Anna and Alex are very much in love and plan to be married on Thanksgiving weekend. Things seem absolutely perfect, but there are many problems on their path to the altar. Anna is hiding something from her husband-to-be, and Alex is resolved to get to the bottom of things by any means necessary – even if that includes taking his fiancée over his knee…

Will they be able to celebrate their dream wedding, or will unexpected events hinder their plans?

Publisher’s Note: This sweet holiday romance includes elements of domestic discipline.

 

Chapter One

 

Anna couldn’t believe it was already November. Her wedding day was fast approaching and she had so much to do! Karen’s dress wasn’t finished, and she still had to finish her own veil. She was also realizing that Alex was right. She should have hired a caterer to provide the food for the reception, and a baker to do the wedding cake. She’d always dreamed of doing it all herself, but two weeks before her wedding she was wondering how she could possibly get it all done. Thank goodness she had made the Thanksgiving pies, which she always donated for the dinner the church did, way ahead and had frozen them. At least she had one thing that she could check off her list.

She heard the key in the lock, and Alex came walking inside. “Uh oh, you are frowning again,” Alex said quietly. “Tell me what is wrong, and I’ll try to help you figure it out.”

“Nothing is wrong. I’m just super busy,” Anna answered, and in the next second Alex pulled her over to the sofa, where he sat down and upended her across his knee. His hard hand fell on her bottom, and Anna hollered for him to stop.

“I am not going to stop; you have been pushing yourself to the ends of the earth to put this wedding together, and you always tell me nothing is wrong. I know that isn’t true, young lady. I want to know what I can do to help; I do not want to hear ‘nothing’. I am tired of being shut out like I don’t have a say.” He spanked her again and again, trying to gain her attention.

“Stop, Alex. I haven’t done anything to deserve a spanking!” she protested, kicking her legs in protest.

“Have you told me what is wrong?” he asked, and then answered for her. “No!” He spanked lower, aiming for her sit spots. “This spanking is not going to stop until you talk to me.” He continued to punish her sit spots until his hand was burning and she was sobbing. “Are you ready to talk yet?”

“There isn’t anything you can do, Alex! Stop, please!” Anna was already in pain, and she wasn’t going to be able to sit at all. “No more! I’ll talk, but please stop. I can’t think.”

Alex stopped the spanking. “I’ll give you another chance to share with me, but best you start talking right now or I’m going to send you to the kitchen for that red spatula.” He was perfectly serious.

“I’ll talk,” Anna agreed. She remembered the one time he had used the icing spatula on her sit spots. It had left her feeling raw. Anna did not wish to experience that again. It was better to tell Alex what was bothering her so much. “It’s the wedding! You were right about the food and the cake. It is all too much, and I don’t know how on earth I can get it all done on time. I am so worried and afraid I’ll fail and the reception will be ruined. I have my veil to finish and Karen’s dress. She keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I am afraid her dress won’t fit if I make it too soon. I just have so much to do!”

“Now, do you feel better?” he asked softly. “You shared the problem, and now you can get some help with this.”

“How can I get help? It’s too late to find a bakery or a caterer, not at this late date, especially with our wedding on a holiday weekend! No one will be willing to help us.” Anna was really upset, and now her tears were due to stress.

“I want your promise not to have a tantrum, Anna, when I tell you this…” He waited.

“How can I have a tantrum in this position?” she asked sharply, and Alex immediately swatted her sore bottom.

“Which is why you are still lying here in a spankable position, Anna. Now, your promise?”

“All right, I promise I will try very hard not to have a tantrum.”

“Your bottom will thank you.”

“My bottom is burning right now,” she admitted, trying to reach back to rub, but Alex caught her wrist and pinned it to her side.

“No rubbing. You earned that spanking. Now listen and don’t be angry. I reserved the date with a caterer and a bakery when we decided to get married. I wasn’t going to tell you unless you expressed a need for help. It was a backup plan, not because I didn’t think you could do it, but in case you had so much to do you decided you wanted some help.”

“You have a caterer and a bakery?” Anna asked in disbelief.

“I do. I have Mrs. Davidson on reserve, and I know she will be happy to help. The bakery is one that I use all the time. We can call and get them busy.”

“Oh, Alex, you are the best man ever! You are so sweet and thoughtful and I love you so much! Thank you! Oh, you aren’t disappointed with me, are you?” she asked tearfully.

“I could never be disappointed in you, my dear.”

“Truly?”

“Truly. Are you angry with me?”

“No! I would kiss you if you would help me up,” she promised. Alex helped her up, and she immediately wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his head down so that she could kiss him. “Alex, I truly do not deserve you,” she whispered, and he firmly swatted her again.

“Do not say that, young lady. I love you so much, and I am the one who does not deserve you.” To his surprise and dismay, his lovely bride-to-be gave him a sharp smack on his jean-covered backside.

“You earned that, mister!” she informed him. “We both deserve each other and the happiness we share together. Oh, Alex, do you really have a caterer who will do the food?”

“I do. I’ll call Mrs. Davidson and set up an appointment so you can tell her what you want and need.”

“I love, love, love you!” she tearfully proclaimed. “And the baker?”

“I will call him too. I know you two will get along well.”

“This is just too good to be true! I was so afraid to tell you that I was overwhelmed, and I am so thrilled that you planned for an ‘in case’ moment.”

“I wanted to be able to help you, sweetheart.” He was delighted that Anna was so pleased. He’d worried that she would be angry with him and accuse him of not believing in her, which was not true at all. “You’ve been extra busy with work and those new campaigns you are working on. There is no shame in being overwhelmed.”

“I’ve been concerned about Karen’s dress. I want her to look and feel beautiful.”

“She is beautiful right now, and Chip is walking on Cloud Nine. He can’t wait to give her the cradle he’s been working on in secret.”

“Karen will love it. Chip hasn’t made one thing yet that she hasn’t adored and loved, and since this is for their baby, it will be even more special to her. Their relationship has never been better.”

“Thanks to a good, old-fashioned spanking. Chip wasted no time in taking my advice.”

“True, he didn’t, and it helped that Karen confessed to him that she needed domestic discipline in her life.”

“I hope he isn’t spanking her now that he knows she is pregnant.” Alex looked at his fiancée’s green eyes to gauge her reaction. She would never be able to lie to him, which was a good thing for him.

“No, he hasn’t. They agreed it wasn’t in the baby’s best interests. However, Karen has had to write lines twice. She truly hates that, and she is trying to be good to avoid confrontation.” She looked at Alex and asked, “May I be nosy and ask you some personal questions?”

“Sure.” He’d known this moment would come and it was best to have it done before the wedding. He was going to be honest and tell the truth, even if it was painful to talk about Hannah and Rachel. “What do you wish to ask?”

“Was Hannah like me? I mean, did she have red hair?”

“No; Hannah had light brown hair, and so did little Rachel. Both of them had fine, thin hair. Your hair is much thicker and curly. I love your hair.”

She smiled at his compliment.“You said you spanked Hannah, but why? Did she not manage money well, or did she have a terrible temper and throw things at you?” Anna knew she was bringing up memories that were probably a source of upset for him. “Alex, I’m being so nosy because I don’t want to do those same things. I want to be a good wife to you, and unless I ask, I won’t know what to avoid.”

“Sweetheart, it is natural for you to be curious about Hannah and Rachel. I expected to have this talk sooner or later, so ask your questions. I’ll answer and then we’ll discuss anything that troubles you.”

“Thank you. I am more than curious. I need to know if I am a substitute for her, how I measure up. It worries me to no end, Alex. I want to be the one you love.”

“I do love you, and no, you are not a substitute for Hannah. You look nothing like her. She was tall and willow thin, and a complete klutz. She was not athletic; she could not sew or cook very well; she loved to garden and she loved to read mysteries.

“Hannah’s worst fault was procrastination. She put things off until the last minute, and then lost it when she didn’t have enough time to do all of the wonderful things she thought of in that moment. An example is her mother’s fiftieth birthday. She took on the responsibility to order the cake, send out the invitations and come up with decorations for the hall her brother rented for the occasion. With the party on Saturday, Hannah still hadn’t sent out the invitations on the Monday before. She ended up calling people, and she missed some relatives and her mom’s best friend since grade school. Hannah didn’t order the cake far enough in advance, and she failed to tell the bakery not to use yellow on the cake because her mom hates yellow. Hannah’s decorations were not planned enough in advance for her to get what she wanted. When the day of the surprise party arrived, her brother was disappointed in her and he let her know it. Hannah kicked him so hard his leg started bleeding, and then she decided to pout and be rude to everyone. When we got home that night, I paddled her until she was very sorry. She called her mother and apologized for ruining the party; she also called her brother and said sorry to him. He told her that she deserved a spanking, and she told him she’d already been spanked. His answer to that was ‘Good!’ It hurt Hannah’s feelings, and she wanted to stay home on Thanksgiving rather than sit at the table with Raymond. I spanked her for that, and we when went she sat on a sore butt most of the day.

“Hannah was loving, but she was quick to take offense. If I told her no to something she wanted to buy, or to do, she would think I didn’t love her. Her good qualities far outweighed the negatives. She was a great mother to Rachel. She kept an immaculate house, and what she could cook, she did well. She would do all the shopping for me, and she gladly washed the dishes when I cooked. She had a funny sense of humor, and she was a bit quirky at times. She had no interest in business, but she would entertain clients at a moment’s notice and not be upset with me or accuse me of putting her out.” He stopped talking and then asked, “Is there anything else you can think of that you would like to know, Anna?”

“I’m not like her at all, am I?”

“No.” He smiled. “Hannah and I were opposites who were attracted to each other; you and I are more like soul mates who match.”

“Does this please you?”

“Very much.

“Alex, I would ask one more thing of you. If I open my big mouth and say something the wrong way, or I do something that annoys you, I want you to make me aware of it so I won’t keep doing it. I love you so much, and I might be wife number two, but I want to be first-rate. Do you understand where I am coming from, darling?”

Her green eyes were sincere and his heart swelled with love.“I appreciate the thought behind your words, Anna. You don’t wish to hurt me with comments about Hannah, and I understand. I want to reassure you now that I have laid Hannah and little Rachel to rest. I will always remember them, but my living, beating heart holds you in it. I will not be comparing you to Hannah, but loving you, Anna, for the wonderful woman you are. We are moving forward in life, not backwards. There may be times I will wish to share a past memory with you, just as you will share memories with me. This Thanksgiving I will be thanking God for you.”

“You always know what I need to hear, darling.” Anna kissed him again. “Two more weeks!” she exclaimed with a groan. “I want you so much.”

“We can make it another two weeks,” he replied. “Well, not if you keep kissing me like that!” he teased her. “Let me make those calls and set up the appointments.”

“Thank you!” she said with a genuine smile of relief. She listened shamelessly as Alex made his calls and was impressed that the caterer wanted her to bring copies of the recipes she planned to serve their wedding guests. She nodded to let Alex know she would be happy to do that. The call to the bakery also went smoothly. “You picked well; they seem to want to help us.”

“I’ve used Davidson’s Catering for years to do the Christmas party for the employees, and everyone tells me how much they enjoy the food. Mrs. Davidson did the Labor Day event too. I appreciate the staff they have there. Always pleasant, and if they make a promise, they keep it. If there is a problem, they handle it in a straightforward manner and don’t try to hide the problem from me. I appreciate that.”

“Mrs. Davidson was gracious to me at the Labor Day picnic when I handed her my pasta salad. She was sweet to the children too. That is very important to me. Some of my friends have children, and I was so pleased when you said you wanted to have children at our wedding. I am sure they will be treated very well.”

“That is important to me. Who hasn’t RSVP’d yet?”

“Your cousins in Illinois haven’t.”

“They might not be able to afford to come. I’ll call Philip and discuss it with him. I’d like for his kids to be able to get to know my sisters’ kids. His wife might want to be with her family for the holiday, however. Or there could be issues with work. I believe she works in retail, and Black Friday is huge.”

“Go ahead and call while I check on our dinner,” she suggested, only to have Alex grab her arm and stop her before she could escape.

“What about your sister?” he asked softly.

“No reply; nothing at all.” She pulled her arm free and ran to the kitchen, not about to have another discussion on making peace with her difficult sister. Stacy was seventeen years older than her, and thought that their parents made a huge mistake in having their youngest child. Stacy taught literature at a small college in New England, and the last time Anna saw or spoke to Stacy was at their mother’s funeral a little over two years before. Alex didn’t understand the situation, or how hurt Anna was by Stacy’s refusal to have anything to do with her.

* * *

“What is this, Stace?” Trevor asked. There was no answer, and he was positive she had her nose stuck in a book, as usual. He opened the large envelope, frowning when he saw that it was addressed to Stacy James and guest. Trevor quickly discovered that it was a wedding invitation for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the bride’s name was Anna James! His wife had some explaining to do.

He found her in the living room, curled up in her chair, her Kindle in her hand, reading and oblivious to the world around her. This was how his Stacy read; she always immersed herself in whatever book she was reading and she shut out the world. He calmly reached down and took her reader from her hands, rudely bringing her face-to-face with reality.

“Trevor, what do you think you are doing? Why are you home so early?” she questioned, looking up at him in irritation.

“Anna, I am not home early; I am later than usual. I called out when I came in, but you apparently didn’t hear me.”

She looked at her watch and then blushed. “Oh dear. I haven’t even started dinner. I really was immersed in that story. It was written by a new author.” Her eyes widened when she saw what he was holding. “What the hell are you doing with that? It is none of your business.”

“I believe it is my business when you receive an invitation to a wedding in your maiden name, five years after we were married. The bride’s name is Anna James. It sounds a bit like you have a relative you neglected to mention?”

“Don’t ask questions, Trevor! I refuse to speak about this!” She got to her feet and angrily flounced from the living room.

Trevor was positive he heard her curse him for snooping, and he felt his own ire grow. The problem with Stacy was that she had lived on her own for too many years and did exactly as she pleased. He’d been dealing with her attitude since they met six years ago, and he would deal with it again right now!