Authors: Dinah McLeod
“And… my panties,” she said in a whisper, ducking her head so she could avoid his eyes.
“I’m glad you like them,” he chuckled. “Good little girls get presents. And we already know what bad little girls yet.”
His heart leapt at the endearment. He’d never been called ‘daddy’ before and he’d never imagined how good it would feel to hear it. “And to answer your question, no, this isn’t something I do with all my girlfriends.”
“Why not?” she asked, looking up at him through long, dark lashes.
“Well, because I haven’t had a girlfriend since high school, for one.”
“Really. And for two, because we’re doing this because
need it. I’m only worried about what’s best for you right now.”
She ducked her head and played with the hem of her a dress, a sign Colton was beginning to recognize as her being moved. If that were the case, then putting himself out there like this, so far out of his comfort zone, was well worth it.
“So, is that what being your little girl is going to be like?” she asked, her tone soft and sweet as a smile curved her lips.
“The clothes, you mean?” he chuckled. “Oh, believe me, I want to spoil you, darlin’. That’s not even a question, but it’s up to you, really.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that when you’re sweet and well-behaved, you’ll be rewarded. When you’re not, well…”
“I’ll get spanked?”
“Among other things,” he agreed.
“What other things?”
“We could try a few of them out now, if you’d like.”
Scarlett wrinkled her nose and shook her head emphatically, making him grin. “No, thank you.”
“Well then, how ‘bout you come sit on my lap for a cuddle?”
With a small, pleased smile Scarlett nodded and eagerly followed him to the couch, plopping her cute bottom onto his lap and laying her head on his chest. He couldn’t help but notice that the two of them fit together so perfectly that when they later parted, he felt like he was truly missing his other half.
* * *
Scarlett felt like her entire body was humming with happiness, from her scalp all the way down to her tiny pinky toe. She’d never felt so at peace in her life and hated the idea that in just a few minutes they would be saying goodnight. She wished she could have Colton’s arm twined around her waist, linking them together for eternity. Just then, as the two of them walked down the hallway to her apartment, she thought that anyone looking might know that she’d been changed from the inside out.
She looked up at the sound of a door opening and saw her neighbor, Mrs. Fettermen, stepping into the hallway, clutching a plastic trash bag in her withered hand.
“Good evening, Mrs. Fettermen,” Scarlett greeted her.
When the old lady looked in her direction, Scarlett saw her eyes go wide behind her glasses. She wondered idly if it was the fact that she was with a man, or her childish attire. “Um, hello, Scarlett.”
“This is Colton.” She beamed as she said his name, feeling a delicious sense of ownership that made her hold her head high.
Colton removed his arm from her waist briefly to extend his hand. “It’s a pleasure, ma’am.”
“Oh.” Her lips rounded into an
of surprise. “Hello.”
“Could I take that to the dumpster for you?” he asked, indicating the bag.
“Oh, are you sure? I can take it.”
“I don’t mind,” he assured her, taking the bag from her before she could offer any further protest.
“Well, thank you. Thank you very much. It was nice to meet you, and… it was good to see you again, Scarlett.”
“Have a good night, Mrs. Fettermen,” she chirped, smothering a giggle.
“She seems nice,” Colton commented lightly as they reached Scarlett’s doorstep.
“She is. Perhaps a little nosy…”
“Well, if you ask me, you look good enough to eat. So who cares what she thinks?”
Scarlett certainly didn’t. It was funny—she was in different clothes, but she didn’t feel stiff or odd, as though she were in costume. In fact, it was almost as though the clothes finally matched what was on the inside. As though she was finally free to be who she really was.
“Who cares,” she echoed, smiling up at him.
“Mmm.” He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the mouth. “If you like it this much, maybe I should get you a pair of knee socks and Mary Janes to go with it. What do you think?”
She batted her lashes provocatively. “Whatever you say, daddy.”
“Good girl,” he murmured huskily before nibbling her lower lip until she moaned. For a moment, she caught him looking longingly at the door. She caught her breath, hoping he’d ask to come inside, but when he set his shoulders resolutely, she knew he wasn’t going to. “I have to admit, I still think this place looks a little… sketchy.”
“It was nice of you to offer to take out the trash for Mrs. Fettermen,” she rebutted, hoping he’d drop the topic.
“An old lady shouldn’t be going outside around here in the dark.” He leveled her with a look that told her that the same went for her, too.
“Colton, I’ve told you—”
“I know. But what I don’t understand is why.”
“Because,” she sighed. “This is what I have the money for.”
He sighed heavily and shook his head. “I still don’t like it.”
“Well, with all due respect, I didn’t ask you.”
Colton arched a brow and she tensed slightly, feeling like the conversation was about to get heated. “Goodnight, Scarlett. Lock up when you get inside.”
She relaxed, offering a small smile. “I will.”
“Alright then. I’ll call you.”
“Sounds good,” she murmured, tilting her chin for a kiss, which he quickly obliged. She waved goodbye and he backed away, standing to watch as she unlocked her door and slipped inside. She imagined that he stayed in the hallway until he heard her lock her door. For some reason, the thought made her smile. It was nice to be looked after.
She was relieved that the discussion of her living arrangements hadn’t become a fight, as she’d worried it would. They’d had a wonderful afternoon together and it would have sullied it if it had ended in an argument. She sensed that it wasn’t a matter Colton was going to let drop, but she could be just as determined as he. Yes, she didn’t live in the best neighborhood; that was true. Her apartment wasn’t much to look at, either, but it was
. She had a feeling that a man like Colton wouldn’t understand the pride she felt at being able to pay her own bills. Maybe in time she would be able to help him understand—she would have to, she supposed, because it didn’t seem like the topic was going to just go away. It was odd, but as much as defending her choices annoyed her, it also proved to her that he was sincere when he insisted that he cared for her.
Just then, she heard a knock at the door and the small, private smile she’d been sporting blossomed into a full-fledged grin. She skipped to the door and unlocked it, throwing the door open. “Just couldn’t stay away, hmm?”
“Now, look-a here. What is that get-up you’re wearin’?”
Scarlett’s eyes widened and her throat went bone-dry and scratchy in the span of two seconds. Instead of seeing Colton’s tall, muscular frame and warm eyes looking back at her, it was her ex’s lean, angular face she saw. And she didn’t like the way his watery gray eyes narrowed into slits when he saw her, either, or the sneer on his thin lips. Nope, not one bit.
“Well, sweetheart, aren’t you goin’ to invite me in?”
Before Scarlett could say a word, Wade was barreling past her as though she were of no consequence. “No, Wade,” she protested in a voice that was thin and reedy despite her best efforts to sound firm. “You need to get out of here.”
He was marching to the kitchen and didn’t even pause as he called over his shoulder, “Or what?”
There was no
and they both knew it. Scarlett wasn’t over one-twenty soaking wet, and she was short to boot. Not for the first time she sincerely wished she’d taken self-defense courses like her best friend Maisy had insisted. If she had, maybe she wouldn’t be feeling so helpless and insecure.
Clearly, Wade wanted something, or he wouldn’t be here. The only question was, what? As long as it wasn’t her, she’d do her best to see that he got it so he would leave.
“What do you need, Wade?”
“‘What do you need, Wade?’” he mimicked snidely. “I’ll get it myself, thank you kindly.” With that, he threw open the fridge and bent down to scrutinize the contents.
If she were braver, this was the moment she’d strike. She could hit him over the head with a stool, or something, like she’d seen in the movies. The only problem was that she felt near froze to death with fear even as the thought crossed her mind.
“Where’s my beer?” he demanded, standing and slamming the fridge door shut. “You didn’t give it to that asshole I saw you with in the diner the other day, did you?”
She swallowed past the lump in her throat. “No.”
“No?! Then where the hell is it?”
“I… well, you left, so…”
“I’m back now, and I want to know what happened to my beer!”
She was inching backward, little by little as her breath came in quick, strained spurts. She could run across the hall. Maybe one of the other neighbors would let her in, once she explained what was going on. It was embarrassing to be run out of your own apartment, but she didn’t know what else to do. The look in his eyes, the way that his face—the face that, yes, at one point she’d thought so handsome and endearing—was twisted with anger and disgust. She knew that look all too well, and knew that it meant trouble.
Scarlett turned and tried to flee, but Wade had covered the space between them in four long, angry strides and grabbed her upper arm in a grip that made her cry out. He yanked her backward and slammed the door shut with so much force that it shook on the hinges.
” he demanded as he towered over her, his face only inches from her own.
“I… it… I didn’t think you were coming back.”
“I wouldn’t come back for you, whore,” he sneered. “I left some things here. Now, where is it?”
“I… I threw it out.”
For a moment, he genuinely looked confused. It crossed her mind that he could be stoned right this minute, and while seconds ago she hadn’t thought he could get any more terrifying, having that realization did it. When he’d processed what she’d said, confusion gave way to pure fury. “Why the hell would you go and do something like that?” he demanded, raising his hand high over her head.
Scarlett pressed herself into the wall, wishing more than anything that the boards would give way and swallow her whole. She’d rather be locked in some alternate dimension, some sort of limbo, than be where she was right now. She’d felt his heavy palm on her face more than once—hell, she should be grateful he hadn’t already planted his knuckled fist straight into her soft, tender tummy. That felt worse than any slap he’d ever given her.
“I asked you a question, bitch!”
“I… I didn’t… if I’d known…”
“‘I didn’t,’” he mimicked, screwing his face up even tighter. “Stupid bitch!” When Scarlett saw his hand ball into a fist, she shut her eyes tight and did her best to squelch the moan that came readily to her lips. She braced herself for it, and felt the air shift as his arm went charging forward, but instead of the gut-wrenching pain she expected, she heard the crunch of plaster.
Her eyes snapped open, and sure enough, Wade had punched a hole into her wall, right above her head.
“Agghh!” he yelled, shaking his hand. “Stupid cunt!” he growled, glaring at her as though she’d made him do it.
“I could get you some Tylenol.” Seeing an opportunity, she slid underneath him, shocked at her own daring. With blood rushing in her ears, she ran for the door and threw it open. To her shock, she saw Mrs. Fettermen standing on the other end.
“What is goin’ on here?” the old lady demanded, sounding more than a little cross.
“Mrs. Fettermen,” she gasped, immediately concerned for the old lady’s safety. “You should go back to your apartment. You—”
“I most certainly
” she snapped, looking past Scarlett to see the injured, still cursing Wade. “Young man, are you the one who’s been causin’ such a fuss?”
Wade’s head snapped up and when his eyes narrowed even further, Scarlett’s heart dropped to her stomach.
“Mrs. Fettermen—” She placed a hand on the lady’s arm, but was quickly brushed off as Mrs. Fettermen stepped into the apartment.
“I asked you a question, young man!”
“Look, lady,” Wade groaned, continuing to nurse his injured arm. “This is between Scarlett n’ me. I just came for some of my stuff—”
“And now you’re leaving!” she demanded, in a tone that made Scarlett’s brows raise practically to her hairline.
Wade’s brow furrowed and his mouth turned down, clearly irritated by the interference. “Look here—”
“If you ‘look here’ me one more time, son, I’ma call the cops.”
That did it. Wade was marching toward them, the sound of his boots against her tiled floor formidable. Mrs. Fetterme
n met his angry gaze head on, moving in front of Scarlett.
Scarlett’s breath caught in her throat. Wade could have knocked Mrs. Fettermen over with a look, but he only sneered at her and made his way into the hallway, cursing them both as he went.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish, as my mama used to say,” Mrs. Fettermen announced crisply as she shut the door behind him. “Are you okay, honey?”
When those kind eyes turned to her, she felt the tears prickle moments before they poured down her cheeks. She couldn’t speak. She could hardly think. So she did what she always did in situations like this—she dropped to her knees and began to sob into her hands as she rocked back and forth.
“Shh, sweetheart. Hush, Scarlett. That bad man isn’t comin’ back. Don’t you worry. He’s not comin’ back, honey.”
But he would. Scarlett knew he would, because men like him always did. They used you till you had nothing left of any value to give, then they left. But they always came back.