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“Fuck,” I muttered, crumbling the contract in my fist. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!” I really should have read the damn thing better.

“Language,” he warned.

“Gah!” I stomped my foot. “What else am I supposed to say? I’m the one on the receiving end of this!”

“Damn right,” he exclaimed. “You were the one arrested for reckless driving.”

“It was an accident.”

“Forty miles over the speed limit in an active school zone is not an accident. It’s negligence.”

“It was five minutes before the restriction ended!” I explained for the zillionth time. “There were no kids!”


“Okay, that cop was being a total ass.” I tossed the ball-o’-contract onto the bed. “I’m sorry I didn’t think to look at the clock before I entered the area. Like I said, I didn’t see any kids. And it was literally five minutes before 15 turned back into 45 miles per hour.”

In true “Head-of-Household” fashion, or what I imagined a “HoH” to be since I was new to all this, my husband crossed his arms and shook his head. “Not a valid excuse. Especially since you were clocked at 56. That’s still eleven miles over the regular speed limit.”

Ah, the tone. He gave me the tone. The “this is final and I will not be deterred”authoritarian tone.

Swallowing my exasperation, I flicked my gaze to the wood paddle he held in his hand. “Really? You’re really going to beat me for this?”

Though he masked his expression, I saw the hurt flash in his eyes all the same. It was a low blow on my part, I know, but I couldn’t help it. This all seemed so unfair.

“Discipline would be the proper term,” he said with admirable restraint. “Correction would also work. And yes, I believe a paddling is in order.”


Mimicking him, I crossed my arms and glared back. “Me going to jail wasn’t punishment enough, huh?”

Silence. It was the ultimate stare-down.

Looking at him holding that instrument of pain—a weapon, if I wanted to be nasty about it—was affecting me more than I cared to admit. My day had been horrible enough without this added to it. Arrested, booked, a few hours in jail, a court date…

Funny, a therapist had once told me that when we stress, we regress. So if the sudden stinging in my eyes and the nearly overwhelming urge to stomp my foot and sling cruel, careless words were any indication of that datum, I was losing maturity at an alarming rate. And the lingering silence only encouraged the relapse.

“If you’re afraid, sweetheart, just say so,” he offered.

“Scared?” I felt an enraged flush rise to my cheeks and my vision blurred with welling tears. “I’m not scared, and I’m definitely not scared of you—” Fuck. My throat tightened. I blinked back the brimming moisture and locked my jaw. I would not cry. I would not cry. I would not cry—

I inhaled a shaky breath and covered my eyes so I wouldn’t give the asshole the satisfaction of seeing me lose it. Damn him. He would not break me. I wouldn’t let him.

Fantastic by Tia Fanning

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