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Ask Cassie about her life on the river and she’ll tell you it’s lovely and peaceful. But while she loves the life she lives, peaceful is not always an accurate description. Whether she’s confronting an armed man who’s in a drunken rage, planning a friend’s wedding, or dealing with a ghost in a backwoods lodge, Cassie is going to deal with it the best way she knows how. And peaceful doesn’t always work.
When a mysterious phone call comes for Cassandra Wentworth, Cassie’s past is suddenly back to haunt her in a devastating way. Tom always said nothing from before the time they met counts, but he didn’t know about this. Sue, Annie, Allie, and Jenny are all willing to help, but will it be enough?
Publisher's Note: This sweet love story includes scenes of domestic discipline.
I thought after our girls’ trip out west earlier this summer there would be time to rest and relax once we got home. But I’m beginning to feel life just doesn’t work that way anymore. There are occasions when I miss the unending time Tom and I spent alone.
I was widowed early when my first husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his forties. He was twenty years my senior, and the marriage had not been a happy one. With his death, I was suddenly both wealthy and free. I immediately cut ties with my parents, who had forced me into that marriage, and began partying like there was no tomorrow. This went on for nearly five years. I suppose the only things that kept me from flying off the earth were my best friends, Sue and Annie, and their husbands.
Even these dear friends were having a hard time keeping me together until my wonderful Tom came into the picture. Tom fell in love with me almost the moment he saw me. I had done nothing in my life to deserve this wonderful man, but I was blessed with him anyway. We married after a brief courtship and with his love and stabilizing influence, I not only survived that turbulent time, but have thrived under his loving presence for forty years.
I could easily paint Tom as perfect, but he does have a few annoying traits. He’s bossy. He’s domineering, and he’s terribly old fashioned. I can’t say I didn’t know this when were first married. Perhaps I didn’t realize the degree to which these traits molded him, but I certainly knew they were there. I’m not complaining. When you weigh the good against the bad, there is no contest. As I said, he’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me.
For a good part of our early marriage we spent most of our time alone. We visited with our friends often and traveled together yearly, but our day to day time was spent with each other. I was completely fine with that. Talking to Tom was, and still is, something I cherish. I think he was the first person to ever listen to me and he still does to this day. That continues to amaze me. However, as we’ve gotten older we’ve realized the joy of living close to our friends. They’re more family than friends and now that we live close—neighbors actually—those long times where it’s just the two of us are but a fond memory.
Although she is the newest member of the family, Lily is the one who keeps us all straight these days. Lily came to us last year to care for Sue when she was ill. My description of Lily, as well as my feelings, often change drastically, sometimes on an hourly basis. She’s a woman of color, in her early forties and the most energetic person I know. Within weeks she was indispensable to us all. She can be the sweetest, most loving, nurturing woman anyone could ever find. Then the next minute she is the most bossy, annoying, strict, opinionated busybody that ever drew breath.
Technically all three families employ her and she cooks and cleans for us all on a rotating basis. But Lily seems to have a bit of trouble remembering that she’s not the boss. She lives in Annie and Andy’s mother-in-law apartment and Lily thinks Annie can do no wrong. She harbors no such illusions about Sue and me. She does her best to keep us out of trouble and we do make her earn her money in that respect. And for all my griping and complaining, I—we—love Lily dearly and I know she loves us right back.
Sue and Steve moved here three years ago and Annie and Andy just six months ago. We all love spending a lot of time together. But these two wonderful couples aren’t the only family we have. Tom and I legally adopted Ryan just as he graduated from college. That’s the best time to adopt. We managed to miss the terrible twos, as well as much of the teen angst. One of my greatest joys is introducing him as our son after he had been just a dear young friend for six years. One of the finest things my son has ever done for us is marrying another friend of mine just a short time ago. Sweet Allie was our sixteen-year-old neighbor when we moved to the river five years ago. Now Sue, Annie and I have been friends for nearly fifty years, but Allie fit in with us old broads like a missing puzzle piece.
Only one thing about our friendship with Allie worried me. Sue’s husband Steve often gives voice to my concerns when he says, “That poor child spends too much time with Grandma Moses and the Mosettes. She needs more young people in her life.”
I usually chose not to dignify this annoyingly accurate observation with a reply. But I was aware of it and tried not to monopolize Allie’s time. But happily, this situation changed just a few short weeks ago.
Tom became good friends with Cal Bennett, our sheriff, several years ago. Cal is much too young to be a sheriff in my opinion, but he was elected. Now, he’s a fine man and I must admit he’s helped me out of several sticky situations and deep down I suppose I really do like the man, but that doesn’t mean I want his dark, probing eyes on me all the time. He always makes me feel guilty whether I’ve done anything or not. He’s just such a sheriff, and he doesn’t hold back if he thinks I’m in the wrong about something. He has spoken rudely to me in the past. To be perfectly honest, what he’s said is often true, but I’m not accustomed to being spoken to in that manner and so we tend to butt heads at times.
A few weeks ago, however, I got to see another side of him. Tom had told me he was inviting Cal to our cookout one evening. But I was surprised to see Cal accompanying Tom around to the deck that morning.
All we ladies were there for our morning coffee as Tom said to Cal, “Ask them yourself.”
Cal seemed a little embarrassed. “Umm… ladies, I’m… well, I’m…” He was reddening by the minute.
Tom spoke up, “Cal’s begun dating a lovely young woman. I’ve invited them both over for the cookout tonight and Cal just wanted to see if it would be all right with you all.”
Annie, Allie, and Lily seemed just thrilled, they all think Cal’s wonderful. Sue, loyal to me against all comers, managed to contain her squeals of delight. To be honest my first thought was, “The poor woman.”
Cal seemed able to talk once it was out in the open and I must admit he looked as happy as I’d ever seen him.
“Her name’s Jenny, Jenny Anderson, and she the best thing that ever happened to me, but I worry about her.”
“I was just having the same feelings,” Sue offered and I beamed a smile at her.
Cal scowled, but went on. “I’m a lot older than she is and—”
“How old is she?” I asked.
“She’s almost twenty,” he told us.
I was surprised. That was younger than Allie. “And you are?” I asked.
“Twenty-nine,” he admitted.
My eyebrows skyrocketed, but Lily leapt to his defense, “Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Young girl like that need a man to look after her. My daddy was fifteen years older than my mama and they had one happy marriage.”
I said nothing.
“I know she’s young, but I love her. We love each other, but there are problems. Jenny’s parents won’t have it. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother and this has really made it worse. Her father goes along with everything the mother says and that woman seems to despise me.”
“Why don’t they like you?” Lily wanted to know.
“I would assume they’ve met him,” I suggested with a grin.
Cal ignored me and went on, “Her parents are rich, very rich, and they planned for their daughter to marry better than a sheriff. The mother’s a screamer and the evening we told them about us, when I first met them, things got pretty ugly. We left before dinner.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. It seemed he was describing my parents. I felt a little sorry for the two of them having to deal with it all.
“All her college friends are back home. She doesn’t really know a lot of people in town except me. I was wondering if I could bring her by to meet all of you. She needs women in her life, some friends and some decent role models. That’s why I’d like to bring her here.”
“You want to bring her here to meet nice, decent women that could be good role models. That’s what you’re saying,” Sue clarified smugly.
“That’s it,” he agreed, “but don’t worry, I don’t mind if she meets you and Cassie, too.”
“Of all the rude…” Sue and I began spluttering, but everyone was laughing too hard to listen to us. Cal was at it again. Why wasn’t Tom coming to my defense?
When the laughter died down Cal went on, “You all know I’m kidding. May I bring Jenny tonight? She’s gotten to be friends with one of my sisters, but she can’t exactly fuss and gripe about me to Lane.”
“Bring her by all means. Fussing, griping and bad mouthing you is nearly a requirement around here,” I spoke up firmly. “Seriously Cal, we’d love to meet her and I’ll even try to keep my mouth shut about all your faults. It won’t be easy, but I’ll try,” I told him.
“Come as early as you can Cal, we’ll eat around six,” Tom told him.
So, Tom had not lost his ability to speak.
As everyone wandered off for his or her daily pursuits Tom took my hand, “A word with you, my lady?” Something in his tone caught my attention and I looked to the deck. The ‘privacy’ flag was firmly in its place, but I wasn’t sure it was there for good or evil.
“What kind of word?” I asked suspiciously.
“Just a word,” he told me noncommittally.
“That’s fine, I need a word with you too,” I told him as we headed to the bedroom.
We had barely stepped across the threshold when I began. “Don’t think for one minute you’re going to spank me for how I spoke to Cal. What about the way he spoke to Sue and me? He was totally rude to us, yet you never said a word. Why do you let him speak to me that way?”
With a firm tug I was over Tom’s lap with my skirt flipped up. I am going to have to stop wearing skirts. I squirmed a bit. “I mean it, Tom,” I warned.
Tom said nothing as he peppered my bottom with firm swats. “I am not spanking you for the way you spoke to Cal, although you were rude.”
“I was rude? Didn’t you hear what he said to me?”
“I did,” Tom answered. “He was rude to you and I didn’t stop him. You have my apology. If you want me to I’ll talk with him and he will never speak rudely to you again.”
Tom stopped and I waited. I finally prompted, “But?”
“But if I do you’ll have to stop, too. And to tell you the truth you both seem to be enjoying letting off steam at one another. Since I doubt you will be capable of stopping yourself at times, I’m trying to save you from several sessions of a severely sore bottom.”
“Oww!” I complained. “Why am I getting one now?” I asked after an especially hard spank.
“Girl, I haven’t been spanking you near enough if you think this one is severe,” he said laughing. “I’m merely assuring myself that I have your attention.”
“Well you can stop now, you have it,” I insisted.
Tom, evidently not believing me, slowly peeled my panties down. He began spanking me hard and fast as I yelled for him to stop. He finally paused. “I simply want you to remember that Jenny is a very young girl. She loves Cal and while I don’t mind you teasing and bickering with Cal a little, she might. I don’t want her feelings hurt. She really means a lot to Cal and he’s worried about the age difference and whether she’ll be comfortable living on his salary after growing up with a lavish lifestyle.”
“Let me up!” I demanded, “You know good and well I’ll be nice to the girl. I have nothing against her, except perhaps her taste in men. I’ll be nice and you know it. This was no reason to spank me.”
Tom delivered another dozen hard swats right on my sit spot before standing me up, unzipping my skirt and letting it fall to the floor with my panties. I glared at him, as I rubbed desperately, still not knowing why he’d spanked me so hard.
“Aww, there’s my reason.” Tom told me smiling.
“What?” I asked aggravated.
“I do love watching you rub and soothe your beautiful bottom. If only you hadn’t taken such a vehement stand against corner time. It would have been lovely.” Tom sighed.
“You devil! If I hadn’t taken a stand against the corner I would have lived there! And the next time you want to see me rub my bottom for you—ask! You don’t have to spank it first, I’d be glad to oblige.”
Tom laughed as he took off the rest of my clothes. Tom loves to spank me, there’s no doubt about it, and most of the time I love it, too. Our afternoon was blissful and I was in a wonderful mood to meet Cal’s intended. I would certainly be nice to the girl, and I smiled a little to myself. I was pleased to realize that Tom had practically given me permission to say anything I wanted to Cal.