Only he can save her…
John Jericho is looking for a bedmate when he rides into the chief’s encampment. Instead, he comes across a feisty redhead fighting with three Indian women. Immediately realizing the danger she is in, he intervenes to save her life.
Susan is shocked when a white man suddenly orders her to cooperate with him. Distracted, she doesn’t comply right away and he immediately delivers a stinging reprimand, soon followed by another when she still won’t listen to him. She is grateful to him for rescuing her… until she hears the deal he’s made.
Susan belongs to John now, and will be sharing his bed through the long winter months to come… and there’s nothing she can do about it.
John was welcomed into the camp as usual, but he didn’t let down his guard for one moment. As long as the braves respected him, he was one white man they welcomed as an equal. Several years before, John had rescued the chief’s only son. Since that time, he wandered in and out of the village as he pleased.
John was here to trade. He was tired of spending the winter alone, and he wanted a warm, willing woman in his bed. There were always captives from other tribes for sale; for some hides and tobacco, he would have a nice warm body to share his bed through the long hard winter ahead.
It was easy to spot the captives. Leather strips were attached to their ankles and staked to the ground, giving them just enough leeway to scrape the hides to begin the process of turning them into buckskins for clothing. It was hard work, as was grinding the corn into meal. John observed several women bent to their tasks, and while one or two seemed comely enough, he was looking for a woman with a bit more spirit.
He heard a spurt of angry voices, and he turned to observe the commotion with interest. To his complete surprise, three Indian women were circling another woman, one who had flaming red hair. The redhead was holding a stick in her hand, and every time one of the women came too close, the redhead rapped her smartly. John grinned as he heard the clamor grow louder and louder, finding it amusing that the little redhead was effectively keeping the three other women at bay without doing any real harm to her opponents.
John glanced around and saw that the redhead was providing a source of amusement for most of the camp, but he feared that amusement would soon fade to turn into indignation and anger. Once a few others decided to lend the three Indian women a hand, the redhead would wish she’d never been born. All of a sudden, he spotted the chief riding into the camp. John abruptly realized the three Indian women were his wives, and that the redhead was more than likely his captive. He-Who-Wears-Red was known for his quick temper and John quickly decided to step into the fray to save the little redhead.
He encircled her tiny waist from behind with his left arm and wrested the stick from her with his right hand. She turned into a spitting wildcat and started fighting him with everything she had. “Settle down, woman. I am trying to save your life,” he growled into her ear, keeping his voice little more than a whisper. “Settle down,” he said a bit louder, but she continued to kick, and John abruptly decided on a course of action that he hoped would satisfy the Indians. He dropped to his right knee, and then pinned her face down over his left thigh. His right hand found her wiggling bottom with a loud crack and the redhead gasped in outrage. The second smack fueled her temper, and the words spewing from her mouth would have earned him a soaping at his mother’s hands. “Stop with that language,” he scolded, but she merely found a few more names to call him as he continued to spank her rounded backside. “I’ll toss up this rag and bare your hind, girl,” he threatened her, then smiled in satisfaction when she immediately stopped cursing.
“Let me go,” she pleaded. “You are hurting me.”
“A spanking is supposed to hurt,” he replied. “Now hush and take your punishment like a good girl. I’m not stopping until you calm yourself.” He thought he heard her whimper, and he decided that was the whole point. He wanted her to cry. He wanted her to appear humbled and contrite when he was finished. He was doing her a favor. A sore butt was a mild price to pay compared to any of the punishments He-Who-Wears-Red or his wives would administer. Finally, the fight went out of the young woman, and she started sobbing, then collapsed over his knee, no longer protesting. He gave her another dozen hard spanks, making them hard enough to be heard by those watching in amusement. “You do as I tell you, girl,” he warned harshly, then he lifted her off his knee to plop her down on the hard ground on her sore bottom. She gasped in pain and tried to get up, but John shook his head. “You don’t make it easy on yourself, do you?” He flipped her over his knee again, and this time he tossed up the tattered skirt of her dress. She was wearing drawers that used to be white, and they were so threadbare he could see her reddened skin beneath the fabric. He reached for the waistband, only to have her suddenly stop fighting him.
“Please! Please don’t bare me in front of them. Please? I’ll be good,” she frantically promised.
“One chance, girl, and that is all I’ll give you. Start kicking, fighting, or cursing, and I’ll bare you, then take a stick to you. Understand?” He punctuated his question with a painful spank.
“Ow! Yes, I understand,” she answered. “I will be good now, I promise.”
“You are going to get another fifty, and I want you to count each one,” he said firmly. “If you miscount, I’ll start over.” He brought his hand down on her right cheek, and she whispered the number. “I want to hear you, girl. We’ll start again.” She was crying hard by the time he’d given her the first twenty, and by thirty she was sobbing too hard to be understood. He decided to help her out, and counted with her, giving her the last twenty on her sit spots. This time when he sat her down, she cried out, but she stayed in place. He stood, hand on his hips, and looked down at her. She was the perfect picture of a well-spanked female.
He-Who-Wears-Red walked over and addressed him. John grinned, and then answered the man in his own tongue.
Susan was scared. She’d been scared for the last week, ever since the Indians attacked their little wagon train. Philip was killed, so was Mary Elizabeth and her husband, also the three men who worked for Philip. Her belongings were taken or destroyed, and she had nothing left but her very life. She’d been prodded, poked, slapped, and treated like the lowest slave by the three women her captor gave her to. At least she hadn’t been raped by him, but she’d seen him looking at her when the three women who shared his blankets were busy elsewhere. It was just a matter of time before he forced her down, and Susan was terrified that once he did that she would never be the same. The three women already hated her; they took every possible opportunity to humiliate her and remind her that she was their slave.
Today she’d decided not to take it any longer. When the youngest of the three yanked on her hair, she’d lost her temper, grabbed a stick and went after her. The youngest wife had squealed in terror, and the other two women came to her aid, but Susan was fed up; she decided that all three of them were going to get a taste of her stick. They would either end up respecting her and treating her better, or they would kill her. At this point, she didn’t really care.
She watched warily as the Indian who captured her talked to the man who’d spanked her. She had been shocked when the man spoke to her, and she could understand him. These Indians hated whites. But here he was, walking about their encampment as if he belonged. She tried not to get her hopes up, but maybe he would save her? Rescue her? She would offer to pay him to get her out of here, but all of her worldly possessions were gone. The money that Philip had was hidden in the wagon that the Indians burned. She had absolutely nothing. Not even her pride and dignity. He’d spanked her in front of the Indians. She’d cried, then begged him to stop, and knew that the three women would make her life a living hell from now on. She would rather die.
John kept a watchful eye on the little redhead. She seemed lost in her own thoughts, and he couldn’t blame her. He-Who-Wears-Red admitted that he’d killed her husband and five other people before taking her captive. John realized she was probably grieving, but it really didn’t matter. She wasn’t a virgin, and she would keep his bed warm. She had enough spirit left to make it interesting to live with her. He could pretty much guarantee that she would give him an excuse to take her over his knee fairly often, and that suited him just fine. It was perfect in fact, and he willingly paid He-Who-Wears-Red what he asked, after a bit of haggling, of course. He didn’t want to appear too eager, and He-Who-Wears-Red was anxious to have peace restored to his lodge. John didn’t envy the man having three wives to keep happy. Finally, the bargain was struck.
He turned to the female and said, “You are coming with me, girl.” He held out his hand, wondering if she would take it willingly, or if he would have to drag her out of the camp kicking and screaming. It didn’t matter to him.
Susan looked at his hand, then put hers in his and let him pull her to her feet. He led her to his horse and mounted, then he pulled her up to sit in front of him. She cried out when her bottom made contact with the saddle, and then flashed him a dirty look when he chuckled.
“You have a fine temper, don’t you, girl?” he teased, waving goodbye to the Indians watching them leave.
“I’m sore,” she confessed, hardly daring to believe he was getting her out of here, and that she was rescued.
“Then you’d best be watching that temper of yours, and that sassy mouth,” he warned cordially. “I’ll not be so gentle if I have to take you over my knee again soon.” She shivered, and he wasn’t sure if it was his words, or the nip in the air. He reached behind him and untied the bedroll he carried when he rode away from his cabin. He took the blanket and wrapped it around her slender shoulders. “Here. That dress of yours doesn’t look very warm.”
“Thank you.” She pulled the blanket around her, surprised to realize that she felt safe. Susan had been wearing her oldest dress and shoes the day of the attack, then the Indians took her coat, hat, and scarf from her; they didn’t care if she was cold or hungry. Now, she was saved, and wrapped in a nice, warm blanket. For the first time in a week, Susan closed her eyes and slept soundly.
John felt the redhead slump and realized that she’d fallen asleep. He eased her back against his body to make it easier to hold her and keep her from falling off his horse. He’d already noticed that she was much too thin, and he was pretty sure the Indians had only fed her enough to keep her alive. He wondered if she was grieving for her husband. Somehow, she seemed too full of spirit for that. Of course, she did have red hair, and redheads were famous for having a temper. John smiled as he recalled how she’d fought He-Who-Wears-Red’s three wives, holding them off with a stick and giving them the worst end of the confrontation. The girl had spirit, and he admired spirit in a female.
* * *
When Susan finally woke up, she was startled to find herself lying in bed with a man whose name she didn’t even know. He had his arm wrapped around her and she wasn’t about to tolerate that kind of familiarity. He wasn’t her husband and he had no right to be in bed with her. Without giving it any thought whatsoever, she wiggled a bit until she could get some leverage against the wall of the cabin, then she kicked with all her might, sending the man flying out of bed to land on his butt on the floor. She felt a sense of triumph at his grunt of pain and nodded in satisfaction as she recalled how he had spanked her. It was only fair that he suffered too. But her bravado faded when he came up off the floor with an angry roar.
“Did you kick me out of my own bed, girl?” John growled, and when he saw her turn her chin up in a gesture of pure stubbornness, he had his answer. “You little hellion,” he said in a threatening tone of voice as he climbed on the bed on his knees and grabbed for her. She backed out of reach, but he followed, snagging her wrist in his hand and pulling her toward him.
Susan cried out in fear as the angry man hauled her over his right thigh until her head was dangling off the bed, while the rest of her was on the feather tick mattress. “Don’t,” she pleaded as she immediately realized why she was in the humiliating position. “Please don’t spank me again. I am still sore from the last time,” she begged.
“If you didn’t want a spanking then you shouldn’t have kicked me out of my bed, girl,” John said matter-of-factly. “There is no way I’m going to permit you to behave like that and get away with it, best you learn it right now.”
She felt him turn up her skirt then, and to her complete mortification, he tugged on her drawers causing the threadbare fabric to rip, exposing her to his gaze. “No!” She tried to rise up, but when she couldn’t, she lunged forward and would have cracked her head on the floor if his reflexes weren’t so quick. He caught her and pulled her back. She cried out in pain as his hand fell on her very tender bottom. “Ow,” she howled. “Don’t do this.”
“You might as well settle down, girl, because you are going to get your hind set on fire for that bit of nastiness. I won’t be kicked out of my own bed.”
“You had no right to be in bed with me,” she accused. “You had your arm around me.”
“Girl, I bartered with He-Who-Wears-Red for you. You will be spending a lot of time in my bed with me,” he announced, continuing to spank her bottom, which was turning a bright red after just a few swats.
“No. I won’t share your bed. You don’t own me.”
“Girl, I do own you and you ain’t going anywhere.”
“Ouch.” She tried to twist free. “Stop this at once; I won’t be manhandled,” she cried out, his attitude fueling her temper. “I will leave if I wish.”
“No, you won’t.” He smacked her bare bottom again as she drummed her feet on the feather tick. “You are going to settle down, girl, and pronto, or you won’t sit for a week,” he predicted. He gave her another powerful spank, then asked, “Are you ready to say ‘sorry’ yet?” he demanded.
“Yes,” she said immediately, thinking that she would say anything to stop the painful punishment. “I’m sorry. Please stop now.”
“I don’t think you meant that, girl.” John promptly decided. “I am going to have to see to it that you mean the words.”
“No!” she wailed as he spanked even harder, his hand landing on her sit spots and upper thighs, turning them as red as her bottom. “Please stop. Please! I’m sorry!” She started crying.
“Ten more. Count,” he ordered.
“I can’t,” she sobbed. “Please, no more?”
“They don’t count until you start counting them,” he warned.
“Damn you. One. I hate you. Two. Ouch! Three. Stop, please? Four. Five. OW! You need to stop; I can’t stand this. Six. Please, please. Seven. Enough. Oh God, no more. Eight. You are worse than the Indians! Nine. Ten!” Susan sobbed. When he lifted her onto the bed, she crawled into the corner, then pulled the quilt over her head, and gave him her back.
“Never do that again, girl, or I’ll take my belt off.” John hated hearing her cry like that, but he wasn’t about to apologize. She needed a lesson, and he was going to start as he meant to go on. She would respect him in his own home, even if his home was just a simple one room cabin. It was where he lived; he’d paid dearly to get her out of that Indian camp and into his bed for the winter. She should be grateful to him; she wouldn’t have survived the winter with He-Who-Wears-Red and his three wives. John waited until she cried herself to sleep, then he permitted himself to relax and go back to sleep.
* * *
Susan woke again, and she stifled a moan as she tried to move. She was extremely sore and putting any weight on her bottom was impossible. The man was still sleeping, but this time she wasn’t going to kick him out of bed. No, she was going to try to rise and get herself out of the cabin, then find someone in the settlement to help her. She backed to the bottom of the bed, and quietly climbed over the footboard. Once she was on her feet, she found her shoes and headed for the door of the cabin. She let herself outside and looked around in dismay. The cabin was in the middle of nowhere, and she had no idea in which direction she should go to find help.
“Where do you think you’re going?” John demanded, standing in the doorway. He’d awakened the very second he heard the door of the cabin open and close.
“I was hoping we were in a town or settlement of some sort. I want to get away from you.” Her green eyes were snapping with temper, and it was easy to see she was angry. “You might have rescued me from the Indians, but I am a free woman, and I refuse to stay here with you as your bed warmer.” She said the last two words with as much contempt as possible.
“Girl, there is no reason for you to be so riled. I bartered for you; it’s not like you ain’t been married. I don’t plan to hurt you none, just keep warm through the long winter ahead. It’s damn cold out here, so get your fanny inside and I’ll show you where the supplies are to fix us some breakfast.”
“I am not your slave, and I won’t cook for you.” Susan was highly insulted. “I didn’t exchange one form of captivity for another. You are a white man and you should know better.”
“I grew up in Georgia,” he informed her. “My family owns a plantation there. Slavery is legal; whether you like it or not. When those Indians captured you, they made you a slave, and I bartered for you. You belong to me until I decide to let you go. I spent everything I had on you, girl, and I am not spending the winter by myself. It gets lonely up here. Now come on inside before I have to heat your backside again.” He saw her eyes widen in fear, and she quickly obeyed him, although tears of anger filled those pretty green eyes.
“I hate you,” she told him, meaning every word.
“You don’t know me well enough to hate me,” he calmly answered and then looked down at her, “What is your name, girl?” When she looked at him defiantly, he repeated himself, “What is your name?”
“Mrs. Philip Jamison.”
“Not anymore according to He-Who-Wears-Red, he made you a widow. I won’t call you Mrs. Jamison. What is your Christian name?” She glared at him, and he shook his head. “You do try a man’s patience this early in the day before I’ve even had a cup of coffee. Tell me, did your husband have to take a strap to you daily to keep you in line?”
“No. Philip never struck me,” she denied, lying in order to hide her shameful secret.
“Well, that certainly explains why you feel so free to provoke me, doesn’t it, girl? I am not a bit like your dead husband,” he told her, his words soft as could be. “If you don’t give me your name now, I am going to bend you over and set your hind on fire to start the day.” He looked at her, his dark eyebrow arching upwards. “Well?”
“Susan. My name is Susan,” she answered.
“My name is John Jericho, Susie.” He nodded. “Now, let’s see about some breakfast. I’m hungry, and neither of us ate anything last night.”
Susan abruptly realized that she was starving. The Indians hadn’t given her much in the way of food, and it had been a good two days since she was given anything at all, except for the water she managed to sneak when she wasn’t being watched. She paid attention when John showed her where to locate food, and it wasn’t long before she had bacon over the fire in a frying pan. Cooking over a fireplace was nothing new to her, and within a short time, their food was ready to eat.
John decided to let Susan eat in peace, and he didn’t make her sit down to do so. He knew she had to be sore from the spankings he’d given her. He would normally see to it that she sat down to observe the proper manners he’d been taught by his mother, however, this one time, he was going to let her take the edge off her hunger and enjoy her first decent meal in over a week. Once he finished, she was still eating and savoring every last bite, finally sipping her coffee slowly with her eyes closed. He’d run out of coffee the last winter he spent up here, and he knew what it was like to do without the strong brew. It pleased him to see her enjoying the simple pleasure and relishing every second of filling her belly.
She finally stopped eating and looked at him sheepishly. He smiled and asked, “Have you had enough now, Susie? If not, feel free to make some more.”
“Thank you, but I am full now,” she said, her cheeks turning pink.
“No need to be embarrassed. I am aware that He-Who-Wears-Red’s wives made sure you didn’t get much to eat, and I know you didn’t get any coffee in their camp.”
“No, they only gave me something to eat twice.” Her eyes filled with tears at the memory. “I was starved, slapped, pinched, worked, and left tied to a tree outside at night to freeze.”
“Was that the worst of it?” he asked, looking at her meaningfully.
“If you are asking if I was abused as a woman, no, I wasn’t. However, it was only a matter of time before it happened. The man who killed Philip and captured me was kept busy by his wives, or he would have forced me,” she admitted. “I was terrified,” she whispered.
“He won’t bother you now, Susie.”
“My name is Susan,” she scolded.
“I like Susie,” he stated with a grin.
“Well, I do not. I want to go to a town or settlement, Mr. Jericho. I have family in Ohio that I can ask for financial help, so I can get home.”
“Susie, you are staying right here with me this winter. You might as well accept that fact, or you are going to spend a lot of time over my knee getting your pretty little backside reddened.”