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The General’s Guardian Grabs 2 top #100 spots!

I’m very excited to announce that The General’s Guardian has grabbed 2 top #100 spots.

 

Here is another little teaser.  Enjoy!

“What’s gotten into you?” Silver asked noticing that Keridwen was sitting and staring at her.  She’d been very quiet throughout the afternoon, but now that they’d camped for the night, she was expecting Keridwen to relax and settle in. “You feeling alright?”

“What?”

“Keridwen, I asked if you were feeling alright.  You’re too quiet, honey.  Are you sleepy?”

Keridwen shrugged.  “Not really.  I’ve just been thinking.”

“Oh? About what?”

“You,” Keridwen admitted with a small blush.  “I’m just sitting here and watching the sunlight play off your hair.”

“Keridwen, we talked about this,” Silver scolded.

“I’m not doing anything, Silver.  I can’t help the way I feel.  You’re beautiful; especially your hair.”

Silver rolled her eyes.  “It’s just dirty blonde, flat, and usually unruly.”

“My people would never refer to it as dirty.”

“Well, that’s what my people call it.”

Keridwen shook her head.  “I would never call it such.  It is too beautiful to be referred to as dirty.”

“I’m curious then, what would you call it?”

“Your hair?  Hmmm, I told you hair is important to us.  It’s is never merely brown, or blonde,” Keridwen looked at Silver for a long moment, examining her before she replied.  “Early morning sunrise, golden, but still mixed with darkness.”

“You told me your sister was the poet, but I think you’re selling yourself short,” Silver teased.

“What that a short joke?” Keridwen asked before sticking her tongue out.

“Brat.  Come here.”

Keridwen smirked but wandered around to Silver’s side of the fire. Sitting down next to her, she let Silver pull her into a side hug.  “I hate being short.”

“I don’t mind it,” Silver admitted, “Although you’re a lot of fun when you’re taller,” she teased with a little tickle.  They grew quiet a moment as Silver looked up at the sky.  “Your sky is so different here.”

“Do you miss your stars?” Keridwen asked.

“A little.  I guess I never paid much attention to them, but it feels odd.  This world, it’s very different, but it’s the same enough that it reminds me of Earth.  The sky is the one thing that reminds me that I’m not there anymore.”

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It’s up and available! The General’s Guardian!

I am proud to announce that The General’s Guardian is available now on Amazon and through KU.   It was a long struggle to gain my rights back to this book, but finally, I can again share it with the world!  Keridwen and Silver are two of my most beloved characters.  Their relationship is well… different.  Keridwen is cursed and physically changes from her adult form to that of a 10-year old.  She is lost and alone, but Silver changes all that through constant and consistent love and discipline.

The General’s Guardian is the first in a series (currently 3 books).  The General’s Choice (book 2) will be released in the next few weeks, and book three, The Guardian’s Ground Rules, will be released shortly after that.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to review!

Featured

Gemini breaks twin top #100 spots!

I can’t help but be a little excited that Logan Tyler and my little baby has broken two top #100 spots on Amazon.

 

Thanks to everyone who is giving it a chance.  Don’t forget to review!!

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Confession of Gemini

Well, it’s up — although Amazon is currently being temperamental with the search engines and currently it can only be accessed by the link.  It’s up, though, and that is the important part.  Confession of Gemini was a fun project or work on with my buddy, Logan Tyler.  It started off as a short story (we were thinking about 10k words) and ended up being 32k! We also have an idea for a sequel, but we’ll see how it goes ;).  Anyways, it’s up.  Please check it out and enjoy!  Don’t forget to review!

Little Bard, Chapter 1

I actually wrote this story a while ago and while some of you might be familiar with it, some may not.  It’s one of my personal favorites and gets back to my roots as a Xena Fan Fiction writer.  I am going to be posting the whole story here, a chapter at a time.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Of course Xena and Gabrielle aren’t my original characters. I am just borrowing them for a bit to have a little fun.  I promise I’ll put them back when I’m done ;).


Little Bard: Chapter 1

___

“Why so down, sweet cheeks?” Aphrodite exclaimed as she appeared in a burst of pink hearts and rose petals.

Gabrielle groaned and covered her face with her hands.  “Now’s not a good time, Aphrodite.”

“Oh please, I’m feeling major bummer vibes from my best bard and her warrior babe. What happened, you two have a fight?”

“Something like that,” Gabrielle groaned again, shaking her head.

Aphrodite joined Gabrielle on the fallen log that she was sitting on. “Come on; I hate to see you down. Maybe talking it out will help.”

Gabrielle looked up, meeting Love’s eyes.  “Three years.  You think by now she’d stop treating me like I was five years old.  Can you believe it, she actually sent me on a side mission just to keep me away from the action.”

“I’m sure she just wanted to make sure you were safe…”

“That’s just it,” Gabrielle interrupted. “I can take care of myself.  I don’t need to be coddled or protected.  You know I spent the last three days sitting in a tavern waiting for her to show up while she went after the Warlord Garius?”

“Garius? Ew… like totally gross! That guy is major trouble, smelly too.”

“Was major trouble,” Gabrielle responded, rolling her eyes.   “I don’t understand why Xena keeps treating me like a kid. For once I wish that Xena could just appreciate me for me, and realize that I’ve grown up.”

“Hmm… Maybe I can help…”

“Oh no,” Gabrielle quickly shook her head. “Please don’t.  Let me handle this.”

“Of course, you’re the perfect one to handle this.  Don’t worry about a thing, Gabrielle,” Aphrodite explained as she reached over and kissed the bard’s forehead.

Gabrielle was caught off guard by the sudden gesture, but before she could react, she felt her vision blur, and her eyelids become very heavy.  She tried to fight it, tried to argue, but her tongue wouldn’t obey.  No longer able to keep her eyes open, she was forced to surrender to the call of Morpheus and slipped into a deep sleep.

Aphrodite smiled as she helped the bard gently to the ground.  “You want Xena to appreciate you and see you for the grown woman that you are?  Well, little bard, you are about to get your wish.”

^^–^8^–^^

            Xena had been searching for the last half hour.  It was getting dark, and she was concerned that Gabrielle hadn’t returned to camp.  She realized that Gabrielle had been upset with her, but she saw no reason to apologize for her actions.  Garius was just too dangerous.  If he would have gotten close to Gabrielle, she knew he would have killed her.  He was the type to kill first and ask questions later.  If he had any inkling that Gabrielle meant anything to her, it would have only made the bard a target.

Xena continued to follow Gabrielle’s trail until it ended at a small brook.  There she saw a fallen tree, with Gabrielle’s staff propped up against it.  She could also see the top of her bag on the other side of the log.

“Gabrielle?” the warrior called out, before stopping abruptly and seeing a small form on the ground.  She suddenly got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, for where she expected to find Gabrielle; there was a young child instead.  Moving closer to the small figure, Xena squatted down and studied her.  She figured the child was about five or six, but the most intriguing part was that the child looked very much like Gabrielle, including identical mini-copies of her green top and brown skirt.  It was as if Gabrielle had shrunk – clothes and all. “No, this can’t be…” Xena started before she was suddenly cut off by bright green eyes.

A high pitched scream cut through woods, causing birds to take flight, and Xena to suddenly lose her balance and fall backward onto her backside.  The child suddenly scooted back, until she hit the log and then screamed a second time.

“Hey, it’s ok.  I’m not going to hurt you,” Xena said softly as she regained her balance and knelt down in front of the child.  The child stared wide-eyed at her and Xena got the feeling that the little girl might try to run. Taking a chance, Xena tried again, “Gabrielle? Do you know who I am?”

The little girl blinked.  “How… how do you know my name?”

“I’m your friend. I know a lot about you.”

“Do you know where my mommy and daddy are?”

Xena nodded. “Sure, they are safe and at home in Potidaea.”

“Will you take me to them?”

“Just calm down, now. You don’t need to worry. I’ll take care of you.” Gabrielle’s lip started to tremble, and Xena could tell that she was about to cry. “Hey now, it’s okay.  Potidaea is a long way away.  If you want me too, I’ll take you home.”

“Promise?”

“Sure I do,” Xena nodded, immediately regretting the promise.  If this really was her Gabrielle, the last place she’d want to take her was back to her parents.  Xena watched the little girl for a moment, reassured as Gabrielle’s position shifted and Xena realized that she was no longer a flight risk. She then frowned responding to the one that she saw on Gabrielle’s face. “What’s the matter, why the frown?”

“You said you are my friend, but I don’t remember you.  What’s your name?”

Xena sighed, this was worse than she thought. “Xena, my name is Xena.”

“Xena…” Gabrielle slowly repeated.  “I’m hungry.”

^^–^8^–^^

            Xena watched the little girl sleep as she ran her whetstone along her sword in smooth, even strokes.  She wasn’t sure what to make of the day’s events.  Gabrielle had undergone a mysterious transformation, but she had no idea how or why.  After everything she’d seen and been through, she didn’t think anything could surprise her anymore, but this certainly had.  She smelt the interference of a god, but she didn’t know which one, and really had no idea where to start looking.

Gabrielle had fallen asleep shortly after dinner. They had talked a bit, but the little bard seemed to know less about what happened then Xena did.  There was a part of Xena that was telling her that this might be some sort of trick or trap, but she had to admit, besides the lack of memories and a shorter than usual stature, the little girl was an incredibly convincing Gabrielle. Even at a younger age, her behavioral patterns, mannerisms, and even the cute little gestures, like when she wrinkled her nose when she was concentrating, was all perfect.

With a small frown of uncertainty, Xena looked up only to see Gabrielle suddenly shift in her sleep and let out a low whimper.  Xena’s arm froze in mid-stroke, her full attention on the little bard.  When Gabrielle cried out, Xena put her sword down and went over to her side.  She sat down next to her and gently stroked Gabrielle’s hair.  With her touch, Gabrielle seemed to settle down, whatever nightmare had been plaguing her forgotten.

Gabrielle shifted again, rolling over and throwing her arm over Xena’s leg. She grabbed ahold and hugged it like close to her like a cherished stuffed animal.  Xena tensed, not sure what to do.  She sat for a moment before she tried to wiggle out of the grasp, but stopped when she was met with green eyes and a frown.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Xena whispered. “You were just having a nightmare.”

Gabrielle half sat up, letting go of the warrior’s leg. “Sorry,” she mumbled.

“Don’t worry about it.  Go back to sleep.”

Gabrielle lay back down.  Xena waited for several minutes, letting the child get settled and again grow quiet before she got up and went back over to where she had left her sword.

“Xena?”

“I thought you were asleep,” Xena answered, looking back over her shoulder.

“I’m scared.”

Xena picked up her sword and returned to the little bard’s side. “How about I lie down next to you? I’m getting tired anyway.”

Gabrielle nodded, scooting over to allow the warrior enough room to join her under the blanket. Xena didn’t say anything as she settled in, laying on her back.  Gabrielle was facing her on her side, eyes now wide open and studying the warrior.

Xena glanced down, seeing the hesitation in the girl’s eyes. “C’mere,” she invited, motioning Gabrielle closer.  Gabrielle flashed a grin before she scooted up, settling her head on the leather-clad chest, and wrapping her arm around Xena’s waist.  Resting her own arm securely around the child, Xena bent her head and kissed the girl gently on the forehead. “Night, Gabrielle.”

^^–^8^–^^

Gabrielle felt a sudden sense of familiarity as the warrior’s lips met her forehead.  She didn’t quite understand it, but it was warm and comforting.  Feeling both secure and safe, she let out a satisfied sigh before responding, “Night, Xena,” and closing her eyes.

 

 

A Little more of Gemini

Confession of Gemini was too fun to work on, and so I thought I’d share another little snippet with you all.   It’s available on Amazon and through KU — have you read it yet?  My buddy, Logan Tyler, and I would love to hear what you think of it!

 

“What’s that?” Melissa asked.

“Ah, nothing. Just a little piece of trash.”

“Then why are you trying to hide it? Hand it over,” Melissa directed.

In another moment of panic, Sarah snatched the paper off the floor. She put it behind her back, protecting her ill-fated secret for a bit longer. “No, really it’s nothing. I’m just going to throw it away.”

Melissa stepped towards her, locking eyes with her and making Sarah very nervous. “I told you to do something, young lady, and I expect you to do it! Give me the paper. Now.”

Sarah shook her head and backed further away from the intimidating Melissa. She wanted to run, but hitting the counter, she quickly realized she had nowhere else to go.

“Now, Sarah Annabelle.”

Sarah’s eyes widened. There was no way she’d be able to get by Melissa without her lover catching her, and with the realization that there was no escape, the panic increased tenfold.  Her heart was beating faster and faster now.  Handing the paper over would be like confessing.   That was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Give that to me,” Melissa growled as she reached around Sarah for the paper in her hands.

Out of options, Sarah spun, tossed the paper into the garbage disposal, and flipped the switch causing it to roar to life and eat the paper.

Melissa’s mouth was agape as she looked from the sink and back at Sarah. Not blinking, she reached for the utensil holder sitting on the counter and pulled out a wooden spoon. She then took Sarah by the ear and led her to the end of the counter before pushing her over it.

“No, no, no, no,” Sarah begged as the spoon landed with a loud pop. “Please, I’m sorry, Melissa. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Really?” Melissa grunted as Sarah squirmed through a good dozen rapid-fire swats. “I can only imagine what you were thinking, or what was on that paper,” Melissa scolded, pulling Sarah back up only long enough to undo the button and zipper to her pants. She quickly yanked them down before pressing Sarah back against the counter.

“You’re going to tell me what was on that paper,” Melissa demanded, giving Sarah a pop on both her panty covered cheeks.

Sarah wiggled wildly across the top of the counter. The heat was quickly building in her backside and the spoon was far from her favorite implement. “Please Melissa, ma’am, you’ll be mad if I tell you,” she implored.

Her pleas fell on deaf ears, however, because Melissa didn’t relent. Instead, she continued her hold on Sarah’s lower back, placing two firm pops lower, on her tender sit spots. “Be that as it may, little brat, I want to know what was on that paper. And the longer it takes you to tell me, the longer your strapping is going to be later!”

The General’s Guardian

 

A few weeks ago I won by rights back to one of my most beloved stories.  The General or Keridwen was a ruler, a queen, who lost her lost her kingdom and everything she held dear because of greed.  She is plagued by a curse which has transformed her into the body of a 10-year old, and she is forced to scrape a living on the streets.  It’s only when Silver, a jewelry broker from Earth, crosses her path that Keridwen once again learns just what it means to hope and love again.   Below is a small snippet, and  a teaser for when I re-release this story one week from today (that’s January 7th!)

General's Guardian Cover

Keridwen sat just far enough away so that she knew that Silver couldn’t see her.  She wasn’t sure why she ran, but she had.  Checking herself again and reassuring herself that she hadn’t shrunk, she was also confused.   She was big, she was the General, and she shouldn’t be afraid of one little blonde woman, but she was.

It wasn’t even so much that she knew she had the mother of all spankings coming to her when she went back, but it was something deeper.  She was struggling.  She’d been alone for so long that she’d forgotten what it was like to be responsible for or to anyone else.  When she went after that messenger, she wasn’t thinking about the long-term effects and now Silver was caught up within a situation where she wasn’t sure she could get them out.  Perhaps Silver was right, and they should leave Sangria.

She couldn’t go south, she had too many enemies there, and east was too dangerous.   The opposite direction, west, over the mountains, that had possibilities.   No one knew much about the lands to the west.  The mountains were high and hard to cross so little news or trade ever happened between them.  Ideally, that within itself made it the best most logical place to hide.  They could go west and make a new life together.  Big or small, they could make it work there.

Looking back toward their camp she realized that she should go back.  She should apologize to Silver, and fall to her knees and beg forgiveness for being so disrespectful.  She should do a lot of things, but she couldn’t help still being apprehensive.   She didn’t want that spanking, but she didn’t want to face Silver even more.  She knew her blonde guardian would be disappointed and who knows what else she might say.  Maybe this had been the final straw and Silver was finally going to leave.  That would be the smartest thing to do, but that was also the scariest thing to think about.

Settling back into the tree she was perched in, she thought how Silver hadn’t come after her. She hadn’t called her, or even tried to look for her.  That thought only hit a raw nerve and caused Keridwen’s apprehension to grow.  Maybe she really was done.  Maybe Keridwen had finally gone too far.  Wiping a sudden and unexpected tear from her eye, Keridwen looked up at the sky before touching each temple and shoulder as she started her prayer.  “Mother, forgive me for being so selfish, but I’ve lost so much, I can’t lose her too.  Don’t let Silver leave.  I need her and I need the courage to tell her that.  Mother, please help me.”

Candy Caned

This was a little Christmas story that I wrote last year.  I’m in the mood to share it again.  So… Merry Christmas, and enjoy!

 

Candy Caned

By Stardawn Cabot

 

“Emily, I’m not going to tell you again to get your ass out of bed,” Laurel threatened from the threshold to their bedroom.

Emily groaned, and as she pulled the blanket over her blonde head, Laurel realized that her partner was going to challenge her.  “I made coffee,” Laurel offered, hoping Emily would take the bait.  “And pancakes.”

“Don’t care.  I don’t wanna go,” Emily mumbled into her pillow.

Laurel sighed and moved over to the bed.   She sat down and tried to pull the blanket away, but Emily was holding it tightly. “It’s your last day. Don’t you want to say goodbye?”

“No.  There is going to be screaming and yelling, and too much candy.  You know what they are like when they are all hyped up on sugar.”

“Emmy, come on, that’s enough.”

Emily finally let the blanket go, revealing her emerald-green eyes and adorable pink lips, both of which were cast downward into a pout.  “I don’t wanna.”

Laurel raised a dark eyebrow.  The whining was getting annoying. Time was also ticking.  If Emily didn’t get moving soon, she was going to be late.  “Alright, I get it, but I also mean it.   You need to get up and get dressed.”  She paused long enough to give Emily a gentle pat on the backside though the blanket.  “I know it’s going to be a long day.  Remember, we have the Dinner with Santa charity thing tonight too.  Neither is going to be pleasant if you can’t sit down.”

“Why did they have to do that on a Friday, and the last day of school too?” Emily continued to whine.

“Emily,” Laurel let her voice drop.  “You have 15 minutes to get dressed and be in the kitchen.”  Laurel then stood and pointed a finger at her still pouting partner.  “Don’t make me set the timer,” she further warned before promptly turning and leaving the room.

Emily was never a morning person, but then this week had been hard on her. She’d found out that her best friend was moving out of state, which had put her in a mood.  The last week of school before the Christmas break was hard enough to begin with.  Emily had a rather challenging group of first-graders that more than kept her on her toes.

It was more than that though.  Laurel and Emily had been together for just over five years, and Laurel knew that Emily had issues with this time of year in general.  Emily’s parents passed away when she was a teenager, and her older sister, who’d become her guardian, had all but disowned her when she’d come out.

With lack of familial support, Laurel tried to fill the void.  She strived to make this time of year special with other things.  They volunteered and had traditions with friends that helped, but she knew Emily still missed her family.  Sharon moving was just the icing on the cake this year.  Sharon and her family had become part of their family, and not having her and her kids around was going to hurt.

With a small groan of her own as she reentered the kitchen, Laurel snagged a pancake from beneath the lid she’d put over them to keep them warm.  Cooking had never been her strong suit, but they weren’t bad, even without being drenched in maple syrup or a tower of whipped cream.  She had a bit of a sweet tooth, but then so did Emily.  It was one thing they had in common.

Laurel was just finishing cleaning the pan in the sink when Emily made her appearance.  A quick glance at the clock confirmed she’d just made the fifteen-minute mark, but the pout on her lips hasn’t dissipated.

Emily retrieved a pancake from the stack, taking a bite the same way that Laurel had.  “I should really get going,” she commented after she swallowed.

“Yep.  Take some of those to go.  I’ll get you a thermos for the coffee.”

“Laurel, I don’t really…”

“Have to say, thank you, but you are welcome anyway,” Laurel interrupted.  She smiled and managed to get a small smile in return.

“I love you too,” Emily said.

“Yep,” Laurel agreed. She filled Emily thermos as Emily grabbed another pancake.   “Just remember to be home on time.  We have to get dressed, and I don’t want to be late.”

“I know,” Emily nodded before moving to Laurel’s side and giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.  “Thanks.”

Laurel cocked an eyebrow before pulling Emily in for a much deeper and more passionate kiss.  “Now you’re welcome,” she then joked as Emily’s cheeks flushed.

Emily rolled her eyes but kissed Laurel one more time before finally heading out the door.  It was going to be a long day… for both of them.

            “You’re joining us, right?” Melissa asked from the door between their classrooms.  Emily’s fellow first-grade teacher looked both very happy and relieved.  The kids had just left and they were officially on Christmas break.

Emily gave her a small shake of her head.  “I need to clean up and head out. Laurel’s expecting me.  We have that thing tonight.”

“Thing? Oh, that’s right.  What does she have you dressing up as this year?”

Emily rolled her eyes.  “I’m going to be an elf; she’s Mrs. Claus.”

Melissa giggled.  “Pointy ears and all?”

“I’m going to be an elf, not a Vulcan, and don’t tease me.  I’d much rather just go home and curl up with a book.”

“Aw, you know I didn’t mean it,” Melissa returned.  “Here, why don’t you let me help?  It’s not so bad, and maybe you can come for a little while, just one drink with the team? It won’t take long.”

Emily took in a deep break and surveyed her classroom.  She had had the kids do most of the clean up before they left, and she only had to pack up the remaining food to take home. With Melissa’s help it would only take a few minutes at most. “You know what?” she finally decided, “I think I’d like that.”

“Great,” Melissa nodded.  “Now what can I do to help?”

       Emily winced at the clock as she pulled into their driveway.  She’d only meant to stay a half hour or so, but by the time everyone got there, she’d more than tripled that. She’d also tripled the amount of drinks she told herself she’d consume, but then one drinking leading to three wasn’t that hard when she was with her friends and there were nachos involved.

Still, it was dark, and she knew that Laurel was going to be furious with her.  It wasn’t like Emily to ignore a request, like to be home by a certain time, or to ignore Laurel’s texts and calls.  After the first couple of texts, Emily had told Laurel she’d be home soon but then had gotten distracted by her co-workers.

As she entered the house, she was prepared to meet Laurels wrath, but instead was met with quiet.  The house was dark save for the hallway light they always left on at night, and after a perplexing scan, Emily realized that Laurel’s car was missing from the garage.  After a bit more probing, she discovered her elf costume sitting out on the bed.  Accompanying it, was a note and their oaked-backed hairbrush.

At the sight of the hairbrush, Emily winced once again.  She understood Laurel’s message loud and clear before she even picked up the note. When she did build up the courage to look at the note, she wished she hadn’t.  Maybe it wasn’t too late to catch up with her coworkers and bum a ride to Canada.

With a frown, she read the directions twice more before looking back down at the costume.   The note had made it clear that Laurel wanted Emily to join her, but then part of her wanted to just ignore it as well.  She was already in big trouble, that wouldn’t really change if she decided to slip into pajamas instead of the costume. With a sigh, though, she knew she couldn’t really do that to Laurel.  Laurel was counting on her help and she couldn’t let all those kids down who were looking forward to seeing Santa and his helpers either.

       Laurel frowned as she checked her watch again.  She was beyond annoyed with Emily, but she was also upset with herself.  She knew that Emily was battling internal demons, and pushing her wasn’t always the best idea.  In fact, if she hadn’t given her word, she would have skipped the party and insisted on a quiet evening at home, along with her partner.  Emily was the love of her life.  She was gentle, and caring, and sometimes so sensitive to other people’s needs it made Laurel tear up.  It wasn’t fair what Emily had been through, and Laurel made every attempt to make her happy.

Their relationship was solid, but it also had its unique twists; for all that Emily needed, she also required Laurel to be more than just a lover. Several months into their relationship, Emily started to share some of the heartaches she’d been through.  She craved reassurance and focus, and together they’d come up with a solution that worked for both of them.

That is where the note that she’d left for Emily came in to play, or more specifically the unwritten message Laurel had left.  That hairbrush made it very clear that Emily had a spanking to look forward too. Laurel hoped that the threat was enough to help Emily settle down and maybe even enjoy her evening.  Emily loved working with kids, and this charity event was sponsored by her work, it was especially rewarding.  The highlight was when Santa showed and each of the foster kids in attendance would receive a gift.

Laurel checked her phone for messages and then tucked it away in a small pocket on the side of her costume.  Being Mrs. Claus sounded like a good idea at the time, but the costume was uncomfortable, and far from the ‘old-lady’ she’d envisioned.  The skirt was a little short of her tastes, and the white fur trimmings were itchy.  In truth, it looked more like a Halloween costume than anything remotely authentic, but it was too late to change it now.

        It took Emily a good hour to dress and then finally convince herself to head to the party.  There was a part of her that wanted to go.  She wanted to please Laurel, and she wanted to participate with the kids.  It was a wonderful feeling seeing the children get excited, but there was another part of her that knew that she was in trouble.  It was always hard to meet Laurel’s eyes when that was the case, and she was dreading having to pretend that everything was okay in public until they could have that promised discussion.

It was more than that too.   Laurel knew her story, but she didn’t know everything.  There was something about the date, in particular, that was pulling Emily back.  Anniversaries weren’t always good memories, and for some reason, this year was hitting her harder than most.

Still, life went on, and as she scanned the room for Laurel, she couldn’t help but temporality forget about her past as she caught a glimpse of Laurel.  Her partner normally dressed in dark, drab shades, preferring black, gray, and brown, to anything that might hint of color, but today she was nothing like the usual.  The bright red of the Mrs. Claus costume made her dark, almost black hair shine, and as she turned and caught Emily with her ice-blue eyes, Emily’s heart skipped a beat for she wasn’t just surprising, but damn sexy as well.

Laurel gave her half a smile, which Emily managed to return despite the fact that her knees had turned to jelly.  As Emily started making her way toward her, Emily’s cheeks flushed and her mouth went dry.

“You’re adorable,” Laurel teased.

“You’re not,” Emily teased back, startling Laurel for a moment until Emily managed a mischievous smile.  “I so want to drag you off to a closet and pounce on you.”

“Now, you’re already on the naughty list…”

“It would so be worth it,” Emily interrupted.

Laurel then laughed.  “Well, at least you’re in a better mood.”

Emily lost her smile.  “I’m sorry. It’s been a long day.”

“I know,” Laurel sighed. She pulled Emily into a hug and kissed the top of her head.  “Just try to relax and enjoy yourself, okay?”

Emily nodded into Laurel’s shoulder.  “I’ll try.”

The moment between them only lasted a few seconds before someone interrupted them.  Since the party was arranged by Laurel’s work, so she was much more involved than Emily was.  With a small sigh, Emily watched Laurel be swept away to attend to some sort of detail.  She frowned and made her way over to the bar.  At least if she was going to wait, she could find something to dull her senses a bit.

            Laurel frowned as she caught sight of Emily chatting with one of the guys from accounting.  It wasn’t the company she was frowning at, but rather what Emily had in her hand.  To the best of Laurel’s knowledge that was the third drink she’d seen Emily consume, and in her opinion, that was enough.  After all, they’d taken separate cars, so they both needed to be able to drive home.

She made her way across the room, frowning deeper as she heard Emily giggle.  Emily never made that noise unless she let her inhibitions drop, and that meant she needed to back off the alcohol and eat something.

Laurel came up beside her and wrapped an arm around her waist.  “Eric,” she nodded to her co-worker.  “I hope my partner has been behaving herself.”

Emily blushed as Laurel made a little small talk and then guided Emily aside.  “I think that’s enough,” she slightly scolded, taking the drink from Emily’s hand and putting it on the nearby table.  “We should get something to eat.”

“I ate earlier,” Emily augured.  “Besides, isn’t it about time for Santa to make an appearance?”

“Soon.  In the meantime, I want you to eat something.”

“Why?”

“Emily,” Laurel warned. “Just for once, don’t argue.”

Emily rolled her eyes and reached for her glass, but Laurel put her hand on her arm.  “And that’s enough.  If you’re thirsty I want you drinking water.”

“Laurel, come on…”

“Emily.  Enough.”  With a little more force this time, Laurel wrapped her hand around Emily’s elbow and guided her to the buffet.  She then helped her load a plate before directing her to an open seat.

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t want you to overdo it,” Laurel explained as Emily’s lip tucked into a pout.  “Even if you did eat earlier, it’s been a few hours, and you’ve been drinking.”

Emily let out a heavy sigh and picked up a meatball with her fork.  She eyed it for a moment before biting it in half.  “Maybe I should have just stayed home.”

“I would have missed you.”

“You’ve barely noticed I’m even here.”

“You are going to help with the kids.  You always love helping.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t feel like it tonight,” Emily snapped.  “I’m just going to go.  I’m sure you’ll manage.”

“I don’t think so.  You’ve been drinking.  You need to eat something and let the alcohol wear off.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’ll do what you’re told.”

“I got home just fine, and I got here just fine.  I can get home too.”

“What do you mean by that?” Laurel challenged, raising an eyebrow dangerously.

“I’m an adult.  I can make my own decisions,” Emily countered.

Emily pushed her chair away, but Laurel locked her in place with a hard stare.  Her voice then dropped down to a deadly whisper.  “You will stay right here in this chair and eat everything on that plate.”

Emily set her jaw and Laurel shifted, preparing to go to battle when they were interrupted by the announcement that Santa had entered the building.  The next few minutes were a blur as sleigh bells started jingling, children started to bounce with excitement, and Santa’s laughter was heard throughout the hall.  Before Laurel had a chance to focus, she found herself and Emily at the front of the room, helping Santa hand out his many packages.

As usual, the gift giving was hectic.   It always went fast, and the children’s excitement was contagious.  Laurel soon found herself posing for pictures alongside Emily, Santa, and various children and co-workers.

She was having a wonderful time and almost didn’t realize when Emily slipped away.  Scanning the room, Laurel felt her ire rise as she saw Emily back over by the bar.  She quickly excused herself and followed.  Taking the glass away from Emily a second time, Laurel scolded, “What did I tell you?”

“What are you talking about?” Emily returned, the annoyance clear in her tone.

“I said you’ve had enough to drink.”

“Seriously?”

“Emily Claire, I told you you’ve had enough.”

“And I told you that I was an adult and could make my own decisions.”

Laurel set her jaw as their eyes again locked in a battle of wills.  Emily was being difficult on purpose and she didn’t like her tone or the lack of respect.  It was very unlike her normally cheery partner.  “Do you really?”

Her question seemed to catch Emily off guard.  “What?”

“Do you really?” Laurel repeated.  “Because adults have consequences for their actions.  If you really think that you’re okay to drink that, you’ll also be prepared to do the adult thing and face those consequences.”

Emily narrowed her eyes, and Laurel didn’t interfere as Emily slowly reached for her drink before bringing it to her lips.

“Alright.  Enjoy that, because I’m going to go pay my respects and we are going home.”

“Fine,” Emily practically spat as Laurel turned to seek out her boss.

            Emily watched Laurel weave her way back through the tables and scattered people, stopping and speaking with a few before she moved on toward her boss.  She’d have to do what she needed as the good employee and for some reason that irked Emily.  Normally it would be something that they would have done together, but Emily was in no mood to speak to anyone. In fact, she could barely stand the idea of even watching.

She put her glass back down and decided that she was done.  Laurel wanted to go home, and so did she.  She just didn’t care for the idea of actually waiting for her partner.  After all, they took two cars to get there, they could take two to get home.

Emily had almost made it to her car before she was stopped by the sound of her name.   With a groan, she turned only to be met by Laurel who was practically out of breath from chasing after her.  “I’ll meet you at home,” Emily tried to push her off.

“I don’t think so,” Laurel huffed.  “You’re not driving.”

“Laurel…”

“You’ve been drinking.  You’re not driving home,” Laurel repeated. “Give me the keys.”

“No. You have your own car.”

“Emily Claire, I’m not going to ask again.”

Emily narrowed her eyes, and quite without thinking, squeezed the keys in her hand before promptly throwing them.  The moment they left her hand, she regretted it.  As they went soaring through the air and into a cluster of bushes several yards away, she winced, realizing just how stupid and childish her response had been. Looking up and meeting Laurel’s eyes, only confirmed it.

“I’m sorry…” she tried, getting cut off as Laurel grabbed her arm with one hand and landed a well-placed swat with the other. “Ow!”

“You don’t even know the meaning of the word ‘ow’ yet,” Laurel warned.  “We need to go home now.”

Emily shrank back and didn’t protest as Laurel pulled her away from her own car and across the parking lot toward Laurel’s.

In reality, the drive home lasted nearly twenty minutes, but for Emily, it seemed like an eternity.  She tried several times to apologize, but it only came out in mumbles and squirms.  As Laurel pulled into the driveway, Emily turned to her partner, giving her a pleading look.

“Don’t,” Laurel replied.  “Inside.”

“But…”

“Now,” Laurel demanded.

Emily bit her lip, but opened the door and let Laurel follow her into the house.  After several minutes of silence, Emily gathered her courage enough to ask, “Can we please discuss this?”

Save the few words in the car, Laurel had been quiet.  Her brow was furrowed, her hands twitched, and that little vein on the side of her neck was throbbing.  Another long moment passed before Laurel finally nodded.  “Alright.  Sit.  Talk.”

The single word sentences were not reassuring, but Emily gingerly sat down on the sofa, waiting for Laurel to do the same on the opposite end. “I’m sorry,” Emily repeated. Her voice was soft and her mouth was dry.  “I wasn’t thinking.”

Laurel snorted.  “Really?  How much did you drink tonight, Emily?”

Emily looked down at her hands.  “Before or after the party?” Laurel stiffened, and Emily knew she’d said too much.  She’d had just enough to make her tongue loose and her guilt free.   “It’s been a hard day,” Emily continued.  “I wasn’t making the best choices.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Laurel responded.  “How much?”

“I think I had three before, and three or four after.”

Laurel was quiet for a good minute or so.  Emily kept her eyes on her hands, afraid to look up and meet Laurel’s ice-blue fire.  Emily then shifted as Laurel reached across the sofa cushion separating them and laid her hand over Emily’s.  “I’m glad that I was able to stop you from driving home, and I’m glad that you were lucky enough not to encounter any problems when you drove home, and then to the party, but you know luck isn’t enough. What you did was incredibly dangerous and stupid.”

“I know,” Emily responded.  Her eyes blurred, and she felt her nose get tingly as she struggled to hold back the tears.  “Today was hard.”

“It would have been harder if you would have hurt yourself or someone else.  Damn it, Emily.  You could have killed yourself.  You could have killed some innocent.  There is no going back from that.  There is no undoing that mistake.”

“I know,” Emily said. Her voice was shaky, and the words came out too fast.  “Please, I’m so sorry.”

“I know,” Laurel echoed. She scooted over so they were now next to each other.  “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Emily managed to squeak out.  “What can I do?  How can I fix it?”

“You can’t.  Like I said earlier, you can’t undo a mistake like this.  You got lucky.  You got lucky twice.”

“I’m lucky to have you,” Emily pressed.

Laurel chucked at that.  “Not gonna argue with you there.  Now,” she coaxed, waiting for Emily to raise her eyes.  “I think you need to go to our room and find yourself a corner.”

Emily paled at the pronouncement.  Not that it was unexpected, but the cool-calm in Laurel’s voice was almost unnerving.  “Now?”

“Unless you’re too drunk and need to sleep it off first.”

Emily almost wanted to claim that she was but knew if she could think those kinds of thoughts, she was sober enough to face the music.  With a sigh and a nod, she resigned herself to the enviable and rose to head to their bedroom.  “Should I change?”

Laurel gave her a once over, and then glanced down at her own outfit.  “You acted impulsively, childishly, and were very, very, naughty, when you threw those keys into the bushes.  I think what you’re wearing, what we are wearing,” she corrected herself, “is rather suitable.  Don’t you?”

Emily’s cheeks colored, and Laurel let out a small chuckle.  She stood and pointed Laurel toward the hall with a pat to her behind.  “I’ll be in soon.”

          Watching Emily leave, Laurel let out a long breath.  She’s been through such a range of emotions this evening.  Everything from fear and anger to worry and regret.  She hated being stern with Emily, but they’d had conversations about this before.  Emily had a tendency to withdraw, sometimes with alcohol.  She also tended to hold too much inside.

Laurel may not have known every aspect of her partner’s thoughts, but she knew enough to recognize that Emily’s actions were a call for help.  She needed Laurel to catch her and she needed Laurel to be an outlet for all those trapped emotions.  Emily was sweet.  She was endearing.  She was so loving that she was almost afraid to show any other side of her.  That is where Laurel came in, to help Emily battle that darker side.

Laurel brought her hand to her chin in thought.  Emily was in for a spanking, that was for sure, and she’d also been promised a dose of the hairbrush, but maybe this time that wasn’t enough.  Most spankings in their household were brisk, needing little more than a reminder of Laurel’s palm to set Emily straight.

The bratty behavior, snippy comments, or whining that often started these spirals were usually nipped in the bud, but perhaps Laurel had made a mistake letting it go this morning.  Laurel knew it was coming the moment Emily fought her about getting out of bed, but then she was hoping that the Christmas celebrations and the children might be enough to pull Emily out on her own.  Obviously, she’d been wrong.

Her misjudgment caused Emily not only to throw a tantrum but actually put herself in danger while doing so.  This time, Laurel knew, Emily needed more than just a spanking.  Even the promised paddling might not be enough.

Stepping back, Laurel examined the room for inspiration.  The costumes they were in bought some promise of a bit of embarrassment (perhaps from both of them), which might help, but maybe there was something more she could do to enhance the experience. Scanning the room, she spotted the artificial tree, already decorated with lights and angel-topper.   There were a few gifts, already wrapped under the tree, but the house, in general, hasn’t been finished.  They were planning on putting the lights outside and finishing the interior that weekend.

Laurel frowned slightly, her eyes flowing to the kitchen and wondering if a wooden spoon or spatula might do the trick when it fell to a storage box full of lawn décor.  Inside were a half-dozen plastic candy-canes, which gave her an idea.  She pulled one out at random, and bent it slightly, testing the springiness.  It was solid, a good ½ inch in diameter, and as long as her arm.  With a slightly wicked smirk, she tested it, whooshing it through the air. Not only would it be painful, it would probably scare Emily senseless.  In other words — it was perfect.

Candy-cane in hand, she made her way to the bedroom.  Emily was as she expected, nose in the corner.  It would have been quiet, save for the small bells on Emily’s elf tunic, which seemed to be jingling with nerves.

Laurel watched her for a moment.  She didn’t get to fully appreciate Emily’s outfit earlier. The tunic was green, the edge cut in a zig-zag pattern, each with a small bell sewn on where the ‘points’ were made.  The leggings were stripped, red and white, not unlike the candy-cane she still held in her hand.  There was a hat, a sort of Peter-pan like, but somewhere Emily had taken it off.  It was a cute costume, and even though it made Emily look a mite younger than her 26 years, that was sort of the point.  For all their mischievousness, elves were also eternally young.  In a sense the costume was perfect.

Laying the cane on the bed, she had a seat, and then finally called out to her lover.

           “Emily, come here,” Laurel called, making Emily jingle with uneasiness.  Her bells tinkled, and she almost groaned.  Bells were stupid. Turning around and catching Laurel sitting on the edge of the bed made her again twitch.  This is what’s stupid, she thought to herself, getting into trouble over something as silly as a Christmas party.

With a sigh, Emily knew she didn’t really have any choice and crossed over to Laurel, stopping right before her knees.  Her eyes dropped automatically.  “Can we please just get this over with?”

“Nothing would make me happier,” Laurel replied, but I think we need to talk first.

Emily did groan, aloud this time, making Laurel frown.  “Please, I know I screwed up.”

Laurel reached out and grabbed each of Emily’s hands.  Her touch was gentle, as she held each one, but the gesture also caused Emily to look up, getting caught in Laurel’s blue eyes.  “I know you understand that you messed up, but I need you to understand exactly why you are in trouble.”

“Okay,” Emily nodded, not being able to resist the tenderness in Laurel’s eyes.

“You are going to get a spanking,” Laurel informed her.  “I am going to spank you for three reasons.”

“Okay,” Emily repeated.  She felt her cheeks warm at the thought and knew she had to be blushing, but then the pronouncement wasn’t a surprise.  Maybe it was the Santa-hat that Laurel was still wearing.  Maybe it was the short skirt or the white fir trim, but suddenly Emily was feeling very naughty.  Knowing that Laurel was about to lean her over her knee and spank her like a little girl wasn’t helping.  In fact, despite the fact that she knew she was in trouble, it was making her panties wet.

Emily shifted from foot to foot.  Laurel seemed to be taking a long time to explain, but then she’d been speaking, and Emily hadn’t really understood anything about the process that Laurel seemed to be referring to.

“So,” Laurel continued as Emily was finally able to focus.  “This spanking is going to be in three parts, one for each problem we seemed to have today.”

“Problem?” Emily squealed, realizing too late that she’d just given away that she hadn’t been paying attention.

“Yes,” Laurel’s voice dropped.  “First for your tantrum and throwing the keys, second for your failure to follow directions, both being late and then continuing to drink after I told you to stop, and finally for driving, and then trying to drive again without considering that you’d consumed too much alcohol.”

“Oh,” Emily said, letting her eyes drop again.

“Un-huh,” Laurel nodded.  Emily winced as she realized she’d made another mistake.  Laurel was annoyed now.  Never a good idea when one was about to be punished.  Laurel further proved her annoyance as she yanked Emily’s leggings down to her knees.  The panties for some reason she left in place as she then guided Emily over her knee.

“I’ll remind you,” Laurel said, giving Emily a not-so-gentle pat to her panty-clad rear, “That this first part is for your tantrum.  I will not have you purposely doing things just out of spite.” Laurel paused for a half-dozen quick stingers that took Emily’s breath away.  “And, when we go back to get your car tomorrow, I’m going to promise you another spanking if we can’t find those keys.  Understand, young lady?”

“Ow! Yes,” Emily managed to squeak out.  Laurel’s spanks had purpose, and she didn’t seem to give Emily much of a warm-up, but then after Emily’s answer, the swats started again.  Perhaps those first few were the warm-ups, as Emily soon found herself practically dancing all over Laurel’s lap.

“Oh, ow, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Emily managed to get out between sets.  Laurel was perturbed, and Emily’s backside was smarting something awful.   She gasped as Laurel continued and then suddenly switched tactics.  The first two dozen or so had been traditional, alternating sides, but then Laurel started with half a dozen to one cheek before giving the same treatment to the second.

Another two or three dozen swats passed in that manner until Laurel suddenly stopped.  “Tell me why I’m spanking you,” she demanded.

“I was naughty,” Emily spat out.  “I threw a fit and my keys.”

“Why?”

“Because I was mad that you wouldn’t let me drive.”

Emily’s admission was immediately followed by another dozen or so slaps to her bottom.  Although these returned to the traditional pattern, they also caught her by surprise and she found herself gasping and struggling to stay in position.

“Right,” Laurel then agreed with her, giving her two more swats, one to each sit spot.  “And I think it’s time to move on to part two.

Emily squirmed, wiggling, as Laurel then freed her of her panties. They soon joined her leggings around her knees.  She clenched her butt-cheeks, knowing Laurel was just getting started, and then couldn’t help the whimper when she felt the cool backing of their oak brush touch her fevered cheeks.

“Please Laurel, I’ve had enough.  I promise I’ll never do anything this stupid again.”

Laurel gave Emily a half-hearted swat.  It didn’t hurt so much as get her attention.  “Tell me why I’m now going to paddle you.”

Emily squirmed.  Her head was swirling with a million reasons, but for some reason, she couldn’t find the one that she knew Laurel was waiting for.  “I… um, I screwed up.”

“Yes…”

“Laurel, I’m sorry.  I know I should have listened to you and just stopped.  I just don’t know why I couldn’t.”

“Emily.  Why am I going to paddle you?”

Emily squirmed again.  “I was naughty,” she answered lamely.

Laurel let out a loud sigh.  “I’m going to start counting.  Let’s see how many it takes to jog your memory. One,” Laurel said, giving Emily a good swat with the hairbrush.

Emily’s eyes went wide as she frantically tried to search for the answer.

“Two… Three… Four….” Laurel continued.  “Anything yet? Five.”

“Ow. Okay, okay!” Emily cried out.  “I was drinking.  I was drinking too much.”

“Hmm… and?”

“I, um…”

“Six.”

“Ow!  I wasn’t listening to you.”

“Okay.  Seven.”

“Ow!  Damn it.!  I said I was sorry.  I can’t… I can’t remember exactly.”

Laurel stopped.  “The paddling is because you didn’t follow directions…”

“Because I was late because I went out with my friends from work, and then I didn’t stop drinking when you told me too.”

“There you go,” Laurel praised.

Emily was almost proud of herself but was quickly distracted by the decent to the hairbrush.  “Ow, Laurel, I got it right.”

“You did. So, now I can start your lesson.”

“Laurel,” Emily whined but was again cut off by the hairbrush.  It was rare when she got paddled. She couldn’t even remember the last time, but as the swats continued to build, she did remember how much she didn’t like it.  Too soon, she again found herself dancing.  Laurel’s pace was steady and as one set of swats was swallowed by the next, Emily found her eyes start to blur.  She hated spankings.  She hated real spankings, and she hated crying too.  She hated the stuffy nose and the throbbing bottom.  She hated how they made her feel vulnerable and like a silly little girl.  She hated almost everything about them… almost.

As Laurel stopped the paddling, and Emily felt Laurel’s warm palm on her backside, she remembered that spankings weren’t all that bad. She parted her legs, giving Laurel the opportunity to slip a hand or a couple of fingers between them.  Emily moaned as the sting from the brush evened out, leaving a warm afterglow in its place.

“Really?” Laurel chided.  “You are so naughty.”  She almost laughed, giving Emily a good swat to her right cheek.  “I should have paddled you to tears, but we aren’t done yet.  We will have part three to get to.  Can you tell me about that?”

There it was again, that need to remember.  Right now, between Laurel’s warm palm and the throbbing between Emily’s legs, she would have had trouble remembering her own name.

“Let me make it plainer,” Laurel provided as Emily struggled. “Since you seem not to understand.  The third part of your punishment is because you put yourself, and others in danger, by driving and then attempted to dive with alcohol in your system.

“I’m not going to dwell on how buzzed you were when you drove yourself home.  Quite frankly, it scares the crap out of me to even think about it.  I’m so thankful that you are safe, and that I was able to stop you from getting back into the car.  By all right, I should spank you every night for a month!”

“I’m sorry,” Emily whimpered.  The lecture hurt, and she knew she was incredibly lucky.  At the time she wasn’t really thinking and didn’t consider the consequences.  She hadn’t felt buzzed, but technically she’d been over the legal limit.  Laurel was right, and she deserved to be spanked, even every night for a solid month.

“I’m sorry too,” Laurel echoed.  “I’m also sorry I have to be so hard on you, but I don’t really think it’s practical to spank you every night for a month.”

It was a joke, and Emily smiled, despite her predicament.  She then furrowed her brow in confusion as Laurel guided her off her lap and back into a standing position.  “Laurel?” she asked, but it didn’t need to go further than that as Laurel turned and the plastic candy-cane that she’d put on the bed behind her was revealed.  “What’s that?”

“This,” Laurel said, pulling the cane around to her front so they could both get a good look at it.  “Is part three.”

“Woah.” Emily took a step back.  “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Six drinks you said?  I think a stripe per drink is fair.”  Laurel laid the candy cane across her lap and waited for Emily’s answer.

Emily bit her lip.  Her hands traveled to her rear.  “I don’t know.”

Laurel gave her a small smile.  “It’s not up to you.”  She then stood and grabbed a couple of pillows, set them up at the foot of the bed.  “I want you to tell me why I’m going to cane you.”

Emily swallowed, her face paling.  “It’s going to hurt.”

“That’s the point.  I’m not messing around with this, Emmy.  Tell me why.”

“Okay, I get it.  I should have never tried to drive.  Honestly, I didn’t feel drunk or even buzzed.  There was a long time between drinks, and actually driving, and earlier I did eat too. And,” Emily added, when Laurel took a step closer to her, “I didn’t tell you everything.”

That made Laurel pause.  Emily paused too. She hadn’t really considered what she was about to say.  “Today was hard.”

“You’ve told me that many times.”

“I know, but I didn’t tell you why…  You see, today is the anniversary.”

“Anniversary?” Laurel knit her brow in confusion.

Emily let her eyes drop.  She felt her eyes burn and her nose start to twitch.  “Ten years ago…”

“Oh, your parents,” Laurel’s eyes lit up with understanding.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.”

“They were on their way to a party.  A Christmas party.”

“Oh, honey,” Laurel frowned but pulled Emily into a hug. “I’m so sorry.  No wonder you were in a funk all day.  You should have said something.”

Emily sniffled, pulling back slightly to meet Laurel’s eyes.  “It doesn’t matter, it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“It might have.  I’m sorry, Emmy.  What can I do?”

Emily bit her lip. “Can you hold me?  Can we cuddle?  I’d like that.  Just to be with you tonight.”

“Of course,” Laurel smiled.  “As soon as we finish your punishment.”

“But…  That’s not fair.”

“Maybe.  It’s not fair that your parents were taken from you.  It’s not fair that you miss them and can’t enjoy the holidays with them, but it’s also not fair that you risked your life because you were being careless.”

Emily’s chin dropped.  “But I told you, I only did it because I was depressed.  Thinking about missing them.”

“Really?  Did you think about your actions would have made them feel?  How do you think it makes me feel? I can’t even imagine my life if I lost you.”

Emily swallowed.  Her chest hurt.  Laurel’s words were painful.  She’s lost her family once, and Laurel was right.  She couldn’t go on if she’d lost Laurel either.  She couldn’t imagine the pain she’d put Laurel through if something happened to her because of a stupid mistake. “I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Laurel nodded. “I love you, Emily.  I love you enough to make sure you never do anything like this again.”

“With that?” Emily pointed at the cane.  “Can’t you just paddle me until I cry?”

“I could, but what other object would mean as much?  I am Mrs. Claus, after all,” Laurel half-joked.

Emily wrinkled her nose.  “I guess that makes me your naughty elf.”

“You bet.  Now, over the pillows.  I promise you’re going to feel every bit of this, but I also promise it’ll be worth it.”

“I’m not sure about that,” Emily half-kidded, taking the position as directed.  She didn’t like the idea one bit but hated the idea of hurting Laurel more.  She deserved every lick. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“Are you now?” Laurel asked.  She tapped the cane lightly across both cheeks.  “You’re not to get up and you’re not to try to cover.  If you do, the stroke won’t count.”

“Just six?” Emily asked.

“At least.  I’ll see how you react.”

“Why don’t you count?”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

Emily sighed.  It was quiet.  Laurel tapped the cane again and then brought down with considerably more force.  It stung but wasn’t unbearable.

“That one didn’t count,” Laurel said before Emily could remember to say ‘one.’

“What? Why not?”

“Wasn’t hard enough. That was just a practice swing.”

“Practice…  oh, shhhhhh… ow, ow, ow! What in the hell was that?” Emily snapped.  Her toes had ridden up and she could feel an actual strip, probably a raised welt forming across her bottom.  “Owwww.  Laurel.”

“That one counted.  What do you say?”

“Shit.”

“Um, nope.  Maybe it didn’t count.  Let’s start again,” Laurel said, suddenly giving Emily another stripe.  This one hit just as hard and slightly under the first.”

“Ow.  Okay, okay. Two I get it.”

“One.”

“What?”

“One,” Laurel again corrected.  “If you curse it doesn’t count.”

“You didn’t say that to begin with.”

“So, we’re both not perfect.”

Laurel then pulled back and let Emily have another lick.  “Ow.  Okay.  Two.” This one was higher than the first two and by far the most painful.  Emily danced for a moment, wishing for all her might to cover her rear, but gathered her wits enough to say, “Three.”

“Good girl.  Halfway there.”

Halfway. Halfway. Halfway.  Emily said it over and over again in her head before feeling the next stripe.  This one was lower, right on the bottom of her cheeks.  She knew she was going to feel that one – for a while.  “Four,” she managed to squeak out.

“Good,” Laurel praised.  Emily tensed for another stroke but felt Laurel’s hand on her backside instead.  Her partner massaged one cheek and then the other as if examining them with great care.  “It’s interesting.  I bet you’re going to feel this for a day or two.”

“You think?” Emily quipped before yipping as another lick landed.  This one seemed to have more force behind it and was doubly painful because it crossed her backside at an angle.  Emily found herself dancing again.  The pain was different.  It was richer, spiked and then ebbed.  It was interesting, but it was also burning.  She wanted to rub.  She wanted to stop, and turn and let Laurel hug and kiss the sting away.  Unfortunately, though, she knew it wasn’t quite over.

“Forget something, dear?”

“Um…”

Another lick jogged her memory. This one also crossed the others, but quite a bit lighter.  “Five and six,” Emily said quickly and hopefully.

“I should give you two more,” Laurel scolded, “but that, my little elf, was five and a reminder.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Laurel drew out before pulling back and letting Emily have the sixth and final stroke.

It made Emily’s eye open wide.  Her feet drummed the floor, and she let out a host of mumbled words, which in retrospect, she was glad that Laurel didn’t recognize as cursing.  “Six, six, six,” she finally managed.  “Please enough!”

“Honey,” Laurel coaxed, again rubbing Emily’s backside with her palm.  “Come here,” then coaxed pulling Emily up and into a hug.  “Are you okay?”

Emily sniffled.  So far, she’d avoided tears, but now that the pain was settling and she was in Laurel’s arms she was having a hard time avoiding them.  “No.  Hold me.”

“Ah, baby, gladly.”  Laurel kissed her and guided her toward the bed, only pausing long enough for Emily to kick off her leggings and panties before she crawled up next to Laurel. Half laying on her tummy and half intertwined with Laurel, Emily again found herself sniffling.  One tear rolled down her cheek.  Laurel caught it with a finger and then kissed the damp cheek.  “I love you so much.”

“I know.  I love you too.  I’m sorry I had a long day.”

“That wasn’t entirely your fault, but you know what?”

“What?” Emily asked, looking up and meeting Laurel’s eyes.

“I think I might just put that candy-cane in our closet. I think it’ll serve as a good reminder for you.”

Emily wrinkled her nose.  She wasn’t so sure she liked the idea, but as long as it stayed in the closet, she was okay with the reminder.  “Promise me something?”

“Anything.”

“Next year, this day, no matter what’s going on, can we just stay home?”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

“One more thing?”

“Sure honey, anything.”

“Can we keep that costume? I like it.” Emily waggled her eyebrows.  “It’s damn sexy.”

“Really?  I think that can be arranged.  Of course, if we keep mine, we’d have to keep yours too.  Yes, a new tradition, I like it.”

Emily giggled, her hand slipping under Laurel’s skirt.  “Did it come with matching panties?”

“Who says I’m wearing any?” Laurel smirked.

“Oh, now who is the naughty one? Careful, or else you’re going to end up on Santa’s list for real.”

Laurel tilted her head, pulling Emily’s lips into a deep kiss.  “Why bother to even try?  Sometimes being nice isn’t worth it.”

“Sometimes?”

“Most of the time,” Laurel corrected, cupping her hand around Emily’s backside and giving her a squeeze.”

“Oh boy.  Maybe we need to keep that candy cane as part of the tradition too.  At this rate, you’re the one that’s going to need it.”

Laurel laughed.  “That’s a promise.”

Emily tried to retort, but she was too busy being kissed.  One kiss led to another and before either knew it, they’d long given up caring about Santa or any list.  Naughty or nice, Laurel was right, why even bother being good when it was so much more fun to be with each other.  Yes, this was a tradition that they’d both come to enjoy, candy-caned and all.