either way, the man didn't take her up on the blatant offer.
Chagrin burning her chest, she stepped past the final bush into the open track. "Pop! Your customer's here. Late! You still want to see him?"
Her father stepped out from the garage. Shirtless, wearing cutoff shorts, his full beard practically blended in with the hair on his sunburned chest. "Wha'd'ya want, boy?"
"A motorcycle. Sir. I was told you fix them up. Sell them."
The older man stood there, wiping oily hands on a rag. There was a motorcycle in parts beside him and a few more up on blocks. All around, there were boxes of parts and tools. He glanced up at the brilliant sun in the shiny blue sky.
"You have a license?"
"I have my permit. Sir."
"You ever ridden?"
Tony turned back to the motorcycle he was working on.
"But…I have cash, sir. I have a ride home, sir. I'm not going to try to drive it now."
"Don't matter. Git out of here. I won't sell no motorcycle to a beginner."
The young man frowned, stubborn. "Why not?"
The older man put down his rag and stood up. Irene snorted and backed up when Tony passed her on his way to stand nose to nose with the young man.
"I used ta sell motorcycles to anyone who could afford them. Ya know what happened? I sold one to a boy—about yer age, boy—and you know what he did? He rode it home. Except you know where home is, son? On the way from here to there, he relocated. Inta the afterlife. You get my meanin', boy?"
The young man swallowed hard but didn't back down, and the surprise in Irene's eyes slid down to her belly to play with the heat there. "I told you. I'm not driving it home."
"Don' matter. Not sellin'."
"I was told your bikes were the best, sir. And when I choose to spend my money, I choose to spend it on the best, sir.Now you can sell it to me today, and I'll learn on my own. Or you can sell it to me and I'll stop by every week for you to teach me how to ride it. I'll pay for the lessons. And then you can rest assured…"
Tony held up a hand, and the young man's words died in his mouth.
"First off, what makes you think I have time to teach some boy how to ride? Second, I don't have to sell you jack shit, so if you don't like my terms you can get the hell off my property. Third—"
Henry interrupted. "I'll teach him." Tony glared at his eldest son. Henry gestured at the young man. "Drew was in the class ahead of me in school. He's pretty good at hands on stuff like this. We had woodshop together. I think he'll be fine. If he promises to keep the bike here until you say he's a good enough rider."
Pop turned his glare back to Drew. Irene watched Drew's face. Determination, relief. If he's only a year older than Henry, he's only one or two years older than me. She bit down on the inside of her mouth to hide a smile. And he'll be here every week. Maybe for the whole summer.
17 – August
"How's he doing?" Irene stood next to her father, holding the plate while he ate the sandwich her mother had sent out for him.
"Not bad atall. Better'n I thought he would by now. He's a li'l cocky in the turns yet, but he'll learn." For a moment, Irene couldn't decide if she wanted him to improve his turns yet or not, but then she made up her mind. If he improves too fast, he'll be done with lessons sooner. But I want him to be safe. Yes. I want him to learn quickly.
Henry waved Drew to a stop and walked up to talk to him, gesticulating as he explained about the turns. Drew nodded, listening seriously from what Irene could see from the shop. Tony grunted. "'Bout ready to try it on a paved road." Irene glanced at him. "Not an open road yit. But on the Jeffersons' track down yonder."
She nodded. "Yup." Tony grunted again, and she returned the plate to the kitchen.
* * *
It was hotter than a rabbit in a wool sweater when Drew drove over to Tony's house for his open road test. Irene stood in the kitchen making brownies and glancing out the window every ten seconds.
Franklin stuck his finger in the batter, startling her. "Get your damn filthy fingers out!" She swatted his hand with the sticky spoon, slopping more batter on him, so he ran away cackling. She bit her lip, hoping Pop hadn't heard her curse. Might not be a spanking offense at her age, but she didn't want to risk it.
There he is. Irene didn't care to examine why she'd been checking for Drew for the last half an hour. Ever since he'd been borrowing his mother's car and not catching rides with friends, he was always on time, not usually early, but sometimes. Maybe. She scraped the batter into the buttered and cocoa-floured pan and stuck it in the oven. She stood by the window, sucking chocolate batter off the spatula and wondering what Drew's tongue tasted like.
She'd kissed a handful of boys before—three of them at that fateful "Truth or Dare" game she'd played at Marcella's house when it was supposed to be a girls-only sleepover and it really wasn't. They weren't that great. They all tasted like the mint breath spray Marcella made them all use, and not a one knew the first thing about kissing. Irene had fumbled and pretended it was all cool…but while it was exciting, the actual kisses were less exciting than the idea of kissing was. Another one of her kisses was with a crush she'd had when she thought she liked "bad boys"—he found out, he teased her about it, she blushed, he kissed her thoroughly…and laughed at the idea that kissing like that meant they were "together". It took a week of fawning on him before understanding set in, and then she avoided him, humiliated. The most recent one was the boy she'd "gone out with" for most of her junior year of high school. He was sweet. She liked kissing him, holding his hand when they walked to class and had even fantasized about having sex with him. But when he went off to hang out with his friends and ignored her most of junior prom, it gave her the excuse she needed to break it off. It had been four months and she didn't miss him.
Marianna put her hand on Irene's shoulder and Irene jumped, startled out of her memories. "Hi, honey. Why don't you make some lemonade to pour for the boys when they get back from the road test?" Irene tried to focus on her mother's words.
"Right. Sure. I'll do that." She went to the refrigerator to pull out the lemons, hoping the cool air would chill her blush or that her mother would attribute it to the weather.
An hour later, Tony escorted a grinning Drew into the house and practically pushed him into a seat at the dining room table. "This here boy has earned hisself the right to buy a motorcycle!" Irene, her siblings and Marianna clapped, then Marianna dished up her sausage-sweet potato casserole and Irene poured lemonade.
Drew's fingers brushed hers and his brown eyes caught hers when she handed the mason jar to him. "Thank you," he said, and she blushed again.
Tony whacked him on the shoulder. "Good job, boy. I didn’t think you'd make it. But yer a mule-headed boy, and you done good. Yer mama ought ta be proud of you."
This time Drew blushed. "Thank you, sir."
"Now eat up." They dug in. Henry started talking sports with his dad and Drew, with Franklin interrupting pretty much every sentence. Irene listened, watching the way Drew defended his opinions without being dismissive of the others, the deft way he included Franklin without letting him take over the entire conversation.
She had just served him a square of brownie with a scoop of ice cream on top when she blurted out the question. "So this is the last day we'll see you, right? Until you come back for a maintenance checkup, that is."
He looked at her so long, no one saying anything, that she fiddled with cutting the brownies, embarrassed and mentally cursing herself for asking. When he did speak, it took a moment to register. "There's a movie at the theater downtown that I've been wanting to see. Are you interested?"
She looked up, eyes wide. "See it? With you?"
The corner of his mouth tilted up. "Yeah."
She grinned at him. "Yeah. I'd like that."
"Good. I'll pick you up at five."
Tony cut in. "Ya damn well better not be puttin' a passenger on that there bike before you been ridin' three months, at the very least. You got that, boy?"
Drew looked offended. "Of course not. I'll pick her up in the car."
Tony nodded, mollified. "All right."
* * *
The first date started out awkward. Irene didn't know what to say to him, but after the movie, they had something to discuss, and from there, they wandered into more personal topics. He learned about her dreams to teach. She learned of his goal to become a Marine. When he kissed her, she sat up and took notice—there was definitely something different about his kisses. It wasn't just that he was more confident about kissing, it was that he seemed to want to kiss her.
He came over twice a week now—once for dinner with her family and a walk in the dark after, and once on the weekend to go out somewhere.
"But only if your homework is all done."
"What? Drew, that's not fair. You don't have homework. You just work in the field and then you can do whatever you want when you get home."
"Irene, how long do I work in the field?"
She screwed up her mouth. "A lot."
"Ten to twelve hours, Irene. When I come over here at six, I can do that because I started at 6 am. And you know I didn't just start working after I graduated; I've been in the tobacco fields since I was thirteen. Not only that, but I'm done school already. I've taken all the tests you're working on, while working after school, weekends, and summers. I graduated already. You need to finish now. You're lucky your pop's motorcycle shop is so successful and your mother has her massage therapy clients. You don't have to work yet."
"No buts. Or I'll turn yours over my knee. Understand?" Her eyes widened, staring up at him in the dim dusk light.
It took a moment to force the words out of her mouth. "What do you mean, 'turn my butt over your knee'?"
He looked at her. "I think you know exactly what it means."
Irene swallowed. Her fingers felt sweaty in his hand. Her heart hammered in her chest and she felt a queer twisting in her belly. "You'd…spank me?"
"But..." He raised a brow. She hurried on. "Why would you do that?"
"Because your schoolwork is important, and it has to come before anything. Even our dates."
"No, I know." She blushed scarlet, her stomach knotting itself up with some strange combination of fear and anticipation. "I mean, why would…why would you…spank me?"
"Don't tell me you've never been spanked before."
Could this conversation get any more personal? Except, she realized, she kind of liked that they were having a very personal, very intimate conversation. She stared out at the dark shadows of the forest so she didn't have to look at him when she admitted it. "I have."
"And you didn't make the same mistake again, did you?"
"Well," she looked down at the gravel under their feet, her cheeks flaming. "Sometimes." She hurried on, not wanting Drew to think she was a slow learner. "But mostly not."
He pulled her to a stop, turned her to face him. "See?" She nodded. He put a finger under her chin and lifted it up so she met his eyes. "Say it."
"And if you disobey me, I make the decision. You only have one choice in the matter. You will submit to my discipline, or you will not bemy girl anymore." That idea kicked her in the chest. Not be his? But…he's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
"Even if I don't want to be spanked?"
He laughed. "That's kind of the point, Irene. If you don't want to be punished, don't disobey me." He wants to be a Marine. Of course, he values discipline and hierarchy.
She tried the words on for size. "Yes, sir."
He grinned. "Good girl." The subsequent kiss melted
her against him.