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Carolyn Faulkner

Northern Belle
By Carolyn Faulkner

2004 By CFaulkner / BacksideOfLove.com

This work is copyrighted under U.S. law. NO duplication of any kind, including (but not limited to) electronic, digital or manual duplication, is permitted, except for personal use, without expressed, written consent of the author (CarolynFaulkner@BacksideOfLove.com) Violations of this copyright can be traced digitally, and will be pursued vigorously.

This work of fiction depicts Adoring Discipline, which entails one adult giving another the authority to punish them physically. Neither the author, nor BacksideOfLove.com, depicts, condones, or tolerates the inclusion of involuntary physical abuse in any activity depicted here. Adoring Discipline is a healthy, often therapeutic part of intimate adult relationships for those fulfilled by it. For more information on Adoring Discipline, please visit http://BacksideOfLove.com

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I ......................................................................................................- 2 CHAPTER II ................................................................................................- 13 CHAPTER III...............................................................................................- 26 CHAPTER IV ..................................................................................................- 39 CHAPTER V ...................................................................................................- 51 CHAPTER VI..................................................................................................- 64 CHAPTER VII.................................................................................................- 77 CHAPTER VIII................................................................................................- 89 CHAPTER IX ................................................................................................- 101 CHAPTER X .................................................................................................- 113 BACKSIDE OF LOVE...................................................................................- 127 -

Carolyn Faulkner

Chapter I
olice Lt. Joseph Anderson had his cruiser pulled up next to a copse of trees on a street that was notoriously lazy and slow more of a back road than a street - but lazy and slow pretty much described the whole town. The radar detector was on, but he didnt expect to be detecting much beyond the occasional dragon fly or mosquito. The lunch that Miss Hatty had fixed him was spread out around him the thermos full of ice cold milk was in the drink holder, the massive turkey club with lots of mayo and pickles on the dash, the bag of salt and vinegar chips on the passenger seat they were one of his few weaknesses and a whoopee pie the size of your head on the console in between. Hed finally settled himself in for a well deserved feast after spending the morning chasing teenagers out of the Five and Dime on Main Street, fetching a nasty assed, spitting, hissing, and clawing bundle of cat out of an oak tree for Mrs. Hardy who didnt even bother with a thank you and filling out the never ending paperwork on the small drug bust hed made last night. All in all, he was mighty pleased with himself. It had been a job well done most especially last night he thought with enormous satisfaction as he took a huge bite out of the piled-high sandwich that nearly dwarfed his face. Some unfortunate motorist chose that exactly moment to roar by him, though, startling the sandwich nearly out of his hand so that he ended up wearing the majority of it. The front of his usually impeccably kept uniform looked like a deli had exploded on it, and he was not a happy camper. Not only had his quiet lunch been completely disturbed and generally ruined, but some maniac

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was driving down a clearly posted twenty-five mile an hour two lane dirt road at he glanced at the read out of the radar gun fifty-seven miles an hour. If he had had a better day, been in a better frame of mind, he might just might have let whoever it was go in favor of eating his sandwich in peace. But that idea had been ruined, and he was just angry enough to want to ruin someone elses day, too. Joe quickly cleaned himself up as best he could and took off after the miscreant at a good clip, but still it took him a while to catch up. As soon as he saw the mostly-primer but apparently once blue disreputable old truck come into view, he grimaced, flipping on his lights and firing up the siren. The driver pulled over immediately, which Joe had to admit was a point in his favor. Hed deduced that it was a guy because, in his experience, women didnt drive beat up old buckets like that, and besides, the driver had a painters hat on backwards. That was a sure sign of a hotheaded teenaged boy especially the backwards part. No one had ever or would ever accuse Joseph Lincoln William Ryan Anderson of being cosmopolitan. He was as Southern as his four first names proclaimed, not that that meant in any way that he was stupid. Hed never had a hard time with any of his academics, even when he was playing high school sports all year round. Hed grown up in the very small town in which he was now a well respected member of the police force. Gray Oaks, Alabama had always been quite enough for him. Oh, that wasnt to say he hadnt traveled. He had. Hed gone pretty much anywhere he could, especially when he was younger. Hed seen lots of different parts of the country, but he had always been incredibly glad to come home at the end of the adventure, where everyone knew him and his ancestry back to the Neanderthals, and he knew pretty near everyone in Denton County. If they didnt know him, they knew his Mom or his Dad, or even his grandfather, who had been almost as big a football star in his high school years as Joe himself had been.
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Football in the South was more than just a high school or college sport. It was a religion. Home games could be pretty much guaranteed a standing room only crowd every game, and even practices were well attended. And Joe was a star extraordinaire. Hed been playing since he was a kid, and unprecedentedly became a lineman when he was only a sophomore. He was the biggest kid on the team his shoulders and arms were huge even at that age and he generally dwarfed any of the tackles he came up against on the other team. Professional teams had begun scouting him as early as his sophomore year, and by the time he was a senior and in the starting lineup of the Varsity squad, he could have pretty much had his pick of professional teams. But that had never been what he wanted. He liked football, and played it well, but his real calling and interest was police work. His father had been a janitor, but Joe had grown up hearing all sorts of harrowing stories about being a policeman from his grandfather, and he had never considered being anything else. The day hed turned eighteen, hed gone down to the police department to apply for a job. After three months of training, during which hed excelled in nearly every requirement except perhaps what they called bedside manner he was out on the street. Granted, it was a foot patrol beat in the small downtown, but it was a start. Since then, hed been the star on the force, although hed never acted it. Hed never acted the football star, either. He had the most arrests, given out the most tickets, and taken no sick days whatever, since hed always been disgustingly healthy. As a result, he had steadily climbed through the ranks and was now the Chiefs right hand man. His grandparent was long gone, and his parents had died several years before, but not before theyd seen their son become a success . . . in every way but one. Hed never married. Never really even come close. Hed dated and dated seriously on occasion. But Joe had never gotten to that point where he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life

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with the woman who was sitting in front of him or even lying beside him. Hed tried to imagine it with several of the women hed dated, but hed recognized that some sort of feeling was missing love. Hed really liked the women hed been with and despite what his friends and coworkers might think, he hadnt slept with them all but none of them had sparked any feelings of love in him. Lust, yes. Most definitely. But not love. He was pushing forty and had never really been in love. He discounted the one or two cases of puppy love hed had when he was in high school. That was hardly love. He wanted what his parents and grandparents had had full on, blow the top of your head off love. The kind you cant live with out. The kind that seeps into your every pore and makes you want to always be with that one person, till death parted you. And, for him, there would be no messy divorce. Perhaps that was it he was just being cautious. He wanted to have a house, kids, the whole deal, including one more unusual thing call it a preference - that he had really figured was the crux of the reason why he hadnt really found anyone he was truly compatible with. Joe didnt want there to even be the slightest chance of a divorce in the future. He wanted someone stable and smart and funny . . . and a body to die for wouldnt be a bad thing, although he tried not to be too shallow. But he did like a woman who was feminine, and that trait seemed to have been forgotten in todays world. He didnt want a woman who was going to try to bench press two-fifty right next to him. He wanted a woman who enjoyed being female with all the rights and privileges that came with that . . . and the expectations of behavior, as well. Marriage and sexy women were the last thing on his mind as he got out of the car and took off his shades, throwing them onto the mess on the passengers seat, and donned his almost cowboy style hat as he approached the other vehicle. Using good officer safety procedures, he didnt come right up to the car and lean over the window that was just asking to get blown away, no matter
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how unlikely you thought it might be. This was not a truck that he recognized, and in a small town like this, that was something unusual. Heck, you couldnt never tell what the locals were going to do, either, though, he thought with a rueful smile. He walked slowly, taking in every aspect of the truck its maintenance and appearance trying to get an overall sense of it and the situation before he actually had to confront the driver. The back of the pick up was full of painting supplies drop cloths, buckets of paint, brushes, etc. Whoever he was, he was either painting something big, or had stolen the truck of someone who was. Joe stopped just before the drivers side door, leaning his body well away from the window just in case this guy decided to do something funny, like poke a gun out the window or come out of the car punching. In this position, hed have the advantage. Of course, at his size, he nearly always had the advantage, but size didnt work well against a gun. His voice changed when he was working. It had always been deep and smooth since it had changed when he was twelve or thirteen or so but it had a note of command in it that was generally missing during a normal conversation . . . unless he had gone out for the occasional beer and was having to break up a fight at The Dump Bar, down by the swamp. Sir, you were going a might fast on this road. Speed limits twenty five, he drawled, his body tense and ready, just in case. You could never tell with a traffic stop they were one of the most potentially dangerous parts of an officers job, after domestic dispute calls. The only sign of movement from the car was one slim elbow generously speckled with various colors of paint - that settled on top of the drivers door. Im afraid Im going to have to give you a ticket, Sir. I need to see your drivers license, registration, and insurance,

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please. Joe eased forward a little, so that he could better see the drivers movements within the vehicle. Yes, Sir, came the high-pitched reply. Joe frowned. Could it be that this was a female after all? The license, registration, and insurance were produced with no complaints at all. Joe had watched the driver lean forward, and had taken in every detail that he could about him or her, and had had to revise his assessment. She was female but barely. There were splotches of paint on every part of her extremely disreputable overalls. He could see the grubby olive drab t-shirt she had on beneath it, which hadnt seemed to have faired any better in avoiding the paint she was using. She had no discernable figure, was wearing no make up whatsoever, and there was a huge splotch of paint on her left cheek, as well as one running into her right eyebrow, as if she had had paint on her hand and had wiped her brow. To cap off the entirely unappealing ensemble, as far as he could see she was wearing shit kicker boots that ended half way up her legs. She smelled of turpentine and paint . . . and, if he breathed deeply enough not that he was wont to of wet dog. He took the information shed given him and went back to the cruiser, running a check on it. She proved to have a clean record for as far back as he could check. The drivers license said that she was Shelly Fontaine. The last name seemed somewhat familiar, but he couldnt quite place it. He shrugged his shoulders and got out of the car to head back to Miss more probably Ms. Fontaine. She reached for the cards he handed back to her with her left hand, and he noticed there was no ring on her third finger, not that he was particularly surprised at that fact. He also noticed that her fingernails were short and dirty. It was a wonder that there werent splotched of paint on the license and registration. It seemed to be pretty much everywhere else on and around her.

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Im afraid Im going to have to give you a ticket, uh, Maam, he repeated, flipping open the book where hed already partially filled out the summons. You can fight it if you like, but I have you dead to rights on the radar going fifty-seven in a twenty five. By all rights I should be taking you to jail more than twenty five over the limit is an arrestable offense. I appreciate your lenience, Officer. Was that sarcasm he detected in that Northern tone of hers? It was hard for him to tell all Northerners sounded faintly sarcastic to him. They were always in a hurry, even in their speech. Sigh here, please, maam, he handed her the pad and his pen, which she signed with a flourish and handed both back to him. Joe gave her the copy of the ticket that was hers, saying in a warning tone, You take it easy on your speed from now on, you hear? Her smile was, perhaps, her saving grace, revealing even white teeth. It was warm and more than pleasant, and invited those around her to join with her in the joke. Yes, Sir, came her answer, in a tone he recognized as perfunctory, and distinctly laced with sarcasm. Despite the fact that his stomach was rumbling rather insistently, he decided then and there to follow her for a while, just to annoy her and get some of his own back. He didnt usually do that, knowing it just made the motorist more nervous and likely to make another error, but at this point, he was reconsidering whether or not he should have hauled her in. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for her, she drove responsibly for the next few miles towards town, and, just before the turn off to go into Gray Oaks, his stomach finally got the better of him and he pulled into Sallys Luncheonette. He was low on fuel and that made him grumpy. He didnt usually let a traffic stop get to him so much but her look, her attitude . . . just annoyed the pee out of him. Joe slammed himself down into one of the stools at

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the snack bar. Noreen, the lunch waitress who had had her eye and more than that when she thought she could get away with it on him for years now, flittered over with a big glass of milk. Hey, handsome! What can I getcha? Joe smiled weakly and eyed the blackboard full of homemade specials. Ill have the meatloaf, please, Noreen. He took a deep swallow of the milk and let it slide down to his burning gullet. Hedve preferred a Coke at the very least, or a beer if he was off duty, but hed been having acid stomach a lot lately, and had taken to drinking milk, which was a habit that occasionally got him into a fight when he ordered it at the Dump. But Noreen, here, had picked up on that preference immediately and had begun automatically serving him a big glass of milk in place of his usual Coke or iced tea. Sure thing, Joe. Do you want the mashed or fries with that? Sallys mashed potatoes were real, lumps and all, with just a touch of garlic and butter and salt and pepper . . . his mouth was watering just thinking about it. Mashed, please. The veggie of the day is green beans? She made the statement a question. Joe nodded, saying, Thanks, Noreen. The pretty young woman flushed and nodded, backing towards the kitchen so as to keep her eyes on him as long as possible. She nearly got run over by Sally herself who was coming out with a tray full of coconut cream pie to put in the big dessert display case. Joe nodded at Sally, who looked like she had her hands more than full, and minutes later he was tucking into a steaming hot plate full of home cooked goodness, and his sour stomach and bad mood seemed to dissolve away like just so much gravy melting in his mouth.

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~~~
Across town, in front of the Gray Oaks Town Square, Shelly Fontaine was doing errands getting some stamps, a few groceries, and, of course, buying more paint. When shed decided to move back to Gray Oaks and buy the old homestead where shed grown up, she hadnt realized just how much it was going to take to refurbish it. Painting the old thing was just about killing her and it seemed to gobble paint the way she gobbled peanut M & Ms, when given the chance endlessly. She lingered in the paint store, though, looking at various wallpapers that caught her eye. She wanted to do a boarder in the living room, and perhaps in the kitchen and dining room roses, of course. Her bedroom was already full of a new shabby chic pink and cream rose comforter, pillow cases, and curtains of all the same matching patterns. That was one consistency about her not that there were a lot of those, some might complain: when she found something she liked, like a china pattern or a fabric pattern, she had to have everything that came in that pattern, from dinner plates to napkin rings to door stops. Everything. It always made getting presents for her very easy for her family and friends. Finally, Shelly decided she had to get back to the grind. The house called to her, complaining loudly about its dilapidated condition. She knew that her house-proud parents had to be rolling in their urns at the condition the houses condition they had taken such loving care of it while she was growing up. She wanted to fix it up almost more for them than for her. And she had needed a break, she admitted to herself. It had taken a while for her to get to that point, but one failed marriage one disastrously failed marriage - combined with her unexpected success as a writer and the inherent demands therein had driven her to the brink. Of what, she wasnt sure, but something that wasnt good, she knew that much.

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So shed finished her last book and mailed it lovingly off to her publisher likening it in her mind as she always did to a mother sending her child off to his first day of kindergarten then shed moved, lock, stock, and barrel down to her old childhood home, which had only recently come on the market. Shed snatched it up at a bargain price, fully prepared to spend whatever was needed to restore it. It wasnt a glorious southern mansion like the ones in New Orleans, but it was a big old one family home, the kind that at one time had house a passel of kids who worked the nearby land with their parents. Shed been delighted to see that it hadnt been chopped up into apartments, which seemed to be the horrid trend of late. Shelly hadnt even left a forwarding address or number where she could be found, but she decided that for a short time, she didnt want to be found except by a very select few, like her brother Evan, who had thought she was crazy to become a writer in the first place, and was even crazier to go back to Gray Oaks. She wanted to take some time to herself and not worry about whether Russ really was working late, or if he was really humping his pretty secretary in the hotel down the street. She didnt want to worry about how many pages she got written or edited that day, or whether or not her editor, who really was a love, was going to call and demand . . . well, suggest, rewrites for the chapters shed thought had come out the best. She hadnt been a belle in years had never really been one at all in her life, but the idea of relaxing and stepping back, taking a moment to smell the magnolias, appealed to her like nothing else at the moment, and she couldnt think of a better place to do it than Gray Oaks. She had a history here a good one until they left when she was about fifteen. Both of her parents had been born and raised here, and shed always considered it home. The paint and several wallpaper sample books found their way into the junky back of the truck. Shelly knew it and she looked a mess and that fact had obviously stuck in that fuddy- 11 BacksideOfLove.com

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duddy policemans craw . . . no matter how hunky he probably looked if a smile ever broke the unforgiving lines of that craggy, masculine face. But she had too much to do to worry about how spotless - or rather, spotted her vehicle was. And shed never been the type to fuss much with her looks. Oh, she could, if she wanted to. There were a few people like her now ex who had even referred to her as a knock out. But that wasnt who she was or how she lived her life. She caught a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror and had to laugh. She looked even worse than usual. Ah well. There was a job to do, and, although she wasnt hurting any, she wasnt going to waste money paying someone to do what she could do just as well or close enough for government work, anyway herself. She wasnt going to throw away any money she didnt have to, and for the first time in a long time probably since she was a kid the only person she had to please about this project was herself.

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Chapter II
n the way out of town, around the town square, which was one way of course, always one way the way you didnt want to go she passed the Town Hall and Police Departments. On a whim, she pulled into a visitors parking space and went in. She needed to pay her ticket although she knew it wasnt quite that pressing a matter but there was an old friend of the family she wanted to visit, if he was still there. It was just her luck that the very police officer that had given her the ticket was sitting at a desk towards the back. But Shelly ignored him as he stared at her, and another officer got up to see to her. Im Officer Kelly, Maam. What can I do for you? Shelly turned on her best wattage smile. Unbelievably, the man blushed. I dont want to interrupt him or anything, but if he has time in his schedule, Id like to see the Chief, if I could. Denny Kelly cleared his throat, hoping the blush he felt didnt show as badly as he worried it did. Well, Maam, can I ask why you want to see him? Lets just say that Im an old friend of the family. If you could, would you tell him that Bud Fontaines daughter Shelly is here to see him? A huge smile lit Dennys face. Youre Shelly Fontaine?

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She was drawing a complete blank. Obviously, this was someone she should have recognized. Yes, I am. Im Denny Kelly. I used to be best friends with your brother Evan! I - we used to baby sit you all the time! Shelly grimaced. You mean you used to torture me I got more concussions and bruises and Indian burns from you guys than a gal oughta have to put up with. Denny was the hugging type, so he smothered Shelly in a big old bear hug, rocking her back and forth then letting her go only enough to look into her eyes and ask, So what brings you back here? Oh, I just needed a rest from the hullabaloo, I guess. Well, theres no better place to rest than here amongst people that know you. Wherere you stayin? Denny was beside himself. Hed always liked Shelly, and had watched her grow up almost to womanhood. Shed been a beautiful young girl, and, despite the fact that she looked like an advertisement for Aldens Hardware and Paint at the moment, he imagined shed become a beautiful woman inside and out. Shelly giggled, showing him her speckled arms and overalls. Well, I bought the old place and Im fixin it up, slowly but surely. Thats great! If you ever need any help, you just get a hold of me. Id be glad to do something to make up for those noogies I gave you . . . Thank you, thats very kind of you, Shelly nodded. She could see out of the corner of her eye that the officer who had given her the ticket earlier this morning was growing impatient. I dont think the Chief has time this morning for family reunions, he interjected dourly.

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But Denny disagreed. Oh, I think hed do pretty much anything to see Shelly again. He and Bud were thick as thieves when they lived there. I think they went to school together. Yeah, I always called him Uncle Walt, and he spoiled me something awful. Denny headed for the Chiefs office until Joe stood up and gave him a warning look. Did you not hear what I just said? But Joe The Chief is too busy and doesnt have time for socializing today. Maybe another day. Maybe if you called and made an appointment At that moment, the man himself appeared, bellowing for Denny as he nearly crushed whatever memo or letter he had in his big, meaty fist. What the hell is this? he yelled, his voice booming through the old building. I dont pay yall to have a coffee klatch this is a police department, for Gawds sake - Uncle Walt? Shelly came forward before anyone else acted, hesitant but with her arms half up to hug him. She stopped Walt Crandall in mid-tirade. He stood there for a long moment, looking at her, then his jaw dropped. Shelly Fontaine as I live and breathe! His arms flew wide open and Shelly ran into them, suddenly overcome with the sting of tears in her eyes. It was not unlike being hugged by her father. He rubbed her back and rocked her side to side, just like her Dad had. Eventually, he shifted her to his side, but never let go of her. Without a word, he reached onto Dennys desk and got a Kleenex, drying her eyes as he had a thousand times before when she was a little girl. He had truly been a second father to her. He and his wife, Alma, had never had children, and Even and Shelly had become like their own. Thank you, Shelly said, sniffling slightly, taking the tissue from him.
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Well, my girl, you are a sight for sore eyes. What brings you here? Denny interrupted. Shes come home for a rest. Bought the old place and is fixin it up, too. The Chief looked hard at Denny. Did I ask you? I was talking to this lovely young woman here. His demeanor changed completely when he turned back to Shelly he melted. Its a good thing that youre back here where youre belong, Shelly-girl. Youve been too long gone. He squeezed his arm around her waist. Shelly sighed, feeling warm and protected in a way she hadnt in a long time. Thank you, Uncle Walt. So, we should have a dinner celebrating your return. Shellys eyebrow rose. We, Uncle? Whos we? The older man blushed and Shelly giggled like a nine year old. Ah well, the department here, he gestured around him at Denny and the other officer, and myself and Miss Rose Shelly took a step back with her hands on her hips. Are you still dating that poor woman? When are you going to marry her? Well, I have, if youll just put away your Northern ways and gimme a second to speak, Michelle Crandall Ford Fontaine. She immediately became the picture of a suitably reprimanded little girl, and shut her mouth, which she hadnt realized until that moment was hanging open. My wife, Miss Rose, and I would be ever so happy to throw you a welcome home party, Shelly-girl. When would be a good time for you? She shrugged. Oh, any time at all. Im just working on the house. I dont have a social life, so any time that works for you.

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The Chief rubbed his lower lip, as he was wont to do when he was thinking hard about something. Well, I dont rightly know what our social schedule is like, and Im putting myself on the line here making this decision without consulting my beloved, but I think we can plan on next Sunday, after church of course. Well all have Sunday dinner together. Shall we say six oclock? Works for me, Shelly agreed, smiling so hugely her cheeks hurt. Walt pulled her close to him again, hugging her hard. Its so good to see you again, Shelly. Ive missed you, Puddin. He touched her cheek gently, and Shelly could see the tears in his eyes. She wasnt the only one he missed. She was barely able to choke out, Well, Ill let you get back to work. You must be terribly busy. She reached up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, remembering a little sadly that he used to have to bend down to offer that plump cheek for a kiss. And I have miles to paint before I sleep. You take care now, and remember next Sunday at six. Do you remember the way to the house? he called after her. Shelly was near the door. Of course I do! Good thing. The big mouthed officer shed met this morning just couldnt seem to let well enough alone. While youre here, he announced to all and sundry, you could pay your ticket, if you wanted. Shelly frowned at him, wishing she could blink and make him disappear, like she wanted to do to her brother occasionally when they were growing up. Walter, who had turned to go into his office, turned back wearing a frown that was nearly identical to her fathers. Whats that?
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The big man rose from his desk, flipping through his ticket pad. I was trying to have a quiet lunch this morning, and she came roaring past me down by the Palmer Flats, doing nearly sixty in a twenty-five. The Chief tucked his chin down to his chest and pinned Shelly with a disturbingly fatherly look. What do you have to say for yourself, young lady? Stop channeling my father, will you, Uncle Walt? Seems to me you need a father, or better yet a husband to keep you out of trouble. Puh-leeze. I dont need anyone of the sort. You do if youre going to go bombing around back roads, my girl, he said, his voice devoid of any amusement. I know what your father would do to you if he was around and you got a ticket like that. Shelly froze and turned an unbecoming shade of beet red. She knew what her father would have done to her, too, and she didnt want to think of it too closely. I dont want to hear about you getting any more tickets. Am I making myself understood? Barely preventing herself from rolling her eyes, Shelly said in an abnormally subdued voice, Yes, Sir. Joe found himself disturbingly intrigued by that interchange. Hed have to pump Denny later for information about this newcomer. Good girl. Now pay Officer Anderson the money this fine city is due, and be on your way. Again, Joe noticed that unexpected meekness, with no trace of the sarcasm shed shown him. Yes, Uncle Walt.

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He turned and ambled into his office without another word. Thatll be a hundred and five dollars, he proclaimed, with not a small amount of relish. Shelly sighed, not trying to hide her exasperation as she dug around in her knapsack for her wallet. I dont suppose you guys take Visa debit cards? She asked, without a lot of hope. Cash or local check only, Maam. Her eyes nearly rolled out of her head. I forgot for a moment how far into the sticks I was. Its not the edge of civilization, but you can certainly see it from here. There were few things she could have said that would have guaranteed Joes ire more completely insulting Bama was one of them, questioning his parentage, and insulting the Chief were probably the others. If you dont like it . . . he left the rest of the sentence unsaid as he took her check, looking it over good and carefully before he decided to take it insultingly slowly. It was a low number check because it was probably a new account, but it was drawn on a local bank. God save her from small town cops who thought they were the be-all and the end all to law enforcement and women! Shelly sighed to herself. Well, it was time to do what her Daddy had always said to do when she was confronted by a cop any cop. Say yessir and nosir and do anything she was told until he got out of earshot. Then call the man for the twelve kinds of fool he was if he was. Shelly refused to say anything else to that officious boor in a police uniform, so she gathered her things and turned to leave abruptly. It was great to see you again, Shelly! Dont be a stranger round here. Call me if you need anything . . . he finished, somewhat limply.
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Joe wanted to clamp his hand over Dennys drooling mouth, even though he had no idea just why the man might be drooling over a woman who looked more like she belonged in a boy band than anywhere else. Still, his blatant desperation was almost painful to watch. Shelly turned and flashed him a beautiful smile as she was leaving the building. Thanks, Denny I might just take you up on that offer. You never know! Ill see you on Sunday! Joe watched as Denny stood there for quite some time after shed left, obviously mooning after her. Finally, he shook his head and prompted, Dont you have some work you could be doing, instead of drooling after that woman? His tone clearly said that he had doubts as to the depths of her femininity- if there was any at all. Denny drooped over to his desk and Joe had to shrug his shoulders. To each his own, he guessed. But he wouldnt have touched Miss Shelly Fontaine with a ten foot Pole or a five foot Italian.

~~~
The Chiefs house was not unlike the old Fontaine place big and sprawling, with a wrap around porch and a long, winding driveway. It had also, at one time, been a one family home for a large farming family. But now it was just Walt and Rose and their housekeeper, Miss Natalie. They were both in the kitchen, which seemed as if it was always the place everyone who attended their parties ended up anyway, and that was where Joe found them when he presented himself Sunday night. He had brought a bottle of honeysuckle wine, which both the Chief and he both knew had been bootlegged by his cousin, Deet. Deet ran a very discreet still that actually had

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quite a following. He wasnt trying to elude the revenuers, and in truth he usually gave away much more of his product than he sold. The honeysuckle wine was a side job that he did for the love of it. Miss Rose took the plain bottle which hed prettied up with a flowered bow from him with a broad smile. Joseph Lincoln, you always know just what to bring us! We were down to the very bottom of our last bottle. She hugged him warmly, patting his shoulder in a way that reminded Joe every time of his Momma. The Chief gave the bottle the eye, then looked up at Joe and said what he always said. You better hadntve paid for that, young man. No, Sir, it was a gift. The older man nodded, their ritual complete to his satisfaction. In truth, he didnt give one whit how Joe came into the alcoholic treasure. He had trusted that man with his life on more than one occasion. Well-run stills that had been handed down from generation to generation were hardly on the top of the Chiefs worry list. Can I pour you something, Joe? he asked, already reaching into the fridge for a bottle of milk. Real milk, from a real cow, unhomogenized, and still delivered fresh to his door on a daily basis from Pollacks dairy farm just down the road a piece. If you dont mind, Chief, I think Id rather have a beer. His officer looked a little uncomfortable having to make the request, but then he should have thought that the younger man wouldnt want to be drinking milk in front of company. Family was one thing, but company was another. As guests started arriving all people that Joe knew, most of whom hed worked with at one time or another the house became a little crowded for him and he ducked out onto the porch.

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Denny was there, smoking a cigar. Miss Rose didnt allow any smoking in her house. Hey, Joe, he called out in greeting. Want one? Joe shook his head. He didnt mind a cigar every once in a while, but not before dinner. It spoiled the taste of the food as far as he was concerned. No thanks. He leaned on the railing, one leg up along the top of it. Im surprised Shellys not here yet. Her father was a big one for being early to everything. Joe grimaced. Id forgotten that she was going to be here. Denny chuckled. I dont know whats gotten into your craw about her, but Im glad not to have the competition, Ill tell you what. You dont know what youre missing, and Im not about to give you a clue, neither. Joe gave him a face that said he highly doubted he was missing much of anything. But there was one piece of information about the annoying Miss Fontaine that he did want to pry out of Denny. Do you know what the Chief meant when he said something to her about what her father would do if he found out shed gotten a speeding ticket? Ooooooh yeah. Bud Fontaine would have given her the spanking of her life no matter what her age. I imagine that, if she was married, hed expect that her husband would do that, too. There was no lack of discipline in the Fontaine household. He filed that piece of very interesting information away for further consideration later. Joed been raised with a healthy respect for women, a reverence for them that had probably rendered him just a bit on the chauvinistic side. When he dated a woman, he picked them up, he paid the bill for whatever they did even if it was her idea he helped them in and out of cars, and opened doors. Hell, he stood when a woman entered the room sometimes, just out of force of habit. It was pretty well drilled into him by his parents.

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As a result, his view and beliefs on relationships between men and women were skewed a little differently from the average man nowadays. He firmly believed that the man was the head of the household. Not that he was some tinhorn dictator, but that it was he was responsible for everything that went on within his family, and had the final say on decisions made therein. He also believed that the husband or man in the relationship, if it hadnt yet progressed to marriage was in charge of his womans discipline and that meant spanking. His mother had been spanked by his father. Not very often, and certainly never to the point of any sort of abuse. Hed never seen any sort of marks of any sort on his mother as he was growing up. On the contrary, his parents were some of the most loving people hed ever seen, and unlike a lot of his friends parents, his stayed together until they died. True, his mom sat gingerly sometimes, usually when shed overdrawn the checkbook and there was the occasional night when his father put a cushy pillow on his Moms chair at the dinner table. But hed seen the look on his fathers face when his mom was in a car crash when he was in the third grade. A police officer had arrived at the door in the early evening, not long after his mom had left, and what the man had said had made his fathers face turn ashen gray. His mom had come out of it luckily with only a broken leg, but his father had doted on her, waiting on her hand and foot for the entire time. But overall, they hugged and kissed and loved on each other almost all the time, rather than fighting at the top of their lungs like a lot of his friends parents. His house was always the one that everyone ended up at, because it was such a pleasant place to be. That was the kind of relationship he was looking for. He wanted a woman he could love and respect and treasure. And who would trust him enough despite the fact that he usually dwarfed most women completely to discipline her in a manner that would be a help to her and their family. Not to ever abuse her. Ever. Hed seen entirely too much of that kind of thing, even in a small
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town. The idea of striking a woman with his fist was entirely abhorrent to him. But paddling her bottom if she did something as irresponsible as speed or overdraw their account that was only the natural order of things, as far as he was concerned. And any woman he married would have to understand that. Joe shook his head at his own thoughts. It was too bad that the only women hed encountered so far who seemed like she might understand getting spanked was the woman he was least attracted to on first sight. Everyone had arrived and was waiting around for the last guest the one for whom this gathering had been arranged. She was late. Joe had wandered inside with the rest of the gang, who was all settling into seats at the dining room table at Walts suggestion. I guess something mustve come up, he said as he herded everyone into the dining room. The doorbell rang, and Denny beat everyone to the door not that anyone else was racing towards it. Joe followed along behind him just because he was dying to see if she was wearing another pair of filthy overalls. Denny threw open the door, and there stood one of the most beautiful women Joed ever seen. Shelly Fontaine cleaned up gorgeous. She wasnt a flashy, model type beauty, but then Joe didnt much like their artificiality anyway. Shelly was the real thing a true American beauty. She was wearing a soft pink silk dress that draped wonderfully from the fitted bodice and hugged her figure in the most enticing manner. Her hose reflected that pale pink, and her shoes were walk-on-me stilettos in a matching shade. She carried a small evening bag, and a delicate, lacy shawl protected her bare shoulders. There wasnt a speck of paint anywhere near her. She understatedly made up, and her hair . . . it was just past shoulder length and gloriously honey blonde, with just enough wave to make it interesting.

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Shelly launched herself into Dennys welcoming, waiting arms, and they closed around her with obvious relish. Ahhhh, Shelly, we were just beginning to worry about you. Is everything all right? Denny set her away from him with obvious reluctance as his eyes ran over her enticing form. Oh, Im fine, and Im sorry Im late I hate tardiness. But I had a little problem with the painting this afternoon and I had to get things taken care of before I came. Is everything okay? Denny asked solicitously. Yeah, Im fine, Shelly replied, walking into the dining room on Dennys arm, right past him as if she didnt see him. As he was walking by, Denny chucked his finger under Joes chin. You can close your mouth any time, Joe, he whispered with a self-satisfied smirk and a pat of Shellys hand at his elbow. .

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Chapter III
inner was a wonderful time. Shelly was loved on by Miss Rose and Miss Natalie. They each proclaimed that they hadnt seen her in a dogs age, and decreed that she should show herself around the house much more often now that she was living right across town. Walt chimed in his agreement on that matter. They all talked about their work a lot of the people at the table worked together and had a lot to talk about, but they tried not to exclude everyone else. Carol asked, What do you do, Shelly? I write, she answered proudly. All eyes were on her. What do you write? Romance novels. The woman at the table all got excited and exclaimed at having an author in their midst. The men tried not to get caught rolling their eyes. Alicia piped up excitedly, You mean those big thick bodice busters like they have at the book stores? Yep. Those and others. Shelly realized shed earned her bones with the women just by revealing her profession. The men, however, werent particularly impressed, she could tell. Eventually, the conversation turned from her to other things, which she was just as happy about. So, why arent you married, dear? Miss Rose asked, prying genteely as only a well-loved extended family member could.

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Walt nearly choked on his coq-au-vin, wheezing, Rose! Thats not a proper question to ask at the dinner table! He waited a beat long for emphasis, then added, Wait until were in the parlor having dessert! Everyone laughed at their obvious eagerness to find out what was up with a woman they both referred to as their little girl, but all of the guests at the table who had pretty much all known Shelly when she was younger, were just as interested. Shelly knew her face was red again as she played with the stem of her wine glass. Been there. Done that. Have the t-shirt and the emotional scars. I dont know. Im not in any hurry to jump into that frying pan again just yet. Well, Miss Rose laid it on the line in her most persnickety voice, Im sorry that your first marriage didnt work out, but, heavens, what are you waiting for? Youre not a spring chicken any more get with the program! Shelly thought she was going to squirt wine out her nose; she laughed so hard. She knew Rose too well to be insulted Rose just said whatever came into her head. She never meant anything mean by it, and a lot of the time her observations were a breath of fresh air, because everyone was thinking it but no one would say it. Now, Miss Rose, isnt it better for me to be selective rather than to marry the first man I see? Alicia, who was the wife of one of Walts best friends, District Attorney Jedson Hall, piped up in her still-little girlish voice, Youre right, Shelly. Dont just go with the first one that asks and dont say yes the first time the last one asks, either! All of the men at the table were rolling their eyes discreetly, of course, so that they didnt get into trouble. The women at the table Alicia, Shelly, and Carol, who was the Chiefs niece - mean time, were busy clinking glasses with each other in jubilant agreement, except Miss Rose. Shelly was the

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first one to notice that Miss Rose was sitting back with a distinct air of disapproval. She offered her glass to the older woman. Come on, Miss Rose, you cant possibly disagree with us. How long did it take you to say yes to Uncle Walt? Everyone had to nod at that. The older couples romance was the stuff legends were made of. The Chief moved so slowly it was pathetic, and when he finally got around to asking her, Miss Rose said no two or three times before he got a yes out of her. There had been assorted bets around town revolving around whether or not there would ever be a marriage between the two, as well as some darker bets about whether or not one of them would kick the bucket before it ever happened. Walt wiped his mouth delicately with a fine white linen napkin, leaning back in his captains chair to drawl, I can tell yall, I was about to take some the action against me before she ever said yes. Miss Rose had colored delicately. Well, I never heard of such a thing Joe interjected slyly, Why, I heard you had a ten spot on you with Sally, Miss Rose. Her color heightened, but she replied demurely, I believe Ill take the fifth on that, Joseph. The women all rose at that point to clear the dishes from the table, as women had from dinner tables from time immemorial. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Shelly surprised herself by remembering where things went in the big kitchen, and brought the dessert in, followed quickly by the others bringing the accoutrements for coffee. The Chief stared at the angel food cake with strawberries and light whipped topping like someone had put a rat on the table next to him. What the hell is this? I thought we were having strawberry short cake.

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Completely ignoring his outburst, which she knew was only half-hearted at best anyway, Rose explained patiently, Its not on your diet, Walter. Neither were the mashed potatoes you slathered with butter that you thought I didnt see, so were going to offset some of that bad food by having something lighter for dessert. Angel food cake is very low fat, as is the topping, and I crushed the strawberries myself with a little sugar substitute. So, all in all, it might even be considered good for you. The Chief raised his eyes to Heaven, as if seeking assistance in dealing with the situation. Everyone else was served before him, and when she got to her husband, Rose paused deliberately. Did you want some of this, Walter, or not? Yes, dear, I would like some, please. Anything you say, honeybunch. He loved to needle his wife, especially when she was on a health food kick. But Miss Rose didnt take any guff from her husband, and instead of piling his plate high, she put a crumb each of cake, strawberries, and topping on the plate in front of him. There you go, dear. Then she proceeded to cut herself a healthy portion and fill her own plate. The Chief groaned comically, as if he was sorely put out, and served himself. Do you see what I have to put up with from this cantankerous woman, here? I tell yall, I am a saint. I should be canonized. Without missing a beat, Rose finished for him in her most sickly sweet wifely voice, Yes, with a real cannon. That had the whole table in stitches. They sat around talking for several hours over dessert and coffee, until Jed yawned, and, of course, it ran contagiously around the room. Shelly stretched as discreetly as she could, but yelped when her sore arm muscles protested the movement. All eyes immediately focused on

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her, and she chuckled softly. What? Youve never seen anyone with sore muscles before? From what? Walt asked curiously, just brining his cup to his lips. Well, my arm hurts from painting the house, but my leg muscles from climbing up and down that ladder, and trying to hold myself straight so that the ladder doesnt move and send me head over teakettle. Cups held in masculine hands found their way to their saucers very quickly, and with almost china shattering clinks. You mean to say youre painting that house all by yourself? Trying to placate him as best she could, Shelly said calmly, Now, Uncle Walt, Im a big girl and Im not being stupid about it. Im taking all the precautious I can. I keep my cell phone on me at all times, and I anchor myself as much as possible when I get towards the roof peak Every conversation at the table stopped, because every mans eyes turned to her. Joe was the one that said what everyone else was thinking, though, before the Chief could even get to it. His tone was low, and disbelieving, and, in an alarming way, almost threatening. Do you mean to tell me that youre painting the outside of your house? All alone? With no one around in case of emergency or anything? Somehow Shelly became completely fascinated by the way one of the muscles in his jaw was flexing, bumping in and out below the skin. Eventually, shed come to learn that this was never a good sign as far as Joes temper and the safety of her rear end was concerned, but for now it was just an interesting curiosity. She truly had no idea what everyone was getting so upset about. The house needed to be painted, so she was painting it. Come on, you guys. Its the twenty-first century. Women paint houses all over the world. Im just one of them.

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Not in my town, youre not, Missy, Walt interrupted, clearing his throat loudly. Your father would come back and haunt me if I let you do that. Im sure I can round up some men to help you. You buy the paint, theyll do the painting, at no expense to you. Damn straight, both Denny and Joe said in unison. Shelly sighed in exasperation. But I dont need your help! And I dont want to inconvenience anyone. Im doing it fine myself, thank you very much. Walter leaned towards Shelly, who was seated at his left hand. You listen to me, my girl, and listen good: if I hear of you stepping one foot on a ladder to paint your house, I will take you over my knee myself, just like your father would have. Youre first after me, Joe exclaimed vehemently. Shelly shot him an angry glare, which she then turned on the man who was her godfather. My father used to round us all up and make us help paint the house! Yes, but I bet he never let any of you do the high stuff not even your mother. She had to admit she didnt have any memory of her mother ever climbing a ladder to paint the high spots she just remembered her father handing all of them brushes when hed painted down to their level where a ladder wouldnt be necessary. Come to think of it, she did remember that the last time they painted the house, there was a bit of a brouhaha about her brother wanting to help Daddy paint the higher spots, and even though he was thirteen or so at that point, her father refused to let his son do the highest places reserving those for himself, although he had let Evan do some of the middling places, where he wouldnt have to climb too high.

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Regardless, Shelly said with emphasis, I cant afford to pay anyone to do the painting, so Im doing it myself, and I dont need any assistance. Sheesh! Id forgotten how chauvinistic Southern men are. Walt leaned back, his point having been made. Well, if by chauvinistic you mean that we look after our womenfolk and make damn sure they dont get into any foolhardy situations where they can get themselves killed, then I plead guilty as charged. Here, here, the men at the table all cheered. I could get killed driving a car, or stepping off a curb and getting hit by a bus . . . Should I stop doing those things, too? she asked sarcastically, disliking being ganged up on. No, of course not, Walt said quietly, but firmly. But neither should you go jumping off cliffs or joining up with gangs, just because everyone else is doing it or just because you can. That doesnt make it right. I have friends who are ready and willing to help you do something that youve never done before and shouldnt be doing in the first place since I take it you havent spent much time on ladders in your life? She hated it when someone anyone else was right about something. No, I havent. Whats there to know? You stand them up and climb. How hard is that? Walt closed his eyes and rubbed them with his fingers. Damn, girl, Im lucky I wasnt called out to your place to identify your body. Why didnt you come to me when you first came into town? Idve rounded up some help in no time. Because I didnt want or need help. Ive painted a ton of the house already. Not that there wasnt a ton to go, she thought, but didnt say because it wouldnt have helped her cause any, And Im still standing. Beginners luck, Joe interjected.

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Shelly took a deep breath. They were not going to come to an agreement on this, she could see. She wasnt about to stop painting. It was stupid. She could do it, and she didnt expect to have any problems with it, either. So she decided to change the subject in hopes of deterring an all out war. She turned her attention to Denny, smiling at him pleasantly. So, whats been going on with you, Denny, besides becoming a police officer? Denny answered tentatively at best, but when the Chief didnt interrupt or say anything further to discourage his conversation with Shelly, he relaxed some and responded more naturally. No one least of all Shelly mentioned anything about painting for the rest of the evening, which easily sank into one of those wonderful times where a group of people just jibed together beautifully. They stayed and talked for a long, long time after dinner, trading stories and finding out who they all knew and what interests they all had in common. Alicia was the first to stand and stretch while yawning, and Jed got up at the same time, rubbing her back. I think its time I took you home and got you into bed. The collective guffaws and titters alerted him belatedly to how what hed said might have sounded to the group. You all have dirty minds. Shes tired, she needs to get to sleep. Yeah, sure, sleep, Joe agreed disbelievingly. Jed retrieved Alicias shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders, then kissed and hugged Miss Rose and shook hands with Walt. Alicia followed suit, hugging both Walt and Rose. It was a wonderful evening. Well have to do this again. Next time at my house! Shelly called.

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Sounds like a plan. Everyone called their goodbyes as the couple departed, and that started the usual chain reaction once one couple leaves a party, the others start to take their leave. It was as if one couple has to break the ice before everyone else could leave. Finally, Shelly, Denny, and Joe were the only guests left, although no one who had been at the table was really anything but a part of the family. Shelly forgot herself completely and yawned loudly, then excused herself in embarrassment. Im sorry. I guess Id better leave, too, before I fall asleep in the soup. She rose and so did Denny and Joe, which she found funny for some reason. Chuckling to herself, she hugged Rose warmly, then moved on to Walt. Being bear hugged by the big older man was just like getting a hug from her father. Walt let her go with obvious reluctance, and several loving words of firm warning. You dont be a stranger, ya here? You come over here any time you want the doors open to you, just like it was when you were a little girl. Yes, Uncle Walt, she replied dutifully. Denny appeared with her wrap, only because Joe found himself struck again by the contrast between the way shed looked when he met her, and the way she looked now. He was standing there staring at her like an idiot, entranced against his will. Walts slightly raised voice broke the spell, however, as did his words. You heard me about painting the house, too, didnt you, little girl? Shelly kept her response as non-committal as possible. She didnt want to fight with her beloved uncle only hours after having found him again. Uh-huh. She tried to busy herself with adjusting her shawl.

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Im not fooling, you know, Walt warned. Im gonna have my men keep an eye on the place as a matter of course, and youre going to be in deep trouble if any of them see you painting. Do you understand? Big trouble, Joe repeated for emphasis. Although she didnt know it yet, she would be a lot worse off getting in trouble with him than with her Uncle. He probably wouldnt have the heart or the strength to go through with his threat. But Joe would. And more. Shelly threw Joe a glare, then dismissed him. He wasnt a part of her life anyway. And, since shed finished the front of the house already, she crossed her fingers mentally knowing she would be going against the letter of her uncles law since she fully intended to finish what she started and nodded in his general direction. Yes, Uncle Walt, came the meek, dutiful response. Walt gave her a considering look. Now why dont I quite believe you, Shelly-girl? Shelly gave him her most innocent face. Why, Im sure I dont know why youre so suspicious of me, Uncle Walt. Wasnt I always an obedient child? Yes, he shot back, but only when it suited you, or when you thought you could get away with doing just what you wanted anyway. His assessment of her even long removed was disturbingly accurate, and Joe saw that moment when she was startled by how easily her Uncle read her, filing it away for future reference. He was going to make sure that he was the officer that looked after her for her uncle. And he knew that he shouldnt wait to be given the nod. Somehow, he knew that Shelly fully intended to get up the next morning and do exactly what her Uncle had just warned her she shouldnt do.

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Ill have some men over there as soon as I can. Ill call you it wont take more than a few days for me to call in some favors and round up some men. Yes, Uncle. While Joe was considering what he was going to do tomorrow, Denny slipped in beside Shelly and offered her his arm so that he could escort her out to her car. Joe frowned at the younger man, but let it slide. He had no doubt that he was going to be the one who escorted Shelly places before long, so he could afford to be generous now. Hed nip Denny in the bud as soon as he could, though. No sense in letting the man dream an impossible dream. Joe watched Shelly and Denny disappear through the door, then glided to the window to watch Denny help Shelly into a low slung sports car. Huh, he thought, no grubby old pickup tonight. Walt came up to stand behind Joe. Dennys taken quite a fancy to Shelly, hasnt he? Joe emitted a dismissive grunt. And so have you, I take it? Another grunt, this time noncommittal. Well, youre both fine men, and I wish you both luck with her. Youre going to need it. Just make sure that no rivalry finds its way into the department, understand? Yes, Sir, Joe answered with much more deference than Shelly had managed at any time that night. Joe took a sip of the coffee hed rescued from Miss Roses clean up attempts, still staring out at the driveway, although it was quite dark and deserted now. He was amazed at the turn of events this evening. Wasnt it just recently that he was swearing off one Shelly Fontaine, based on his earlier encounter with her? Had he truly changed his mind about her and his assessment off her just because of the way she looked? Was he really that shallow?

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The answer, he was glad to say, was no. Of course, the fact that she was a knockout didnt hurt things any. But what helped more than that was the idea that all of the men around her all of the men that seemed to be important in her life such as her father and her Uncle had apparently spanked her and were continuing to threaten to spank her if she misbehaved. Hed never encountered a situation like this before. She hadnt really batted an eyelash much at the idea that her Uncle considered it was still his right his duty to do so, even though she was hardly a girl any more. He didnt think it would be that much of a stretch for her to consider that her boyfriend, potential husband, might do that for her, too. Plus, he liked her in general. She could be a little snooty at times, a little too Northern in her ways, but at times hed even noticed her drawl returning. The South would soften her up eventually; it was in her roots, in her blood. And shed soon find that her new man wouldnt put up with behavior like that, anyway.

~~~
The next morning he made it a point to swing by the old Fontaine place and check to see if she was out there hanging from her fingernails of the ladder or worse, the gutter. But he didnt see a thing. Her car and truck were in the driveway, but he didnt see hide nor hair of her. Joe also figured that seeing the house would give him a baseline to know if shed been painting at night, or anything stupid like that. He could see how far shed gotten and either she was finished with the front, or she hadnt even started yet, he wasnt sure. Unfortunately, he got a call just as he was going to get out of the car and take more of a look around, and ended up being run ragged for the rest of the day, so much so that he didnt have a chance to even think about Shelly Fontaine until he was just getting
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off shift. He was heading out the door to the parking lot when she pulled in and Denny burst out of the door behind him to trot by him and jump into her car with a smug smile. A flash of pure anger like hed never experienced before flashed through Joe. Denny had beaten him to the punch of asking Shelly out, apparently, and he wasnt very happy about that. Denny was a nice guy, but he was, frankly, too weak and puppydoggish for a woman like Shelly, who obviously needed a man to take her in hand, firmly but lovingly and he was just that man. She just didnt know it yet, but she would.

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Chapter IV
e went home to his apartment, for the first time in a long time feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with himself. Hed always been very happy with the way hed organized his life. He wasnt married yet, so he didnt need a house payment. He didnt have a steady girlfriend right now yet and he had no one to answer to but himself. His apartment was surprisingly clean and neat, though, just because that was the type of person he was meticulous and detail oriented. Those very traits had helped him tremendously in his police work. But as he looked around his one bedroom place with its immaculate kitchen that had never been cooked in he realized that this was no longer what he wanted. He wanted more than just a bachelor pad he wanted a home, like his parents had had. And apparently like her parents had had, too. He had some money in the bank actually, quite a bit of money. After all, it was just him, and he was a workaholic. If they got together which he intended he would buy into her family home. He wanted it to be their place, not just hers. As he picked up the phone to call Dominoes for the forth time already that week he called so often they were number two on his speed dial he realized that hed better get a move on. He was already thinking in terms of marrying this woman and hed never even considered that with anyone else hed dated. If he wasnt careful, shed slip away to someone else like Denny - and that was entirely unacceptable.

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Joe resolved then and there that hed go see her the next day, after work, maybe, so that he wasnt being a cop, he was being himself, and ask her out. It never occurred to him that she might turn him down. Hed never had a woman turn him down for a date. Ever. The next evening, when the sun was softening into the horizon but it was still pretty light out, he arrived on her doorstep and knocked loudly. There was no answer. He knocked again, then looked backwards, confirming the fact that her vehicles were in the driveway, and they were. He gave it one more series of knocks that were really more like pounding, and then he was officially worried and instantly on the alert. There were no signs of foul play, though no broken windows, no signs of any sort of forced entry. Still, he checked the front of the house thoroughly before going around to the back where he saw her standing near one of the top rungs of an incredibly tall ladder, painting the last few brush strokes up near the peak of the acutely sloped roof. She was wearing those God awful overalls again, and that backwards hat that he hated. From the back, she looked almost like a boy. His heart was lodge so firmly in his throat he didnt think hed be able to swallow for a week. Joe grabbed a hold of the bottom of the rickety ladder as carefully as he could, and said quietly, in a voice he hoped to hell wouldnt startle her and make her fall to her death, Get down. Shelly jerked a little, but very carefully, grabbing a hold of the sides of the ladder, managed to maintain her stability. Officer Anderson, what a nice surprise. Her tone made it clear that this was far from a pleasant surprise as far as she was concerned. If Joes jaw was clamped any tighter he would start shattering the expensive dental work his parents had paid for when he was in braces as a boy. Get down. Less quiet, more angry this time.

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Shelly made a face at his autocratic tone and considered continuing to paint. But the look on his face made her rethink that option rather quickly. So, with a very exasperated sigh that let him know that she was none to happy to comply with his request or rather, command Sherry put the brush in the paint can, took her gloves off, and began a painfully slow ascent. She had to admit, though, it was a lot easier to go down with someone else steadying the ladder than all by herself, although wild horses couldnt have dragged that out of her at that time. When she got closer to him, she expected him to move back and give her some room, but he didnt budge. Unless she wanted to tip him off to the fact that she didnt particularly feel comfortable being that close to him which he would probably jump on as a sign of weakness she had no choice but to descend right into the cage of his arms. Well, if she had to, she had to. Shed just make sure that he couldnt tell that he had any effect on her. The man had an ego the size of New Jersey already; he didnt need to see her drooling all over him, even if that was her first inclination before her brain kicked in. He was . . . unbelievable. Made just to her specifications big and broad and brawny. Just what she liked in a man. Too bad he seemed to think that he was Gods gift. It wasnt until she took her last step down onto Mother Earth that she realized just how big he really was. His arms were up around her head, and he completely dwarfed her. It was probably wasnt the smartest thing not to have made him move away from the ladder. But she liked the stability hed provided, and she hadnt thought of the consequences of her actions until just now, until his extremely interesting front was pressing just slightly up against her backside. As much as she tried to control it, she knew that she was breathing faster. How could she not? He was perfect just what she wanted, and every nerve in her body was letting her know just how much.

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Shelly took a deep breath before she spoke, because she didnt want her voice to give her away. In a marvelously strong, clear tone, she said, Would you please move back? She was very proud of the fact that she didnt sound as breathy as she felt, nor did her voice waiver or sound simpering in the least. Joe had barely heard her speak. She was right where he wanted her. All he would have to do is turn her around, and shed be facing him, in his arms, pressed lightly up against him. He could take his hand and tip her chin just so, then slowly bring his lips down onto hers . . . He looked for all the world like he was going to kiss her, and she knew that down that road lay danger, so she took the opportunity to duck under his arm to relative safety. What brings you here, Officer? Shelly didnt really have a destination, but she had so much nervous energy that she had to do something, so she headed towards the back steps. Well, I came out here to ask you if youd like to go out with me tomorrow night. But I can see that theres another matter that needs taking care of even before that. Shelly stood on the top step of the porch and turned, surprised to find that he was right behind her. The man moved like a cat! She hadnt even heard his footsteps behind her on the squeaky old stairs! The thought that he was probably damned good at what he did flashed through her mind, but she dismissed it. How good a cop he was had nothing to do with the fact that he was an arrogant so and so that annoyed the crap out of her, despite the fact that Uncle Walt seemed to think the sun rose and set on him. Another matter such as what? Shelly asked. She wasnt trying to be obtuse she truly had no idea what he was referring to. She pushed into the kitchen through the backdoor, not holding the door for him or commenting at all about whether he came in or not. He did come in, of course, and suddenly her goodsized kitchen seemed incredibly small. He didnt go around the

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snack bar and stand in the dining room, he stood at the end of the snack bar, blocking that escape route quite effectively, and stared at her as if he thought she knew where Hoffas body was buried. Shelly put her hands on her hips and confronted him. Well? What matter? The fact that your Uncle told you not to do any more painting, and yet there you were up on that disreputable ladder, swaying in the breeze, barely hanging on by your toes Shelly scoffed out loud. Youre being overly dramatic. Joe crossed his arms over his chest, and seemed somehow to double in size just by doing so. Oh yeah? What would you have done if the ladder had collapsed, or youd fallen from it somehow? Lie there until someone missed you, by chance, with a broken leg, or worse? The more he thought about that very real possibility, the angrier he got. She reached into the pocket of her overalls and produced a cell phone. Id call 911. What if the battery was dead? What if you were unconscious with a concussion? She shrugged. Then Id call when I awakened. If you awakened, he barely ground out. For a cop, you sure are an alarmist. Shelly was dying of thirst and grabbed the fresh lemonade shed made this morning and a glass. As a complete afterthought, she asked him, Would you like some? Joe didnt answer her. In truth, he couldnt. The way she was so dismissive in regards to matters of her own safety drove him crazy. Instead, he took the pitcher and glass from her, then grabbed her arm and pulled her into the dining room. She only had one of the straps hooked, so removing the overalls from her was extremely easy. They pooled at her feet just as he was pulling her over his broad lap.
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His quick, sure movements had her dumbfounded. What the hell do you think youre doing? she yelled. Shelly couldnt believe the position she was in was he out of his mind? No amount of struggling seemed to budge the vice like grip that he had around her waist, though. She hadnt been in this position since long before her Dad died, but it was just as awful as she remembered it maybe worse. She was sure that her senses all of them were much more acute now than they had been when she was a kid. Or maybe it was just that she was more aware of her body, and his body, and the various places where their more intimate parts where being forcibly ground together. She did know one thing for sure she was glad shed put on brand new underwear this morning and the closest to frilly underwear that she owned. Not that she cared one bit about what he thought about her underwear, of course. Two seconds later, thoughts of her underwear were the furthest thing from her mind. His hard, flat hand was reminding her exactly how much spankings hurt apparently especially when delivered by him. Struggling desperately not to be overwhelmed by the pain, she screamed, Stop! Now! Stop it!! She couldnt have thought that that would actually have any effect on him, but it was all she could get out. Tears were already beginning to cloud her eyes, although she wasnt sure whether it was because of the humiliation of being almost forty and over the lap of a man who was a relative stranger to her, or because of the pain of the swats he was delivering in a disgustingly militaristic cadence to her poor cheeks. God, her bottom was stinging so bad she didnt think that she could stand it. Pure instinct drove her to reach back, but that flailing, ineffectual right hand was easily trapped and held by the wrist at the small of her back he didnt so much as miss one beat in the process. It was rapidly becoming a painfully humiliating experience. Emphasis on the painful . . . or was that the humiliating?

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Joe had only spanked a few women in his life. He was functioning purely on instinct, but it seemed to be serving him well, so far, not that he had any doubts about it. He knew what she needed. She needed boundaries. She needed someone to lay down the law and then follow through if she broke it. And he wanted he intended to be that man for her. She was crying, but not very hard. It was time to take it to the next level. He expected some real resistance from her when he gently tugged down her panties, but she was too involved in trying to come to grips with what had already happened, and he didnt give her much time to deal with it before starting in again, watching his red palm print decorate the fair skin of her wonderful, curvy bottom, and part of the way down the backs of her thighs. He didnt stop until he heard her sobbing in earnest until he thought she had accepted her punishment and his discipline. Well, as much as she was likely to anyway, since this was rather early in the relationship to establish disciplinary tendencies, he supposed, but, then, the sooner the better. Shelly began to struggle to get up as soon as he stopped, but Joe kept her in place. Your Uncle didnt tell you not to paint just because he wants to cost you money Denny and I are going to come over this weekend and finish painting the place for you, anyway. He did it because he worries about your safety. And so do I. The next time your Uncle or I tell not to do something, youd best think of today and not do it. With that, he let her up. He wanted to hold her, but it was probably a little early for that, too. Shelly got up slowly, shakily, shrinking away from him when he reached out to steady her. Solemnly, she pulled up her panties and pants, looking carefully away from him the entire time, tears still streaming down her face. Shelly swallowed hard, trying to recover some of her scattered dignity. I want you to leave. Immediately. She stalked away from him, into the living room,

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towards the stairs to her room. And be damned thankful if I dont have you brought up on assault charges, she tossed lightly over her shoulder without a backward glance. Joe had half a mind to follow her up them, to try to convince her why hed done what hed done. But somehow he deduced that that would probably just make things worse. He sighed deeply, his hands on his hips, hating the helpless feeling that washed over him - hating that nagging worry that he might have ruined things before they even got a chance to start. He stalked out of the house, carefully locking the door behind him, and roared off in his truck to the gym, where he could sweat out some of his frustrations. Working out helped him think kind of like driving, only it was less expensive and better for him. The entire time he was pushing himself this time though, making himself sweat and making his muscles ache and bulge to their limits, he was thinking about her everything about her. How much hed liked watching her come down that ladder, even though he worried with every rung. How marvelous she felt when she stepped down into his arms. He had wanted her so badly just then that he sprang to a painful, throbbing attention that never abated during the entire episode. Her warm body lying and wiggling and bucking over his lap only made it worse, and then, when he first saw those plump cheeks of hers as he reddened them rapidly himself, he wanted nothing more than to lay her down afterwards and make sweet love too her. But now it seemed that although all of his instincts pointed him in this direction, hed made her want nothing to do with him. If she did, indeed, bring him up on assault charges, he could kiss his carefully planned future in the department goodbye. He had had visions of one day even taking the Chiefs place, maybe, if things worked out the way he wanted them too. But not with a record heck, not even with the hint of a charge like assault.

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When hed worked himself to the point of weakness, he took a long hot shower and drove home, but swerved suddenly and headed to the Chiefs place instead. He needed to talk to someone who knew her better than he did, and the Chief was the right person.

~~~
Miss Rose greeted him as she always did like a long lost son. She set him up in the front parlor with a glass of sweetened iced tea, and then went to get her husband. Joseph to what do I owe this unexpected honor? the Chief asked as he strode boldly into the room. Joe got up and shook the Chiefs hand and sat back down at his behest. Well, Sir, I I went around to see Shelly tonight. I was going to ask her out. Walters eyebrow rose. Hasnt she already been out with Denny? Yeah, theyve gone out once that I know of. Youre not adverse to cutting in there, then, are you? No, frankly Im not. The Chief leaned back in his chair. Well, theyre not engaged or anything. Whatd she say? Joseph sighed. Nothing. I didnt really give her a chance, because when I got there she was around the back of the house, painting up near the roofline, at the top of a ladder that wouldnt hold a flea. His statement got just the reaction he was looking for. Hed never seen the older man so angry. He lurched forward, as if he was going to propel himself out of the chair at warp speed, saying angrily, I told her that if she got to painting like that again I was going to take her over my knee
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I uh I kinda did that for you, Chief. Walt, in mid-crouch, halfway out of his chair, met Joes eyes and sank back down. He saw the truth of what the younger man was saying. You did? I did. And I wont apologize for it. You were right she shouldnt have been doing that all by herself in the back of beyond where that house is. What if something had gone wrong? Cell phone or no cell phone it wasnt right. Denny and I had already worked out going out there next weekend to finish the job. All she had to do was wait. You told her you were going to take care of it. Walt shook his head, then took a deep breath. I cant imagine that a girl like Shelly took it any too well. Am I right? It was Joes turn to get up. He started to pace in front of the fireplace. Thats putting it lightly. She threatened to have me brought up on assault charges. To his amazement, the Chief started to laugh. Oh, Im not surprised she did that little girl always was a spitfire. I dont think theres anything to laugh at. I could lose my job Calm down, son. Shes not going to do anything of the sort. Id stake my own job on it. You think so? I came over her to tell you about it because youre the person in town that knows her the best and because I wanted you to know what Id done on your behalf. The Chief offered him a cigar and a light, and they ambled out to the porch where the Chief sank onto the porch swing, and Joe leaned up against the railing. Shellys a wonderful girl, dont get me wrong. But shes always been headstrong. Almost too smart for her own good. Her father had to take a firm hand with her, and I would hope that whoever she settled down with would do exactly the same thing. Its what she need. She might resent a

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spanking thats a given. Who wouldnt? But I bet she wont touch a paintbrush again, and you and Denny can finish the job in a few days. And we can rest a whole lot easier because of it. That doesnt make me feel any better, Chief. Walt patted Joe on the shoulder in a father fashion. Id stake my reputation shes not gonna do a thing about it, son. Besides, shed be too embarrassed to have it brought out in court that you gave her the licking she deserved. Joe hadnt thought about it that way, and his heart lightened some, only to sink again like a stone seconds later. Yeah, but having spanked her, shes not going to give me the time of day The Chief cut him off before he got any more melancholy. Ill set her straight for you, I promise. Ill take her to lunch tomorrow or something. Give her my take on the situation. Shell come around, youll see. He sighed. He hated having the fate of a relationship that had rapidly become of incredible importance to him resting in someone elses hands even the Chiefs. Joe was used to having and keeping control of things especially with a woman. But he guessed it was the best thing to do at this point. He knew hed done the right thing, but it sure had complicated matters. Thank you, Chief. Not at all, son, not at all. Their conversation turned to matters of the department, and when Joe left an hour or so later, he felt much better.

~~~
The next morning, Shelly was sitting gingerly on a padded bar stool at her snack bar, reading the paper. She could barely stand to look at her dining room set any longer; it brought
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back painful memories and made her bottom start to throb. Damn that man! Who the hell did he think he was, anyway? She had half a mind to go through with her threat and haul his butt up on charges. That would show him not to take liberties with young women . . . okay, middle aged women.

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Chapter V
hat she was most upset about, though, was the other half of her brain that was experiencing a highly alarming, pleasantly warm feeling about the idea that he had spanked her that a rule had been set granted, one that Uncle Walt had set down, but he had endorsed nonetheless and she had broken it, and he had held her to account for her behavior. Yes, her bottom was sore this morning. It was a sore she was familiar with the kind she used to feel when her father had taken her to task for some indiscretion or other talking back, breaking curfew, smoking cigarettes, whatever. Not that she was a badly behaved kid she really wasnt. And she wasnt spanked often, either. Just enough that she knew that her parents cared enough to keep track of what she was or wasnt doing, and correct her when necessary lovingly. That was exactly what shed always wanted from a man. Not from this God awful officer, obviously. He was . . . was . . . definitely not acceptable. She would have been fine if Russ had been interested in spanking her, but he couldnt have been bothered to pay that much attention to her. He was too busy humping everything that looked good in a skirt. But if and when she found the man of her dreams certainly not this brutish, boorish cop - she would love to establish a domestic discipline type of relationship, where there were rules for her behavior that were set down and adhered to or else.

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Shed tried to sneak some of that into her mainstream romances, but her editor nearly had a coronary every time she did, swearing up one side and down the other that modern women would consider such a relationship abusive at best. But Shelly was a modern women, and she didnt consider it any such thing, and from the Internet she knew that a lot of other women shared her feelings on the subject. There were tons of women out there who were looking for the exact same type of husband she was one that wasnt afraid to take the reins of the relationship and be the head of their household. Stepping up and being the head of the household didnt make a man abusive. Spanking his wife didnt make a man abusive. Punching her, now that was abuse. But loving, consistent, firm discipline was just what some women needed. And, although she truly did hate to admit it, Shelly was one of those women. She didnt like being spanked she hadnt liked it as a child, and as the annoying Officer Anderson had so recently reminded her, she hated it as an adult, too. But it did make her feel cared about. It had made her feel that way when her Uncle had threatened it, and it had made her feel that way ridiculously so, considering they barely knew each other when Joe had done it last night. Someone was paying attention to her to even small things about her behavior. Caring enough to make a rule and then make sure that it was followed. If there was one point that Joe had earned with her last night despite all the negative ones hed accumulated, of course it was that he had followed through with the consequences for a rule he had endorsed. Her Uncle had said it first, but Shelly had no doubt that Joe had been thinking about saying it at exactly the same time Walt had just beat him to it. She still hated him, and didnt intend to let him get within fifty feet of her ever again if she could manage to avoid it, but she did have to give him that one. Even men who were supposedly in a domestic discipline relationship didnt always follow through, and

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that was a big chunk out of a womans trust, as far as Shelly was concerned. If she was supposed to get spanked for something, then she should get spanked for it. And, she had to admit, also, that there had been tingles in places where she wished there hadnt. The idea of being vulnerable over someones lap not his, of course had always been a considerable turn on for her. And, although it hurt like hell and she would never admit it even under penalty of death, even the spanking itself kind of got to her in some ways . . . She had always imagined that if she was ever lucky enough to find a spanking relationship, that a punishment would quite naturally lead to sex. The inherent intimacy of the position and the necessary touching of a very sensitive area that is adjacent to another even more extremely sensitive area . . . But of course, she certainly hadnt wanted to have sex with Joe. Not on a bet. Never. Nope. Not her. She was not buying whatever it was that he was selling. No way. Uh-uh. No. The shrill ring of the handset next to her interrupted her rampant self-delusion. Hello? Hey there, Shelly-girl! Howre you doing? A big smile spread across her face as she adjusted herself carefully in the chair. Hi, Uncle Walt! Im doing, how are you? Im fine. I thought I might take you out to lunch this afternoon, if youre not too busy. Shelly almost made a crack about the fact that since Joe Andersons visit yesterday, she no longer had to paint the house, but she really didnt want Uncle Walt to know anything about that incident. It would be way too embarrassing, and she wouldnt put it past her Uncle to give her second spanking for going against his rule. It was a tricky situation. Cautiously, she answered, Uh, no, no Im not busy.

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Good. Ill come around and pick you up about twelvethirty, if thats okay. Yeah, that sounds great! See ya then, Puddin. Great! Bye!

~~~
Her Uncle Walt had a thing about punctuality just like her father had, so Shelly was ready long before he pulled into the driveway. When she hopped into his big city-owned Jeep Cherokee, he didnt immediately pull out, but sat there for a while, staring at the house. There are a lot of good memories in this place, Shelly-girl. Im glad you came back to rescue it. Shelly put her hand on Walts arm and squeezed gently. So am I, Uncle Walt. So am I. He swallowed back his tears and backed them out onto the road into town. So what have you been doing all morning? That was a loaded question, even though he didnt know it. Writing and editing. For some reason, he looked surprised. Oh? Writing and editing what? My next book. Her Uncle turned nearly sideways in his seat, trying to look her in the eye. You really do write those smutty books, dont you? Shelly tittered. I dont think theyre any smuttier than some of the other things women could read. Theyre actually pretty positive stories about men and women and the power of love at least thats how I try to write them, anyway.

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Uh huh, came the dour answer. Apparently Uncle Walt was none to happy with her chosen profession not that she was likely to change it just because of his disapproval. Its pretty lucrative. Enough so that I could afford to buy this place and come down here. Well, thats good, I guess, he agreed reluctantly. Shelly had to smile at his old-fashionedness. She should have known hed react like that. Miss Rose, on the other hand, had seemed extremely interested in her profession the night of the dinner. But shed hung back asking questions because she knew her husband didnt approve. I thought Id take you downtown to the Luncheonette. Great I saw that Sallys was still in business. Im glad shes doing all right. Sallys was an institution in Gray Oaks. Her father had taken her there on special occasions when she was a little girl. Yep shes still going great guns. Thats Sally. Her feetll probably still be moving even after shes dead. They drove down a residential street where a police cruiser was pulled over to the side of the road, and Shelly could tell just from the size and bulk of the officer standing under the tree, looking up, that it was Joe Anderson. Just the person she didnt want to see. There was a little girl standing in front of him who was also looking up into the tree. She prayed that Walt would just drive on by, but knew it was hoping against hope. The Chief pulled over and put the Jeep in park. I want to see whats going on although I have a good idea what it is. Why dont you come with me? You can help me calm down the girl. The little girl was near hysteria, and both Shelly and Uncle Walt walked over to her immediately. The girl glommed onto Shelly like she was a lifeline, but still gazed up into the leaves, tears streaming down her face.
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Cat? Walt said to his officer as he stroked the little girls hair while Shelly knelt down and held her tight. Joe nodded. Shellys eyebrow rose. Apparently this wasnt an unusual occurrence. Walt addressed the little girl. Well, now, Brianna, youre kitty catll come down when shes good and ready. Youve never seen any cat skeletons in the trees, now, have you? Hed been fine until the last sentence. The idea of a cat skeleton in a tree sent Brianna into wails of inconsolable grief. Shelly threw her Uncle a withering glance as she gathered the child tighter to her. Walt shrugged. Call a fireman! Breanna cried. Walt put the kibosh on that idea immediately. No, no, were not going to bother Chief Eaton with a cat up a tree when he and his men are probably busy saving peoples lives. He lowered his voice, saying under his breath, Like we ought to be . . . Joe sighed slightly and divested himself of his gun belt, giving it to the Chief, and was half way up the tree in a second. The kitten wasnt any too keen on being rescued, but Joe eventually got it, and presented it to the little girl with a flourish, and a rakish wink at Shelly. Brianna thanked the officer profusely, and ran towards her house with the kitty clutched tightly to her. Joe cleared his throat and asked quietly, How are you doing, Shelly? Her icy glare liked to freeze him where he stood, in the middle of ninety degree heat and eighty percent humidity. Im fine, Officer Anderson. She high tailed it off to the Jeep and relative safety, watching Uncle Walt and that annoying git exchange a few words, before Walt also returned to the Jeep. Well, lets get to lunch, then, shall we? he asked no one in particular.

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Lunchtime was busy at the diner, and they barely got a table. The menu was large and varied, and Shelly couldnt imagine what she was going to choose. Walt had his own favorite chicken fried steak with white gravy and the waitress already knew what to bring him when she came to the table, setting down a cup of black coffee in front of him, along with the pot. Shelly finally settled on a grilled chicken salad, and, their orders taken, they were left alone after nearly everyone in the town acknowledged the Chiefs presence amongst them. Thank you for having that dinner for me, Uncle. It was wonderful, Shelly said immediately, although her thank you card had probably already been received. Youre welcome, youre welcome. Were all glad to have you back, the Chief smiled at her benevolently. Some of us are happier than others . . . he trailed off. Shelly colored slightly. Yeah, Ive seen Denny a couple of times. I like him a lot. Walt leaned closer to her, catching her eyes. Do you mind if an old man tells you the unvarnished truth, Shelly? Somewhat surprised by his question, she said automatically, Yes, of course. Dennys not for you. Hes a good man, dont take this the wrong way. Hes a good man and a good officer. But hes too weak for you by far. Why, youd mow him over like a steamroller in an instant. She cleared her throat, laughing slightly. My, Uncle, what a marvelous opinion you have of me. This has nothing to do with my opinion of you, Michelle Crandall Ford Fontaine. You know I think the sun rises and sets on you and your brother, and I always will. But Id love to see you settle down with a good, strong man. One whos your match and not wrapped around your little finger.
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Their dinners were set down in front of them and the waitress discreetly withdrew, but Shellys eyes were on her Uncle. She swallowed hard, hoping with everything in her that she hadnt deduced the truth in his words. Did Joe tell you what happened last night? Walt looked down, and she had her answer, flushing wildly. God damn him! Not only did he do something that he had no right to do Watch your language, young lady, or youre going to find yourself getting it two days in a row. Walts face was stone serious. Shelly kept her mouth closed. You might not have thought he had the right, but he did exactly what I would have done, and I imagine since hes younger and stronger, that he did it quite a bit better than I could have. I know youve got your mind dead set against him, and youre running away from him as fast as you can, but that man is just what you need, whether or not youre woman enough to admit it. Walt reached across the table and took her hand. And thats all Im going to say about it. I would dearly love to see two people I have such feelings for get together, if thats what should happen. I have a strong feeling that it is what should happen. But I wont say anything more on the subject, I promise. Please always remember, though, that Im here for you. Whatever you need, whenever you need it. Youre like a daughter to me, whether youre eight or eighty, and Id be honored if youd let me treat you as such. She teared up immediately at the thought. Of course, Uncle Walt. I feel like Im so much closer to Daddy when Im with you. Tears rolled down her cheeks unheeded. The older man brushed those tears away with years of tenderness in his touch. And so do I. Youre all I have left of the

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best man I ever knew, and Im going to love you just like he did, till they cart me away. They hugged tightly, Shelly crying slightly on her Uncles shoulder, then sat back down. Walt cleared his throat. So whats happened to the reprobate of a brother of yours? Lunch was incredible loving and touching and memorable. They decided to make it a tradition to get together once a week for lunch, barring work interruptions. Mid-way through, Joe made an appearance, and Shelly was ever so glad that he hadnt tried to muscle into their intimate meal. Walt could see that she had grown somewhat distracted, and turned to see what had caught her eye. He should have known. I know I said Id butt out, but let me say one more thing, and then I really will butt out: give him a chance. Like your father, hes one of the best men Ive ever know. Heart like lion. You saw him today with that little girl. I wouldnt have climbed that tree to get her cat even if I could have. He does stuff like that all the time. Hes as straight an arrow as they come. And if he didnt feel something for you, however small and new because he doesnt know you very well, he would never have bothered to do what he did. Theres a spark between the two of you and I know its mostly annoyance on your part right now, he forestalled her blustering complains about him. Let it grown. See what develops. You two could have what Rose and I, and your father and mother, and his father and mother had. Give it a chance to develop before you cut him off at the knees. Trying to be angry with him and not succeeding worth a white, she asked with too little sarcasm, Are you through? Have you gotten it all out of your system? His cell phone rang at that moment, and it sounded from the gist of the conversation that she only got one side of, like he was going to have to depart, and she was right. I gotta go, Pud. Duty calls, he sighed dramatically, standing up and then bending down

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to kiss her gently on the cheek. He threw several bills down onto the table for lunch. When youre ready, come down to the station. Ill get someone to take you home. Thanks for indulging the ramblings of an old man, sweetheart. Shelly snorted. Old man. Right. You got more going on upstairs than five younger men. Walt winked at her as he left. And dont you forget it, young lady. Shelly took her time finishing her lemonade and actually ordered a slice of their toll house pie. It arrived piping hot, draped in hot fudge sauce, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a generous dollop of whipped cream, and she ate every spoonful of it herself, then felt like she needed to be rolled out of the restaurant. She left the extra money for the dessert on the table, and stopped just behind Officer Anderson, who had been nursing his milk the whole time she was nibbling her decadent dessert. She said one word, loudly enough for him to hear it. Yes, then walked towards the door. Joes jaw nearly hit the counter, but she was leaving and he didnt want to let her get away before he found out what the hell she meant. Yes what? he asked, trotting around in front of her and getting the door for her. Yes, Ill go out to dinner with you. He was nearly dumbstruck. When? When do you want? Tomorrow night? Okay. Great!

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He smiled, and Shelly realized it was the first time shed been the recipient of all that wattage. He looked pretty darned good, if she had to say so. And as long as he kept his palm to himself. How are you getting home? he asked, noticing that they were walking in the direction of the Department. Uncle Walt said hed have someone give me a ride home. Well, that might as well be me, then. He walked over to the passengers side of his cruiser and held it open, watching her patiently, as if he could see the decisioning process that was going on in her head. She wasnt at all sure she wanted to get into a car with him. Nope. Not at all. Hed be much too close disturbingly close. All that brawn and strength and masculinity . . . It wasnt him she was worried about behaving himself. It was her! Riding around with Denny was she had to face it like riding around with her brother, and there was no getting past that. And reminding her of her brother was not the way to her heart. But Joe . . . Joe reminded her to an almost uncomfortable degree of her father square jawed, no-nonsense but generally good natured, the kind of person for whom there were no gray areas. Things were either right or they were wrong, and she knew exactly what the consequences would be for her should he determine that her behavior had been wrong. Did she really want to enter into that kind of a relationship on a full time basis? Fantasizing was one thing fantasizing about a strong, firmly guiding man who wouldnt let her get away with thing she knew she oughtnt . . . but shed had a taste of the reality. A large taste of the reality, she thought, her hand automatically reaching back towards her bottom before she caught it and put it on her hip, hoping he hadnt noticed the aborted move. Butt still hurting? he asked with a narrowed gaze.

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Shelly huffed and climbed into the car. No, thank you. Im fine. As he slipped behind the wheel, he said casually, Hmmmmm. I guess Ill have to try harder the next time to make a more indelible impression. Theres not going to be a next time, Shelly replied with not a small degree of certainty. Well see. Joe didnt want to get her into a snit just when shed agreed to go out with him. They passed the time back to her place pleasantly, although he carried the lions share of the conversation. He put his hand on her arm gently, catching her eye before she exited the car. What time should I pick you up? I can meet you there she protested. The look he gave her told her in no uncertain terms that there were two chances for that fat and slim. What time do you want me to pick you up? You tell me, she sighed dramatically. I can be ready any time.

~~~
It turned out that although she could be ready any time, he couldnt. Joe ended up having to cancel their dates three times in a row due to work demands. The last time he did it, he spent more time apologizing to her than he spent talking to her in general. Its okay, really it is. Im not going anywhere. The only bad thing is that Im getting older Ill have a few more gray hairs when we finally get together. I havent seen any, he complimented genuinely. You havent looked closely enough; believe me, theyre there, even under the Lady Clairol.

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He liked her sense of humor about herself, even if it could sometimes be a little too self-deprecating. They parted on a good note, and he promised to call her the next day once he got off shift. Instead of calling her, though, he decided to drop by. He and Denny hadnt had the chance to get over there to paint it yet considering everything that had been happening at the department lately. So he figured he might just catch her doing something she shouldnt. And even if he didnt, at least hed get a chance to see her. Before he rang the doorbell, he did check all around the house. No further painting had been done. Joe nodded. Hopefully, shed learned her lesson. As he stood on the stoop waiting for her to come to the door, a delicious smell wafted to his nose garlic. Chicken. Stuffing. Lord knew what all else. He was in love! Besides not having painted when he and the Chief had told her not to, she did something else that endeared her to him she asked who it was before she opened the door. Too many people and a lot of them women didnt have that personal safety habit, but she apparently did. She seemed pleasantly surprised to see him, and stepped aside to let him in. He didnt go far, though. She wasnt made up like she had been that night at the Chiefs, but she wasnt one big splotch of paint, either. She looked casual and happy in well worn jeans and a pretty flowered t-shirt. Her hair was loose and fell in waves around her shoulders; her face was devoid of make up, yet her eyes sparkled as she looked at him.

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Chapter VI
lowly, so as not to startle her, he took a step forward and wrapped his arms around her. Looking down into her beautiful face, he murmured softly, It seems kinda funny that Ive spanked your bottom but I havent even kissed you. With that, he let his lips settle gently onto hers. No demands, no rummaging around in her mouth with his tongue, just enjoying having her in his arms and the feel of their mouths together. Shelly was surprised but not alarmed by his advances. Shed wondered over the past few days what hed be like when he wasnt wailing on her bottom, and she was finally getting her first chance to find out. So far, she loved his approach. So many men especially big, dominant ones had almost forgotten what subtly was. They stormed in and took what they want. And while Shelly certainly sensed that he could have been like that if hed wanted to, he had the sense to tone it down and not come at her like a ravaging hoard. It felt good to be in his arms. It felt better than good it felt great. They fit together well he was just the right height. Her head tucked perfectly into his shoulder when he exerted just the slightest of pressures, not forcing her mouth open or demanding that it should, but merely melting his lips over hers at a very slight

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slant, so that barring his way seemed almost a petty, selfish thing to do to deny each of them such pleasure. And it was just that bright, shiny new pleasure. Shelly felt as if it was the first time shed really kissed a man, which was entirely ridiculous. But it was the first time a man had taken the care to kiss her, with was seemed to be excruciating attention to detail and to her feelings. His big hands came up to her face, but he only touched her with his fingertips, combing them into her hair, massaging the back of her neck but only for a second, then trailing with surprising intimacy across the line of her cheekbones and down to her jaw not grabbing or reaching, just the slightest caress from the very tips of his fingers. He drew back long before she wanted him to. He left her wanting him badly and that made her cranky. She didnt want to want him that much . . . yet, if ever. If Shelly had ever had a doubt about whether or not there would be a spark between them, it had been completely obliterated by the pounding of her heart and parts of her anatomy that were located much further south. If shed been alone, she would have squeezed her legs together and done the Ive got to go to the bathroom dance when that was really the least of her problems at this particular moment. Fresh underwear would have been a good idea, but she didnt think he was going to let her slip discreetly away to change. So to what do I owe this honor? she asked in a manner that came out a little sharper than shed intended, but acute frustration didnt do wonders for her disposition. Shelly wandered into the kitchen, knowing that he hadnt taken his eyes off of her since hed turned her lose. Shed carefully skittered her gaze down his front and noticed that she wasnt the only one affected by their kiss, but that hadnt assuaged her throbbing loins one bit. If anything, it added to it to know that he wanted her, too.

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Her rolls were almost done in one of the wall ovens while the other melted the tons of mozzarella in her chicken-stuffing-andmozzarella casserole. He leaned against the end of the snack bar again, a position that was all too reminiscent of the moments before hed turned her over his knee. Well, I wanted to come by and thank you for being patient about the demands of my job. Shelly snorted. Of course. Your job is important to you. I understand that. My jobs important to me, too. Joe leaned over the counter, affording her a wonderful view of his jeans as they pulled taut over what she knew in her heart of hearts mustve been a rock hard, well rounded butt. Yeah, but some women dont see things that way especially considering its been three times. Well, then theyre probably insecure pains in the neck anyway. He choked at her dead on assessment, but nodded his agreement. Im a big girl. I can amuse myself quite nicely. I have work to do, and things to do around the house, and Im trying to catch up with some friends . . . He looked somewhat unhappy. Sounds like you dont need me at all, then. Shelly laughed. Im an independent woman. I try not to cling just like I wouldnt want a clingy man at all. I understand the demands of your job. Im not discounting our date if and when it happens. How about right now? he threw back, his eyes pinning her. She spread her arms out, a bulky pink oven mitt on each hand. Uhhhhh, as much as Id like to, Ive already made dinner. So invite me to dinner. Jeez, for a smart woman, you can be very obtuse, he teased, a rakish smile on his face.

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As prejudiced as it sounded, she wasnt at all sure she would have granted him the intelligence to use a vocabulary word like obtuse. She could see that she would need to revise her opinion of him upwards, and found herself unhappy that shed fallen into that kind of thought pattern. She was Southern, too, for crying out loud - just many years removed. Shelly didnt answer him immediately, but opened a cupboard door and got down a dinner plate to add to her own. I really was just going to eat in front of the TV . . . I love you! he breathed in a reverent voice. If youd said you were going to eat standing up in front of the sink, Id ask you to marry me! She giggled at his vehemence. But I suppose I could give you something to do and make you set the table while I get things ready. Good idea. Shelly handed him silverware, napkins, and plates, then slid some glasses across the snack bar in his general direction, along with salt and pepper shakers and some hot mats. He was done before she was, back at his station watching her carefully, making her nervous as all hell. It smells great whatd you make? Shelly gave him a small smile. My version of comfort food its a casserole my Mom used to make sometimes. Its one of my all time favorites chicken, tons of mozzarella cheese, a white sauce made with stock and garlic and bay leaves, and then stuffing. Its all layered and oozing all over the oven while it cooks. He made all sorts of disgusting drooling and slurping sounds. Lord, woman, youre making it sound better than sex! She stopped mid stride while carrying the hot casserole dish to the table and gave him a considering look. Then youve been doing it with all the wrong people. Shelly didnt know why her

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mouth kept running, but it did, and on the most embarrassing of subjects. Food is fantastic and sex is fantastic, but theyre like apples and oranges. Never the twain shall meet, and all that. She stepped back to consider the table and what else they might need with part of her mind while her lips kept moving all on their own. Well, occasionally they do meet whipped cream, honey, hot fudge . . . but those are mere accoutrement. Joes jaw had gone slack at her speech, and it was all he could do to get to a chair before she noticed just how interested shed gotten him. He knew it was impolite, but he left her to get everything to the table while he wrestled with his inner demons, and the outward signs thereof. He was able to do one of the things that his mother had drilled into him as being courteous he pulled out her chair. Luckily, she seemed pretty much oblivious to the idea that he was having to hide his rampant hard on beneath the table, and shed also seen fit not to say another word. Come to think of it, she was a becoming shade of bright red, and he didnt think that it had anything to do with the heat in the kitchen. Shelly served him up a huge portion of the casserole, along with some baby carrots and green beans shed steamed and some garlic bread with cheese shed cheated and gotten out of the frozen food section of the grocery store, only to doctor it up with a lot more cheese. Joe took several forkfuls of the casserole and sank his teeth into the bread with a groan that was definitely sexual. Shellys tinkling laugh flowed over him and made him smile back hugely, even though he knew it wasnt the polite thing to do with a mouthful of food. Dear Lord, I take it back. You dont have to eat standing over the sink. Marry me. Take me away from a life of illicit meatloaf specials at Sallys and all night Dairy Freeze crawls . . . hours spent standing in front of the frozen food section trying to decide between Hungry Man and Lean Cuisine . . .

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She was laughing so hard at his complete earnestness that she nearly choked on her food. Youd just be marrying me for my cooking. Hell, nowadays thats enough, he scoffed, mowing his way politely but efficiently through the mound of food on his plate. I think youre about the only woman Ive ever dated who cooks. Usually my dates and I make the rounds of the usual restaurants. If we get stuck at either of our places, then we either call for delivery and in a town like this you have one choice of cuisine pizza or starve. Well, Shelly commented wryly, it doesnt look like youve starved any, regardless. Yes, he answered breathlessly, giving his third piece of garlic bread a look like Homer Simpson gives doughnuts, but this is . . . ambrosia. If nothing, he would certainly be a balm to her ego in regards to cooking. She leaned forwards and whispered naughtily, I do a mean meatloaf, too. He whimpered, and she rolled. It was such a ridiculous sound coming from a man his size. She would bet he hadnt whimpered since he got out of diapers. Their dinner table conversation ranged far and wide and included everything that wasnt considered polite dinner table topics politics, religion, and, since it was the South, sports. She was a Northern girl, and still hung on to her favorite Patriots, where Joe, if he wasnt avidly following Bama, was a Cowboys fan through and through. You like football? She had managed to throw him more than a few curves this evening, and this was one. Im not adverse to it. I dont much want a steady diet of it night after night, but I like the Pats so I like to watch them play.

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She watched in amazement as the last spoonful of a huge casserole that she had made to freeze and eat leftovers off of for quite some time, was instead neatly arranged on his plate. Oooooooh, were going to have some great afternoons especially when they play each other. When hed finished, he pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair, unbuckling his belt before looking up at her quickly, almost for permission. Shelly gave him a blank look, and he unbuttoned the top button of his jeans. Man, if I let you feed me up like this, Im going to have to spend all of my other time at the gym. As she gathered the dirty plates to take into the kitchen, Shelly commented, I dont think you need to spend another moment in the gym. Joe rose and took the plates away from her, rinsing them and stacking them in the dishwasher, like they always should be, and like Shelly seldom did until she was running out of plates. Boy, someone trained you good. He was already on his way back to the dining room to get another armload. My Momma. She didnt hold with any messiness of any sort. Oy. I hope she can overlook me. Oh, shedve loved you, but shes gone now. Shellys eyes filled with tears some for him, but mostly in remembrance of her own pain. Im sorry. Dont be shes with my father. He had the table cleared in minutes, and everything back in the right place, too. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she rushed to wiped them away, embarrassed at her response. But Joe seemed to see everything, and caught her hand on its way to her cheek. Her lips trembled as he spoke. Dont dash them away so quickly. Theyre evidence of your love for them,

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and nothing whatever to be ashamed of. He hugged her for the second time that night, but this time it was almost a brotherly hug, one of warmth and shared feelings of incredible, total loss. His big hands rubbed soothingly up and down her back, not trying to cop a feel or do anything other than make her feel better, one human to another. Shelly took a small step away from him, her eyes lowered. Thank you, she whispered. The big hand that had been massaging her back now lay just lay against her moist cheek. Youre welcome, he whispered back. Following an instinct that could lead anywhere at all, he lifted her into his arms and brought her into the living room, sitting down in one of her big overstuffed recliners and holding her. Just holding, one booted foot rocking them gently. Let me go. It was as if she barely had enough strength to speak. Why? Without a thought in her mind, she turned her face into the side of his neck, losing herself in the heat of his skin against her closed eyelids. Because if you dont, Im going to cry all over you. And it says in the Womens Guide to Dating handbook that they give you when you turn twelve that crying all over a man on your first date is a definite no-no especially if hes not the cause of the tears. I always wanted to see a copy of that book She shook her head, not removing it from its cozy nest. Cant. Violates every law of God and women. Youd turn into a frog. Ahhhhhhh. Thats where all the frogs in fairy tales came from. Shelly nodded solemnly. They got a hold of the book.

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They were silent then a longish, surprisingly comfortable silence. When he spoke, his voice rumbled softly in her ears. Im glad you were close to your parents. So was I. They were married for thirty eight years, she barely got out. Joe nodded. Mine for forty-three. And they loved each other for all of them. Mine too. Somehow, being held by him, by someone who truly understood, eased her pain. Are you angry with me for spanking you? Shelly swallowed hard. She wished he hadnt brought it up. Im not happy with you. But youre not angry, he confirmed. Im not happy. Joe smiled wryly, but she couldnt see it. Hed take what he could get. She was still here. In his arms. Theyd had their first date, and it had been pretty damned good, as far as he was concerned. He wasnt going to push his luck. Well, little one, I think I oughta get going. He didnt move upon making that announcement, he just continued to stroke her arm mesmerizingly up and down, slowly, as if he hadnt a care in the world or anywhere else hed rather be. Yeah, I suppose you should. Shelly snuggled closer against his chest. Long moments later, he whispered against the top of her head, If you want me to stay, I will Ill sleep down here. She finally succeeded in dragging herself upright, still on his lap, slumped over unprettily. If I was going to have you stay, it wouldnt be in another whole room.

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Joe was fondling her hair, brushing it slightly with his big fingers. Its too soon, though. Shelly gave him a questioning look. Youre going to turn into a frog yet, Officer Anderson. Howd you get to be so smart? Never thought I was, much, but I seem to know the right way to move with you. He shrugged. Dumb luck. She slipped off his lap, then held her hand out to help him up, which made him smile. Not dumb luck at all. You care. Thats better than a Rolls in your garage or millions in the bank, in my book. Shelly took a step closer to him, wrapping her arms around him as best she could her hands couldnt even meet in the back, he was so muscular. She lifted up onto her tiptoes and kissed him, full on the lips, a soft, sweetly sexy kiss that had him clenching his fists and wanting desperately to grab her and more of that kiss. But he was good and tried to relax and enjoy it while his body ached and pulsed as if his skin had gotten too tight for him all of a sudden. Youre going to be a handful, I can tell. He looked down at her and she knew without a doubt that he would relish the challenge. In her best, most innocent tone, she grabbed his hand and followed him to the door. Lil ole me? A handful? Why, you must have me confused with someone else, kind sir. Joe snorted, turning back to her from the open door. Im neither kind, nor a sir. Shelly put her finger over his lips. Shhhh. Youre both. The way she said it made him want to live up to her belief, even though he knew better. He was far from perfect, although he tried not to be an ass, either. What he tried to do more so than anything was the right thing no matter how hard it was sometimes.

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Like right now, when he wanted nothing more than to throw her down on the threshold and ravish her in all of the many nuances of the old fashioned word. But he didnt want to scare her off, either. They hadnt talked about her marriage much, although it naturally came up in the course of some of their conversations, but she always referred to him as Dipnod, so he got the idea that she wasnt very happy with him. Which was fine with him. He hoped it stayed that way. She didnt have any children, but wasnt adverse to having them. She had mentioned that since things had gone sour in her marriage that she ended up being glad she hadnt given in to her biological clock. Joe wanted kids. He would like a big family, but since he wasnt the one who was going to physically have them, hed be fine with however many his wife wanted to have. He wasnt at all sure hed be okay seeing the woman he loved in all that pain, either. Hed been through First Responder training, and had actually delivered one baby. But hed sweated his way through it, and he hadnt even known the woman, and somehow that made it easier for him to do. But he knew that any woman he ended up in a relationship with was probably going to make his presence in the delivery room mandatory, and he just hoped that he didnt disgrace himself at all. And he sincerely hoped that whoever it was and he was definitely leaning towards the woman who was standing in front of him, beaming up at him with bright eyes and a soft smile decided not to do natural childbirth. If she refused drugs, then he was going to see if he could get some of them for himself instead. Doing his best not to push her, he reached down and cupped her downy soft cheek in the rough palm of his hand. His eyes melted into hers. Youre an amazing woman, Shelly Fontaine. She chuckled softly, blushing. Well, thank you.

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I mean it. Most women would have written me off after the second time I called and said, uh, Shelly?. Youve been very patient with me and the fact that my work has been interrupting us all the time. Shelly shrugged. I told you. Im not going anywhere. And I understand and admire your dedication to your job even if it did get me a ticket. She frowned up at him in mock anger. His hand reached carefully around to cup the back of her neck, gently tipping her face to his. He was frowning down at her, but it didnt look to her like a fake frown. Yeah, I did ticket you, didnt I? She answered him with extreme caution, and with exaggerated slowness. Yeeeeeeeesssss? Seems to me that you might have a spanking backlogged for that ticket . . . I most certainly do not! I dont have any spankings coming to me, past, present or future. His eyebrow rose at her adamant tone, and his chin lowered almost to his chest. Well talk about this more later, but I think Im right about this. Before she could say yea or nay, he brought his lips to hers in a wonderfully passionate kiss that had her tiptoeing to meet him half way. Shelly felt lit from within by his kiss every capillary was throbbing, making her aware of parts of herself that she hadnt heard from in years, despite her chosen occupation. She didnt know what it was, and wasnt sure she wanted to examine it too closely, yet anyway, but when he was this close to her something in her awakened to a degree that shed never felt before. Even with Dipnod. Joe ended the kiss much too soon, pressing his forehead against hers. I gotta get out of here, or Im going to lay you down on the rug and the devil take anyone who sees us!

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She was feeling exactly the same way, but didnt say so, feeling she was broadcasting how she felt quite enough by quaking and quivering like a schoolgirl in his arms. His hands roamed up and down her upper arms. When can we get together again? Ruefully, she answered, Since I have no life, its all up to your schedule. He grinned down at her. No dates with Denny? He hasnt called since you first asked me. Hopefully hes gotten the hint. Joe! Hes a very nice man. Those full, soft lips smacked against her forehead decisively. Yeah, too nice for you. Shelly feigned insult. Excuse me? You need someone whos strong enough to ride herd on you to take you in hand when you need it. Huffily, I most certainly do not! Quit arguing, darlin. Youll just get yourself into trouble. Another quick, heart jolting kiss and he was out the door, saying, Ill call you when I know when Im gonna be free. Trying not to melt into a puddle on her own doorstep in front of God and everyone, Shelly leaned against the door and watched him walk away from her. It was a beautiful sight. He filled his jeans in a way that few other men shed seen could. All her passion-fuddled mind could think was that he must have one gorgeous butt in there . . . The phone rang and it was a good thing, because otherwise she probably would have spent the rest of the night just staring after him in a daze. She caught it on the third ring. Hello?

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Chapter VII
You deserve to die for writing that smut . . . selling that pornography to women . . . you shouldnt be allowed to live . . . better watch over your shoulder . . . maybe you wont make it through the day . . . Shelly slammed down the button that disconnected the call, then let it come back up so that she had a dial tone in her ear to prevent another call from coming through. She was shaking again, but for an entirely different reason. She knew she should call her Uncle and tell him about it, or call Joe back to her, but really, what could they do? Nothing. Nothing until this guy actually hurt her. With her heart thumping its way out of her chest, she put the phone back down, and it immediately started to ring again. Shelly checked the caller I.D. for the call before this and the current one they were both listed as unavailable. She took a deep breath, trying not to let her fear get a grip on her. Shed just let the machine catch the calls for a while not that she was anticipating any sort of a problem. It took a while for her to completely relax in her own home after those calls, but eventually, as she was snuggled in bed, her mind wandered back to Joe and the feel of those platter sized hands on her. Despite his sheer size, he could have a very gentle touch, when he wanted to, she thought ruefully, thinking of her spanking. And those lips! She felt as if she could happily kiss him forever

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he was an excellent kisser. Not sloppy or tongue happy at all. Thinking about it was driving her crazy as her fertile writers mind imagined what it might be like to sleep with him. This was something new for Shelly. She didnt generally lead with her sexuality, and almost never fantasized about any guy she knew she could do quite enough of that while writing her novels, and her heroes never did anything she didnt want them to! But Joe was different, somehow. He presented the very real possibility that they would be intimate at some time in the future if his current level of interest was any indication. Forget him, if her level of interest was any indication! She had had to change her panties several times already this evening just thinking about him! He was very gentlemanly with her when she wasnt over his lap, so she imagined that hed be very slow and careful in bed . . . maybe . . . Or perhaps hed be more wild and commanding, overwhelming her with those wonderful kisses while plucking at her nipples, then insinuating his hand between her legs insistently . .. Shelly decided that a combination of the two would be perfect. Gentlemanly was great to a point, but what if he didnt really do anything? And dominant was wonderful, as long as it wasnt selfish or abusive. Shed be very surprised if he was that way, anyway, but one never knew. Her mind spent a long while before she was able to get to sleep conjuring flashed of intimate scenes involving Joe and herself the first time he dipped that dark head of his and took her swollen nipple in his mouth . . . what it would feel like to have him lie over her, his weight pressing her down into the mattress. He was so big she hoped she wouldnt feel totally overwhelmed by him. She would be at her most vulnerable when he parted her legs and settled onto her, but hopefully not into her at first. Shelly would want some time to adjust to him, to accustom herself to being covered by a man again.

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Then, once shed settled beneath him, making all the little movements that were necessary for her body to accept the added weight of him, hed reach down between them and position himself at her entrance. She imagined that hed look deep into her eyes as he entered her for the first time, leaning over her on his forearms and flexing his hips to claim her slowly and insistently . . . Shelly groaned loudly, clenching her thighs together with the thought. Finally, she gave up and turned on Food TV, hoping it would distract her from thoughts of him. It was only mildly successful.

But the calls kept coming. That evening she got six in total, each more virulent and violent than the previous, all from unavailable. She popped the tape out of her ancient machine and tucked it away for safe keeping, just in case, then put a blank one in. It got so bad, though, that she literally stopped taking live calls, and even hated listening to her machine because no matter how quick she was on the erase button, she always ended up hearing at least some of the atrocious threats and obscenities contained in the message. The whole situation was making her wary and jumpy especially considering the fact that she had let it go on for a week and hadnt done anything about it and the longer she went without doing what she knew everyone such as Uncle Walt but even more so Joe would want her to do, the harder it was getting to do it. Joe was noticing that something was wrong, most predominantly when she was at home, which he thought was weird. Shed also taken to calling him, and had missed several of his phone calls to her, to the point where he had started to wonder if she wanted to break it off until he confronted her and she denied it vehemently, saying she was just having some phone problems.
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When they went out to dinner, she was pretty relaxed, like the person hed met and started to really, really like: funny, smart, sometimes a wiseass, interested in him and able to converse on a wide range of topics. They were clicking wonderfully. She didnt seem to be intimidated by him at all some women were. He didnt know if it was his overall size or demeanor or the uniform or what. But they covered an incredibly wide range of topics in their discussions while getting to know each other, and found that they agreed about a lot of basic things the importance of family and home was one of the things he was relieved to see that they agreed about. But she wasnt afraid to let him know when she disagreed, either. He grinned to himself when he thought that they could easily discuss what was generally considered to be taboo topics politics and religion without a problem. Probably because they had very similar thoughts along those lines. But he had casually mentioned at the dinner table one night that he liked to hunt and he thought she was going to explode all over the wall behind her. Her eyes got big and he would have sworn he saw steam coming out of her ears. He literally watched her jaw set before she began to speak in a low, angry tone he hadnt heard from her before. The only time I would ever consider supporting hunting would be if I could teach the poor deer to shoot back! Joe couldnt help it he started to laugh, which only made matters worse. Shelly had thrown her napkin down on her half eaten dinner and leaned back in her chair, obviously fuming. He knew he had some fancy backpedaling to do, although he certainly wasnt going to agree with her. Im not laughing at you or your opinion, Shelly-girl. She looked entirely unconvinced, sitting there with her arms folded over her chest, refusing to even look at him. He leaned forward, reaching out to touch his index finger to her chin and force her to look him in the eye. I was laughing because youre usually so laid back and relaxed. Youre so good

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natured. I havent seen you respond so passionately . . . well, since the last time I had you in my arms. Her eyes went wide this time, but not because she was angry. He was certainly right about her level of response to him. Shelly didnt know if it was the fact that it had been an abnormally long while since shed been that close to a man or what, but she was one big over or was that under? sexed nerve when he was around. All he had to do was look at her, she would swear, and shed start to pant. He was incredible, and she was beginning to like him to an almost uncomfortable degree. Shelly had reached that time in her life when she wasnt at all sure she was ever going to find the right person, and she had almost come to grips with it before Joe entered her life. She had the perfect career for her, made good money, and could take care of herself in every way. She had almost succeeded in convincing herself that that was enough. And it was as long as she didnt think of what she was missing. But then she met this annoying, self-assured, smart, stand up man and all of that flew out the window. She was starting to think about what it might be like to spend more than just a few hours with him what it might be like to spend nights with him in particular . . . and months and years. But Shelly knew that if it came to that, she was going to be subject to being disciplined when he thought she should be. They hadnt really discussed it, and it was something they definitely needed to talk about, but they were really still just going through the usual dating ritual of discovering each other, and neither one of them wanted to tackle that more serious subject quite yet, even though hed already spanked her once, and she knew that if she did something he considered to be wrong now, he was even less likely to hesitate to turn her over his knee.

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And she knew that he would consider not telling him about those threatening phone calls to be something shed done wrong. There was no doubt about it. But she also knew that it was rapidly getting to the point that she was going to have to do something about it. The turning point came for her when she found shed missed a call from her editor, Carly. She had taken to pretty much avoiding her answering machine entirely and never answered her phone any more. She had finally weeded through all of those awful calls and found several calls from Carly, starting a day or so ago. Shelly, call me as soon as you get this. I wish youd pick up the damned phone! I just wanted to warn you that someones been bothering several of romance writers I know some with me, some with other editors. Some kook has a stick up his butt about romance novels being pornographic, and I dont know how hes gotten everyones information but hes been calling some of the other writers and leaving terrible messages. And worse than that, Helen Siskel was attacked a few days ago, and she lives down near you. They havent caught the guy, and I just want to make sure that youre okay. CALL ME!!! There were four calls like that, each more desperate than the previous. Shelly called Carly back immediately and let her know that she was fine, telling her that shed gotten some calls not specifying how many or the fact that her answering machine was literally clogged with them and that she was going to take the situation to her uncle, the Chief of Police for the town. She also got the scoop on Helen, who was still in the hospital. Shed been stabbed. I dont know if the FBI should get in on this, or what . . . Carly had said. Shelly downplayed it. Getting the Feds involved just seemed a little over the top. She trusted her uncle with her life to say nothing of Joe and told Carly exactly that.

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They were friends as well as editor and writer, and Carly made her promise to call back sooner rather than later and talk about this new man in her life. After reassuring her that she was fine and was going to go let the Police Department know about the situation, Shelly hung up the phone and sat there on the couch for a long moment. She was in deep, deep trouble, and it wasnt going to be from the stalker.

~~~
About fifteen minutes later, she strolled into the Police Department. Joe was there, and rose from his desk as soon as he saw her, coming around to hug her gently. Hi, honey! This is a wonderful surprise you wanna go to lunch? She did she wanted to go pretty much anywhere except where she was going to go. But Shelly pushed on. She knew what she had to do, dammit. She took a deep breath and tried to smile up at him, but it was a very weak attempt. Joe picked up on that immediately, frowning down at her and squeezing her upper arms. Are you okay? Is everything all right? No, its not. Can I talk to you and Uncle Walt somewhere private? He was wonderfully solicitous, putting his big hand on the small of her back to guide her into the Chiefs office. Walt rose and came from behind his own desk to hug Shelly tightly. Youre bein too much of a stranger around here, Shelly! We need to have lunch Im startin to have withdrawl. His smile was warm and loving, and was a great balm to her nerves. She

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knew shed be lucky to get away with just Joe giving her a spanking when her Uncle heard about what had been going on. Walt noticed her somber demeanor, and ushered her to a chair. Whats going on, Puddin? You look like someone spit on your world, and I know that Joe, here, would never allow that. She couldnt even smile at him, she was so nervous. Fiddling with the strap of her pocketbook, she made her confession in a voice that was so low the two men had to bend closer to hear her. Someones been . . . Ive been getting . . . uh . . . obscene phone calls. Shelly was mortified when her eyes filled with tears. Joe reached for a tissue from the ever present box on his bosss desk and dabbed her eyes himself, reaching for her hand and holding it securely in his, squeezing it occasionally. Not just obscene. Threatening. She fished in her purse and produced three tapes that were full of his calls, giving them to Joe. This is him. His number never comes up in my caller I.D. its always unavailable. I I uh started not answering the phone and just letting the machine get it, and then I hated to listen to my messages. I missed a call yesterday from my editor. Apparently hes doing this to some other romance novel writers, too, not just me. Shelly swallowed hard, and felt Joe squeeze her hand. He uh, well, someone attacked a writer who lives in Mississippi. She was stabbed. The looks on the mens faces was indescribable a combination of concern, shock, and out and out anger. Showing admirable restraint, Walt asked in a tightly controlled voice, When did this all start? Knowing she was digging herself just that much deeper, Shelly sighed. About a week ago. Two masculine jaws clamped shut and began to pulse. She knew this was not good, but then, she thought, what could she expect? Shed pretty much known at the time that she should have called Joe back immediately on the first call, even though he

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probably would have dismissed just one call. But when it became more than that . . . Well, shed screwed up, and she knew that she had it coming. Walt didnt even look at her. He turned to Joe and listed a slew of things that they were going to do from getting in contact with the phone company to getting the paperwork to tap her line as well as get as much surveillance of her place as they could manage to. Joe stopped him right there, saying, I got that covered, in a deadly serious tone while he stared at Shelly angrily. Get Denny in here. I think that even though you trumped him with Shelly here, hell wanna help as much as possible. As it ended up, the entire department got involved in protecting her. The Chief couldnt spare his right hand man all the time even though Joe didnt want to take one step away from Shelly until this creep was found. He was going to be the one who was with her the most, of course, but Denny and the other officers were all pulling shifts, too. Shelly didnt much like the idea of being babysat, especially by Joe, who was likely to take every possible opportunity to spank her even after hed spanked her for this fiasco, but she wasnt dumb enough to open her mouth and protest. She figured that was likely to get her taken over Joes lap in front of her Uncle, who would likely be cheering him on. Joe brought her home in his cruiser and one of the other guys brought her car home. He stopped at his place and brought her in with him. Shelly had always been impressed with his apartment. It was neat as a pin. Hell, it was cleaner than her place by a long shot given shed been renovating, but still. She wasnt a neatnik at all, and it appeared that he was one of those rare men that knew how to pick up his socks after taking them off. She hadnt been here a lot her place was bigger and they just naturally seemed to gravitate there, which was fine by her but she was always amazed by its cleanliness. She took a seat in his

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overstuffed recliner that practically swallowed her up whole while he rummaged in his room. Cmere. It was a command, and Shelly didnt quite jump, but she did beat a hasty path to his room, which was equally neat and tidy if very boringly decorated. Joe wasnt the type to want the fuss or muss of color coordinating things. Shelly knew the first time she saw this place that he certainly wasnt gay, not that shed had any concerns in that area. His sheets and comforter were a mish-mosh of whatever he happened to find in a bargain basement, as far as she could tell. The sheets were red with gold flecks sometimes under his plaid flannel comforter. The furniture was nothing if bare bones functional. His living room had that huge chair and his TV in it and that was pretty much it. Contrasted with her place, that was bright and flowery and excessively coordinated if buried occasionally by paint cans and drop cloths. She had a complete living room set with a cream, mauve, and blue upholstery that had bunches of mauve roses held together with blue ribbons that trailed through out. Her accent furniture coffee tables, end tables, book cases, etc were all a country style bright oak. Shelly hated most of the darker woods except mahogany. Her bedroom was exceptionally frilly and feminine, done in cream and pink roses with green leaves throughout. And everything coordinated with everything else. The living room blended with the dining room and the kitchen and her bedroom and even the guest bedrooms were all done in basically the same colors with different accent colors. All of the patterns shed chosen were almost mix and match. Ah, well, she thought. If being color coordination challenged was his only fault . . . Yes? she asked. Sit, he ordered. I dont want to take my eyes off you for even a second. Apparently you cant be trusted with your own safety.

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Shelly bit her lip. There wasnt really anything she could say in her own defense. Shed proven him right to the point of actually putting her life in danger, to a certain extent. Shelly didnt think she was really in a tremendous amount of danger, but it certainly was the closest brush shed had besides speeding on the highway. Somehow, she couldnt think and maybe it was a self defense mechanism that some loony was out there trying to kill little old her. She just . . . wasnt the type to have a stalker, she didnt think. But the men in her life were taking this very seriously which, she had to admit, was probably a good thing. Even if it did get her spanked, which she figured was a given. But not immediately, she hoped, glancing up at him. He looked too mad to spank her right now. She prayed. Im sorry. At first I didnt He cut her off with a razor sharp look. I dont even want to hear your excuses right now, Shelly, he said tightly, stuffing a bunch of clothes and underwear into a duffel bag. Im going to stay with you at your place while we monitor your phone calls and get some info from the P.D. in Mississippi. And if we think its too dangerous for you to remain there, were going to remove you to a safe house until this guy gets caught. Joe grabbed her hand and practically dragged her towards the door. Shed never thought of the possibility that shed have to leave her house. A safe house? But He turned and nearly bowled her over. Not one word. I dont want to hear anything from you but yes, Sir until this is over. You lost your right to make decisions about this when you decided to keep it a secret and expose yourself to possibly getting killed by this idiot. Shelly knew he was mad, but shed seriously underestimated just how mad. He was furious. He was beyond furious, and it was just a tad bit frightening not that she really
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ever thought that hed hurt her physically in any way. But it was kind of like standing in front of a domesticated panther you knew it was probably going to behave, but it had a lot of potential not to. It was, at heart, a wild thing, and although Joe certainly was button down in a lot of ways, he was very passionate about his work . . . and about Shelly. She was just beginning to realize how passionate he was about her.

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Chapter VIII
The ride to her place was accomplished in an icy silence. When they got to her house, he locked her in the truck, saying, Stay!so sharply that she wanted to bark like a dog back at him, but she held back on the impulse when she saw him draw the gun hed tucked into his belt and start to skirt his way around the house. As Shelly watched him work, she had nothing but admiration for him in the methodical way he checked everything out to make sure it was safe for her, but also in a more visceral manner. He was a damn fine looking man his arms bulged out of his t-shirt because of the two-fisted way he was holding the gun, and her eyes were drawn to his butt every time he crouched down to peer around a corner. He even checked out the perimeter of her property, where it became more wooded, then spent a lot of time in the house before actually coming to get her out of his truck, his gun still drawn. Shelly didnt know what it was about this situation the danger, seeing him being so dominant and commanding (not that he wasnt naturally that way, he was) . . . she hesitated to think it was that lethal looking black gun, but then guns were considered phallic symbols . . . Once they were inside the house, he turned her around and pulled her against him abruptly. Shelly thought that maybe he was going to hug and kiss her, but she was dead wrong. His voice was almost flat when he spoke to her. Stay away from the doors and

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the windows. Do not go out of the house without me. Dont answer the phone unless I tell you to were going to be setting up the tap and surveillance equipment shortly. Do you understand? Yes, Sir. Was that really her sounding so subdued? He turned away from her and began to pull stuff out of the bags hed carted into the house. As he set up the equipment on her phone, Joe couldnt help but watch Shelly surreptitiously. She was wandering listlessly around the house like shed just lost her best friend. But what shed really lost was her sense of personal security. And he knew he hadnt been any help in that area, either. Hed been so mad at her for concealing this from him and putting herself in danger that he had been seeing red since shed admitted it in the Chiefs office. He didnt think he could remember ever being so angry and it was only partially anger. A large part of it was bone deep fear. Even in such a short time, shed become very special to him, and he didnt want to consider the idea that he might lose her. She was a keeper, and that was exactly what he intended to do. He hoped she felt the same way, and kind of had an idea that maybe she did. Things might be progressing a little quickly for her, but hed always known that hed know it when it was right and this was feeling very right, although not at this very moment. Joe did everything he could to get things set up, hoping that keeping himself involved and not glaring at Shelly would help her settle down some, but that only happened to a certain extent. She sat down on her couch, but still looked wan and forlorn and scared. It was there in the back of her eyes, and Joe hurried himself along as much as he could. The need to comfort her was almost tangible. Some of the other officers came by to help him set things up and man the van that would actually be taping and tapping her line. Finally, everything was ready for the next phone call. He walked over and turned on the ringer, which he had noticed had been shut

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off, then slowly walked over to sit down next to her, gathering her unresisting body to his for a big bear hug, and rocking her gently back and forth while he rubbed her back. Shelly didnt like to cry in front of people, but as soon as he hugged her, that battle was lost. Tears literally poured out of her eyes and onto his blue t-shirt. She hadnt realized just how scared she had been until someone had come in to relieve her of that awful burden of fear. She felt safe and protected within the confines of his strong arms. Joe tipped her face up to his, saying softly, Im not going to let anything happen to you, sweetie. It was the first thing hed said in a nice tone of voice since shed told them about what had been happening. She swallowed hard. Thanks. I I know I should have told you sooner about the phone calls, but I kinda went into denial about it, I guess. I mean, who am I to have a stalker? Im this writer of fluff . . . you would think the loonies would go after Steven King, but someone who writes romances? Thats just wrong. You never can tell whats going to set someone off, hon. But thats not your problem. Well take care of it. Youre safe. I know. Those two words warmed Joes heart like nothing had in a long time. He liked knowing that she felt he could take care of her. It was important to him that he could do that for her. But he did feel it was necessary to add, But youre going to get the spanking of your life when this is over. You do realize that, dont you? Youll be lucky if I dont spank you every night for a month for being so foolish. Shelly nodded slowly, stiffening with the idea for a moment, then relaxing back against him as he soothed and rubbed. Then the phone rang.

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Joe would have given years off his life not to have seen that look on her face. She started within his arms, going entirely stiff, her eyes abnormally wide, as if shed seen a ghost, and her normally healthy glow became a pasty pallor. Its okay. You dont have to answer it. I will. Shelly was surprised that he didnt say anything when he picked up the receiver he was even careful not to breathe into it. All he wanted to do was monitor it and see if the man was stupid to talk long enough for them to get a tracer on it. But the guy wasnt stupid, and he hung up just before they would have been able to find out exactly where he was. But there were still things they could do through the phone company, and he was going to pull out all the stops and call in every favored owed to him to make sure that this woman was safe. He wasnt about to lose her now, after just finding her. He hung up the phone and called the van with his cell, confirming what he already knew they hadnt been able to get a trace. Theyd try again with every call until the guy slipped up. The problem was that he could be just down the street. When he let Denny go, he looked at Shelly, who resembled a statue. She was just sitting there, stone still, biting her lip, silent tears tracing down her cheeks. Joe pulled her up and into his arms, rocking and patting he, squeezing her tightly until she calmed down. Shhhhhhh. You dont have to handle this all alone, Shellygirl. Im right here and Im going to keep you safe. She nodded wetly against his shoulder. Joe didnt want her to dwell on the situation, so he encouraged her towards as much normalcy as possible. How about some grub, woman? Here I am, working and slaving my fingers to the bone, wasting away before your eyes . . . He was gratified to hear her derisive snort. Wasting away? Where? Youre solid as a brick sh she stopped in the middle of the word at just a look from him out house and Im just talking

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about your head! She got a smart swat to her bottom for that comment as she rose to go rustle up something for them both to eat. She threw herself into making a complete dinner for him spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread, and a small salad, as well as some left over cream cheese cookie bars for dessert. She had only set the table for the two of them, but as they sat down, Shelly asked with a frown, Shouldnt we invite Denny and whoever else in? They probably should, but Joe sure didnt want to. Do we have enough? She always cooked enough food for an army, since shed grown up cooking for her family, which had included Dad and Evan those two could eat their way through most anything at any time. Sure there is. Joe took his seat at the head of the table. Well, Ill bring some out to them when were done, then. Shelly shrugged and sat down. Dinner was more strained than it had ever been between them, although Joe tried to keep the topics of conversation light. He kept teasing her about wanting to read one of her books, but somehow Shelly couldnt see him even touching a bodice buster like what she wrote, much less actually reading one. They talked about his work everything but what he was doing for her now and Walt and Rose and he told her some town gossip about who was doing what to whom, where, and for how long. Shelly had forgotten what life in a small town was like everyone knew everything about everyone else. There was absolutely no avoiding it. She frowned deeply, wondering if everyone would eventually learn that her husband spanked her. She amazed herself with the thought because she was already thinking of Joe as her husband! She the one who had pretty much sworn off marriage forever. And shed only known him for a few weeks, for crying out loud!!! The man was insinuating his way

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into every aspect of her life and it was only a matter of time before he found his way into her bed. That thought made Shelly choke on her iced tea. Joe seemed to take enormous pleasure in reaching over to pat her on the back hard. Im okay, Im okay, she protested, batting his arm away. Youre fire engine red whats the problem? he asked, eying her sharply. Nothing. Im fine, she wheezed, clearing her throat. Why is it that Im hesitant to believe you, do you think? Joe gave her a considering look, his eyebrow raised towards the sky. Shelly huffed and puffed. I didnt lie to you about the phone calls, Joe. I just . . . didnt mention it. Yeah, didnt mention it until it gets to the point where the guy might be coming to kill you. She really didnt need to hear that. I know, I know. And Im sorry. I can tell you that you will be very sorry and very sore when this is over. Youre going to be lucky if you can sit down for He stopped his tirade because she wasnt just looking unhappy over the possibility the reality of getting a spanking, she was starting to get that scared look again that hed seen when the phone rang. Joe leaned over and scooped her out of her chair, arranging her to his liking on his lap, and Shelly was very happy to be on it instead of over it. He wrapped his arms around her waist and cuddled her to him. He hated to see the fear creeping into her eyes, but he knew that, realistically, it wasnt likely to go away any time soon even if they caught this guy within the next five minutes. Shed been traumatized, and her basic feeling of security had been severely undercut. But if he had his way, he was going to make sure that it was as restored as it could be. Hed stay here as

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long as she needed him, and hed hold her even when she didnt know she needed it. He ran his hand up and down her back slowly, encouraging her to relax against him. Its going to be okay, baby. I promise. Joe was shocked to realize that it was on the tip of his tongue to tell her that he loved her. Hed never really even come close to saying that to any other woman. And he ached to say it to her, but felt it was still a little too early in their relationship. He didnt want to scare her off. Shed been scared enough lately, and she didnt need to deal with him escalating their relationship that way right now, although he certainly was thinking of escalating it in a different, purely physical way. The phone rang, and he squeezed her tight as she jumped, and rose to deposit her with every care into her own chair at the table. Again, he monitored the call, but the guy was too slippery for them. Denny came to the door once Joe had gotten off his cell, and his knock made Shelly jump again. Joe wrapped his arm around her waist and they answered the door in tandem, which made Shelly a little uncomfortable since she and Denny had started dating first. But Denny didnt seem to harbor any ill will at all, which was great. Got some faxes from the P.D. in Tulla. It does appear that hes headed here. Joe wanted to strangle him for saying that in front of Shelly, but he had to settle for giving him a look that clearly said he was dead when Joe got a hold of him. Denny could be a little obtuse sometimes, so he really didnt know what Joe had suddenly gotten a bug up his butt about, but he was sure that Joe would tell him when the time comes, in no uncertain terms. Having heard that she was definitely being stalked by someone who had already seriously injured another person gave

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Shelly pause for thought. She sank down into her comfortable chair and just stared for a long while. Joe continued to talk to Denny, but when he saw where Shelly was, he eased over to her, leaning on the arm of the chair and draping his own arm around her shoulders. They continued to talk shop about her, which was just about as weird as it could get as far as she was concerned. Apparently they were scheduling extra officers to patrol her street and the outside of the house, plus they had an All Points Bulletin out so that everyone would be on the look out for the guy. Harrison Tate. It was the first time shed heard his name, but Shelly knew it wouldnt be the last. Joe was doing his level best to help her not panic, but Shelly wasnt at all sure she could cope with this. She had never thought that being a writer would get her anything but recognition in a very niche part of society that read romances, and perhaps a reasonable living. She hadnt signed up for the psycho serial killer part, she was quite sure of that. It was only about eight oclock, but she was wiped. Suddenly, she stood up. Wherere you going? Both men asked immediately, rising as if they were ready to do battle for her. Upstairs. Im wiped, Shelly explained with a yawn. Ill be up in a minute, Joe called after her. It was a tribute to how exhausted she was all of a sudden that the only reaction she registered to that comment was that her eyebrow rose just a bit. Otherwise, she was having everything she could do to concentrate on getting up the stairs and into bed. Once in her room, she pulled all the blinds down and took out her rattiest, most favorite granny summer nightgown. It was light cotton, but floor length and sleeveless. One of the first renovations that she had made to the house was to put in central air, so at least she wouldnt swelter in the summers like she had as a

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kid. The next part of her bedtime ritual was the bathroom, where she removed the light layer of make up shed put on to go see Walt and Joe, brushed out her hair, and brushed her teeth. By the time she was done and just turning off the light as she walked into the bedroom, Joe was strolling into her bedroom, as casually as could be. Shelly put her hands on her hips, feeling the distinct disadvantage of only wearing a nightgown while she was trying to confront him. Ahem. What? Joe was in the middle of divesting himself of his t-shirt. Shelly sincerely wished hed kept the damned thing on! His chest was perfection, broad and muscular but not freakishly so and very lightly dusty with a fine brown hair. It was a horrid distraction, draining her indignation at his high handedness in coming up here without so much as a by your leave. What are you doing here? He was already working on his belt. I thought that would be obvious to even the most casual observer. Im getting undressed. His last sentence was delivered as if he was addressing someone with an impaired mental capacity. When his pants fell, Shelly turned around, trying not to make it look like she was a prude, but not quite pulling it off. Uh, do you mind? Mind what? Putting some clothes on! She couldnt tell what he was doing anymore with her back to him, so she didnt know if he was doing as shed said or not. But shed bet he wasnt. Shelly, youre in your nightgown. Nobody I know sleeps in their clothes. I thought you were tired and wanted to go to bed?

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Despite herself, she whirled around, keeping her eyes staunchly on his face. I do! But not with you! That didnt come out quite the way she wanted it to. She didnt want him to think that shed never sleep with him, or that she wasnt interested in it in the least. She was! But not now. I I mean, I want to sleep alone. Nothing she had said so far had had much of an effect on him. He had turned and folded his shirt and jeans, and was standing in front of her, practically gloriously naked, mirroring her stance, with his hands on his hips. Youre very sure about that? Im not trying to push myself on you, darlin. I just figured that youve been so scared today that you might want someone to hold you in the night. Joe move towards her, slowly, his hand extended out to her. He stood at arms length, that seeking hand cupping her cheek in a comforting, completely non-threatening way. If youre really sure that youll be okay tonight . . . he began, drawing her into his arms so that their nearly naked bodies pressed against each other. I promise I wont paw you or anything like that. All I want to do is keep you safe. It would kill me to think of you shaking or shivering or crying in the night because youre scared. And I know you better now you wouldnt come and get me, would you? Shelly hated to admit it, but he was probably right. And, dear God, it felt so good to be held in his arms! She couldnt help but nuzzle against his chest, settling against him, not even hugging him, but letting him hug her, drawing all of the comfort and strength from him that he so freely offered. Do you trust me when I say I wont make this sexual, Shelly? he asked, pulling away to catch her eye. It might not be the right time to say this, but I do want you. Badly. He watched Shelly color delicately at that statement. I dont think thats much of a revelation, though. You can probably tell I can barely keep my hands off you!

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The feeling is definitely mutual, you know, she whispered tentatively, staring at his chest rather than meeting his eyes. Joe caught her lips with his and caught her up in a wonderfully slow, sensuous kiss. His lips were always just right on hers not too wet, not too hard or soft . . . He coaxed her mouth open just the barest of bits and slid his tongue through that moist opening to gently dual with hers. Shelly moaned, feeling her body begin to moisten and ready itself for him. Her entire lower body was throbbing with its own cadence in counter time to her heart, making her want to try to squeeze her legs together to ease the ache he was creating. He pulled back and gave her a rueful smile. Did I just say I wasnt going to make this sexual? He cleared his throat and stepped just a bit away from her, putting up his fingers in the form of a cross. Back! You, woman, are just too much for this poor country boy to resist. His mischievous smile showed Shelly what he mustve looked like as a little boy. Shelly snorted. Riiiiiiight. Im definitely a Northern siren come down here to corrupt yall . . . Joe trailed the side of his index finger down her cheek, suddenly serious. Do you want me to sleep in the guest room tonight, Shelly-girl? She did, but she didnt. Shelly stared at the carpet as if it had the answer to her dilemma, brushing her toe along the knap lazily. You promise there wont be any wandering hands? He held one hand up, palm out, the other palm went over his heart, as if he was taking a formal oath. I promise that no matter how much I want to ravish you in the night, I wont. Ill take a thousand and one cold showers before and after. But I wont push you. Sensing the way she was thinking, he moved closer to her again. This is not a night for sex, anyway. This is an night were I reassure you that you are very, very safe with me. This

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place is practically a fortress now, and you have the whole force looking out for you. But Im your personal bodyguard. You dont look a bit like Kevin Costner. Joe, who generally eschewed movies unless they were about sports, and even then, was lost by the reference. Shelly patted his shoulder at his confused look. Forget it. I forgot youre movie-challenged. She stood at the end of her bed, which, considering his size, she was glad was king sized. Which side of the bed do you want?

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Chapter IX
e considered the situation much more seriously than she expected, eying the door. Normally I would put myself in front of the door, so that you were behind me if someone knocked the door down. But your bed faces the door, so I dont suppose it matters much. If someone comes in the door, Im just going to push you behind me anyway it doesnt really matter which way. Youre going to push me behind you? She was amazed that he would sacrifice himself for her. Of course. Im here to protect you, sweetie. What did you think that meant? Shelly guessed she really hadnt explored that idea very carefully, and she wasnt sure she wanted to. At least not right now. Do you have a personal preference, then? He shook his head. Then I want the left side. I sleep on my right and I dont want to be facing the inside of the bed when I do it. Okaaaaaay . . . It made no never mind to him. He was just looking forward to the idea of holding her while they slept, even if he knew he was going to be fighting himself and his baser instincts all evening. He helped her get into bed, tucking her in as if she was a child. But as he was arranging things on the night

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stand his cell, a beeper, and the gun hed had earlier tucked in his pants, he made a sudden dash for the door. Shelly watched him go, wondering what had happened could she have said something wrong? Had she picked the wrong side of the bed, somehow? It wasnt until she heard the shower that she realized just what he was doing, and when he slid into bed, he was shivering, and her suspicions were confirmed. Joe, you didnt need to do that! She hated the idea that he had to take a cold shower in order to sleep with her. He drew her against him, her back to his front. His mouth was perfectly positioned at her ear. Yeah, I did, or Id be poking at you all night. Shelly laughed softly through another blush. She seemed to be continually bright red around this man either set of her cheeks, she thought ruefully. It had been a very long time since shed slept with anyone in the literal sense of the word. But it didnt seem that there was much of an adjustment to be made. Shelly had never liked to be held while she slept probably because she slept like a windmill and was able to dislodge the fitted sheet all on her own. She didnt know what it was - probably the tension and fear but she fell asleep within minutes while Joe stroked her hair gently. The shrill sound of his cell jolted her out of an extremely sound sleep, and set her trembling immediately even though it wasnt the sound of her own phone. Joe grabbed her arm as she bolted upright, trying to both answer the phone and soothe her at the same time. What? he practically yelled into the phone, gathering her against his body and into a one armed hug. Where? Then a few seconds later, When?

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Shelly was trying her best to stop shaking. It was a stupid, unnecessary reaction. She couldnt fall apart every time a phone rang. It just wouldnt work. Yeah. We need to move her. Right now. Yep. Ill get on it. He hung up. That didnt sound at all good to Shelly. Not at all. And it was sounding even worse when he got up and started dressing. We think that guy is somewhere close, Joes face was set in grim lines. Were taking you to a safe house. We want to try to trap this guy. Then shouldnt I be here? She thought Joe was going to have an apoplectic fit at that suggestion. As bait? Hell, no, woman! Are you trying to get yourself killed? No, of course not Get up and get dressed, quickly and quietly, he ordered, already almost out the door. For your information, were going to have one of the policewomen on the force Sarah whos about your build and coloring - put a wig on and pretend to be you. Shes trained to handle situations like this. You arent and I dont think Id let you even if you were. Shelly wasnt sure whether she should be outraged at his little statement or not. It was kind of a moot point, and except for this aberration her occupation could hardly be called risky. But if she did have that type of an occupation, she didnt want him thinking that he could say something like that to her and just walk away. But when she finally caught up with him at the front door, she could see that he was already all business. There were two other officers already in the house, and all three of them surrounded her until they got to the cruiser, where they tucked her in the back.

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Hey, Im not a criminal! she complained as the door swung shut. It didnt seem as if she had much choice in the matter. The safe house turned out to be his apartment. Shelly chuckled when she realized where they had ended up. Safe house, huh? He was not amused. Yes. This guys not going to know that youre seeing a police officer. Hell have no idea that youre here. Plus, Kayla is going to stay with you, just in case. But I dont expect any trouble at all. He had preceded her into the apartment and now she was just following him in like a puppy dog. Why arent you staying with me? Shelly had to admit that she really preferred having him around to anyone else at all. Joe made her feel protected with his mere presence. No one else but Uncle Walt would be able to do that for her. Because Im going back there to try to catch the bastard. I hope I get to be the one who blows him off the face of the Earth. Shelly walked over to him and hugged him tightly. Im fine. Nothings happened to me but a little . . . a little home-grown terrorism. He looked very uncomfortable at that reference, so she stepped back. Where am I to sleep? My room, of course. He reached in and turned on the light for her. Make yourself comfortable. Its just a bed. Joe didnt know why hed added that exactly, but it was true. His place wasnt a home in the making like hers was. It was just a place to live. He had no emotional attachment to it whatsoever. But he did like the idea that she was lying safe in his bed while he was rounding up the creep who had threatened her. And he sincerely hoped that what hed said before came true that he got a chance to blow the man away.

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The officer he had arranged to stay with her arrived shortly, and she seemed to be a nice enough person. Shelly thought she hadnt had so many people watching after her since she was a little girl. He kissed her a quick, sharp good bye at the door. Shelly didnt want to let him go. You be careful! She was going to be up the rest of the night worrying about him, she knew it. If they ended up marrying him, she was somehow going too have to come to terms with being a cops wife. This situation was making her face up to that idea. How does anyone do that kiss the person that the loved the most good bye every morning, not knowing if they were ever going to see that person again? Shellys head was aching with the thought. She could feel a visit to Miss Rose coming on. Joe smiled down at her. I will, Shelly-girl. I will. Although she did stay up and chat with Kalya for a while, eventually, despite the worry, she ended up sleeping in Joes bed, in her bra and underwear. The bed smelled of him of more than just the spicy aftershave he favored, but of the essence of him. Shelly tried to divine where he most likely slept, and curled up towards the middle of the bed, feeling surround by him and falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Shelly never felt or heard another thing, until someones warm lips were pressed to that sensitive spot just beneath her ear. God, I love the sight of you in my bed, he breathed over her. Still almost completely asleep, Shelly turned towards the source of the voice. The source was warm and hard and pulsingly alive, and it gathered her to him and began to nibble down her neck, tickling her something terrible.
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It was the giggling that really woke her. He was nibbling her neck like a corn cob in the summer and it was making her shake with laughter. But when their lips met, all amusement faded into the sunrise. Shelly finally opened her eyes and looked at him, and he filled her vision, and her world. She threw her arms around him and hugged him as tightly as she possible could. He was safe. He was safe! What? What is it? Are you scared? You dont need to be any more; we got him. Hell never threaten you again, sweetheart. Never again. Hes going to be in jail for a very long time. Shelly was surprised to feel tears trailing down her cheeks. No, I wasnt worried for myself. Just for you. She looked up into his face, cupping his cheek in her palm. I couldnt bear the idea that something might happen to you because of me. Oh, hon, if somethings going to happen to me, Id rather it be in defense of you than anything else. He held her close and fitted her body to his, nose to toe. But this was more serious than just her worrying about him being out last night trying to find the man who wanted to kill her. But it appeared now was not the time for that discussion, because Shelly was pretty distraught she was clinging to him, and he found that that was not necessarily a bad thing. There was nothing he wanted more in this world at this moment than to lay her back and explore her luscious body. She was softness everywhere he was hard, opposing him naturally. He could feel her generous breasts pressed to his chest, see them swelling above her bra if he bothered to look down, but he tried not to. Her notch was pressed against his throbbing erection, and it made him have to fight the urge to buck against her. Instead he leaned back, setting her away from him. She looked stunned, rejected. Joe? Her arms reached for him.

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Joe swallowed hard. Sweetie, I I told you that I wouldnt make this into a sexual thing . . . but Im a man not a saint. Shelly slid over to him, pressing herself up against him again, kissing him deeply. Good, because its the man I want right now. Joe didnt need to be told twice. His arms came up around her, and he turned, laying her down onto the bed. It was where hed wanted to have her since theyd been dating, which wasnt that long, but it seemed like ages to him. He didnt touch her at first, didnt grope or grab, just watched her, drinking her in. She was beautiful. Not as thin as convention would prefer, but then he wasnt convention. She certainly wasnt fat, just pleasantly rounded in all the right places in all the places where he was more angular and sharply planed. She sat up quickly and removed her bra and shinnied out of her panties without him ever having to ask her to do it. Then she gestured softly, expectantly at him, and touched his shirt. Joe didnt think hed ever gotten naked so fast in his life. When he turned back to her, she was gazing at him like he held the sun in his hands, and more than anything in his life at this moment, he wanted to live up to the hopes he saw in her eyes. You are gorgeous, he breathed, reaching out to touch her shoulder with just his fingertips. He said it with such conviction she almost almost believed him. Thank you, but she was about to list all of her faults. His index finger settled over her open mouth. Shhh. No buts. You are. Shelly closed her mouth, staring into his eyes raptly. So are you, she breathed. And he was and so wasnt everything he did to her. When she had imagined not so long ago - what he might be like when they first made love, she came pretty darned close to
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the truth. He was a marvelous combination of dominance and slow, careful loving. He touched her as if she was delicate china, just with his fingertips for a long time, learning her curves and contours, staking his claim on her in a subtle, gentle manner, not forgetting one inch of her exposed skin but dwelling in some areas longer than others. Her turgid raspberry nipples seemed to fascinate him, and they were standing upright hoping to garner his attention. The teasing, feathery motions of his fingertips over them nearly drove her mad. She longed for him to roll them, pulling them just slightly between his thumb and forefinger, just enough to ease the ache he was creating. It took him a long time to do what she was craving, but Shelly had a feeling that he wouldnt have taken her hint anyway he hadnt done anything while she writhed and arched beneath his tender attentions. Apparently, Joe wouldnt be rushed, and she wasnt sure whether that was a good thing or not at this exact moment. When he finally began to pluck and tug those nipples with incredible finesse, Shelly moaned loudly and clenched his hand to her breast, hoping to encourage him to do more of that. Every move he made was amplifying the throbbing between her legs until she could no longer keep them together as she did naturally. Shellys legs fell open naturally when he began to lightly pinch her nipples. Joe wondered what shed do when he took on of the enticing buds into his mouth. He got his answer seconds later as he drew her right nipple through his warm wet lips with a firm tug of his lips. She arched almost completely off the bed, almost crying she was moaning so loudly. Joe marveled at how responsive she was it seemed like everything he did made her absolutely crazy it was inflating his ego incredibly. But then, every whimper, every moan, every twist and turn of her lithe body sent electrical currents through him, too, settling

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at the apex of his thighs. Hed been full and ready since hed joined her on the bed. The throbbing ache of his loins was what was giving him the impetus to explore every part of her he could possible get to, and some he probably couldnt quite yet. Although he wanted to take forever with her, his penis wasnt going to let him. He thought he could spend at least a lifetime exploring her and her reactions to what he wanted to do to her. Just not now. His genitals were issuing imperatives to his body that were as old as time, and they werent interested in the finer arts of lovemaking. He wanted to be inside her, and as soon as possible, but before they joined he wanted to be sure that she was ready to receive him. He trailed his hand down the center of her body from breast to pubic bone, tickling a little along the way, then stopping just at the top of that gentle mound. He bent over and captured a nipple in his mouth at the same time his fingers delved into that cleft for the first time, spreading her open just slightly, just enough that his third finger could slide down the center, up and over that swollen bit of flesh causing Shelly to convulse and groan then further down and into a pool of her warm honey. He had to stop himself from smiling it seemed she wanted him as much as he wanted her. It was time. Joe caught Shellys face between his palms as he shifted his position and laid himself on top of her, not entering quite at first, but placing himself at the gates of Heaven so that he wouldnt have to adjust awkwardly later. Joe wasnt sure exactly what was coming over him, beyond the incessant need to drive into her, but at that moment, when they were close to being as intimate as was physically possible between humans, words hed never meant as much as he did at this very moment bubbled over in his brain and out his mouth. I love you, Shelly. She didnt have much time to react to what he was saying because of what he was doing sliding into her with excruciating
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slowness. It had been a while a long while, and she was glad that he was taking his time, but it was also driving her crazy exciting every nerve along his path. She had to restrain herself from moving to meet him. She desperately wanted to respond with her own declaration of love, but he was voiding both her breath and her mind. Shed never felt such a complete and total bond from the simple act of coupling, but then, with them, it wasnt simple. He loved her. He loved her! A guttural moan was torn from her throat as he finally seated himself completely within her, rocking slightly side to side to make sure he was as far inside her as he could get. He was not a small man in all ways and the stretching and accommodating her body had to do in order to accept him was one of the most pleasurable experiences of her life. Shelly didnt think hed need to do anything further to pleasure her, but then he started to move and not only did he blow her mind with his strong, sure strokes, but he angled himself so that he could reach between them and just lay his fingers over her clit. They naturally moved back and forth with his own movements and Shelly could feel the tremendous storm that was gathering beneath them, inexorably pushing her towards her own explosion as he drove on towards his. She was aching and tingling and panting and surging beneath him, meeting every thrust with one of her own, aching unbearably and anticipating that first huge clench when it hit her, and she screamed as if she was dying, as if he was killing her, and he was with pleasure. The thought flashed in the back of her mind as to whether she could survive this, but then she realized she didnt much care. If she died at this moment, she would be blissfully happy, dying in the arms of a man that loved her in the middle of one of the most beautiful, spiritual, sensual experiences of her life. She wrapped her arms around him as he strove for his own completion, reaching down to that perfect bottom and squeezing the hard curves just to hear him groan, tickling the small

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of his back and trailing her fingernails back up to those broad as a barn shoulders. Joe had lost himself in her hed become the pursuit of the unimaginable bliss of being inside her. Hed never felt this way about any other women no other woman had pleased him so just by being with him, and being beneath him. Entering her, feeling her surrounding him, gripping him with her soft welcoming warmth nearly made him lose control right then and there. He had to steel himself against the end nearly resorting to multiplication tables in his mind, but not quite because he didnt want to distract himself from this experience. He wanted to feel all of it, even if the end came ignominiously early for him. He wanted to be in the moment for all of it but towards the end the excruciating pleasure nearly overwhelmed him, and those age old urges took over, pushing him to plunge into her at a frantic pace, reaching beneath her hips to pull her even closer, and himself even deeper. He wanted to meld into her, wanted to bring her into him as surely as he was inside her. When it happened, he threw back his head and yelled like he hadnt since he was an adolescent and first experiencing this exotic explosion, bucking into her almost mindlessly. He could feel her arms around him, the way she clung to him, and it added to his pleasure. He convulsed within her several more times until he could no longer support himself on his arms and he collapsed down onto her. Shelly oofed a little when he landed, but tried to do it as quietly as she could. She wouldnt make him move for anything in the world. He was exactly where she wanted him still intimately connected to her and as exhausted as she was by their lovemaking. Lovemaking. Sex. Pregnancy. Babies. Holy crap! she thought, not realizing that shed whispered it aloud.

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Lazily, Joe lifted himself up onto his elbow to stare down at her with a curious look on his face. Thats a reaction Ive never gotten before . . . Normally, Shelly would have laughed, but the possible consequences of what theyd done were too serious. Holy crap, we didnt use any birth control! Joe rolled just slightly to the side when he noticed that she wasnt breathing as well as she should and realized that he was probably the cause, considering that he was probably more than twice her size. He didnt seem to be particularly worried. In fact, he just looked self satisfied, and his hand began to rub her relatively flat belly almost expectantly. Shelly smacked his hand away. She was not amused. Shed never been so irresponsible in her life. Even if pregnancy wasnt a concern and she didnt quite understand why it wouldnt be; it wasnt like they were married there were still sexually transmitted diseases to be wary of. She couldnt believe that they had both lost their heads to quite that extent. She liked to think of herself as a responsible adult, but then someone touched her intimately and every intelligent thought shed ever had flew out the window in favor of gratification of her baser instincts. Joe grabbed the hand that had smacked him and brought the back of it to his lips. Shelly-girl, this isnt really how I thought I might ask you, and I dont have a ring on me, but will you marry me?

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Chapter X
hocked, she pulled away from him so that she could look more directly into his eyes. Then she realized the reasoning behind his impromptu proposal and relaxed. You dont have to ask me to marry you just because I might be pregnant. Im not, he said firmly, putting his palm back over her stomach. That would be a wonderful bonus, but thats not at all why Im proposing. He looked her straight in the eye. I love you. I love you more than any person Ive ever met. If you accept, I hope youre going to keep me on my toes for the next hundred years or so. I want to be with you always I want to watch over you and take care of you and spank you which well get to later. I want to love you and have children with you and raise them and laugh and cry and talk and argue . . . Tears flooded Shellys eyes. She couldnt believe he was asking this right now. It was too soon, wasnt it? How can you know that? You barely know me. He sighed and raised himself up on his elbow. I know you better than you think. I know that your Uncle thinks that the sun rises and sets on you, and Dennys not that far behind him. Im ahead of them both, though, he caressed her cheek tenderly while gazing into her eyes. I know that family is very important to you even if matters of your own safety arent so much, he said, giving her a warning look, and I know that youll keep me hopping I cant see every being bored with you, youre too naturally naughty.
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I am not! She smacked his shoulder lightly in protest. Youre just overprotective, just like my father and my uncle. Sheesh! Keeping you alive is not being overprotected, my dear. He was looking at her from under hooded lids, his chin tucked down towards his chest, and she knew he was right but wasnt about to give him the satisfaction of admitting it. Yeah, well, was all she could come up with in response. Not to get off track from my proposal which you have yet to accept, he hinted loudly, but you are in a tremendous amount of trouble from this, you know. I think Uncle Walt might want a piece of your butt for this, and Im not so sure Im going to deny him the satisfaction. Shelly refused to meet his eyes. She knew shed been wrong to keep the situation to herself for so long, and she figured she was just going to have to suck it up and take what was coming to her. But I dont want to get onto that right now. Well take care of it later. Right now, Id like to know your answer. Seconds later, he added belatedly but not apologetically, Please. His addendum made Shelly giggle. He was nothing if not demanding. He must come by it naturally being a cop. I have to answer you immediately? Well, unless you want me to follow you around asking you every ten seconds for the rest of your days . . . Is that what youre going to do if I say no? Joe didnt want to think about that possibility. If you say no, Ill understand. I know youre still hurting from what Russ did to you, and Im sorry about that. If you want me to go deck him, I will. But Ill back off for a little while, but Ill be asking again. I want us to be married and have kids and spend our lives together. I think Ive wanted that since

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Not since you stopped me for speeding, I can tell you that, Shelly snorted. Nope. Not since then. Since I saw you at your Uncles that night laughing and talking to everyone. The way your Uncle and Miss Rose feel about you was written all over their faces, and I realized there was a lot more to you than an annoying painted face literally. Shelly literally ached to say yes to him, but her unhappy past niggled at the back of her mind. But her feelings for him were crowding her throat, desperate to be spoken and accepted by him. She reached out to ruffle her fingers through that thick black hair of his. I love you. Joe turned her palm to his lips, saying in a grateful whisper, Thank you. But I was worried there was going to be a but, he added good naturedly. Shelly watched his face and looked deeply into his eyes. Shed been all set to tell him that she needed more time, that she wanted to marry him, eventually, but not just now. That he should ask her again in six months or so, maybe a year, when shed gotten used to the idea. But if this incident with the stalker had reinforced anything about life to her, it was that it was not to be taken for granted. Not any hour or minute or second of it, because one never knew when the end was coming, whether it was at the end of an assassins knife, or a car accident or a long slow illness. Every single instant was precious, and not to be wasted. Yes. He looked like shed just hit him upside the head with a fish. Yes? he parroted back to her, not quite believing that shed just agreed to marry him.
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Yes, Joseph Lincoln William Ryan Anderson, Id be honored to be your wife. He grabbed her up and kissed her, pulling her up to kneel on the bed with him, grabbing her hands in his and squeezing them tight. You really mean it? Youre sure? Shelly raised her eyebrow at him. Are you looking a gift bride in the mouth? Yes, Im sure. Ive wanted you since I first noticed your gorgeous butt. And I think Ive loved you . . . since you spanked me for speeding. You have? Why didnt you say something? Because I didnt really know how you were feeling about me, and I didnt want to be the only one saying I love you. That really would make it awkward. Joe nodded. Yeah, I can understand that. I felt the same way. I figured that spanking you set me back quite a ways. Shelly lay back down, taking him with her, but only because he allowed it. She certainly could never move him against his will. Well, it certainly wasnt my favorite experience in life, Ill tell you what. Joe grinned, thinking she sounded like her Uncle, using that statement. But . . . it made me realize that you were paying attention to me. With Russ, I could have stood on my head and spit nickels and he would have walked right by me on the way to someone else. Anyone else would do anyone but me was great in his book. He could feel her stiffen in his arms at the memory and hugged her tight, rubbing her back soothingly. But you not only keep track of what I did, but you bothered to take the time to make sure I understood that it wasnt acceptable to you even before you had that right, really. He nodded.

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Its . . . love. In one of its purest forms, as far as Im concerned. Youre very right, although I didnt quite love you at that point. I was just worried about you and about your Uncle. Hed be devastated if something happened to you to say nothing of how Id feel. Id just about curl up and die, I swear. He was hugging her so hard that she could barely breathe, then backed off, but not a lot. So, when are we going to get married? he asked, sounding as excited as a little boy who was about to go to a toy store.

~~~
The decided to get married in about six months so that they would have time to get everything arranged. It was Shellys second wedding, but Joes first, and he wanted the whole enchilada from bridal showers to a honeymoon in some exotic place. He even insisted that she find a real wedding gown when she told him that she was planning on just wearing something formal, but not a real wedding gown. Joes attitude about the wedding was surprising to Shelly: he wanted to be involved in all parts of it. He never really deviated from what she wanted at all, but he went with her as she decided on flowers and invitations. He told her hed wear anything she wanted, and when they went to pick out his tux, he was infinitely patient with the fact that she made him try all sorts of different things on, finally settling on a long black mourning coat that accented the depth and breadth of his shoulders, with a starched white tuxedo shirt beneath it, and a gray vest. When he had the entire ensemble on and turned around to face her, she nearly lost

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her breath. He was incredibly gorgeous. She couldnt believe he wanted to marry her! But she should have, considering that just after their first intimate encounter and his surprising proposal, he brought up where they were going to live. It ended up the way it made sense he moved into her house, but also insisted on paying her for half of the house, so that they both owned it, and they were both on the deed. He then threw himself into finishing the renovations that she had begun and was piece mealing at best. They wanted to have the house done in time to have the wedding and reception there. She was going to come down the stairs she had run up and down as a little girl, guided by Uncle Walt, and delivered into her eager husbands hands in the living room where her family had laughed and cried for nearly two decades. Living with him was an adventure and was somewhat nerve wracking for Shelly, who was having a hard time adjusting to being a cops wife. She did go and talk to Miss Rose, though, and the older woman settled her nerves, reminding her that this was not a big city and although tragedies happened, it was less likely that they would happen here than if their men were officers of the law in New York. Besides, shed said, patting the younger womans hand, you could lose them if they stepped of a curb and got hit by a bus. At least theyre happy doing what they want, helping the community and doing honorable work. It took a while, but eventually she could kiss him good bye without crying and worrying all day. Their schedules worked nicely, although he did work a good amount of overtime, just because the department was small and there werent a lot of other people to cover if someone called in. But they still had a lot of time together. He was very respectful of the time that she spent writing and never bothered her or buzzed around her when she was trying to get something done, or belittle her abilities in that area like Russ had. Joe could amuse himself. She generally wrote upstairs in the guest bedroom where shed set up a recliner and her

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laptop, as well as a small television to keep her company with background noise. He would end up downstairs, where his huge TV had ended up, watching sports if it was a weekend, or outside working on the place if it was a week day. Their things melded pretty well together, especially since he didnt have a lot, but that was fine with her because she really didnt want to give up what she already had. Hed moved in less than a week after proposing. As a matter of fact, it was the day after theyd found her pretty three stone engagement ring and the wrap he would add to it when they got married. Hed told her to pick out whatever she liked, and she went for a heart shaped center stone surrounded by two good sized baguettes that would eventually be joined by two channel bands that would surround it. He got a channel set gold and diamond wedding band. They paid for everything together, and had already joined their finances as much as possible. The very next night he and some of his friends had moved everything from his apartment into her house, taking her direction as to where everything was going except the TV. He wouldnt compromise on the TV or his big recliner at all, but Shelly wanted him to feel comfortable in the house. She wanted him to feel at home. It was, after all, his house, too, now, and if things were exactly coordinated now, then shed deal with that. He, after all, would have to learn to live with someone who was nowhere near as neat as he was. They hadnt slept apart since the night her stalker was caught, but when he crawled onto their bed that night, it was as her live-in lover and her fianc. But more so, it was as her disciplinarian. Shelly? he asked in a calm and steady tone. She was deep into the latest installment of Anita Blakes adventures, gnawing on her lip as she turned each page, so she
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hadnt noticed that he wasnt really coming to bed. If shed just looked at him and the purpose in his eyes, shedve known exactly why he was there, and it had nothing to do with either sex or sleep. Her response was barely verbal. Huh? Joe reached over and closed the book on her, causing her to emit an unintelligible squawk. Hey! Cut that out! I was reading! She lunged after the book, but he tucked it into his nightstand drawer, and took out a thick leather belt that shed never seen before. But it made her back away from him anyway. Whats that for? she asked suspiciously, already figuring she knew. Thats what I have to use when my fiance forgets whats most important to me, he said, pulling her against him. He didnt like the traces of fear he saw in her eyes. He knew she didnt want a spanking no one did. And this was going to be a bad one. But he couldnt have her just ignoring something like she had he couldnt bear it if something happened to her, and he wanted her to remember to think of her own safety first before anything, if only so that he could have some peace of mind. Whats most important? she asked in a small voice, her face buried against his chest. You, and your safety. That comes above just about anything else in this world to me. So what you did in regards to Mr. Harrison Tate was not acceptable. She felt his big body shudder, and it hit home just how scared hed been that he would lose her. Shelly took a deep breath, saying the thought that came into her mind before she lost the courage to do it. Then I guess I deserve a spanking.

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Joe went still next to her. He was, frankily, amazed. Hed never have expected her to just accept his discipline with out at least trying to talk him out of it. Got you speechless, huh? she asked almost impishly. Yeah, but you generally manage to surprise me. I suppose I should expect it. She shifted a little nervously next to him, thinking of the strap hed brought out. Well, I know that I should have gone to you and Uncle Walt sooner, I just got so scared . . . I got all wrapped up in my fear and it was nearly paralyzing . . . He hugged her tightly to him, feeling her talking herself into being as scared as shed been then. It killed him that she hadnt come to him with this burden. He could have alleviated so much of her terror just by being there with her, and bringing to bear all of the resources of the Department, like he did when she came to him. Youre safe now, sweetie. Im here with you from now on. Forever. Youll never have to be that scared again. Shelly nodded against him. But, Joe continued, pushing her a little away from him. I cant have you doing this. I just cant. Think of how you would feel if you lost me, hon. Its an unbearable thought. So youve earned a pretty bad punishment, Im afraid. He arranged himself up against the headboard of the bed; his legs extended in front of him and tugged her over his lap, face down. Her nightgown rose some as a natural part of the movement, but then he helped it up to the middle of her back and removed her panties. In one quick movement, she was essentially rendered defenseless. That hard forearm lay across her lower back, and she knew there was no escape. As much as she might want to be brave and

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take her medicine, part of her was screaming at her to run before he started to roast her bottom for her. But that part lost, because he started to spank her almost immediately, swatting hard and fast. There was no warm up whatsoever. He wanted to teach her a lesson, and he wasnt going to skimp on it. Shelly found herself overwhelmed by the pain. She didnt know what to do with it or how to deal with it. Eventually, it exploded out her mouth and she screamed as he roasted her bottom to a red hot with just the first few spanks. Her legs werent left out of the fray either, and although those were horrid, too, at least it took some of the attention away from her burning cheeks. But Joe had thought this through really well, and he peppered every inch of her from stem to stern and then back again, over and over. By the time he was even considering ending that phase of the punishment, she was sobbing pitifully over his lap. Finally, his hand stopped descending and that awful cracking sound of his hand to her flesh stopped echoing in their bedroom, along with her moans and cries and pleas for mercy. For now, there was just her panting breath and plaintive, soft sobs. Joe patted the back of her head and moved her gently onto her side of the bed, on her tummy. You do know I love you? he whispered, and she caught the urgent note in his voice. Y-Yes, she answered, reaching for a Kleenex. Good, because I do and I couldnt do this unless I thought it was the best thing for you. She had forgotten about the belt until he came to stand next to her with it in his hand. No, please! she begged. But his jaw was set, and she knew he wasnt going to let her weasel out of it. And, deep down inside her, she didnt want him to let her get away with things. Especially not stupid things like shed done. But it was hard to remind herself of that when he was

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brandishing a thick leather belt that he intended on using on her already swollen and imprinted bottom. Joe took a deep breath. This wasnt easy on him, either. I cant hold you, so Im expecting you to lie still. You can kick your feet, but be careful that the strap doesnt hit them. But dont move away, darlin, cause if I have to go get you Im going to start again at the beginning. He didnt fool around. The strap came down seconds after he finished speaking, creating a livid red stripe across the crescents of her bottom. Shelly expelled her breath at the pain, and kept expelling through the next two unbelievably painful strokes. When she finally started to bring air into her aching lungs, a scream erupted from her throat that was interrupted by the sound of the belt cracking down on her cringing flesh two more times. She did kick her legs just like a little girl getting a licking, but she also kept her place, screaming and crying and clutching her own pillow as if it would help her bear the unbearable. Joe landed fifteen incredibly hard lashes before he dropped the belt and gathered her gently up into his arms. Im sorry, sweetie. Im so sorry, he was near tears himself. That night, she slept practically on top of him. Shelly couldnt even bear to be inches away from him. He rubbed her back and soothed her, loving it when shed crawled onto him and fallen asleep with her cheek on his shoulder. Hed worried that his punishments so far had both been pretty harsh of course, her behavior in both cases had been pretty radically unacceptable and she might be afraid of him. But apparently not. Shed come into his arms and onto him as if he was her savior rather than the man whod just blistered her bottom. And he was incredibly thankful for that, and for her. Their wedding day dawned a little gray, but by the time the ceremony rolled around it was sunny. Everyone had gathered at the house, which was newly painted and decorated with pastel pink
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and yellow roses. Uncle Walt guided her expertly down the stairs, tears in his eyes at the idea that he was getting to play Buds role with their little girl. Hed been so honored when shed asked him to give her away that he hadnt stopped crying since. Shelly walked down a short aisle past Miss Rose and her brother, Evan, who had pronounced upon meeting and getting to know Joe that he was glad shed finally found someone who could apparently keep her in line for which he promptly got smacked hard by his sister. Joe was waiting for her in front of the pastor of the church that his family had gone to for generations, and that Shelly had just joined. His smile welcomed her with such love that it took her breath away. Walt delivered her hand into Joes and then patted them both before retiring to his seat. The ceremony was short and very traditional; it even included the word obey, which made their guests titter, especially those who knew Shelly very well. She would have sworn she heard Evans loud guffaw, for which she was going to punch him later. Shed done all the cooking for the reception herself, except the cake which was a smallish, heart shaped affair done in three layers of yellow, chocolate and marble with a butter cream frosting. There were several types of cold salads as well as tossed, chips and dips, stuffed pork chops and a beef roast, as well as scalloped potatoes and a Cajun rice. When they were trying to sit down and decide what to eat, they decided to please themselves as much as possible. Shelly had made most of this stuff ahead and had just had to thaw and reheat it, which Miss Rose and Miss Natalie did for her at their place. They had a dance floor off the porch in the back yard and everyone laughed and ate and drank themselves silly until all hours of the night. Shelly and Joe slipped away from the party earlier than anyone, on their way to a honeymoon in Hawaii. As they buckled

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in for the first leg of their flight, which would bring them to California, Joe turned to his new wife, tucking his hand under her hair. Shelly looked at him, her whole heart in her eyes. I love you, Mrs. Anderson. I love you, Mr. Anderson. Joe kissed her, barely settling his lips over hers. It was the happiest day of his life. Hed found the soul mate hed been seeking and had gotten a lot more than hed bargained for top boot. Life was good, and, with Shelly by his side, he could only see it getting better.

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End

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2004 Carolyn Faulkner / BacksideOfLove.com

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Backside of Love: the Intimacy of Authority


http://BacksideOfLove.com

Dearest reader: Are you... there yet? If these sorts of loving, unyielding attentions are the stuff of fantasies you thought you could never share, then please join Carolyn and her husband at their Backside of Love community. There we explore the profound sorts of romance which include the giving of authority to your trusted Other, structure and consequences for behavioral control, and sexual intimacy winding through it all. Come over and join our community forum, library and magazine devoted to the common threads which weave through lifestyles like BDSM or D/s, Domestic Discipline, and Intimate Ageplay: trusted authority, firm-but-loving punishment, and the sexual intimacy that those things spark. Which label you put on your needs isnt the point: Its finding the absolute most fulfillment possible from exploring these Intimacy of Authority themes. --Carolyn and Unka Bobby (her Daddy and husband)

Be sure to ask about Carolyns other classic works in this genre: Jake Ryan's Woman Blood From A Stone Embraced Love Will Find A Way Priceless Love I ...and over 70 other adventures!

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