After moving back home, Charlene is anxious to prove her merit to her new boss – she’s determined to become their top salesperson. So when she goes to meet a promising new client after an already trying day, and discovers the CEO was called out on an emergency, she takes out her frustration on the receptionist.
Unfortunately for Charlotte, when the CEO walks in, she’s in the middle of a meltdown.
As if that weren’t enough, he happens to be Brad Brigham, her former best friend in high school.
The man she’s always had chemistry with.
The man she had already made plans to catch up with.
The man with whom things are about to get a great deal more interesting…
Publisher’s Note: This sweet love story includes elements of domestic discipline.
Charlene Redman’s mind was wandering as she made her way through the produce section of the grocery store just down the street from her new house. As she turned the corner to go up the next aisle she ran into a granite statue. It shocked her to find a statue in the middle of a grocery aisle, and she not only lost her balance as she bounced back off, but also dropped the red pepper she was holding. To her amazement the statue quickly reached a hand out and caught the pepper in one hand, while his other hand gently grabbed her arm to help her regain her balance.
She was still recovering when the statue spoke. “Charlie?”
Charlene froze. She recognized that voice, and immediately looked up to take a closer look at the statue. Sure enough, she was staring into the smiling eyes of the 18-year-old boy she’d dated her senior year of high school. Except that the cute teenager was now a large, extremely handsome man.
She automatically returned his smile. “Brad Brigham?”
“Boy, is it good to see you again,” he said. “When we left for college I assumed we’d see each other again over Christmas. When I came home and found out your family moved away I was disappointed.”
“Christmas that first year seemed kind of strange,” Charlene admitted. “It didn’t feel like I was home. It was my furniture and stuff in the room, but it didn’t feel like my room.”
“I can imagine,” he said. “That must have been hard.” He looked into her eyes again, like he had years ago. “I’ve missed you, Charlie. I mean, I know we weren’t dating any more when we left for college, but we were still friends, and I’ve missed that friendship.”
“Me, too,” she said quietly.
“So, what are you doing back here? Did your family move back, are you visiting someone here?”
“I live here,” she said with pride in her voice.
“Seriously? Since when? How come I didn’t know about this?”
“I just moved in a couple days ago,” she assured him. “I kind of got transferred here.”
Brad had a big smile on his face. “That’s great! Welcome back home, Charlie.” He reached out and pulled her to him for a hug. Her arms wrapped around him, as well, but after a few moments he quickly pulled back. “I’m sorry, Charlie. I should have asked, are you married, or is there a fiancé or boyfriend that would not be happy with me right now?”
She giggled as she shook her head. “No, relax. There’s no one out there that’ll be looking you up.” Looking at how tall and muscular Brad was now, without thinking she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind. “It doesn’t look like you’d have much to worry about, anyway.” As soon as the words popped out of her mouth, she turned red.
Brad saw the red on her cheeks and chuckled. “I’m glad to see you haven’t changed much, Charlie.” He didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, and when she blushed even more he quickly moved on and changed the subject. “Thank you. If there’s no husband or boyfriend, can I take you out for dinner Friday? I’d really like to catch up, hear what you’ve been up to. I can show you everything that’s changed while you were gone.”
“No wife that’ll be looking me up?”
“Nope,” he answered, loving her mischievous smile.
“In that case, I’d love to.” They talked a couple minutes, and she gave him her address.
The following day was Wednesday, and Charlene spent much of the day recalling her senior year in high school when she and Brad had been an item. She had been attracted to him the first time she saw him, with his thick, dark brown hair and gorgeous brown eyes to match. He was an athlete, and his body showed it. He was six feet tall back then, and strong. Every girl wanted to go out with him, and she couldn’t believe it when he asked her out.
She had been so nervous when he came to pick her up that first day she tripped over her own feet and about fell flat on her face. He caught her and held her until she had her balance again, and said something to casually dismiss the whole thing, sparing her from total embarrassment. She soon found he was very easy to talk to, or be with, or grow very fond of. They were together most of their senior year. They were going to colleges on opposite sides of the country after high school and decided they owed it to themselves to experience the whole college life, including dating other people, but vowed they would still be friends.
Then her father got transferred and they moved. She had to switch colleges and attend one closer to their new home that was cheaper. This was before cell phones were so popular, and she hadn’t had one before they left. As a result, they lost contact with each other, but she had often wondered what had become of Brad.
He had always wanted to go into the business world in some form, and she felt sure he would. He was extremely smart, and was a natural leader. Anytime they had a group project in school, Brad always seemed to be in charge of whatever group he was in. He was a good organizer and people seemed to look up to him and listen to what he said. She was sure he would be good at whatever sort of business venture he took on. Now, thinking back on that, she was anxious for their date Friday so she could see what he was doing these days.
* * *
Brad was across town in his office, thinking back on the same time frame. He’d thought Charlene, or Charlie, as he’d called her then, was the prettiest girl in the school. She was refreshing, though, because she didn’t see herself as the prettiest girl in the school, unlike many of the others. She had long hair that was the prettiest reddish brown he’d ever seen. It had more of a reddish tint when the sun hit it, and it had enough curl to make him want to run his hands through it often. He always thought her beautiful green eyes just sparkled with mischief. She hadn’t thrown herself at him the way many of the girls in school had, which was something else he liked about her.
Charlene may have been on the petite side, but her personality sure wasn’t. She was a feisty little thing, and he’d liked her from the first time he’d met her. There wasn’t anything fake about her. She was who she was, and she never apologized for it or tried to be someone different.
She had two older brothers and as a result was a bit of a tomboy, which is why he always thought the nickname Charlie fit her. In his mind that bit of a tomboy in her made her absolutely adorable. She liked most sports, both to play and watch, and understood them. He’d met very few females of any age that understood football and liked to watch it. She loved it, and he loved watching her watch it. They’d spent several Sunday afternoons watching a football game, and she was by far the cutest armchair quarterback he’d ever seen.
But as much as she liked sports, she also liked being a lady. He’d taken her out somewhere special on several occasions just to see her all dressed up. When she ‘became a lady’, as she put it, she was beautiful.
His secretary, Toni, stuck her head in his office and interrupted his trip down memory lane. “What’s got you smiling?” she asked.
Brad shook his head a bit to bring himself back to the present. “I ran into an old friend from high school yesterday. I was doing a little reminiscing, I guess,” he confessed.
“Well, put the yearbook back on the shelf for a little bit. Mr. Henderson’s here for your meeting.”
Brad chuckled and nodded. “Will do. Send him on in, Toni. Thanks.”
* * *
Thursday morning Charlene woke with a start. The sun was coming through the windows, and she quickly looked at the clock. She was starting work today and had her first calls scheduled. It was almost 7:30, and she had her alarm set for 6:00. Oh, great!
She jumped out of bed and hurried to the bathroom to take a quick shower. She flipped the light switch on and realized why her alarm hadn’t gone off. She had no electricity! Thinking quickly, she went to the kitchen and put a big pot of water on to boil, thankful for her gas stove. Closing her curtains, she used the heated water to wash her hair and give herself a sponge bath. With no hot water for a shower that would have to do. She dried her hair the best she could with a towel, and combed it out. She’d have to leave it down this morning to let it dry as long as she could, and pull it back into a ponytail when she got to her first sales call. She got dressed and did her makeup quickly, grabbed a couple rubber bands and a nice professional-looking hair clip and her purse, and ran out the door.
She hated being late. She always liked to arrive at her destination early, then review a customer’s file in her car before going in to meet with them. She felt that extra familiarity with the account gave her an edge. Today she’d have to skip that and hope she remembered it from looking it over yesterday afternoon.
When she came to a red light, she reached over to grab the customer’s file. Maybe she could glance at it quickly while she waited. She gasped as she realized in her haste to leave she’d forgotten her briefcase. As the light turned green she cursed herself inwardly and turned to go back to her house.
As she started out again, briefcase now on the seat beside her, she called her first customer. “Linda, this is Charlene Redman. I am so sorry, but I’m running about ten minutes late for my nine o’clock meeting with Mr. Hudson.”
Luckily, Linda wasn’t at all concerned. “Not a problem, Charlene. Mr. Hudson’s running a little late himself. He didn’t have any power this morning at his house and got a late start.”
“Oh, my goodness. I didn’t have any electricity, either, and I thought maybe it was just me.”
“No. Apparently you live on the north side of town, too?”
“Yes, I do.”
“There was an accident last night and a car knocked over a pole. There’s a whole area on the north side that’s without power now.”
“Oh, so that’s what happened,” Charlene answered.
“Yep. I’ll tell Mr. Hudson you’re running a few minutes late and why, but don’t worry about it. He’ll appreciate having a minute to look at his mail before your meeting.”
Charlene felt better, but it still threw her whole day off. Once she got there she combed her hair and pulled it back into a ponytail. She was putting the rubber band in when it broke, snapping on her fingers, which hurt! She took the other rubber band and got it on without incident. She put the hair clip on over the rubber band, and the hair clip broke. Cursing to herself yet again, she was able to fix the clip enough to get it in her hair. She hoped it lasted, at least through this meeting. Hopefully the meeting would be quick and she’d have time to stop at a store for another hair clip before her next appointment.
As it turned out, the meeting with Mr. Hudson went a little longer than she’d planned, which put her in a rush to make it to her second call on time. Again, there was no time to review the file first, which tended to fluster her a bit. Thank goodness her hair clip was holding up, at least so far. That was a concern at the back of her mind, though, and was a distraction she didn’t need. Luckily, that meeting went well, although again it was a little longer than she’d hoped.
She normally made herself eat a good lunch, knowing she’d do better in the afternoon after a relaxing lunch with a salad or something nutritious. She decided to try and make up her lost time today, though, by going through a fast food drive through. She ordered a chef salad with dressing on the side. She had a few food allergies, especially strawberries, pecans and a type of oil often found in bottled salad dressings, so she always ordered the dressing on the side. She kept some packets of salad dressing in her car that were safe for her to have.
Since she’d gotten the late start and skipped breakfast this morning she was hungry. She pulled over at a little park, thinking she’d have just enough time to eat her salad and glance through her next client’s file. She carried the salad, some of her dressing, and the customer’s file to a picnic table and sat down, her mouth watering. She opened the lid and moaned. They’d given her the wrong salad. This was their summer salad with strawberries and pecans. To make it worse, they’d poured the strawberry salad dressing over the entire thing, making it impossible to pick out the strawberries and pecans and still eat it!
Frustrated and hungry, she dumped the salad in the garbage can on her way back to her car. There were no more fast food places or convenience stores between here and her destination, so she’d just have to wait until after her meeting. She was starving, and searched her car for anything she could eat. Surely she’d have a candy bar or something in it somewhere. All she found, however, was a little package of stale crackers. At this point she was so hungry even they looked good, so she munched on them on her way to her meeting. Hopefully they would be enough to at least keep her stomach from growling and embarrassing her. This was a very important meeting, and she sure wished she had had a good lunch.
She got there, glanced at the file quickly and hurried inside. This was not an established customer, but she hoped it would become one. The company was not large, but her research showed they’d promoted a former Vice-President to the position of CEO and the company had been growing steadily since then. Word in the industry was that this new CEO was very impressive, and this was a company on the move. She hoped to get a foot in the door today. She was meeting with the head of their purchasing department, and on the phone he seemed pretty interested. She hoped today went well.
She smiled as she approached the receptionist and told her she was here to meet with Mr. McMillain.
“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, “but we weren’t expecting you quite yet. Mr. McMillain was called out on an emergency and isn’t back to the office yet. If you’d like to have a seat –”
Charlene was disappointed, but asked, “Would it be better if I reschedule our meeting?”
“No, he really wanted to meet with you. If you could just have a seat and wait a little while, it shouldn’t be too long until —”
She was still talking, but Charlene wasn’t really listening. She was hungry, and angry. Her day had been terrible, and this was not any different. She did not want to sit here and wait for who knows how long. The later he was getting back, the later the meeting would go and the hungrier she would be. On top of that, her mood now was going from bad to worse, and she would readily admit she had a terrible temper. Once she got upset it was incredibly difficult for her to calm down and be civil. She knew her best shot at getting this account was to reschedule.
She looked back at the receptionist, who was still talking. She was saying something about, “— he should be back any minute now, and was anxious to meet with you. If you’ll just have a seat and a bit of patience —”
Charlene’s stomach chose that moment to remind her that she hadn’t had breakfast or lunch yet, and at the same time she found herself feeling a little lightheaded. Her temper took over, and before she could stop herself she blurted out, “Sure, no problem. I’ll just sit here for a couple hours and wait for him to get back. After all, I don’t have anything better to do with my time than sit here and read some year old magazines while I wait for some guy who apparently thinks he’s the only person on earth that matters to show up and —”
She stopped her rant suddenly when someone grabbed her upper arm from behind her and started moving her down a hall. At the same time a voice she’d had a dream about the night before said, “Good afternoon, Lucy. I’m back from my meeting and ready to handle the meeting for Mr. McMillain, like we’d planned. I see she’s here already. I think we’ll meet in my office instead of Mr. McMillain’s, though.”
The receptionist, who had become flustered when Charlene started yelling, now looked shocked, but said, “Of course, Mr. Brigham. Thank you.”
Brad kept a firm grip on her upper arm and kept her going toward his office, but leaned down close to her ear and said loud enough for her only, “I had no idea you were who I was meeting with, Charlie. I see your temper hasn’t changed any in the last eight years.”
Charlene was being hustled along so quickly she hadn’t had time to digest what was happening. Brad wasn’t the purchasing manager that she was to meet with today. She was sure she’d talked to the manager on the phone, and it wasn’t Brad. It was a Mr. McMillain. The receptionist’s words came back to her then. She’d said something about the CEO. Did she say he was going to meet with her since Mr. McMillain had been called out? Was Brad the new CEO?
It had just occurred to her that she’d made a complete fool of herself in front of Brad, and probably lost a possible big account, when they reached his office. Sure enough, the door said, Mr. Brigham, CEO. He led her inside and stopped to close and lock his door before leading her to the leather couch, where he deposited her. He remained standing, but looked down at her as if he were studying her.
She was still trying to make sense of everything that had just happened, including the way she’d acted. That really wasn’t like her, but Brad probably wouldn’t believe that at the moment. The only thing she could think to do was look up at him and very quietly say, “I’m sorry, Brad.” She barely got the words out past the lump in her throat.
To her surprise Brad studied her for one more moment before responding. “Sorry for what you said, sorry for the way you acted, or sorry that I heard and saw it?” His voice was more authoritative than she remembered, and it sent a chill through her. She wasn’t sure why, but it had a definite effect on her. While she was contemplating why, he spoke again. “Charlie, I asked you a question and I expect an answer.”
The firmness in his voice had her automatically answering, and quickly. “Sorry for all of it.”
Brad had been pacing since they’d entered his office, and after hearing her answer to his question he sat down right beside her. She was looking down at the floor, and he reached over and gently used one finger to raise her chin so she was looking at him. He looked directly into her eyes, uncertainty in his own. After several moments he seemed to reach a decision.
“We’re going to see if you are sorry, Charlie.” He reached over to her and before she knew what was happening she found herself lying over his lap. She had a loose-fitting skirt on, and he quickly flipped it up over her back.
She finally found her voice, which had seemed to disappear. “Brad, what are you doing?” Just then his right hand smacked down on her panties-covered bottom. “Ow! That hurt!”
Brad gave her another swat. “I would think it’s pretty obvious what I’m doing. I’m giving you a spanking, which you’ve most definitely earned. And I’m glad to hear it hurts. That means I’m doing it right and it might have the desired effect.” He started spanking again, holding her tightly with his left arm around her waist as she wriggled and struggled to get off his lap.
“Brad, ow! Stop that! Someone’s going to hear!”
“Don’t worry about that, Charlie. My office has been soundproofed, so no one will hear a thing. That’s why I brought you here instead of Mr. McMillain’s office, so you can yell if you want without worrying about anyone hearing you.”
Brad was speaking very casually, as if being overheard was her main concern, and that upset her. Her last temper tantrum had been interrupted before she’d had a chance to recover fully from it, and to add this to her still simmering temper was overwhelming. She could only take so much. “Damn you, Brad, stop this right now!”
She quickly came up with a plan and kicked her legs to get loose while rolling to the side and off his lap. She pushed up with her hands, fully expecting all those movements at the same time would free her from his hold. She had every intention of standing up, slapping him in the face, and telling him exactly what she’d do if he laid one hand on her ever again, before storming out of his office. In her mind it worked like a charm.
However, in real life she didn’t move much at all. Rolling to the side and pushing with her hands did nothing – absolutely nothing. Brad was holding her down with his left arm around her waist, and he was much stronger and had a much better hold than she’d anticipated, because he held her firmly in place. Kicking her legs caused him to lower his aim and the spanking now was aimed at her thighs, and darn if that didn’t hurt even worse!
“Charlie, until you stop fighting this spanking will continue. And as long as you’re kicking your legs I’ll be spanking your thighs instead of your bottom.”
“Ow! Brad, that hurts even more! Stop that right now. I can’t take any more.” To her horror, she could no longer control the tears that had been threatening, and the couch beneath her was soon wet. To make it even worse, once the tears started, so did the emotions. She was soon sobbing, gasping for breath, and then out of nowhere came a horrible sense of guilt. She felt terrible. She couldn’t remember ever acting so badly, and it was in front of Brad, of all people.
Ever since they ran into each other she had been hoping they could start seeing each other again. She’d dated quite a few guys since she and Brad dated in high school, but none for very long. She just didn’t feel a connection with any of them like she had with Brad. But now she felt sure that he’d seen the worst in her and would run the other way. And she couldn’t blame him. Not after the way she’d acted. Without even thinking about any of that, she said what was in her heart at the moment. “Brad, I’m so sorry.”
Once she said that, and meant it, she lost all her fight. She lay there, draped over his lap while he continued spanking her. She was worn out; physically worn out from fighting, trying to get loose, but also emotionally exhausted. She’d behaved horribly. She’d taken her frustrations out on Brad’s receptionist, even though none of her awful day was her fault.
She’d said some horrible things, some about the man she was supposed to meet with, and she’d never met him. He might be a wonderful guy. The receptionist had said he had an emergency. She’d never even stopped to think about that. He could be facing something awful right now with a member of his family, and here she was talking about him like that.
And worst of all, it had occurred to her while Brad was leading her back to his office that the receptionist had said they weren’t expecting her this soon. She thought about those words, and remembered the conversation she had with the man she was to meet with. She tried to set the meeting for 1:00, like she did most of her afternoon meetings with first time clients. He had said that would be too early for him and asked for 2:00. She was afraid that wouldn’t give them enough time, so he said he could rearrange things and be ready by 1:30. She had agreed, but forgotten about that agreement. She was there at 1:00, complaining that he wasn’t ready yet. She had acted just plain horribly!